Week 2 of Big Ten play provided clarity on several teams, while others remain shrouded with mystery. It pointed out some surprising contenders, and exposed some disguised pretenders. Last week’s Power Rankings got flipped on their head in many ways, and this week’s editions has shakeups throughout.
Here we go…
1. Ohio State
Previous Rank: 1
Result: Win, 38-25 over Penn State
Recap: The Buckeyes weren’t as dominant as we’ve grown accustomed to seeing them, yet they were in complete control throughout the game against Penn State. You know the story here – the Buckeyes reside amongst the college football elite (Alabama, Clemson) and enjoy a healthy cushion between themselves and the next best Big Ten team.
Next Opponent: Home vs. Rutgers
Previous Rank: 2
Result: DNP, game vs. Nebraska cancelled
Recap: The Badgers were unable to play their scheduled game against Nebraska due to a COVID-19 breakout amongst the program. Due to that, we didn’t learn anything new about Wisconsin, but given what we saw from the Big Ten this past weekend, we’ll hold them in the No. 2 spot for now. If the Badgers return to action, they will host 2-0 Purdue this weekend.
Next Opponent: Home vs. Purdue
Previous Rank: 4
Result: Win, 37-21 over Rutgers
Recap: It’s been a great start to the 2020 season for the Hoosiers. After upsetting Penn State in Week 1, Indiana took care of business in Week 2 against Rutgers. The Hoosiers have risen to No. 13 in the Associated Press’ poll, their highest rankings since a No. 11 rank back in 1987. Tom Allen has done an excellent job in Bloomington, and now Indiana sets its sights on Michigan. The Hoosiers have not beaten the Wolverines since that 1987 season.
Next Opponent: Home vs. Michigan
Previous Rank: 6
Result: Win, 31-24 over Illinois
Recap: The Boilermakers moved to 2-0 behind an outstanding performance from quarterback Aiden O’Connell (29-35, 371 yards, 2 TDs) and wide receiver David Bell (9 rec, 122 yds, TD). Purdue’s defense also forced Illinois into four turnovers. Hopefully this upcoming game against Wisconsin can be played, because the Boilermakers are looking like potential challengers to the Badgers’ rein as Big Ten West champions.
Next Opponent: Away at Wisconsin
Previous Rank: 7
Result: Win, 21-20 over Iowa
Recap: Chalk up the Wildcats as another surprising 2-0 team. Northwestern won just one Big Ten game last season. On Saturday, the Wildcats fell behind 17-0 before grinding their way to a comeback victory over the Hawkeyes. Northwestern’s offense remains limited, but the defense remains strong under Pat Fitzgerald. This is another team that should be considered a challenger in the Big Ten West.
Next Opponent: Home vs. Nebraska
6. Penn State
Previous Rank: 5
Result: Loss, 38-25 to Ohio State
Recap: Yes, the Nittany Lions are 0-2. But they’ve lost in overtime on a controversial two-point conversion, and to the clear top team in the conference. To be frank, I’m not sure how many Big Ten teams will stay within two touchdowns of the Buckeyes like Penn State did. The Nittany Lions will start winning this week with a home date against Maryland, and try to get some momentum started.
Next Opponent: Home vs. Maryland
Previous Rank: 8
Result: Loss, 21-20 to Northwestern
Recap: Admittedly, this might be a little high for the Hawkeyes. Yet, I know what I’m going to get week-to-week from Iowa. They aren’t going to light the world on fire offensively, but they’ll play stout on defense. Unfortunately, that approach hasn’t been good enough against the likes of Purdue and Northwestern in the first two weeks. We’ll get a better sense of how good (or bad) Iowa is this week when they host Michigan State.
Next opponent: Home vs. Michigan State
Previous rank: 9
Result: DNP, game vs. Wisconsin cancelled
Recap: We don’t know anything about the Cornhuskers other than the fact that they are no match for Ohio State, which can be said about most of the teams in the Big Ten. Nebraska’s game against Wisconsin was cancelled, so we didn’t learn anything new this past week. The Huskers’ road trip to Northwestern will reveal much more about this squad.
Next Opponent: Away at Northwestern
Previous rank: 11
Result: Loss, 37-21 to Indiana
Recap: Let’s be clear: I don’t really believe that the Scarlet Knights are better than five other Big Ten teams. But I base my rankings on results, not on what I think I know. Rutgers didn’t challenge Indiana in any meaningful way this past weekend. But the Week 1 win over Michigan State looks a little better after the way the Spartans played this past weekend. The Scarlet Knights will probably start sliding back down the rankings in the coming weeks.
Next Opponent: Away at Ohio State
10. Michigan State
Previous Rank: 13
Result: Win, 27-24 over Michigan
Recap: What a difference one week can make. After losing their opener to Rutgers, I didn’t know if the Spartans would win a game in 2020. But Michigan State got in the win column the very next week, against the opponent they wanted to beat more than any other. The Spartans were the better team in every facet of their game against Michigan, and walked out of the Big House with a massive upset victory. That’s a win that could spark the fire underneath Mel Tucker’s rebuild in East Lansing. There’s no understating how big that result was for Michigan State.
Next Opponent: Away at Iowa
Previous Rank: 3
Result: Loss, 27-24 to Michigan State
Recap: A complete letdown. The Wolverines were embarrassed at home against their rebuilding in-state rivals. This was the worst loss of the Jim Harbaugh era, and could prove to be damaging well beyond just the single dash in the losing column. Michigan had a chance to grab the in-state rivalry by its jugular with its third straight victory in the series, and completely fell flat instead. Confidence in Harbaugh and his staff has never been lower. How the Wolverines respond to this defeat will be very telling.
Next Opponent: Away at Indiana
Previous Rank: 14
Result: Win, 45-44 over Minnesota
Recap: After appearing utterly hapless in Week 1 against Northwestern, the Terrapins got a surprising win over Minnesota this past weekend to pull themselves out of the cellar of last week’s rankings. Taulia Tagovialoa had a great bounce-back game after throwing three interceptions in Week 1. He threw for 394 yards on 26-of-35 passing with three touchdowns and a pick against the Gophers. The Terrapins’ defense remains dreadful, but maybe that offense has the potential to carry Maryland to another win or two.
Next Opponent: Away at Penn State
Previous Rank: 10
Result: Loss, 45-44 to Maryland
Recap: The Golden Gophers have probably been the surprise of the conference so far, and not in a good way. Minnesota was blown out at home by Michigan in Week 1, and then suffered an embarrassing loss at Maryland in Week 2 in overtime. The Gophers have been dreadful on defense through the first two weeks, and certainly haven’t been helped by injuries along the offensive line. The special teams have also been ravaged so far during this young season. Minnesota will still be a good program under PJ Fleck, but it’s looking like 2020 will be a year to forget for the Gophers.
Next Opponent: Away at Illinois
Previous Rank: 12
Result: Loss, 31-24 to Purdue
Recap: Putting the Fighting Illini all the way at the bottom seems a little unfair, but the only other choice would have been Minnesota, and that will sort itself out this weekend when Illinois hosts the Gophers. The Illini were blown out by Wisconsin in Week 1, but put up a decent fight against Purdue last weekend. Quarterback Brandon Peters has recently tested positive for COVID-19, which does Illinois no favors. This could be another long season for the Illini.
Next Opponent: Home vs. Minnesota