1. Ohio State
Previous Rank: 1
Result: Win, 42-35 over Indiana
Recap: After building a big lead, the Buckeyes had to fend off a vicious rally from Indiana in order to stay unbeaten. Quarterback Justin Fields had the worst game of his college football career, throwing three interceptions, yet Ohio State survived. The Buckeyes showed their championship-level resilience – winning when they weren’t at their best.
Next Opponent: Away at Illinois
Previous Rank: 4
Result: Win, 17-7 over Wisconsin
Recap: The Wildcats won the Big Ten’s West division in 2018, and then finished last in the division in 2019. Now, after the victory over Wisconsin last week, Northwestern is in the driver’s seat for a return to the conference championship game. Quarterback Peyton Ramsey has been the missing link for the Wildcats, and the defense continues to be one of the league’s best under the direction of head coach Pat Fitzgerald. Northwestern’s finally three games all come against foes that currently have losing records.
Next Opponent: Away at Michigan State
Previous Rank: 2
Result: Loss, 42-35 to Ohio State
Recap: The Hoosiers got punched in the mouth by Ohio State early, falling into a 35-7 hole in Columbus. Yet, Indiana showed its grit by clawing their way back to within a touchdown. The Hoosiers had the ball twice in the closing minutes with a chance to tie or take the lead, but stalled offensively both times. Despite this disappointment, this remains the best Indiana football team in recent memory. It’ll be interesting to see how the Hoosiers close the season.
Next Opponent: Home vs. Maryland
Previous Rank: 3
Result: Loss, 17-7 to Northwestern
Recap: It’s been a strange season, to say the least, for the Badgers. Wisconsin enjoyed blowout victories over Illinois and Michigan, saw their games against Nebraska and Purdue cancelled due to a COVID-19 outbreak, and then watched their hopes for a division title likely vanish with a loss at Northwestern. This remains one of the best teams in the conference, but as the preseason favorite to win the West, this season will likely be viewed as a disappointment in Madison. The Badgers’ matchup with rival Minnesota has been cancelled this week due to COVID-19 cases within the Gopher program.
Next Opponent: Home vs. Indiana (12/5)
Previous Rank: 6
Result: Win, 41-21 over Penn State
Recap: Suddenly, the Hawkeyes are one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten. Iowa lost its first two games to Purdue and Northwestern by a combined 5 points, but the Hawkeyes have reeled off three straight victories over Michigan State, Minnesota and Penn State by an average of 30 points per game. You can’t help but look at those first two losses, each by one possession, and wonder what could have been for Iowa.
Next Opponent: Home vs. Nebraska
Previous Rank: 5
Result: Loss, 34-31 to Minnesota
Recap: The Boilermakers were on the receiving end of one of the worst officiating gaffs we’ve seen in some time in their loss to Minnesota. Purdue tight end Payne Durham scored what could have been a game-winning touchdown on a pass from quarterback Jack Plummer with less than a minute to play, but the score was called back on a phantom offensive pass interference call on Durham. Plummer threw an interception on the very next play. It was a gut-wrenching way for the Boilers to lose. We’ll see how they respond this week against Rutgers.
Next Opponent: Home vs. Rutgers
Previous Rank: 7
Result: DNP, game vs. Michigan State cancelled
Recap: The Terrapins have been out of action for the past two weeks due to an outbreak of COVID-19 cases within their program. It was unfortunate timing for Maryland, who seemed to be hitting their stride offensively behind new quarterback Taulia Tagovialoa. If the Terps are able to return to the field this week, they’ll have a difficult test ahead of them in Bloomington against the Hoosiers.
Next opponent: Away at Indiana
Previous rank: 10
Result: Win, 48-42 (3OT) over Rutgers
Recap: There will be no pom-pom waiving in Ann Arbor after the Wolverines needed triple-overtime to beat Rutgers, but this could be a step in the right direction. It appears Michigan may have found their quarterback of the future in redshirt freshman Cade McNamara, who entered the game late in the second quarter in relief of starter Joe Milton. McNamara threw for 260 yards and four touchdowns on 27-of-36 passing. The Wolverine defense remains a weakness however, and one that may not be able to be corrected in 2020.
Next Opponent: Home vs. Penn State
9. Michigan State
Previous rank: 9
Result: DNP, game vs. Maryland cancelled
Recap: The Spartans were inactive last weekend after their game against Maryland was cancelled. Michigan State has had three ugly losses in 2020, but this season will be highlighted by their win over in-state rival Michigan. The Spartans could be welcomed back to the playing field in rude fashion this week, as they host West division leader Northwestern.
Next Opponent: Home vs. Northwestern
Previous Rank: 11
Result: Win, 34-31 over Purdue
Recap: The Gophers are another Big Ten team that has failed to live up to its preseason hype, and has taken a large step back after winning 11 games last season. Minnesota snuck out a win last week against Purdue in controversial fashion. Any hope that victory would spark momentum was quickly squashed however, as a rise of COVID-19 cases in the Gopher program has led to a cancellation of this weekend’s game against rival Wisconsin. It is unclear when Minnesota will be able to return to play
Next Opponent: TBD
Previous Rank: 12
Result: Win, 41-23 over Nebraska
Recap: After opening the season with three consecutive losses, the Fighting Illini have rebounded to win back-to-back games. Their winning streak is highly likely to end this week however, as Illinois is set to host Ohio State. Things won’t get much easier after this Saturday either, as the Illini will close the year with ranked opponents in Iowa and Northwestern.
Next Opponent: Home vs. Ohio State
Previous Rank: 13
Result: Loss, 48-42 (3OT) to Michigan
Recap: The Scarlet Knights came within about a foot of knocking off Michigan at home last Saturday, but missed the game-winning field goal attempt in the first overtime period. That was a missed opportunity for head coach Greg Schiano as he attempts to rebuild the foundation he once laid in Piscataway over a decade ago. Still, this Rutgers program already has a different feel about it than it did under previous regimes. There’s still a ton of work left to do, but no one should be shocked if Schiano gets this headed in the right direction.
Next Opponent: Away at Purdue
Previous Rank: 8
Result: Loss, 41-23 to Illinois
Recap: In hindsight, having the Cornhuskers jump up to No. 8 in last weekend’s rankings was a laughable mistake by me. Nebraska fell on its face this past weekend in an embarrassing 41-23 loss to Illinois. It’s truly baffling that head coach Scott Frost has failed to get any traction in Lincoln despite having three years on the job. Frost was one of the hottest coaching commodities on the market when he left Central Florida, and it seemed inevitable that he would at minimum make the Huskers competitive in the Big Ten West division. That hasn’t come close to happening yet, and it’s fair to question how long patience will remain in Lincoln for their native son.
Next Opponent: Away at Iowa
14. Penn State
Previous Rank: 14
Result: Loss, 41-21 to Iowa
Recap: There’s no way to describe this season for the Nittany Lions outside of calling it a complete shock. I was always skeptical of Penn State as a preseason Top 10 team, especially when some of their top players opted out of the season, but no one could have predicted they would be the last winless team in the conference this season. The Nittany Lions have a shot at getting that first win this week when they travel to Ann Arbor.
Next Opponent: Away at Michigan