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Big Ten Power Rankings: MSU's slide continues, West division up for grabs

The contenders in the East are separating themselves, while the West continues to be anyone's division...

Big Ten Conference play was in full swing in Week 5, with every league team in action this past weekend.

The contenders in the East division continue to separate themselves from the rest of the conference, while the West continues to be up for grabs with six programs tied for first place in the division.

These rankings are based on short-term results and momentum. They do not reflect where I expect each Big Ten program to finish in the league standings. Instead, power rankings are mostly based what each program has looked like recently.

Without further ado, let’s get started:

14.) Northwestern

Last Week: 13
Week 5 result: Loss, 17-7, at Penn State
Record: 1-4
Comments: The Wildcats put up a valiant fight as a big road underdog at Penn State, but not even five forced turnovers were enough for Northwestern to pull off the upset. A lot of that is due to the fact that the Wildcats had three turnovers of their own, and their offense continues to challenge Iowa's as the worst in the conference. Northwestern might not win again this season, which makes the fact they were able to beat Scott Frost at the start of the year all the more hilarious.

Next Opponent: Wisconsin (2-3)

13.) Indiana

Last Week: 11
Week 5 result: Loss, 35-21, at Nebraska
Record: 3-2
Comments: With a tough schedule still to come, the Hoosiers will be kicking themselves for not getting the job done this weekend in Lincoln. Indiana still has its entire Big Ten East schedule in front of them, along with the annual crossover with rival Purdue. Bowl eligibility will not be an easy bar to reach after the Hoosiers coughed up a winnable game against Nebraska.

Next Opponent: Michigan (5-0)

12.) Nebraska

Last Week: 14
Week 5 result: Win, 35-21, vs. Indiana
Record: 2-3
Comments: The Cornhuskers climb out of the cellar of our Big Ten power rankings after beating Indiana by two touchdowns. Few programs in America needed a victory more than Nebraska, and they got one off their bye week. With an interim head coach currently leading the way, this program is still dead in the water, but the Huskers at least showed some fight for their home fans.

Next Opponent: Rutgers (3-2)

11.) Rutgers

Last Week: 9
Week 5 result: Loss, 49-10, at Ohio State
Record: 3-2
Comments: The Scarlet Knights are off to an 0-2 start to Big Ten play after escaping their non-conference schedule unscathed. If Rutgers is going to reach six wins to become bowl eligible, they likely have to win each of their next two games, because the Scarlet Knights' final six opponents will all be fairly heavily favored against them.

Next Opponent: Nebraska (2-3)

10.) Wisconsin

Last Week: 7
Week 5 result: Loss, 34-10, vs. Illinois
Record: 2-3
Comments: The Badgers were held to just two rushing yards, at home, against Illinois and suffered a humiliating defeat to former head coach Bret Bielema. Wisconsin looks nothing like the program that continually competed for Big Ten championship in the early 2010s, nor does it look like the program who was routinely the favorite to win the Big Ten West division. As a result, head coach Paul Chryst has been fired and the Badgers are left searching for answers with half a season still to play in Madison.

Next Opponent: Northwestern (1-4)

9.) Michigan State

Last Week: 6
Week 5 result: Loss, 27-13, at Maryland
Record: 2-3
Comments: The Spartans have lost three in a row and this past weekend's may have been the most frustrating. In the first half, Michigan State's defense could not even slow Maryland's offense, but MSU's offense did enough to keep the Spartans in the game. The script was completely flipped in the second half, as Michigan State's defense allowed just six points but their offense was shut out. Head coach Mel Tucker has routinely talked about the lack of complementary football over these past three weeks, and never was that more clear for the Spartans than on Saturday in College Park.

Next Opponent: Ohio State (5-0)

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8.) Iowa

Last Week: 8
Week 5 result: Loss, 27-13, vs. Michigan
Record: 3-2
Comments: The Hawkeyes weren't able to stir up the dark magic of Kinnick Stadium this week when they hosted No. 4 Michigan. Iowa had won five of their last six home games against Top 5 opponents, but did not have the offensive capabilities to keep up with the Wolverines. The Hawkeyes' defense continues to play well, but their offense relies way too much on that defense forcing turnovers and giving them a short field. While Iowa's defense could carry them to another Big Ten West title, that offense leaves them no margin for error.

Next Opponent: Illinois (4-1)

7.) Illinois

Last Week: 12
Week 5 result: Win, 34-10, at Wisconsin
Record: 4-1
Comments: The Fighting Illini are in the thick of the Big Ten West division race after a dominant win over Wisconsin. Head coach Bret Bielema returned to Madison for the first time since departing the program in 2013 to become the head coach at Arkansas. Bielema won three Big Ten championships with the Badgers, and he's proven that he can still coach by quickly turning Illinois into a respectable program. Illini tailback Chase Brown continues to lead the nation in rushing yards, and Illinois is starting to look like the run-dominant program that Bielema built in Madison.

Next Opponent: Iowa (3-2)

6.) Minnesota

Last Week: 3
Week 5 result: Loss, 20-10, vs. Purdue
Record: 4-1
Comments: The Golden Gophers were without stud tailback Mo Ibrahim against Purdue, and their offense crumbled as a result. Minnesota averaged just 1.8 yards per carry on the ground, and quarterback Tanner Morgan threw three interceptions. Depending on Ibrahim's health going forward, the Gophers are still my favorite to win the West division. But if Minnesota is THIS dependent on a player with a long history of injury problems, it could spell doom in the Twin Cities.

Next Opponent: Bye Week

5.) Purdue

Last Week: 10
Week 5 result: Win, 20-10, at Minnesota
Record: 3-2
Comments: The Boilermakers got a huge win on Saturday, traveling to Minneapolis and knocking off previously-unbeaten Minnesota. In terms of the Big Ten West division picture, this was a must-win for Purdue, who had already suffered a conference loss in Week 1 to Penn State. The Boilermakers make a big jump in our rankings as a result, and have positioned themselves nicely with a head-to-head tiebreaker over the team I consider the favorite in the division.

Next Opponent: Maryland (4-1)

4.) Maryland

Last Week: 5
Week 5 result: Win, 27-13, vs. Michigan State
Record: 4-1
Comments: The Terrapins bounced back from a close loss to Michigan a week ago, beating Michigan State by two touchdowns at home. Maryland is off to its best start in several years, and it's clear that head coach Mike Locksley has continued to improve this program each year he's been in College Park. The Terrapins still have November games against Penn State and Ohio State, but their schedule is pretty manageable beyond that. This could wind up being a very good season for the Terps, which could help Maryland win more recruiting battles in the talent-rich DMV area.

Next Opponent: Purdue (3-2)

3.) Penn State

Last Week: 2
Week 5 result: Win, 17-7, vs. Northwestern
Record: 5-0
Comments: The Nittany Lions overcame five turnovers and a pretty pedestrian day from quarterback Sean Clifford in a ten-point win over one of the Big Ten's worst teams. It was hardly a banner day for Penn State, and they drop a spot in our rankings as a result, but the Nittany Lions will battle the last two teams in our rankings for positioning in the Big Ten East.

Next Opponent: Bye Week

2.) Michigan

Last Week: 4
Week 5 result: Win, 27-13, at Iowa
Record: 5-0
Comments: The Wolverines passed their first road test of the season, surviving the horrors of Kinnick Stadium with a fairly convincing win over Iowa. Michigan led 20-0 early in the third quarter before seemingly taking their foot off the gas. More challenging tests await, but the Wolverines have handled their business so far in 2022.

Next Opponent: Indiana (3-2)

1.) Ohio State

Last Week: 1
Week 5 result: Win, 49-10, vs. Rutgers
Record: 5-0
Comments: No surprises here. The Buckeyes have definitely looked like the best team in the Big Ten over these past several weeks. However, with the way Notre Dame and Wisconsin have struggled, Ohio State's resume is devoid of any impressive victories. The Buckeyes have also yet to leave the friendly confines of the Horseshoe, but that changes this week with a road trip to East Lansing.

Next Opponent: Michigan State (2-3)