Big Ten Power Rankings After Week 14
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The regular season has ended and we have our Big Ten Championship Game matchup between unbeaten Ohio State and 10-2 Wisconsin. It’s a rematch from Oct. 26, where the Buckeyes had a big second half and blew out the Badgers, 38-7.
Nine Big Ten teams finished bowl eligible.
Here are my rankings at the end of the regular season. We’ll do one more after all the bowl games:
1. Ohio State (12-0) *** Last week: 1
Last week: Beat Michigan 56-27
This week: Ohio State at Wisconsin (10-2), 8 p.m, ET (TV: FOX)
The skinny: Does Ohio State really have a rivalry with Michigan anymore? The Buckeyes destroyed the Wolverines again on Saturday, hanging 56 points on them a year after score 62. The Buckeyes are clearly the best team in the Big Ten, and they still get the nod from me as the best team in the country, too.
2. Penn State (10-2) *** Last week: 3
Last week: Beat Rutgers 27-6
The skinny: Penn State won without Sean Clifford in something of a meaningless game to end the season. The Nittany Lions are still the second-best team in the league in my book. Their two losses — to Minnesota on the road, and Ohio State — came when both were still undefeated. This was a good, solid season, and it looks like the Rose Bowl will be the reward.
3. Wisconsin (10-2) *** Last week: 5
Last week: Beat Minnesota 38-17
This week: Ohio State at Wisconsin, 8 p.m, ET (TV: FOX)
The skinny: Wisconsin has done a great job of bouncing back from those back-to-back losses to Illinois and Ohio State in October, running the table against all their rivals (Iowa, Nebraska, Purdue, Minnesota) in November to come back and win the Big Ten West. The Badgers probably don’t have a chance in the title game against Ohio State, but it’s been a nice accomplishment just to win the West and get there.
4. Minnesota (10-2) *** Last week: 4
Last week: Lost to Wisconsin 38-17
The skinny: The Gophers laid an egg in their biggest game in a decade or more, getting pounded at home by Wisconsin and watching their Big Ten West title disappear. Add it all up and it’s been a great year, but with winning came expectations and the Gophers didn’t close out the deal.
5. Michigan (9-3) *** Last week's ranking: 2
Last week: Lost to Ohio State 56-27
The skinny: Michigan looked so good during its four-game winning streak that lots of people thought they could contend against Ohio State. Nope, another rout and another embarrassing display by the defense in a big game. I’m starting to wonder if defensive coordinator Don Brown is the most overrated assistant coach in the country.
6. Iowa (9-3) *** Last week 6
Last week: Beat Nebraska 27-24
The skinny: The Hawkeyes might be the ugliest 9-win team in the country on the offensive side of the ball, but they keep finding ways to win games. They did it with special teams and defense against Nebraska, and got just enough plays on offense to pull this one out. It was a sweek win over their rival, especially since it means Nebraska now stays home for bowl season.
7. Indiana (8-4) *** Last week: 7
Last week: Beat Purdue 44-41 in 2OT
The skinny: Indiana hung on to beat Purdue in two overtimes, winning despite blowing an 18-point lead in the second half. It’s the first time Indiana has won eight games since 1993, which is great. Interesting fact, though, is that their five wins in the Big Ten all came against the five teams that finished with losing records. Indiana didn’t beat a single team all year with a winning record.
8. Michigan State (6-6) *** Last week: 9
Last week: Beat Maryland 19-16
The skinny: Michigan State moves up a notch, but I’m not sure it’s worthy. This team has really fallen apart in the past month, and barely beating a horrible Maryland team isn’t all that great either. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with Mark Dantonio’s coaching staff after this year’s mess. Changes certainly seem in order, but he also might be the most loyal — or stubborn — coach in America. The fan base is starting to get a little restless, even if Dantonio is the school’s winningest coach of all-time.
9. Illinois (6-6) *** Last week: 8
Last week: Lost to Northwestern 29-10
The skinny: The Illini get bumped down a notch after that bad loss to Northwestern, which hadn’t won a conference game all year. Illnois’ four-game winning streak is a distant memory now, because they sure look like the team this week that started the season so poorly. This bad finish with losses to Iowa and Northwestern take a bit of the luster off this improved season.
10. Purdue (4-8) *** Last week: 10
Last week: Lost to Indiana 44-41 in 2OT
The skinny: The Boilermakers rolled up nearly 600 yards of offense against Indiana with a third-string quarterback calling the shots, and they still came up a little short. Jeff Brohm won’t go bowling for the first time in three years at Purdue, but he sure has a lot of talented youngsters to build around. I’m guessing they will be much more competitive in the Big Ten West next year.
11. Nebraska (5-7) *** Last week: 11
Last week: Lost to Iowa 27-24
The skinny: Nebraska missed out on a bowl game, which is really saying something considering some people had actually picked them to win the Big Ten West this year. It was there for the taking too, with Iowa in Lincoln and shooting themselves in the foot often, too. Scott Frost still has a ton of work to do there, and he’s proven in two years that there’s no magic wand to wave.
12. Maryland (3-9) *** Last week: 12
Last week: Lost to Michigan State 19-16
This week: Maryland at Michigan State (5-6), 3:30 p.m. ET (FS1)
The skinny: Maryland gets some credit for finishing strong on Saturday, playing Michigan State to the wire and weeks of blowout losses. Mike Locksley’s first season at Maryland has to be considered a disappointment, and it’s going to be interesting to see if he can turn this program around or not. It’s the Big Ten East, and that’s a pretty tough neighborhood right now.
13. Northwestern (3-9) *** Last week: 13
Last week: Beat Illinois 29-10
The skinny: It sure was nice to see Northwestern finally get a Big Ten victory on Saturday when it beat Illinois. This has been a shocking season for the Wildcats, who were Big Ten West champs last year thanks to a seven-game conference winning streak to end the year. This year, they started with eight Big Ten losses in a row. To win with a fourth-string quarterback (Andrew Marty) was crazy, but those 378 rushing yards sure helped.
14. Rutgers (2-10) *** Last week 14
Last week: Lost to Penn State 27-6
The skinny: It’s over! The Scarlet Knight-mare is finished at 2-10, with another year of ZERO wins in the Big Ten. Greg Schiano is the new coach, and I’ll be curious to see what kind of turnover takes place now at Rutgers. They’re the worst team in the Power 5, and it’s not even close.
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