The season is officially underway and there were a few takeaways that impacted our Big Ten football power rankings. The Wisconsin-LSU game showed the Badgers may be able to manage their difficult schedule better than people expected. Meanwhile, the Northwestern-Western Michigan contest let us know that maybe the Wildcats aren’t ready to take that next step under Pat Fitzgerald. There were a few other things that played a role in a little bit of a shakeup from last week which we’ll talk about as we go through our week two power rankings.
14. Rutgers (Last week: 13)
The Scarlet Knights take a little bit of hit here just because they are 0-1 as opposed to their fellow Big Ten cellar-dweller Purdue, who picked up a win. Rutgers fell 48-13 to 14th ranked Washington on Saturday during Chris Ash’s coaching debut. Quarterback Chris Laviano was less than impressive in his first start where Hayden Rettig wasn’t seen breathing down his neck looking to take over. Rutgers looks to bounce back against Howard this Saturday.
13. Purdue (14)
The Boilermakers ran through Eastern Kentucky, beating the Colonels 45-24 as they forced four turnovers and gathered over 500 yards of offense. Running back Markell Jones doesn’t get a lot of love from the media because he plays for Purdue, but he tallied 169 yards of total offense in Darrell Hazell’s seventh win in West Lafayette. He will get a chance to notch his first signature victory for Purdue against Cincinnati next week.
12. Maryland (12)
The Terrapins stay put as they beat Howard 52-13. Maryland played three different quarterbacks, but didn’t have a single passing touchdown. Six of their scores came on the ground, while the other touchdown came off a blocked punt. The Terrapins defense was solid, forcing the Howard punter into nine punts. D.J. Durkin and company play FIU next, who just fell to Indiana last Saturday.
11. Illinois (11)
The Illini looked very solid in Lovie Smith’s debut. Quarterback Wes Lunt led the way for Illinois as he completed 15 of 21 passes for 226 yards and three touchdowns. Though players like Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Reggie Corbin and Tre Nation all had more carries, it was Kendrick Foster who was electrifying out of the backfield as he ran the ball just four times for 118 yards and two scores. Saturday will see if this team can get up for a big game under their new coach as they host North Carolina on Saturday.
Tied 10. Indiana (10)
The Hoosiers got off to a slow start against Florida International in their Saturday night contest. FIU actually held a 13-12 lead entering the final quarter. Indiana scored the next three touchdowns as they blanked the Golden Panthers 22-0 in the fourth. One interception ran back for a touchdown kept the Hoosiers in the game, while another sealed the deal and was the last points of the game. The defense looks solid compared to past seasons, but the offense is clearly lacking the production despite 486 yards on offense. They have had early-season issues scoring in past seasons and so you have to wonder if that is going to be the case this year. If not, IU will miss Nate Sudfeld and Jordan Howard more than we realize. Ball State should help the Hoosiers gather more answers.
Tied 10. Northwestern (7)
The Wildcats take quite the hit given the fact they didn’t lose to a bad team and came within half a yard of beating the MAC favorites. Whether it was high expectations following a 10-win season or some Big Ten hubris by our voters, Pat Fitzgerald’s group falls three spots after the first week of the season. It doesn’t help the game was at home. With the leadership and skill this team has, they should be able to bounce back. We won’t know for a few weeks if they are able to rebound against a quality opponent as Northwestern plays Illinois State this weekend.
8. Penn State (8)
The Nittany Lions lost three great defensive linemen entering this season. That didn’t matter as that group piled on the Kent State quarterbacks seven times last Saturday in a 33-13 victory. The offensive trio of Trace McSorely, Saquon Barkley and Chris Godwin all looked solid in the season debut, but weren’t overly exciting. It would have been nice to see better rushing defense out of this group, but they limited the Golden Flashes through the air as they only allowed 129 yards and picked off two passes, one of which was returned for a touchdown. A potentially great game against rival Pitt is up next for Penn State.
7. Minnesota (9)
The Golden Gophers move up a couple spots thanks to Northwestern’s loss and the fact they were able to beat a Power Five team. Oregon State is far from the first team that players will write home about beating, but credit Minnesota for at least not scheduling a mid-major or FCS school in the opening week. Quarterback Mitch Leidner was below average throwing the ball, but looked good running the ball, as did running back Rodney Smith. They get their FCS competition Saturday against Indiana State.
6. Nebraska (5)
The Huskers beat down Fresno State 43-10 despite throwing the ball just 13 times and the Bulldogs holding Jordan Westerkamp to one catch for six yards. The rushing defense was incredible, holding Fresno State to just 1.2 yards per carry on 26 attempts. Despite what Nebraska was able to accomplish during play, the best part of the game was when the Huskers paid tribute to late punter Sam Foltz by only sending 10 players on the field in punt formation (if you haven’t seen the emotional video yet, check out this link). Perhaps just as awesome, Fresno State declined the penalty. Nebraska hosts Wyoming on Saturday.
5. Iowa (4)
There was a lot of talk about how the Hawkeyes were going to replace Jordan Canzeri. His backups had solid moments throughout last season, but could they do it on a consistent basis? It looks like that will be the case as LeShun Daniels Jr. and Akrum Wadley combined for 204 yards and four touchdowns on just 22 carries in a 45-24 victory over Miami (OH). Intrastate rival Iowa State is next up for Hawkeyes.
Tied 3. Wisconsin (5)
The Badgers got the biggest win of the weekend for the Big Ten. Wisconsin beat fifth-ranked LSU at historic Lambeau Field in Green Bay as they had control for a majority of the game. With the exception of a bad series where LSU scored all of their 14 points in a span of just over a minute, the Badgers had quite a bit of success against the Tigers. Wisconsin gets a well-deserved break before their difficult Big Ten slate as they host Akron on Saturday.
Tied 3. Michigan State (3)
The Spartans stay put though they are now sharing the third spot with Wisconsin. It wasn’t a pretty game against Furman, and new quarterback Tyler O’Connor had a few negative moments, but overall Michigan State played solidly minus the penalties and two bad turnovers. Mark Dantonio usually keeps this team among the least penalized in the conference and they lost 120 yards on Friday night. The Spartans aren’t young, but they are inexperienced, so maybe this was just first game jitters with the penalties. They have two weeks to correct their mistakes before a showdown against the Irish in South Bend.
2. Michigan (2)
It was a rough start of the Wilton Speight era for the Wolverines. On his very first pass as a starter, Speight threw a bad interception. After that, he appeared to calm down as he led Michigan to a 63-3 victory over Hawaii. John O’Korn and Shane Morris also made appearances as the three quarterbacks combined to go 17 of 20 for 206 yards and three touchdowns. Michigan should have another easy game against UCF, who went 0-12 last season.
1. Ohio State (1)
Can the Buckeyes reload after losing as much as they did? That was the question of the off-season in the Big Ten. Though they played Bowling Green, beating an opponent 77-10 tends to make you think they’ll be able to. Ohio State had a school-record 776 yards against the Falcons, while J.T. Barrett put up six passing touchdowns and added another rushing, reminding everybody why he’s a Heisman candidate. Tulsa is up next for the Buckeyes.