USA Today // Peter Casey

Big Ten Power Rankings: Sept. 8

Minnesota, Northwestern and Illinois impress Week 1; Penn State, Michigan, Nebraska and Purdue stumble

The Big Ten may take a beating from the national pundits following an 8-6 opening weekend. The conference went 2-4 against power-five opponents and lost two more games to non-power five foes.

But the conference still has the team with the most talent in the country. And a few teams with impressive Week 1 performances could make the wild, wild West Division even more interesting.

B1G Power Rankings - pre-Week 2

1. Ohio State (1-0)

Last week: 42-24 win at Virginia Tech

The Buckeyes defense wasn't that impressive -- of course, it was without maybe the best defensive player in college football, Joey Bosa, due to suspension -- until Hokies starting QB Michael Brewer left the game with a broken collarbone. But it appears the only thing that can stop that super-talented offense is the Buckeyes play-calling. Can we just give the Heisman Trophy to "Ohio State backfield"? After all the speculation, Cardale Jones is the starter. He'll be a top-10 pick, then last year's Heisman candidate, J.T. Barrett, will get two years as the starter. Oh, and that other Heisman candidate -- you know, two-time Big Ten Offensie Player of the Year Braxton Miller -- looked great in his SLASH role (140 total yards, two TDs). And the OTHER Heisman candidate, running back, Ezekial Elliott, probably should've gotten more touches (11 carries for 122 yards). I, for one, accept Urban Meyer as our college football overlord.

Up next: vs. Hawaii, 2:30 p.m. Saturday (BTN)

2. Michigan State (1-0)

Last week: 37-24 win at Western Michigan

The score doesn't look THAT impressive but Sparty was always in control, taking a 27-7 lead in the second quarter and holding a 24-point lead in the third quarter. The MSU offense was balanced and the defense was stout up front (WMU had 23 rushes for 18 yards). But the Broncos did pass for 365 yards. Sparty will get a real test next week as it hosts No. 7 Oregon.

Up next: vs. Oregon, 7 p.m. Saturday (ABC)

3. Minnesota (0-1)

Last week: 23-17 loss to No. 2 TCU

It might seem odd to have a team that lost at No. 3, but I found Minnesota's performance against No. 2 TCU one of the most impressive of the weekend. TCU is faster and more explosive than the Gophers, but Minnesota's defense proved its one of the stouter units in the Big Ten. The Gophers' offense, though, lacks playmakers. But, like most Jerry Kill-coached teams, this team limits mistakes, plays good defense and hangs around against tough opponents. They have a shot in a wide-open Big Ten West.

Up next: at Colorado State, 2:30 p.m. Saturday (CBS Sports Network)

4. Wisconsin (0-1)

Last week: 35-17 loss to No. 3 Alabama

The Badgers were outclassed by Alabama at a neutral site, but did anyone expect anything different? With crossovers against Rutgers and Maryland, the Badgers schedule is all downhill from here. The team should dominate its finaly three nonconference opponents before two huge matchups to start conference play (vs. Iowa, at Nebraska).

Up next: vs. Miami (Ohio), 11 a.m. CT Saturday

5. Northwestern (1-0)

Last week: 16-6 win over No. 21 Stanford

No Big Ten team surprised more than the Wildcats. Their defense was fast and physical, limiting the visiting Cardinal to 240 yards. Sophomore Justin Jackson (134 yards) might be the best running back in the West, and freshman QB Clayton Thorsen did enough (105 pass yards, 68 rushing yards) outside of the pocket to move the chains. In a wide-open West, Northwestern could be a player -- especially with a manageable crossover schedule (at Michigan, vs. Penn State)

Up next: vs. Eastern Illinois, 3 p.m. CT Saturday (ESPN News)

6. Iowa (1-0)

Last week: 31-14 win over Illinois State

With Ferentz Fatigue in full effect in Iowa City, this was a strong start for the Hawkeyes, who took a 31-0 fourth-quarter lead against last year's FCS runner-up. The Hawkeyes defensive line remains stout, allowing just 35 rushing yards on 28 carries, and Iowa QB C.J. Beathard (15-for-24, 211 yards, 1 TD) is one to watch.

Up next: at Iowa State, 3:45 p.m. Saturday (FOX)

7. Nebraska (0-1)

Last week: 33-28 loss to BYU

New head coach Mike Riley received praise for being a nice guy, the anti-Bo Pelini. But losses like Saturday's heart-breaker, hail-mary finish vs. BYU may end the honeymoon period sooner than later. The Nebraska offense (445 total yards) looked fine as Riley adjusts things a bit, but the black-shirt defense (511 yards) didn't look so scary. Some bumps are expected during the transition year, but the Huskers hit a speed bump quickly.

Up next: vs. South Alabama, 7 p.m. CT Saturday (BTN)

8. Illinois (1-0)

Last week: 52-3 win over Kent State

The Bill Cubit era -- whether it lasts longer than this season is unknown -- started off with a bang as the Illini completely dominated an inferior opponent, most impressively on defense. The Illini remained focused despite Tim Beckman's unprecedented firing and Friday's unprecedented weather postponement. The Illini have a talented offense and what looks like an improved defense. We might not know whether to buy in, though, until a Week 3 trip to North Carolina

Up next: vs. Western Illinois, 11 a.m. CT Saturday (BTN)

9. Michigan (0-1)

Last week: 24-17 loss at Utah

The Jim Harbaugh era didn't start with fireworks. Behind former Iowa QB Jake Rudock, the Wolverines offense still looks limited -- though Utah is a good team. Michigan should be competitive and in the hunt for a good bowl game, but it appears this will be a longer process to compete at the top of the Big Ten than some Michigan fans had hoped.

Up next: vs. Oregon State, 11 a.m. CT Saturday (ABC)

10. Rutgers (1-0)

Last week: 63-13 win vs. Norfolk State

Like Illinois, Rutgers overcame off-the-field noise (five players dismissed for an arrest in connection to a home invasion) to dominate an inferior opponent in Week 1. WR Leonte Carroo was suspended for the first half but made his presence immediately known, scoring three touchdowns in the third quarter (catches of 55, 56 and 18 yards).

Up next: vs. Washington State, 2:30 p.m. CT Saturday

11. Maryland (1-0)

Last week: 50-21 win over Richmond

Returner William Likely set the Big Ten record for punt return yardage in one game (233 yards, 1 TD) during the Terrapins' rout. The Terps dominated the ground game (341 rushing yards gained, 56 rushing yards allowed). Let's see how they do against Dino Babers' passing attack this week.

Up next: vs. Bowling Green, 11 a.m. CT Saturday (BTN)

12. Penn State (0-1)

Last week: 27-10 loss to Temple

Worst Penn State loss since? The Nittany Lions offensive line (10 sacks allowed) remains a huge problem. Christian Hackenberg (11-for-25, 103 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT) needs more help but is he more hype than substance so far? The defense should be fine. There's a lot of young talent here, but it might take another year before James Franklin's program takes a leap.

Up next: vs. Buffalo, 11 a.m. CT Saturday

13. Indiana (1-0)

Last week: 48-47 win over Southern Illinois

Ohio State may score 70 on Indiana, which allowed the Salukis to amass 659 yards (inlcuding 411 in the air) on Saturday. Good for SIU, which went for a game-winning two-point conversion near the end of the game, but failed. The Hoosiers are going to get bowled over in the East.

14. Purdue (0-1)

Last week: 41-31 loss at Marshall

With a 4-21 record, Darrell Hazell certainly isn't converting many Boilermakers fans into believers following Saturday's loss, even if it was on the road. QB Austin Appleby is a dual-threat but made too many crucial errors (four INTs, including two pick-sixes). Purdue might be more competitive this season, but can it win more than one Big Ten game?

Illini Inquirer Top Stories