Time to take Michigan seriously following BYU blowout

Illini Inquirer publisher Jeremy Werner ranks the Big Ten teams and separates them into division title contenders, dark horses, bowl contenders and cellar dwellers

B1G Power Rankings - post nonconference play

Division contenders

1. Ohio State (4-0); last week's rank: No. 1

Last game: 38-12 win over Western Michigan

Ohio State stuck with Cardale Jones for most of the game. While he wasn't that accurrate (19-for-38), he threw for 288 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT. He should have another tune-up game next week against Indiana in which he can further settled in as the full-time starter -- if Urban Meyer decides to stick with one starter.

Up next: at Indiana, 2:30 p.m. Saturday

2. Michigan State (4-0); last week's rank: No.2

Last week: 30-10 vs, Central Michigan

The Spartans received a bit of a scare from the Chippewas, who trailed 17-10 after three quarters. But MSU received an even bigger scare due to star offensive tackle Jack Conklin's knee injury. The likely top-20 NFL Draft pick is one of Michigan State's most important players.

Up next: vs. Purdue, 11 a.m. Saturday

3. Wisconsin (3-1); last week's rank No. 3

Last week: 28-0 win over Hawaii

The Wisconsin offense isn't as dominant as previous seasons, but the defense looks dominant. We'll learn much more about the Badgers and Hawkeyes this week in a head-to-head matchup.

Up next: vs. Iowa, 11 a.m.

4. Iowa (4-0); last week's rank: No. 5 

Last week: 62-16 win vs. North Texas

Iowa quarterback C.J Beathard (leading the Big Ten in pass efficiency) could be the best quarterback in the West Division and gives Iowa a dynamic threat behind center for the first time in a while. Iowa looks like a West contender and can prove it this week in Madison.

Up next: at Wisconsin, 11 a.m.

5. Northwestern (4-0); last week's rank: No. 4 

Last week: 24-19 win vs. Ball State

The Northwestern defense is legit, but how much do you trust freshman quarterback Clayton ThorsonHe's made some big plays and prolonged some drives with his legs so far. The Big Ten will be an interesting test for him.

Up next: vs. Minnesota, 11 a.m. Saturday

Division dark horses?

6. Michigan (3-1); last week's rank: No. 7 

Last week: 31-0 win over No. 22 BYU

Har-ball is alive in Ann Arbor. Head coach Jim Harbaugh is known for old-school football: Run the ball and stop the run. The Wolverines do both extremely well. Their scoring defense (9.5 points per game) is the best in the Big Ten, and Michigan averages more than 200 yards rushing per game behind two game-breaking running backs (De'Veon Smith and Ty Isaac). If any East team can knock off the top two, it looks like the Wolverines.

Up next: at Maryland, 7 p.m. Saturday

7. Minnesota (3-1); last week's rank: No. 6 

Last week: 27-24 win over Ohio

Winning ugly has never looked so good. Jerry Kill's team probably looks like a bottom five team after beating two MAC teams (Kent State and Ohio -- neither conference title contenders) by a combined six points. The Gophers have the worst scoring offense in the Big Ten (19.2 points per game)  but their defense is legit (18.5 points per game) and will keep them in games. The Gophers probably aren't a West Division title contender, but don't be surprised if they find a way to end the season with seven or eight wins.

Up next: at Northwestern, 11 a.m. Saturday

8. Nebraska (2-2); last week's rank: No. 8

Last week: 36-28 win over Southern Miss

The offense has some firepower: QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. and WR Jordan Westerkamp. But the defense has some huge holes. Their two losses are by a combined eight points. The next four weeks (at Illinois, vs. Wisconsin, at Minnesota, vs. Northwestern) will decide whether this team's talent makes them a contender or their holes make it a pretender.

Up next: at Illinois, 2:30 p.m. Saturday

Bowl contenders

9. Penn State (3-1); last week's rank: No. 9

Last week:37-24 win over San Diego State

That's the Christian Hackenberg people want to see. The Nittany Lions quarterback had his best performance of the year on Saturday (21-for-35, 296 yards, 3 TDs). But Penn State's schedule has been soft and remains pretty soft the next two weeks (vs. Army, vs. Indiana) until they travel to Ohio State on Oct. 17.

Up next: vs. Army, 11 a.m. Saturday

10. Indiana (4-0); last week's rank: No. 11 

Last week: 31-24 win at Wake Forst

The Hoosiers is 4-0 for the first time since 1990, and improbably, Kevin Wilson appears two wins away from a little job security. More good news for the Hoosiers: Rutgers, Maryland and Purdue are still on the schedule.

Up next: vs. No. 1 Ohio State, 2:30 p.m. Saturday

11. Illinois (3-1); last week's rank: No. 10 

Last week: 27-25 win vs. Middle Tennessee State

Choosing between Illinois and Indiana was tough. Who would be favored at a neutral site? It might be a tossup, but that's not a good sign for Illinois, which was hoping for more progress. Middle Tennessee was a good mid-major program that would beat some lower-level Big Ten teams. And that's what's discouraging for Illinois: the Blue Raiders probably should've left Champaign with a win.

Up next: vs. Nebraska, 2:30 p.m. Saturday

Cellar dwellers

12. Maryland (2-2); last week's rank: No. 12

Last week: 45-6 loss at West Virginia

The Terrapins next six games: vs. Michigan, at Ohio State, vs. Penn State, at Iowa, vs. Wisconsin, at Michigan State. Maryland might not be favored in a game until the final two weeks (vs. Indiana and at Rutgers).

Up next: vs. Michigan, 7 p.m. (BTN)

13. Rutgers (2-2); last week's rank: No. 14 

Last week: 27-14 win over Kansas

If anyone can make Rutgers feel better about its football program, it's Kansas (0-4).

Up next: Bye

14. Purdue (1-3); last week's rank: No. 13 

Last week: 35-28 home loss to Bowling Green

Turnovers and missed tackles have hurt Purdue this season. Now, add penalties. The Boilermakers continue to look like a team with too little talent making too many mistakes. Bowling Green coach Dino Babers now has two Big Ten wins (at Maryland and at Purdue). Boilermakers coach Darrell Hazell probably won't match that total. While he's only about halfway through the normal rebuilding process, a coach should show progress in Year Three. So far, there's been little reason for optimism in West Lafayette.

Up next: at Michigan State, 11 a.m. Saturday


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