Northwestern, Michigan crack top-5 of B1G Power Rankings

Illinois, Indiana rise into top-9; Nebraska and Minnesota fall into double digits

B1G Power Rankings - Oct. 5

1. Ohio State (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten); last week's rank: No. 1

Last game: 34-27 win at Indiana

Ride Ezekial Elliott (729 rushing yards) and the Buckeyes should be just fine. The Buckeyes -- whose next five games are vs. Maryland, vs. Penn State, at Rutgers, vs. Minnesota and at Illinois -- will be favored by double digits until their final two games (vs. Michigan State, at Michigan).

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

2. Michigan State (5-0, 1-0); last week's rank: No. 2

Last week: 24-21 win over Purdue

There are a lot of warning signs here. The Spartans are averaging just 2.2 more yards per game than their opponents. They are No. 34 in the Sagarin ratings. But the schedule still works out well for them. But they might be underdogs in two weeks at Michigan.

Up next: at Rutgers, 7 p.m. Saturday

3. Northwestern (5-0, 1-0); last week's rank: No. 5  

Last week: 27-0 win over Minnesota

Northwestern's dangerously close to knocking the Spartans out of the No. 2 spot and a win at Michigan would certainly do the trick. The Wildcats defense is the best in the country through five games, against some pretty good teams (Stanford and Duke). Running back Justin Jackson is a Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year candidate. Pat Fitzgerald's team can firmly establish itself as the Big Ten West favorite with a win at Michigan this weekend.

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

4. Iowa (5-0, 1-0); last week's rank: No. 4 

Last week: 10-6 win at Iowa

The Hawkeyes can win with defense (fifth in Big Ten) or offense (third in Big Ten). The win at Wisconsin establishes Iowa as a legit Big Ten West title contender. If the Hawkeyes take care of business at home against Illinois, it sets up a huge game at Northwestern on Oct. 17.

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

5. Michigan (4-1, 1-0); last week's rank: No. 7 

Last week: 28-0 win over Maryland

Run the ball, stop the run. Michigan does both extremely well. Head coach Jim Harbaugh is getting the most out of the talent Brady Hoke recruited. He's duplicating his Stanford success quicker than most imagined, and a win vs. Northwestern could make them a legit threat to Ohio State and Michigan State.

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

6. Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1 Big Ten); last week's rank No. 3 

Last week: 10-6 loss vs. Iowa

Either Nebraska or Wisconsin will be 0-2 to start Big Ten play. The Wisconsin defense (fourth in the country in scoring defense) is legit, but Joel Stave and the Wisconsin offense are struggling, especially on the ground. The Badgers are starting three redshirt freshmen offensive linemen and miss injured running back Corey Clement.

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

7. Illinois (4-1, 1-0); last week's rank: No. 11  

Last week: 14-13 win over Nebraska

We need more games to separate Nos. 7-11. Nebraska might have the most talent but is going through some growing pains with a new coach. Illinois and Penn State have a lot of similarities: quarterbacks who need more help, injuries to key offensive skill players and top-25 scoring defenses. The Illini -- who have won their last two games by a combined three points -- have a huge opportunity to capitalize on some recent good fortune (though the defense certainly has deserved those opportunities) with a trip to Iowa. Win, and the Illini could realistically start talking about an 8-win season.

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

8. Penn State (4-1, 1-0); last week's rank: No. 9 

Last week: 20-14 win over Army

Penn State is the Illinois of the East: a team capable of squeaking out seven (maybe eight wins) but probably not a real threat to the division contenders. But the Nittany Lions better take advantage of the October schedule -- vs. Indiana, at Ohio State, vs. Maryland, vs. Illinois -- because their November slate (at Northwestern, vs. Michigan and at Michigan State) is a beast.

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

9. Indiana (4-1, 0-1); last week's rank: No. 10 

Last week: 34-27 loss to Ohio State

Running back Jordan Howard (709 rushing yards) went from a program that dropped its football program (UAB) to contending for Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year as he's put up Tevin Coleman-like numbers so far. A bowl game should earn coach Kevin Wilson more time with the Hoosiers, and with games remaining against Penn State, Rutgers, Maryland and Purdue, Indiana has no excuse not to play an extra game.

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

10. Nebraska (2-3, 0-1); last week's rank: No. 8 

Last week: 14-13 loss at Illinois

Which team is most likely to miss a bowl game: Nebraska, Minnesota, Indiana or Illinois? Amazing -- for the Cornhuskers -- that it's a discussion. Mike Riley is a nice guy. But the hot-tempered guy he replaced never lost more than four games in a season. Riley could do that by Halloween.

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

11. Minnesota (3-2, 0-1); last week's rank: No. 7 

Last week: 27-0 loss at Northwestern

I'm a big believer in Jerry Kill, but no X's and O's can overcome the Gophers' lack of offensive playmakers. Minnesota is averaging just 15.4 points per game (8.2 fewer than the next lowest Big Ten team). The defense is capable of uglying games enough to give the offense a chance. But this is a serious question: can Minnesota score enough to beat Purdue?

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

12. Purdue (1-4, 0-1); last week's rank: No. 14  

Last week: 24-21 loss at Michigan State

Purdue might actually wish it played in the Big Ten East, just so it could play Maryland and Rutgers. Darrell Hazell's team is showing more fight than the Terps and has a great chance for its second Big Ten win under Hazell this weekend against a terrible Minnesota offense.

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

13. Rutgers (2-2, 0-1); last week's rank: No. 13 

Last week: Bye

Rutgers won't have many more chances to win in the Big Ten. Will the regular-season finale vs. Maryland feature two teams without a Big Ten win?

Up next: vs. Michigan State, 7 p.m. Saturday

14. Maryland (2-3, 0-1); last week's rank: No. 14  

Last week: 28-0 loss at Michigan

The Terrapins have been outscored 73-6 the last two weeks. That number will look even worse after this week's game against No. 1 Ohio State. Quarterback Caleb Rowe has 12 interceptions in 91 pass attempts. Randy Edsall's seat is very warm.

Up next: vs. Ohio State, 11 a.m. Saturday


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