B1G Power Rankings: Sparty surprise

Spartans overtake Wolverines with Saturday shocker; Iowa continues to rise

B1G Power Rankings - Oct. 18

1. Ohio State (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten); last week's rank: No. 1

Last game: 38-10 win vs. Penn State

Best coach. Best talent. Best team. Whether Urban Meyer sticks with Cardale Jones (fourth in the Big Ten in pass efficiency) or switches to J.T. Barrett (164 rushing yards, 5 TDs last two weeks), Ohio State remains the top dog thanks to a bevy of riches on both sides of the ball.

Up next: at Rutgers, 7 p.m.

2. Michigan State (7-0, 3-0); last week's rank: No. 3  

Last week: 27-23 win at No. 12 Michigan

Winning ugly -- and spectacularly, as it did Saturday at Ann Arbor -- is Sparty's M.O. so far this season. According to ESPN, Michigan State had a 0.2 percent chance of winning in Ann Arbor before Michigan punter Blake O'Neill bobbled the snap and regretfully put the ball in the air to punt it anyway. Michigan State's return of the fumble made for one of the most memorably devastating losses in recent college football history. But the win keeps Michigan State's Big Ten East championship and College Football Playoff hopes alive. That Nov. 21 game at Ohio State remains the big game, but a trip to Nebraska in three weeks also is one to watch.

Up next: vs. Indiana, 2:30 p.m.

3. Iowa (7-0, 3-0); last week's rank: No. 4 

Last week: 40-10 win at No. 17 Northwestern

Following wins at Wisconsin, vs. Illinois and at Northwestern, Iowa has a two-game lead in the Big Ten West (tiebreaker over Wisconsin) and the schedule (vs. Maryland, at Indiana, vs. Minnesota, vs. Purdue and at Nebaska) gives the Hawkeyes a shot at a surprise undefeated regular season -- and if it wins the Big Ten Championship game, a realistic shot at the College Football Playoff . Needless to say, Kirk Ferentz is no longer on the hot seat and is a Big Ten Coach of the Year candidate. Also, apparently it doesn't matter which running back you put behind that Iowa offensive line (backup Akrum Wadley ran for 204 yards after Jordan Canzeri -- who ran for 256 against Illinois -- left with an injury).

Up next: Idle

4. Michigan (5-22-1); last week's rank: No. 2 

Last week: 27-23 loss to No. 7 Michigan State

This still might be the second best team in the Big Ten in a vacuum, but it's Big Ten Championship hopes were dashed on one of the most heart-breaking losses in recent history. Punters, if you fumble the snap and a defender is within five yards of you, just fall on the ball.

Up next: Idle

5. Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1 Big Ten); last week's rank No.  

Last week: 24-7 win over Purdue

Wisconsin isn't pretty but they are the biggest threat to Iowa in the West. But the Hawkeyes win in Madison means Iowa must lose at least two games for the Badgers to win the division. Badgers defensive coordinator Dave Aranda's defense is dominant (11.5 points per game allowed). But a young offensive line makes this offense much more susceptible to relying on the pass and quarterback Joel Stave.

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

6. Northwestern (5-2, 1-2); last week's rank: No. 5  

Last week: 40-10 loss to No. 17 Iowa

The Wildcats no longer are a Big Ten West contender (Iowa would have to lose three times for Northwestern to have a chance) and their defense no longer looks like the dominant force it was early in the season against Stanford and Duke. Northwestern also relied too much on freshman QB Clayton Thorson (43 pass attempts) when the game was still within striking distance, instead of relying on stud RB Justin Jackson (10 carries, 30 yards).

Up next: at Nebraska, 11 a.m.

7. Penn State (5-2, 2-1); last week's rank: No. 7

Last week: 38-10 loss at No. 1 Ohio State

A blowout loss in Columbus is a reminder that James Franklin's program still has quite a ways to go to reach the top-three teams in the East. The defense -- especially the front four -- is plenty capable. But a terrible offensive line and a less-than-stellar QB Chrisian Hackenberg (10th in Big Ten in pass efficiency) will hold this team back from competing with Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan. But freshman running back Saquan Barkley (567 rushing yards, 8.3 ypc) could be special.

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

8. Illinois (4-2, 1-1); last week's rank: No. 8

Last week: Idle

After hanging tough against Iowa -- which clobbered Northwestern and won at Wisconsin -- Illinois looks like it can compete with anyone in the West, and a win over Wisconsin this week would make a big statement for interim coach Bill Cubit's leadership of the program. QB Wes Lunt gives the Illini a chance in every game, but the Illini still have flaws that can be exposed by the physical teams left on its schedule. Illinois hopes an idle week helps them heal some injuries, especially with running back Josh Ferguson (shoulder).

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

9. Nebraska (3-4, 1-2); last week's rank: No. 11 

Last week: 48-25 win at Minnesota

This is the Nebraska most of us expected. It's talented skill players (Tommy Armstrong Jr.Terrell Newby and Jordan Westerkamp) made big plays, and it's big front four on defense (led by first-round prospect DT Maliek Collins) forced Minnesota's shaky QB Mitch Leidner to pass -- which usually is a good thing for Gophers' opponents (two INTs on Saturday). Nebraska can get back on track for a bowl with a home win against Northwestern this weekend.

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

10. Minnesota (4-3, 1-2); last week's rank: No. 9 [MEDIA:1579485

Last week: 48-25 loss to Nebraska

Everyone knew Minnesota lacked explosion, but the Gophers also lost a bit of physicality up front on both sides of the ball and injuries have ravaged what should have been a strong defense. With five games remaining against teams on the top-eight of this list (including four of the top-five), can Minnesota make it to its fourth straight bowl under Jerry Kill? Don't count them out yet, but the smart money would say the thin roster means the Gophers season will end in November -- despite a strong coaching staff.

Up next: Idle

11. Rutgers (3-3, 1-2); last week's rank: No. 13 [MEDIA:1579484

Last week: 55-52 win at Indiana 

The return of head coach Kyle Flood and star receiver Leonte Caroo has given this team a bit of life. The Scarlet Knights can't play defense (11th in Big Ten in scoring defense) but they can keep up offensiely (fifth scoring offense).

Up next: vs. No. 1 Ohio State, 7 p.m. Saturday

12Indiana (4-3, 0-3); last week's rank: No. 10 [MEDIA:1579485

Last week: 55-52 loss to Rutgers

Three weeks ago, coach Kevin Wilson looked in line for a contract extension. Even after two losses to start Big Ten play, the schedule set up nicely for Wilson. But after Rutgers scored 22 unanswered points in Saturday's win in Bloomington, Wilson might be back on the hot seat. The Hoosiers end the season with games at Maryland and Purdue. But with games at Michigan State and at home against Iowa and Michigan following that, Wilson likely will need those two final games to reach his first bowl in five seasons with the Hoosiers.

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

13. Purdue (1-6, 0-3); last week's rank: No. 12 [MEDIA:1579485

Last week: 24-7 loss at Wisconsin

Maryland's scoring offense and defense are actually worse than Purdue -- the Boilermakers' only saving grace from raning last in the conference. But this can't last much longer -- and neither should third-year coach Darrell Hazell if this trend continues. There has been no progress on the field and no progress in recruiting.

Up next: Idle

14. Maryland (2-4, 0-2); last week's rank: No. 14

Last week: Idle

Interim head coach Mike Locksley won two games in three seasons at New Mexico. Can he lead the Terps to another win this season? With Penn State (home), Iowa (road), Wisconsin (home) and Michigan State (road) next on the schedule, Locks might not have a real shot until the final two games (vs. Indiana and at Rutgers).

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

Werner's Week 8 picks (winners in bold); Last week record: 3-3

Northwestern at Nebaska

Wisconsin at Illinois

Penn State at Maryland

Indiana at Michigan State

Ohio State at Rutgers

 


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