Major mix ups from last week to this week and no one would have imagined power rankings could look like this in the Big Ten after five weeks. This is what makes us tune in to the beautiful game of college football every Saturday.
Bona Fide Contenders:
Michigan State: The Spartans are averaging over 50 points per game. Head coach Mark Dantonio should get some unique reward for the job he has done. Has any team improved more than Michigan State in a 12 month time period? This time last year the Spartans were 4-1, picked to finish in the middle of their division after a 6-6 season. They have only lost one game since that time, won the Big Ten, won the Rose Bowl, currently sit in the top 10, and are third in the nation in scoring offense.
Nebraska: As Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, my friend.” The Huskers have reason to believe they can walk into East Lansing this week and show the Spartans who the real playoff contender in the Big Ten is. The odds are against them as head coach Bo Pelini has never beat a top 10 team on the road. The Huskers have an athletic defense and are second in the nation in total offense. The Nebraska-Michigan State showdown could easily be a preview of the Big Ten Championship.
Second Tier Contenders:
Ohio State: Head coach Urban Meyer appeared to take full advantage of the bye week they had. The offense came out and throttled Cincinnati, putting up 50 points and 710 yards. Don’t count the Buckeyes out from being able to make a serious splash in the Big Ten race. They have the horses and their young guys will get better and better as the year goes on.
Wisconsin: It isn’t always pretty, but they get it done most of the time. Running back and Heisman hopeful, Melvin Gordon is just fine and he is a terrifying threat to every defense. The problem is no one is scared, at all, when they see quarterback Tanner McEvoy drop back to pass. It is rare to be a ranked team and yet people be shocked when a forward pass is completed. The real x-factor for the Badgers will be the development of their defense as the season continues. They certainly seem to be heading in the right direction.
Dark Horse Contenders:
Maryland: The Terrapins are playing good football. They cannot be overlooked by anyone. They have strong weapons on the outside and seem to be finding their stride. The problem is they have a tough schedule and might not be favored to win a game until Michigan on November 22nd.
Iowa: Still didn’t look strong offensively and the quarterback situation is in flux, but this is a team that is getting better and will be very good by the time they get to Wisconsin and Nebraska. The Hawkeyes will benefit from the softest schedule in the Big Ten and they will steadily improve.
Penn State: They Nittany Lions hid their warts for four weeks. It appears every single one of them was badly exposed by Northwestern. The Wildcats blew out Penn State, in Happy Valley, to welcome head cocah James Franklin to the Big Ten. Northwestern’s Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald out coached James Franklin in every way, shape, and form. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg played a terrible game, often put in bad situations by his coach. The offensive line was horrific and the thin defense showed its deficiencies. It was ugly. Will it get more ugly or can James Franklin stop the bleeding?
Minnesota: The Golden Gophers are getting really good at controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. They walked into The Big House and dominated Michigan. This was possibly the best performance in Jerry Kill’s tenure at Minnesota. With that said, it is hard to get their horrific showing against TCU and their lack of passing game out of mind.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights have been better than most people thought they would be. With running back Paul James being knocked out for season, it is hard to imagine the rest of the season not looking rough for Rutgers. As the Scarlet Knights head into Big Ten play, they have the looks of a team that puts up some good fights without being able to come out with the win.
Contend? That’s hilarious:
Northwestern: The Wildcats had an absolutely fantastic win again Penn State on Saturday. This doesn’t erase their terrible losses against Cal and Northern Illinois. It is quite unclear how good Nortwestern and Penn State is at this point. With that said, the Wildcats looked like the 8-9 win team most projected them to be. If they can keep it up the Big Ten West race could get a lot more interesting.
Indiana: They lose to Bowling Green at home, beat a top 25 Missouri team on the road, and then get blown out by Maryland. Eminem would like the real Indiana to please stand up. Head coach Kevin Wilson has clearly upgraded the Hoosiers since he has been there. Now he needs to learn how to get them to show up with the same amount of intensity every week.
Illinois:The Fighting Illini was the most unimpressive 3-1 team in the country as the headed to Lincoln last Saturday. Illinois definitely has some playmakers, but their defense is awful. Head coach Tim Beckman runs an offense that doesn’t help his poor defense at all and the offense isn’t good enough to simply outscore everyone. Things need to change or the season is going to be long for Illinois.
Michigan: The coaching is terrible. The offense is terrible. The defense is surprisingly terrible. This is what you call a dumpster fire. There is no way to positively spin what is happening in Ann Arbor.
Purdue: Head coach Darrell Hazel simply doesn’t have any forward momentum of any kind. The program isn’t any better than when he got the job. They lost two Iowa by two touchdowns at home to Iowa this week and it’s hard to imagine many, if any, wins on the rest of their schedule.
*** Posted by Josh Harvey ***