Power Ranking The Big Ten (+ Nebraska!): Week 2
Welcome to the second edition of the Big Ten (+ Nebraska) Power Rankings.
The second week promised some memorable games, including marquee OOC matchups and a few heated rivalry games that could have cemented the participating teams' place in the pecking order or could have left disappointed fans looking to the future.
Before we begin, here's a little reminder on how these rankings were chosen. By and large, I rank the teams based on how the team in question played the previous week and how good the opponent is/was perceived to be. Was there a complete team effort for a full 60 minutes? Did they look good in a loss (or bad in a win)? Was it a road game? Was the opponent a layup? These are the most important factors. Preseason expectations are thrown out the window for the most part; I'm not interested in rewarding a team for playing a poor opponent. What this means, of course, is that the rankings for the first few weeks won't correlate with the expectations of the teams (something that was a point of contention in the comments section of the first edition). Minor things such as suspensions or injuries may also be factored into rankings but their overall impact will probably be minimal. Unfortunately, this method of ranking is not an exact science, since I'm unable to watch all 12 teams play in any given week, but hopefully that's not too apparently reflected in the rankings (hah).
Week 2 went by mostly without a hitch; all twelve teams now have a win under their belt, eight teams still stand undefeated, and some teams already look primed to contend this season. One major hiccup virtually guaranteed a major shakeup in the rankings.
Movers and Shakers
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Biggest winner: Ohio State
Although it wasn't the blowout it could have been, OSU emerged victorious with a convincing win over an extremely talented Miami team. To this point it's by far the biggest win by any team in the rankings, further solidifying OSU as a legitimate national title contender and reminding all of the other teams that they might just once again be looking up at the Buckeyes.
Honorable mention: Iowa
Michigan has a case here, but Iowa gets the nod after jumping out of the gates and thumping a rival before halftime.
Biggest loser: Minnesota
Minnesota might be the laughingstock of college football this week after getting torched at home by South Dakota. What looked like a promising season after the opener has suddenly become an unmitigated nightmare for Brewster's Boys. USD was by far the easiest home game for the Gophers all year; you almost have to wonder if they'll win any in 2010.
(Dis)honorable mention: Penn State
As the only other team to lose this week, Penn State gets the nod, although there's no reason to be upset considering the opponent.
#12: Minnesota (1-1, 0-0)
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LW: LOSS vs South Dakota, 38-41
NW: vs Southern California
Where to begin with this one? The good news is that the offense is still moving efficiently, with Weber having a great day with no turnovers and Duane Bennett rumbling over the century mark for two scores. The defense, however, was completely gashed by the USD spread and QB Dante Warren, who accounted for 433 yards and five touchdowns in front of the Gopher faithful, capped by a backbreaking 36-yard scoring run on 4th-and-1 from which Minnesota couldn't recover. Brewster's job is in serious jeopardy and things don't get any easier moving forward as USC comes to town next week.
#11: Indiana (1-0, 0-0)
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NW: at Western Kentucky
You could say that the season hasn't even begun for Indiana yet. The game against Towson left a lot of questions unanswered, and a 16-day layoff gives Bill Lynch a unique opportunity to coach up his troops, keeping them focused by opening up competition for starting jobs at practice. The Hoosiers hope that playmaker Tandon Doss has fully recovered from his groin injury; he'll be on the field next week.
#10: Purdue (1-1, 0-0)
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LW: WIN vs Western Illinois, 31-21
NW: vs Ball State
Purdue used an 18-second, 10-point burst to take control over WIU, but they didn't ever really put the Leathernecks away, going a dismal 1-for-8 on third down in the second half and allowing the score to look closer than it really was. Dan Dierking carried the load for the Boilermakers, getting 102 yards on 14 carries and two scores, his first since his freshman season. The defense gave up over 400 yards, but Ryan Kerrigan was once again a beast, notching 12 tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble. In a terrible turn of events, megastar Keith Smith was lost for the season to a knee injury.
#9: Illinois (1-1, 0-0)
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LW: WIN vs Southern Illinois, 35-3
NW: vs Northern Illinois
The win over SIU might not look all that impressive, but the Salukis were #2 in the FCS polls after Week 1--and considering the stock of quality FCS teams in the wake of some recent games, you could say this is a solid win. The defense stuffed the stat sheet all game, racking up 2 turnovers, 4 sacks, and 8 pass breakups in keeping an opponent out of the end zone for the first time since 2007. The offense was efficient, racking up over 400 yards behind Scheelhaase's 14-18 and LeShoure's eighth straight 100-yard game despite good pressure for most of the game. Senior punter Anthony Santella averaged over 50 yards a boot on the game.
#8: Penn State (1-1, 0-0)
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LW: LOSS at Alabama, 3-24
NW: vs Kent State
There's not much to take away from the game against Alabama, as the Lions simply ran into a better team. That said, the Lions didn't give themselves the best opportunity to win. The ground game struggled again, and the defense had no answer for the balance of Richardson and McElroy. Four turnovers, including two in the red zone, essentially killed the Lions' chances as well. There were some positives, however, as the OL--one of PSU's biggest question marks entering the season--prevented a ferocious Bama defense from notching a single sack and gave Bolden time to make a few good plays in front of a hostile crowd.
#7: Northwestern (2-0, 0-0)
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LW: WIN vs Illinois State, 37-3
NW: at Rice
Nothing much to learn from this game, really. While Denard Robinson hogged all the attention, Dan Persa put together another ridiculous effort, going 19-23 for two TDs and running for another score. Persa got the ball to nine different receivers, including Drake Dunsmore who hauled in those two touchdowns. The running game still needs work, but Arby Fields looked promising. An opportunistic defense forced hapless ISU into four turnovers, including two interceptions of Redbird QB Matt Brown by Quentin Davie. Fitzgerald cleared the bench in the second half. Next up: a good road test against Rice.
#6: Wisconsin (2-0, 0-0)
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LW: WIN vs San Jose State, 27-14
NW: vs Arizona State
2-0 is 2-0, but there's a lot of reason for concern in Madison. After a beautiful opening drive, the Badgers left 14 points on the field in the first half after a James White fumble went out of the end zone and Scott Tolzien's 4th-and-1 resulted in a turnover on downs. The OL gave up two sacks and several botched snaps led to three Tolzien fumbles. John Clay was bruising again, with 137 yards and two scores, but the Gilreath injury really stings. The run game was stifling, however, holding SJSU to 55 yards behind J.J. Watt's 2.5 TFLs. The Badgers get Chris Borland and Nick Toon back next week for the showdown against Arizona State.
#5: Nebraska (2-0, 0-0)
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LW: WIN vs Idaho, 38-17
NW: at Washington
It was night and day between the offense and defense in Lincoln this past weekend. With a game against Jake Locker looming, the Husker defense showed vicious tenacity and playmaking ability, notching seven sacks, six turnovers, and two defensive touchdowns. The line was ferocious, with Jared Crick accounting for two sacks, and the secondary shut down everything in front of it. On the other hand, the offense was largely ineffective. Big plays by Taylor Martinez and Roy Helu put Idaho away, but eight fumbles and ten penalties is staggeringly bad.
#4: Michigan State (2-0, 0-0)
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LW: WIN at Florida Atlantic, 30-17
NW: vs Notre Dame
The surprise team in the early going has to be Michigan State, who got another dominant performance on the ground. Last week it was Le'Veon Bell; this week it was Edwin Baker, whose 80-yard scamper in the 3rd ignited the MSU fans at Ford Field. That said, the offense was horrible on third down again this week, going a meager 1-7. It showed up on the clock as well, as MSU held the ball for just 22 minutes. The defense was suffocating up front, holding the Owls to 45 yards, but the secondary and Chris Rucker in particular got torched by a less talented receiving corps, giving up multiple big plays. Notre Dame comes to town next week.
#3: Michigan (2-0, 0-0)
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LW: WIN at Notre Dame, 28-24
NW: vs Massachusetts
Despite the fall to #3 in these rankings, Michigan's stock continues to skyrocket. Denard Robinson followed up his amazing Week 1 performance with an all-timer against Notre Dame. The numbers are staggering: 885 yards of offense through two games without a single turnover. Folks... that is nuts. The defense, however, still needs some work, getting carved to the tune of 535 yards. The secondary was particularly bad, giving up a 95-yard TD to a tight end, but the Irish gift-wrapped a few picks. As bad as the defense looks, Denard Robinson already looks like one of those special players that simply refuses to lose.
#2: Iowa (2-0, 0-0)
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LW: WIN vs Iowa State, 35-7
NW: at Arizona
Now THAT is how you bury a rival. Iowa makes the biggest jump in the rankings after undoubtedly the strongest team effort of the week. The sole area of concern was kickoff coverage, but the Hawkeyes were dominant everywhere else, with Adam Robinson gaining 156 yards and a score and Ricky Stanzi accounting for three touchdowns. The OL controlled the tempo from the start, paving the way for 29 plays on the first two drives and a TOP of over 35 minutes. The defense was led by Jeff Tarpinian, who grabbed 11 tackles, and forced ISU into seven punts, three interceptions, and a turnover on downs. A big game in Tucson looms.
#1: Ohio State (2-0, 0-0)
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LW: WIN vs Miami (FL), 36-24
NW: vs Ohio
OSU retains the top spot this week by notching unquestionably the biggest win of the young season so far. It didn't go as smoothly as in Week 1, but the Buckeyes still beat an extremely talented Miami team with strong defensive play. OSU had four picks, none more pivotal--or entertaining--than Cameron Heyward's 80-yard rumble that led to a Terrelle Pryor TD run, which essentially iced the game. Pryor himself wasn't great, but the Buckeyes still got 414 yards. Special teams continue to be a big problem, however, with Miami getting two touchdowns on returns.