Power Ranking The Big Ten (+ Nebraska!): Week 4
Welcome to the fourth edition of the Big Ten (+ Nebraska) Power Rankings.
A quiet week matchup-wise in the Big Ten likely meant very little movement in the polls, but it was really more for the schools themselves to help tune up before conference play begins next week.
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. What this means, of course, is that the rankings for the first few weeks won't correlate with the expectations of the teams. 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 4 answered very few questions about the teams, but nonetheless there were some interesting results that resulted in subtle movement up and down the rankings.
Movers and Shakers
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Biggest winner: Iowa
Nobody really stood out this week given the poor competition across the board, but the Hawkeyes get the distinction for the way they rebounded after losing in the desert, blanking poor Ball State 45-0. It's exactly what Ferentz and company needed heading into conference play.
Honorable mention: Wisconsin
Like other teams, we won't learn anything from this one. Still, Wisconsin's execution was practically flawless from start to finish.
Biggest loser: Purdue
Losing to Toledo really hurts, but what gives Purdue the nod this week is their horrible luck. After already losing Ralph Bolden and Kevin Smith for the season, Robert Marve was carted off the field in Saturday's game; his season might be over, too. Injuries are nagging this entire team left and right.
(Dis)honorable mention: Minnesota
After two inexcusable losses at home, Minnesota now must embrace the spoiler role--they might not be favored in any game the rest of the way.
#12: Minnesota (1-3, 0-0)
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LW: LOSS vs Northern Illinois, 23-34
NW: vs Northwestern
In what was basically a must-win game for Brewster's job, the Gophers came out and put together another pitiful effort, losing by 11 at home to NIU. The Gopher defense, the biggest liability in all of those losses, was carved up for 297 yards on the ground, including 223 by Chad Spann. Weber had a good day, going 31-46 with the only INT coming in desperation, but overall the Gophers committed nine penalties. Bright spots for the Gophers includedMarQueis Gray, who had his first 100-yard receiving day, and Ryan Collado, whose kick returns were largely missed by the Minnesota fans that left early. The good news for Minnesota is that their stock can't possibly get much worse.
#11: Purdue (2-2, 0-0)
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LW: LOSS vs Toledo, 20-31
When the going gets tough, the tough get... injured, I guess. Poor Purdue's injury bug bit again, this time sacking Robert Marve. Marve will undergo an MRI to determine the severity of the injury but it appears he might be sidelined for the remainder of the season. Backup Rob Henry performed decently in relief, going 17/31 for 140 and a TD, and the ground game generated over 200 yards again, but it wasn't enough to overcome the 21-point deficit. Toledo entered the game with the worst offense in the country and turned the ball over twice, but they managed 378 yards against the Purdue defense. Ryan Kerrigan continues to be a monster for the Boilermakers, racking up 10.5 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, a sack, a FF and a fumble recovery. Purdue now gets a much-needed bye week.
#10: Illinois (2-1, 0-0)
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NW: vs Ohio State
Ideally you'd like a chance to regroup before having to face the #2 team in the country, and that's what the Illini got, with the bye week coming right before the season-opening showdown against the Buckeyes. The numbers are rather grim: Illinois has lost 15 of its last 16 conference openers and hasn't beaten OSU in Memorial Stadium since '91. After taking last week to rest, starters Eddie McGee and Hugh Thornton were practicing again and should get on the field Saturday.
#9: Indiana (3-0, 0-0)
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LW: WIN vs Akron, 35-20
NW: vs Michigan
There's good news and bad news. The bad news is that the Hoosiers still don't have much of a running game, being held to just 84 yards against an undersized Akron front. IU also struggled against the run, with timing issues and a weak push that couldn't stop the Zips from gaining 160 yards on the ground. Standout LB Tyler Replogle's concussion still lingers. Now the good news: IU hasn't been seriously challenged in any of its three games and heads into conference play unbeaten. Ben Chappell was ridiculous, throwing for 342 yards and four TDs, while Terrance Turner turned in a nice 121-yard receiving day. The OL looked good, allowing just its second sack in three outings, and Replogle should be back for the home date with Michigan.
#8: Penn State (3-1, 0-0)
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LW: WIN vs Temple, 22-13
NW: at Iowa
Temple could end up being a better win than anticipated, but PSU must be weary about itself heading into conference play. Despite 439 yards, the offense converted just one red zone trip into a touchdown against the Owls, who led for almost 40 minutes. PSU fans can breathe a sigh of relief after Royster darted for 50 yards on his first carry en route to a 187-yard day, but over and over the Lions couldn't get into the end zone, ending the day at 6/17 on third-down conversions. Apart from one 75-yard drive, the PSU defense was pretty strong, holding Temple to 202 yards and getting three picks of QB Chester Stewart. Game ball goes to Collin Wagner, who scored 16 points on five FGs and an XP. A big game in Iowa City looms.
#7: Iowa (3-1, 0-0)
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LW: WIN vs Ball State, 45-0
NW: vs Penn State
The pieces and schedule are still there for Iowa to have a special season, and Ferentz appears to have his troops ready for conference play after trouncing Ball State 45-0 and outgaining the Cardinals 562-112. The OL was outstanding, allowing practically no pressure and zero sacks after giving up six to Arizona last week, and paving the way for 256 yards on the ground. Ricky Stanzi took advantage, throwing for 288 yards and three scores, including two to Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, who filled in admirably for the injured Marvin McNutt. The DL manhandled Ball State, with Mike Daniels collecting four TFLs. Now the real fun begins--Iowa hosts Penn State in a grudge match next week.
#6: Northwestern (4-0, 0-0)
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LW: WIN vs Central Michigan, 30-25
NW: at Minnesota
It wasn't pretty, but Northwestern's win over CMU gave the Wildcats just their second unbeaten OOC showing in 48 years. Dan Persa had another outstanding day--after four games he's NU's leading rusher as well as first nationally in completion percentage (80.2) and third in passer efficiency. He might be the second most important player on any team in these rankings (behind Denard). That said, the Wildcats have to find more consistent rushing, as Arby Fields, Jacob Schmidt, and Mike Trumpy have not spelled Persa well enough. Quentin Davie forced another turnover, his fourth in the last three games, but the Wildcat defense couldn't stop two long CMU scoring drives late and committed lots of silly penalties, including back-to-back facemasks on CMU's first drive.
#5: Wisconsin (4-0, 0-0)
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LW: WIN vs Austin Peay, 70-3
NW: at Michigan State
It won't teach us anything, but damned if it wasn't pretty. Against a 44-point underdog, Wisconsin rolled to an easy victory with one of its cleanest and best-executed games in a while. The numbers, while not surprising given the competition, are still fun to look at: Scott Tolzien went 15/17, John Clay went over 100 yards again, and standout freshman James White had four scores. The defense allowed two drives of over 50 yards, but 11 AP drives ended without any points in the bench-clearing game. Most importantly, Wisconsin did not commit a turnover and only received a single penalty, incurred late in the game by the backups. They'll need to be this sharp to be successful in Spartan Stadium next week.
#4: Nebraska (4-0, 0-0)
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LW: WIN vs South Dakota State, 17-3
Yikes. After a dominant showing against Washington, the Huskers struggled heavily against winless SDSU. The starters played much longer than anticipated, with Taylor Martinez going into the fourth quarter and tossing two of Nebraska's three turnovers. The defense did its part, however, keeping the Jacks out of the end zone and getting two more INTs to push its season total to 10 through four games. The Huskers did give up 141 yards rushing, but Lavonte David was especially effective, accounting for 19 stops on 66 of SDSU's offensive plays. NU gets 12 days off to prepare for a trip to Manhattan against unbeaten KSU.
#3: Michigan (4-0, 0-0)
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LW: WIN vs Bowling Green, 65-21
NW: at Indiana
Michigan got to 4-0 for the second year in a row, running BGSU off the field to the tune of 65 points and 721 yards. Denard Robinson managed to get over 100 yards again before the injury, but more impressively, last year's starter Tate Forcier came in and went 12/12, proving perhaps that RichRod needs him after all. Lots of guys got in on the fun as Michigan ran for 466 yards from nine different guys, and Roy Roundtree's stock keeps climbing after a nine-catch, 118-yard day. Despite the offensive showing, the defense continues to be a problem. Despite three sacks (two from Ryan Van Bergen), the Wolverines couldn't generate enough pressure to stop BGSU's backups from throwing for 250 yards. Robinson should be good to go against IU next week.
#2: Michigan State (4-0, 0-0)
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LW: WIN vs Northern Colorado, 45-7
NW: vs Wisconsin
The Spartans are all the way up to #2 in these Power Rankings; now, as they attempt to focus harder than ever, we get to see if MSU can stay there. Without its coach, Michigan State took Northern Colorado to the woodshed, dismantling the FCS school 45-7. MSU showed remarkable balance, with Kirk Cousins going 16/20 for 290 and the ground game giving NCU a steady dose of Le'Veon Bell, Edwin Baker, and Larry Caper to the tune of 201 yards. Superstar LB Greg Jones collected the first and second interceptions of his career to lead the defense, but he did pick up two offsides penalties. Infractions might be the Spartan's biggest weakness--they were flagged 11 times on Saturday. It's uncertain at this point whether or not Dantonio will be on the sideline for the Wisconsin game next week.
#1: Ohio State (4-0, 0-0)
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LW: WIN vs Eastern Michigan, 73-20
NW: at Illinois
OSU scores 73... wait, what? Did Tressel die? No, but he did open up the playbook, and the Buckeye faithful got a treat as they watched their offense go to town on an inferior opponent. Terrelle Pryor had statistically one of his greatest days yet, throwing four TDs (all to Dane Sanzenbacher), running for a fifth, and--to the delight of the fans--catching a sixth on an HB option from Jordan Hall. The offensive proficiency overshadowed a relatively weak day by the defense, which on most days will account for more than two sacks and one turnover. EMU put together three scoring drives of over 70 yards. The secondary unit was particularly ineffective, giving up ten first downs, five 20+ yard completions, and two TDs to EMU quarterback Alex Gillett.