Seven weeks down, and six to go in the Big Ten. We’ve reached that point in the season where it’s reasonable to start projecting how the conference stacks up against each other based on performance, and not preseason hype. This is my Big Ten power rankings through week seven. Also, I’ll discuss some big matchups in the coming weeks as well as some offensive standouts from the first half of the year.
1. Penn State 7-0 (3-0)
This is a team on a mission. If that’s not apparent after the 48-7 thrashing they gave Wisconsin at Camp Randall then I don’t know what is. They haven’t overlooked an opponent yet and look to be the favorite to win the Big Ten at this point with first year quarterback Darryl Clark leading the way.
2. Ohio State 6-1 (3-0)
It almost seems that the Buckeyes are here by default. It feels like they’ve been sleepwalking offensively for the past three or four weeks which needs to change if they want to win their next two games (@ MSU, vs. PSU). Those games will tell us everything we need to know about the Buckeyes.
3. Michigan State 6-1 (3-0)
They are beginning to personify their head coach, Mark Dantonio. Tough D and mistake free football has led to six straight victories for the Spartans. If heisman hopeful Javon Ringer has a big day against the Buckeyes it could be seven in a row and a date with PSU to decide the Big Ten on the last day of the season.
4. Minnesota 6-1 (2-1)
The Golden Gophers are the surprise of not just the Big Ten but all of college football after beating the Illini this past weekend. After going 1-11 with no conference wins last year, they have to be on cloud 9 right about now. I could really see them going 4-1 or 1-4 the rest of the year but either way they are bowl eligible just one year after being the Big Ten’s whipping boy.
5. Northwestern 5-1 (1-1)
With games against Purdue and Indiana coming up the Wildcats look to bounce back from a sluggish loss to MSU and become bowl eligible. Tyrell Sutten is the workhorse for this team and as long as C.J. Bacher limits his mistakes they should indeed become 7-1. After that the road gets a bit tougher and I look for them to drop three of their final four games.
6. Illinois 3-3 (1-2)
Plain and simple, Illinois is better than the team that showed up against the Gophers on Saturday. The Illini could easily be in the top three teams on this list but they continue to be all flash and no substance. If they played some defense to back up playmakers Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn then it’s plausible they could be tops on this list. They need to win out to salvage this season and unfortunately that’s just not happening.
7. Iowa 4-3 (1-2)
My impression of the Hawkeyes during the first part of the year is this = Dang, that Shonn Greene kid is good. Iowa runs the ball well and plays good defense, that’s usually a good combination. They need to fair well in the next three games against struggling Wisconsin and Illinois and then Penn State to have a chance to brag at the end of the year.
8. Wisconsin 3-3 (0-3)
I hate to say it, but Wisconsin is becoming the Clemson of the Big Ten... annually overrated. They just took their worst home defeat in almost two decades making it three losses in a row.
Looking at the schedule, they only have two “guaranteed” wins left, those being Indiana and Cal Poly. They need to fix the QB problem and re-establish the running game if they want to make it to a bowl this year.
9. Purdue 2-4 (0-2)
The Boilermakers hung tough against the conference’s two best teams but was only able to muster nine combined points in those games. So as shocking as it seems, the problem with this Purdue team is their offense. Curtis Painter can pass for all the yards in the world but it doesn’t matter if they can’t take advantage in the redzone.
10. Michigan 2-4 (1-1)
Imagine if Wisconsin didn’t fall apart in the second half of this matchup three weeks ago. Michigan would be 1-5 with a loss to lowly Toledo. Obviously Michigan beat Wisconsin so you have to give credit where credit is due but this Wolverine team is just not good. A rebuilding year or two was expecting with Rich Rod coming in but, did you seriously, honestly expect this? There is a very real possibility that Michigan is going to have a losing record this year.
11. Indiana 2-4 (0-3)
The Hoosiers were a great story last year. Unfortunately that has not translated to this year. The schedule only gets harder from this point forward and I see one, maybe two more wins in store for them. And that’s if they catch a few lucky breaks. They made Iowa look like the best team in the Big Ten last weekend.
Remaining Big Games
10/18 - Ohio State at Michigan State
Not many fans had this one marked down as a conference deciding game at the beginning of the year but that’s exactly what it’s turned into. Sparty always plays the Buckeyes tough no matter how good they are so this should be a very telling game for both teams and for the conference.
10/25- Penn State at Ohio State
This game has turned into THE game of the year in the Big Ten. Quick fact = The last time Ohio State started a freshman QB vs. Penn State was 1978 which happens to be the last time the Nittany Lions came out of Columbus with a win.
11/1 - Northwestern at Minnesota
If the top three teams tumble these two (amazingly enough) have put themselves in position to compete for the crown.
11/8 - Ohio State at Northwestern
Depending on how OSU fares the next two weeks, this could be a huge game for both teams. If OSU struggles, look for this NU team to capitalize. If OSU hits there stride, this could be their last speed bump on the way to the conference championship.
11/22- Michigan State at Penn State
In recent years, its been the OSU/Mich rivalry which has dominated the conference. But this year it very well could be the Battle for the Land Grant Trophy which decides the whole deal. MSU and PSU have never played for anything more than a forced rivalry, but this one could mean oh so much more.
1. Darryl Clark, Penn State. 160.6 QB rating, 96-149, 64.4%, 1360 yards, 10 TDs, 2 INTs, 6 rushing TDs
2. Adam Weber, Minnesota. 145.0 QB rating, 142-209, 67.9%, 1612 yards, 9 TDs, 2 INTs, 2 rushing TDs
3. Juice Williams, Illinois. 151.2 QB rating, 107-183, 58.5%, 1677 yards, 13 TDs, 7 INTs, 4 rushing TDs
Javon Ringer, Michigan State. 1112 yards, 4.5 ypc, 14 TDs
Shonn Greene, Iowa. 937 yards, 6.2 ypc, 6 TDs
Evan Royster, Penn State. 719 yards, 7.3 ypc, 9 TDs
Eric Decker, Minnesota. 59 receptions, 782 yards, 5 TDs
Jordan Norwood, Penn State. 21 receptions, 377 yards, 4 TDs
Andy Brodell, Iowa. 24 receptions, 373 yards, 3 TDs
Aaron Maybin (Penn State) and Malcolm Jenkins (Ohio State) should also be mentioned for there contributions on defense. Maybin has been a terror on the defensive line, applying constant pressure and has already forced nine sacks. Jenkins seems to be everywhere at once in the secondary nabbing three interceptions so far this year.
And finally, the special teams player of the year is... Penn State’s (of course) Derrick Williams. He’s returned two kickoffs and one punt for touchdowns so far on the season and he’s averaging 30+ yards per return. He currently has five touchdown returns in his career, a Penn State record.
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