Penn State Football

Big Ten power rankings: Did Penn State drop after near-upset against Appalachian State?

Appalachian State coach Scott Satterfield and Penn State coach James Franklin talk as they watch their players warm up before the game at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018.
Appalachian State coach Scott Satterfield and Penn State coach James Franklin talk as they watch their players warm up before the game at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018.

With more college football games Monday night, the weekly Associated Press Top 25 won’t be released until noon Tuesday — but our Big Ten rankings are ready now.

Every week here at the Centre Daily Times, we’ll release our Big Ten power rankings online Monday and in the newspaper Tuesday. We had some movers and shakers this weekend — hello, Maryland — so let’s get straight to it.

Did Penn State fall from our preseason rankings? Who’s at the bottom? Take a look:

1. Ohio State Buckeyes (1-0)

Game result: W, vs. Oregon State, 77-31

Movement from last poll: Up (1 spot)

The Buckeyes racked up more than 700 yards of offense and led 42-14 at halftime against Oregon State. So, yeah, there should be no argument here about No. 1. Urban Meyer’s ... err ... Ryan Day’s squad is already playing like a College Football Playoff contender. This is clearly the team to beat in the Big Ten.

2. Wisconsin Badgers (1-0)

Game result: W, vs. Western Kentucky, 34-3

Movement from last poll: Down (1 spot)

Wisconsin’s slight drop has nothing to do with its performance; it’s just that Ohio State looked the best. Still, the Badgers aren’t far behind. Jonathan Taylor is a Heisman candidate, and his line is elite. Taylor’s 145 rushing yards and two touchdowns are only the beginning.

3. Penn State Nittany Lions (1-0)

Game result: W, vs. Appalachian State, 45-38 OT

Movement from last poll: None

Usually, an upset-scare like this drops you a few spots — but the Nittany Lions are beneficiaries of other goings-on in the conference. That is, Michigan lost and Michigan State also suffered an upset-scare. There’s a razor-thin margin between Nos. 3-5 here, and Penn State could take a tumble soon if it doesn’t improve in a hurry.

Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley scores the first touchdown of the season during the season opener against Appalachian State at Beaver Stadium.

4. Michigan Wolverines (0-1)

Game result: L, at No. 12 Notre Dame, 24-17

Movement from last poll: None

Sure, the Wolverines lost — but it was against a team that is favored in the rest of its games this season. The Fighting Irish are the hardest opponent a Big Ten had to face last week, and that definitely has to be taken into account. We just couldn’t in good conscience reward Michigan State for barely beating Utah State. The Wolverines need to improve their line play and QB Shea Patterson needs to get better under pressure — or things will get ugly for Jim Harbaugh.

5. Michigan State Spartans (1-0)

Game result: W, vs. Utah State, 38-31

Movement from last poll: None

Sparty can thank Penn State for overshadowing what was a surprisingly bad performance against Utah State. If it wasn’t for a late interception, or an incredible catch by Felton Davis, it might’ve been Mark Dantonio’s first season-opening loss since a 38-31 road loss to Cal in 2008. Silly mistakes, including nine penalties, haunted the Spartans.

6. Iowa Hawkeyes (1-0)

Game result: W, vs. Northern Illinois, 33-7

Movement from last poll: None

This wasn’t the Hawkeyes’ prettiest game, but it’ll be memorable for one big reason. It was Kirk Ferentz’s record-setting 144th win at Iowa, which surpassed longtime coach Hayden Fry. The defense was dominant and, although the offense struggled, both offensive tackles were missing due to injury. A lot more will be expected of QB Nate Stanley moving forward.

7. Northwestern Wildcats (1-0)

Game result: W, at Purdue, 31-27

Movement from last poll: None

Clayton Thorson looked just fine his first game back from a torn ACL, but running back Jeremy Larkin was really the talk of the offense. The sophomore rushed for 143 yards and two touchdowns, and also helped kill any hopes of a Purdue comeback by playing a large role in the 7-and-a-half-minute final drive. The Wildcats have suffered slow starts the past two seasons, so this was a big step in the right direction.

8. Maryland Terrapins (1-0)

Game result: W, vs. No. 23 Texas, 34-29

Movement from last poll: Up (3 spots)

Well, the Longhorns are never scheduling Maryland again. The Terps forced three turnovers in the final seven minutes, outscoring Texas 10-0 in the fourth quarter, to pick up another stunning win — a season after opening the year with the upset against the Longhorns. Kasim Hill and Tyyrell Pigrome will be the bane of Big Ten defensive coordinators this season. This team has the ability to put a number of conference teams on upset alert.

9. Nebraska Cornhuskers (0-0)

Game result: N/A (canceled vs. Akron)

Movement from last poll: None

It’s hard to move the Huskers one way or another when its opener against Akron was canceled due to storms and a two-hour, 40-minute weather delay. The identity of Scott Frost’s team is still unknown but, as long as the weather cooperates, we’ll get a good idea this weekend against Colorado.

10. Minnesota Golden Gophers (1-0)

Game result: W, vs. New Mexico State, 48-10

Movement from last poll: Up (3 spots)

Let’s not read too much into a dominating win over a creampuff. But at least it won big against an opponent it was supposed to — the same cannot be said for Michigan State or Penn State. Minnesota has been a 6- to 9-win team for the last five seasons, and that seems to be where expectations are again.

11. Purdue Boilermakers (0-1)

Game result: L, vs. Northwestern, 31-27

Movement from last poll: Down (3 spots)

One of these years, Purdue will go an entire season without a quarterback controversy. 2018 is not that season, however. Elijah Sindelar threw three drive-killing interceptions, and that was the big difference in the loss to Northwestern. On the plus side, freshman Rondale Moore looks like a star. He broke a 46-year-old school record with 313 all-purpose yards — in his first-ever game.

12. Indiana Hoosiers (1-0)

Game result: W, vs. Florida International, 38-28

Movement from last poll: Down (2 spots)

Florida International has been a decent Sun Belt team in the past, but it also had to replace its starting quarterback, running back and leading receiver this offseason. It’s hard to glean much from this game, but IU quarterback Peyton Ramsey finished last season strong — and he looks like he picked up right where he left off. His impressive accuracy could move Indiana up in these polls sooner rather than later.

13. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-0)

Game result: W, vs. Texas State, 35-7

Movement from last poll: Down (1 spot)

Poor Rutgers. It’s in one of the hardest divisions in the country, and it’s not even the top recruiter in its own backyard. It hasn’t gone bowling since its first season in the Big Ten, in 2014, and it seems like that drought is going to persist a little longer. It beat Texas State, but the passing game remains a gigantic question mark.

14. Illinois Fighting Illini (1-0)

Game result: W, vs. Kent State, 31-24

Movement from last poll: None

You know why Illinois barely beat one of the worst teams in the country? Here’s a simple answer: Because it’s also one of the worst teams in the country. The main highlight to the Illini is Lovie Smith’s beard. Outside of that, there’s not much to watch. We’re fully prepared for the Illini to stay here all season.