Penn State Football

Big Ten power rankings: Did Penn State move up after dominating Kent State?

Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley celebrates scoring a touchdown during a game against Kent State Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018 at Beaver Stadium.
Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley celebrates scoring a touchdown during a game against Kent State Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018 at Beaver Stadium. psheehan@centredaily.com

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, Minnesota — so let’s get straight to it. Did Penn State rise from our Week 2 rankings? Who’s the new team at the bottom? Take a look.

1. Ohio State Buckeyes (3-0)

Game result: W, vs. TCU, 40-28

Movement from last poll: None

How good are the Buckeyes? Defensive tackle Dre’mont Jones called TCU “probably the fastest team I ever played since I’ve been in college.” Ohio State still won by double digits. According to ESPN’s 2018 Playoff Predictor, the Buckeyes have a 54 percent chance to make the playoff. It’s clear they’re one of the nation’s best.

2. Penn State Nittany Lions (3-0)

Game result: W, vs. Kent State, 63-0

Movement from last poll: Up (1 spot)

The Nittany Lions have committed plenty of mistakes — missed tackles, dropped balls, badly timed penalties — but they’ve won big the last two weeks. There’s plenty of talent on this team and, if it puts it all together, it has the ability to take down Ohio State. It might be the only Big Ten team capable of challenging the Buckeyes.

3. Michigan Wolverines (2-1)

Game result: W, vs. SMU, 45-20

Movement from last poll: Up (1 spot)

Defense? Great. Offense? Not so much. Michigan’s offensive line didn’t play well against SMU, and the running game struggled. This is one of the most-penalized teams in the nation and, like the Nittany Lions, sloppy play has sometimes overshadowed the talent here. It needs to pull itself together this week as the conference season really kicks off.

4. Iowa Hawkeyes (3-0)

Game result: W, vs. Northern Iowa, 38-14

Movement from last poll: Up (1 spot)

Noah Fant might just be the best tight end in the nation — and the Hawkeyes might just be the best team in the Big Ten West. We’ll find out for sure 8:30 p.m. Saturday when Iowa squares of against Wisconsin. Iowa was a 40-to-1 underdog to win this conference in the preseason; opposing Big Ten fans might want to start taking Kirk Ferentz’s team seriously.

5. Wisconsin Badgers (2-1)

Game result: L, vs. BYU, 24-21

Movement from last poll: Down (3 spots)

There’s inexperience on the defense this year, and the passing game isn’t where it needs to be. The latter isn’t exactly a surprise, but this isn’t the Wisconsin defense we’ve become accustomed to. Missed tackles defined Saturday’s loss, and the Badgers just couldn’t adjust — defending the jet sweep and misdirections were an issue all game. Saturday’s game against Iowa should show just how deep the issues go.

6. Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-0)

Game result: W, vs. Miami (Ohio), 26-3

Movement from last poll: Up (2 spots)

So far, so good for Minnesota. The defense has been stingy these first three weeks and, statistically, is one of the nation’s best. But don’t forget 2017 either. Minnesota started out 3-0, looked great — and then went 2-7 in the conference season. Is Minnesota a contender or pretender in 2018? Ask again two games into Big Ten play.

7. Michigan State Spartans (1-1)

Game result: Bye week

Movement from last poll: None

The loss to Arizona State looks even worse now, after the Sun Devils fell 28-21 to San Diego State this past Saturday. Michigan State is lucky it hasn’t fallen out of the AP Top-25 rankings altogether at No. 24. This offense has a lot of growing up to do before it reaches the heart of Big Ten play. Both RB LJ Scott and QB Brian Lewerke need to be better.

8. Indiana Hoosiers (3-0)

Game result: W, vs. Ball State, 38-10

Movement from last poll: Up (2 spots)

Only five undefeated teams remain in the Big Ten — and the Hoosiers are one of them. Granted, Indiana hasn’t exactly been challenged yet. But the offense definitely seems to have taken a step forward from last season. QB Peyton Ramsey is completing 73.7 percent of his passes, and RB Stevie Scott is averaging 5.6 yards per carry.

9. Maryland Terrapins (2-1)

Game result: L, vs. Temple, 35-14

Movement from last poll: Down (3 spots)

What an odd start for Maryland, which beat Texas and then fell to Temple. But credit the Owls — they figured out this team. The key going forward is how Maryland responds when opponents shut down the run. That was Temple’s game plan, and the Terps didn’t have an answer for it. When the Terps’ next opponent executes the same game plan, will the offense struggle the same?

10. Nebraska Cornhuskers (0-2)

Game result: L, vs. Troy, 24-19

Movement from last poll: Down (1 spot)

Remember when Bo Pelini was still the coach, back when nine-win seasons didn’t cut it? Nebraska fans probably miss those days. This isn’t a bad team, but this is still the program’s first 0-2 start in 61 years. Special teams were horrific against Troy, and no group played above average. Scott Frost has his work cut out for him.

11. Illinois Fighting Illini (2-1)

Game result: L, vs. USF, 25-19

Movement from last poll: Up (1 spot)

Truthfully, we never thought Illinois would rise this high — but the Big Ten isn’t exactly having a banner year so far. Illinois played tough against a good South Florida team and took care of business against two early season cupcakes. How it does against Rutgers (Oct. 6 ) and Purdue (Oct. 13) will likely determine where it ends the season on this list.

12. Northwestern Wildcats (1-2)

Game result: L, vs. Akron, 39-34

Movement from last poll: Down (1 spot)

Where do we even begin? Akron rallied from an 18-point deficit to upset Northwestern. QB Clayton Thorson has been a disappointment. The defense, headed by former freshman All-American Paddy Fisher, has struggled. The only good news? If not for the narrow win against Purdue in the opener, the Wildcats would be winless. So there’s that.

13. Purdue Boilermakers (0-3)

Game result: L, vs. Missouri, 40-37

Movement from last poll: Up (1 spot)

Purdue was once known as the Cradle of Quarterbacks. Ironically enough, some of Purdue’s players were actually in cradles the last time the program appeared in a major bowl (2000, Rose Bowl). Jeff Brohm is a solid head coach and, if anyone can build up Purdue, it’s him. But, as they say, for now, Purdue’s gonna Purdue. All three of its losses this season were by four points or less.

14. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-2)

Game result: L, at Kansas, 55-14

Movement from last poll: Down (1 spot)

Let’s allow NJ.com’s Steve Politi to put this past game into perspective: “This might be the most demoralizing, humiliating, unacceptable loss in the modern history of Rutgers football, and yes, I know that’s a high bar to clear.” Let’s call it for what it is: The Scarlet Knights are out of their depth in the Big Ten. If not simply for the university’s location, it’d be a mediocre team in a Group of Five conference. This is the worst Power Five team in the country.

  Comments