Penn State Football

Big Ten power rankings: Did Penn State drop after its deflating loss against Ohio State?

James Franklin and the Nittany Lions need some help to reach a New Year’s Six bowl for the third year in a row.
James Franklin and the Nittany Lions need some help to reach a New Year’s Six bowl for the third year in a row. adrey@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 didn’t have much movement this week, but it was still an interesting one. So let’s get straight to it: Did Penn State fall from our Week 4 rankings? Did Nebraska avoid the dreaded No. 14 spot? Take a look.

1. Ohio State Buckeyes (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten)

Game result: W, at Penn State, 27-26

Movement from last poll: None

As the only undefeated team remaining in the conference, this isn’t really a question anymore. The Buckeyes are the Big Ten’s best. Their unlikely comeback over Penn State will rankle Happy Valley for years. And they’re now in the driver’s seat when it comes to both the Big Ten title game and a spot in the College Football Playoff. Ohio State fans owe OC Ricky Rahne a gift basket. A nice one.

2. Penn State Nittany Lions (4-1, 1-1)

Game result: L, vs. Ohio State, 27-26

Movement from last poll: None

It’s hard to drop a contender when it has the champ on the ropes until the final round. No matter how crushing Saturday night’s loss was, it’s clear Penn State is one of the best in the conference. It just hasn’t fared well against elite teams in the fourth quarter. It’s essentially a play away from being one of the country’s five best squads, however.

3. Michigan Wolverines (4-1, 2-0)

Game result: W, at Northwestern, 20-17

Movement from last poll: None

Jim Harbaugh’s crew looked like it was headed for a loss after falling behind 17-0 early. But the defense buckled down, and RB Karan Higdon did the heavy-lifting on offense. This wasn’t a pretty win, but it was still a win. The offensive line appears to have taken a step forward, but QB Shea Patterson was tentative and the receivers didn’t get much separation early.

4. Wisconsin Badgers (3-1, 1-0)

Game result: Bye week

Movement from last poll: None

The Badgers control their own destiny in the Big Ten West, but they’ll face two more significant challenges in Michigan (Oct. 13) and Penn State (Nov. 10). Wisconsin’s secondary needs to get better, but RB Jonathan Taylor and the offensive line can give fits to any team in the nation.

5. Iowa Hawkeyes (3-1, 0-1)

Game result: Bye week

Movement from last poll: Up (1 spot)

Iowa didn’t need to do a single thing to move up this week. After the first four weeks, and watching Michigan State’s offense struggle, it wasn’t hard to move this team up past the Spartans. Despite the loss to Wisconsin, the Hawkeyes still have a reasonable chance in the West. They’ll be favored in all but one game from here on out — against Penn State (Oct. 27). The Badgers still have Michigan and Penn State on the slate.

6. Michigan State Spartans (3-1, 2-0)

Game result: W, vs. Central Michigan, 31-20

Movement from last poll: Down (1 spot)

The Spartans have been incredibly underwhelming so far this season. They beat Utah State by a touchdown, lost to Arizona State by a field goal — and struggled at times against the Chippewas. This isn’t what we expected from a team that returned nearly its entire starting lineup this season. There’s still plenty of time to turn this around, but Michigan State has “underachiever” written all over it.

7. Maryland Terrapins (3-1, 1-0)

Game result: Bye week

Movement from last poll: None

Stop the run, stop Maryland. But that’s a lot easier said than done. The Terps boast the nation’s No. 10 rushing offense and average a conference-best 6.19 yards per carry. This team has the potential to surprise, and an upset over Michigan next week would turn these rankings on their head.

8. Indiana Hoosiers (4-1, 1-1)

Game result: W, at School-that-shouldn’t-be-in-the-Big-Ten, 24-17

Movement from last poll: None

Saturday’s game wasn’t exactly inspired Hoosier football, but it’ll do. Now comes the hard part: Indiana’s next three opponents are Ohio State, Iowa and Penn State. Sure, it needs just two more wins for bowl eligibility but, with this difficult slate, that’s far from a guarantee. This is an OK team that isn’t quite as good as its record currently indicates.

9. Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-1, 0-1)

Game result: Bye week

Movement from last poll: None

With season-ending injuries to key players like safety Anoine Winfield Jr. and running back Rodney Smith, Minnesota hasn’t exactly experienced smooth sailing here early in the season. It has an easier remaining slate than Indiana, however, and we should learn a lot about this team when it takes on Iowa on Saturday.

10. Purdue Boilermakers (2-3, 1-1)

Game result: W, at Nebraska, 42-28

Movement from last poll: None

The Boilermakers’ three losses came by a combined eight points. But, now, Purdue (finally) appears to have a clear QB in David Blough, Rondale Moore looks like an incredibly special freshman receiver, and this offense boasts enough talent to surprise one of the big dogs. Don’t be shocked to see Purdue pull off a big upset this year.

11. Illinois Fighting Illini (2-2, 0-1)

Game result: Bye week

Movement from last poll: None

Illinois put up decent fights against the good teams (USF, Penn State) and didn’t exactly dominate the cupcakes (Kent State, Western Illinois). So the Illini are still a bit of a mystery. The next two weeks should go a long way in revealing this team’s identity, with Illinois set to face the No. 10 and No. 14 teams in our power rankings.

12. Northwestern Wildcats (1-3, 1-1)

Game result: L, vs. Michigan, 20-17

Movement from last poll: None

Two weeks after losing to Akron, Northwestern nearly upset Michigan — in a collapse overshadowed only by Penn State’s loss to Ohio State. The Wildcats’ offense is just miserable. Clayton Thorson sure doesn’t look like the program-changing QB they initially thought he was.

13. Nebraska Cornhuskers (0-4, 0-2)

Game result: L, vs. Purdue, 42-28

Movement from last poll: None

This is a historically bad start for the Huskers. They haven’t started 0-4 since 1945 when they opened with five straight losses. And, if you include last season, Nebraska has now lost eight in a row — which is the most in program history. “We look like one of the most undisciplined teams in the country,” head coach Scott Frost said. There’s nothing good to say about this team.

14. Team-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named (1-4, 0-2)

Game result: L, vs. Indiana, 24-17

Movement from last poll: None

In case you missed our little soapbox rant last week, we’ve decided that this team is such an embarrassment to the conference that we’ll no longer name it in these power rankings until it gets another win. It didn’t look terrible against Indiana — which is the nicest thing anybody’s said about this team all year — but it still lost big to both Buffalo, 42-13, and Kansas, 55-14. Let’s be honest: It doesn’t belong in the Big Ten. The best season in school history, at least since the moon landing, resulted in the Texas Bowl. The Texas Bowl.

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