Penn State Football

Big Ten power rankings: Where does Penn State belong after the bye?

Trace McSorley and the Nittany Lions know they need to finish drives against Michigan State.
Trace McSorley and the Nittany Lions know they need to finish drives against Michigan State.

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, Northwestern — so let’s get straight to it. Did Penn State move at all? How far did Michigan State drop? Take a look.

1. Ohio State Buckeyes (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten)

Game result: W, vs. Indiana, 49-26

Movement from last poll: None

Ohio State is one of just three teams in the AP Poll to receive a first-place vote, and it’s currently ranked as the nation’s best team not in the SEC. Penn State showed this team has a few cracks — but the Buckeyes don’t play a ranked opponent again until No. 12 Michigan in the final week of the regular season. It should be pretty smooth sailing until then.

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

Game result: Bye week

Movement from last poll: None

There’s good and bad here for fans of the blue-and-white. The good: Penn State may not boast quality depth, but it has elite athletes at the skill positions, the best offensive line since Franklin has been here and an above-average defense. The bad: It lost to Ohio State, making everything this season a whole lot harder.

3. Michigan Wolverines (5-1, 3-0)

Game result: W, vs. Maryland, 42-21

Movement from last poll: None

This is one of the nation’s best defenses; the question has always been the offense. But the offense keeps taking strides and definitely appears to be one of the Big Ten’s most improved units since Week 1. QB Shea Patterson looked good against Maryland’s top-20 total defense, the offensive line had another strong outing, and RB Karan Higdon remains a consistent threat.

4. Wisconsin Badgers (4-1, 2-0)

Game result: W, vs. Nebraska, 41-24

Movement from last poll: None

With Michigan on the slate Saturday night, this is the week we find out whether Wisconsin is truly a contender. The Badgers barely escaped against Iowa and lost to BYU; can they upset an improving Michigan squad? Watching the Wolverines’ defensive front against this offensive line should be a matchup to remember.

5. Iowa Hawkeyes (4-1, 1-1)

Game result: W, at Minnesota, 48-31

Movement from last poll: None

Michigan may have the best defense in the conference but, statistically, Iowa isn’t far behind. The Hawkeyes rank No. 3 nationally in total defense and No. 5 in scoring defense. QB Nate Stanley and third-down conversions have also been a strength of these Hawkeyes. Don’t sleep on this team.

6. Maryland Terrapins (3-2, 1-1)

Game result: L, at Michigan, 42-21

Movement from last poll: Up (1 spot)

Can we at least agree there’s a significant drop-off after No. 5? It seems counter-intuitive to move a team up after a loss — but the Terps’ loss wasn’t nearly as bad as the teams’ directly below it in Michigan State and Indiana. Maryland’s resume is just stronger than Sparty’s at this point — it beat Texas and destroyed three other teams, while Michigan State has struggled putting anyone away.

7. Michigan State Spartans (3-2, 1-1)

Game result: L, vs. Northwestern, 29-19

Movement from last poll: Down (1 spot)

Say hello to this season’s Big Ten underachiever. Michigan State went from being the AP’s No. 20-ranked team to not even receiving a single vote in just one week. That’s impressive. The offense just doesn’t have it this season; the ground game is non-existent and QB Brian Lewerke is nowhere near good enough to make up for that. With Penn State on the slate this Saturday, the Spartans could be poised for a tumble in the next edition of the power rankings.

8. Indiana Hoosiers (4-2, 1-2)

Game result: L, at Ohio State, 49-26

Movement from last poll: None

In the West, Indiana might be the third-best team. But in the East? The Hoosiers don’t exactly have an easy path. There are a lot of playmakers on this offense — RB Stevie Scott, WR Nick Westbrook, WR J-Shun Harris II — but this team remains inconsistent. It hung with Ohio State for the first half but barely hung on against the Big Ten’s New Jersey school.

9. Northwestern Wildcats (2-3, 2-1)

Game result: W, at Michigan State, 29-19

Movement from last poll: Up (3 spots)

The Wildcats appear to have shaken off their early season struggles — falling to Michigan two weeks ago by just a field goal and upsetting Michigan State on Saturday — but that doesn’t mean you can forget about the bad loss to Akron, either. With two of the Big Ten’s worst teams on the schedule the next two weeks, we expect the Wildcats to move up these rankings. But, for now, this is where they belong.

10. Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-2, 0-2)

Game result: L, vs. Iowa, 48-31

Movement from last poll: Down (1 spot)

The Gophers might have the least impressive path to a bowl berth in the Big Ten. They have wins so far over New Mexico State, Fresno State and Miami (Ohio) — and they still have Nebraska, Illinois and Purdue on the schedule. The Indiana game on Oct. 26 should make clear where the Gophers belong in the pecking order.

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

Game result: Bye week

Movement from last poll: Down (1 spot)

The Wildcats leap-frogged Purdue after their big win, causing Jeff Brohm’s squad to fall. The Boilermakers aren’t a bad team; they just can’t win close games. They lost their first three contests by a combined eight points. Any Big Ten opponent has to look at Purdue on the schedule as a trap game.

12. Illinois Fighting Illini (3-2, 1-1)

Game result: W, at School-from-New-Jersey, 38-17

Movement from last poll: Down (1 spot)

Sorry, Illinois, you don’t get any bonus points for beating up on Chris Ash’s hapless team. It’s definitely unusual to move a team down after a win, but Northwestern’s victory was much more meaningful — and the Illini’s three wins this year came from Kent State, Western Illinois and the worst team in the Big Ten. When and if it beats a team with a winning record, we’ll move it up accordingly.

13. Nebraska Cornhuskers (0-5, 0-3)

Game result: L, at Wisconsin, 41-24

Movement from last poll: None

The last time Nebraska was this bad, kicking off a season with five straight losses, gas cost 15 cents a gallon and the average house sold for less than $5,000. It was 1945. There’s nowhere to go but up for the Huskers, but the golden years might be behind this program — for good.

14. School-from-New-Jersey (1-5, 0-3)

Game result: L, vs. Illinois, 38-17

Movement from last poll: None

We said, two weeks ago, that we wouldn’t use this school’s name until it actually won a Big Ten game. Well, this might take a while. Welcome to Week 3 of us reiterating that you-know-who doesn’t belong in the Big Ten.