Penn State Football

Big Ten power rankings: How far did Penn State tumble after its stunning loss?

Penn State wide receiver KJ Hamler watches in disappointment as Michigan State celebrates their 21-17 win on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018.
Penn State wide receiver KJ Hamler watches in disappointment as Michigan State celebrates their 21-17 win on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. 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 had a ton of movers and shakers this weekend — including five teams that moved multiple spots — so let’s get straight to it. How far did Penn State fall? How much did Michigan State move up? Take a look.

1. Ohio State Buckeyes (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten)

Game result: W, vs. Minnesota, 30-14

Movement from last poll: None

Ohio State is one of just six undefeated teams remaining in the FBS. Urban Meyer’s squad has sometimes struggled getting going in the first half, but they know how to put games away. This is the nation’s best team after Alabama, and it doesn’t look as if it’ll be challenged again until the final week of the regular season.

2. Michigan Wolverines (6-1, 4-0)

Game result: W, vs. Wisconsin, 38-13

Movement from last poll: Up (1 spot)

The Wolverines’ lone blemish came against Notre Dame in the season opener, and this is a completely different offense now. The line manhandled Wisconsin and has come a long way in a few short weeks. QB Shea Patterson and RB Karan Higdon are both playmakers, and this whole team is playing like a playoff-caliber squad.

3. Iowa Hawkeyes (5-1, 2-1)

Game result: W, at Indiana, 42-16

Movement from last poll: Up (2 spots)

The Hawkeyes are the most underrated team in the conference. They were a special-teams miscue away from upsetting the Badgers earlier in the season, and they’ve beaten several tough-but-unranked squads, such as Iowa State, which just crushed West Virginia. They’ve scored 90 points in their last two conference games.

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

Game result: L, at Michigan, 38-13

Movement from last poll: Down (1 spot)

Pro Football Focus ranked Alex Hornibrook as the Big Ten’s best quarterback last week — and Saturday’s game against Michigan showed that might’ve been a little premature. He finished 7-of-20 passing for 100 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions — and most of those positive stats came in garbage time. The defense also had an uncharacteristic game but were without both starting safeties and lost two other defensive backs during the contest.

5. Michigan State Spartans (4-2, 2-1)

Game result: W, at Penn State, 21-17

Movement from last poll: Up (2 spots)

There was some discussion whether Penn State should still be ranked ahead of Michigan State. After all, over the span of the entire season, the Nittany Lions have looked more impressive — but it’s difficult ranking a team with an identical record behind a team it just beat. Sparty is a bit of an enigma, but the win over PSU puts it in a similar position of 2016 Penn State after its Ohio State win.

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

Game result: L, vs. Michigan State, 21-17

Movement from last poll: Down (4 spots)

What a tumble. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The offensive play-calling was suspect, and the defense couldn’t hold up when the team needed it most. This squad is talented, but silly mistakes and puzzling play-calls have snatched away any hopes at the College Football Playoff.

7. Maryland Terrapins (4-2, 2-1)

Game result: W, vs. School-from-New-Jersey, 34-7

Movement from last poll: Down (1 spot)

Maryland definitely has to be the surprise of the Big Ten East this season. It boasts the nation’s No. 21 rushing offense, averages 5.79 yards per run play and has been nearly impossible for the second-tier teams to stop. This team may have moved down after a win, but that has less to do with Maryland and more to do with crediting Sparty for its big victory. The Terps are no joke.

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

Game result: W, vs. Nebraska, 34-31 OT

Movement from last poll: Up (1 spot)

Trailing by 10 with six minutes left in the game, the Wildcats somehow mounted a comeback and stole a win over Nebraska. Pat Fitzgerald’s team has been inconsistent this season, nearly beating Michigan but losing to Akron, but it’s rebounded nicely after a three-game slide. It’ll have to be on top of its game with the following three-game stretch starting at the end of the month: vs. Wisconsin, vs. Notre Dame, at Iowa.

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

Game result: W, at Illinois, 46-7

Movement from last poll: Up (2 spots)

If Iowa is the conference’s most underrated team, then Purdue is right behind it. The Boilermakers lost their first three games by a combined eight points but have won the last three by double digits. QB David Blough has been impressive, and there are a lot of solid playmakers on this offense — such as D.J. Knox and Rondale Moore. We say this every week, but Purdue has “trap game” written all over it for opponents.

10. Indiana Hosiers (4-3, 1-3)

Game result: L, vs. Iowa, 42-16

Movement from last poll: Down (2 spots)

The Hoosiers are an average team that struggles against the better teams in the conference — losing to Ohio State 49-26 and Iowa 42-16 — but they’re not a bad team. Indiana is right on the bubble of being a bowl team. The regular-season finale against Purdue might actually be an interesting one, which is something that hasn’t been written in that series history since 2007.

11. Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-3, 0-3)

Game result: L, at Ohio State, 30-14

Movement from last poll: Down (1 spot)

See: Indiana. This team just isn’t good enough to compete with the Big Ten’s best. It lost all three of its conference games by 16-to-29 points, and its only wins came against teams such as New Mexico State, Miami (Ohio) and Fresno State. It doesn’t help that it lost CB Antoine Winfield Jr. and RB Rodney Smith for the season, but a bowl was going to be hard to come by either way.

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

Game result: L, vs. Purdue, 46-7

Movement from last poll: None

The Illini’s resume is even less impressive than Minnesota’s. It has wins against Kent State, Western Illinois and the Big Ten’s worst team. It needs just three more wins to become bowl eligible, but it’s more of a long shot to go bowling than any other non-losing team. Illinois has a solid one-two punch at running back, but that’s not nearly enough to make up for the team’s many other shortcomings.

13. Nebraska Cornhuskers (0-6, 0-4)

Game result: L, at Northwestern, 34-31 OT

Movement from last poll: None

This is the worst start in program history. Literally, for Nebraska fans, it doesn’t get any worse than this. Nebraska had a 98.7 percent chance, based on ESPN’s FPI, to win this game with about six minutes left in the fourth quarter before blowing it. This is a young team that needs a complete overhaul; Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson threw for a career-high 455 yards.

14. School-that-doesn’t-deserve-to-be-named (1-6, 0-4)

Game result: L, at Maryland, 34-7

Movement from last poll: None

In case you’re wondering why New Jersey’s Big Ten school isn’t named, we decided three weeks ago not to name it until it wins another game. So ... this might be a while. Here’s the passing line from the school that’s an embarrassment to the conference: 2-of-17, 8 yards, 5 interceptions. That’s not a misprint. This team is the Big Ten’s scarlet letter “R.”

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