Penn State Football

Big Ten power rankings: Where is Penn State after the win over Maryland?

‘Being able to thank the fans one last time’ McSorley says of senior victory lap

Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley talks about the emotions of senior day after the win over Maryland on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018.
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Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley talks about the emotions of senior day after the win over Maryland on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018.

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 handful of movers and shakers this weekend — hello, Minnesota and Wisconsin — so let’s get straight to it. Did Penn State’s position change? How far did Maryland fall? Take a look.

1. Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten)

Game result: W, vs. Michigan, 62-39

Movement from last poll: Up (1 spot)

Yes, the same team that needed overtime to survive Maryland and lost to Purdue by four touchdowns just treated Michigan like a MAC team. Don’t try to make sense of it. If you’re looking for pretty and steady wins week in and week out, watch Alabama. If you’re looking for wildly puzzling victories, tune in to the Buckeyes.

2. Michigan Wolverines (10-2, 8-1)

Game result: L, at Ohio State, 62-39

Movement from last poll: Down (1 spot)

Fun fact: Over the last six years, Rutgers has more wins over Michigan than Michigan has over Ohio State. The Scarlet Knights beat U-M back in 2014; U-M last beat the Buckeyes in 2011. Former Michigan wideout Devin Funchess had a memorable quote after that Rutgers loss, and maybe it’s one Jim Harbaugh can take solace in: “Wins and losses, that’s just a statistic.” (And, yes, that’s a real quote.)

3. Penn State Nittany Lions (9-3, 6-3)

Game result: W, vs. Maryland, 38-3

Movement from last poll: None

Not everyone agrees with us ranking Penn State over Northwestern. But here’s, statistically, where the Nittany Lions have the advantage: Total defense, scoring defense, red zone defense, total offense, scoring offense, red zone offense. The Nittany Lions are ranked 33 spots ahead of Northwestern in ESPN’s FPI, the Wildcats lost to Akron early in the season and ... can we just agree that Penn State is the better team yet?

4. Northwestern Wildcats (8-4, 8-1)

Game result: W, vs. Illinois, 24-16

Movement from last poll: None

Northwestern started the season with a 1-3 record, before reeling off seven wins in the next eight games. Maybe we’re not as high on the Wildcats as some others, but make no mistake about it: We’re incredibly impressed by the job Pat Fitzgerald has done. And regardless of the result in the Big Ten championship, Fitzgerald deserves consideration as the Big Ten Coach of the Year.

5. Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4, 5-4)

Game result: W, vs. Nebraska, 31-28

Movement from last poll: None

If Ohio State is the Big Ten team that always finds a way to win close, then Iowa is the team that always finds a way to lose close. Well, almost always. The Hawkeyes lost three conference games by a combined 12 points, and that other loss came against Wisconsin when one special-teams miscue essentially decided the outcome. Iowa did survive a close one against Nebraska, but you don’t get bonus points for being outscored 15-3 in the fourth quarter.

6. Purdue Boilermakers (6-6, 5-4)

Game result: W, at Indiana, 28-21

Movement from last poll: Up (2 spots)

It’s amazing what good coaching can do. Jeff Brohm’s predecessor won three conference games over four seasons. Brohm has five Big Ten wins this year — and he had four last year. He’s reportedly staying put in West Lafayette, so the Boilermakers could be be building something special here. If they win a bowl this season, it’ll mark the first time they won back-to-back bowls since the Drew Brees era.

7. Michigan State Spartans (7-5, 5-4)

Game result: W, vs. Rutgers, 14-10

Movement from last poll: None

Injuries had a big hand in derailing Sparty’s season, but there should be no excuses in 2019. QB Brian Lewerke, RB LJ Scott and WR Cody White are returning, and nine of the 11 starters on defense have eligibility remaining. For now, though, this is a decidedly mediocre team with some good wins — namely the upset over Penn State.

8. Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-6, 3-6)

Game result: W, at Wisconsin, 37-15

Movement from last poll: Up (4 spots)

We cannot, in good conscience, rank Wisconsin over Minnesota after the Gophers claimed Paul Bunyan’s Axe for the first time in 15 years. Minnesota finally has a victory more memorable than Dilly Bar Dan. And it’s going bowling. Ski-U-Mah, Minnesota.

9. Wisconsin Badgers (7-5, 5-4)

Game result: L, vs. Minnesota, 37-15

Movement from last poll: Down (3 spots)

Remember when Pro Football Focus ranked Alex Hornibrook as the best quarterback in the Big Ten? Yeah, it may have been a little off.

10. Maryland Terrapins (5-7, 3-6)

Game result: L, at Penn State, 38-3

Movement from last poll: Down (1 spot)

There was a time when Maryland was 4-2 with a win over Texas, and the Big Ten wondered if the Terps were the surprise team of 2018. Then they lost five of their last six games. Turns out Maryland is just a poor man’s Wisconsin.

11. Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-8, 3-6)

Game result: L, at Iowa, 31-28

Movement from last poll: Down (1 spot)

This was never going to be an easy first season for Scott Frost. But the progress has been undeniable in the second half of the season. After starting 0-6, the worst start in the 128-year history of the program, the Huskers have won four of their last six. If Frost can’t turn this program around, no one can ... and the latter is a possibility.

12. Indiana Hoosiers (5-7, 2-7)

Game result: L, vs. Purdue, 28-21

Movement from last poll: Down (1 spot)

Indiana hasn’t won a bowl game since 1993, when current head coach Tom Allen was 23 years old coaching high school football in Florida. Because it plays in arguably the hardest division in college football, Indiana will be a fringe bowl team most seasons. This season, however, it didn’t deserve to go bowling after losing six of its last seven games — including three contests decided by a single score.

13. Illinois Fighting Illini (4-8, 2-7)

Game result: L, at Northwestern, 24-16

Movement from last poll: None

Lovie Smith is the 13th-highest paid coach in the country. Illinois is the 98th-best team in the country, based on ESPN’s FPI. So it definitely, absolutely, makes 100 percent total and complete sense that the school offered him a two-year extension Sunday through 2023. If he ever makes it to the Pinstripe Bowl, the Illini might throw a parade.

14. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-11, 0-9)

Game result: L, vs. Michigan State, 14-10

Movement from last poll: None

Close apparently only counts in horseshoes — and Rutgers football. Head coach Rob, err, Chris Ash was given a vote of confidence by the AD and will return next season because the team “never quit.” That’s a relief because it fought to a 1-11 record and lost each Big Ten game by an average of 19.2 points. Thank goodness the Scarlet Knights didn’t just roll over; that would’ve been hard to watch.

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