Penn State Football

Big Ten Power Rankings

Penn State running back Bill Belton (1) in brought down by Indiana's Flo Hardin during the Nittany Lions’ 13-7 win over the Hoosiers last week.
Penn State running back Bill Belton (1) in brought down by Indiana's Flo Hardin during the Nittany Lions’ 13-7 win over the Hoosiers last week. For the CDT

1. Ohio State (8-1, 5-0); last week: 3

The No. 8 Buckeyes proved they’re the top team in the Big Ten with a 49-37 win over Michigan State on the road. Ohio State sits atop the East Division standings and is ranked eighth in the College Football Playoff Rankings — a six-spot jump from last week.

Quarterback J.T. Barrett led the way, accounting for 386 total yards and five total touchdowns. Barrett has completed 64.4 percent of his passes, thrown for 26 touchdowns and rushed for eight more this season.

Ohio State travels to Minnesota this week.

2. Wisconsin (7-2, 4-1); last week: 2

Melvin Gordon put on another show, rushing for 200 yards, to lead Wisconsin past Purdue last week.

The No. 22 Badgers are now gearing up for a showdown with Nebraska at Camp Randall Stadium this week. The teams are tied with Minnesota for first place in the West Division.

Wisconsin comes into the game riding a four-game win streak, highlighted by blowout wins over Maryland (52-7) and Rutgers (37-0). Gordon is the nation’s leading rusher with 1,501 yards in nine games. He’s also rushed for 19 touchdowns.

3. Nebraska (8-1, 4-1); last week: 4

No. 11 Nebraska heads into the Wisconsin matchup against with uncertainty surrounding its star running back.

Ameer Abdullah is expected to play, but he’s dealing with a knee injury suffered two weeks ago against Purdue. He had a bye week to heal, but it remains to be seen how effective Abdullah will be.

He still leads the nation with 1,691 all-purpose yards and ranks fifth in rushing.

Since a 27-22 loss to Michigan State in early October, the Huskers have taken care of Northwestern, Rutgers and Purdue.

4. Michigan State (7-2, 4-1); last week: 1

The defending conference champions had a chance to take control of the East Division with a win over Ohio State last week. But the Spartans failed to contain J.T. Barrett and the Buckeyes offense in a 49-37 loss.

The loss likely ended any hope of making the College Football Playoff for a team that’s previous blemish was to the Oregon, ranked No. 2 in this week’s CFP rankings.

No. 12 Michigan State will try to regroup on the road against Maryland this week.

5. Minnesota (7-2, 4-1); last week: 6

Minnesota responded to a disappointing loss to Illinois by thrashing Iowa 51-14 last week. It was the Gophers largest margin of victory this season and it kept them in the mix to win the West Division.

Minnesota — No. 25 in the CFP rankings — is tied with Nebraska and Wisconsin for first place. The Gophers will need to upset Ohio State to keep pace.

Minnesota used a balanced rushing attack that piled up 291 yards and an efficient day from quarterback Mitch Leidner to light up the scoreboard. Leidner finished 10-for-13 for 138 yards and four touchdowns – connecting with Maxx Williams for three scores.

The Gophers defense limited Iowa to 84 yards rushing and 205 total yards.

6. Maryland (6-3, 3-2); last week: 7

Maryland coach Randy Edsall was thankful for a week off after the Terrapins emotional win over Penn State two weeks ago. Edsall said he wasn’t sure his team would be able to prepare for a game the following week.

The bye gave Maryland time to refocus and get ready for its game against No. 12 Michigan State this week.

Wide receiver Stefon Diggs is suspended for the game for his role in an altercation before playing Penn State. His status for the rest of the season remains uncertain due to a lacerated kidney suffered against the Nittany Lions.

Maryland sits in third place in the East Division, one game behind Michigan State.

7. Iowa (6-3, 3-2); last week: 5

Iowa climbed up the rankings after an impressive 48-7 win over Northwestern only to come out on the wrong end of a blowout one week later.

The Hawkeyes fell 51-14 to Minnesota. Three turnovers and a blocked punt propelled the Gophers to 35 unanswered points to close the first half.

It’s been an up-and-down season for the Hawkeyes, who are in fourth place in the West Division. Mark Weisman is the team’s leading rusher, averaging 60.2 yards per game, and he’s scored 14 rushing touchdowns.

Iowa takes on Illinois on the road this week.

8. Michigan (5-5, 3-3); Last week: 8

The Wolverines survived against equally inept Northwestern when the Wildcats opted to go for two to win their game last week. It’s just been a bad season all-around for Michigan fans ,who only have to endure a few more weeks of what is likely a lame duck coaching staff. Of the five FBS teams in the state, only Eastern Michigan has fielded a worse offense than the Wolverines this year.

Michigan is idle this week.

9. Penn State (5-4, 2-4); Last week: 10

Imagine if the Nittany Lions had an offense even close to what they fielded last season. Coupled with Bob Shoop’s defense, the Nittany Lions would undoubtedly be much higher on this list.

But Penn State hasn’t done enough in close games against Maryland, Michigan and Ohio State and find themselves still trying to become bowl eligible in Week 12 against Temple.

10. Northwestern (3-6, 2-4); Last week: 9

Going for two — and the win — against Michigan was probably a silly thing to do looking back. But what do the Wildcats have to lose at this point? Sure, Northwestern has fellow weaklings Purdue and Illinois to close the season but a tough road trip against No. 18 Notre Dame is up next.

It looks like the Wildcats will be hard-pressed to get into a bowl game for the second straight season. At what point is Pat Fitzgerald on the hot seat in Evanston?

11. Rutgers (5-4, 1-4); Last week: 11

The Scarlet Knights have crashed back to earth after starting the season 5-1. Rutgers will try to halt a three-game slide with a home game against Indiana.

They’ll need quarterback Gary Nova to play better. He’s completed just 30 of 62 passes with one touchdown and three picks in the losing streak.

12. Illinois (4-5, 1-4); Last week: 12

It’s been another rough season for the bottom-dwelling Illini, but they should get a much-needed boost with quarterback Wes Lunt back for a matchup with Iowa.

Lunt broke his leg in early October and was the Big Ten’s leading passer in yards per game (313.8) at the time of his injury.

13. Purdue (3-7, 1-5); Last week: 13

The Boilermakers have off this week before finishing up with Northwestern and Indiana.

A bowl is already out of the question. At this point, Purdue will be playing for pride and to build some confidence heading into spring ball. That’s been a common theme the past few seasons.

14. Indiana (3-6, 0-5); Last week: 14

Indiana’s defense had its best game in a long time against Penn State. The Hoosiers frustrated the Nittany Lions but still lost 13-7.

Or was Penn State’s offense just that bad? Either way, the Hoosiers are the only Big Ten team without a conference win and could soon be without a coach. Kevin Wilson is just 13-32 during his tenure in Bloomington.

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