Week 10 was yet another chaos-filled week in the conference. Two ranked teams lost to unranked opponents, and the Big Ten west division currently sits in a four-way tie at the top.
As the season winds down, here’s how the Big Ten stacks up.
1. Ohio State Buckeyes (8-1) Previous rank: 2
Ohio State outlasted another upset-minded team on Saturday, prevailing 26-17 over Nebraska. While Nebraska is just an abysmal 3-7 on the season, the Buckeyes were the first team to defeat Nebraska by double-digits, and beat the Huskers by more points than Michigan and Michigan State did combined.
Ohio State had a historic day from sophomore wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Smith-Njigba caught 15 passes in the win, besting David Boston’s 14-catch game from 1997 for first place in the Ohio State record books. Smith-Njigba made those catches count as well, posting 240 receiving yards and a 75-yard touchdown in the second quarter alone.
Freshman quarterback CJ Stroud had a solid performance, posting his third 400-yard passing performance of the season and two touchdowns. However, Stroud threw two interceptions in the contest, his first career multi-interception game and his first interception since Week 3.
The defense continued to show improvement over the year, particularly the pass rush, sacking Nebraska junior quarterback Adrian Martinez five times in the game.
Senior kicker Noah Ruggles was also a standout performer, drilling four field goals, including the game-sealing 46-yard kick late in the fourth quarter. In Ohio State’s game against Penn State, Ruggles also landed all four of his kicks, making him the first kicker in program history to make four field goals in back-to-back games. Ruggles has yet to miss a field goal or an extra point this season.
Ohio State has perhaps its toughest upset-minded opponent on Saturday, hosting a Purdue team with two top-5 wins under its belt at 2:30 p.m. on ABC.
2. Michigan State Spartans (8-1) Previous rank: 1
Michigan State suffered its first setback of the season, succumbing to the Purdue Boilermaker upset special, 40-29.
Michigan State never led the game, and gave up 16 unanswered points in the second half to put the game out of reach.
Turnovers doomed the Spartan offense early, with junior running back Kenneth Walker III, fresh off a standout performance against Michigan, losing the football to Purdue junior defensive end George Karlaftis on Michigan State’s opening drive.
The other Spartan turnover came at a very inopportune time. Trailing by 13 and facing a fourth-and-four from the Purdue nine-yard line, sophomore quarterback Payton Thorne looked for junior wide receiver Jayden Reed near the goal line. Thorne’s pass was slightly underthrown, and senior cornerback Dedrick Mackey ripped the ball away from Reed, quelling the Michigan State scoring chance.
Michigan State did not have a bad day on offense overall, putting up 458 yards of offense and gaining 21 first downs. Walker III had a solid performance as well, gaining 136 yards and scoring a touchdown.
The problem lay in the Michigan State defense, giving up a season-high 594 yards to Purdue, with 536 of them coming through the air.
Michigan State looks to bounce back at home against Maryland at 3:00 p.m. on Fox.
3. Michigan Wolverines (8-1) Previous rank: 3
Michigan handled its business against Indiana, besting the Hoosiers 29-7.
The Wolverines dominated the yardage battle, out gaining Indiana 411-195. The passing defense was particularly stingy, holding Indiana freshman quarterback Donaven McCulley to just 88 passing yards in the contest, while completing a subpar 41.7 percent of his throws.
Quarterback pressure played a big factor in Indiana’s passing woes, with McCulley under duress all night and Michigan tallying nine quarterback hurries. Standout senior defensive end Aidan Hutchinson was responsible for four of those pressures, a team-high in the game.
Senior running back Hassan Haskins led the way offensively, piling up 168 yards on the ground and finding the end zone once. His 62-yard scamper in the second quarter led to a touchdown pass to senior tight end Luke Schoonmaker from junior quarterback Cade McNamara.
McNamara finished with 168 passing yards and tossed two scores in the game, making it his first time this season throwing multiple touchdowns in back-to-back games.
Michigan goes on the road to Penn State on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. on ABC.
4. Wisconsin Badgers (6-3) Previous rank: 4
Wisconsin barrelled through its opponent for the third straight week, dominating Rutgers 52-3.
The win was a breakthrough performance for sophomore quarterback Graham Mertz, who tied his season high with 240 passing yards and threw for a season-high three touchdowns. This was Mertz’s first game of the season with multiple passing scores and only his third game with a positive touchdown-to-interception ratio. Mertz finished with a quarterback rating of 92.4, his highest since the 2020 season opener against Illinois.
The Badger defense made life miserable for Rutgers senior quarterback Noah Vedral, holding him to eight completions off his 16 passes and intercepting him twice. Vedral’s second interception was returned for a touchdown by senior defensive back Caesar Williams.
Vedral left the game with injury, and his replacement, freshman quarterback Evan Simon, ended his first drive with an interception.
Wisconsin currently sits atop the four-way tie in the Big Ten West division, owning crucial head-to-head tiebreakers against Iowa and Purdue.
Wisconsin hosts Northwestern on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. on BTN.
5. Purdue Boilermakers (6-3) Previous rank: 7
The “Spoilermakers” did it again. Purdue knocked off its second undefeated top-5 opponent of the season in emphatic fashion, defeating then-No. 3 Michigan State 40-29.
Purdue has defeated top-5 teams while unranked 17 times in program history, the most of any FBS team.
Senior quarterback Aidan O’Connell stepped up in a big way with the best performance of his career. O'Connell had only eclipsed 400 yards passing one time prior heading into Saturday, where he threw for 536 yards and three touchdowns.
Junior wide receiver David Bell was O’Connell’s favorite target, catching 11 passses for 217 yards and a touchdown. Bell’s performance was his 15th 100-yard game at Purdue, a new program record.
Purdue reached deep into its bag of tricks during the game. In the second quarter, the Boilermakers unleashed a double-reverse flea flicker screen pass that culminated in a 39-yard touchdown by senior wide receiver Jackson Anthrop.
The win vaults Purdue into the four-way tie atop the Big Ten west division. Purdue owns the tiebreaker over Iowa, but not over Wisconsin or Minnesota.
Purdue will have a chance to pull off its third top-5 upset of the year on the road against No. 4 Ohio State.
6. Penn State Nittany Lions (6-3) Previous rank: 6
Penn State snapped its three-game losing skid, defeating Maryland 31-14. Senior wide receiver Jahan Dotson had a historic performance, catching 11 passes for a program-record 242 yards and three touchdowns, shattering the previous record of 216.
An 86-yard touchdown catch from senior quarterback Sean Clifford capped off Dotson’s historic day with a career-long reception. Dotson earned Big Ten co-Offensive Player of the Week honors alongside Purdue’s O’Connell.
Penn State senior safety Ji’Ayir Brown was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for his performance, which was highlighted by a 87-yard pick-six in the fourth quarter. Brown’s four interceptions tie him for the lead in the Big Ten. Brown also recovered a fumble and led the team with eight solo tackles.
Penn State only had seven points at halftime, but a 24-point second half, particularly a 17-point fourth quarter, led to the three-possession victory.
The win puts the Nittany Lions at the six-win bowl eligibility threshold ahead of a tough finish to the schedule.
Penn State travels to the Big House on Saturday, facing No. 6 Michigan.
7. Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-3) Previous rank: 5
Minnesota dropped a crucial conference game, falling 14-6 at the hands of Illinois.
The rushing attack that had been the strength of its past few wins fell flat, only going for 89 yards and one late touchdown.
Minnesota dug itself in a hole early, with senior quarterback Tanner Morgan throwing an interception to Illinois junior linebacker Tarique Barnes on the opening possession. Illinois then drove down the field and took an early 7-0 lead.
The Golden Gophers answered with a three-and-out, and Illinois went on a grueling 5:49, 89-yard drive to put itself up 14-0. The Fighting Illini lead remained 14-0 until 4:49 left in the fourth quarter, where Minnesota finally punched in a touchdown on a Morgan-led naked bootleg run.
On a day where not much went right for the Golden Gophers, the extra point was shanked, and Minnesota went down 14-6. Minnesota also missed a field goal, and had two turnovers on downs.
In the last-ditch effort to tie the game, Morgan chucked an interception to junior defensive back Kerby Joseph with 38 seconds left to seal the game.
Minnesota still controls its own destiny in the Big Ten West, holding the tiebreaker over Purdue, but has yet to play Iowa and Wisconsin.
A battle for the important tiebreaker commences in Iowa City on Saturday, with Minnesota facing No. 20 Iowa in the battle for the coveted bronze pig trophy known as the Floyd of Rosedale at 2:30 p.m. on Big Ten Network.
8. Iowa Hawkeyes (7-2) Previous rank: 8
Iowa failed to impress for the third straight week, scraping by Northwestern 17-13 on Saturday.
Sophomore quarterback Alex Padilla took over for junior quarterback Spencer Petras in the second quarter, and had a decent Hawkeye debut, completing 18-of-28 passes for 172 yards. Padilla was poised in the pocket, and will start on Saturday against Minnesota.
Junior running back Tyler Goodson impressed, rushing for 141 yards, his most against a Big Ten opponent this season, and one touchdown.
However, Iowa’s offense still stalled on plenty of drives. The Hawkeyes had five three-and-outs against the conference’s twelfth-ranked defense.
Northwestern got within a possession late, and Iowa only gained four yards on three plays when a first down would have effectively ended the game. The Wildcats had the ball on their own 24, and promptly gave it right back to Iowa on an interception by junior defensive back Dane Belton.
The interception was Belton’s second of the game, and the third for the team off Northwestern senior quarterback Andrew Marty.
Iowa is in the four-way tie for the top of the West, but has no tiebreakers with a chance to gain one this weekend against Minnesota.
9. Illinois Fighting Illini (4-6) Previous rank: 11
Illinois knocked off its second ranked team of the season, besting then No. 20 Minnesota 14-6.
In a classic Big Ten affair, Illinois won, despite only completing seven of its 10 passes.
The result is typical of Illinois’ style of football this season. Illinois is 3-1 when throwing the ball fewer than 20 times this season, and 1-5 when throwing the ball more than 20 times, with its only win being at Penn State in the nine overtime game, with nine of the 21 throws coming in overtime.
The Fighting Illini accomplished this through a strong rushing game and stout defense. Sophomore running back Chase Brown excelled in the workhorse role, carrying the ball 32 times for 147 yards, averaging 4.6 yards per carry.
The defense picked off Morgan twice, and lived in the backfield, tallying six sacks and nine tackles for loss. The Golden Gophers were also held to under 100 rushing yards for the first time since Nov. 30, 2019 against Wisconsin.
Illinois still has an outside shot at bowl eligibility, and is still technically alive in the West.
Illinois is off this week, before another showdown against a ranked opponent at No. 20 Iowa.
10. Nebraska Huskers (3-7) Previous rank: 12
Once again, Nebraska could not quite seal the deal on a potentially huge upset, losing 26-17 to Ohio State after trailing by one possession for most of the fourth quarter.
On Monday, Scott Frost fired every offensive coach except for tight ends coach Sean Beckton, signaling a possible future offensive philosophy change in year five of the rebuild.
The Huskers will have a bye week to deal with the sudden, drastic changes before returning to play against Wisconsin on Nov. 20.
11. Maryland Terrapins (5-4) Previous rank: 9
The Terrapins were only down one point at the half, but couldn’t inch any closer in their 31-14 loss to Penn State.
Maryland will look to have a better second half performance at Michigan State on Saturday.
12. Northwestern Wildcats (3-6) Previous rank: 13
Northwestern fought hard until the bitter end, but couldn’t complete the upset over Iowa, losing 17-12 after a late interception.
13. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (4-5) Previous rank: 10
Rutgers ran into the Wisconsin buzzsaw on Saturday, getting obliterated 52-3.
14. Indiana Hoosiers (2-7) Previous rank: 14
Indiana continued its conference win drought, falling 29-7 at home.
Indiana hosts Rutgers at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, in the first battle between the final two teams in the power rankings this season.