s-BigTenPowerRankings

The Big Ten made the most of the national spotlight awarded to it in Week Six. The matchup between two top-5 teams lived up to the hype, the conference’s top offense put up big numbers and an upstart program took a conference favorite down to the wire

After the first week of Big Ten play that only involved in-conference matchups, here’s where things stand in the Big Ten.

1. Iowa Hawkeyes 6-0 Previous rank: 1

Iowa got perhaps its greatest win in recent program history, defeating then-No. 4 Penn State 23-20 last Saturday to remain unbeaten. 

The Iowa defense again willed its team to victory, holding Penn State to under 300 total yards of offense and catching four interceptions in the win. The Hawkeyes also continued their turnover-forcing dominance, extending their NCAA lead with 16 interceptions on the season. 

Senior defensive back Riley Moss picked off his fourth pass of the season, tying him for the NCAA lead in total interceptions. However, he was injured on his interception, and is out for at least the Purdue game, given his absence on the depth chart

The Iowa offense moved the ball when necessary,  putting up 10 points in the fourth quarter to flip the score in their favor. Getting the ball back, down three points with 6:26 to go, the Iowa offense found the big play it had been searching for all game long. 

Junior quarterback Spencer Petras floated a perfect touchdown pass to a wide open junior wide receiver Nico Ragaini to put the Hawkeyes up for good. 

The Hawkeyes’ comeback from down 17-3 in the second quarter was helped by the injury to Penn State senior quarterback Sean Clifford, but the Hawkeyes did intercept Clifford twice, and stayed consistent enough on offense to keep themselves in the game. 

Now No. 2, Iowa has no currently ranked opponents remaining on its schedule, setting up a possible run at the College Football Playoff.

Iowa tries to stay perfect against Purdue on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on ABC.

2. Ohio State Buckeyes 5-1 Previous rank: 3

No. 6 Ohio State continued to show improvement on its season, demolishing Maryland 66-17 last Saturday. The 66-point performance is a season-high total for the Buckeyes. 

Freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud hit his stride again on Saturday, passing for 406 yards and five touchdowns, his second straight week tossing for five scores. Ohio State gained 598 yards of offense and averaged an impressive 11.4 yards per pass attempt. 

The Buckeyes’ wide receiver corps showed why it’s one of the top units in the country, with three of its top stars having great performances. Senior wide receiver Chris Olave was the standout, catching seven passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Junior wide receiver Garrett Wilson also caught for two touchdowns, while adding 84 yards. Sophomore wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba impressed as well, gaining 103 receiving yards for his second game past the century mark this season.

The defense also stepped up, holding a team to under 20 points for the third week in a row, after struggling early against Minnesota and No. 9 Oregon. 

Ohio State is looking more and more like the juggernaut it typically is with each passing week. If it keeps up this string of performances, the top spot in the power rankings could be up for the taking again. 

Ohio State is off this weekend, next playing Indiana on Oct 23. 

3. Michigan Wolverines 6-0 Previous rank: 4

No. 8 Michigan survived a scare against Nebraska, escaping with a 32-29 win last Saturday. 

With the game knotted up at 29 with three minutes left, the Michigan defense made the play it needed to flip the game in its favor. Senior defensive back Brad Hawkins stripped the ball away from Husker junior quarterback Adrian Martinez, setting up what would be the game-winning field goal. 

Michigan held a 13-0 lead at halftime, but a 22-point third quarter put the Huskers right back in the game. Michigan answered with a 13-point fourth quarter, led by the running back tandem of senior Hassan Haskins and sophomore Blake Corum. 

Corum rushed for 89 yards, including a key 29-yard touchdown run to reclaim the lead at the start of the fourth quarter. Haskins put up 123 yards and reached the end zone twice. His 50-yard carry in the fourth quarter put Michigan in position for a crucial game-tying field goal. 

Michigan's 6-0 start is the first time since 2016 the Wolverines have opened the season with six straight victories. 

Michigan is off this weekend, returning to play against Northwestern on Oct. 23.

4. Michigan State Spartans 6-0 previous rank: 5

Michigan State’s offense was explosive in its 31-13 victory over Rutgers last Saturday, putting up 588 yards of offense.

The offense had excellent performances from its playmakers. Junior running back Kenneth Walker III put his name right back in the Heisman Trophy conversation with 233 yards and one touchdown. The touchdown in question was a 94-yard score, the longest rush in Michigan State history. 

Walker got so much separation from the Rutgers defense on the run, that he was able to high-five his teammate, junior wide receiver Jalen Nailor, before entering the end zone.

Nailor had a career day of his own, catching five passes for 221 yards and three touchdowns. His 221 yards were a new stadium record for Rutgers’ SHI Stadium, which was opened in 1994. 

Nailor’s first touchdown was a 63-yard connection on a flea-flicker trick play. Michigan State continued its success with the play, scoring a big touchdown on a flea flicker for the third time this season. 

Sophomore quarterback Payton Thorne threw for a season-high 339 yards and three touchdowns, all to Nailor. 

No. 10 Michigan State travels to Indiana at 11:00 a.m. on Fox Sports 1 (FS1).

5. Penn State Nittany Lions 5-1 Previous rank: 2

Penn State lost its first game of the season last Saturday, falling 23-20 at Iowa. 

The Nittany Lions jumped out to a 17-3 lead early in the second quarter, but lost Clifford to injury right after taking a 14-point lead. Sophomore backup quarterback Ta’Quan Roberson had a rough performance in his first extended action. 

Roberson went 7-of-21 passing with a measly 34 yards and two interceptions. After Roberson entered the game, the Nittany Lion offense had five three-and-out drives and only reached Iowa territory twice in the second half. 

Clifford is not the only unfortunate injury for Penn State, starting senior safety Jonathan Sutherland and senior nose tackle PJ Mustipher were also injured in the game. 

The Nittany Lions lost all their momentum after Clifford’s exit, made even more concerning given Clifford’s questionable status in future weeks.

No. 7 Penn State gets a bye week this weekend, next facing Illinois on Oct 23.

6. Nebraska Huskers 3-4 Previous rank: 6

Despite losing yet another heartbreaker in the final few minutes, letting a 29-26 fourth quarter lead morph into a 32-29 loss at the hands of Michigan, the Huskers stayed put at sixth in the power rankings.

The Huskers do have a losing record, but with three of those losses coming by a combined 13 points against three current AP Top-10 teams, this team strikes more fear to the teams above them in the rankings than any team below. 

Save for the disastrous fumble on the second-to-last drive, the Nebraska offense performed spectacularly in the second half. No team had put up more than 17 points against Michigan all season, and Nebraska scored 22 in the third quarter alone. 

The big plays were open for Nebraska in the second half, with its first two touchdowns coming from 46 and 41 yards away. Its third touchdown of the quarter came on the first play after Nebraska intercepted Michigan junior quarterback Cade McNamara for the first time all season. 

However, the Huskers were unable to hold onto their momentum from the third quarter, suffering an offensive lull late. This allowed Michigan to get big offensive plays to tie the game before the fumble set up the game-winning kick. 

Nebraska’s potential is obvious, but the on-field results have yet to replicate it. Until the Huskers can prove that they can get over the hump, top Big Ten teams can expect a valiant effort that ends with Nebraska gifting them the win. 

Nebraska travels to Minnesota on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. on ESPN2. 

7. Wisconsin Badgers 2-3 Previous rank: 11

Wisconsin had its most complete performance of the season, blanking Illinois 24-0 last Saturday. 

The defense was smothering, holding Illinois to 67 total yards on the game. Gaining 491 yards of its own, the offense rebounded from poor performances against Michigan and Notre Dame where it lost steam towards the end of games. 

Sophomore quarterback Graham Mertz still struggled, throwing for 100 yards and one interception, but the Wisconsin running game made up for it. 

Junior running back Chez Mellusi and freshman running back Braelon Allen both broke 100 yards on the ground while adding a touchdown each. Mellusi had more total yards, finishing with 145 on the day, but Allen outgained him in yards per carry, finishing with 7.3 in the game. 

Mellusi and Allen will look to keep up their anchoring of the rushing offense, after the dismissal of freshman running back Jalen Berger on Sunday. 

Senior fullback John Chenal also contributed, scoring his first touchdown of the season with a one-yard plunge in the second quarter.

This Wisconsin defense is as solid as it comes, and if the rushing offense can continue this success, the Badgers could emerge with a successful season after a slow start.

Wisconsin hosts FBS Independent school Army on Saturday in a non-conference game at 7:00 p.m. on Big Ten Network (BTN). 

8. Rutgers Scarlet Knights 3-3 Previous rank: 8

After impressing early by keeping it competitive against Michigan a few weeks ago, the Scarlet Knights were outmatched against a top-10 team for the second straight week, falling 31-13 to No. 10 Michigan State last Saturday. 

Rutgers kept things close in the first half, only trailing 21-13 at halftime, but couldn’t keep up in the second half. The Scarlet Knights’ first four possessions of the half ended in three-and-outs, followed by Michigan State gaining its two-possession lead on Walker’s 94-yard run.

The Scarlet Knight offense got things rolling eventually, with its next three drives hitting Michigan State territory. A 16-play drive got all the way down to the Michigan State six-yard line, before a failed fourth-and-goal pass left Rutgers empty handed. 

The next drive showed Rutgers converting a 3rd-and-18, using that momentum to get just outside the red zone. On its first play from the Michigan State 24-yard line, senior quarterback Noah Vedral fumbled, again squandering offensive momentum. 

This Rutgers team is still much improved from the Scarlet Knights of the past few seasons, but work still remains in order to be consistently competitive against the upper tier.

Rutgers looks to get back on track on Saturday, traveling to Northwestern at 11:00 a.m. on BTN. 

9. Minnesota Golden Gophers 3-2 Previous rank: 9 

Minnesota had a bye week, giving it extra time to prepare for a divisional showdown against a surging Nebraska team. 

The Golden Gophers got some bad news on Monday when sophomore running back Trey Potts, who was having a solid season in relief of the injured All-Big Ten senior running back Mohamed Ibrahim, was declared out for the season with an undisclosed injury

Freshman running back Mar’Keise Irving is likely to replace Potts in the run-heavy Golden Gopher offense. Irving has had 112 yards off 25 carries this season.  

If Minnesota has to pass more because of this, senior quarterback Tanner Morgan will have to show improvement from his early performances. Morgan has only eclipsed 200 passing yards once this season, with his longest completion all year going for only 18 yards. 

10. Maryland Terrapins 4-2 Previous rank: 7

For the second straight week, Maryland got embarrassed by a top-tier Big Ten team, this time falling 66-17 at the hands of Ohio State. The Terrapins have been outscored 117-31 over the past two contests.

Junior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa did not have the bounce-back week he was hoping for, throwing two interceptions to tie him for the lead in FBS with eight interceptions on the season. 

Maryland has a bye week this weekend. 

11. Purdue Boilermakers 3-2 Previous rank: 10

Purdue had its bye week last Saturday, next traveling to No. 2 Iowa this Saturday. Purdue has won three of its last four against Iowa, and is looking to uphold its “Spoilermaker” reputation against the highly-touted Hawkeyes in a hostile Kinnick Stadium. 

12. Indiana Hoosiers 2-3 Previous rank: 12

Indiana was off on Saturday, returning this week as it hosts No. 10 Michigan State. 

Since 2000, Indiana has only won the Old Brass Spittoon, the trophy given to the winner of the Indiana-Michigan State clash, four times, including its 24-0 victory in 2020. However, keeping the trophy for a second straight year will be a very tall task against the rolling Spartan offense.

13. Illinois Fighting Illini 2-5 Previous rank: 13

Illinois’ Week Zero win over Nebraska currently seems just as out of character for Illinois as it does Nebraska. 

While Nebraska has only looked more competitive since the game, Illinois has not. Getting shut out at Wisconsin is just the latest lowpoint in the Fighting Illini’s season. 

Illinois has its first bye week this weekend after playing in seven straight games.

14. Northwestern Wildcats 2-3 Previous rank: 14

Northwestern was idle last week, holding onto the last-place spot.

The Wildcats have an opportunity to get back in the win column, hosting a sliding Rutgers on Saturday. 

sports@dailynebraskan.com