B1G power rankings after the regular season
The final results from the regular season are in and they again present a picture of a conference with a big gap between the top 4 and everybody else.
Ohio State, a season-long No. 1 in our power rankings, and No. 2 Indiana were off this weekend after their rivalry games (against Michigan and Purdue, respectively) were wiped out by concerns over COVID-19 cases. No. 3 Northwestern and No. 4 Iowa won again.
Those 4 teams have gone a combined 23-4. The other 10 teams in the league have also combined for 23 wins. Except those 10 teams have also piled up 42 combined losses in this bizarre, coronavirus-affected, shortened, conference-only 2020 season.
We can only speculate what would have happened in a full 12-game season including nonconference games, which B1G teams often use to play inferior foes and build up their teams’ confidence while also working out some on-field issues without (usually) having those problems costing them wins.
As it is, all we have left is the Ohio State-Northwestern B1G title game on Saturday in Indianapolis, plus a week’s worth of other games to help make up for this season being so short.
Here are our rankings after Week 8, the last of the 2020 regular season:
14. Purdue (2-4, idle)
The Boilermakers played one fewer game than three conference teams that finished the regular season 2-5. But it’s hard to justify moving Purdue up after the Boilermakers ended the regular season on a 4-game losing streak. Now the Old Oaken Bucket game vs. Indiana is back on, unless it’s called off again.
13. Michigan State (2-5, lost to Penn State 39-24)
The Spartans entered the week last in the B1G in scoring and total offense and 13th of 14 league teams in rushing offense. The MSU offense was somewhat better against the Nittany Lions but the defense — also now last in the league in scoring — could not stop Penn State.
12. Michigan (2-4, idle)
If the Wolverines had played Ohio State, it’s hard to see how it would have turned out well for Michigan. Upsets happen, of course, but with three double-digit losses in the past four games and with rumors swirling about coach Jim Harbaugh’s status, beating OSU would have been nearly impossible.
11. Illinois (2-5, lost to Northwestern 28-10)
The Fighting Illini are left to lick their wounds again after their losing streak against rival Northwestern reached six, the longest for Illinois in series history. Illinois has clinched a 9th consecutive losing season and this season spelled the end for coach Lovie Smith, who was fired after 5 seasons in Champaign.
10. Nebraska (2-5, lost to Minnesota 24-17)
The Cornhuskers have guaranteed a 4th consecutive losing season after Nebraska lost to the Golden Gophers. That equaled the number of losing seasons that this once-proud program endured from 1961 to 2016. The offense looks lost, which few would have guessed when the school hired Scott Frost as coach.
9. Wisconsin (2-3, lost to Iowa 28-7)
The offense is utterly missing in Madison. The Badgers were again held under 10 points as the Hawkeyes took control in the second half. This is the first time in 30 years that a Wisconsin team has scored in single digits in 3 straight games, a huge disappointment for a preseason New Year’s Day 6 contender.
8. Maryland (2-3, lost to Rutgers 27-24, OT)
The Terrapins outgained Rutgers 455-379 and had 260 yards passing even with starting quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa sidelined. But Maryland went backward in its lone overtime possession, losing 8 yards and forcing Joseph Petrino to try a 50-yard field goal, which he missed to end the game.
7. Rutgers (3-5, beat Maryland 27-24, OT)
Some coaches with twice as much talent as Rutgers would love to get their players to buy in the way Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano has. It showed again in a comeback victory on the road at Maryland, in which Valentino Ambrosio tied it with a field goal on the final play of regulation and won it in OT.
6. Penn State (3-5, beat Michigan State 39-24)
This spot is a (perhaps disproportional) reward for a 3-game winning streak. The Nittany Lions could very well make a case that they sort of deserve a bowl bid if they beat Illinois on Saturday. PSU’s offense has quietly gotten it done lately with an average of 401 yards per game the past 3 weeks.
5. Minnesota (3-3, beat Nebraska 24-17)
The team was missing 33 players, either because of injuries or COVID-19, but still found a way to knock off the Cornhuskers. Running back Mohamed Ibrahim once again warmed up as the game went on and once again he was the key member of the Golden Gophers offense.
4. Iowa (6-2, beat Wisconsin 28-7)
Who would have thought this after an 0-2 start? After dominating the Badgers, Iowa is in position to possibly make a New Year’s Day 6 bowl if the Hawkeyes knock off Michigan in a cross-division matchup on the same weekend as the B1G Championship Game.
3. Northwestern (6-1, beat Illinois 28-10)
Defensively, it was business as usual for the Wildcats, who held the Fighting Illini to 262 total yards and 3-of-12 on 3rd-down conversions. But the offensive effort was a revelation as Northwestern rushed for 411 yards, their most in a game since 2003 — when NU gained 444, also against Illinois.
2. Indiana (6-1, idle)
Not getting to play for the B1G championship one day, then not getting to play for the Old Oaken Bucket in 2020. This is an amazing season in Bloomington but this week had to leave the Hoosiers and their fans with a little bit of an empty feeling.
1. Ohio State (5-0, idle)
The Buckeyes got the ruling they wanted when the B1G decided to send OSU to the league title game though the team fell below the imposed 6-game minimum in the regular season. Considering the fact that no other league had such a rule, and that two of the games lost were because of a spike in COVID-19 cases for their opponents, it is the most logical decision for the league.