B1G power rankings after Week 6
As hard as the Big Ten tries to carry on with its football season, COVID-19 continues to be the biggest topic of conversation and the biggest worry.
Coronavirus positives wiped out of of the B1G’s greatest rivalries, Minnesota-Wisconsin, as well as the Ohio State-Illinois game. That has serious consequences for the B1G title game, as Wisconsin now won’t play enough games to qualify for Indianapolis and OSU is in danger of following suit.
On the field, the historic giants (Nebraska, Michigan and Penn State) are floundering in 2020, a new power continues to rise in Bloomington and Northwestern’s dreams of a spot in the College Football Playoffs ended with at thud at Michigan State.
Here are our rankings after Week 6:
14. Nebraska (1-4, lost to Iowa 26-20)
On Friday against Iowa, Nebraska led 20-13 early in the second half. Against Northwestern, the Cornhuskers led 13-7 at halftime. Even in the one game they won, the Huskers led Penn State 27-6 and almost blew it. Sense a pattern? Simply, this team doesn’t have the moxie to battle and win late in games.
13. Michigan (2-4, lost to Penn State 27-17)
I was sorely tempted to rank Michigan last. A home loss to winless Penn State, and surrendering 417 yards in the process? To say that the Wolverines are going backward is an insult to reverse gears, which are at least useful for backing out of your driveway.
12. Penn State (1-5, beat Michigan 27-17)
Penn State finally earned a victory, finding relief in Ann Arbor in a meeting of the B1G’s two biggest disappointments. The Nittany Lions got back to old-fashioned football, rushing 50 times for 254 yards and allowing 286 total yards on the road.
11. Illinois (2-3, idle)
The Fighting Illini were supposed to host Ohio State, until the Buckeyes came down with a spate of coronavirus cases. Illinois was just starting to round into form and, like Maryland earlier this season, lost a chance to see where the program measured up against the conference’s best.
10. Purdue (2-3, lost to Rutgers 37-30)
A 10-point lead against the Scarlet Knights evaporated Saturday as Purdue put on a deflating second-half performance on defense and special teams. The Boilermakers have been agonizingly close in their three losses (they came by a total of 17 points) but that 2-0 start feels like a long time ago.
9. Michigan State (2-3, beat Northwestern 29-20)
If you say that you have Michigan State figured out, you are either a football savant or (much more likely) you’re lying. The Spartans still don’t have much going on with the offense but they did just enough and, more important, the defense took advantage of some critical turnovers to stun No. 8 Northwestern.
8. Minnesota (2-3, idle)
The Golden Gophers have to find a way to move on after COVID-19 wiped out their greatest rivalry game, Paul Bunyan’s Axe against Wisconsin. Coach P.J. Fleck’s relentless positivity will come in handy to fire up his team for a tough test against Northwestern next weekend.
7. Rutgers (2-4, beat Purdue 37-30)
Did we mention that Rutgers has become a really tough out? The Scarlet Knights are finding ways to stay in games and, at Purdue, they found a way to win. Their five second-half drives were just about perfect in their variety and production: TD pass, kickoff return for TD, TD run, field goal, kill the last 5 minutes.
6. Maryland (2-2, lost to Indiana 27-11)
The first game after a couple of weeks on the sidelines was a rough reintroduction for the Terrapins. Maryland committed 7 penalties, turned it over 3 times and could not stop Indiana on the ground. Maryland only held the ball for 23:41 and it was a rough day for Taulia Tagovailoa, too.
5. Wisconsin (2-1, idle)
The Badgers have lost half of their games to cancellations related to COVID-19 — no school in the conference has been hit as hard both in terms of lost games and in terms of cases diagnosed within the program. Wisconsin is now ineligible for the B1G title game because it won’t play enough games.
4. Iowa (4-2, beat Nebraska 26-20)
The Hawkeyes might be the hottest team in the league — its four-game winning streak matches Ohio State. Unlike the previous three games, when Iowa won fairly easily, this time Kirk Ferentz and crew had to sweat it out against Nebraska on Friday. Iowa shut down the Cornhuskers on their final 4 drives.
3. Northwestern (5-1, lost to Michigan State 29-20)
The heights of beating Wisconsin and reaching No. 8 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings proved to be a bit dizzying for the Wildcats. But more than that, a mediocre offense finally caught up to NU and the defense, though it played well, could not make up for it against the Spartans.
2. Indiana (5-1, beat Maryland 27-11)
The Hoosiers put together what appears to be a routine victory against the Terrapins, but in fact this was a test for Indiana. Often when a rising young team loses a huge game, as IU did last week at Ohio State, the emotional toll carries over to the following game. But that didn’t happen to this tough squad.
1. Ohio State (4-0, idle)
Another game lost, another worrying week in terms of health and playoff chances. Ryan Day and other staffers tested positive for COVID-19, causing the Illinois game to be canceled. Next week’s game against Michigan State is in danger, as is OSU’s chances of playing enough games to qualify for the B1G title tilt.