B1G Week 1 Power Rankings
Welcome back to the B1G, Bret Bielema.
The first game of Bielema’s tenure at Illinois was a success, with the Fighting Illini taking down Nebraska 30-22 in the college football opener of the 2021 season. What was more surprising than the final result was that Illinois was in control for most of the game.
It was typical “Bielema Ball,” as Illinois controlled the clock, played aggressive defense and opened things up in the run game at times. The passing attack, when used, was effective. It was pretty clear that the Illini made up for a lack of talent with scheme and attitude.
Nebraska, on the other hand, is left having to answer a ton of questions. Despite harping on the “little things” all offseason, Scott Frost’s team made the same mistakes on Saturday has it has the past three years. Poorly-timed penalties, turnovers and mental mistakes were costly.
For the first game of the year, we got plenty of drama.
Since there was only one B1G game in Week 0, not much has changed in this week’s power rankings. Still, an updated version after Saturday’s B1G West matchup seems appropriate.
14. Michigan State Spartans (0-0)
A lot of change on both sides of the football and inconsistent play last season is reason for concern in East Lansing. Mel Tucker looks like the right guy to lead the program back to prominence, it’s just going to be a bit of a rebuilding process.
Next up: at Northwestern
13. Maryland Terrapins (0-0)
There’s plenty of talent in College Park, especially on the offensive side of the football. Coaching is another story. Mike Locksley spoke about Maryland taking that next step in 2021. With all the skill on the roster, the Terps are certainly of making a big leap throughout the season.
Next up: vs. West Virginia
12. Nebraska Cornhuskers (0-1)
Last week: L, 30-22 vs. Illinois
The same mistakes that have haunted Nebraska over the last three seasons showed up again on Saturday. Once the Huskers faced the slightest bit of adversity, they basically shut down and played themselves out of a winnable game. Scott Frost refused to commit to the run, Adrian Martinez played poorly and ill-timed turnovers and penalties continue to plague this team. This team showed flashes of potential, especially defensively, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.
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Next up: vs. Fordham
11. Purdue Boilermakers (0-0)
Jeff Brohm is putting a heavy emphasis on improving the defense. Purdue better figure out the offensive line situation and establish some semblance of a rushing attack, otherwise the Boilermakers might be on the outside looking in of the postseason for a third-straight year.
Next up: vs. Oregon State
10. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (0-0)
No team in the B1G saw as much improvement from the 2019 season into the 2020 campaign as Rutgers. After losing 21-straight conference games, the Scarlet Knights were able to pull off three league victories. If Greg Schiano can do that in the middle of a pandemic, what can he accomplish with a full spring and fall camp?
Next up: vs. Temple
9. Illinois Fighting Illini (1-0)
Last week: W, 30-22 vs. Nebraska
Illinois’ experience paid off against Nebraska. The buy-in and coaching was evident, especially when the Fighting Illini fell behind 9-2 early. Instead of panic, Bielema’s team continued to scrap on both sides of the football, getting an important win to start the season. It wasn’t always pretty, but the run game flashed at times, Artur Sitkowski stepped up in a big-time situation when Brandon Peters was injured and the defense played aggressive. Illinois stays at No. 9 until we see more B1G action, but things are off to a good start in Champaign.
Next up: vs. UTSA
8. Michigan Wolverines (0-0)
Is the quarterback situation figured out? Will Michigan have an elite receiver emerge this season? What will the defense look like under new coordinator Mike Macdonald? Right now, there are too many questions in Ann Arbor to have the Wolverines much higher following a 2-4 year.
Next up: vs. Western Michigan
7. Northwestern Wildcats (0-0)
Northwestern lost quite a bit from last year’s B1G West-winning squad, but this is still a Pat Fitzgerald team. The Wildcats may not be as good as they were a season ago, but you know they’ll find a way to win some games. A lot of Northwestern’s success is going to depend on the play of starting quarterback Hunter Johnson.
Next up: vs. Michigan State
6. Minnesota Golden Gophers (0-0)
P.J. Fleck’s team saw a dip in success last year but with 140 starts along the offensive line returning, an experienced veteran in Tanner Morgan back under center and Mohamed Ibrahim, the reigning B1G Running Back of the Year, returning to the backfield, Minnesota has the potential to have one of the most explosive offenses in the conference.
Next up: vs. No. 4 Ohio State
5. Iowa Hawkeyes (0-0)
Everyone knows Iowa is going to be strong on the offensive and defensive lines. As long as Kirk Ferentz is around, those will never be major concerns. The Hawkeyes have a great running back in Tyler Goodson and should be one of the better secondary units in the league. Like multiple teams, the biggest question is Spencer Petras and the quarterback position.
Next up: vs. No. 17 Indiana
4. Indiana Hoosiers (0-0)
This is the deepest, most experienced team Indiana has had in decades. The Hoosiers have built depth on both sides of the ball, added some key transfers from Power 5 programs and return one of the best quarterbacks in the B1G in Michael Penix Jr. The schedule is a difficult one, but Tom Allen’s team is more than capable of handling it.
Next up: at No. 18 Iowa
3. Penn State Nittany Lions (0-0)
Things sort of spiraled out of control for Penn State after the controversial loss to Indiana in the opener in 2020. With Mike Yurcich running the offense and a plenty of playmakers on both sides of the ball, Penn State has one of the best rosters in the B1G. Can the Nittany Lions be the biggest challenger to Ohio State? That’s likely the case.
Next up: at No. 12 Wisconsin
2. Wisconsin Badgers (0-0)
Don’t expect Wisconsin to stay down for long. Graham Mertz now has three excellent options at wide receiver in Danny Davis III, Kendric Pryor and Jake Ferguson. The combination of Leo Chenal and Jack Sanborn at linebacker might be the best in the conference. Plus, the Badgers typically win the battles in the trenches on both sides of the ball. This might be Paul Chryst’s best team yet, and that’s really saying something.
Next up: vs. No. 19 Penn State
1. Ohio State Buckeyes (0-0)
Ohio State has the most talented roster, the best coaching staff and has won four straight B1G titles. There’s not even a question as to which team is at the top of the conference heading into the 2021 campaign.
Next up: at Minnesota