B1G Week 2 Power Rankings: Which teams rose to the top after the first full week of the season?
Take a deep breath. Slowly exhale. When you see where your favorite B1G team is ranked this week, try not to overreact, regardless of whether it’s out of excitement or frustration.
Every offseason provides college football teams with a blank canvas. Everyone wants to judge the work after only the first stroke of the brush, which is virtually impossible. Right now, we only have one data point (or two for Nebraska and Illinois), making it extremely difficult to gauge just how good (or bad) these teams at this point.
Some teams did turn a few heads.
Ohio State and Penn State found ways to win in hostile road environments. Michigan State looked completely different than it did a year ago. Iowa’s defense deserves to be talked about as one of the best in the B1G.
Reigning B1G West champ Northwestern struggled … a lot. We still have a lot of questions about Nebraska. Indiana’s performance, by far, was the most disappointing of the weekend.
All that said, the season is still young. A lot can change. Here’s a look at where B1G teams stand in the power rankings following Week 1 action:
14. Northwestern Wildcats (0-1)
Last week: vs. Michigan State, 38-21 L
Friday night’s performance wasn’t quite 2019 bad, but it was a rough ride for Northwestern. The Wildcats failed to take advantage of big plays offensively and had no answer for Michigan State’s potent rushing attack. Perhaps all of those departures from the 2020 team were a pretty big deal, after all.
Next up: vs. Indiana State
13. Nebraska Cornhuskers (1-1)
Last week: vs. Fordham, 52-7 W
Nebraska did exactly what a B1G team is supposed to do to an FCS team. The Huskers racked up over 600 yards of offense, picked up 34 first downs and rushed for over 300 yards, led by an actual running back. There are still some things to clean up, but this was the kind of win Scott Frost needed. Will it carry over?
Next up: vs. Buffalo
12. Illinois Fighting Illini (1-1)
Last week: vs. UTSA, 37-30 L
Well, the honeymoon is officially over for Bret Bielema. Illinois got a reality check on Saturday night playing a really good UTSA team. Defensively, the Illini had no answer for running back Sincere McCormick, quarterback Frank Harris and receiver Zakhari Franklin. They better figure something out on that side, because there are a lot more talented players on the schedule this season.
Next up: at Virginia
11. Indiana Hoosiers (0-1)
Last week: at #18 Iowa, 34-6 L
Yuck. All the hype for a dream season and that was the performance we saw from Indiana? Take nothing away from Iowa, it’s a great football team. But the Hoosiers were supposed to be pretty good, too. Michael Penix Jr. was dreadful, the running game was non-existent and the defense surrendered a few explosive plays that proved to be costly. IU is probably better than No. 11 in the B1G, but where else can you put Tom Allen’s team after that showing?
Next up: vs. Idaho
10. Maryland Terrapins (1-0)
Last week: vs. West Virginia, 30-24 W
Saturday’s win might’ve been the best performance seen from a Mike Locksley team. Maryland nearly hit 500 yards of offense and didn’t have a single turnover. On the other side, the Terrapins ended the game with 4 takeaways, a huge difference in a one-possession game. There are still a lot of questions about this team, but Maryland flashed its talent for a big win over a Big 12 opponent.
Next up: vs. Howard
9. Purdue Boilermakers (1-0)
Last week: vs. Oregon State, 30-21 W
Jeff Brohm’s defense played much more aggressively than it has in previous seasons, and it paid off. It also helps when David Bell and Payne Durham both rack up over 100 yards receiving in a game. The Boilermakers still have some concerns defensively and the offensive line play and run game was … a mess. But Purdue did dial up some unique play calls and kept Oregon State guessing. That’s usually when the Boilers are at their best.
Next up: at UConn
8. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-0)
Last week: vs. Temple, 61-14 W
Make a statement, Rutgers. Greg Schiano wasn’t satisfied by simply putting a tally in the win column, he sent a statement to the B1G by bludgeoning Temple on Saturday afternoon. The Scarlet Knights only totaled 365 yards of offense, but they forced 5 turnovers and ended the game with just 1 penalty for 15 years. Rutgers played a disciplined game against a bad opponent and posted one of its most lopsided victories in recent memory.
Next up: at Syracuse
7. Michigan State Spartans (1-0)
Last week: at Northwestern, 38-21 W
Michigan State looked like one of the most improved teams in the B1G to start the season. A lot of that is a credit to the addition of running back Kenneth Walker III and the offensive line play in the win over Northwestern. Payton Thorne looked pretty comfortable under center, too. It wasn’t really too surprising that Michigan State won its opener, but to do so in such convincing fashion raised some eyebrows.
Next up: vs. Youngstown State
6. Minnesota Golden Gophers (0-1)
Last week: vs. #4 Ohio State, 45-31 L
How often do you see a team lose by two touchdowns and think it’s still a contender to win its division? That was the case on Thursday night. Minnesota gave Ohio State a fight in the season opener and had opportunities to steal the first game of the season. The Gophers just didn’t have enough firepower. Entering the season, Minnesota had enough talent to compete for a division title. Is that still going to be the case with Mohamed Ibrahim (likely) out for the year?
Next up: vs. Miami (OH)
5. Michigan Wolverines (1-0)
Last week: vs. Western Michigan, 47-14 W
It’s not really a great gauge, but at least we know Michigan is beating inferior teams the way it should. Several playmakers stepped up on the offensive side, led by Blake Corum. The Wolverines played solid team defense, holding Western Michigan to just 317 yards. There’s a lot we still don’t know about Jim Harbaugh’s team, but Michigan looked pretty good against an in-state MAC opponent. That’s at least a start.
Next up: vs. #20 Washington
4. Wisconsin Badgers (0-1)
Last week: vs. #19 Penn State, 16-10 L
What a painful way to start the season. It was pretty clear that Wisconsin’s defense is again one of the best in the B1G and teams are going to have trouble scoring. The offense, though, was a different story. Let’s admit that it’s difficult to know where the offense stands because Penn State’s defense is pretty good, too. But Graham Mertz has to be better than he was inside Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday for the Badgers to get back to Indianapolis. There’s just no way around that.
Next up: vs. Eastern Michigan
3. Iowa Hawkeyes (1-0)
Last week: vs. #17 Indiana, 34-6 W
So much for the “better to catch Iowa early” theory, right? Iowa didn’t just dominate its first game, it dominated from the opening kickoff on both sides of the ball. After building a 31-3 halftime lead — thanks in big part to a pair of pick-sixes by Riley Moss — the Hawkeyes operated a perfect keep-away offense and let the defense suffocate the Hoosiers some more. It’s only one game, but we might’ve been undervaluing Iowa coming into 2021.
Next up: at #7 Iowa State
2. Penn State Nittany Lions (1-0)
Last week: vs. #12 Wisconsin, 16-10 W
If you just looked at the box score, you might think Penn State lost by 3 touchdowns. Somehow, the Nittany Lions found a way. Penn State’s defense and special teams made big plays at big times and the offense did just enough to escape Madison with a victory. The offense didn’t show much, but Wisconsin has one of the top defenses in the conference. Penn State had the best victory of the weekend, so it’s in the No. 2 spot.
Next up: vs. Ball State
1. Ohio State Buckeyes (1-0)
Last week: at Minnesota, 45-31 W
There were some moments of worry, that’s for sure. CJ Stroud needed some time to settle down and the defense had trouble stopping Ibrahim and penetrating the offensive line. Eventually, though, Ohio State’s talent and depth along the defensive line and incredible skill at receiver and running back took control of the game. Thursday wasn’t the most convincing win we’ve seen from Ryan Day’s team, but it was still a double-digit victory on the road against a solid opponent.
Next up: vs. #11 Oregon