B1G Week 4 Power Rankings: Penn State's win over Auburn lifts Lions to the top
What an eventful Saturday in the B1G.
Four unranked teams in the league had an opportunity to upset a Top 25 squad over the weekend, creating a chance for the B1G to really send a statement to the college football world. Michigan State was the only one able to capitalize, positing a convincing win over No. 24 Miami inside Hard Rock Stadium.
Nebraska (at No. 3 Oklahoma), Indiana (vs. No. 8 Cincinnati) and Purdue (at No. 12 Notre Dame), all had opportunities to pull off upsets, but all fell short.
Penn State was the only ranked B1G team taking on another ranked opponent, hosting No. 22 Auburn. The Nittany Lions found themselves in a four-quarter battle, but ended the night with a 28-20 victory.
That was just a fraction of what we saw across the B1G in Week 3.
Because of the results from the weekend, we’ve got some significant changes in the latest power rankings. There’s a new No. 1, Ohio State continues to fall and there’s a surge from the entire state of Michigan.
Here’s a look at the B1G power rankings heading into Week 4:
14. Northwestern Wildcats (1-2)
Last week: at Duke, 30-23 L
Are we back to having 2019-level concerns about Pat Fitzgerald’s team? That’s probably a fair thing to say at this point. At one point, the Wildcats trailed a bad Duke squad 27-0 before surging in the second half and turning the final 30 minutes into a competitive game. Questions at quarterback have returned after Hunter Johnson tossed 3 picks and Northwestern ended the day with 5 turnovers. Right now, this is not a good football team.
Up next: vs. Ohio
13. Illinois Fighting Illini (1-3)
Last week: vs. Maryland, 20-17 L
Nothing has gone right for Bret Bielema’s team since the season-opening win against Nebraska. Despite owning a 17-10 lead on Maryland late in the game, the Illini let an opportunity to get back to .500 (and 2-0 in the B1G) slip through their fingers. The scary thing for Illinois? The easiest portion of the schedule is the front half. The Fighting Illini are running out of opportunities to get the win total up before a brutal six-game stretch to close the year.
Up next: at Purdue
12. Nebraska Cornhuskers (2-2)
Last week: at #3 Oklahoma, 23-16 L
If Nebraska’s special teams wouldn’t have had so many errors, the Huskers would’ve shot up the power rankings this week. Instead, two missed field goals and a blocked extra point returned for a defensive PAT by Oklahoma cost the Huskers a shot at an upset. The positive takeaway is that Nebraska played one of its best games of the season against a good Sooners team. The not-so-positive takeaway is that the same mistakes continue to plague this team. Life doesn’t get much easier for the Huskers in the near future, either.
Up next: at Michigan State
11. Indiana Hoosiers (1-2)
Last week: vs. #8 Cincinnati, 38-24 L
Let’s just call it like it is: Indiana isn’t going to be a B1G contender this year. The Hoosiers laid an egg in the opener against Iowa and then allowed Cincinnati to come back after building a two-touchdown lead late in the first half. A combination of poor decision-making by Michael Penix Jr. and poor play-calling have contributed to the less-than-ideal start in Bloomington. IU still has the talent to get back to bowl eligibility, but right now this team doesn’t look capable of competing with some of the top teams in the conference.
Up next: at Western Kentucky
10. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (3-0)
Last week: vs. Delaware, 45-13 W
The nonconference season couldn’t have gone any better for Greg Schiano and the Scarlet Knights. They finished with a perfect 3-0 record and now are halfway to bowl eligibility entering conference play. Rutgers has played well, but the opponents haven’t exactly been the most challenging. This team still has some questions to answer, particularly on the offensive side. The Scarlet Knights will have a great opportunity to prove they belong higher on this list with a matchup against a red-hot Michigan team looming.
Up next: at #25 Michigan
9. Purdue Boilermakers (2-1)
Last week: vs. #12 Notre Dame, 27-13 L
Purdue had opportunities to beat Notre Dame but couldn’t make enough plays on the offensive side to pull the upset. The inability to run the football is a concern, especially with Zander Horvath sidelined with injury. The defense really does look much improved, though, and Jeff Brohm’s passing attack has proven to be fairly effective three weeks into the season. It just didn’t result in many points against the Fighting Irish defense. If the Boilers could be more consistent along the offensive line, they would be a much tougher team to beat.
Up next: vs. Illinois
8. Maryland Terrapins (3-0)
Last week: at Illinois, 20-17 W
Maryland flirted with that first loss of the season in Champaign Friday night, but Taulia Tagovailoa led two scoring drives and the defense came up with some big stops down the stretch for the Terrapins to improve to 3-0 on the year and open B1G play with a win. This was the first ugly game Maryland has played early this season — a credit to a road trip on a short week. What’s been nice to see from the Terps is that they’ve made plays in big-time moments in games against West Virginia and Illinois, finding ways to win those two games.
Up next: vs. Kent State
7. Minnesota Golden Gophers (2-1)
Last week: at Colorado, 30-0 W
It wasn’t really surprising to see Minnesota beat Colorado, but it was somewhat shocking to see the Gophers pitch a 30-0 shutout. The defense played outstanding from start to finish, Tanner Morgan benefited from Chris Autman-Bell’s return at wide receiver and Trey Potts continued to excel with the ball in his hands. Saturday might’ve been the best defensive performance we’ve seen from the Golden Gophers under P.J. Fleck. It was a nice bounce-back game after a narrow escape from Miami (OH) a week earlier.
Up next: vs. Bowling Green
6. Wisconsin Badgers (1-1)
Last week: idle
Wisconsin slips this week but only because it wasn’t in action. The Badgers will have a chance to climb back into the Top 5 this weekend with a showdown against Notre Dame in Chicago.
Up next: vs. #12 Notre Dame (Soldier Field in Chicago)
5. Ohio State Buckeyes (2-1)
Last week: vs. Tulsa, 41-20 W
At some point, we have to grade Ohio State by what we’ve seen on the field. The last two weeks haven’t been good. The Buckeyes stumble a few more spots this weeks because they found themselves in a four-quarter game with a winless Tulsa team that fell to UC-Davis a few weeks ago. Do I expect Ohio State to stay this low for very long? No. But Ryan Day’s team hasn’t looked nearly as impressive as the four teams listed in front of them.
Up next: vs. Akron
4. Michigan State Spartans (3-0)
Last week: at #22 Miami (FL), 38-17 W
Through three weeks, Michigan State is getting the job done in every phase of the game. Kenneth Walker rushed for 172 yards, Payton Thorne had 4 touchdown passes, the defense totaled 6 sacks and 4 turnovers, leading to a convincing 21-point victory. Not only are the Spartans off to a 3-0 start, they’ve won all three contests by 17 points or more. The super-seniors returning and additions through the transfer portal are paying off for Mel Tucker right now.
Up next: vs. Nebraska
3. Michigan Wolverines (3-0)
Last week: vs. Northern Illinois, 63-10 W
Another 373 yards on the ground, another strong performance from Blake Corum and another great day defensively has Michigan sitting at 3-0. It also has the Wolverines looking like — gulp — a contender in the B1G East. Obviously, it’s hard to make that statement based on a slate that has included Western Michigan, Washington and Northern Illinois, but the Wolverines have had no trouble with any of those three teams and have outscored opponents 141-34. Not a bad start after a 2-4 campaign.
Up next: vs. Rutgers
2. Iowa Hawkeyes (3-0)
Last week: vs. Kent State, 30-7 W
Iowa’s offense got going a little bit against Kent State with Tyler Goodson hitting 150 yards and Spencer Petras having his most consistent performance of the season. The defense was, once again, dominant. And yet, the Hawkeyes allowed the Golden Flashes to hang around a little longer than expected. Iowa isn’t getting punished too much for that, but the Hawkeyes do lose their spot atop the power rankings this weekend.
Up next: vs. Colorado State
1. Penn State Nittany Lions (3-0)
Last week: vs. #22 Auburn, 28-20 W
With an impressive win over Auburn on Saturday night, Penn State now has the two best wins of any resume in the B1G. For that reason, the Nittany Lions are sitting in the No. 1 spot. Penn State’s defense didn’t break against a solid Auburn rushing attack and Sean Clifford found his rhythm in the White Out atmosphere. James Franklin’s team is playing at a high level already, but it also appears to be getting better on a weekly basis. That’s a scary thought — well, unless you’re a Penn State fan.
Up next: vs. Villanova