B1G Week 5 power rankings: Making sense of a whacky weekend in the B1G
That was the general thought that rolled through my brain when I finally grabbed the remote control and turned of the televisions in my house, marking the end of Week 4 in the B1G. It was a…confusing day to say the least.
Minnesota dropped a heartbreaker to Bowling Green. Nebraska fell to Michigan State in devastating fashion. Wisconsin was embarrassed in Chicago by Notre Dame. Penn State, Iowa and Indiana didn’t play up to their standards against FCS or Group of 5 competition.
Yeah, there was a lot of head-scratching happening on Saturday.
Still, I did my best to make sense of the results from Week 4, the last major weekend before we hit the all-you-can-eat buffet of B1G play. Here’s what the power rankings look like heading into Week 5:
14. Illinois Fighting Illini (1-4)
Last week: at Purdue, 13-9 L
For a second straight week, Illinois had opportunities to beat a B1G opponent but fell short. The Fighting Illini are now on a four-game skid and haven’t shown any signs of turning a corner. To Bret Bielema’s credit, Illinois has been competitive in all but one game (at Virginia), but he’s also not in the business for moral victories. Failing to score a touchdown on Saturday against Purdue might’ve been the lowest point of the season so far.
Up next: vs. Charlotte
13. Northwestern Wildcats (2-2)
Last week: vs. Ohio, 35-6 W
Have a day, Evan Hull. The Northwestern running back accounted for 216 yards and 2 touchdowns en route to a lopsided victory to close out nonconference play. It was a solid win for the Wildcats, but there’s still reasons to doubt this team right now. The two wins have come against an FCS team and an 0-4 Ohio squad. Until we see Northwestern take down a more formidable foe, it’s going to sit near the bottom.
Next up: at Nebraska
12. Minnesota Golden Gophers (2-2)
Last week: vs. Bowling Green, 14-10 L
Saturday might’ve been one of the worst games Minnesota has played under P.J. Fleck. The offense failed to move the ball, Tanner Morgan made too many errors and penalties and turnovers piled up. It was an ugly outing from start to finish. There really isn’t much else to say after that performance.
Up next: at Purdue
11. Nebraska Cornhuskers (2-3)
Last week: at #20 Michigan State, 23-20
Once again, Nebraska found a way to fumble away an opportunity. Despite owning a touchdown lead with under 4 minutes to play, special teams miscues, poor offensive line play and an interception in overtime proved costly against an undefeated Michigan State team. The Huskers have a talented roster, but they’ve now dropped all three games this season by 8 points or fewer.
Up next: vs. Northwestern
10. Indiana Hoosiers (2-2)
Last week: at Western Kentucky, 33-31 W
Indiana was able to escape with a much-needed win after falling to Iowa and Cincinnati earlier in the year. Michael Penix Jr. threw for 373 yards on 53 attempts and didn’t have an interception. Ty Fryfogle hauled in 98 yards on 10 catches and Stephen Carr rushed for over 100 yards. Indiana should’ve won by a lot more. But, there are no style points. The Hoosiers still need to play a lot cleaner to beat the B1G teams on their schedule.
Up next: at #6 Penn State
9. Wisconsin Badgers (1-2)
Last week: vs. #12 Notre Dame, 41-13 L
Paul Chryst needs to figure something out with the offense. Otherwise, things could get a lot worse for Wisconsin when it hits the brunt of the B1G season. The Badgers still have a top-level defense in the B1G, even if the final score against Notre Dame doesn’t quite reflect it. The offense is just so bad that the defense has to carry a majority of the weight, and eventually it starts to crack against really good competition.
Up next: vs. #19 Michigan
8. Purdue Boilermakers (3-1)
Last week: vs. Illinois, 13-9 W
Jeff Brohm, defensive specialist. That’s not how he was known when he arrived at Purdue but right now, the Boilermakers are playing a lot better on that side of the ball. The offense is still a work-in-progress, especially the rushing attack. Purdue doesn’t really have a quality win on the resumé right now, but it does sit at 3-1 heading into a game against Minnesota next week. The Boilers are playing good enough to win.
Up next: vs. Minnesota
7. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (3-1)
Last week: at #19 Michigan, 20-13 L
Credit to Rutgers for marching into a hostile environment in Ann Arbor, getting behind by three scores and finding a way to scratch and claw its way back into the contest. So many times in previous years, the Scarlet Knights would’ve rolled over. Rutgers went toe-to-toe with a really good Michigan team on the road. Even if it didn’t get the win, it still proved it can hang with some of the top teams in the B1G.
Up next: vs. #10 Ohio State
6. Maryland Terrapins (4-0)
Last week: vs. Kent State, 37-16 W
Maryland continues to roll. The Terrapins had little trouble with a Kent State that has played much better than many expected this season. Taulia Tagovailoa continues to look like the best quarterback in the B1G and the playmakers at wide receiver are proving to be a huge threat in the passing attack. It’s going to interesting to see how the Terps stack up against the top-tier of the B1G, but right now they’re playing at a high level.
Up next: vs. #5 Iowa
5. Ohio State Buckeyes (3-1)
Last week: vs. Akron, 59-7 W
What can we take away from Ohio State’s blowout win over Akron? The Buckeyes played much better defensively, outside of the early touchdown drive from the Zips. That’s at least a step in the right direction, even it did come against a bad team. Ohio State’s offense also clicked without C.J. Stroud on the field. Those are some positives to lean on as the Buckeyes travel to Piscataway to dive back into B1G play against Rutgers.
Up next: at Rutgers
4. Michigan State Spartans (4-0)
Last week: vs. Nebraska, 23-20 W
It took a minor miracle, but Michigan State found a way to keep its perfect season intact. The Spartans used a special teams touchdown with under 4 minutes to play and also intercepted Adrian Martinez in overtime to post an overtime victory over Nebraska. So far, it’s been the scariest game the Spartans have encountered in 2021. It’s something the team can grow on, as Michigan State will have plenty of big-time matchups coming up in the future.
Up next: vs. Western Kentucky
3. Michigan Wolverines (4-0)
Last week: vs. Rutgers, 20-13 W
Saturday’s win over Rutgers was probably the most impressive Michigan has on the resumé currently. Having said that, it could’ve been a little cleaner. The Wolverines failed to score a single point in the second half and allowed Rutgers to climb back into the game. If Jim Harbaugh’s team wants a shot at the B1G title, it has to be able to put the game away earlier. Considering the amount of improvement the Scarlet Knights have shown, it shouldn’t be too much of a scary sign so early in the season for Michigan.
Up next: at #18 Wisconsin
2. Iowa Hawkeyes (4-0)
Last week: vs. Colorado State, 24-14 W
Sometimes, you just have to win ugly. That’s exactly what Iowa did against Colorado State to round out its nonconference schedule. The Hawkeyes made enough plays on both sides of the ball to avoid a disaster, still winning by 10 points. Because Iowa was so impressive in wins over Indiana, Iowa State and Kent State, Kirk Ferentz and his staff get some slack. The Hawkeyes have to play much better in a week for their first B1G road game of the season.
Up next: at Maryland
1. Penn State Nittany Lions (4-0)
Last week: vs. Villanova, 38-17 W
Nothing from Saturday would indicate that Penn State doesn’t still belong at the top of the power rankings. It was far from the prettiest outing, but it was still a convincing win over an inferior opponent for James Franklin’s team. Now the focus shifts back to B1G play with Indiana rolling into town next weekend.
Up next: vs. Indiana