B1G Week 6 power rankings: Starting to separate the pretenders from the contenders
We’re getting there.
Once the calendar turns to October and the number of conference games begins to pick up, the oil and water starts to separate. In this case, it’s the pretenders and contenders.
In Week 5, we found out that some teams are the real deal while others might fit the phrase “overrated.” Or, in this case, at least they’re not a legitimate contender for a B1G title.
Four B1G teams still remain unbeaten heading into Week 6, most of any conference in college football. For the first time this season, next Saturday will be nothing but league games. We’re on the verge of finding out a lot more about all 14 teams.
Here’s how the power rankings look in the B1G following Week 5 action:
14. Northwestern Wildcats (2-3)
Last week: at Nebraska, 56-7 L
What is there really to say? Northwestern looked abysmal Saturday night in Lincoln, much like it did in games against Michigan State and Duke earlier this season. The Wildcats have no offensive firepower and struggle to make tackles. The way Pat Fitzgerald’s team is playing right now, Northwestern could finish the year 2-10.
Up next: OFF
13. Illinois Fighting Illini (2-4)
Last week: vs. Charlotte, 24-14 W
After a series of close losses, Illinois finally got over the hurdle. It wasn’t pretty, but the Illini climbed out of that last-place spot following a double-digit victory over Charlotte to close out the nonconference slate. The question? Can it translate to B1G play? Illinois is 1-2 in conference play with the losses to Maryland and Purdue coming by a combined 7 points. The competition is about to get a lot tougher, though. How will this team hold up?
Up next: vs. Wisconsin
12. Indiana Hoosiers (2-3)
Last week: at #4 Penn State, 24-0 L
Such high expectations to start the year have now been tempered. Indiana has dropped all 3 of its games to ranked opponents, primarily because of poor offensive play. In its two B1G games this season (Iowa and Penn State), the Hoosiers have been outscored 58-6. That’s not good for a team considered a contender walking into the 2021 season. IU’s defense is still really good, but this offense needs some work. And fast.
Up next: OFF
11. Wisconsin Badgers (1-3)
Last week: vs. #14 Michigan, 38-17 L
Did you see what was written about Indiana? That basically applies for Wisconsin, too. Paul Chryst’s team has been really good on the defensive side of the ball through a majority of the season, but the offense’s complete inability to put the ball in the end zone has cost it a chance to compete for a B1G title. The one credit to the Badgers is that they’ve had to play 3 ranked teams in their first 4 games. Let’s see what happens when the schedule eases up a bit.
Up next: at Illinois
10. Purdue Boilermakers (3-2)
Last week: vs. Minnesota, 20-13 L
The way the quarterback situation is being handled is weird and it’s probably not a coincidence that Purdue has only managed to score 13 points in each of the last 3 contests. The Boilermakers had plenty of opportunities to beat Minnesota and get to 4-1, needing just 2 more victories to reach bowl eligibility. Poor play in the red zone and a pair of costly turnovers set Purdue back a step on Saturday in West Lafayette.
Up next: OFF
9. Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-2)
Last week: at Purdue, 20-13 W
After an embarrassing homecoming loss to Bowling Green, Minnesota bounced back for a road win against Purdue. Tanner Morgan looked better, hitting a few deep passes to Mike Brown-Stephens and opening up the offense just a bit more. Once again, the Golden Gophers’ defense answered the bell and came up with big-time stops against some really good playmakers. Like so many on this list, Minnesota needs to find some consistency on offense in order to be competitive against some of the top teams on the schedule.
Up next: OFF
8. Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-3)
Last week: vs. Northwestern, 56-7 W
Yeah, the Blackshirts are back. That’s been said for a few weeks now, but they were flying all over the field against Northwestern and causing all kinds of issues for Pat Fitzgerald’s team. The offense looked a lot better, rushing for an impressive 427 yards in a blowout victory. Why are the Huskers still in the bottom half? Losses to Illinois, Oklahoma and Michigan State can’t be completely ignored and Northwestern sits at No. 14 on the list. Nebraska gets a great chance to get a bump next weekend, hosting a really good Michigan team.
Up next: vs. #14 Michigan
7. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (3-2)
Last week: vs. #11 Ohio State, 52-13 L
It’s really tough to judge Rutgers right now. None of the 3 wins on the resumé are overly impressive, but the two losses were against Michigan and Ohio State, which own a combined 9-1 record. Saturday’s performance against the Buckeyes was much uglier than many expected, leading to some disappointment. This is still a much-improved Rutgers team but it’s pretty difficult to gauge where Greg Schiano’s squad stands among the rest of the B1G at this moment.
Up next: vs. #17 Michigan State
6. Maryland Terrapins (4-1)
Last week: vs. #5 Iowa, 51-14 L
There’s no way around it, Maryland laid a giant egg in the Friday night showdown against Iowa. The Terrapins ended the game with 7 turnovers, including 6 interceptions, on the way to a 37-point home loss. The final score may not be reflective of Maryland’s talent, though. Things really spun out of control after Dontay Demus suffered a gruesome injury on a kickoff return. Maryland isn’t near Iowa’s level at this time, but it’s probably not a 40 points worse, either.
Up next: at #11 Ohio State
5. Ohio State Buckeyes (4-1)
Last week: at Rutgers, 52-13 W
That was more like it. Ohio State has put together two outstanding performances in wins over Akron and Rutgers and is beginning to look similar to the teams that rattled off four straight B1G titles. The Buckeyes dominated the Scarlet Knights on both sides of the football from start to finish. Why still at No. 5? We need to see it for more than one game against a quality opponent. Ohio State will have plenty of opportunities to climb up this ladder, but it’s sticking in this slot for at least one more week.
Up next: vs. Maryland
4. Michigan State Spartans (5-0)
Last week: vs. Western Kentucky, 48-31 W
Knowing what we know about Mel Tucker, he probably wasn’t pleased with how the 2nd half went in East Lansing. After building an impressive 42-16 lead at halftime, Michigan State was outscored 15-6 in the the final 2 quarters before sealing the victory. Probably would’ve been nicer to see the Spartans play a cleaner game for a complete 60 minutes, but the outcome was never really in doubt. Kenneth Walker III and Jayden Reed continue to be two of the top playmakers in the B1G, too.
Up next: at Rutgers
3. Michigan Wolverines (5-0)
Last week: at Wisconsin, 38-17 W
For the first time this season, Michigan had to rely on the arm of Cade McNamara. He delivered. Michigan picked up 253 yards through the air and McNamara and J.J. McCarthy combined for 3 touchdown passes in a big road win. Once again, the Wolverines defense held an opponent under 20 points, a theme for the 2021 season. Michigan is getting the job done on both side of the ball right now. The one concern was about the passing attack, but that proved to be effective, too. Are we ready to say the Wolverines may be a contender in the B1G East?
Up next: at Nebraska
2. Penn State Nittany Lions (5-0)
Last week: vs. Indiana, 24-0 W
Saturday’s outing was arguably the worst we’ve seen out of Penn State this season. Yet the Nittany Lions still posted a convincing shutout victory over a division opponent. Not too shabby. Red zone defense continues to be a strength for this team and the run game took a big step, as Penn State rushed for 209 yards against a good Indiana defense. The bottom line? Penn State played mediocre football and still registered a lopsided win. That’s the sign of a good football team.
Up next: at #5 Iowa
1. Iowa Hawkeyes (5-0)
Last week: at Maryland, 51-14 W
Despite some struggles against Kent State and Colorado State the past two weeks, Iowa has showed up in the biggest games of the season. The Hawkeyes have posted double-digit victories over Indiana, Iowa State and Maryland and have already hauled in 12 interceptions through 5 games. This is easily one of the Top 5 defensive teams in the country right now. Each week, the offense appears to be getting better, as well. Iowa looks like a team capable of winning a B1G title.
Up next: vs. #4 Penn State