One of these days, I’m going to have the top five figured out.
After 11 weeks of the season, one would think I had a clue as to how this thing would look from one week to the next. Apparently I don’t. If I did, perhaps four of the top five in this week’s B1G Power Rankings wouldn’t be in different spots.
But that was the case.
So yeah, don’t etch these rankings in stone.
14. Illinois (LW: 14)
Did you see that? That was Illinois’ best chance at a win vs. a Power 5 team flying away.
13. Indiana (LW: 12)
Wait, Indiana moved down after winning its first B1G game of the season? Yes. That’s because Minnesota pounded Nebraska in every way. So heading into the final two weeks of the season, the Hoosiers’ only B1G win is at Illinois. We can debate if that should count as a Power 5 win. The good news for IU is if it is indeed better than that 4-6 record, it’ll show it against Rutgers and Purdue.
12. Nebraska (LW: 8)
Um, mediocre teams don’t get blown out at Minnesota. Nebraska showed that it couldn’t even be mediocre. Instead, it allowed everyone at TCF Bank Stadium to run for a touchdown. It was extremely nice of Bob Diaco’s defense, which looked all sorts of strained.
11. Maryland (LW: 11)
For once, I kept the Terps in the same spot. Why? Because they did exactly what I expected them to do against Michigan. That is, struggle to stop the run and lose by four scores. With their 15th quarterback, the Terps lost for the fifth time in six weeks. That 3-1 start seems like a lifetime ago.
10. Minnesota (LW: 13)
Woah. P.J. Fleck opened up an elite can of whoop…you get it. Go figure that Minnesota’s best rushing game in 11 years came against the Huskers, which would love to have a coach like Fleck. The Gophers now actually have a chance to earn a bowl berth if they can knock off Northwestern. Another month of practice would be huge in Year 1 of the Fleck era.
9. Purdue (LW: 10)
Purdue moved up one spot simply because Nebraska showed it doesn’t have much of a desire to play football anymore. The Boilers couldn’t muster up some road magic in Evanston against a red-hot Northwestern team. Purdue has yet to win a B1G road game, which will need to change if it hopes to make a bowl in Jeff Brohm’s first season.
8. Rutgers (LW: 9)
OK, so nobody expected the Knights to hang around at Penn State. But for what it’s worth, Rutgers did cover the spread (Penn State was a 31-point favorite) for the fifth straight week. The Knights have looked a whole lot better defensively since the bye week, having gone 3-2 in that stretch. Even if Rutgers can’t pick up two wins to close out the year and reach a bowl berth, this team surpassed some awfully low expectations.
7. Iowa (LW: 5)
Winning at Kinnick Stadium is really hard. You know what’s even harder? Winning at Camp Randall Stadium. Iowa found that out last weekend in what was a complete 180 on the offensive side of the ball. A lot of that was on the Wisconsin defense, which is clearly the B1G’s best and is looking like a bonafide top-three defense in all of college football. But 66 total yards? Really? Fortunately for Iowa, it ends the season at home against Purdue and at Nebraska, which makes a 9-win campaign still possible.
6. Michigan (LW: 7)
I get it. Michigan looks like a different team with Brandon Peters. But building off last week’s stat, Michigan’s B1G victories (including Maryland) came against teams with a combined 8-23. If the Wolverines go into Madison and pull out a victory, obviously that narrative changes. For now, though, there’s understandable skepticism about how much the Wolverines have grown since the Penn State debacle.
5. Northwestern (LW: 6)
Tic tac toe, that’s five in a row. OK, that’s not a thing, but it should be. Since starting the conference slate with Penn State and Wisconsin, Northwestern is a perfect 5-0 with wins over the likes of Iowa and Michigan State. At 7-3, the Cats are finally looking like the team we thought they could be entering 2017. And what’s left on the schedule? Minnesota and Illinois. A 10-win season is still a possibility for Pat Fitzgerald’s squad.
4. Michigan State (LW: 2)
The Spartans looked, um, not good on Saturday. To say MSU’s collapse at Ohio State was surprising would be an understatement. For a team that’s played to its competition perhaps as much as anyone in the B1G, MSU completely fell apart. That vaunted run defense didn’t play the part at all. MSU lost control of its own B1G East destiny in Columbus. The question now becomes what MSU does against two teams it should beat. Will the Spartans get back to winning the battle at the line of scrimmage and get to nine wins?
3. Penn State (LW: 4)
The good news is that the Lions bounced back in convincing fashion against Rutgers. The bad news is that Saquon Barkley’s Heisman Trophy odds look all but squashed. For the fifth time in six games, Barkley failed to reach 80 yards rushing. Penn State isn’t even bothering to run the ball much any more. Can you blame Joe Moorhead? The offensive line is still struggling. With the Lions’ B1G East hopes all but gone, they can still play their way into a New Year’s Six game with a couple of convincing victories and some chaos.
2. Ohio State (LW: 4)
The Buckeyes showed their good side in a blowout win against Michigan State. Do they still have Playoff possibilities? Not in my opinion, but it was still an impressive showing that helped put the Buckeyes significantly closer to a B1G East title, and potentially a New Year’s Six berth. Ohio State now has five B1G victories of 28 points or more. The rest of the B1G East only has three such wins. That’s dominant, but OSU’s inconsistency still cost it a chance at the Playoff.
1. Wisconsin (LW: 1)
Here’s something to consider. Ohio State and Wisconsin have four common opponents (Indiana, Iowa, Maryland and Nebraska). Against said opponents, the Badgers are +98 and the Buckeyes are +87. Against an Iowa team that demolished Ohio State a week earlier, Wisconsin rolled by 24 points on Saturday. And no, home field advantage isn’t worth a 55-point swing.
This notion that Wisconsin isn’t worthy of being a contender is comical. The Badgers have a chance to truck another top-25 team when Michigan rolls into Madison. Wisconsin’s only way of showing the college football world that it’s good is if it goes 13-0 with a B1G Championship (that hasn’t been done before).
That ain’t right.