Week 14 B1G Power Rankings: A little history to close the regular season
I swear this never happens.
Let me provide some context for that sentence. Each week, I do B1G Power Rankings, and usually, only a handful of teams remain in the same exact spots. After the weekend that was, I knew that we weren’t going to see big-time shakeups.
But you’ll notice something that happened for the first time in my three-year history of doing these rankings:
14. Illinois (LW: 14)
We can sit here and talk about Illinois’ freshmen, or we can talk about how Illinois was outscored 303-118 in conference play. Lovie Smith’s only win away from Memorial Stadium in two years was at Rutgers in 2016. Josh Whitman ain’t pulling the trigger anytime soon, but you can bet he’s starting to sweat a bit.
13. Nebraska (LW: 13)
For all the criticism Mike Riley got as an offensive guy, his biggest downfall was his inability to find the right defensive coordinator. Bob Diaco’s defense let up an average of 55 points in the final three weeks of the season. Two of those games were against Iowa and Minnesota. Oh, and there’s this:
Iowa RB Akrum Wadley is the Big Ten offensive player of the week, joining Jonathan Taylor, J.T. Barrett, Demry Croft and Saquon Barkley as players since Oct. 9 to win the honor for their work against Bob Diaco’s defense.
— Mitch Sherman (@mitchsherman) November 27, 2017
There’s a ton of cleaning up for Scott Frost — I mean, whoever Nebraska’s next coach is — to do in Lincoln.
12. Minnesota (LW: 12)
You know what isn’t elite? Going from nine wins to five. For all the talk about P.J. Fleck establishing his culture in the Twin Cities, his first year didn’t exactly instill widespread confidence that the program can get to Wisconsin’s level. Minnesota went 2-7 coaching in one of the weaker divisions among the Power 5 conferences. For all the good vibes after the Nebraska win, it’s hard to feel great after getting outscored 70-0 by the West’s top two teams.
11. Maryland (LW: 11)
I said coming into the season that Maryland looked like a five-win team with that schedule. The Terps, after that 3-1 start, couldn’t even reach that low bar. A lot of that had to do with the health of the quarterback position, but Maryland was still a doormat defensively for most of the year. DJ Durkin’s defense is still a long way from looking like any of the units he led as a sought-after coordinator.
10. Rutgers (LW: 10)
What if I told you that four-win Rutgers would wind up ahead of four teams in the final B1G Power Rankings of the regular season? You would neither believe me, nor would you make a documentary on it. But while October looked promising, Rutgers still finished the season 0-3 having been outscored 116-13. Chris Ash just got his extension, but he still has an uphill climb to get the Knights to a postseason berth.
9. Indiana (LW: 9)
Indiana lost four B1G games by a single possession. For a group that was hoping to earn three consecutive bowl berths for the first time since the Reagan administration, that’s tough to stomach. Arguably the best defense Indiana had in decades wasn’t able to pull out a Bucket Game victory. That would’ve been a nice reward for the job Tom Allen did in his first season. Instead, he’ll get more time to sign a pivotal recruiting class.
8. Iowa (LW: 8)
Sorry, but beating the woeful Huskers that badly wasn’t enough to change Iowa’s standing. If Minnesota can do it, anybody can do it (well, maybe not Illinois). The frustrating thing for Iowa is that while it showed up in arguably its two most important games of the year (Ohio State and Nebraska), it was 2-5 vs. the B1G outside of that. Four single-digit losses will do that to a team. On the bright side, at least Iowa won’t have to get trucked in the Outback Bowl this year.
7. Purdue (LW: 7)
That Jeff Brohm turned Purdue into a bowl team in Year 1 is incredible. The Boilers might’ve had the benefit of playing in the West, but they won three of four games to close the season, including an impressive win in Iowa City. It’s amazing to think how close Purdue actually is to eight wins right now (the Nebraska and Rutgers losses were brutal), considering it had the toughest non-conference slate of any B1G team. Purdue recorded double the wins of any single season of the Darrell Hazell era. That’s quite the start to the Brohm era.
6. Michigan (LW: 6)
I wrote about how Michigan was a quarterback away from beating Ohio State. With a quarterback, I think this year’s Michigan squad is a top-10 team. Without one, they aren’t a top-25 squad. Why? Against the teams ranked ahead of them on this list, the Wolverines were 0-4 and scored an average of 13.3 points per contest. Yes, 8-4 shouldn’t be scoffed at, but for those Michigan fans scoffing at voters and the selection committee, think about the strength of wins more than the quality of their losses.
5. Michigan State (LW: 5)
I was wrong about Michigan State. Have I said that enough yet? Let me say it again. I didn’t see any way that the Spartans would find themselves with nine wins and a top-25 spot heading into the postseason. That, to me, is what separates Mark Dantonio. MSU didn’t suffer any embarrassing losses (that Northwestern defeat keeps looking better) and it knocked off Michigan and Penn State. That’s not a bad year at all, especially considering how much roster attrition the Spartans had.
4. Northwestern (LW: 4)
Want to hear something crazy? Here’s the list of Power 5 teams who will take winning streaks of seven-plus games into the postseason:
That’s it. Say what you want about the B1G West, but Northwestern did pick up that win against Michigan State. Besides, winning seven in a row ain’t easy. Ohio State hasn’t done that this year, and neither has Clemson. Crazy it is that the Wildcats will play for their second 10-win season in three years.
3. Penn State (LW: 3)
I get that Penn State doesn’t have more than one win vs. the current top 25 and that it can’t play for a B1G Championship, but this will always be the season that could’ve been. The Lions enter the postseason at 10-2 with one-possession road losses to legitimate top-25 teams. That’s brutal. Of course there’s the other side of the coin that suggests the Lions were a fingernail from losing at Iowa back in September. Still, nobody should downplay the Lions potentially winning 11 games in consecutive seasons.
2. Ohio State (LW: 2)
Hey, the good news is that Ohio State is back playing for a B1G Championship for the first time in three years. Perhaps even better news for Buckeye fans is that it came on the heels of a victory at Michigan. Winning a conference title and going to a New Year’s Six Bowl is not an easy feat. But the bad news is that by season’s end, Ohio State will have scored exactly zero Playoff points since it won that national title. Given the talent that’s been in Columbus, that blows my mind.
1. Wisconsin (LW: 1)
The Badgers have a prime opportunity to quiet a whoooooooole lot of doubters on Saturday. Amazing it is that the undefeated team is the touchdown underdog against the two-loss team on a neutral site. Wisconsin is going to be a major challenge for whoever starts at quarterback for the Buckeyes. While everyone is hating on the Badgers’ résumé, consider this feat:
— Brent Yarina (@BTNBrentYarina) November 27, 2017
Before you criticize Wisconsin for not “imposing its will” on teams, think about that. Lord knows they can make a big-time statement if they continue that against Ohio State.