Slowly but surely, the Big Ten is making a name for themselves. At the start of the year, many people referred to this conference as the “Big 2, Little 12” (Big 2 refers to Michigan State and Ohio State). However, with the rise of Iowa and Michigan, the Big Ten has silenced critics. With JT Barrett proving himself as an elite starting quarterback, many are beginning to believe that the Big Ten is more than just a basketball conference. Michigan State and Ohio State remain two of the nation’s undefeated teams, as they lead the pack in the East, followed by Michigan. Meanwhile, Iowa controls their destiny in the West while they are pursued by the Badgers of Wisconsin.
Here are the Big Ten Power Rankings for Week 8.
JT Barrett made his 2015 debut as a starter– and what a show it was! Recording 223 yards through the air and 142 on the ground, Barrett proved that Urban Meyer made the right choice at quarterback. Ohio State has come a long way since Week 1. They have come down to the wire multiple times against bad teams, but as the weeks roll by, they prove that they are the best team of the land. After a 49-7 victory over Rutgers, Ohio State appears to be coming full circle. They look like the same team that won the title last year. As OSU and MSU continue their perfect seasons, it appears likely that the two will square off in an “all or nothing” showdown in Columbus in three weeks.
Do not let the 52-26 score fool you– Indiana kept with the Spartans for nearly the entire game, as Michigan State has yet to blow out a team in 2015. Nonetheless, they are perfect in the most important category. Michigan State’s defense fared well against a tricky Indiana offense. Even more impressive is Connor Cook, who consistently makes strong connections to his receivers. Cook loves throwing “50/50 balls” in one-on-one coverage, hitting his men only where they can catch the ball. As offensive line woes continue to burden the Spartans, Cook proves that he is able to put the team on his back and play like a true NFL quarterback. That said, watch out for Nebraska next week. The Cornhuskers have historically caused problems for the Spartans.
Joel Stave, the third year starting quarterback, fell early to a head injury in the Badgers’ contest against Illinois. Bart Houston took over and had himself a field day, gaining 232 yards with two touchdowns and a couple of interceptions. Wisconsin’s rush game remains subpar at best, but the defense continues to roll in Madison. Since Wisconsin’s hardest game remaining is against Northwestern, they may run the table. Unfortunately, to make it to Indianapolis, Iowa would have to lose twice before the conclusion of the regular season.
What can you say? The Nittany Lions are ugly to watch, but they get the job done. Penn State struggled deeply against a Maryland team that has gone through more adversity than any other Big Ten team. However, Hackenberg got the job done, throwing for 315 yards and three touchdowns. Still, Penn State better enjoy being a two-loss team while it lasts. The Lions have a difficult remaining schedule, and Hackenberg’s back will not be strong enough to carry Penn State through it.
The Wildcats earned a badly needed win against Nebraska as freshman quarterback, Clayton Thorson, came alive in the final quarter of play. Northwestern will go into their bye week with momentum, but hopes of a Big Ten championship have fallen for the Cats as Iowa and Wisconsin continue to produce victories in Big Ten play.
The Illini kept with Wisconsin for three quarters, but like Maryland and Indiana, ran out of gas by the fourth quarter. The rush game never got going against the stifling Wisconsin defensive line, leaving Wes Lunt, as usual, to carry his team. With a difficult remaining schedule, it appears that Illinois will only sink from here on out.
What is it about the final minutes of play that constantly rue the Cornhuskers? Nebraska faced a devastated Northwestern team who was outscored 78-10 in their past two contests. The Wildcats had nothing going for them coming into this game, and were down late in the game. Still, this did not stop Nebraska from blowing another game. I think it is important to watch out for Nebraska next week against Michigan State, as the Spartans have struggled against Nebraska the past few years, but unless Nebraska can show up in the fourth quarter, they will have no chance at beating MSU.
The Scarlet Knights held with Ohio State for a quarter, but OSU’s talent overwhelmed Rutgers, causing a 49-7 blowout defeat. Hopes of a postseason are beginning to dwindle away for Rutgers. Still, they managed to win one conference game thus far, which makes them better than some teams in the conference.
Indiana’s strong offense allows them to play with almost any Big Ten team, but for the second consecutive week, the Hoosiers ran out of gas by the fourth quarter. Last week, they blew a 25-point lead with three turnovers in the fourth quarter. While it was not as dramatic against the Spartans, Indiana fell apart in the final quarter with multiple turnovers, ruining any chance at defeating the Michigan State Spartans.
Maryland moved past Purdue in the rankings even though they lost. Why? Even though they lost to Penn State, they played with a lot of heart. They fought all four quarters, right until the end. There has been a definite change in the demeanor of the Terps since the firing of Randy Edsall, and looking back on the season thus far, there is not a team in the conference who has been less impressive than the Purdue Boilermakers.