After a long and bittersweet non-conference schedule, Big Ten football is finally back.
Some teams like Wisconsin and Ohio State immediately grabbed the nation’s attention by taking down a pair of top 15 teams, while other teams like Northwestern and Iowa fell victim to FCS foes. Despite how any of these Big Ten clubs did during the non-conference slate, they all started fresh as they were still in contention for the Big Ten Title going into Conference play.
The roles are starting to reverse for a few particular teams. Northwestern notched a key conference win in Iowa City last weekend and is gaining momentum after an ugly beginning of 2016. On the other hand, the wheels are starting to fall off for Michigan State as they have dropped two straight after a deceiving win over then-No. 18 Notre Dame.
There has been a major stir up in the rankings. Let’s get started:
1. Ohio State (1)
Oh my goodness Ohio State. The Buckeyes steamrolled then-No. 14 Oklahoma 45-24 two weeks ago and did not miss a beat against Rutgers last Saturday with a 58-0 shutout.
JT Barrett is the catalyst of a juggernaut offense with video game numbers. He’s completed 69 percent of his throws for 888 yards with 14 touchdowns. He also has tallied 200 rushing yards and three rushing scores. At this rate, Barrett will soon be hoisting the national championship trophy.
The No. 2 Buckeyes’ next opponent is a hungry and motivated Indiana squad in Columbus.
2. Michigan (3)
After a soft cupcake schedule at the start of 2016, the Wolverines showed the country that they are a legitimate College Football Playoff contender, downing then-No. 8 Wisconsin 14-7.
Michigan got the job done with their gritty defense. The Wolverines controlled the clock and surrendered only 159 total yards, eight first downs, and three key turnovers to hold off the Badgers in the offensive slugfest. That’s the key to winning ball games.
The unbeaten No. 4 Wolverines look to advance to 6-0 as they travel for the first time this season, colliding with Rutgers.
3. Wisconsin (4)
Yes, I’m aware Wisconsin did not beat Michigan. But they sure put up a scrappy fight until the very end.
Despite the Badgers were outgained in every offensive category, they held the Wolverines to 3 of 15 on third down conversions. That’s the main component that kept them within striking range, but too many mistakes on offense cost them the game.
No. 11 Wisconsin has a well earned bye week approaching, giving them an extra week to prepare for a primetime showdown against No. 2 Ohio State.
4. Nebraska (5)
The Cornhuskers received an unexpected scare from Illinois, escaping late 31-16.
Nebraska trailed Illinois 16-10 heading into the 4th quarter, but rallied behind quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. and ripped off the game’s final 21 points.
No. 12 Nebraska is one of the four undefeated teams remaining in the Big Ten along with Ohio State, Michigan, and Maryland. They seek to take advantage of the upcoming bye week to get ready for Indiana.
5. Maryland (10)
The undefeated Terrapins are starting to look like a surprise East division contender with a 50-7 shellacking of Purdue.
Maryland left the Boilermakers in their tracks by racking up 400 rushing yards and a stifling defense that only held Purdue to just over 200 yards of total offense.
Let’s see if the Terps can maintain their consistent play as they take on rival Penn State.
6. Indiana (9)
The Hoosiers take home the Old Brass Spittoon for the first time in a decade, defeating rival then- No. 17 Michigan State 24-21 in an overtime thriller.
Mark Dantonio had never lost to the Hoosiers in his MSU tenure before week five. Indiana overcame a two touchdown deficit by stringing three consecutive touchdowns to send the game to overtime.
The Hoosiers third down efficiency (9 of 16) along with a stout defense led them to victory in one of the biggest wins in school history.
Indiana looks to build their momentum as they make their way to the Horseshoe where No. 2 Ohio State will be waiting for them.
7. Northwestern (13)
What a great turnaround by the Wildcats. They have won two of their last three games after their unthinkable 0-2 start, most recently prevailing 38-31 over Iowa.
Northwestern’s balanced offense was too much for the Hawkeye defense to handle. Quarterback Clayton Thorson threw for three touchdowns off of 164 yards passing and Justin Jackson collected 171 yards on the ground for the cats.
We’ll see if they can keep rolling as they hit the road to East Lansing in two weeks.
8. Penn State (7)
After taking a beating to Michigan the week prior, the Nittany Lions get back on track with a 29-26 triumph over Minnesota.
Tracy McSorley had his way with the Minnesota defense as he tossed for 335 yards and one score. Then it was running back Saquon Barkley that put the nail in the coffin has he broke free for the game winning touchdown from 25 yards out.
Penn State hosts Maryland in week 6.
9. Minnesota (8)
Just like Wisconsin, Minnesota is still beaming with confidence despite the loss.
The Golden Gophers had an impressive start to the season by beating Oregon State and Colorado State. They marched into Happy Valley and had a solid performance as they dominated in time of possession thanks to their balanced offense with 241 passing yards and 228 rushing yards.
However, they racked up 83 yards in penalties and had a defensive meltdown in the third quarter by yielding a 17-0 scoring run.
They welcome rival Iowa with the Floyd of Rosedale on the line.
10. Michigan State (2)
The Spartans are heading toward rock bottom after falling to the Hoosiers 24-21.
They are winless in conference play and have a .500 record for the first time since 2009, when they started 1-3 after four games.
The Spartans played excellent defense for two and a half quarters, but mentally collapsed in the late third quarter as they allowed Indiana to score three consecutive touchdowns.
The offense is equally, if not more responsible for the loss as well. They struggled on third down and had trouble establishing any offensive rhythm.
Michigan State looks to get back on track as they host BYU this Saturday.
11. Iowa (6)
The Hawkeyes were not able to bounce back after the shocking loss to North Dakota State as they came up short 38-31 against Northwestern.
Similar to Michigan State, Iowa is underperforming with their Big Ten title and CFP aspirations have come to a crashing halt. They had high expectations coming off of a Rose Bowl season, and here they are sitting in the Big Ten with a mediocre 3-2 mark.
What in the world is going on with the Hawkeyes? Whatever it is, they better fix their kinks as they visit Minnesota this weekend.
12. Illinois (14)
The Fighting Illini were defeated 31-16 by Nebraska.
Before the fourth quarter, Illinois limited Nebraska to ten points and a streaky offense. After getting trounced by North Carolina and Western Michigan, they went on the road and gave the Cornhuskers a four quarter battle.
They host an angry Purdue club this weekend.
13. Purdue (12)
The Boilermakers had a nice win against an underrated Nevada squad two weeks ago, but was blown out of the water 50-7 against Maryland this past Saturday.
This Purdue team is broken beyond repair with coach Darrell Hazell on the hot seat. On paper, the Boilermakers have a very experienced and deep team. It’s the fact that the outcomes of games are not indicating the depth they possess.
Once again, they will try to rebound against Illinois who is also searching for an identity.
14. Rutgers (11)
When you thought things couldn’t get worse for the Scarlet Knights, Ohio State proves them wrong with a 58-0 drubbing.
The Scarlet Knights fans were restless as Rutgers could not get anything going on offense. Their only two wins came against Howard and New Mexico. They had an exceptionally competitive game against Iowa last week, but couldn’t reel in the victory.
The Knights will be searching for answers as No. 4 Michigan comes to town.