Power Rankings: New team tops Dienhart's list

Following Michigan State’s 20-3 home loss to Notre Dame, there’s a new team on top of my Week 4 Power Rankings. Who is it? Here’s a hint: It’s the only remaining undefeated team from the Leaders Division. Check out my Big Ten Power Rankings in this post.

Disagree with my list? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

1. Ohio State. After cruising the first two weeks over Miami (Ohio) and UCF, the Buckeyes had their backs pushed against the wall vs. Cal in a 35-28 win that required some late-game heroics. And maybe that’s exactly what this team needed to take the next step in its development. Could the Buckeyes run the table?
Last week: 2
Up next: UAB

2. Michigan State. The Spartans have issues on offense, as the passing game has no air in it. Even more disconcerting was spotty play by the offensive line in a 20-3 shutdown home loss to Notre Dame in a game that the defense played good enough to win. Last sobering factoid: MSU’s only points came on a 50-yard field goal.
Last week: 1
Up next: Eastern Michigan

[Related: Dienhart: Spartans’ loss leaves that sinking feeling]

3. Michigan. A 63-13 win over FBS newbie UMass doesn’t prove much, but it keeps the Wolverines momentum moving forward after that narrow home victory over Air Force the week before. Do the Wolverines have a championship-caliber defense? Stay tuned.
Last week: 3
Up next: at Notre Dame

4. Northwestern. The Wildcats are 3-0 for the third time in the last five seasons. And the defense has played very well the last two weeks after being a liability last year and in the opener. A 22-13 win over Boston College is the latest brick in the wall. How good is this team? Is it 1995-96 good? Hmmmm.
Last week: 4
Up next: South Dakota

5. Nebraska. Does a 42-13 win over a Sun Belt team prove the Cornhusker defense is fixed after that 653-yard debacle at UCLA? No, but it’s a start, and it shows that the coaches know how to make schematic and personnel adjustments. I just want Bo back on the sideline after that health scare.
Last week: 5
Up next: Idaho State

[AP: Bo Pelini returns to work day after trip to hospital]

6. Purdue. The Boilermakers did what they were supposed to do against an overmatched Eastern Michigan team—they squashed it 54-16. And in the process, Purdue showed resiliency bouncing back from a tough loss at Notre Dame. This easily appears to be Danny Hope’s best squad. Leaders Division sleeper, anyone?
Last week: 6
Up next: Off (Marshall on Sept. 29)

7. Minnesota. The Golden Gophers are 3-0, equaling their win total of last season after a 28-23 triumph over Western Michigan. The only bummer: QB MarQueis Gray got hurt. But Max Shortell looked good in relief. And the defense continues to impress. Yes, I really did type that. Is it time to start dreaming big, Goldy?
Last week: 7
Up next: Syracuse

[Related: Gerry DiNardo tweets Week 3 Sunday Ruminations]

8. Wisconsin. When does a win feel like a loss? When you need your foe from a lesser league to miss a very makeable last-second field-goal attempt to hang on for a 16-14 victory. But—who knows?—maybe this will spark a moribund Badger offense. Maybe not.
Last week: 10
Up next: UTEP

9. Illinois. The Fighting Illini got a nice bounce-back 44-0 win vs. a Charleston Southern team that was in over its head—and it showed. Doesn’t matter. This is just what the Fighting Illini needed after that dreadful 45-14 loss at Arizona State last week. Yes, Reilly O’Toole looked good. But let’s get QB Nathan Scheelhaase back.
Last week: 9
Up next: Louisiana Tech

[Related: See who took home Brent Yarina’s Week 3 Game Balls]

10. Iowa. The offense found some life—but it was vs. FCS Northern Iowa. But, who cares? The Hawkeyes entered the game with one touchdown—and notched three on Saturday in what seemed like a cornucopia of scoring for a point-starved attack in a 27-16 victory. Iowa still is looking for a passing touchdown. But, hey, let’s take this one step at a time.
Last week: 8
Up next: Central Michigan

11. Penn State. The Nittany Lions came this close to winning their first two games vs. Ohio and Virginia, so it was nice to see the hard work and effort pay off in a resounding 34-7 victory over Navy. It seemed like old times—at least for one Saturday. On a side note: How about that Allen Robinson? Don’t think anyone had him projected to be the Big Ten’s top receiver.
Last week: 12
Up next: Temple

[#BTN Live: Listen to all of our show’s episodes]

12. Indiana. I dare you to find a more gut-wrenching loss than the one the Hoosiers suffered on Saturday night vs. Ball State. The offense is clicking along. But leaks persist on defense. Sound familiar?
Last week: 11
Up next: off (at Northwestern on Sept. 29)

BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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Your Opinion?
Show Comments (21 Comments)
Wes on 9/16/2012 @ 11:23am EDT Said:

How is OSU on top of the ranking after barely squeaking by an mediocre Cal Team?

Jonathan on 9/16/2012 @ 12:52pm EDT Said:

Ohio State isn’t going to run the table or anything playing defense and tackling like that.

And 11 penalties needs to get cleaned up.

Blaine on 9/16/2012 @ 6:58pm EDT Said:

OSU cant really run the table, since they cant play in post season. In my opinion any team that can’t participate in post season play shouldnt be able to be ranked by anybody. And they shouldnt be part of this list because of that reason, and I know they still have to play the games, but its the principle of it. And I agree with the rankings besides that. And if Nebraska can get consistent play on both sides of the ball, they are the ones to beat right now.

Debbie Starr Branfield on 9/16/2012 @ 7:23pm EDT Said:

Only undefeated team in the Leaders division, @Wes – that’s how. But, I do agree with @Jonathan that the defense needs some work.

Wes on 9/16/2012 @ 7:38pm EDT Said:

@Debbie-So what if they are undefeated? Look at the level of competition they have faced. Cal was they only halfway decent opponent and they barely beat them in the Horseshoe. Honestly right now the entire B1G is in bad shape, but Ohio is in no way the most powerful.

Ben Schlichter on 9/16/2012 @ 8:19pm EDT Said:

@Blaine – way to be a Nebraska homer. Your statement is pretty hilarious, akin to saying “Well, if both offense and defense were better, they’d be the team to beat!”.

No team is really that great right now in the B10. OSU is the de-faco team to beat, but they are as weak as anyone. I’m interested in seeing now the Leaders division shapes up. If Wiscy continues to play this bad, Purdue or Northwestern may be heading to Indianapolis, which would be very neat and interesting to see.

huskerfred on 9/16/2012 @ 8:59pm EDT Said:

Sparty is #2 wow?

Josh on 9/16/2012 @ 10:00pm EDT Said:

Purdue could def. win the leaders division at this point.

Cody Stanley, BTN.com Contributor on 9/16/2012 @ 11:19pm EDT Said:

Go Wildcats, 95-96 good doubtful, but 8 to 9 wins and a good bowl possibly and new facilities on the way!

Alec on 9/17/2012 @ 12:21am EDT Said:

@Wes – And who do you think should be at the top of the power rankings. Certainly not Michigan. They got blown out by Bama, almost lost to Air Force in the big house (like osu with Cal), and blew out Umass which is a team even Indiana beat 45-6 on the road. If MSU had a close game with ND you could say them but it wasn’t close at all. In the end, Northwestern is the only other team that could make a statement to be ahead of and atop the power rankings.

Eric on 9/17/2012 @ 9:44am EDT Said:

I think it goes to show how awful the Big Ten is right now that Northwestern would be considered #4. That team is not much better then last year’s team, and the 3 AQ teams they’ve beaten aren’t world beaters, or possibly bowl caliber teams at all this year.

David Churchill on 9/17/2012 @ 9:52am EDT Said:

OSU….not even close…if the field goal kicker for CAL had been on, we’d be talking about a defeated OSU…. Sad they haven’t even played a caliber team and they are bowl banned and you rank them #1 in Big Ten….REALLY????

Doyle Willis on 9/17/2012 @ 10:04am EDT Said:

I think the man was looking for remarks that were not biased lol . What I saw in the Cal game was a team that woke up and started playing to there potential( That being Cal ) .Does Ohio State have some issues ? You bet they do . Rather then hate on teams you dislike , Lets give some other teams some credit . I am very impressed with Northwestern thus far .That was a huge win last week against a Vanderbilt team that nearly beat South Carolina .As far as Michigan State and Wisconsin go .I don’t believe any team from any conference should be ranked in the top ten . When they have a rookie QB .That goes for teams like LSU and Arkansas as well .Trust me , LSU will get there’s when they play a decent team .Arkansas already did .As did Michigan State and Wisconsin .We are only 3 weeks into a long season .A team can find there chemistry at any point.. In regards to Ohio State , I hope there defense finds it sooner then later .Our league as a whole has lost some face recently . I am cheering on there behalf that they turn things around . So come bowl season they make a statement .

Chris on 9/17/2012 @ 10:05am EDT Said:

Think Iowa should be in that 8 spot instead of Wisconsin…not only did Wisconsin only beat UNI by 5 points…their offense has looked sicker then Iowa’s. Iowa looked way better against a classy UNI club that probably will not lose another game the rest of the season…where is the love?

Chris Mitchell on 9/17/2012 @ 10:26am EDT Said:

Northwestern is much stronger on both lines than they have been in years. While the secondary might be a bit suspect, the offense can make up that difference. I think they’ll be as tough an out as anyone in the conference this year.

Wes on 9/17/2012 @ 10:53am EDT Said:

@ Alec- NW sould be top. The Buckeyes have struggled in all games they have played this year. I see thm as a solid 3 in the crap storm that is currently the B1G. SParty crapped he bed at home against ND and should be 4th. Michign lost a road game to the defending national champions, but has bounced back.

Justin Powell on 9/17/2012 @ 11:06am EDT Said:

Ohio St. can still win the division even though they cannot play for the BIG 10 title or bowl game. I have been at every game so far and while the defense most definitely has to get better, Braxton Miller is a force to be reckoned with & he is nowhere near as good as he can become. I said at the beginning of the year all things considered I would be happy with a 10-2 season but I see the potential for more. Outside of Martinez I don’t consider Nebraska that threatening. OSU about beat them last year with a horrible team. I had picked Mich St to win the BIG 10 but now have serious doubts. I figured with Ball Wisc would be great but they have disappointed. Outside of Robinson I don’t even consider Mich the threat they were expected to be. I think it’s very possible OSU could run the table if they can sure up the defense & keep Miller from getting hurt. Yes I’m a Buckeye fan but I think this is pretty objective. Remember most of our playmakers are freshman & sophmores with great recruiting coming in. Look out BIG 10

K. John on 9/17/2012 @ 12:20pm EDT Said:

Here are real rankings that actually account for such things as strength of schedule and performance.

1. Ohio State
2. Michigan State
3. Nebraska
4. Penn State
5. Purdue
6. Michigan
7. Northwestern
8. Minnesota
9. Iowa
10. Wisconsin
11. Illinois
12. Indiana

Andrew on 9/17/2012 @ 12:28pm EDT Said:

When it’s only three games into the season it’s hard to rank B1G teams, because there is very little to directly compare on their schedules. Since OSU plays teams that are eligible for the post season they certainly should be ranked or else it makes all the teams that lose to them look like they lost to a poor unranked team on the surface. If your games count then a team deserves to be considered for rankings. OSU on paper is probably the most talented team in the B1G and since they haven’t played any FCS schools there is no way to judge how good the teams they played are going to be by the end of the season. UCF put up 56 points in their first game against a very similar MAC opponent to Miami (OH), which OSU was able to put up 56 against. Right now all you can do when ranking teams is look at how good they were supposed to be to start the season, and how good their record has been. OSU is the only team that was expected to be strong at the beginnning of the season and have won every game they have played. That’s the only reason you can really say they are better than any other undefeated teams.

Jason on 9/18/2012 @ 4:46pm EDT Said:

First off, lets not forget we are only 3 games into the season. So hopefully the B1G gets better as the season continues. Ohio State being #1 is not wrong. They are 1 of 3 teams in the B1G left undefeated. And they did not and will not be playing and FCS team. Central Florida will win there conference, Miami OH will finish in the top 3 of there conference with a QB that may finish better than Big Ben did at that school, and I don’t really know how to explain the Cal game but our defense got worse as the game went on even tho we were finally sacking the QB and once Cal switched to the 46 defense we could do anything offensively. Bit remember this…new coach, new staff, brand new offense….we will get much better as the season progresses.

Randy on 9/20/2012 @ 9:23pm EDT Said:

It seems like the entire Big 10 stinks. I love the Hawkeyes, but let’s face it, they’re never going to win a National Championship. Their best year was with Brad Banks at QB. With an exception of McNutt or Tim Dwight, we always have slow, average, possession receivers. With an exception of Shawn Greene lately, our running game has been awful. Our defense year after year has to always play like the 85 Bears to keep us in games. Bottom line, I hasn’t broke my heart to see Michigan fall on hard times; however, it would be nice to OSU go well below .500 for about 4-5 years in a row. Happy for the Badgers but they can never come from behind with their predictable offense. Last year was their best chance but gagged under pressure. Sorry for the rant but just really sick of seeing the Crimson Tide, Gators, Trojans, Longhorns, or Buckeyes always winning championships. Hate to say it, getting sick of college football.