Big Ten Power Rankings: Michigan Wolverines jump into top 5

B1G HIGHLIGHT - Devin Funchess hauls in second of three Week 1 touchdown passes vs. Appalachian State.

The first week of action is in our rear-view mirror. There were some surprising wins—and surprising losses. It was a very good week, as the Big Ten went 12-2. It would have been a spectacular week if Wisconsin had held on vs. LSU and Northwestern’s rally vs. Cal had not come up short.

Get our latest Week 1 coverage:


1. Michigan State (1-0). Offense? Check. Defense? Check. Special teams? Check. The Spartans picked up where they left off last season in a dominating debut. Good thing, because a huge trip to Oregon looms. Win that, and start dreaming big.
Last week: 1
Up next: at Oregon

2. Ohio State (1-0). No Braxton Miller, no problem. J.T. Barrett showed promise and helped the Buckeyes pull away late vs. Navy in his debut. This still could be a very special season in Columbus, as the Buckeyes rally around adversity.
Last week: 2
Up next: Virginia Tech

3. Iowa (1-0). Winning ugly. That’s what the Hawkeyes did vs. Northern Iowa. Who cares? A win is a win. Like a fine wine, Iowa will only get better with time.
Last week: 3
Up next: Ball State

4. Nebraska (1-0). Florida Atlantic was a glorified speed bump for the Cornhuskers, who racked up 763 yards of offense, a Big Ten modern-era record. Ameer Abdullah showed why he’s one of the nation’s best backs, too, chipping in with a career-high 232 yards rushing. This had to make the kinder, gentler Bo Pelini smile.
Last week: 4
Up next: McNeese State

B1G HIGHLIGHT - Nebraska's 784 yards of total offense sets Big Ten modern-era record.

5. Michigan (1-0). Revenge is even sweeter after time. And that’s just what the Wolverines exacted from Appalachian State. Michigan needs to bottle this performance. Can Devin Funchess be stopped?
Last week: 6
Up next: at Notre Dame

6. Wisconsin (0-1). The quarterback position and passing game were big concerns a week ago. They still are, as the Badgers suffered an epic meltdown vs. LSU. Oh-by-the-way: How could Wiscy had not known a fake punt was coming?
Last week: 5
Up next: Western Illinois

7. Maryland (1-0). No sense in watching the film of the opener vs. James Madison. Everything worked. Take my word for it. My opinion of the Terps hasn’t changed: This team is a sleeper.
Last week: 7
Up next: at South Florida

B1G HIGHLIGHT - C.J. Brown leads Maryland to easy win in Big Ten debut.

8. Minnesota (1-0). The defense is strong. The offense? Concerns persist. Unless the passing game improves, matching last year’s eight-win total may be difficult.
Last week: 8
Up next: Middle Tennessee

9. Penn State (1-0). The James Franklin era couldn’t have opened any other way: with the dramatic flash of a game-winning field goal as time expired. Perfect. Yes, depth is thin. But confidence is high. And that’s a good thing.
Last week: 9
Up next: Akron

10. Rutgers (1-0). No team had a more inspiring opening win. The Scarlet Knights overcame a long trip west, defensive struggles and a deficit to win at Washington State. This team is tough. This team has grit. This team is better than you think.
Last week: 13
Up next: Howard

11. Indiana (1-0). The Hoosiers took an unconventional path to victory in their opener—they ran, ran, ran. Hey, it worked. The best thing, however, was the fact the often-maligned defense yielded just 10 points.
Last week: 10
Up next: off

12. Illinois (1-0). It wasn’t pretty and took a second-half rally to ease past a FCS team. Still, the Illini showed grit with 21 fourth-quarter points. Even better—it looks like QB Wes Lunt is as good as advertised.
Last week: 12
Up next: Western Kentucky

B1G HIGHLIGHT - Fact: You don't see punts like this one very often.

13. Northwestern (0-1). The good news: Northwestern rallied from a 31-7 hole to lose 31-24. The bad news: Northwestern crawled into such a hole to begin with.
Last week: 11
Up next: Northern Illinois

14. Purdue (1-0). It wasn’t always pretty. And the defense has some big issues. Forget all of that: The Boilermakers won, beating a FBS team for the first time since Nov. 2012 behind an offense that showed life after a listless 2013.
Last week: 14
Up next: Central Michigan

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, 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.


Your Opinion?
Show Comments (37 Comments)
Jeff Tuttle #Tigers (@JRTuttle4) on 8/31/2014 @ 12:24pm EDT Said:

I don’t know if I would call Ohio’s game against Navy “no problem”. Looked like they struggled a bit.

Scott S. on 8/31/2014 @ 1:35pm EDT Said:

Really??? Iowa still ahead of Nebraska?? You are not a forward thinker Tom… behind the times….Iowa will end up 7th on this list AT BEST.

Luke P. on 8/31/2014 @ 2:46pm EDT Said:

Tom, you need to grade teams based on how they looked, not how you thought they’d look + a minor adjustment for how the games went. Ohio State trailed Navy for much of the afternooon and Iowa could’ve very easily lost to an FCS school. Those aren’t top 3 performances.

If we’re basing things on how teams looked, with maybe a little bit of a nod to expectations:

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

This will obviously change a bit as the season goes along, but that’s more or less what the power rankings should look like if we’re actually grading performances, not just giving 90% weight to expectations and 10% to the games, which is what you apparently did.

Brian on 8/31/2014 @ 3:26pm EDT Said:

This list is a joke, right? Are Ohio State and Iowa slipping you something under the table? They both were mediocre at best in their first games.

Gary W. on 8/31/2014 @ 4:38pm EDT Said:

I’ll have to go with Luke P. on this one though I would have switched Maryland with Ohio State and bumped Rutgers above Ohio State too. The evidence supports a different list than Tom’s. Some, like Michigan State, sat starters in the second half too and showed a lot of depth. I also have to agree with Brian, though we’ll never see evidence of anything under the table. Not that we could believe any such thing could happen. Iowa did not look top 5 at all. Nebraska was

MSU#1-Rose Bowl Win, B1G Champs! 13-1! 42 wins in 4 years! on 8/31/2014 @ 8:48pm EDT Said:

Rutgers, PSU, and Wisconsin should be ahead of #5 on this list!

Rich on 8/31/2014 @ 9:02pm EDT Said:

I so agree with Luke P!!

Reuben Adkins on 8/31/2014 @ 9:03pm EDT Said:

Wow, another Big 10 hack writer gets it wrong. Ohio St was in a fight for it’s life for 3 quarters, Iowa almost lost to a term that sucked worse than they do. Mich St I’d put at #1 and Nebraska at #2, the rest of the teams rank however you want.

Elizabeth Cahoy Holloway on 8/31/2014 @ 9:20pm EDT Said:

I totally agree with Luke. Ohio alsmot lost to Navy for cripes sake! I owa almost lost to a FCS school. Take your blinders off and do your job right…not with bias!

Josh on 8/31/2014 @ 9:24pm EDT Said:


If they should be above Michigan, they should be above MSU since both teams from Michigan had largely similar victories.

Gdubs on 8/31/2014 @ 9:33pm EDT Said:

Wow. I used to appreciate your column. This list is a joke. Luke nailed it

Bob A. on 8/31/2014 @ 9:34pm EDT Said:

I tell you this that Ohio State did good for replacing half of there offense and a new quarter back. Michigan played a low team, go ahead boast about that win michigan fans. Michigan St, also did the same. Ohio state played a team that had a 1, 2 punch with the run. The only team that actually played anyone was Wisconsin which was a tough loss. Ohio state will be undefeated until michigan St then might lose that game but we will not lose to that BTUN.

BigRedAvenger on 8/31/2014 @ 9:51pm EDT Said:

I think someone slipped Tom something in his drink. This list has to be some kind of joke.

1. MSU
2. Nebraska
3. Michigan
4. Penn State
5. Ohio State

jdawg311 on 8/31/2014 @ 9:57pm EDT Said:

did you not even watch the games – Ohio States final score did not reflect that game at all, they look pathetic and no legitimate top 5 team in the country should struggle with navy just because they lost one player! And Iowa wasn’t much better – although Iowa does play up and down to competition but they struggled a bit with a very mediocre team! to me Nebraska looked grade A – true its against FAU but they have not looked that good in a very long time, no turnovers, great playcalling, new yardage record and lets not forget Nebraska had third and fourth stringers in with a quarter and a half to play!!!

R Steffy on 8/31/2014 @ 10:38pm EDT Said:

Really!!! Iowa??? R u kidding me? That was embarrassing ! Nebraska blew a team out like a good team is supposed to. But it was just a scrimmage according to you. Well duh!!! That took care of business and made it look like one!!! As did mich st mich and Maryland. C’mon Man

Charlie Damron on 8/31/2014 @ 10:54pm EDT Said:

Navy will only lose one more game this season. They’re better than most people give them credit for.

victorerojo on 8/31/2014 @ 11:11pm EDT Said:

So the actual games carry way less weight than your preconceived notions? That’s the only way to explain Iowa at No. 3.

Rod steffy on 8/31/2014 @ 11:13pm EDT Said:

Really?! Iowa 3 ohio st 2 . You would fit in well at espn

Rick Shumate on 8/31/2014 @ 11:16pm EDT Said:

I am a die hard Hawkeye and agree they didn’t look all the great!! I don’t believe they proved anything yesterday. It looked like Jake was checking off to quick when he had receivers running open down the field! And the defense needs to figure out pass protection, if they get these things fixed we should be in the top 3 but not at this time.

maryam on 9/1/2014 @ 5:03am EDT Said:

Ohio State struggled against a service academy that hasn’t been relevant in 50 years and you’re giving them props?
A real strong team would beat Navy by 30 plus.

Spider44 on 9/1/2014 @ 5:47am EDT Said:

Tom, The B1G gets blasted for it’s OOC schedule, and rightfully so. And apparently you have a lot of Big Ten fans that still don’t get it. Thank you for taking into account the competition. The only meaningful opponents in week 1 were LSU, UCF, Cal and Navy IMO. The rest of the games told you nothing about your team.

August111871 on 9/1/2014 @ 5:51am EDT Said:

Tom you should have paid Luke P! His list is right on! Yours is well lets just say…garbage! Iowa? Ohio State? Really?

matt on 9/1/2014 @ 7:19am EDT Said:

I think everyone that thinks there was some sort of seismic shift in the conference based on week 1 just needs to tap the brakes. Yes some teams put some beat downs on much inferior opponents, while a few didn’t exactly blow the doors off of their lesser opponents. But predicting the whole season based on week one is like predicting the playoff teams from this weeks top 4. ALOT is going to happen to change the dynamic between now and December in the B1G. Just look at the top 2 in the national polls, FSU and Alabama. Both looked pretty pedestrian against unranked opponents. No one is going to write off either of them yet, trust me.

Big Ten Fan on 9/1/2014 @ 10:56am EDT Said:

Another bang up job by BTN.

Here is the real top ten.

1. Michigan State
2. Nebraska
3. Penn State
4. Ohio State
5. Maryland
6. Michigan
7. Wisconsin
8. Indiana
9. Minnesota
10. Rutgers

Greg Zyntek on 9/1/2014 @ 11:39am EDT Said:

Tom, your bias is almost hypocritical. Iowa? And NU has a “glorified speed bump”, but MSU, MU, and Iowa? At least FAU was a 6-6 FBS team last year. All the others were FCS last year. I know Iowa gives you tingles in your special place, but even a novice could tell Iowa is just not very good.

Evil James Franklin on 9/1/2014 @ 12:31pm EDT Said:

Penn State at #9? Wow, either you didn’t think UCF is a quality opponent or you think James Madison is? Or both which in that case a shrink is needed. I’ll take the underdog role and prove you wrong!

JP50 on 9/1/2014 @ 3:39pm EDT Said:

How does Wisconsin only give Melvin Gordon two touch’s in the second half. Also if Macavoy is the answer at Qb. the badgers are in for a long season

MM1975 on 9/1/2014 @ 4:59pm EDT Said:

So PSU beats a 12-1 BCS team that returned ALL starters on defense, and they stay at #9? How do you even have a job writing sports articles? Or does the B1G encourage you to hate on Penn State?

Sean on 9/1/2014 @ 6:47pm EDT Said:

So basically what youre doing here is putting in your preseason opinion and then moving teams up and down based on wins and losses? Why not take into account how a team performed instead of just the final outcome?

Kyle Wilmont on 9/1/2014 @ 10:26pm EDT Said:

So on this, “grade by performance” idea… FSU and Alabama should drop out of the top 5 and Texas A&M should be the #1 ranked team… because FSU and Bama didn’t look impressive at all struggling against teams they should’ve destroyed and Texas A&M looked like the best team in the country destroying the #9 ranked team on the road, right?

Luke P. on 9/1/2014 @ 10:37pm EDT Said:

Matt – A seismic shift would be the assumption that Iowa is somehow a top 3 team in the league. They did nothing to prove that last year (5 losses) or the year before (8 losses) or the year before (6 losses). So we see a team that’s been losing a little more than 6 games a season for the last three years barely beat an FCS team, and we assume it’s more of the same. Tom in the case of Iowa is letting his pre-season opinion bias his analysis and that’s why he’s getting raked over the coals. If Iowa starts whacking people like a good team would, people will start to regard them more highly.

P.S: the only reason I’m focusing on Iowa in this reply is that their placement as #3 is by far the most egregious part of Tom’s rankings. Had he dropped them to 9-10 where they belong (when combining past performance with the UNI game), there’d be some grumbling, but the virtual facepalming would be much more muted.

Gdubs on 9/1/2014 @ 11:13pm EDT Said:

You’re what’s wrong with football polls, Tom. You base your opinion on what a team might do or should do instead of what they did.

mayam on 9/2/2014 @ 12:02am EDT Said:

The Big 10 plays a weak OOC schedule?
Michigan historically plays Notre Dame, Maryland, South Carolina, Miami, Florida State, Alabama, Washington, Washington State, Texas A&M, Oregon, Baylor, Colorado, Syracuse, Hawaii, Oregon State, and they have OOC games scheduled with Florida, Virginia Tech, UCLA, Arkansas and Oregon State.
Michigan tries hard to get the top teams and most of the SEC teams won’t comply.
So please don’t suggest Michigan doesn’t play top teams.

hawkeyeui93 on 9/2/2014 @ 6:34am EDT Said:

The new sign for Nebby’s Memorial Stadium: “Through these gates pass the whinest fans in college football.”

David Mc on 9/2/2014 @ 9:43am EDT Said:

UNI would beat, or come close to beating, several of your teams. Don’t be ridiculous and calm down.

The Iowa Hawkeye on 9/3/2014 @ 1:57pm EDT Said:

Nebraska fans are angry. Calm down folks, it is early in the year. Over the next week or two every team will have a chance to show what it can really do. So far, the teams that have played complete cupcakes (and Florida Atlantic isn’t even up to cupcake status, most good high school teams could beat them) haven’t really shown what they can do yet.

Until there are more REAL games in the books then yes, writers such as Tom will have to go off of pre-season assumptions.

Gary on 9/5/2014 @ 6:25pm EDT Said:

UNI is an FCS division school that finished 7-5 last year and didn’t play a single ranked team. FAU is an FBS school that finished 6-6. Iowa fans don’t understand simple logic. Better division, better competition.