Brent Yarina, BTN.com Senior Editor, September 18, 2011
Every week during the college football season, Brent Yarina posts his latest Big Ten Power Rankings. Week 3 saw the Big Ten go 9-3, including Illinois' 17-14 victory over No. 18 Arizona State. As for the power rankings, they are not meant to mimic the Big Ten standings. What fun would that be? They aren?t scientific, either. They?re simply Brent?s thoughts on where each Big Ten team stands after its latest game and entering its next contest. Agree? Disagree? Tweet @BTNBrentYarina.
1. Wisconsin (3-0) - Here's a challenge: Name a team that has been more dominant over the last year than Wisconsin? Keep in mind, the Badgers have outscored their last 10 regular-season opponents, 473-179, since losing at Michigan State on Oct. 2, 2010. Saturday's 49-7 victory over Northern Illinois did nothing but help the argument. This a great team, one that should be ranked higher in the national polls.
Last week: No. 1
Next game: vs. South Dakota
2. Illinois (3-0) - The Illini passed their first true test Saturday night, beating No. 18 Arizona State, arguably the Big Ten's most impressive win of the season, opponent-wise. Illinois did it the first two weeks with its offense, but against the Sun Devils, it was its relentless defense that recorded six sacks and forced three turnovers.
Last week: No. 5
Next game: vs. Western Michigan
3. Nebraska (3-0) - Taylor Martinez continues to pick up huge chunks of yards, averaging 291.3 yards per game, and the offense has scored at least 40 points in its first three games for the first time since 1995. But what about that dominant defense everyone talked about? Alfonzo Dennard's absence hurts a lot, however Nebraska has still allowed 67 points the past two weeks.
Last week: No. 3
Next game: at Wyoming
4. Michigan State (2-1) - Through three games, the Spartans have been as inconsistent as any Big Ten team. We saw their best against Florida Atlantic in Week 2, but Michigan State sandwiched that win with two less-than-impressive performances. Notre Dame was not your normal 0-2 team, to be sure, but the Spartans killed themselves with 12 penalties and a failed fake field goal – things you can't have on the road.
Last week: No. 2
Next game: vs. Central Michigan
5. Michigan (3-0) - The Wolverines are 3-0, which is terrific. But let's not forget that we've seen Michigan get off to these kinds of starts in recent years, only to tail off once Big Ten play opens. That trend could continue if the all-or-nothing offense doesn't start compiling a few more extended drives. Three-play drives are going to put a lot of pressure on the defense, especially when the competition heats up. But the quick-strike attack has worked so far, and the defense is vastly improved, so maybe this year will be different.
Last week: No. 6
Next game: vs. San Diego State
6. Iowa (2-1) - The Hawkeyes would be off to their worst start since 2001 if it weren't for James Vandenberg's fourth-quarter heroics. As good as Vandenberg and the receivers looked late against Pittsburgh, there are some issues on the other side of the ball. The usually strong unit has allowed 35.5 points and 449.5 yards per game in its last two contests, including the triple-overtime defeat at Iowa State.
Last week: T-No. 7
Next game: vs. Louisiana Monroe
7. Ohio State (2-1) - That was ugly. It's tough to find many positives from the Buckeyes' lackluster 24-6 loss at Miami (FL) on Saturday night. The offense couldn't find a groove, as Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller combined to complete 4 of 18 passes for 35 yards, and the perennially strong defense couldn't do what it does best: stop the run, allowing 240 rushing yards.
Last week: No. 4
Next game: vs. Colorado
8. Northwestern (2-1) - Other than Jeremy Ebert, it was a forgettable day for the Wildcats on Saturday. Ebert had a terrific touchdown catch and finished the day with both of Northwestern's scores and a game-high 108 receiving yards. Despite Ebert's day, Northwestern sorely missed quarterback Dan Persa for the first time. The 'Cats went 3-for-12 on third down, which contributed to Army's ridiculous 75 rush attempts.
Last week: T-No. 7
Next game: Bye
9. Penn State (2-1) - Scoring 10 points and struggling against a defense like Alabama's is understandable. Fourteen points and 308 total yards against Temple, though? Not so much. Any way you look at it, Penn State's offense is sputtering as it continues its quarterback shuffle. Neither Rob Bolden nor Matt McGloin has thrown a touchdown through three games, which means it might be time to just pick a guy and see if it yields better results.
Last week: No. 9
Next game: vs. Eastern Michigan
10. Purdue (2-1) - After two uninspiring efforts to open the season, including a loss at Rice, the Boilermakers were nearly flawless in every department of Saturday's 59-0 victory. Robert Marve returned from injury and looked great, the offense scored its most points since Nov. 22, 2008, and the defense pitched its first shutout since 2004. That said, it was only Southeast Missouri State, which lost 38-10 to Southern Illinois at home in its only other game this season.
Last week: No. 10
Next game: Bye
11. Minnesota (1-2) - MarQueis Gray showed what he's capable of behind center in Saturday's win over Miami (OH), amassing 343 total yards, including a Minnesota-record 175 on the ground. Still, it'd be nice to see the struggling Gophers put together a dominating effort before conference play starts. In other words, Minnesota shouldn't need a blocked punt that gets returned for a score to seal a home victory against an opponent like Miami (OH).
Last week: No. 11
Next game: vs. North Dakota State
12. Indiana (1-2) - Very quietly, quarterback Edward Wright-Baker is compiling some solid stats. It won't matter what kind of numbers he puts up, though, if the defense doesn't make significant strides. Indiana, which allowed 34 points per game last season, has surrendered an average of 27.3 points against the likes of Ball State, Virginia and South Carolina State.
Last week: No. 12
Next game: at North Texas