James Laurinaitis, October 1, 2018
Five weeks in, I want to offer a sneak peek into my thought process when creating BTN.com's Big Ten Power Rankings, presented by ArcelorMittal.
This isn't about the most deserving. The College Football Playoff showed us last year that it's not necessarily about that. It's about who would win in a head-to-head matchup. So, if your team is above a team, I think it would win that game, and if your school is below a team, I think it would lose that game. Simple as that.
My hardest picks of the week were Indiana and Purdue, and where to rank them.
1. Ohio State (5-0, 2-0). This is the best team in Big Ten, and one of the best in the nation. What's more, it shouldn't be tested until Nov. 10 (at Michigan State). If you looked at the Week 5 box score at Penn State, you'd think there was no way the Buckeyes won. Ohio State was overmatched in the first half, and the White Out crowd made for a great atmosphere. However, the Buckeyes rallied in the second half, scoring on back-to-back drives to erase a 12-point deficit with eight minutes to go.
Last week: 1
Up next: vs. Indiana
2. Penn State (4-1, 1-1). Prediction: The Nittany Lions don't lose again in the regular season. Penn State moves up a spot on my list despite the loss vs. Ohio State. The Nittany Lions proved that they are for real after pushing the perfect Buckeyes around in the first half. Trace McSorley's performance (16-32, 286 yards, 2 TD; 25 car., 175 yards) shows why he is one of the nation's most dangerous players. What more could he do?
Last week: 3
Up next: Idle (Oct. 13 vs. Michigan State)
3. Michigan (4-1, 2-0). Michigan's defense is elite. The offense, meanwhile, is still a question mark. Yes, the Wolverines scored the final 20 points to rally and avoid a damaging would-be upset at Northwestern, but the struggles were real early, so much so that they didn't lead until 4:06 left. The stout defense held Northwestern to just 97 yards in the final three quarters and registered six sacks to spark the comeback.
Last week: 2
Up next: vs. Maryland
4. Michigan State (4-1, 1-0). The Spartans have issues running the ball, but teams can't run on them. Michigan State could only muster 160 rushing yards, on 47 carries (3.4 ypc), vs. Central Michigan, part of the reason why the Chippewas were able to score the final 17 points and make it a closer-than-expected 31-20 final. While the offense has things to work on, and the team could use some better overall health, there is nothing wrong with the rush defense, which was incredible yet again (63 yards, 32 of which came on QB scrambles).
Last week: 4
Up next: vs. Northwestern
5. Wisconsin (3-1, 1-0). The Badgers have a TOUGH schedule remaining. A lot of Wisconsin's fate the rest of the way rests on QB Alex Hornibrook's left arm. Rested up following a bye week, the Badgers draw the Big Ten's only remaining winless team, Nebraska.
Last week: 5
Up next: vs. Nebraska
6. Iowa (3-1, 0-1). It's cliche, but the Hawkeyes, coming off a bye, need to take it one week at a time — and hope Big Ten West power Wisconsin loses twice. It shouldn't have been too difficult for the Hawkeyes to stay focused during the bye, though, with the Floyd of Rosedale on the line in Week 6.
Last week: 6
Up next: vs. Minnesota
7. Maryland (3-1, 1-0). The Terrapins were off in Week 5, and we'll soon find out what kind of team they are. We know it is very talented, but can it put it together against the elite in the Big Ten East? We could get the answer as soon as Saturday.
Last week: 7
Up next: vs. Michigan
8. Indiana (4-1, 1-1). The Hoosiers followed up their first loss of the season with a 24-17 victory at Rutgers. At 4-1, the Hoosiers are off to a good start, however they can't be pleased with how Saturday's game ended. Indiana failed to score in the second half and couldn't put away the struggling Scarlet Knights. Things are about to get a lot tougher, starting this week (at Ohio State).
Last week: 8
Up next: at Ohio State
9. Purdue (2-3, 1-1). What could've been for the Boilermakers? I know that Purdue won at winless Nebraska and that its record is 2-3, but this team is a couple of bonehead penalties from being 4-1, or even 5-0. Jeff Brohm continues to show why is he a great coach with his play calling, and David Blough (328 yards, 1 TD) is the biggest beneficiary right now, looking like one of the Big Ten's top quarterbacks. Look out for the Boilermakers in the Big Ten.
Last week: 10
Up next: Idle (Oct. 13 at Illinois)
10. Minnesota (3-1, 0-1). Last week's bye came at the perfect time for the Golden Gophers, seeing as how they were fresh off their first loss, had just lost star DB Antoine Winfield Jr. to a season-ending injury, and the fact a trip to Iowa loomed. We will see how P.J. Fleck's youth handles the rivalry with the Hawkeyes.
Last week: 9
Up next: at Iowa
11. Northwestern (1-3, 1-1). Coach Fitz will keep the Wildcats fighting — even after they let a big one vs. ranked Michigan slip away. The Wildcats jumped out to a 17-0 lead, only to see the Wolverines score the final 20 points. Clayton Thorson was able to play in his first full game, going 16-27 for 174 yards. Northwestern's inability to hold onto the lead, due in large part to averaging a nation-low 3.3 points in the second half, continues to haunt it.
Last week: 11
Up next: at Michigan State
12. Nebraska (0-4, 0-2). Scott Frost will turn it around. It just looks bad right now. The Cornhuskers lost at home to Purdue 42-28 and managed to put up 582 yards and 30 first downs, but couldn't overcome five personal fouls and 11 penalties (136 yards). They set a program record with seven straight home losses. The good: Devine Ozigbo had 170 yards on the ground, and Adrian Martinez looks healthier (414 total yards).
Last week: 12
Up next: at Wisconsin
13. Illinois (2-2, 0-1). The Illini were off last week, meaning it will have had two weeks to prepare for Week 6 foe Rutgers. It will be interesting to see if Illinois can bring the energy and execution it had in the first three quarters vs. Penn State the last time out.
Last week: 13
Up next: vs. Rutgers
14. Rutgers (1-4, 0-2). Can Rutgers build on the momentum it gained in the fourth quarter vs. Indiana? The Scarlet Knights scored the first points of the game, and then didn't score again until the fourth. The impressive thing is that they never quit in this game, despite trailing 24-7 at half after being blown out the previous three weeks. Rutgers rallied back to bring it within 7 with 3:52 remaining in the game.
Last week: 14
Up next: at Illinois