James Laurinaitis, October 15, 2018
Every Big Ten team has reached the midpoint of the season. The races in the East and West are competitive, so it should be a fun second half.
Here are my latest Big Ten Power Rankings, presented by ArcelorMittal.
1. Ohio State (7-0, 4-0). Another week, another Ohio State win. That's the good news following the closer-than-expected victory vs. Minnesota. The bad news is, the ground game (3.7 ypc) continues to struggle, and the defense keeps giving up big plays (Minnesota freshman RB Mohamed Ibrahim had runs of 25 and 34 yards). The passing game remains elite, as Dwayne Haskins completed 33 of 44 passes for 412 yards and 3 TDs, and KJ Hill finished with 9 receptions for 187 yards and two scores.
Last week: 1
Up next: at Purdue
2. Michigan (6-1, 4-0). The Wolverines racked up 444 total yards, with 320 of it coming on the ground, in their blowout win vs. reigning Big Ten West champ Wisconsin. The defense put the clamps on the Badgers, too, only allowing 283 total yards. The stingy pass defense was at it again, allowing 100 yards on the night, most of which came late in the game when the outcome was decided. Lavert Hill's pick-6 was as big as any play.
Last week: 3
Up next: at Michigan State
3. Iowa (5-1, 2-1). The Hawkeyes have found a rhythm on offense, and a big part of it features Nate Stanley dropping back and finding talented tight ends Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson, who combined for 208 receiving yards at Indiana. Stanley threw for 320 yards and six scores, a performance that earned him Week 7 co-offensive player of the week. Iowa gained 479 yards of total offense, the fourth straight game of 400-plus yards.
Last week: 5
Up next: vs. Maryland
4. Michigan State (4-2, 2-1). Without RB LJ Scott and a trio of wide receivers and rocking their sixth offensive line combination, Mark Dantonio and the Spartans went into State College with an aggressive mindset, and notched a massive win. The Spartans faked a punt, did a halfback pass, and tried a failed fake FG. However, it was the reliable Felton Davis (100 yards; 2 TD) who made the biggest play, scoring the game-winning TD with 19 seconds left.
Last week: 8
Up next: vs. Michigan
5. Penn State (4-2, 1-2). For the second consecutive game, the Nittany Lions squandered a fourth-quarter lead en route to a loss at Beaver Stadium. The loss to Michigan State most likely eliminates Penn State from the Big Ten East title race. There was some good from the narrow loss: Trace McSorely passed Christian Hackenberg as the program's career passing leader, and Miles Sanders (162 yards; 1 TD) was electric.
Last week: 2
Up next: at Indiana
6. Wisconsin (4-2, 2-1). The Badgers couldn't get anything out of their passing game on Saturday night in Ann Arbor. Alex Hornibrook went 7-20 for 100 yards and 1 TD, which came with 3:47 left. He also threw a pair of interceptions, one of which was returned for a score. The defense struggled, too, allowing 444 yards, 320 of which came on the ground. Jonathon Taylor had a solid game (17 car., 101 yards ).
Last week: 4
Up next: vs. Illinois
7. Northwestern (3-3, 3-1). The Wildcats trailed winless Nebraska by 10 points with 5:41 in regulation before making a comeback to tie and force overtime. Clayton Thorson threw for a career-high 455 yards and 3 TD, and Flynn Nagel had a career day with 220 yards receiving and 2 TD. Drew Luckenbaugh kicked the 37-yard dagger to win in OT.
Last week: 6
Up next: at Rutgers
8. Purdue (3-3, 2-1). How hot is the Purdue offense? After falling behind 7-0 at Illinois, the Boilermakers rattled off 47 unanswered points. They finished with 611 total yards, and only surrendered 250. Balance was the key, as the running game (D.J. Knox – 150 yards) and the passing game (David Blough – 377 yards & 3 TD) had great success.
Last week: 7
Up next: vs. Ohio State
9. Maryland (4-2, 2-1). The Terrapins used a complete team effort to rout visiting Rutgers. Kasim Hill threw for three scores, Ty Johnson ran for 132 yards, becoming the program's fourth player to record 4,000 career total yards, and the defense picked off five passes and allowed 179 yards. More positives: Maryland had a shutout going until the final 43 seconds, and the defense had one more INT than Rutgers had completions.
Last week: 10
Up next: at Iowa
10) Indiana (4-3, 1-3). Nate Stanley can make life tough on defenses, and that's just what the Iowa QB did to Indiana on Saturday. Stanley threw for 320 yards and six scores on his way to earning Big Ten co-offensive player of the week laurels. Simply put, the defense had no answer for Iowa's dynamic TE duo, who burned it for 208 yards through the air. The rush offense, for a change, wasn't able to get going, either (25 car.; 67 yards).
Last week: 9
Up next: vs. Penn State
11. Minnesota (3-3, 0-3). This Gophers saved their best for Ohio State, giving the Big Ten East co-leader all it could handle into the fourth quarter. Despite three turnovers and two missed field goals, Minnesota was within six points in the fourth. Freshman RB Mohamed Ibrahim had a career day (157 yards; two TD).
Last week: 11
Up next: at Nebraska
12. Nebraska (0-6, 0-4). The Huskers are 0-6 for the first time in school history. Nebraska couldn't hold onto a 10-point lead in the final five minutes at Northwestern, leading to a heartbreaking overtime loss. The defense, which allowed 455 yards through the air, simply couldn't come up with stops at the end, allowing the Wildcats to drive 99 yards for the OT-clinching TD.
Last week: 12
Up next: vs. Minnesota
13. Illinois (3-3, 1-2). The good: The Illini scored a touchdown on the opening drive. The bad: The Boilermakers scored the next 46 points. Illinois needs to be able to run the ball better if it want to be competitive. QB AJ Bush was the leading rusher (20 car., 24 yards) on a day the Illini averaged 2.2 yards per rush.
Last week: 13
Up next: at Wisconsin
14. Rutgers (1-6, 0-4). The lone touchdown didn't come until 43 seconds left in the blowout loss at Maryland, and Artur Sitkowski was 2-16 for eight yards, to go with four interceptions. Rutgers struggled mightily in the first half only getting four first downs and 41 yards.
Last week: 14
Up next: vs. Northwestern