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Big Ten power rankings: Week 4

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

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The non-conference season is finally (mostly) over. Besides a game each for Penn State and Rutgers, which both have matchups left against Army, the rest of the season will pit Big Ten against Big Ten as the road to Indianapolis officially begins.

So where does the Big Ten rank, now that the judgement period has come and gone? As a conference, the Big Ten finished just 7-8 against other power five teams, losing two of three to the Big 12, splitting 3-3 with the ACC, beating the Pac-12 3-2 and falling in the only Big Ten-SEC battle.

But the difference in the conference this season is the strength of a middle class that’s lagged behind the rest of the country in recent seasons. Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin still bear the flag for the Big Ten, but now they have company on the national stage. Five Big Ten teams went a perfect 4-0 through the non-conference schedule and two of the one-loss teams are ranked in the top 25. It looks like as many as six teams have a chance to win nine games this season.

Unfortunately, the Big Ten’s bottom-feeders are still very, very bad. Purdue managed just one win in the non-conference season after losing to Marshall and Bowling Green and getting bombed at home by Virginia Tech. Maryland has been an embarrassment, falling to Bowling Green and West Virginia by a combined 60 points. Illinois and Rutgers are a combined 5-2 in the non-conference, but neither team played anyone better than Washington State.

The East Division certainly emerged as the stronger half of the Big Ten, despite the presence of Maryland and Rutgers in the cellar. Ohio State and Michigan State hold the top spots in the national rankings and Michigan has morphed into a potential threat under Jim Harbaugh. East teams finished 5-3 against power five teams and 22-6 overall during the non-conference schedule, while the West went just 2-5 against power five teams and 20-8 overall.

In the national landscape, the Big Ten is right there with the Pac-12 and the SEC for top conference in the FBS. The preseason rankings gave the SEC an unearned head start, but that couldn’t save pretenders like Auburn and Arkansas from quickly falling out of contention. Teams like South Carolina, Missouri and Tennessee aren’t where they were expected to be. Without that depth below juggernauts like Alabama and LSU, the SEC’s rein atop college football is vulnerable.

The PAC-12 is headed in the other direction. UCLA and Utah are legitimate top 10 teams, which helps lessen the blow of Oregon’s fall from grace. If Stanford, USC and Arizona can bounce back from early losses, the conference might be the deepest in the nation.

But over the next eight weeks, each conference will turn its attention inward as the battle for conference championships begins. Here’s how the Big Ten stacks up heading into conference play.

East Division
1. Ohio State (4-0, 0-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat W. Michigan 38-12 This Week: Sat at Indiana (4-0), 3:30pm, ABC

Surprise! Ohio State regained the top spot this week with an easy victory over Western Michigan. The 38-12 win was less important to the Buckeyes than Cardale Jones’ bounce back from a two-interception effort against Northern Illinois. Jones threw for 288 yards, two touchdowns and an interception on Saturday to solidify his grip on the starting job. The Broncos couldn’t handle Ezekiel Elliott either, watching him run for 124 yards on just 16 carries. Ohio State gained over 500 yards of offense, but interceptions are still a problem. OSU has thrown the 10th-most picks in college football through Week 4, a surprising number from a team expected to field two All-Big Ten quality quarterbacks. The Buckeyes have an insanely easy path to Indy, with no tough games on the schedule until Nov. 21. But teams like Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois hung around against the Buckeyes, so the top team in the country is certainly beatable.

2. Michigan State (4-0, 0-0) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat C. Michigan 30-10 This Week: Sat vs Purdue (1-3), 12pm, ESPN2

The Spartans didn’t fall from the top of the East because of Oregon’s performance; they fell because they struggled to close out another MAC foe. Central Michigan trailed by only a touchdown midway through the 4th quarter before a pair of late Spartan touchdowns sealed the deal. Michigan State struggled to put Western Michigan, Oregon and Central Michigan away during the non-conference season, despite the combined 4-8 record of those opponents. Unfortunately, Oregon’s rapid demise erased the only quality win on MSU’s resume, sapping the luster from its non-conference resume. Connor Cook was solid again in the 30-10 victory Saturday, completing 11 of 19 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown. Madre London continued to impress, averaging 4.9 yards on 15 carries. Defensively, Michigan state allowed CMU to complete 26 of 39 passes and gain 340 total yards. The Spartans have allowed 396 yards per game and rank just 77th in the country in total defense.

3. Michigan (3-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat BYU 31-0 This Week: Sat at Maryland (2-2), 8pm, BTN

Don’t look now, but there’s a buzz coming from Ann Arbor. Michigan was the Big Ten’s biggest winner on Saturday, crushing then –No. 22 BYU, 31-0, in the Big House. Jake Rudock led the show on offense, throwing for 194 yards, rushing for 33 more and scoring three total touchdowns. What caused his sudden turnaround? The offensive line. Rudock had more time than he knew what to do with on Saturday and even had time to scramble for positive yards after going through his progressions. Tim Drevno has turned the line into a strength and everybody on the offense – especially De’Veon Smith – is benefiting. Smith turned in his second 100-yard game Saturday, rumbling his way to 125 yards on 16 carries. Smith’s best run came in the second quarter, when he disappeared into the pile only to reappear, spin out of a tackle and dash into the end zone 60 yards later. Amara Darboh was the other offensive hero, making an Odell Beckham-like grab to set up Michigan’s first touchdown and finishing with four catches, 57 yards and a touchdown.

The Wolverines’ defense was even better, holding BYU to 105 yards and picking up that elusive first shutout. Players were frustrated last week when UNLV scored in the 4th quarter to end a shutout bid, but this week they finished the job against a much better offense. Tanner Mangum passed for only 55 yards, while the team’s leading rusher, Adam Hine, got only eight carries for 33 yards. Harbaugh insists the team is still a work in progress, but the improvement since Week 1 has been incredible. If this defense keeps it up, and Rudock takes care of the football, Michigan will have something to say in the East race.

4. Indiana (4-0, 1-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Wake Forest 31-24 This Week: Sat vs #1 OSU (4-0), 3:30pm, ABC

In the first three weeks of the season, Indiana knocked off an FCS school and a pair of Conference USA schools by an average of six points to jump out to a fluky 3-0 start. The Hoosiers finally picked up a solid victory Saturday when they went to Wake Forest and earned a road win over a power five team. Jordan Howard put the Indiana offense on his back, running for 168 yards and a score on 33 carries. Nate Sudfeld was steady in the passing game, passing for 205 yards and two touchdowns. In the upset of the week, Indiana’s defense held a team under 400 yards, allowing Wake Forest to rush for only 99 on the ground. The Hoosiers are undefeated to begin conference play, but don’t expect that to last long. The defense allows 499 yards per game, which ranks 117th in the nation. That’ll never hold up against a schedule with offenses like Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa on the horizon.

5. Penn State (3-1, 1-0) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat SDSU 37-21 This Week: Sat vs Army (1-3), 12pm, ESPNU

Christian Hackenberg played his best game since freshman year Saturday when he completed 60 percent of his passes for 196 yards and three touchdowns. Penn State’s offense, which scored just 21.67 points per game over the first three weeks, exploded for 37 points as the Nittany Lions rolled over San Diego State. Penn State dominated on both sides of the ball, outgaining SDSU 400-242 and recovering three fumbles. Is Penn State a contender or a pretender in the East this season? After an embarrassing loss at Temple to start the year, James Franklin’s team bounced back with three fairly easy wins. The defense, which allowed the second fewest yards per game in the FBS last season, will pace the Nittany Lions as Hackenberg and the offense battle to keep up. If freshman running back Saquon Barkley, who’s already rushed for 373 yards on 42 carries (8.9 yards per carry), can take the reins of the offense away from the passing game, Penn State will be a tough team to play.

6. Rutgers (2-2, 0-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Kansas 27-14 This Week: Bye (10/10 vs #2 MSU)

Do I have to rank the last two teams? Yes? Fine, I’ll go with Rutgers at No. 6. The Scarlett Knights are an embarrassment off the field, but they did manage to beat one of the worst power five teams in the country Saturday. Josh Hicks ran all over the Kansas defense, picking up 113 yards and two touchdowns. Rutgers gained over 500 yards of total offense despite turning the ball over three times to the Jayhawks. Kyle Flood’s team already got blown out in their Big Ten opener in Week 3 and probably won’t be favored to win a game until it hosts Maryland in the final game of the season.

7. Maryland (2-2, 0-0) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to W. Virginia 6-45 This Week: Sat vs Michigan (3-1), 8pm, BTN

If you thought Michigan’s shutout win over BYU was a massacre, just wait until you hear about Maryland’s trip to West Virginia. Week 4 was a total disaster for the Terrapins. A painful, turnover-riddled disaster that, of course, ended with Maryland failing to convert a two-point conversion that would have pulled it within 37. Yes, it was as ugly as it sounds. West Virginia scored touchdowns on its first three drives, none of which lasted more than three minutes. The Mountaineers scored 45 unanswered points to start the game, picking up 601 yards and 37 first downs. The Terrapins only held the ball for about 23 minutes, but that was enough time to throw five interceptions and turn the ball over six times. Caleb Rowe, who took over as starting quarterback after the team’s disastrous Week 2 loss to Bowling Green, threw four picks and completed just 10 of 27 passes. Only Brandon Ross, who gained 130 rushing yards on 15 carries, came to play for the Terps. Maryland needs to get the turnovers under control soon as two strong defensive teams (Michigan and Ohio State) come next on the schedule.

West Division
1. Northwestern (4-0, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Ball State 24-19 This Week: Sat vs Minnesota (3-1), 12pm, BTN

Things got a little hairy for the Wildcats Saturday when Ball State hung around until the final drive of a 24-19 Northwestern win. For the first time this season, Pat Fitzgerald’s defense showed a chink in the armor, allowing 359 yards to the Cardinals offense. Riley Neal completed only 14 of 35 passes against Northwestern, but a handful of big plays allowed him to rack up 178 yards and two touchdowns. Ball State also averaged more than five yards per carry against a front seven that was rock solid against Stanford and Duke earlier in the month. But Justin Jackson wouldn’t let the Wildcats’ perfect record go up in flames, leading the team with 184 rushing yards. Clayton Thorson bounced back from a terrible performance at Duke to throw for 256 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. The Big Ten opener will be a big one for Northwestern as Minnesota visits Evanston to set up a heavy defensive battle.

2. Iowa (4-0, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat N. Texas 62-14 This Week: Sat @ #19 Wisconsin (3-1), 12pm, ESPN

Iowa coasted through a much-needed break Saturday after two straight wins over power five opponents. The offense erupted against North Texas, scoring 48 points on 488 yards. Iowa also returned two interceptions for touchdowns in the second half, polishing off a 62-16 masterpiece. C.J. Beathard continued to dominate under center, completing an incredible 18 of 21 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns. Jordan Canzeri bullied a weak North Texas front seven for 115 yards and four touchdowns, giving him eight scores on the year. There’s no way Beathard will complete over 68 percent of his passes in Big Ten play, but he looks like a definite upgrade at quarterback and an excellent complement to Canzeri. With a strong defense and an offense that’s averaging 37.75 points per game, Iowa is a real threat in the West. But all three games against Wisconsin, Northwestern and Nebraska are on the road, so the Hawkeyes will have to be just as good away from Kinnick to compete. Perhaps the greatest hurdle comes Saturday in Madison.

3. Wisconsin (3-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Hawaii 28-0 This Week: Sat vs Iowa (3-1), 12pm, ESPN

Wisconsin rolled over its third straight cupcake opponent Saturday, shutting out Hawaii 28-0. Freshman running back Taiwan Deal built on his 84-yard performance in Week 3 with 147 rushing yards on 25 carries. He’s scored four touchdowns for the Badgers this season and looks like the best option in the backfield heading into Big Ten season. Joel Stave enjoyed a typical, steady non-conference season, completing over 66 percent of his passes for 830 yards, seven touchdowns and two picks.  Thanks to an efficient offense and a defense that allowed just three points in the last three games, the road to the West Division title still runs through Wisconsin.

4. Nebraska (2-2, 0-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Southern Miss 36-28 This Week: Sat at Illinois (3-1), 3:30pm, BTN

Nebraska’s rise to No. 4 in the West is more of an indictment on the rest of the division than an endorsement of the Cornhuskers’ body of work. Tommy Armstrong moved past his devastating overtime interception that doomed Nebraska in Week 3 to throw for 368 yards. He also rushed seven times for 63 yards and scored three total touchdowns in the game. Jordan Westerkamp is one of the conference’s toughest matchups at wide receiver, heading into conference play with 26 catches for 351 yards and four touchdowns in four games. Nebraska is looking to score its way through the Big Ten this season after allowing 12 touchdowns over the four games. Turnovers and penalties have also been a major issue during the rocky start. Poor defense, poor ball security and poor discipline is a dangerous recipe against a defensive-minded division.

5. Minnesota (3-1, 0-0) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Ohio 27-24 This Week: Sat at #16 Northwestern (4-0), 12pm, BTN

Since coming within a play of knocking off No. 2 TCU in the opener, Minnesota has beaten three weak opponents by a field goal each. This week, the Ohio Bobcats fell victim to the Gophers’ late heroics as a Shannon Brooks touchdown run gave Minnesota the lead with 30 seconds left on the clock. For the first time all season the Gophers got into a rhythm on offense, gaining 268 yards, picking up 24 first downs and scoring three touchdowns. Mitch Leidner threw for 264 yards, but all three Minnesota scores can on the ground – One by Leidner and two by Brooks. Ohio set a new high against Minnesota’s vaunted defense, scoring 24 points but falling short on a Hail Mary pass from the 41-yard line. A delay of game penalty after a time out pushed a potential 53-yard field goal attempt out of range and erased the Bobcats’ chance to tie the game. If the Golden Gophers can only beat Colorado State, Kent State and Ohio by three points, it’s hard to see them competing in the Big Ten.

6. Illinois (3-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Middle Tenn. 27-25 This Week: Sat vs Nebraska (2-2), 12pm, BTN

In the wake of Illinois’ beat down at the hands of North Carolina, Middle Tennessee State nearly went into Champaign and poured salt in the still-festering wound. Illinois needed a 51-yard field goal from Taylor Zalewski with 2:09 left on the clock to escape the Blue Raiders, thanks to a missed 43-yarder that would have flipped the script with eight seconds to go. The Fighting Illini won their first two games by a combined 93 points, but a 34-point loss to UNC exposed them as frauds. Conference wins will be tough to come by for Illinois this season.

7. Purdue (1-3, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Bowling Green 28-35 This Week: Sat vs at #2 MSU (4-0), 12pm, ESPN2

Ah, yes. The only Big Ten team with a losing record. Purdue capped off a terrible non-conference season with a home loss to Bowling Green, giving up over 30 points for the third time. The Big Ten slaying Falcons passed for over 400 yards and converted 11 of 16 first downs to outlast Purdue in the final seconds of the game. Travis Greene’s 11th carry of the game went for a 12-yard touchdown that capped an 80-yard drive and sealed Purdue’s fate. New starting quarterback David Blough played a solid game, completing 29 of 39 passes for 340 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. The freshman got no help from his running backs, who averaged just 2.4 yards per carry. When it boils down to it, the Boilermakers don’t have much firepower heading into a difficult month of October. The beat down begins Saturday in East Lansing.

2015 Big Ten power rankings: Week 3

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

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After a disastrous Week 1 (8-6) and an outstanding Week 2 (12-2), the Big Ten levelled out a bit in Week 3, finishing with a 9-3 record in out-of-conference games. Penn State and Rutgers kicked off the conference schedule two weeks early as the Nittany Lions picked up the first official Big Ten win of the season.

But the biggest news of the week came on Sunday, when Ohio State and Michigan State were named Nos. 1 and 2 atop the new AP Poll. Though neither team was dominant over the weekend, they treaded water while the rest of the top 10 crashed and burned. So now the Big Ten has a strong hold atop college football.

With most of the nonconference schedule ending this weekend, it’s nearly time to draw some solid conclusions about the state of the 2015 Big Ten. Here’s where the teams stand after Week 3.

East Division
1. Michigan State (3-0, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Air Force 35-21 This Week: Sat vs Central Michigan (1-2), 12pm, BTN

While Ohio State kept its hold on the No. 1 spot in the national polls, it’ll have no such luck in these power rankings. Michigan State underwhelmed in a 35-21 win over Air Force, but the combination of an emotional Week 2 win over Oregon and a first look at the true Triple Option offense makes the Spartans’ lackluster performance more understandable. Connor Cook enjoyed by far his best game of the season, throwing for 247 yards and four touchdowns on just 23 pass attempts. Eight of his 15 completions went to Aaron Burbridge, who picked up 156 receiving yards and three scores. The defense is definitely a concern for Michigan State as the conference season nears. After Western Michigan and Oregon racked up 383 yards and 432 yards of total offense, respectively, in Weeks 1 and 2, Air Force outgained MSU 428-324. Luckily for the Spartans, it doesn’t have to be pretty. If they win the rest of their games by a point each, they’ll find themselves comfortable in the four-team playoff.

2. Ohio State (3-0, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat N. Illinois 20-13 This Week: Sat vs W. Michigan (1-2), 3:30pm, ABC

Ohio State, like MSU, struggled against an inferior opponent on Saturday. But Ohio State, unlike MSU, has no good wins to fall back on. The Buckeyes limped to a 20-13 win at home over Northern Illinois, which gained fewer than 200 yards of offense and averaged an awful 2.5 yards per play. The Huskies did not play well, completing just 14 of 31 passes, turning the ball over twice and gaining just 2.6 yards per rush, but had a chance in the final moments to knock off the No. 1 team in the country. Ohio State entered the season with a pair of potential All-Big Ten quarterbacks duking it out for the starting job, but now neither one wants to take it. Cardale Jones looked terrible in the first half, completing four of nine passes and tossing two picks. When J.T. Barrett took over, he was wild as well, completing 11 of 19 for a touchdown and an interception. Ohio State’s defense held NIU to just 190 yards, if the star-studded offense keeps turning the ball over, one of these upset bids is bound to turn into an actual upset.

3. Michigan (2-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat UNLV 28-7 This Week: Sat vs BYU (2-1), 12pm, ABC

Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines flew under the radar this weekend as the winless UNLV Rebels came to town. Michigan’s offense struggled again, scoring just 28 points, but it did rack up 377 yards. Jake Rudock threw his fifth interception of the season and averaged just 5.6 yards per pass as the downfield attack continued to be nonexistent. But Ty Isaac and Jehu Chesson finally made a pair of big plays for the Wolverines, each running down the left sideline for long touchdowns. Chesson’s 36-yard dash put Michigan up 14-0 in the second quarter and Isaac’s 76-yard score came just two drives later. Week 2 hero De’Veon Smith took a step back against the Rebels, gaining just 33 yards on 13 carries. The story for Michigan continued to be the defense, which held UNLV to just seven points and 235 yards. Keith Whitely (13 carries for 29 yards) couldn’t get anything going on the ground against Michigan’s front seven, but the secondary was just as strong, breaking up five passes and intercepting two. Jourdan Lewis returned from a Week 2 concussion to break up four passes in coverage. Since allowing 337 yards to Utah in the opener, Michigan has given up just 373 total to Oregon State and UNLV. The team will face its second ranked opponent of the season Saturday when No. 22 BYU visits the Big House.

4. Penn State (2-1, 1-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 28-3 This Week: Sat vs San Diego State (1-2), 3:30pm, BTN

Is there something about that Indiana air that prevents teams from playing defense? Only Purdue (106) has allowed more points than Indiana (104) in the Big Ten through three nonconference games. But Indiana has done so against two Conference USA opponents and an FCS team. This week’s shootout came against Western Kentucky, which fell to the Hoosiers despite gaining 568 yards of offense. Quarterback Brandon Doughty threw for 484 yards and three touchdowns to mask an ineffective running game (3.2 yards per carry) for the Hilltoppers. Indiana picked up a season high 639 rushing yards, led by Jordan Howard’s 203 rushing yards and Nate Sudfeld’s 355 passing yards. The Hoosiers haven’t played defense for years now, and last year they mustered just four wins all season. They’ll have a chance to reach that mark, and polish off an undefeated non-conference season, at Wake Forest Saturday.

5. Indiana (3-0, 0-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat W. Kentucky 38-35 This Week: Sat at Wake Forest (2-1), 12:30pm

Penn State dominated Rutgers in the first conference matchup of the season, scoring 21 points in the second quarter and cruising to a 28-3 win. Saquon Barkley paced Penn State with 195 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. Akeel Lynch accounted for the team’s third rushing touchdown with a 75-yard dash in the second quarter. Christian Hackenberg put in another uninspiring performance, completing 10 of 19 passes for 141 yards and an interception against a shaky Rutgers defense. Hackenberg has completed fewer than half of his passes this season and has just one touchdown.

6. Maryland (2-1, 0-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat USF 35-17 This Week: Sat at West Virginia (2-0), 3pm, FS1

Maryland bounced back from an embarrassing home loss to Bowling Green with a comfortable win over South Florida in Week 3. The transition to Caleb Rowe at starting quarterback had its ups and downs. Rowe threw for 297 yards and four touchdowns, but turned it over three times to keep USF in the game. The Terrapins gained over 400 yards on offense and allowed a season-low 17 points. They’ll face a big test Saturday in West Virginia.

7. Rutgers (1-2, 0-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Penn State 3-28 This Week: Sat vs Kansas (0-2), 12pm, BTN

The Scarlet Knights picked up right where they left off Saturday, losing their second straight game and falling to 0-1 in the Big Ten. Rutgers couldn’t get anything going on offense, averaging a terrible 1.3 yards per carry and turning it over three times. Penn State ran for 330 yards against the front seven, leading an anemic offense to 471 total yards. The Scarlet Knights have a great chance to finish the non-conference schedule even as Kansas comes to town this weekend.

West Division
1. Northwestern (3-0, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Duke 19-10 This Week: Sat vs Ball State (2-1), 8pm, BTN

Though the opening week win over a ranked Stanford team was the coming out party for this Northwestern team, a road win over previously-undefeated Duke made an even louder statement. Northwestern struggled to move the ball, gaining just 271 yards of offense, but its defense is legit. The Wildcats forced three turnovers and held Duke to 3.8 yards per pass en route to a 19-10 win. Solomon Vault made the big play for Coach Pat Fitzgerald, returning a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown to give Northwestern the lead for good. It might not be pretty, but the Wildcats’ defense has passed its first three tests and should lead the way to a 4-0 start Saturday against Ball State.

2. Iowa (3-0, 0-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Pitt 27-24 This Week: Sat vs N. Texas (0-2), 3:30pm, ESPNU

While most of the conference hosted teams like Northern Illinois, UNLV and Troy, Iowa returned home to play its second straight power five team. It was a back and forth battle, and Pitt completed off a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive with 52 seconds left in regulation to tie it at 24. But a trio of C.J. Beathard runs put the Hawkeyes in Panther territory and Marshall Koehn nailed a 57-yard field goal to seal the deal. Iowa picked off two passes and shut down Pittsburgh’s rushing attack (2 yards per carry) to put itself in position for the walkoff win.

3. Wisconsin (2-1, 0-0) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Troy 28-3 This Week: Sat vs Hawaii (2-1), 8pm, BTN

The Badgers have bounced back nicely from an opening week loss to Alabama, beating Miami (OH) and Troy by a combined score of 86-3. Joel Stave is on cruise control at the helm and completed 13 of 17 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown against Troy. Wisconsin’s offense takes on a whole different look without a 100-yard rusher, but the team did average 5.7 yards per carry behind a stout offensive line. On defense, Wisconsin held Troy to 255 yards, but surrendered 19 first downs and lost the time of possession battle, which is unusual for the Badgers.

4. Minnesota (2-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Kent State 10-7 This Week: Sat vs Ohio (3-0), 3:30pm, BTN

Week 3 was a major disappointment for Minnesota, which opened some eyes with a near upset of No. 2 TCU in Week 1 and a road win over Colorado State in Week 2. Luckily for the Gophers, an outstanding defensive performance kept a disappointing week from becoming a disastrous week. Kent State gained just 142 yards in the game, going 3-17 on 3rd down and averaging fewer than 2.5 yards per play. On offense, Minnesota was terrible, scoring 10 points, committing three turnovers and eight penalties. Rodney Smith ran the ball 30 times but gained just 73 yards to pace the ground attack. Mitch Leidner completed 17 of 27 passes for 184 yards, but threw a pair of picks that helped Kent State stick around. Jerry Kill’s defense looks like one of the best in the country, but if Leidner can’t lead the offense back to respectability, Minnesota won’t compete for the West.

5. Nebraska (1-2, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Miami 33-36 This Week: Sat vs Southern Miss (2-1), 12pm, ESPNN

It’s only Week 3, but Nebraska has already lost a pair of heartbreakers this season. Miami was blowing the Huskers out of the water in the fourth quarter before Tommy Armstrong led three straight touchdown drives (two of which ended in successful two-point conversions) to tie the game at 33 in the final minute. But the 23-0 run ended when Armstrong threw a pick in overtime and the Hurricanes kicked a game-winning 28-yard field goal. Nebraska’s defense really struggled Saturday, allowing 511 totals yards in Miami. If Mike Riley hopes to compete in his first year in the Big Ten, that’ll have to turn around quickly.

6. Illinois (2-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Lost to N. Carolina 14-48 This Week: Sat vs Middle Tenn. (2-1), 4pm, ESPNN

Illinois could only hide behind weak competition for so long, and North Carolina exposed the Fighting Illini in a big way Saturday. Running back Elijah Hood averaged over eight yards per carry for the Heels and quarterback Marquise Williams rushed for 105 yards of his own as Illinois got steam rolled right out of North Carolina. West Lunt completed fewer than half of his passes and posted a quarterback rating of 14.3 as the Fighting Illini scored just twice in the contest. Josh Ferguson was the lone bright spot, rushing for 133 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. Illinois will host another cupcake Saturday as Middle Tennessee State comes to Champaign.

7. Purdue (1-2, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Virginia Tech 24-51 This Week: Sat vs Bowling Green (1-2), 12pm, BTN

Purdue couldn’t have looked much worse than it did Saturday against Virginia Tech in West Lafayette. The Boilermakers were outgained by over 200 yards, committed three turnovers and went just 2-15 on third down. Virginia Tech held the ball for over 38 minutes and held Austin Appleby to nine completions on 28 pass attempts. Appleby was a nonfactor on the ground too, rushing 13 times for 11 yards. Purdue is a candidate for an ugly loss in Week 4 as it hosts Bowling Green, a team that already stomped Maryland.

2015 Big Ten power rankings: Week 2

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

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The Big Ten looked like the laughingstock of college football in Week 1, but now the tables have turned. After the disastrous opening weekend for the conference as a whole, Week 2 was exactly what it needed to right the ship.

A 12-2 Saturday put two Big Ten teams in the top five, two more into the national rankings and only the two newest members, Maryland and Rutgers, dropped games to weak opponents. Michigan State, Iowa and Michigan picked up wins against Power 5 conference teams and Minnesota beat a solid Colorado State team on the road.

The 12-win week couldn’t have come at a better time, as the SEC watched FCS’s Jacksonville State take Auburn into overtime, Toledo dominate Arkansas and three ranked teams fall from the rankings.

It’s amazing how much can change in just one week. Here’s how the revitalized Big Ten stacks up midway through the nonconference schedule.

East Division
1. Michigan State (2-0, 0-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat #7 Oregon 31-28 This Week: Sat vs Air Force (2-0), 12pm, ABC

When a team doesn’t play its best game against a top 10 opponent but still wins, that team’s doing something right. Michigan State hosted No. 7 Oregon in the game of the week Saturday night and held on for a 31-28 win in East Lansing. Senior quarterback Connor Cook came up empty on a few throws and finished the game just 20 for 32 for 192 yards, two scores and a pick. The Spartans are 2-0 and ranked 4th in the country, and Cook still hasn’t played a strong game. The best performance in the victory was L.J. Scott’s 76 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries as backup to Madre London.

2. Ohio State (2-0, 0-0) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Hawaii 38-0 This Week: Sat vs Northern Illinois (2-0), 3:30pm, ABC

Ohio State’s dominance was on full display Saturday as the Buckeyes sleepwalked to a 38-0 victory over Hawaii. OSU didn’t show up to the Horseshoe, completing just 20 of 34 total passes and rushing for 3.7 yards per carry. But the Buckeyes still crushed an awful Hawaii team behind three touchdowns from Ezekiel Elliott. The only reason to watch Ohio State over the next eight weeks is to see who plays quarterback – J.T. Barrett or Cardale Jones?

3. Michigan (1-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Oregon State 35-7 This Week: Sat vs UNLV (0-2), 12pm, BTN

There was a different feel in the Big House this weekend, though Oregon State posed little threat to Michigan in Ann Arbor. Most of the concerns that arose during the Week 1 loss to Utah were dulled by a dominant 35-7 win in which Michigan ran for 225 yards and De’Veon Smith averaged 5.5 yards per carry. Jake Rudock was shaky for a second straight start, turning the ball over twice and finishing with a 34.2 QBR. But the offensive line was phenomenal, allowing just one sack and opening truck-sized holes for Smith, who scored thrice. Defensively, the Wolverines allowed a 79-yard drive to open the game and then held OSU to just 59 yards in the final 58 minutes. Michigan’s running game helped the offense possess the ball for over 38 minutes. Penalties and turnovers are still major concerns for the Wolverines heading into a tune-up game against UNLV. Michigan committed 10 penalties for 105 yards and lost the turnover battle 2-1 against a poor Oregon State team. Both of those areas need to be cleaned up before BYU lands in Ann Arbor.

4. Penn State (1-1, 0-0) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat Buffalo 27-14 This Week: Sat vs Rutgers (1-1), 8pm, BTN

Can the final four teams all tie for 7th? No? Okay, we’ll give the middle spot to Penn State, which bounced back from an embarrassing Week 1 loss with a less-than convincing victory over Buffalo. After looking lost against Temple in the opener, Christian Hackenberg was only slightly better against a middling MAC team on Saturday. He completed 14 of 27 passes for just 128 yards and one touchdown. Freshman running back Saquon Barkley was the lone bright spot for the Nittany Lion offense, gaining 115 yards on 12 carries after touching the ball just once at Temple. The defense was solid, but the Bulls were a 5-6 team last season, so a 27-14 Penn State win is greatly overshadowed by the 27-10 loss to Temple. Penn State hosts Rutgers to kick off the conference season Saturday. A loss in that game would make James Franklin’s seat a great deal hotter.

5. Indiana (2-0, 0-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat FIU 36-22 This Week: Sat vs Western Kentucky (2-0), 4pm, ESPNU

Indiana is undefeated, so how can it land behind both Michigan and Penn State? Indiana has looked awful in two games against terrible opponents. After a 48-47 win against Southern Illinois in Week 1, the Hoosiers needed to trounce FIU at home to ease the tension in Bloomington. Instead, Indiana trailed at halftime and well into the 3rd quarter before Jordan Howard wore the Panthers down. Howard ran the ball 27 times for 159 yards, but quarterback Nate Sudfeld was responsible for all three touchdowns – two rushing and one passing. Indiana might survive the non-conference schedule unbeaten, but the Week 5 matchup against Ohio State will be a blood bath.

6. Rutgers (1-1, 0-0) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Washington St. 34-37 This Week: Sat at Penn State (1-1), 8pm, BTN

No matter how hard Washington State tried to hand Rutgers an unlikely win Saturday, the Scarlett Knights refused to take it, falling 37-34 to one of the worst Power 5 teams in the country. WSU quarterback Luke Falk completed 47 of 66 passes for 478 yards and four touchdowns against a nonexistent Rutgers secondary. Though they gained over 400 yards on offense, the Scarlett Knights committed 11 penalties for 100 yards, turned the ball over three times and forced just two punts. To cap off a disastrous week, wide receiver Leonte Carroo was arrested and charged with assault in an alleged domestic violent incident on campus. Carroo had been the team’s best playmaker through two games, catching seven passes for 181 yards and three touchdowns, but now his future with the team is up in the air.

7. Maryland (1-1, 0-0) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Bowling Green 27-48 This Week: Sat vs USF (1-1), 12pm, ESPNU

The Big Ten bust of the week award goes to Maryland, who watched the MAC’s Bowling Green Falcons march into Byrd Stadium and steamroll their way to a 48-27 win. Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson threw for 491 yards and six touchdowns against the Maryland secondary, connecting with Roger Lewis 15 times for 200 yards and two scores. Maryland’s rush defense wasn’t much better, allowing Fred Coppet and Travis Greene to combine for 174 yards on 33 carries. All four of Bowling Green’s 4th quarter drives ended in touchdowns, including a 17-play, 99-yard drive that started at BG’s 1-yard line. On offense, Perry Hills completed just half his passes and lost his job to redshirt junior Caleb Rowe. Rowe completed 48.9 percent of his passes last season and threw five touchdowns and three interceptions. He’s already thrown three picks in 44 attempts this season. Even if Rowe is an upgrade over the struggling Hills, changing quarterbacks midseason is rarely a sign of a stable program. Maryland fans should buckle up for a long season.

West Division
1. Northwestern (2-0, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat E. Illinois 41-0 This Week: Sat at Duke (2-0), 12:30pm

The Wildcats jumped to the top spot in Week 1 with an upset win over Stanford and did nothing to lose their hold on atop the West in Week 2. Northwestern hosted a terrible Eastern Illinois team on Saturday and did what Rutgers and Penn State couldn’t: Stomped the Panthers into the ground. Clayton Thorson threw just 16 passes but completed 11 of them for an efficient 152 yards. Eight ball carriers combined to average five yards per rush and the defense allowed just 138 yards and eight first downs. Eastern Illinois converted none of their 11 3rd down attempts and held the ball for under 23 minutes. Northwestern simply dominated for three quarters and cruised through the 4th, en route to a 2-0 record. The Wildcats face a tricky matchup at Duke this week. The Blue Devils won nine games last season and have outscored a pair of weak opponents 92-7 in 2015.

2. Wisconsin (1-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Miami Ohio 58-0 This Week: Sat vs Troy (1-1), 3:30pm, BTN

If you thought Wisconsin was done after an unimpressive loss to Alabama to open the season, Week 2 came as an abrupt wakeup call. Wisconsin nearly matched the beating it took at the hands of Ohio State (59-0) in the Big Ten Championship last season with a 58-point shutout against Miami (OH). Joel Stave paced the Badgers with 236 passing yards and three touchdowns while junior running back Dare Ogunbowale turned 16 carries into 112 yards and his second career touchdown. Unlike in the opener, when they ran the ball just 21 times, the Badgers got back to their bread and butter Saturday, running 45 times for 188 yards. While it lacks an explosive playmaker like Montee Ball, James White, or Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin is the early favorite to come out of the Big Ten West.

3. Iowa (2-0, 0-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Iowa State 31-17 This Week: Sat vs Pitt (2-0), 8pm, BTN

Iowa picked up the Big Ten’s most impressive road win on Saturday when it went into Ames and took down in-state rival Iowa State, 31-17. C.J. Beathard led a typical Iowa-type attack, completing 60 percent of his passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns. Matt VandeBerg looks like one of the conferences breakout candidates on offense after he hauled in nine passes for 114 yards and a touchdown on Saturday. The junior wideout has already passed his reception total from last season and has emerged as Beathard’s favorite target early in the season. Jordan Canzeri led the Hawkeye rushing attack with 124 yards on 24 carries. Unfortunately for Iowa, games against Wisconsin, Northwestern and Nebraska all come on the road this season, so the Hawkeyes are on the outside track in the West.

4. Minnesota (1-1, 0-0) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Colorado State 23-20 This Week: Sat vs Kent State (1-1), 12pm, BTN

Through two weeks, Minnesota has emerged as an under-the-radar contender in the Big Ten West. After taking No. 2 TCU to the final whistle last Thursday, Minnesota hit the road to face a tough Colorado State team that won 10 games last season and went a perfect 6-0 at home. The Golden Gophers weren’t overwhelming, but they rode a strong defensive effort to a 23-20 overtime victory. The secondary played an excellent game, allowing just 142 passing yards and picking off two passes. As a whole, Minnesota forced four turnovers and surrendered just 14 first downs. Mitch Leidner wasn’t great, throwing for 233 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but he took care of the ball and added 47 yards rushing to his total. The hero was placekicker Ryan Santoso, who nailed a 50-yarder just before halftime and an 18-yarder in overtime to seal the victory. He’s made four of five kicks after going just 12 of 18 as a freshman last season. The Gophers should coast through a pair of MAC battles to polish off the nonconference season.

5. Nebraska (1-1 0-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat S. Alabama 48-9 This Week: Sat vs Miami (2-0), 3:30pm, ABC

Nebraska bounced back from a devastating defeat in Week 1 to pound South Alabama by 39 points this weekend. Tommy Armstrong Jr. was excellent in the passing game, completing 21 of 30 passes for 270 yards and two touchdowns. But running back Terrell Newby stole the show, gaining 198 yards and scoring twice on 28 carries. Nebraska’s formula looks the same as it was during the Bo Pelini era: Score quickly and force turnovers on defense. The Cornhuskers gained 561 yards against USA and forced three turnovers.

6. Illinois (2-0, 0-0) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat W. Illinois 44-0 This Week: Sat at North Carolina (1-1), 12pm, ESPN2

It’s impossible to label the Fighting Illini after games against Kent State and Western Illinois, but they’ve certainly taken care of business. Illinois waxed the Leathernecks this weekend, allowing just five first downs and winning the yardage battle 500-141. Despite the 44-point victory, Coach Bill Cubit can’t be happy with his running game. Three Illinois running backs combined for just 126 yards on 36 carries (3.5 yards per carry) and the offense turned the ball over four times. Quarterback Wes Lunt has completed 44 of 65 passes (67.7 percent) so far this season, but he’ll struggle in the Big Ten without a legitimate rushing attack.

7. Purdue (1-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Indiana State 38-14 This Week: Sat vs Virginia Tech (), 3:30pm, ESPNU

Purdue picked up its first win of the season Saturday against FCS opponent Indiana State. Quarterback Qustin Appleby bounced back from his four-interception performance in Week 1 to throw for four touchdowns and 289 yards. The junior completed passes to 10 different receivers and exploded for three passes of 50 yards or longer. Purdue won’t have another cakewalk this nonconference season as Virginia Tech and Bowling Green visit West Lafayette.

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Pre-Big Ten Tournament

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

Power Rankings_header
The Big Ten regular season came to an end on Sunday with Wisconsin retaining the top spot and conference newcomer Maryland grabbing a distant second. There wasn’t a lot of movement in the final power rankings as Indiana took the biggest drop of three places and Iowa had the biggest climb of three. The Big Ten Tournament began tonight, though those results are not reflected in these rankings.

Previous: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 6, Week 7, Week 9

1. Wisconsin (28-3, 16-2) – Even
Last Week: Beat Minn 76-63, Beat #23 Ohio State 72-48 This Week: Fri. (B1G Tournament) vs Mich/Illinois

The undisputed flagship team in the Big Ten finished the regular season with a flourish Sunday, pounding Ohio State by 24 points in Columbus. Wisconsin enters the conference tournament with a No. 1 seed on its mind.

2. Maryland (26-5, 14-4) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 60-50, Beat Nebraska 64-61 This Week: Fri. (B1G Tournament) vs NU/Indiana

Mark Turgeon couldn’t have hoped for a better inaugural season in the Big Ten, as his team cruised to a second-place finish and enters the postseason on a seven-game winning streak. Maryland already took down Wisconsin once, and doing so again would earn the Terps a Big Ten championship.

3. Iowa (21-10, 12-6) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat Indiana 77-63, Beat Northwestern 69-52 This Week: Thu. (B1G Tournament) vs Penn State

On Feb. 15 the Hawkeyes had lost five of their last seven games and stared down the barrel of another late-season collapse. Instead, Iowa blazed through its final six games and picked up the No. 5 seed in Chicago.

4. Michigan State (21-10, 12-6) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Purdue 72-66, Beat Indiana 74-72 This Week: Fri. (B1G Tournament) vs Minn/Ohio State

Tom Izzo and the Spartans were shaky through 31 games this season, but closed with wins over two lesser opponents to snatch the No. 3 seed in the Big Ten Tournament.

5. Purdue (20-11, 12-6) – Down 3
Last Week: Lost at MSU 66-72, Beat Illinois 63-58 This Week: Fri. (B1G Tournament) vs Iowa/Penn State

Purdue is kicking itself heading into the conference tournament after it dropped two road games in the first week of March that would have solidified its NCAA resume. Instead, the first-round bye may actually hurt the Boilermakers, who will likely miss out with a one-and-done showing in Chicago.

6. Illinois (19-12, 9-9) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 69-57, Lost at Purdue 58-63 This Week: Thu. (B1G Tournament) vs Michigan

Illinois came within five points of finishing the season on a three-game streak that may have been enough to put them on the right side of the bubble. Instead, an 8-6 record down the stretch with five of those losses by eight points or less may not be enough for John Groce’s team.

7. Ohio State (22-9, 11-7) – Even
Last Week: Beat Penn State 77-67, Lost vs #6 Wisc 48-72
This Week: Thu (B1G Tournament) vs Minnesota

A 24-point loss to Wisconsin on Senior Day put an exclamation point on Ohio State’s tremendously disappointing season. The Buckeyes finished with only one win over a team ranked in the final AP poll: a home victory against Maryland. Ohio State was uncompetitive against each of Louisville, North Carolina and Wisconsin and will struggle to make a tournament run, barring a complete D’Angelo Russell takeover.

8. Indiana (19-12, 9-9) – Down 3
Last Week: Lost to Iowa 63-77, Lost to MSU 72-74 This Week: Thu. (B1G Tournament) vs Northwestern

The last six weeks of the season were awfully unkind to Tom Crean and the Hoosiers. After finally cracking the Top 25 with a 15-4 record, Indiana dropped eight of its last 12 games, putting its tournament status and coaching future in question. Indiana probably needed to win three of its last five games, but instead beat only Rutgers, the Big Ten’s junior varsity team, and lost three home games and a trip to Northwestern.

9. Northwestern (15-16, 6-12) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Michigan 82-70 2OT, Lost to Iowa 52-69 This Week: Thu. (B1G Tournament) vs Indiana

Despite finishing the season with a losing record, Northwestern is trending sharply upwards, having won five of its final seven conference games. The Wildcats looked destined for a last-place finish after a 10-game losing streak, but flipped the switch in mid-February. Tom Crean’s collar is feeling a little tight heading into this Big Ten Tournament matchup.

10. Michigan (15-15, 8-10) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost at NU 78-82 2OT, Beat Rutgers 79-69 This Week: Thu. (B1G Tournament) vs Illinois

As strange as it may sound, Michigan is one of the better teams in the Big Ten… in the first 40 minutes of games. The Wolverines lost four overtime games, and had they finished those wins, they’d be sitting in the No. 4 seed with a double bye in the tournament.

11. Minnesota (17-14, 6-12) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #6 Wisc 63-76, Lost to Penn State 76-79 This Week: Wed. (B1G Tournament) vs Rutgers

Minnesota just couldn’t get rolling during conference play this season, mustering just one winning streak (three games) but following it with losses in five of its last six games.

12. Penn State (16-15, 4-14) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to #23 OSU 67-77, Beat Minnesota 79-76  This Week: Wed. (B1G Tournament) vs Nebraska

A road win to finish the season snapped a six-game winning streak for Penn State, but it’ll still be one of four teams playing in the first round of the conference tournament Wednesday.

13. Nebraska (13-17, 5-13) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost at Illinois 57-69, Lost to #10 Maryland 61-64 This Week: Wed. (B1G Tournament) vs Penn State

Die-hard believers in what Nebraska accomplished last season considered Tim Miles’ team a legitimate contender heading into the 2014-15 campaign. Instead, Nebraska was the league’s greatest disappointment, finishing in 12th place and losing eight straight down the stretch.

14. Rutgers (10-21, 2-16) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #10 Maryland 50-60, Lost at Michigan 69-79 This Week: Wed. (B1G Tournament) vs Minnesota

Rutgers’ first year in the Big Ten was an absolute bloodbath. The Scarlett Knights will play Wednesday, on the two-month anniversary of their last win, carrying a 14-game losing streak on their shoulders.

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Week 9

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Power Rankings_header
Despite being posted on Wednesday, these rankings only take into account last week’s results, through Sunday. Wisconsin holds onto the top spot, while Purdue and Michigan State make big leaps into the top three. Ohio State is this week’s biggest tumbler, falling five spots thanks to a seven-point loss at Michigan. The bottom five remain the same in a slightly different order.

Previous: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 6, Week 7

1. Wisconsin (25-2, 13-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Penn State 55-47, Beat Min 63-53 This Week: Tue at #14 Maryland, Sun vs Michigan State

Wins in two of its final four games would wrap up sole possession of the Big Ten title for Wisconsin, which is riding a 10-game winning streak. With a strong finish, Wisconsin has a shot at the No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament behind Kentucky.

2. Purdue (18-9, 10-4) – Up 4
Last Week: Beat Indiana 67-63 This Week: Thu vs Rutgers, Sun at Ohio State

Purdue is no longer a nice surprise in the Big Ten. At 10-4, the Boilermakers are playing for a double bye in the conference tournament and all but locked into an NCAA bid. Matt Painter’s team has ripped off seven wins in eight tries, including a 3-1 record on the road.

3. Michigan State (19-8, 10-4) – Up 5
Last Week: Beat Michigan 80-67, Beat Illinois 60-53 This Week: Thu vs Minn, Sun at at #5 Wisconsin

Less than two weeks ago Michigan State was a bubble NCAA Tournament team. Now, after four straight wins, including back-to-back road wins over Michigan and Illinois, MSU is closing in on a second-place Big Ten finish.

4. Maryland (23-5, 11-4) – Even
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 69-65 This Week: Tue vs #5 Wisconsin, Sat vs Michigan

Mark Turgeon has steadied the ship after a rocky 2-3 stretch put Maryland’s position in the top 20 in question. Three straight wins have the Terrapins positioned for a strong finish in which they should win three of four.

5. Indiana (19-9, 9-6) – Up 2
Last Week: Lost to Purdue 63-67, Beat Rutgers 84-54 This Week: Wed at Northwestern

The middle of the Big Ten has really taken a hit over the last few weeks. Indiana, which has dropped five of its last nine, falls in at No. 5 as the rest of the Big Ten battles to stay off the bubble in the NCAA Tournament. Indiana’s last impressive win came over a month ago, on Jan. 22 against Maryland.

6. Iowa (17-10, 8-6) – Down 3
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 81-57, Beat Nebraska 74-46 This Week: Wed vs Illinois, Sat at Penn State

About the only thing Iowa has done right since back-to-back blowout wins over Michigan and Maryland is pounding Nebraska to the point where Tim Miles banned his team from its own locker room. Luckily for the Hawkeyes, a moderate finish of Illinois, Penn State, Indiana and Northwestern offers a great chance to reach the crucial 20-win plateau.

7. Ohio State (19-8, 8-6) – Down 5
Last Week: Lost at Michigan 57-64
This Week: Thu vs Nebraska, Sun vs Purdue

The last two games were not a good look for the previously resurgent Buckeyes, whose stay in the top 25 was as brief as Wisconsin’s struggles after a loss to Rutgers in January. OSU responded to a loss in East Lansing by falling to Michigan, which was riding a five-game losing streak in the conference.

8. Illinois (17-10, 7-7) – Down 3
Last Week: Lost to Michigan State 53-60 This Week: Wed at Iowa, Sat vs Northwestern

Illinois’ four-game winning streak hit a brick wall against conference-leading Wisconsin last week, as the Illini fell by 19 points in Madison. A home loss to Michigan State dropped John Groce’s team to No. 8 in the Big Ten, a dangerous place for teams hoping to avoid the Badgers in the third round of the conference tournament.

9. Michigan (14-13, 7-8) – Even
Last Week: Lost to MSU 67-80, Beat #24 OSU 64-57 This Week: Sat at #14 Maryland

If any team in the Big Ten needed a big morale boost, it was the battered, quickly sliding Wolverines. On Sunday, a start-to-finish waxing of the rival Buckeyes ended that streak and gave Michigan a realistic chance to finish the conference season with at least a .500 record.

10. Northwestern (13-14, 4-10) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 72-66, Beat Penn State 60-39 This Week: Wed vs Indiana, Sat at Illinois

A quick glance at some of the final scores during Northwestern’s 10-game conference losing streak would take some of the shock out of the Wildcats’ current three-game winning streak. Chris Collins’ team is finally finishing games, and has emerged as the top spoiler in the bottom half of the league.

11. Minnesota (16-12, 5-10) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Northwestern 66-72, Lost at #5 Wisconsin 53-63 This Week: Thu at Michigan State

Can the rest of these Big Ten teams all tie for last? Besides Northwestern’s modest winning streak, the bottom of the conference has completely gone up in flames. Minnesota checks in at No. 11 because they still appear to have a pulse, losing by just 10 points to Wisconsin Saturday, which is a small victory in itself.

12. Nebraska (13-14, 5-10) – Even
Last Week: Lost at #16 Maryland, Lost to Iowa 46-74 This Week: Thu at Ohio State

What happened to Nebraska’s vaunted home-court advantage? A team that lost only one game at home by a single point last season has dropped two straight at Pinnacle Bank Arena, including a 28-point thrashing at the hands of Iowa.

13. Penn State (15-13, 3-12) – Down 2
Last Week: Lost to #5 Wisconsin 47-55, Lost at NU 39-60 This Week: Sat vs Iowa

Penn State dropped three straight games against ranked teams before running into the buzz saw that is Northwestern Saturday. A 21-point pounding in Evanston put an early exclamation point on a disastrous conference season for the Nittany Lions.

14. Rutgers (10-18, 2-13) – Even
Last Week: Lost at Iowa 47-81, Lost to Indiana 84-54 This Week: Thu at Purdue

Rutgers is really bad. A 30-point loss to Indiana rounded out an 11-game losing streak with more tough games ahead. In their first Big Ten season, the Scarlett Knights are failing the test.

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Week 7

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

Power Rankings_header
Wisconsin remains on top, having won six in a row, and that should continue at least for the next couple of weeks. Everyone else is chasing the Badgers, but with time running out it looks to be a battle for second place. Ohio State remains second, while Iowa jumped six spots to grab the third spot thanks to blowout wins over Michigan and Maryland. Purdue, Michigan State, and Michigan each tumbled four spots, going a combined 1-4 last week.

Previous: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 6

1. Wisconsin (21-2, 9-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Indiana 92-78, Beat Northwestern 65-50 This Week: Tue at Nebraska, Sun vs Illinois

Since their slip up against 13th-place Rutgers on Jan. 11, Bo Ryan’s Badgers have won six straight games and put a choke hold on the conference. Wisconsin is three games ahead of the pack and will coast to the regular-season title.

2. Ohio State (18-6, 7-4) – Even
Last Week: Lost at Purdue 58-60, Beat Rutgers 79-60 This Week: Wed vs Penn State, Sat at Michigan State

A two-point loss in West Lafayette snapped Ohio State’s modest three-game winning streak Wednesday, but the Buckeyes bounced back with a blowout win against Rutgers to climb into a second-place tie behind Wisconsin.

3. Iowa (15-8, 6-4) – Up 6
Last Week: Beat Michigan 72-54, Beat #17 Maryland 71-55 This Week: Thu vs Minn, Sun at Northwestern

Iowa made a strong statement this week after dropping three straight games in Big Ten play. The Hawkeyes dominated Michigan in Ann Arbor and roughed up 2nd-place Maryland to get back on track.

4. Maryland (19-5, 7-4) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Penn State 64-58, Lost to Iowa 55-71 This Week: Wed vs Indiana, Sat at Penn State

Mark Turgeon is learning that road wins don’t come easily in the Big Ten, as Maryland was blown out for a third straight time away from home Sunday. The Terps are 2-3 in their last five games and are showing signs of wearing down in their first Big Ten season.

5. Illinois (16-8, 6-5) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 66-54, Beat MSU 59-54 This Week: Thu vs Michigan, Sun at #5 Wisconsin

Just when Illinois looked like it would never get over the .500 mark, three straight wins have brought the Illini back to the pack in the Big Ten. A win against Michigan this week would match Illinois’ conference win total from last season.

6. Purdue (15-9, 7-4) – Down 4
Last Week: Beat #20 Ohio State 60-58, Lost to Minn. 58-62 This Week: Thu at Rutgers, Sun vs Nebraska

Purdue knocked off three ranked opponents during their four-game winning streak, but fell to Minnesota in the Barn Saturday. With three of their next four games coming against Rutgers and Nebraska, Matt Painter’s team has a real shot to hang around in the battle for second place in the conference.

7. Indiana (17-7, 7-4) – Even
Last Week: Lost at #5 Wisconsin 78-92, Beat Michigan 70-67 This Week: Wed at #19 Maryland, Sun vs Minn.

The last two weeks have been rocky for Indiana after a strong start to the conference season. But the Hoosiers did hold on for a home win over Michigan Sunday to move into a 2nd place tie in the Big Ten.

8. Michigan State (15-8, 6-4) – Down 4
Last Week: Lost to Illinois 54-59 This Week: Tue at Northwestern, Sat vs #23 Ohio State

MSU picked up another puzzling home loss Saturday when the suspension-riddled Fighting Illini won in Breslin for the second straight season. Win its best win coming at Iowa and a couple of ugly losses on the resume, the Spartans are battling for an 18th straight NCAA Tournament bid.

9. Michigan (13-11, 6-6) – Down 4
Last Week: Lost to Iowa 54-72, Lost at Indiana 67-70 This Week: Thu at Illinois

February has been an unkind month for Michigan, which is playing without its two best players in Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton, Jr. Iowa blew out the Wolverines in the Crisler Center Thursday, and a late comeback fell a few inches short in Bloomington Saturday. Michigan will carry its three-game losing streak into Illinois Thursday.

10. Minnesota (15-9, 4-7) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Purdue 52-68 This Week: Thu at Iowa, Sun at Indiana

Minnesota is trending sharply upwards after an embarrassing 0-5 start to the Big Ten season. Now, with three wins in their last four games, the Golden Gophers are clawing their way out of the conference cellar.

11. Penn State (15-9, 3-8) – Up 2
Last Week: Lost at #17 Maryland 58-64, Beat Neb. 56-43 This Week: Wed at #23 OSU, Sat vs #19 Maryland

After losing two straight road games in the 40th minute, Penn State finally closed out a game, beating Nebraska by 13. The Nittany Lions have had a chance to win their last 10 games, and their 3-2 record since Jan. 24 means they’re learning how to close.

12. Nebraska (13-10, 5-6) – Down 2
Last Week: Beat Northwestern 76-60, Lost to PSU 43-56 This Week: Tue vs #5 Wisconsin, Sun at Purdue

A home win over last-place Northwestern was the only bright spot for Nebraska last week, as it lost in blowout fashion once again, this time at the hands of Penn State. The Cornhuskers’ offense, which was so dynamic late last season, has been held under 45 points in three of its last four games.

13. Northwestern (10-13, 1-9) – Down 2
Last Week: Lost at Nebraska 60-76, Lost at #5 Wisconsin 50-65 This Week: Tue vs MSU, Sun vs Iowa

The race for 13th place in the Big Ten in basically a toss-up, but we’ll go with the slight underdog this week. Though the Wildcats’ nine-game losing streak is one longer than Rutgers’, Chris Collins has brought his team within two points of a win three times during the streak. With four of their next five games coming at home, Northwestern has a chance to play spoiler in February.

14. Rutgers (10-15, 2-10) – Even
Last Week: Lost at Illinois 54-66, Lost to #20 Ohio State 60-79 This Week: Thu vs Purdue

Rutgers will celebrate its one-month anniversary of beating Wisconsin on Wednesday, but unfortunately the Scarlett Knights haven’t won a game since. Rutgers was blown out by 19 points on Sunday, and the final six games of the season will likely yield a similar result.

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Week 6

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

Power Rankings_header
Wisconsin is on top for the first time since Week 2, but Ohio State has shot up the rankings to the number two spot after dominating Maryland last week. Purdue had the biggest rise, moving from eighth to third, while Iowa took the biggest plunge, dropping from second to ninth. The bottom four remained the same, but just flipped spots. Here are this week’s rankings:

Previous: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4

1. Wisconsin (19-2, 7-1) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat Iowa 74-63 This Week: Tue vs Indiana, Sat vs Northwestern

A four-game winning streak, including two wins (and one 32-point thrashing) over Iowa has put Wisconsin firmly back on top of the Big Ten standings after a shocking loss to Rutgers. The Badgers are now two losses ahead of the pack and will likely cruise to a regular season conference title.

2. Ohio State (17-5, 6-3) – Up 4
Last Week: Beat #16 Maryland 80-56 This Week: Wed at Purdue, Sun at Rutgers

Don’t look now, but Ohio State is hitting its stride. The Buckeyes are on a mini three-game winning streak, including back-to-back home wins over No. 23 Indiana and No. 16 Maryland. OSU waxed the two ranked foes by a combined 36 points to climb into a second-place tie below Wisconsin.

3. Purdue (14-8, 6-3) – Up 5
Last Week: Beat #22 Indiana 83-67, Beat Northwestern 68-60 This Week: Wed vs #20 OSU, Sat at Minn.

At the midway point of the conference schedule, the greatest surprise in the Big Ten is clearly Matt Painter’s Boilermakers. With upset wins over Indiana and Iowa at home and a road victory in Evanston, Purdue is tied for second place.

4. Michigan State (15-7, 6-3) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 71-51, Beat Michigan 76-66 OT This Week: Sat vs Illinois

Michigan State’s offense is among the ugliest to watch in the entire conference, but the Spartans pieced together a couple of wins last week to improve to 6-3 in the Big Ten. MSU hasn’t won a home game by double digits in regulation since Jan. 5 against Indiana.

5. Michigan (13-9, 6-3) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 58-44, Lost to MSU 66-76 OT This Week: Thu vs Iowa, Sun at Indiana

The Wolverines came within one hideous overtime performance of landing in the No. 2 spot on this list. Without its two best players, Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton, Jr., Michigan crushed Nebraska by 14 and took Michigan State to overtime in East Lansing. If John Beilein’s team had scored one more point in regulation against Wisconsin and MSU, it’d be alone atop the Big Ten at 8-2.

6. Maryland (18-4, 6-3) – Down 5
Last Week: Lost to Ohio State 56-80 This Week: Wed vs Penn State, Sun at Iowa

Maryland’s rise through the national rankings hasn’t officially ended, but it did seem to stall last week after two blowout losses on the road. Mark Turgeon’s team fell by 19 in Assembly Hall and 24 at Value City Arena on either side of a one-point home win over Northwestern.

7. Indiana (16-6, 6-3) – Down 4
Last Week: Lost to Purdue 67-83, Beat Rutgers 72-64 This Week: Tue at #5 Wisconsin, Sun vs Michigan

Indiana limped through the end of January after racing out to a 5-1 start in Big Ten play. A two-game losing streak came to an end against Rutgers, but the lowly Scarlett Knights nearly knocked off the Hoosiers at home. The road doesn’t get an easier as an upcoming home date against Michigan is sandwiched between trips to Wisconsin and Nebraska.

8. Illinois (14-8, 4-5) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Penn State 60-58 This Week: Tue vs Rutgers, Sat at Michigan State

Illinois did just enough to stay afloat during the first half of the conference season, alternating losses and wins in its last eight games after dropping the opener in Ann Arbor. Four of the five Illini losses have come by 10 points or less.

9. Iowa (13-8, 4-4) – Down 7
Last Week: Lost to #5 Wisconsin 63-74 This Week: Thu at Michigan, Sun vs #17 Maryland

Remember last season when the Hawkeyes fell from the top 10 to the bubble during the final weeks of the season? A three-game losing streak lands Iowa on the brink of another collapse, but an injury to Aaron White and a tough schedule shoulder much of the blame. With a trip to Ann Arbor and two home games on the horizon, the Hawkeyes have a chance to halt the slide this week.

10. Nebraska (12-9, 4-5) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Michigan 44-58, Lost to Minnesota 42-60 This Week: Tue vs Northwestern, Sat at PSU

Is it possible to be both a fan of Big Ten basketball fan and not disappointed with Nebraska’s first 21 games? Tim Miles’ team got waxed by Michigan’s bench squad Tuesday before losing by 18 to 3-7 Minnesota.

11. Northwestern (10-11, 1-7) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to Purdue 60-68 This Week: Tue at Nebraska, Sat at #5 Wisconsin

As the last-place team in the Big Ten, Northwestern looks much closer to competing than the rest of the conference bottom feeders. The Wildcats have lost each of their last six games by single digits, including an overtime loss in East Lansing. If Chris Collins can teach his team to close, Northwestern will play spoiler down the stretch.

12. Minnesota (14-9, 3-7) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Penn State 58-63, Beat Nebraska 60-42 This Week: Sat vs Purdue

Richard Pitino’s team is slowly gaining a pulse after starting Big Ten play 0-5. Minnesota is 3-2 in their last five games with two losses by a combined eight points.

13. Penn State (14-8, 2-7) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 63-58, Lost to Illinois 58-60 This Week: Wed at #17 Maryland, Sat vs Nebraska

Penn State came within one bucket of notching a three-game winning streak Saturday, but fell 60-58 in Illinois. Like Northwestern, Penn State has struggled to finish close games, losing six conference games by single digits.

14. Rutgers (10-13, 2-8) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to MSU 51-71, Lost to #22 Indiana 64-72 This Week: Tue at Illinois, Sun vs #20 Ohio State

Rutgers’ struggles since knocking off Wisconsin on Jan. 11 continued Saturday as it dropped a sixth straight game.The Scarlett Knights have been one of the few uncompetitive teams in the Big Ten, losing by 18, 20 and eight in their last three games.

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Week 4

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Power Rankings_header
Conference newcomer Maryland has taken over the top spot in the rankings this week for the first time, supplanting Michigan State thanks to a 75-59 win over the Spartans. Iowa shot up four spots to the second spot, while Michigan, Illinois, Northwestern, and Penn State all held steady. This week, we get several top 25 matchups, beginning on Tuesday when 25th-ranked Iowa visits 6th-ranked Wisconsin and then on Thursday when 13th-ranked Maryland visits 23rd-ranked Indiana.

Previous: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3

1. Maryland (17-2, 5-1) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 73-65, Beat MSU 75-59 This Week: Thu at #23 Indiana, Sun vs Northwestern

Nobody saw this coming, but Maryland has taken Big Ten basketball by storm in 2015. The Terrapins just completed a season sweep of perennial power Michigan State and sit alone atop the conference standings.

2. Iowa (13-5, 4-1) – Up 4
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 77-75, Beat Ohio State 76-67 This Week: Tue at #6 Wisconsin, Sat at Purdue

Iowa delivered another punch in the gut to the Ohio State Buckeyes Saturday, riding a nine-point win to a season sweep of Thad Matta’s team. Iowa could really gain the early inside track with a win in Madison on Tuesday night.

3. Indiana (14-4, 4-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Penn State 76-73, Beat Illinois 80-74 This Week: Thu vs #13 Maryland, Sun at Ohio State

Tom Crean’s Hoosiers are slowly putting together a solid resume after another 2-0 week moved them to within a half-game of the Big Ten lead. Nationally, Indiana climbed into the top 25 for the first time this season with No. 13 Maryland coming to town Thursday.

4. Wisconsin (16-2, 4-1) – Down 2
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 70-55 This Week: Tue vs #25 Iowa, Sat at Michigan

Wisconsin rebounded nicely from an unthinkable loss to Rutgers last Sunday by waxing Nebraska 70-55 at home. Now the Badgers face a meeting with Michigan in Ann Arbor sandwiched between two games against Iowa to end the month.

5. Michigan State (12-6, 3-2) – Down 4
Last Week: Lost to #14 Maryland 59-75 This Week: Wed vs Penn State, Sat at Nebraska

The Big Ten has little to hang its hat on after the top four teams, as the rest of the conference has struggled to show any signs of stability through the first third of the schedule. Michigan State is a perfect example of that, having lost five of their six games against quality opponents, with one good win in Iowa City.

6. Ohio State (14-5, 3-3) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Michigan 71-52, Lost to Iowa 67-76 This Week: Thu at Northwestern, Sun vs #23 Indiana

Perhaps the only team with fewer quality wins than MSU is the Buckeyes, who’ve lost all five games against teams with a pulse. They’ll get another shot Sunday against a solid Indiana squad that beat OSU on Jan. 10.

7. Michigan (11-7, 4-2) – Even
Last Week: Lost to OSU 52-71, Beat Northwestern 56-54 This Week: Tue at Rutgers, Sat vs #6 Wisconsin

After being manhandled in Columbus on Jan. 13, Michigan returned home and eked out a last-second win over Northwestern Saturday. But the cost of the victory was steep as Caris LeVert, the team’s leader in scoring, rebounding, assisting, stealing, and blocking, went down for the season due to a foot injury suffered on the final defensive play.

8. Purdue (11-7, 3-2) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat Penn State 84-77 OT This Week: Wed at Illinois, Sat vs #25 Iowa

Purdue is staying afloat early in the conference season after pulling out a miracle overtime win in Happy Valley over the weekend. Now the road gets much tougher for the Boilermakers as they travel to Illinois before hosting nationally ranked Iowa and Indiana.

9. Nebraska (10-7, 2-3) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #7 Wisconsin 55-70 This Week: Tue vs Minnesota, Sat vs Michigan State

Nebraska’s modest two-game winning streak came to screeching halt in Madison as the Badgers manhandled Tim Miles’ team by 15 points. The Cornhuskers will need a scorching finish reminiscent of last year’s stretch run to return to the NCAA Tournament in 2015.

10. Illinois (12-7, 2-4) – Even
Last Week: Beat Northwestern 72-67, Lost to Indiana 74-80 This Week: Wed vs Purdue, Sat at Minnesota

A 2-4 Big Ten record doesn’t tell the whole story for Illinois, which has lost by 10 or less three times in six games. John Groce’s team is facing another disappointing conference season if it can’t find a way to win some of those toss-up contests.

11. Minnesota (12-7, 1-5) – Up 4
Last Week: Lost to Iowa 75-77, Beat Rutgers 89-80 This Week: Tue at Nebraska, Sat vs Illinois

After losing four of their first five conference games by a combined 13 points (and the other by 12 in Maryland), Minnesota finally got on the right side of a Big Ten matchup Saturday against Rutgers. Now five straight winnable games offer Richard Pitino’s team a chance to get back in the race.

12. Northwestern (10-8, 1-4) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Illinois 67-72, Lost to Michigan 54-56 This Week: Thu vs OSU, Sun at #13 Maryland

Last week was a heartbreaking one for Northwestern, as it dropped three straight games by single digits. The Wildcats had a chance to beat Michigan State in East Lansing before being blown out in overtime, then fell at home 72-67 to Illinois, and finally missed a wide open layup that would have forced OT in Ann Arbor. Next up: Ohio State and Maryland.

13. Rutgers (10-9, 2-4) – Down 4
Last Week: Lost to #14 Maryland 65-73, Lost to Min 80-89 This Week: Tue vs Michigan, Sat at Penn State

New Brunswick, New Jersey is still buzzing about last weekend’s upset win over Wisconsin. But in the meantime, the Scarlett Knights have dropped two straight Big Ten games. Rutgers will look to get back on track at home against Michigan on Tuesday evening.

14. Penn State (12-6, 0-5) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Indiana 73-76, Lost to Purdue 77-84 OT This Week: Wed at MSU, Sat vs Rutgers

After gifting away a win to Purdue Saturday, Penn State remained the only winless team in Big Ten play. The Nittany Lions failed to rebound a free throw with seconds remaining and allowed a game-tying long ball at the buzzer. Remember Penn State’s 12-1 nonconference start? Neither do they.

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Week 3

Monday, January 12th, 2015

Power Rankings_header
Conference play is now two weeks in and there were plenty of moves up and down the rankings. Wisconsin finally relinquished the top spot as Michigan State shot up nine spots with a three-win week. Michigan joined their rivals as the only teams not to lose a game last week. The rest of the top five slid down one spot. Purdue, Northwestern, Penn State, and Minnesota each fell five spots and make up the bottom four as we head into Week 3.

Previous: Week 1, Week 2

1. Michigan State (12-5, 3-1) – Up 9
Last Week: Beat IU 70-50, Beat Iowa 75-61, Beat Northwestern 84-77 OT This Week: Sat at #14 Maryland

After a surprising home loss to start the conference season, Michigan State has bounced back with three straight wins to jump to the top of the standings. It hasn’t been pretty, as the Spartans have trailed for much of those three games, but Tom Izzo’s team is making strides.

2. Wisconsin (15-2, 3-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Purdue 62-55, Lost to Rutgers 62-67 This Week: Thu vs Nebraska

Wisconsin’s eight-game winning streak came to a shocking end Sunday, when Rutgers pulled the massive upset at home to hand the Badgers their first Big Ten loss of the year.

3. Maryland (15-2, 3-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Illinois 57-64, Beat Purdue 69-60 This Week: Wed vs Rutgers, Sat vs Michigan State

The Big Ten season got off to a great start for Maryland with wins over MSU and Minnesota. A loss to Illinois brought the highly-ranked Terrapins back down to earth, but they bounced back Saturday with a win in Purdue.

4. Indiana (12-4, 2-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to Michigan State 50-70, Beat #22 OSU 69-66 This Week: Tue vs PSU, Sun at Illinois

Tom Crean’s team took a double-digit lead into halftime at the Breslin Center on Jan. 5 before falling apart in the second half and dropping its first conference game by 20 points. Then the Hoosiers bounced back in a big way, beating the Buckeyes at home Saturday.

5. Ohio State (13-4, 2-2) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 74-72 2OT, Lost to Indiana 66-69 This Week: Tue vs Michigan, Sat at Iowa

If there’s one team in the Big Ten that needs to prove itself, it’s the Ohio State Buckeyes. Thad Matta’s team has played just four games against teams with winning records in power-five conferences, and the Buckeyes are 0-4 in those games.

6. Iowa (11-5, 2-1) – Down 3
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 70-59, Lost to MSU 61-75 This Week: Tue at Minnesota, Sat vs Ohio State

Iowa kicked off the Big Ten season with big wins in Columbus and against Nebraska, but got trounced at home in the second half against Michigan State. The slate doesn’t get any easier for the Hawkeyes as Minnesota, Ohio State and Wisconsin are up next.

7. Michigan (10-6, 3-1) – Up 4
Last Week: Beat Penn State 73-64, Beat Minnesota 62-57 This Week: Tue at Ohio State, Sat vs Northwestern

The defending Big Ten champs haven’t played the toughest conference schedule through two weeks, but the Wolverines have gutted out three wins and boast a share of the top spot at 3-1.

8. Nebraska (10-6, 2-2) – Up 6
Last Week: Lost to Iowa 59-70, Beat Rutgers 65-49, Beat Illinois 53-43 This Week: Thu at #7 Wisconsin

Nebraska was one of the best stories in college basketball last season after overcoming an 11-10 start to finish 19-12 and earn an NCAA Tournament bid. At 8-6, the Cornhuskers needed to turn on the gas to make another push in 2015, and two straight wins have them on the right track. A trip to Wisconsin is up next.

9. Rutgers (10-7, 2-2) – Up 3
Last Week: Lost to Nebraska 49-65, Beat #4 Wisconsin 67-62 This Week: Wed at #14 Maryland, Sat at Min

Just four games into its first season in the Big Ten, Rutgers has already knocked off the conference’s best team and potential Final Four candidate Wisconsin. The Scarlett Knights are off to a nice 2-2 start heading into another tough stretch of games.

10. Illinois (9-5, 0-1) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat #11 Maryland 64-57, Lost to Nebraska 43-53 This Week: Wed at Northwestern, Sun vs IU

A disappointing 1-3 start for Illinois’ Big Ten season is largely due to a brutal road schedule through the first two weeks. Illinois has lost in Ann Arbor, Columbus and Lincoln, three of the toughest places to play in the country. In its only home game, Illinois knocked off No. 11 Maryland 64-57

11. Purdue (10-7, 2-2) – Down 5
Last Week: Lost to #4 Wisconsin 55-62, Lost to #11 Maryland 60-69 This Week: Sat at Penn State

Purdue has dropped two straight games, but Matt Painter has to be pleased with the team’s effort early in the conference season. Home wins against Minnesota and Michigan precluded single-digit losses to No. 4 Wisconsin and No. 11 Maryland to land Purdue at 2-2.

12. Northwestern (10-6, 1-2) – Down 5
Last Week: Lost to Michigan State 77-84 OT This Week: Wed vs Illinois, Saturday at Michigan

After a week off to prepare for the Spartans in East Lansing, Northwestern pushed MSU into overtime but ran out of gas to fall short of a major upset. The Wildcats aren’t one of the stronger teams in the Big Ten, but Chris Collins clearly has them trending in the right direction.

13. Penn State (12-4, 0-3) – Down 5
Last Week: Lost to Michigan 64-73 This Week: Tue at Indiana, Sat vs Purdue

Penn State basketball was picking up steam for the first time in years after a 12-1 nonconference season. But a blowout loss to Wisconsin and two close shaves with Rutgers and Michigan have dropped the Nittany Lions to 0-3.

14. Minnesota (11-6, 0-4) – Down 5
Last Week: Lost to #22 OSU 72-74 2OT, Lost to Michigan 57-62 This Week: Tue vs Iowa, Sat vs Rutgers

A weak resume of wins in the nonconference season has been exposed during the first two weeks of Minnesota’s Big Ten schedule. The Gophers are struggling to finish games and have fallen into last place at 0-4.

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Week 2

Monday, January 5th, 2015

Power Rankings_header
A week into Big Ten play and each team has played at least one conference game. The top two teams stayed the same while everyone else shuffled up and down. Iowa and Purdue were the biggest risers while Illinois took the biggest plunge.

Previous: Week 1

1. Wisconsin (14-1, 2-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Penn State 89-72, Beat Northwestern 81-58 This Week: Wed vs Purdue, Sun at Rutgers

Wisconsin kicked off the conference season with a couple of blowout wins, smashing Penn State by 17 and Northwestern by 23. The Badgers will carry their seven-game winning streak into very winnable pair of games this week.

2. Maryland (14-1, 2-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat MSU 68-66 2OT, Beat Minnesota 70-58 This Week: Wed at Illinois, Sat at Purdue

Maryland’s resume is incredibly similar to that of Wisconsin, as the Terps have only lost their ACC/Big Ten Challenge game to a top-three opponent. Maryland picked up a huge win in their first Big Ten matchup, knocking off the Spartans in East Lansing.

3. Iowa (10-4, 1-0) – Up 5
Last Week: Beat #20 Ohio State 71-65 This Week: Mon vs Nebraska, Thurs vs Michigan State

The Big Ten season got off to a great start for Iowa, which went into Columbus and knocked off the No. 20 Buckeyes. The Hawkeyes are facing a gauntlet of a schedule over their next five games.

4. Ohio State (12-3, 1-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to Iowa 65-71, Beat Illinois 77-61 This Week: Tue at Minnesota, Sat at Indiana

Thad Matta’s team quickly recovered from a stunning home loss to start the conference season by thrashing Illinois 77-61 Saturday. Now Ohio State hits the road for matchups with Minnesota and Indiana.

5. Indiana (11-3, 1-0) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 70-65 This Week: Mon at Michigan State, Sat vs #22 Ohio State

An overtime loss to Georgetown soured the end of Indiana’s non-conference season, but they bounced back to beat Nebraska on the road in their Big Ten opener, something only the conference-champion Wolverines did all of last season.

6. Purdue (10-5, 2-0) – Up 6
Last Week: Beat Minn 72-68, Beat Michigan 64-51 This Week: Wed at #4 Wisconsin, Sat vs #11 Maryland

The most surprising team through one week of Big Ten games might be the Boilermakers, who beat two teams that figured to be among the league’s leaders at the beginning of the year. If Purdue wins in Wisconsin Wednesday, that’ll turn some heads.

7. Northwestern (10-5 1-1) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 51-47, Lost to #4 Wisconsin 58-81 This Week: Sunday at Michigan State

The Wildcats were on a roll to finish out the non-conference season before hitting a brick wall at home against Wisconsin. Chris Collins might feel the wrath of an alarmingly easy schedule now that Big Ten play has started.

8. Penn State (12-3, 0-2) – Down 5
Last Week: Lost to #4 Wisconsin 72-89, Lost to Rutgers 46-50 This Week: Tue vs Michigan

Penn State was expected to lose its Big Ten opener to Wisconsin, but when it dropped Saturday’s showdown with Rutgers, the 12-1 non-conference record started to look a little fluky.

9. Minnesota (11-4, 0-2) – Down 2
Last Week: Lost to Purdue 68-72, Lost to #12 MD 58-70 This Week: Tue vs #22 OSU, Sat at Michigan

Richard Pitino’s team has only played three tough games, and Minnesota lost all three of them by at least nine points. The Gophers will carry an 0-2 conference record into a matchup with Ohio State.

10. Michigan State (9-5, 0-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #12 Maryland 66-68 2OT This Week: Mon vs Indiana, Thu at Iowa, Sun vs NW

After righting the ship against The Citadel following an unthinkable loss to Texas Southern, Michigan State dropped its Big Ten opener at home to newcomer Maryland.

11. Michigan (8-6, 1-1) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat Illinois 73-65 OT, Lost to Purdue 51-64 This Week: Tue at Penn State, Sat vs Minnesota

It looked like Michigan might start to turn its season around with a win over Illinois in the Big Ten opener, but a horrific offensive display in the second half against Purdue has dropped Michigan near the bottom of the league in contention status.

12. Rutgers (9-6, 1-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to NW 47-51, Beat PSU 50-46 This Week: Thu at Nebraska, Sun vs #4 Wisconsin

Rutgers has struggled to put together a consistent stretch all season, never winning more than two games in a row. The trend continued in the conference opener, when the Scarlet Knights fell at home to Northwestern.

13. Illinois (10-5, 0-2) – Down 7
Last Week: Lost to Mich 65-73 OT, Lost to #20 OSU 61-77 This Week: Wed vs #11 Maryland, Sun at Neb

No, this week’s Illinois games were not re-runs. For the third straight season, Jon Groce’s team put together a strong non-conference season, only to drop the ball at the beginning of Big Ten play.

14. Nebraska (8-5, 0-1) – Down 3
Last Week: Lost to Indiana 65-70 This Week: Thu vs Rutgers, Sun vs Illinois

Nebraska may be the only team more disappointing than Michigan in the Big Ten. The Cornhuskers have no great wins and three ugly losses with a loaded conference slate on tap.