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Big Ten Power Rankings, Week 5: Michigan prevails, Iowa stunned during homecoming

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A look at the Big Ten pecking order as October heats up.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

1. Ohio State (4-0)

As many expected, Urban Meyer and company absolutely cruised past a rebuilding Rutgers team in a 58-0 rout that was over at halftime. Ohio State posses an offense that can execute with impressive balance: J.T. Barrett has directly accounted for 17 touchdowns, while OSU’s three leading running backs are all averaging more than seven yards per carry. Simply put, Ohio State has the best offense in the Big Ten.

Then there’s the Buckeyes’ ridiculously talented defense, which did not allow Rutgers to advance farther than Ohio State’s 38-yard line, an absolutely wild statistic. Ohio State plays host to a decently talented Indiana team in Week 6, but will the squad be looking toward a massive matchup at Wisconsin in Week 7? Even if there’s a wandering eye in Columbus, the Buckeyes are talented enough to come out 6-0.

Next Week: Indiana (Home)

Previous Ranking: 1

Bowl Projection: College Football Playoff

2. Michigan (5-0)

Michigan fans have much to be excited about in 2016, as the Wolverines gutted out a 14-7 win over a rugged Wisconsin unit. We knew Michigan’s strength was its defensive and offensive lines, and they proved it once again in their fifth win of the season. Jim Harbaugh’s offensive unit, propelled by a rock solid o-line, did just enough, and specifically gave Wilton Speight just enough time on a fourth-quarter deep ball that landed comfortably in the hands of wide receiver Amara Darboh for the game-clinching touchdown. Michigan’s tenacious defensive line held Corey Clement in check (17 carries, 68 yards), allowing the hyper-athletic Wolverine secondary to shine, picking off Alex Hornibrook three times.

This is a darn good Michigan team, led by one of the top defensive units’ in all of college football. The Wolverines will be favored in every matchup the rest of the season until their showdown at Ohio State, which begs the question: can Ann Arbor avoid upset until Nov. 26? I’d put money on it.

Up Next: Rutgers (Away)

Previous Ranking: 3

Bowl Projection: College Football Playoff

3. Wisconsin (4-1)

The Badgers fought valiantly, always keeping the game within arms reach, Jim Harbaugh and his Wolverines finally prevailed as All-World cornerback Jourdan Lewi, grabbed an Odell Beckham-like interception to seal Michigan’s victory. The Badger defense flourished despite the loss of its best player, Vince Biegel, against an impressive Michigan offense, standing toe-to-toe in all facets of the matchup. T.J. Watt is now a bonafide star-in-the-making after another ferocious performance off the edge, yet redshirt freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook digressed heavily against one of the top-five defenses in the country. Hornibrook tossed three interceptions while throwing for 88 yards and going 9-of-25, statistically one of the worst performances from a Badger QB in quite some time (it still doesn’t beat out Tanner McEvoy’s LSU performance, though).

Make no mistake—this one hurt for Badger nation, mainly because there were opportunities missed by the offense (see Hornibrook’s overthrow of a wide-open Jazz Peavy in the fourth quarter). Still, Wisconsin doesn’t fall all that far in this list because of its previous body of work, combined with a gritty performance on the road in defeat against an elite opponent. Paul Chryst and his team have earned a much needed bye week before facing No. 2 Ohio State back in Madison on Oct. 15.

Up Next: Bye

Previous Ranking: 2

Bowl Projection: Rose Bowl

4. Nebraska (5-0)

For the first time all season, Tommy Armstrong wasn’t the focal point of a Nebraska victory. Running back Terrell Newby carried the Huskers to a 31-16 win. Newby’s massive fourth quarter (113 yards and two touchdowns) bailed Nebraska out of a potentially disastrous loss at home to a below-average Illinois team. The Cornhuskers are 5-0, certainly a positive, but they haven’t looked overly impressive against middle-of-the-road competition on multiple occasions throughout the season. Nebraksa faces an interesting test at Indiana in Week 6; more will be expected as the season progresses.

Up Next: Indiana (Away)

Previous Ranking: 4

Bowl Projection: Capital One Bowl

5. Maryland (4-0)

Week 5 was an incredibly rough week for the middle of the Big Ten, except for Maryland. The Terrapins obliterated Purdue 50-7 at home in a contest that had been decided by halftime. The box score is quite telling for this one, as Maryland out-rushed the Boilermakers 400-10 (seriously). Next week at Penn State is very quietly one of the matchups to watch in Week 6, as a win would go a long way toward legitimizing D.J. Durkin and his Terrapins.

Up Next: Penn State (Away)

Previous Rank: 8

Bowl Projection: Outback Bowl

6. Penn State (3-2)

The Nittany Lions sneak into the sixth spot with a come-from-behind win against Minnesota, prevailing 29-26 on a glorious Saquon Barkley touchdown run in overtime. Trace McSorley’s stellar performance (335 yards passing, one passing TD, 73 yards rushing, one rushing TD) proved that Penn State can win while an opposing defense shuts down Barkley.

Up Next: Maryland (Home)

Previous Rank: 10

Bowl Projection: Holiday Bowl

7. Minnesota (3-1)

In its first true test of 2016, Minnesota started impressively only to stumble late, losing to Penn State 29-26 in disappointing fashion. The Gophers played strong defensively against star running back Saquon Barkley while running the ball exceedingly well with two running backs over the 100-yard mark. Still, Mitch Leidner threw a fourth-quarter interception in the end zone that, in a game this close, turned out to be a back-breaker.

Up Next: Iowa (Home)

Previous Rank: 5

Bowl Projection: New Era Pinstripe Bowl

8. Indiana (3-1)

Richard Lagow bounced back after a rough outing in Week 4 against Wake Forest, leading Indiana to a comeback victory on Saturday, stunning Michigan State in a 24-21 overtime victory. The Hoosiers didn’t let big plays by the Spartans phase them, always responding with a score until they pulled away with a game-winning kick in overtime. Things are trending up in Bloomington going into an away game in Columbus.

Up Next: No. 2 Ohio State

Previous Rank: 11

Bowl Projection: Foster Farms Bowl

9. Michigan State (2-2)

Things can’t get much worse in East Lansing, as the Spartans dropped their second game in a row, losing a heartbreaker at Indiana. This has to be a humbling loss for Mark Dantonio & co., as the Big Ten Championship Game now seems undoubtedly out of reach. Still, hard-earned pride is at stake for the Spartans moving forward, as they need to improve in the run game and throughout the defensive side of the ball.

Up Next: BYU (Home)

Previous Rank: 6

Bowl Projection: Quick Lane Bowl

10. Iowa (3-2)

Iowa notched its second loss of the season in what can only be described as a massive disappointment, dropping its homecoming game to a lowly Northwestern squad, 38-31. There’s a lot wrong with this Iowa team in its current state, but the late injury to star receiver Matt VandeBerg hurts most. An absolute must-win rivalry matchup with Minnesota awaits the Hawkeyes, otherwise the season is all but lost.

Up Next: Minnesota (Away)

Previous Rank: 7

Bowl Projection: Heart of Dallas Bowl

11. Northwestern (2-3)

Pat Fitzgerald and his Wildcats saved their season with a 38-31 win at Iowa. A rough four-game stretch awaits, yet this win has to feel good in Evanston after a cringe-worthy 1-3 start.

Up Next: Bye

Previous Rank: 13

Bowl Projection: NA

12. Rutgers (2-3)

Rutgers played a strong first quarter against the juggernaut that is Ohio State, and its strong outing against Iowa last week earns the Scarlet Knights minor points by snagging the No. 12 spot. Still, Rutgers was bulldozed in this one and gets Michigan at home next week. Yikes.

Up Next: No. 4 Michigan (Home)

Previous Rank: 12

Bowl Projection: NA

13. Illinois (1-3)

Lovie Smith and his Illini appeared to turn a corner on Saturday despite losing to Nebraska. Illinois only trailed the Huskers by one score deep into the fourth quarter, and overall played very well on the road against a ranked team.

Up Next: Purdue (Home)

Previous Rank: 14

Bowl Projection: NA

14. Purdue (2-3)

The Boilermarkers lost in embarrassing fashion to Maryland, appearing absolutely helpless. Darrell Hazel needs competitive play more than he needs wins, which isn’t a good sign.

Up Next: Illinois (Road)

Previous Rank: 9

Bowl Projection: NA