Penn State’s ascension has more to do with Ohio State’s big-time stumble in Week 2, yet James Franklin and his staff showcased a new weapon in Happy Valley: the defense. It’s clear that the Nittany Lions have one of the best defensive units in the conference, and probably one that was slept on while the rest of us drooled over the defensive units in Columbus, Ann Arbor, Madison, and so on. Say hello to your new Big Ten king of the hill, folks.
Week 2: Win vs. Pitt (33–14)
Week 3: vs. Georgia State
Despite a convincing box score, the Wolverines gave their fan base a bit of a letdown in Week 2. Their youth, while wildly talented, showcased that they are still capable of inconsistent play. Much like Penn State, Jim Harbaugh’s squad jumps up to No. 2 this week due to a poor showing by the team right below it on this list.
Week 1: Win vs. Cincinatti (36–14)
Week 2: vs. Air Force
We’ve all seen it by now—Baker Mayfield stabbing a massive Oklahoma Sooners flag at midfield, in the middle of the Ohio State ‘O’ after the Buckeyes got thoroughly worked in the second half of Week 2. The question is, will that act be a metaphor for the Buckeyes’ 2017 season? J.T. Barrett still can’t throw the ball downfield, and it’s holding Ohio State back from being elite. The defense and the running game can only do so much in Columbus—Urban Meyer needs to work his magic in haste.
Week 1: Loss vs. No. 5 Oklahoma (31–16)
Week 2: vs. Army
If you looked at the final score of the Badgers’ first two victories of the year, you might wonder why they didn’t jump the Buckeyes after their loss in Week 2. Yet there are inconsistencies and mistakes through two games that are clearly holding Wisconsin back, and will derail the Badgers if they make similar errors against better competition. Penalties, turnovers, and defensive breakdowns have all been seen on both sides of the ball. While there have been negatives in their 2–0 start, the Badgers have proved they have a ceiling that legitimizes the hype around this team. Jonathan Taylor has been fast-tracked as next in line as the next great Badger running back, the passing game looks poised to produce results that surpass anything from the post-Russell Wilson era to date, and the defense is littered with playmakers. Even though BYU hasn’t looked fabulous through three games, this will be an incredibly telling game for Wisconsin.
Week 1: Win vs. FAU (31–14)
Week 2: vs. BYU
The Hawkeyes erased a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit to pull out an overtime victory over their in-state rival, but more importantly, they saved themselves from dropping on this list and out of national conversation. Nate Stanley continues to look pretty darn good through two weeks, yet giving up 41 points to Iowa State is a letdown.
Week 1: Win vs. Iowa State (44–41)
Week 2: vs. North Texas
The competition was negligible in Week 2 for the Terrapins, yet the Maryland rushing attack has been nothing short of dynamic thus far in 2017. Week 3 could be a bit of trap game for D.J. Durkin and company, as Week 4 could be a big one as they head to Minnesota for the Big Ten opener.
Week 1: Win vs. Towson (63–17)
Week 2: vs. UCF
Two games against MAC opponents means two wins through two games for the Spartans. That’s not saying a whole lot, but the Michigan State defense has been stout in each victory. For a program that has been suddenly jolted out of the national scene, Week 3’s home game against Notre Dame is truly massive for the Spartans. Brian Lewerke will need to make plays in order for Michigan State to knock off the Irish, which would be a huge step back toward Big Ten East relevancy.
Week 1: Win vs. Western Michigan (28–14)
Week 2: vs. Notre Dame
The Gophers blasted Gary Andersen’s Oregon State Beavers, probably the worst Power Five team in the country. Minnesota’s two-spot jump on this list has more to do with a disappointing week for the two Big Ten West teams below it on this list, but the Gophers are 2–0 with a strong rushing attack.
Week 1: Win at Oregon State (48–14)
Week 2: vs. Middle Tennessee State
The Huskers lost a big road game against a big opponent in Week 2, and yet no one is surprised. Coming up short has begun to define Nebraska, but the Huskers still have time to turn things around in 2017. Their defense is talented but has given up a lot of points through two games.
Week 1: Loss at Oregon (42–35)
Week 2: vs. Northern Illinois
10. Indiana Hoosiers
The Hoosiers are a talented football club, as they lost their top QB, Richard Lagow, and proceeded full steam ahead in Week 2 led by their backup, Peyton Ramsey. Maybe a shake-up is exactly what Indiana needed; they have two warm-up games to sort things out until they head to Penn State for a massive Week 5 match-up.
Week 1: Win at Virginia (34-17)
Week 2: vs. FIU
In the biggest surprise of the 2017 season, Pat Fitzgerald and his Wildcats appear completely overrated despite returning a bunch of talent. Northwestern was absolutely rocked by Duke in Week 2 and has a brutal Big Ten schedule inching closer. The Wildcats are frontrunners to be this season’s biggest disappointment through two weeks.
Week 1: Loss at Duke (41-17)
Week 2: vs. Bowling Green
Purdue continues to look much improved after its dismal 2016. Week 3 will be telling as the Boilermakers head to Missouri for the least-talked about Big Ten vs. SEC matchup, well, ever?
Week 1: Win vs. Ohio (44–21)
Week 2: at Missouri
Lovie Smith’s Illini looked fine against Western Kentucky in Week 2. That’s enough to bump them ahead of Rutgers for now.
Week 1: Win vs. Western Kentucky (20–7)
Week 2: at No. 22 South Florida
This ain’t hard—Rutgers lost to Eastern Michigan in Week 2.
Week 1: Loss vs. Eastern Michigan (24–21)
Week 2: vs. Morgan State