1. Ohio State Buckeyes
It took the Buckeyes a half to put it all together in their opener against the Hoosiers, but once they did, the results were impressive. Ohio State’s defense appears tenacious and the offense proved it has a plethora of weapons capable of the big play. J.T. Barrett still looked a bit inconsistent with the deep ball, yet there were also signs of progress. The Buckeyes stay atop the Big Ten with a massive home game against Oklahoma looming in Week 2.
Week 1: Win at Indiana (49–21)
Week 2: vs. No. 5 Oklahoma
2. Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State’s offense, led expectedly by Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley, absolutely steamrolled an overmatched Akron defense. The Nittany Lions’ defense experienced similar success, accomplishing the always impressive shutout. Still, it’s tough to move Penn State up from the on-deck circle due to the strength of their initial opponent. We’ll learn more when Pitt comes to town in week 2.
Week 1: Win vs. Akron (52–0)
Week 2: vs. Pitt
3. Michigan Wolverines
It wasn’t always pretty (see: back-to-back pick-sixes tossed by Wilton Speight), yet the Wolverines nabbed a nice win against a blue-blood SEC program in Florida. Sure, many Florida players were suspended, but the Gators still trotted out a darn athletic team on Saturday. Michigan’s elite defense allowed them to pull out the win in Week 1, and it should keep them near the top of the Big Ten for the foreseeable future.
Week 1: Win vs. No. 22 Florida (33–17)
Week 2: vs. Cincinnati
4. Wisconsin Badgers
Paul Chryst has been known for his consistency during his first two years as head coach at Wisconsin, yet the Badgers appeared unready, specifically on offense, for the first half against an inferior Utah State team. Bucky supporters let out a sigh of relief when a massive shift in focus and execution in the second half led to a dominating performance from the Badgers, which will keep expectations aggressively high in Madison. Wisconsin holds steady directly behind Michigan due to having a saturation of playmakers on offense, and a defense that can stand up to any team. Keep an eye on the talented Badger secondary moving forward; they shut down the Utah State receiving corps in Week 1, so expect similar results moving forward.
Week 1: Win vs. Utah State (59–10)
Week 2: vs. Florida Atlantic
5. Iowa Hawkeyes
Iowa’s relatively easy win against Wyoming propels them upward on this list, as the Cowboys were expected to be a formidable opponent. The Hawkeyes dominated Wyoming by playing a traditional Kirk Ferentz brand of football to perfection. Nate Stanley, Iowa’s true freshmen quarterback and former Badger recruiting target, played solid in his debut. Iowa’s defense is stronger than many expected, yet Stanley’s readiness will be key toward the success or failure in 2017.
Week 1: Win vs. Wyoming (24–3)
Week 2: at Iowa State
6. Maryland Terrapins
The Terrapins make a massive jump in the Big Ten power complex after an inspired win at Texas on Saturday. The victory was bittersweet, however, as D.J. Durkin lost starting quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome for the season to injury. Still, Maryland’s rushing attack was legit and should be able to make them more than competitive in the Big Ten this season.
Week 1: Win at No. 23 Texas (51–41)
Week 2: vs. Towson
7. Michigan State Spartans
A convincing win against an overmatched MAC opponent isn’t worth much celebration in East Lansing, although it is a positive for a program that desperately needs positive momentum. Brian Lewerke played well at quarterback, and the Spartans sit in the middle of the Big Ten heading into Week 2.
Week 1: Win vs. Bowling Green (35–10)
Week 2: vs. Western Michigan
8. Northwestern Wildcats
If Northwestern wants to continue to be considered a legit contender for the Big Ten West crown, they have play better than they did in Week 1 when they trailed Nevada in the fourth quarter. If the Wildcats don’t take the next step soon, Iowa appears ready to take their spot as the top suitor ready to challenge Wisconsin out west.
Week 1: Win vs. Nevada (31–21)
Week 2: at Duke
9. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Similar to Northwestern, Nebraska struggled in Week 1 against a lowly opponent, thus continuing their reign as the Big Ten’s most confusing team. Sure, there were positives; Tanner Lee, the Huskers’ shiny new QB, has a big-time arm. Yet the defense disappointed in a big way. A huge road game at Oregon is on the horizon for Nebraska in Week 2; a win would move them up this list.
Week 1: Win vs. Arkansas State (43–36)
Week 2: at Oregon
10. Minnesota Golden Gophers
The Gopher hype train continued its noisy ascension after Minnesota beat Buffalo on Thursday evening. Yet the Gopher football product on display was anything but impressive. P.J. Fleck has himself a solid defense, but the lack of solid quarterback play is holding Minnesota back going into Week 2.
Week 1: Win vs. Buffalo (17–7)
Week 2: at Oregon State
11. Indiana Hoosiers
Tom Allen’s Hoosiers proved they could play with Ohio State during the first half on Thursday. They also proved to be the same hot-and-cold team they were last year. Indiana had a second-half meltdown but there is talent, especially within their receiving corps.
Week 1: Loss vs. Ohio State (49–21)
Week 2: at Virginia
12. Purdue Boilermakers
In what would have been a shocking upset, Purdue was unable to hold onto a second-half lead against Louisville. However, this is a much improved Boilermaker team compared to last season. Keep an eye on if the Boilers can keep the positives going into Week 2.
Week 1: Loss vs. Louisville (35–28)
Week 2: vs. Ohio
13. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Chris Ash and his Scarlet Knight played tough against a big-time Washington team, keeping it relatively close throughout. If you know Rutgers football, you know that’s a big-time start to the 2017 season.
Week 1: Loss vs. Washington (30–14)
Week 2: vs. Eastern Michigan
14. Illinois Fighting Illini
When evaluating the bottom of the Big Ten early in the season, you look for any improvements upon the year prior. Illinois fans saw less than any other Big Ten team in their Week 1 match-up, as they needed a last-second field goal block to sneak by Ball State. Yikes.
Week 1: Win vs. Ball State (24–21)
Week 2: vs. Western Kentucky