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Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 6 Recap

Michigan edges out Iowa, Northwestern loses a heartbreaker, and Purdue’s disappointing season continues.

Find Week 3’s rankings here.

1. (1) Ohio State (6-0), W - 34-10 vs. No. 25 Michigan St., Next Week: BYE

The Buckeyes were tested for the first time this season, but eventually pulled away from the Spartans in their 34-10 home win. Quarterback Justin Fields threw his first interception of the season and lost a fumble, but completed two big touchdown throws to extend Ohio State’s lead. Running back J.K. Dobbins finished with 172 rushing yards and had an explosive 67 yard touchdown run that effectively put away the Spartans. It’s hard to argue against the Buckeyes being the clear cut favorite in the Big Ten as they head into their bye week.

2. (2) Wisconsin (5-0), W - 48-0 vs. Kent St., Next Week: vs. Michigan St.

In an easy matchup against MAC school Kent State, the Badgers pitched their third defensive shutout of the season in a 48-0 win at Camp Randall Stadium. Running back Jonathan Taylor continued his Heisman campaign, finishing with 186 rushing yards and 5 total touchdowns (4 rushing, 1 receiving). Wisconsin’s defense has been suffocating through six weeks, as they lead the nation in scoring defense with an incredible 5.8 points allowed per game. The Badgers will get a tougher challenge this weekend when Michigan State and their stingy defense travel to Madison.

3. (3) Penn State (5-0), W - 35-7 vs. Purdue, Next Week: at No. 17 Iowa

The Nittany Lions are on a roll. Behind four touchdowns (3 passing, 1 rushing) from quarterback Sean Clifford, Penn State dominated Purdue and won 35-7 in State College. Clifford has been one of the more underrated signal callers this season, and has now thrown for 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions through five games. The defense had ten sacks on the day, while holding the Boilermakers to just 104 total yards. Penn State has been sensational on both sides of the ball through five games, but they get their first legitimate road test of the season when they travel to No. 17 Iowa this Saturday.

4. (6) Michigan (4-1), W - 10-3 vs. No. 14 Iowa, Next Week: at Illinois

Led by a dominating defensive performance, the Wolverines beat No. 14 Iowa 10-3 in Ann Arbor. Defensive coordinator Don Brown’s defense forced four turnovers (three INTs, one fumble) and pressured Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley all game with eight sacks and six quarterback hurries. Michigan’s offense left a lot to be desired as quarterback Shea Patterson’s struggles continued (174 passing yards, zero TDs, one INT), but a favorable matchup at Illinois is on deck this weekend.

5. (4) Iowa (4-1), L - 10-3 at No. 19 Michigan, Next Week: vs. No. 10 Penn St.

The Hawkeyes turned the ball over four times and were shut down offensively in a 10-3 road loss at Michigan. After throwing zero interceptions in his first four games, quarterback Nate Stanley threw three on Saturday as Michigan’s defense disrupted Iowa’s offensive attack all game long. The Hawkeyes’ defense kept Michigan in check, but Stanley and the offense could never close out drives with points and had several back breaking turnovers. Things don’t get any easier for Iowa, as No. 10 Penn State travels to Iowa City this weekend for a cross-divisional showdown.

6. (7) Minnesota (5-0), W - 40-17 vs. Illinois, Next Week: vs. Nebraska

P.J. Fleck’s team took care of business on Saturday, rushing for 332 yards in a 40-17 win over Illinois. Running back Rodney Smith rushed for 211 yards and a touchdown, while Shannon Brooks added 111 rushing yards and a score of his own. Quarterback Tanner Morgan threw for three touchdowns on only 15 pass attempts, as he continued his efficient season under center (13 TDs, three INTs, 70.3% completion). The Gophers are 5-0 for the first time since 2004 and host Nebraska this weekend.

7. (5) Michigan State (4-2), L - 34-10 at No. 4 Ohio St., Next Week: at No. 8 Wisconsin

The Spartans put up a fight in the first quarter, but were unable to slow down the Buckeyes rushing attack in a 34-10 road loss. Sparty’s defense held Ohio State’s high powered offense to just three points in the first quarter, but the Buckeyes’ talent eventually won out, as Justin Fields and J.K. Dobbins shined. On offense, quarterback Brian Lewerke had his worst game since week one and the Spartans could get nothing going on the ground (67 rushing yards). The Spartans travel to play No. 8 Wisconsin on Saturday for their second straight road game against a top-ten opponent.

8. (9) Nebraska (4-2), W - 13-10 vs. Northwestern, Next Week: at Minnesota

In a low-scoring, sloppy affair the Cornhuskers pulled out a 13-10 win over Northwestern on Saturday night. After an injury to starting quarterback Adrian Martinez late in the third quarter, backup Noah Vedral proved to be a capable replacement and hit wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson on a 32 yard pass that set the Huskers up for a game-winning field goal. This was a game Nebraska desperately needed to win after early season losses to Colorado and Ohio State. Martinez’s injury is not considered to be serious but it’s unknown if he’ll play this weekend at Minnesota.

9. (12) Maryland (3-2), W - 48-7 at Rutgers, Next Week: at Purdue

Nothing can help a team get back on track like a game against Rutgers. The Terrapins destroyed the Scarlet Knight 48-7, behind a plethora of big plays. Wide receiver Dontay Demus Jr. got Maryland on the board early with an 80 yard touchdown catch from quarterback Josh Jackson. Running back Anthony McFarland Jr. added an 80 yard rushing touchdown, while Javon Leake returned a kickoff back for a score. Despite the win, Maryland lost Jackson to an ankle injury in the first half that could cost him a few weeks. Backup Tyrrell Pigrome will fill in at quarterback for the meantime, beginning with a road game at Purdue.

10. (10) Indiana (3-2), BYE, Next Week: vs. Rutgers

The Hoosiers had a bye in Week 6. After nearly upsetting Michigan State last week, Indiana gets a favorable matchup against lowly Rutgers this weekend. Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is coming off a big game and has Hoosiers fans excited about the possibility of earning a bowl berth this season.

11. (8) Northwestern (1-4), L - 13-10 at Nebraska, Next Week: BYE

Pat Fitzgerald’s team fell to 1-4 on the year after a 13-10 road loss to Nebraska on Saturday night. For the second straight week the Wildcats put forth a valiant effort, but were let down by quarterback play and offensive woes. Quarterback Aidan Smith threw a costly interception late in the fourth quarter that set the Cornhuskers up to kick a game-winning field goal. Northwestern’s defense kept them in the game but the offense could never break a big play and a missed field goal midway through the fourth quarter proved costly for the Wildcats. This team is better than their 1-4 record indicates, but until they can solve their quarterback problems Northwestern will be challenged to get to six wins this year.

12. (11) Purdue (1-4), L - 35-7 at No. 12 Penn St., Next Week: vs. Maryland

Without starting quarterback Elijah Sindelar and star wide receiver Rondale Moore, the shorthanded Boilermakers never had a chance against Penn State. Backup quarterback Jack Plummer was sacked ten times in the game, as Purdue could barely move the ball against Penn State’s physical defense. Injuries have hit the Boilermakers hard this season, but it’s been quite a step back in Jeff Brohm’s third year at the helm. Purdue now sits at 1-4 on the year and a bowl game seems very unlikely.

13. (13) Illinois (2-3), L - 40-17 at Minnesota, Next Week: vs. No. 16 Michigan

The Illini were completely overmatched in a 40-17 road loss to Minnesota. Starting quarterback Brandon Peters was knocked out of the game in the first half with an upper body injury and was replaced by backup Matt Robinson. Robinson was lackluster in relief, as the Illini scored no offensive points in the second half. Illinois has now lost three straight and face No. 16 Michigan and No. 8 Wisconsin in the next two weeks. Head coach Lovie Smith is squarely on the hot seat and has gone just 11-30 in three plus seasons in Champaign.

14. (14) Rutgers (1-4), L - 48-7 vs. Maryland, Next Week: at Indiana

Not even a coaching change can help Rutgers at this point. In Nunzio Campanile’s first game as interim head coach, the Scarlet Knights were completely outplayed in a 48-7 loss to Maryland. With starting quarterback Artur Sitkowski deciding to redshirt late in the week, backup Johnny Langan was thrust into a difficult situation and threw two interceptions. The defense was gashed for 490 total yards, allowed countless big plays, and have now surrendered a Big Ten worst 36.2 points per game. Campanile is in for a long second half of the season and I suspect the Scarlet Knights won’t budge from this ranking in the coming weeks.