The Big Ten is back! It was a below average slate of games in Week 1, but we still saw some interesting outcomes and learned a lot about each team in the conference. Without further ado, here are the Big Ten football power rankings after the opening series of matchips:
1. Ohio State (1-0), W - 45-21 vs. FAU, Next Week: vs. Cincinnati
The Buckeyes had a strong Week 1 performance in head coach Ryan Day’s debut, beating Lane Kiffin’s Florida Atlantic team 45-21 in Columbus. It didn’t take long for new quarterback Justin Fields to show off his immense talent, as he ran for a 51 yard touchdown on Ohio State’s opening possession.
The Georgia transfer finished with 234 yards and four touchdowns, along with 61 yards on the ground. With Fields looking as good as advertised in week one and J.K. Dobbins returning at running back, the Buckeyes are again the favorites to win this conference.
2. Penn State (1-0), W - 79-7 vs. Idaho, Next Week: vs. Buffalo
Business as usual for the Nittany Lions, as they blew out Idaho 79-7 in Happy Valley. Penn State’s defense was suffocating, and held the Vandals to just 145 total yards. First year starter Sean Clifford was solid under center, finishing with 280 yards, two touchdowns and no picks. Clifford’s development will be key to Penn State’s ceiling this year, but their defense should keep them squarely in the mix for the Big Ten title.
3. Wisconsin (1-0), W - 49-0 at USF, Next Week: vs. Central Michigan
After watching Wisconsin’s clobbering of South Florida on Friday, it’s hard to believe that most people thought this matchup would be a tough test and a potential trap game for the Badgers. Boy, were we wrong. Heisman candidate Jonathan Taylor rushed for 135 yards on just 16 carries and added four total touchdowns. More importantly, the Badgers’ defense looks to be back in form after forcing three turnovers and holding USF to just 26 rushing yards. Wisconsin’s fate will again depend on their quarterback play, but the Badgers look like the most complete team in the Big Ten West through one week.
4. Michigan (1-0), W - 40-21 vs. Middle Tennessee St., Next Week: vs. Army
The Wolverines beat Middle Tennessee St. 40-21 on Saturday night in Ann Arbor. The game was never in doubt and quarterback Shea Patterson threw for 203 yards and three touchdowns. Michigan still has plenty to improve on, as Patterson fumbled twice and the Wolverines committed eight penalties, but they are one of the most talented teams in the conference. A trip to Madison for the Big Ten opener looms on September 21.
5. Michigan State (1-0), W - 28-7 vs. Tulsa, Next Week: vs. Western Michigan
Michigan State’s defense was dominant in their 28-7 win over Tulsa on Friday night. The Spartans forced three turnovers and held Tulsa to an astounding -73 rushing yards. Yes, that’s negative 73. They also tacked on a six sacks, a safety, a blocked punt and a fumble recovery touchdown.
Michigan State standout Kenny Willekes scored his first career TD.— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) August 31, 2019
The Spartans defense is absolutely stuffing Tulsa. pic.twitter.com/jXhJBrOhJI
Mark Dantonio’s team will rely heavily on their elite defense, and with a veteran quarterback in Brian Lewerke under center the Spartans are a dark horse in the Big Ten race.
6. Iowa (1-0), W - 38-14 vs. Miami (OH), Next Week: vs. Rutgers
Quarterback Nate Stanley threw for 252 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Hawkeyes past Miami (Ohio) 38-14 in Iowa City. Stanley, one of the Big Ten’s best quarterbacks, is the key to Iowa’s success this season and he was sharp in his first game of the season. The Hawkeyes may have found their next great running back in Mekhi Sargent. The junior rushed for 91 yards and added on four catches for 61 receiving yards in the blowout win. Led by a veteran quarterback, strong running game, and talented defensive line, Iowa looks to be a player in the Big Ten West after Week 1.
7. Maryland (1-0), W - 79-0 vs. Howard, Next Week: vs. No. 22 Syracuse
I know Maryland was playing lowly Howard, but a 79-0 victory behind a great performance from grad transfer quarterback Josh Jackson was an eye opener. Jackson started 16 games for Virginia Tech before a broken fibula forced him to miss all of the 2018 season. In his first game as a Terrapin, Jackson finished with 245 passing yards, four touchdowns and no turnovers. The Terrapins have a brutal schedule, which will make it hard for them to win many games in head coach Mike Locksley’s first season. However, if Week 1 is any indication, Maryland looks to have the quarterback and playmakers to be at least bowl team this year.
8. Nebraska (1-0), W - 35-21 vs. South Alabama, Next Week: at Colorado
The good news is Nebraska’s defense was exceptional in their 35-21 win over South Alabama in Lincoln. But the Huskers were out-gained by the Jaguars 314 to 276 in a disappointing performance from quarterback Adrian Martinez and the Nebraska offense. The Blackshirts carried Nebraska in week one, forcing five turnovers (three interceptions, two forced fumbles) and scoring two defensive touchdowns. I’d expect the offense to turn it around eventually and next week’s trip to Colorado should be a good test for Martinez and company.
9. Illinois (1-0), W - 42-3 vs. Akron, Next Week: at UConn
I know it’s Week 1, but the Illini looked impressive in a 42-3 beatdown of Akron. Keep in mind, this is an Akron team that beat Northwestern a season ago, so credit to Illinois for taking care of business and cruising to an easy victory. Michigan transfer Brandon Peters threw for three touchdowns and rushed for another, as the Illini moved the ball up and down the field on the Zips. Lovie Smith seems to have this program moving in the right direction in his fourth year at the helm.
10. Northwestern (0-1), L - 17-7 at Stanford, Next Week: BYE
Credit to Northwestern for going on the road and playing Stanford, but the Wildcats’ offense was overwhelmed in their 17-7 loss to the Cardinal. For all the hype Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson got in the offseason, the redshirt sophomore struggled in his first start for the Wildcats. Johnson played so poor he was replaced by senior TJ Green late in the first half, before Johnson got another shot after Green injured his foot. The woes continued for Johnson, as he went just 6-for-17 for 55 yards, two interceptions, and a fumble after replacing Green. Northwestern’s defense looked solid as usual in Week 1 but the quarterback play needs to improve quickly if the Wildcats want to compete with Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska in the Big Ten West.
11. Indiana (1-0), W - 34-24 vs. Ball State, Next Week: vs. Eastern Illinois
The Hoosiers took care of business, beating Ball State 34-24 at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday. First year starter Michael Penix Jr. showed some flashes at quarterback, throwing for 325 yards, including a beautiful 75 yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Nick Westbrook.
Penix also showed off his mobility, as he ran for a team-high 67 yards. If Penix can continue to develop, the Hoosiers will be a tough out during Big Ten play.
12. Purdue (0-1), L - 34-31 at Nevada, Next Week: vs. Vanderbilt
It was a rough weekend for Purdue. The Boilermakers were upset by Nevada 34-31 after squandering a 17 point lead in the second half. Purdue finished with five turnovers, including an interception with 50 seconds left in the game that positioned Nevada to kick a game-winning 56 yard field goal. It was a disastrous collapse by the Boilermakers, in what was supposed to be a breakout season in Jeff Brohm’s third year as head coach. Purdue will look to bounce back next week with their home opener against Vanderbilt.
13. Minnesota (1-0), W - 28-21 vs. South Dakota St., Next Week: at Fresno State
Minnesota won ugly on Thursday night, beating FCS foe South Dakota St. 28-21 at home. The Golden Gophers were out-gained 367 to 308 in the game and needed a late fourth quarter touchdown run by Mohamed Ibrahim to escape with a victory. P.J. Fleck and his staff have plenty to work on as they look forward to a road game at Fresno State next week.
14. Rutgers (1-0), W - 48-21 vs. UMass, Next Week: at Iowa
Rutgers fell behind early to UMass, but rebounded to score 41 unanswered points and defeat the Minutemen 48-21 on Friday night. Head coach Chris Ash nearly had a disaster on his hands, after the Scarlet Knights were down 21-7 after the first quarter. But Rutgers responded with 31 points in the second quarter and cruised to victory behind running back Isaih Pacheco’s 156 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Rutgers has a big test next week when they travel to Iowa for their Big Ten opener.