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Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 6 Recap

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Michigan State upsets Northwestern, Indiana takes care of business and Penn State gets their first win of the season.

Find Week 5’s rankings here.

1. (Last Week: 1) Ohio State (4-0), DNP, Next Week: at Michigan St.

Ohio State’s game against Illinois was canceled this past weekend due to positive coronavirus cases in the Buckeyes’ program. Head coach Ryan Day and an unspecified number of players tested positive last week, but as of Tuesday, their game against Michigan State is on track to be played this upcoming weekend.

2. (3) Indiana (5-1), W - 27-11 vs. Maryland, Next Week: at No. 16 Wisconsin

The Hoosiers took care of business on Saturday, picking off Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa three times on their way to a 27-11 victory. Indiana’s rushing attack led the way on offense, with running backs Tim Baldwin Jr. (106 yards) and Stevie Scott (80 yards and three TDs) both having big days on the ground. The Hoosiers’ offense was dealt a huge blow on Monday however, with the news that starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. tore his ACL in the game and will miss the remainder of the season. It’s unfortunate news for an Indiana team that is arguably having it’s been season in the history of the program. Former 4-star recruit and Utah transfer Jack Tuttle will take over at quarterback the rest of the way.

3. (2) Northwestern (5-1), L - 29-20 at Michigan St., Next Week: at Minnesota (Canceled)

After a huge win over Wisconsin two weeks ago, the Wildcats were tripped up by an unranked Michigan State team this past weekend. This matchup had trap game written all over it and Northwestern came out flat, falling behind 17-0. Pat Fitzgerald’s team battled back to take a 20-17 lead early in the fourth quarter, but a late game interception by quarterback Peyton Ramsey set up the Spartans for a game-tying field goal. Northwestern turned the ball over four times in the loss and sputtered offensively in the second half. All is not lost for the Wildcats, as they are still in the driver’s seat to win the Big Ten West, but their long shot dreams of going to the College Football Playoff all but ended with Saturday’s loss.

4. (4) Wisconsin (2-1), DNP, Next Week: vs. No. 12 Indiana

The Badgers were forced to cancel their game against Minnesota, due to positive coronavirus cases in the Gophers’ program. This was Wisconsin’s third cancellation of the season, the most in the Big Ten, and ended a 113-year streak in which the rivalry was played. The Badgers are on track to return to the field against Indiana on Saturday.

5. (5) Iowa (4-2), W - 26-20 vs. Nebraska, Next Week: at Illinois

Led by an 111-yard rushing performance by running back Tyler Goodson, the Hawkeyes won their fourth straight game. Quarterback Spencer Petras added 193 yards and a touchdown through the air, but it was once again Iowa’s rushing attack and defense that led the way. The Hawkeyes forced two fumbles, including one on Nebraska’s final possession, and had three sacks in the win. After losing their first two games of the season, Kirk Ferentz’s team has stormed back and put themselves in a position to potentially make the Big Ten title game.

6. (11) Michigan State (2-3), W - 29-20 vs. Northwestern, Next Week: vs. No. 4 Ohio St.

The Spartans notched an impressive win over undefeated Northwestern on Saturday, behind a strong performance from their defense and two 40+ yard fourth quarter field goals by kicker Matt Coghlin. Michigan State’s defense forced four turnovers (two INTs, two fumbles) and held the Wildcats to just 63 rushing yards in the game. The Spartans have been up and down for most of this season, but head coach Mel Tucker has notched two impressive victories (vs. in-state rival Michigan, vs. No. 8 Northwestern) in his first year on the job.

7. (6) Purdue (2-3), L - 37-30 vs. Rutgers, Next Week: vs. Nebraska

The Boilermakers were upset by Rutgers at home this past weekend, after blowing a ten point halftime lead. Quarterback Jack Plummer started his second straight game, and threw for 237 yards, an interception, and had three total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing). However, it was the Boilermakers’ defense that struggled on Saturday. They allowed 24 second-half points, including a kickoff return touchdown and 62-yard passing touchdown. After blowing a ten point halftime lead against a beatable opponent, this is a game Purdue won’t feel good about. A divisional matchup against Nebraska is up next for the Boilermakers this upcoming weekend.

8. (7) Maryland (2-2), L - 27-11 at Indiana, Next Week: at Michigan

After two weeks off due to positive coronavirus cases, the Terrapins returned to action this past weekend and were beaten by Indiana. Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa threw three interceptions and the Terps could get nothing going on the ground (59 rushing yards) in the loss. Perhaps Maryland was rusty after not playing for two weeks, but Tagovailoa and the entire offense were out of sync on Saturday after playing exceptional earlier in the season. The Terps will look to bounce back when they travel to Ann Arbor this upcoming weekend in a winnable game against Michigan.

9. (8) Michigan (2-4), L - 27-17 vs. Penn St., Next Week: vs. Maryland

Michigan’s disappointing season continued on Saturday with a home loss to previously winless Penn State. New starting quarterback Cade McNamara could get nothing going through the air, completing just 50% of his passes and throwing for just 91 yards. Michigan’s defense wasn’t much better, allowing 25 first downs and over 250 rushing yards to a Penn State offense that has been awful for most of the season. This has been a rough year for head coach Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines, and it’s likely to get even worse with their game against Ohio State upcoming in two weeks.

10. (10) Illinois (2-3), DNP, Next Week: vs. No. 24 Iowa

Illinois’ game against Ohio State was cancelled over the weekend, due to positive coronavirus cases in the Buckeyes’ program. The Illini likely avoided a blowout loss because of the cancellation and will host a ranked Iowa team this upcoming Saturday.

11. (13) Rutgers (2-4), W - 37-30 at Purdue, Next Week: vs. Penn St.

The Scarlet Knights continued to show their improvement under head coach Greg Schiano and notched a road win at Purdue on Saturday. Rutgers erased a ten point halftime deficit thanks to a strong second-half from quarterback Artur Sitkowski (starter Noah Vedral missed Saturday’s game) and a kickoff return touchdown by former Badger Aron Cruickshank. In his first year back in New Jersey, Schiano already has the Rutgers program back to relevancy and they will be a tough out in their final two games against Penn State and Maryland.

12. (9) Minnesota (2-3), DNP, Next Week: vs. No. 8 Northwestern (Canceled)

The Golden Gophers did not play this past weekend, as they continued to monitor positive coronavirus cases in their program. Their game against Northwestern this Saturday has also been cancelled.

13. (14) Penn State (1-5), W - 27-17 at Michigan, Next Week: at Rutgers

Penn State won their first game of the season, defeating a downtrodden Michigan team 27-17 at The Big House on Saturday. Quarterback Sean Clifford was given perhaps his last chance to keep the starting job and played well. The redshirt junior threw for 163 yards, rushed for 73 yards and a touchdown, and most importantly, committed no turnovers. The Nittany Lions gashed Michigan on the ground for 254 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the win. With Clifford seemingly having his confidence back and Penn State finally winning a game, don’t be surprised to see the Nittany Lions finish strong in their final two contests against Rutgers and Michigan State.

14. (12) Nebraska (1-4), L - 26-20 at Iowa, Next Week: at Purdue

The Cornhuskers tumble to last in the power rankings this week after a 26-20 loss at Iowa on Friday. Nebraska once again utilized two quarterbacks, with Adrian Martinez serving as the primary passing option and Luke McCaffrey being used primarily as a runner. Martinez had a chance to lead Nebraska on a game-winning touchdown drive, but a late fourth quarter fumble sealed the victory for Iowa. Through five games, the Cornhuskers have yet to find an answer at quarterback and have struggled mightily on the defensive end. A trip to West Lafayette to play Purdue and their high-powered passing attack is on the horizon this upcoming weekend.