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Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 8 Recap

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Minnesota wins shorthanded, Iowa stifles Wisconsin and Penn State wins their third straight.

Find Week 7’s rankings here.

1. (Last Week: 1) Ohio State (5-0), DNP, Next Week: vs. No. 14 Northwestern

Ohio State was forced to cancel their rivalry game against Michigan due to positive coronavirus cases in the Wolverines’ program. The Buckeyes will play Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship game this upcoming weekend after the conference voted to allow the Buckeyes to play in the game despite playing fewer than six games.

2. (2) Indiana (6-1), DNP, Next Week: vs. Purdue

The Hoosiers’ game against in-state rival Purdue was canceled this past weekend due to positive coronavirus cases in both programs. The Big Ten had rescheduled the rivalry game for this upcoming weekend, but it was canceled again on Tuesday morning.

3. (3) Northwestern (6-1), W - 28-10 vs. Illinois, Next Week: vs. No. 4 Ohio St.

Northwestern had already clinched the Big Ten West, but that didn’t stop the Wildcats from cruising to a victory over in-state rival Illinois, for the sixth straight year, on Saturday. Pat Fitzgerald’s team ran all over the Illini, finishing with 411 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Freshmen running backs Evan Hull (149) and Cam Porter (142) both rushed for over 140 yards in the win. The Wildcats turn their attention to their Big Ten championship matchup against Ohio State this weekend, and will need a near perfect performance to beat the Buckeyes in Indy.

4. (4) Iowa (6-2), W - 28-7 vs. Wisconsin, Next Week: vs. Michigan

The Hawkeyes used a dominant performance from their defense and three second half touchdowns to put away the Badgers on Saturday. Iowa held the Badgers to just 56 rushing yards and forced two turnovers (one INT, one fumble) in the win. Quarterback Spencer Petras was serviceable and made two great touchdown passes of 19 and 53 yards to receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette. An 80-yard touchdown run by running back Tyler Goodson late in the fourth quarter was the nail in the coffin for Wisconsin. Iowa has now won six straight games after an 0-2 start and are scheduled to host Michigan this upcoming weekend.

5. (8) Penn State (3-5), W - 39-24 vs. Michigan St., Next Week: vs. Illinois

The Nittany Lions jump three spots this week after winning their third straight game over the weekend. After an 0-5 start to the season, Penn State has turned their season around and have finally started to play up to their talent level, albeit against some subpar competition (Michigan, Rutgers, Michigan St.). Quarterback Sean Clifford continues to show improvement and threw for 232 yards and two touchdowns, while adding 48 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Wide receiver Jahan Dotson had another great game, finishing with 108 receiving yards (his fourth game this season with 100+ receiving yards) and a punt return touchdown. Credit to James Franklin and the entire Penn State program for their late season turnaround and building some momentum heading into 2021.

6. (5) Wisconsin (2-3), L - 28-7 at Iowa, Next Week: vs. Minnesota

The Badgers’ offensive woes continued on Saturday in their 28-7 loss to Iowa. Without their top two wide receivers (Danny Davis, Kendric Pryor) and starting running back (Jalen Berger), Wisconsin produced just 225 yards of total offense. The Badgers could only muster 1.7 yards per carry for 56 total rushing yards, while freshman quarterback Graham Mertz was shaky under center all afternoon. Wisconsin’s defense did their best to keep the Badgers competitive, but a pair of touchdown catches from Iowa wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette sealed the win for the Hawkeyes. Iowa was simply the better team in all facets of the game on Saturday. The Badgers will look to end their disappointing, shortened season on a high note with a win over rival Minnesota this upcoming weekend.

7. (12) Rutgers (3-5), W 27-24 OT at Maryland, Next Week: vs. Nebraska

The Scarlet Knights won their third Big Ten game of the season, their most conference wins since 2017, outlasting Maryland in overtime on Saturday. Kicker Valentino Ambrosio kicked a game-tying field goal to send the game into overtime and then kicked a 42 yard game-winner. Wide receiver Bo Melton had 107 total yards (45 receiving, 62 rushing) and two touchdowns in the win. It’s incredibly impressive what head coach Greg Schiano has done in his first year back at Rutgers and the Scarlet Knights will look to end the season with a win over Nebraska this Saturday.

8. (14) Minnesota (3-3), W - 24-17 at Nebraska, Next Week: at Wisconsin

After a two week absence due to positive coronavirus cases, Minnesota returned to action and notched their third win of the season. The Golden Gophers were without 33 scholarship players and were still able to pull out a road win, thanks to another big day from running back Mohamed Ibrahim. Ibrahim finished with 108 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the win and has now rushed for over 100 yards in all six games this season. Minnesota’s defense forced two turnovers (one INT, one fumble) that the Gophers turned into 14 points. P.J. Fleck’s squad will look to cap off a tumultuous season with a win over Wisconsin on Saturday.

9. (6) Maryland (2-3), L - 27-24 OT vs. Rutgers, Next Week: vs. Michigan St.

The Terps fought valiantly without starting quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, but lost a close overtime game to Rutgers this past Saturday. Freshman Lance LeGendre struggled under center, completing just seven passes and throwing two interceptions. Third stringer Eric Najarian was far more effective and threw for 218 yards and two touchdowns in the loss. Running back Jake Funk also had an impressive day, rushing for 180 yards and a touchdown. Maryland nearly pulled off the win without Tagovailoa and have a chance to get back to .500 on the season with a win over Michigan State this upcoming weekend.

10. (7) Nebraska (2-5), L - 24-17 vs. Minnesota, Next Week: at Rutgers

The Cornhuskers had an inexcusable loss to a shorthanded Minnesota team on Saturday. Quarterback Adrian Martinez followed up his huge performance last week with another productive game, throwing for 111 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 96 yards and a touchdown on the ground. He did however have a costly fumble in Nebraska territory in the second half that resulted in a Minnesota touchdown. On the defensive end, the Cornhuskers had no answer for the Gophers’ star running back Mohamed Ibrahim (108 yards, two TDs). Just when you think Nebraska is moving in the right direction, they take a step back. This has been a forgetful season for head coach Scott Frost and the Cornhuskers, but they will look to head into 2021 on a high note with a win at Rutgers this Saturday.

11. (9) Michigan State (2-5), L - 39-24 at Penn St., Next Week: at Maryland

The Spartans blew a 21-10 halftime lead and fell to Penn State on Saturday afternoon. Quarterback Payton Thorne got the start and actually played really well, throwing for 325 yards and three touchdowns in the loss. Wide receiver Jalen Nailor was the main beneficiary of Thorne’s big day, finishing with 100 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The Spartans defense just couldn’t hold off an improved Penn State offense, allowing three touchdown drives of 60+ yards and punt return touchdown in the second half. Despite the loss, Mel Tucker and his staff have to be encouraged with the play of Thorne, a redshirt freshman who could be the quarterback of the future for the Spartans.

12. (10) Purdue (2-4), DNP, Next Week: at No. 12 Indiana

Purdue was forced to cancel their game against Indiana this past weekend due to positive coronavirus cases in both programs. The Big Ten had rescheduled the rivalry game for this upcoming Friday, but the game was canceled again on Tuesday morning.

13. (11) Michigan (2-4), DNP, Next Week: at No. 16 Iowa

The Wolverines did not play their rivalry game against Ohio State on Saturday due to positive coronavirus cases in Michigan’s program. As of Tuesday, Jim Harbaugh’s team is still scheduled to play at Iowa this upcoming weekend.

14. (13) Illinois (2-5), L - 28-10 at Northwestern, Next Week: at Penn St.

The Illini had no answer for Northwestern’s rushing attack, allowing 411 rushing yards and 7.1 yards per carry in a convincing loss to the Wildcats. Quarterbacks Brandon Peters and Isaiah Williams combined to complete just seven passes, and the Illini could get nothing going on offense outside of a 46-yard touchdown pass by Williams in the fourth quarter. The loss dropped Illinois to 2-5 on the season and head coach Lovie Smith was fired over the weekend. Smith had some bright spots in his five seasons in Champaign, including an upset win over No. 6 Wisconsin last season, but a 10-33 conference record simply wasn’t good enough for Smith to earn another year. The Illini will close out their season at Penn State this upcoming Saturday.