Find Week 5’s rankings here.
1. (Last Week: 2) Iowa (6-0), W - 23-20 vs. Penn State, Next Week: vs. Purdue
The Hawkeyes came up with four interceptions and outscored the Nittany Lions 10-0 in the fourth quarter to pull out an impressive win over No. 3 Penn State on Saturday. Iowa’s defense was aided when Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford was hurt in the second quarter, but the Hawkeyes still stepped up and allowed just 50 total yards the rest of the game. Iowa’s defense continues to force turnovers at a shockingly-high rate, while their ‘bend but don’t break’ philosophy has proven to be successful this season.
On offense, the Hawkeyes made just enough plays, including 44-yard touchdown pass from Spencer Petras late in the fourth quarter that gave Iowa the lead. Kirk Ferentz’s team will turn their attention to Purdue and look to avoid a loss in a letdown spot this upcoming weekend.
2. (3) Michigan (6-0), W - 32-29 at Nebraska, Next Week: BYE
Michigan kicked a game-winning field goal late in the fourth quarter to get a hard-fought road win at Lincoln on Saturday night. In a wild, back and forth game, the Wolverines used their rushing attack and a timely forced fumble in the fourth quarter to secure the win. Running backs Hassan Haskins (123 yards, two TDs) and Blake Corum (89 yards, one TD) led the way for Michigan’s offense, while quarterback Cade McNarama was solid in a tough road environment, outside of one bad interception in the third quarter. Jim Harbaugh’s team showed a lot of guts in this one and pulled out a win in one of the toughest road environment’s I’ve seen all season. The Wolverines head into their bye week unbeaten through six weeks.
3. (1) Penn State (5-1), L - 23-20 at Iowa, Next Week: BYE
The Nittany Lions caught a bad break on Saturday night when starting quarterback Sean Clifford was knocked out of their game at Iowa in the second quarter. Penn State was up 17-3 at the time of the injury and would go on to lose 23-20 in Iowa City. The offense just wasn’t the same with backup Ta’Quan Roberson, who threw two interceptions, and could muster only 50 total yards with Roberson under center. The Nittany Lions still control their own destiny in the East, with games against Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State in the coming months.
4. (4) Ohio State (5-1), W - 66-17 vs. Maryland, Next Week: BYE
The Buckeyes poured it on against Maryland on Saturday, putting up 66 points and 598 total yards in a blowout win over the Terps. Ohio State has looked unstoppable the past three weeks and quarterback C.J. Stroud is gaining confidence with every start. The freshman threw for 406 yards and five touchdowns in the win. The Buckeyes head into their bye week playing their best football of the season and are still the odds-on favorite to win the conference.
Saturday’s matchup at Rutgers had trap game written all over it, but the Spartans had too much fire power and pulled away in the second half to stay unbeaten on the season. The story in this one was wide receiver Jalen Nailor who finished with 221 receiving yards and three touchdowns in the win. The nation’s leading rusher, Kenneth Walker III had another monster game, rushing for 232 yards, including a 95-yard touchdown run. Michigan State seems to improve every week, and with a potential Heisman candidate in Walker leading the way, this season is shaping up to be a special one in just Mel Tucker’s second year at the helm.
JALEN NAILOR CAN’T STOP SCORING— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 9, 2021
6. (6) Nebraska (3-4), L - 32-29 vs. Michigan, Next Week: at Minnesota
It might seem crazy to rank a team with four losses as the sixth best in the conference, but I think it’s justified. On one hand Nebraska finds new ways to lose in almost every close game they play. However, they have now played three of the top ten teams into country down to the wire (Oklahoma, Michigan St., Michigan) and probably should have won two of them (MSU, UM). This week it was quarterback Adrian Martinez who coughed up a fumble in Nebraska’s own territory with 1:45 left in the game, that set Michigan up for the game-winning field goal. We saw the best and worst of Martinez on Saturday, who played great all night (291 passing yards, four total TDs), before his costly fumble sealed Nebraska’s fate. The Cornhuskers will be looking for more than another moral victory when they travel to face Minnesota this upcoming weekend.
7. (10) Wisconsin (2-3), W - 24-0 at Illinois, Next Week: vs. Army
The Badgers got back to basics on Saturday, rushing for 391 yards and three touchdowns as a team, while racking up almost 43 minutes in time of possession. Running backs Chez Mellusi (145 yards, one TD) and Braelon Allen (131 yards, one TD) both had big performances in the win. Quarterback Graham Mertz was coming off a chest injury he suffered last week, but still was unimpressive, throwing for just 100 yards and an interception against a subpar Illinois defense. Wisconsin’s defense completely shutdown the Illini, holding them to just 2.0 yards per play and pitching a shutout. The Badgers will prepare to face the triple option at practice this week with Army set to visit Madison on Saturday.
8. (8) Purdue (3-2), BYE, Next Week: at No. 2 Iowa
The Boilermakers were off in Week 6. Purdue’s bye came at the right time, as it gave Jeff Brohm and his staff two weeks to prepare for a huge road game at No. 2 Iowa this upcoming weekend.
9. (6) Maryland (4-2), L - 66-17 at Ohio State, Next Week: BYE
The Terrapins had very little chance of beating Ohio State in Columbus on Saturday, but they were thoroughly outclassed in their blowout loss. Maryland’s defense didn’t have a single stop until the back ups came in on the Ohio State’s last drive of the game. The Buckeyes scored touchdowns on their first eight drives to make the score 56-10 before the fourth quarter even began. There was nothing quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa could do to save the Terps, but his play was up and down on Saturday, finishing with 279 passing yards, two touchdowns and two picks. Maryland has a bye this week to lick their wounds and get ready for a winnable game at Minnesota in two weeks.
10. (9) Rutgers (3-3), L - 31-13 vs. Michigan State, Next Week: at Northwestern
Rutgers kept it close for a half but they just allowed too many big scoring plays and fell to Michigan State in Week 6. The Scarlet Knights allowed touchdowns passes of 65, 63 and 63 yards in the first half and then a 94-yard touchdown run by Kenneth Walker III in the second half that was the nail in the coffin. Rutgers’ limitations on offense were on display in this game, as quarterback Noah Vedral completed just 50% of his passes and lost a fumble before leaving the game with an injury. Rutgers will visit Evanston to take on Northwestern this Saturday.
11. (11) Minnesota (3-2), BYE, Next Week: vs. Nebraska
The Golden Gophers had a bye this past weekend. Minnesota received bad news when leading rusher Trey Potts was announced out for the season on Monday. They’ll spend this week getting ready for a Nebraska team that has been playing well and hungry for a win.
12. (13) Indiana (2-3), BYE, Next Week: vs. No. 10 Michigan State
After a disappointing first five weeks of the season, the Hoosiers were off this past Saturday. The extra week off gave quarterback Michael Penix Jr. some extra time to heal from a shoulder injury suffered in Week 5. His status for Saturday’s game versus Michigan State is up in the air, but junior Jack Tuttle would get the start if Penix can’t go.
Allen clear he won't detail what Michael Penix is doing on a daily basis, and whether he'll be available each Saturday: "You'll find out at kickoff." #iufb— Zach Osterman (@ZachOsterman) October 11, 2021
13. (12) Illinois (2-5), L - 24-0 vs. Wisconsin, Next Week: BYE
The Illini were completely outmatched in their shutout loss to Wisconsin on Saturday. Illinois could barely move the ball on offense and managed to gain just 93 total yards in the game. Quarterback Brandon Peters completed just three passes before leaving the game in the second quarter with an injury. On the other side of the ball, Illinois’ defense surrendered 391 yards on the ground, as the Illini front seven were pushed around by an average Wisconsin offensive line. This season is quickly spinning out of control in Bret Bielema’s first year on the job.
14. (14) Northwestern (2-3), BYE, Next Week: vs. Rutgers
The Wildcats had a bye in Week 6. Northwestern will host Rutgers this upcoming weekend in a winnable game that Pat Fitzgerald’s team desperately needs to get their season back on track.