Find Week 4’s rankings here.
1. (Last Week: 1) Penn State (5-0), W - 24-0 vs. Indiana, Next Week: at No. 3 Iowa
The Nittany Lions took care of business at home on Saturday, shutting out Indiana on their way to a 24-0 win. Penn State’s defense was the story in this one, holding the Hoosiers to just 264 total yards and 12 first downs in the game. Quarterback Sean Clifford threw for three touchdowns, including two to star receiver Jahan Dotson in the win. Backed by a strong defense and an improved Clifford, Penn State is looking every bit the part of a national title contender. A huge top-five matchup at Iowa is up next this upcoming Saturday.
2. (2) Iowa (5-0), W - 51-14 at Maryland, Next Week: vs. No. 4 Penn State
Iowa’s defense again led the way in a 51-14 blowout of Maryland at College Park on Friday night. The Hawkeyes forced seven turnovers (six INTs, one fumble) and jumped out to a 34-7 halftime lead. Aided by great field position for most of the game, quarterback Spencer Petras had an efficient day under center. The junior completed 21-of-30 passes for 259 yards and three touchdowns to lead the way for Iowa’s offense. Through five games, the Hawkeyes lead the country in takeaways (15) and turnover margin (+12). Kinnick Stadium will be rocking this upcoming weekend when No. 4 Penn State travels to Iowa City in a battle of top-5 teams.
(5) Iowa forced 7 turnovers, its most takeaways in a game in the last 25 seasons. The Hawkeyes now lead FBS with 15 takeaways and 12 interceptions this season.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 2, 2021
Iowa's 37-point win is its largest in the AP Poll era (since 1936) against a team that entered the game 4-0 or better. pic.twitter.com/iEm9OvBS0J
3. (3) Michigan (5-0), W - 38-17 at Wisconsin, Next Week: at Nebraska
The Wolverines came out of Madison with a win on Saturday, outscoring the Badgers 25-7 in the second half to stay undefeated. After struggling to run the ball early on, Michigan turned to their passing attack. Quarterback Cade McNamara threw for 197 yards and two touchdowns in the win, while freshman five-star quarterback J.J. McCarthy added two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing) on a handful of snaps. Michigan’s defense forced three turnovers (one INT, two fumbles) and had six sacks against a struggling Wisconsin offense. A tricky road matchup against Nebraska is on deck for the Wolverines this weekend.
The Buckeyes have gotten their groove back the past two weeks, with back to back 50-point performances. After a one game absence, quarterback C.J. Stroud returned and threw for 330 yards and five touchdowns. Wide receiver Chris Olave was the main beneficiary of Stroud’s big day, finishing with five catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Ohio State’s defense continues to show improvement and picked off quarterback Noah Vedral three times in the game. The Buckeyes are still hands down the most talented team in the conference, especially on offense, and seem to have righted the ship a bit after a shaky September. A home date with No. 4 Penn State looms large on October 30th, but they’ll have to get past Maryland and Indiana first.
5. (5) Michigan State (5-0), W - 48-31 vs. Western Kentucky, Next Week: at Rutgers
Michigan State’s offense was rolling on all cylinders in their win against Western Kentucky in Week 5. Running back Kenneth Walker III rushed for 126 yards and three touchdowns in the win, and through five weeks leads the nation with 680 rushing yards. But it wasn’t just the Spartans’ rushing attack that had success on Saturday. Quarterback Payton Thorne continued his red-hot start to the season and threw for a season-high 327 yards against the Hilltoppers. The Spartans are playing really good football right now, led by a physical defense, a Heisman candidate at running back, and a steady quarterback under center in Thorne, who has thrown just one interception on the season. Sparty will look to avoid a letdown game when they travel to Rutgers this upcoming Saturday.
6. (9) Nebraska (3-3), W - 56-7 vs. Northwestern, Next Week: vs. No. 9 Michigan
After a rough Week 1 loss to Illinois, the Cornhuskers have actually played like a top-half Big Ten team in their following five games. Nebraska destroyed Northwestern in Lincoln this past weekend, after one-score losses to ranked Michigan State and Oklahoma teams the previous two weeks. Quarterback Adrian Martinez is playing some of the best football of his career and finished Saturday’s game with 202 passing yards, 50 rushing yards and four total touchdowns (one passing, three rushing). As a team, the Cornhusker rushed for 427 yards and seven touchdowns in the win. Nebraska’s defense held a putrid Northwestern offense scoreless in the final three quarters and allowed just 293 total yards. The Cornhuskers will be a sneaky upset pick this weekend when No. 9 Michigan travels to Lincoln.
7. (6) Maryland (4-1), L - 51-14 vs. Iowa, Next Week: at No. 7 Ohio State
After cruising to wins in their first four games of the season, Maryland was completely outplayed in Friday night’s loss to Iowa. Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, who had just one interception prior to this game, threw five picks in the loss and completed just 55% of his passes. The Terps could get nothing going on offense all night, as a slew of turnovers forced them into a 34-7 halftime deficit. It was a disappointing performance at home for a team that was looking for their first statement win under head coach Mike Locksley. To make matters worse, star wide receiver Dontay Demus Jr. was announced out for the season on Tuesday due to a knee injury. Maryland is still in a good spot to make a bowl game, barring a late-season collapse, but Friday’s loss proved the Terps still have a ways to go before being taken seriously in the Big Ten week to week.
That’s the FIFTH interception for Taulia Tagovailoa and the Terrapins— SportzStew Ⓥ (@sportzstewcom) October 2, 2021
Iowa IN COMMAND
8. (7) Purdue (3-2), L - 20-13 vs. Minnesota, Next Week: BYE
Despite passing for 371 yards, the Boilermakers found the end zone just once in their home loss to Minnesota on Saturday. Purdue was shutout in the second half and quarterback Aidan O’Connell threw a pick on their final drive to give the Boilermakers their second loss on the year. All-Big Ten wide receiver David Bell returned from a concussion that kept him out last week and had 120 receiving yards in the loss. As has been the case the past couple of seasons, Purdue’s passing attack is really the only bright spot on this team. The defense doesn’t make game-changing plays, and without their top running back from last season due to injury, this team will need some luck to get to six wins this year.
9. (8) Rutgers (3-2), L - 52-13 vs. Ohio State, Next Week: vs. No. 11 Michigan State
Rutgers is clearly improved this season but they were faced with a tall task when Ohio State came to town on Saturday. With the Buckeyes’ speed and talent at the skill positions, this just wasn’t a favorable matchup at all for the Scarlet Knights. The defense allowed 541 total yards and had no answer for quarterback C.J. Stroud and his plethora of athletic receivers. Rutgers’ offense did their defense no favors, as Quarterback Noah Vedral threw three picks and the rushing attack wasn’t very productive (3.6 yards per carry). I still think Rutgers will be a tough out for most teams this season, they just ran into a buzzsaw in Week 5. Don’t be surprised if they keep it close in a home matchup against No. 11 Michigan State this Saturday.
10. (10) Wisconsin (1-3), L - 38-17 vs. Michigan, Next Week: at Illinois
The Badgers just aren’t a good team right now. Michigan came into Camp Randall and stifled a subpar Wisconsin offense, holding the Badgers to just 210 total yards. After quarterback Graham Mertz went out with chest injury early in the second half, the Badgers stood no chance. The Badgers had one of their worst rushing performances I can ever remember, finishing with just 43 yards and 1.3 yards per carry in the loss. Wisconsin’s defense is clearly the strength of their team, but every game they are on the field for far too long due to the ineptitude of the offense. Another loss against a below-average Illinois team this weekend and Wisconsin fans will have the pitchforks out.
11. (14) Minnesota (3-2), W - 20-13 at Purdue, Next Week: BYE
Coming off an embarrassing loss to Bowling Green last week, the Golden Gophers edged out Purdue in West Lafayette Saturday. Minnesota’s defense held the Boilermakers scoreless in the second half and forced two turnovers (one fumble, one INT), including an interception to seal the win on Purdue’s final drive to tie the game. Quarterback Tanner Morgan threw for 169 yards and a touchdown on just nine completions in the win. Running back Treyson Potts rushed for 78 yards and the winning touchdown before leaving the game late in the fourth quarter with an undisclosed injury. This Minnesota team has been up and down all season, but with their solid defense and an experienced signal caller in Morgan, they should be able to keep most games close the second-half of the season.
12. (13) Illinois (2-4), W - 24-14 vs. Charlotte, Next Week: vs. Wisconsin
The Illini got back in the win column with an easy victory over Charlotte, thanks to an incredible performance by running back Chase Brown. Brown rushed for a career-high 257 yards and two touchdowns, including one score that went for 80 yards. Running back Joshua McCray tacked on 64 rushing yards of his own, as the Illini racked up over 34 minutes in time of possession. This was a win Illinois needed to have, as they head into the meat of their Big Ten schedule.
13. (11) Indiana (2-3), L - 24-0 at Penn State, Next Week: BYE
Indiana’s free-fall continued on Saturday with a shutout loss at Penn State. Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was just 10-for-22 with 118 yards, one touchdown and one pick, before exiting the game with an injury to his throwing shoulder. Backup Jack Tuttle came in in relief but wasn’t much better, completing just 50% of his passes and throwing an interception. It didn’t help matters that Indiana’s rushing attack was non-existent, as the Hoosiers totaled only 69 rushing yards and 2.9 yards per carry. The Hoosiers were also without with their best defender, in cornerback Tiawan Mullen, and had no answer for Penn State receiver Jahan Dotson on the outside. Hopefully Tom Allen and his staff can get some things figured out during their upcoming bye week.
14. (12) Northwestern (2-3), L - 56-7 at Nebraska, Next Week: BYE
The Wildcats were completely outclassed in a 56-7 loss to the Cornhuskers in Lincoln. After winning the West division last year, this is shaping up to be one of the worst teams of Pat Fitzgerald’s 16 years in Evanston. New quarterback Ryan Hilinski actually played decent, even with the Wildcats playing from behind the entire game. The transfer from South Carolina threw for 256 yards, one touchdown and had one fumble in the loss. It is Northwestern’s typically-stout defense that has been a big issue for the Wildcats this season. On Saturday, they allowed a whopping 657 total yards to Nebraska, including 427 yards on the ground. The Wildcats will look to get their defense cleaned up during their bye week this week.