Find Week 8’s rankings here.
1. (Last Week: 2) Ohio State (7-1), W - 33-24 vs. Penn State, Next Week: at Nebraska
The Buckeyes fended off a hungry Penn State team on Saturday night, shutting out the Nittany Lions in the fourth quarter on the way to a sixth straight win. Ohio State’s offense was once again impressive and put up 466 total yards in the win. Running back TreVeyon Henderson has turned into a workhorse in his first season with the Buckeyes and rushed for 152 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries.
The defense still leaves a lot to be desired for a team with national championship aspirations though. The Nittany Lions hung around for most of the game thanks to a 361-yard passing game by quarterback Sean Clifford. After running over the likes of Rutgers, Maryland and Indiana the past three weeks, this was a good test for the Buckeyes and should prepare them well for the stretch run of the Big Ten schedule. A tricky, but winnable game at Nebraska is up next for the Buckeyes.
2. (3) Michigan State (8-0), W - 37-33 vs. Michigan, Next Week: at Purdue
The Spartans erased a 16-point second-half deficit thanks to a Heisman-worthy performance by running back Kenneth Walker III. Walker almost single-handedly beat the Wolverines, as he rushed for 197 yards and five touchdowns in the win. Quarterback Payton Thorne threw two picks but made some big throws in the second half to keep Sparty alive. The defense was gashed through the air but came up with a timely fumble late in the fourth quarter and sealed the win with an interception on Michigan’s final drive. Michigan State has been one of the biggest surprises this season and this win over their in-state rival cemented their status as a legit College Football Playoff contender. The Spartans will travel to giant-killer Purdue in potential letdown spot this weekend.
Kenneth Walker III was turning heads in a Heisman-level performance against Michigan.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 30, 2021
3. (1) Michigan (7-1), L - 37-33 at Michigan State, Next Week: vs. Indiana
Another rivalry game, another loss for Michigan and head coach Jim Harbaugh. This loss was especially frustrating as the previously unbeaten Wolverines looked so good early on and blew a 16-point second-half lead. All is not lost for the Wolverines though, as they proved they could throw the ball effectively in a big game and quarterback Cade McNamara was great in a tough road environment (383 passing yards, two TDs). Freshman backup J.J. McCarthy, who has played sparingly in running packages all season, fumbled twice and lost a crucial one late in the fourth quarter that set the Spartans up for the go-ahead score. Michigan’s defense picked off Payton Thorne twice but had no answer for Heisman hopeful Kenneth Walker III, who racked up 197 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. Michigan fans will be sick thinking about this loss, as it was very winnable, and now a path to the College Football Playoff is highly unlikely.
4. (5) Penn State (5-3), L - 33-24 at Ohio State, Next Week: at Maryland
Coming off a disastrous loss to Illinois two weeks ago, the Nittany Lions bounced back and came out with a purpose against Ohio State on Saturday night. Although they lost the game, Penn State played the Buckeyes tough and showed that they are closer to the team that beat Auburn and Wisconsin than the team that lost to the Illini. Quarterback Sean Clifford looked healthier and threw for 361 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the loss. To the surprise of no one, wide receiver Jahan Dotson had another huge game and finished with 11 catches for 127 receiving yards. Penn State’s defense just couldn’t get enough stops down the stretch against an elite Ohio State offense, but I don’t think there’s many teams in the country that could. Despite not being ranked in the first College Football Playoff rankings, this is a very good team with plenty left to play for this season and will only get better as Clifford continues to work his way back from his injury.
5. (6) Wisconsin (5-3), W - 27-7 vs. Iowa, Next Week: at Rutgers
The Badgers followed up their win at Purdue two weeks ago with an absolute beatdown of No. 9 Iowa this past weekend. Jim Leonhard’s defense was suffocating all game long and held the Hawkeyes to 156 total yards and just nine first downs in the win. Wisconsin also forced three fumbles and finished with six sacks in another impressive performance by the defense. It’s not a stretch to say that after Georgia, the Badgers might have the best defense in the entire country. With the defense setting the Badgers up with great field position all game, the offense didn’t have to do anything spectacular but running back Braelon Allen had another nice game, rushing for 104 yards. Look for Wisconsin’s defense to continue to lead the way for this team and a shutout of Rutgers this upcoming weekend is possible, if not likely at this point.
Where Wisconsin’s defense ranks nationally after eight games— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) October 31, 2021
Total defense: 214.6 ypg (1st)
Rushing defense: 49.6 ypg (1st)
Passing defense: 165.0 ypg (5th)
Scoring: 17.0 ppg (8th)
Scoring (w/o TO/ST TDs): 12.6 ppg (2nd)
3rd down defense: 25.5% (2nd) pic.twitter.com/bl5dImsMrk
6. (4) Iowa (6-2), L - 27-7 at Wisconsin, Next Week: at Northwestern
It seems just like yesterday the Hawkeyes were flying high after a massive win over Penn State three weeks ago, but Kirk Ferentz’s team looked lost at times in their loss to Wisconsin on Saturday. Quarterback Spencer Petras was pressured all game and completed just nine passes for 93 yards in the loss. Iowa’s rushing attack was virtually non-existent, as they rushed for just 24 yards on 0.8 yards per carry and lost three fumbles. After consecutive losses to Purdue and Wisconsin, the Hawkeyes will look to get back on track with a favorable matchup at Northwestern this upcoming Saturday.
7. (7) Minnesota (6-2), W - 41-14 at Northwestern, Next Week: vs. Illinois
The Gophers continued with their winning formula in Week 9, rushing for 308 yards and four touchdowns on their way to an easy win over Northwestern. Minnesota has been running the ball like a service academy the past month and it’s working. They rank second in the Big Ten with 222 rushing yards per game and have rattled off four straight conference wins since their embarrassing loss to Bowling Green. P.J. Fleck’s team has been hit hard by injuries this season, but a strong offensive line and consistent defense (third fewest yards allowed per game in the Big Ten) have made the Gophers a real threat in the West division. They’ll look to avoid a letdown spot in Week 10 when Illinois comes to town.
8. (8) Purdue (5-3), W - 28-23 at Nebraska, Next Week: vs. No. 3 Michigan State
Purdue bounced back nicely from their home loss to Wisconsin two weeks ago with a hard-fought road win over Nebraska over the weekend. The Boilermakers dinked and dunked their way to over 38 minutes in time of possession and quarterback Aidan O’Connell completed 34-of-45 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Wide receiver David Bell once again led the Boilermakers in receiving, hauling in nine catches for 74 yards. However, it was Purdue’s defense that really came up big in this win. The Boilermakers held Nebraska scoreless almost the entire second-half and picked off Adrian Martinez four times in the game. Jeff Brohm’s squad is now just one win away from becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2018.
9. (9) Maryland (5-3), W - 38-35 vs. Indiana, Next Week: vs. Penn State
Maryland moved one win away from bowl eligibility with their three-point home win over Indiana on Saturday. After three straight subpar games, quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa got back on track with a 419-yard and two touchdown performance. After falling behind 17-14 in the third quarter, Maryland put together three straight touchdown drives to put the game away. So far this season the Terps don’t have any bad losses (Iowa, Ohio State, Minnesota) but Mike Locksley and company are still looking for that signature win and it could come as soon as this weekend when the Terrapins host Penn State.
10. (13) Rutgers (4-4), W - 20-14 at Illinois, Next Week: vs. No. 21 Wisconsin
The Scarlet Knights notched their first Big Ten win of the season over Illinois on Saturday behind a strong rushing performance. Running backs Isaih Pacheco (91 rushing yards) and Kyle Monangai (77 rushing yards, one TD) led the way for Rutgers’ offense, and even quarterback Noah Vedral was effective on ground, finishing with 56 rushing yards and a touchdown of his own. Rutgers’ defense held an Illinois team that had just rushed for 357 yards against Penn State last week to only 107 in the win. This was a physical, gritty win by the Scarlet Knights and one they needed to have if they want to make their first bowl game since 2014.
11. (11) Illinois (3-6), L - 20-14 vs. Rutgers, Next Week: at No. 20 Minnesota
Following their nine-overtime win over Penn State two weeks ago, Illinois was back to their old ways in Week 9. The Illini blew a 14-10 halftime lead and were shutout in the second half on their way to a 20-14 loss to a mediocre Rutgers team. Quarterback Brandon Peters was solid, throwing for 190 yards and two touchdowns, but the Illini rushing attack was held in check throughout the game. Illinois’ defense was on the field far too long in the second half and allowed a 13-play, 88-yard touchdown drive that put Rutgers up for good. The Illini will travel to face Minnesota this upcoming weekend in a game that should feature very little throwing.
12. (10) Nebraska (3-6), L - 28-23 vs. Purdue, Next Week: vs. No. 5 Ohio State
Nebraska’s disappointing season continued on Saturday with a 28-23 home loss to Purdue. Quarterback Adrian Martinez completed just 48% of his passes and threw four interceptions in the loss. The Cornhuskers were shutout in the second half and had just 36 yards and one first down before their final drive of the game when they were already down two scores. This was a game Nebraska needed to have and with Ohio State, Iowa, and Wisconsin left on the schedule, a 3-9 finish is in the cards, if not likely. Scott Frost is firmly on the hot seat as we head into November and I’m not sure even an upset win over Ohio State this weekend can save his job.
Scott Frost sounded more like a coach today who doesn’t know how to fix Nebraska’s trouble than at any point in his four years.— Mitch Sherman (@mitchsherman) October 30, 2021
He left the locker room after gathering the team to allow the captains to talk after this loss.
“Magic speeches aren’t going to change this,” he said.
13. (12) Northwestern (3-5), L - 41-14 vs. Minnesota, Next Week: vs. No. 22 Iowa
Pat Fitzgerald has had some great teams in his 16 seasons at Northwestern, but this year’s team just isn’t one of them. The Wildcats lost again over the weekend after getting run over by Minnesota. Northwestern allowed over 300 rushing yards and 5.8 yards per carry, as their front seven was bullied by the Gophers’ offensive line all afternoon. On offense, the Wildcats continued to struggle throwing the ball effectively and finished with just 98 passing yards in a game they were playing from behind in. Running back Evan Hull has been the lone bright spot for Northwestern’s offense this season, ranking fourth in the Big Ten in rushing yards, and finished with 107 yards on the ground in Saturday’s loss. The Wildcats will host No. 22 Iowa this upcoming weekend.
14. (14) Indiana (2-6), L - 38-35 at Maryland, Next Week: at No. 7 Michigan
Indiana lost their fourth straight game on Saturday, falling to Maryland 38-35 in College Park. True freshman Donaven McCulley got the start at quarterback with Michael Penix Jr. and Jack Tuttle out with injuries. The former four-start recruit showed some flashes and finished with 242 passing yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers in his first career start. Running back Stephen Carr had a nice game on the ground and rushed for 136 yards and two touchdowns in the loss. However, it was Indiana’s defense that couldn’t hold up in the end. The Hoosiers allowed 498 total yards and gave up a number of chunk plays through the air, as the Terps moved the ball up and down the field for most of the game. Unfortunately for Tom Allen and company, the schedule doesn’t get any easier as the Hoosiers are set to travel to Michigan this upcoming Saturday.