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Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 4 Recap

Michigan State outlasts Nebraska in OT, Wisconsin gets embarrassed and Michigan squeaks by Rutgers to remain unbeaten.

Find Week 3’s rankings here.

1. (Last Week: 1) Penn State (4-0), W - 38-17 vs. Villanova, Next Week: vs. Indiana

The Nittany Lions stayed unbeaten on the year with an easy win over Villanova on Saturday. Quarterback Sean Clifford threw the ball all over the yard in the win, finishing with 401 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Wide receiver Jahan Dotson continued to add to his Biletnikoff Trophy resume by hauling in seven catches for 117 yards and a touchdown. Dotson now leads the Big Ten in both receptions (27) and receiving touchdowns (four) through four weeks. This was a dominating performance on both sides of the ball, as Penn State’s defense allowed only three points through three quarters, while finishing with three sacks, eight tackles for loss and a pick in the win. The Nittany Lions will turn their attention to a talented, but inconsistent Indiana team this upcoming weekend.

2. (2) Iowa (4-0), W - 24-14 vs. Colorado State, Next Week: at Maryland

After trailing 14-7 at halftime, the Hawkeyes turned it on and shut out the Rams in the second half to finish their non-conference schedule unbeaten. Iowa’s defense again led the way in this one, as the Hawkeyes forced a fumble deep in Colorado State’s own territory and allowed just three first downs in the second half. Quarterback Spencer Petras once again made just enough plays, but wasn’t spectacular, finishing with 224 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Kirk Ferentz’s team will go as far as their dominant defense takes them and they will travel to College Park to face an undefeated Maryland team on Friday night.

3. (3) Michigan (4-0), W - 20-13 vs. Rutgers, Next Week: at Wisconsin

It wasn’t easy, but the Wolverines held on to defeat a gritty Rutgers team in The Big House on Saturday. Michigan’s effective rushing attack was held in check all day, as they finished with just 2.9 yards per carry as a team. Quarterback Cade McNamara completed just nine passes for 163 passing yards, but committed no turnovers. The Wolverines’ defense made the big plays in the end, forcing a fumble as Rutgers was looking to tie the game with under two minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Scarlet Knights came in with a great game plan to stop Michigan’s running game, and the Wolverines will need McNamara to be better if they want to be legitimate contenders in the Big Ten title race. A tricky road matchup against a desperate Wisconsin team is on deck this upcoming weekend.

4. (4) Ohio State (3-1), W - 59-7 vs. Akron, Next Week: at Rutgers

Ohio State put on an offensive clinic against in-state foe Akron on Saturday, putting up 59 points without starting quarterback C.J. Stroud. True freshman Kyle McCord filled in admirably, throwing for 319 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in the win. Freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson needed only eight carries to rush for 93 yards and two touchdowns, while fellow back Master Teague III finished with 71 rushing yards and two touchdowns of his own. The Buckeyes’ defense, which has been shaky all season, used this as a get-right game and finished with nine sacks and two interceptions on Saturday. They Buckeyes will travel to New Jersey to take on a scrappy Rutgers team in Week 5.

5. (5) Michigan State (4-0), W - 23-20 OT vs. Nebraska, Next Week: vs. Western Kentucky

The Spartans pulled out an overtime win over Nebraska on Saturday night, in a game they really had no business winning. Credit to Mel Tucker and company, who used a late punt return touchdown by Jayden Reed and an interception on Nebraska’s opening possession in overtime to secure the victory. Sparty had no first downs, yes zero first downs, in the second half and still found a way to get it done. Facing a 20-13 deficit with 3:47 left in the fourth quarter, Reed took a Nebraska punt back 62 yards to tie the game and force overtime. In the extra period, quarterback Adrian Martinez threw a pick to set the Spartans up for the game-winning field goal. Overall, Michigan State was outgained 442 to 254 and NCAA-rushing leader Kenneth Walker III was held to just 61 rushing yards. The Spartans will look to remain unbeaten on Saturday against a Western Kentucky team that nearly knocked off Indiana this past weekend.

6. (7) Maryland (4-0), W - 37-16 vs. Kent State, Next Week: vs. No. 5 Iowa

Don’t look now, but the Terps are still perfect on the season after a relatively easy win over Kent State in Week 4. Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa had another big game, throwing for 384 yards, three touchdowns and his first pick of the season in the win. It’s not a stretch to call Tagovailoa a dark-horse Heisman contender, as the junior leads the Big Ten is passing yards (1,340) and holds a 10:1 touchdown to interception ratio through four games. Maryland’s defense is still a concern, as they allowed 458 yards of total offense and 27 first downs to the Golden Flashes. The Terps will get their biggest test of the season thus far, when No. 5 Iowa visits College Park on Friday night.

7. (10) Purdue (3-1), W - 13-9 vs. Illinois, Next Week: vs. Minnesota

Quarterback Aidan O’Connell orchestrated a ten play, 94-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to lead the Boilermakers to an ugly 13-9 win over Illinois on Saturday. Playing without star wide receiver David Bell and their top two running backs, it was a struggle on offense for Purdue until that aforementioned final drive. Head coach Jeff Brohm again used two quarterbacks, with senior Jack Plummer also seeing playing time in the game. Purdue’s defense allowed 175 yards on the ground, but avoided big plays through the air and held the Illini to just 100 yards passing. This was a huge win for Purdue’s bowl chances, with winnable home games against Minnesota, Northwestern and Indiana still on the schedule.

8. (9) Rutgers (3-1), L - 20-13 at Michigan, Next Week: vs. No. 11 Ohio State

The Scarlet Knights entered their game against Michigan as 20.5-point underdogs, but had the ball down one score late in the fourth quarter. That in it of itself is an accomplishment for a Rutgers team still in full rebuild mode. Greg Schiano’s teams muck it up better than anyone else, and the Scartlet Knights did just that in Ann Arbor on Saturday. Led by running back Isaih Pacheco’s 107 yards, the Scarlet Knights rushed for 196 yards as a team and racked up nearly 33 minutes in time of possession. On defense, Rutgers held a potent Michigan rushing attack to only 112 yards and 2.9 yards per carry. However, a fumble by quarterback Noah Vedral on the Scarlet Knights’ final possession ended their chances at a program-changing upset. The schedule doesn’t get any easier, with No. 11 Ohio State on deck this upcoming Saturday.

9. (11) Nebraska (2-2), L - 23-20 OT at Michigan State, Next Week: vs. Northwestern

For the second straight week the Cornhuskers move up in the rankings following a loss, but they have shown to be a tough out in the early season. Nebraska nearly, and probably should have, beat No. 20 Michigan State on Saturday night and were hampered by a punt return touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Adrian Martinez threw for 244 yards, rushed for 72 yards and two touchdowns, but an interception in overtime essentially sealed the win for the Spartans. Nebraska’s defense was lights out in the second half, allowing no points until the aforementioned punt return and picked off Payton Thorne once. This Cornhuskers team is almost there, but they just can’t seem to put it all together and pick up a win against a quality opponent. A winnable home game against Northwestern is up next this weekend.

10. (6) Wisconsin (1-2), L - 41-13 vs. Notre Dame, Next Week: vs. No. 14 Michigan

The Badgers tumble four spots this week after an embarrassing 41-13 loss against Notre Dame at Solider Field. Where do I even begin? The offense looked completely lost, quarterback Graham Mertz had five turnovers, and a special teams mishap changed the course of the game. Wisconsin’s offensive line just doesn’t look right and the Badgers averaged only 2.8 yards per carry against a defense that was missing their starting nose tackle. The defense continues to play their butts off and finished with six sacks, 12 tackles for loss and allowed only nine rushing yards in the game. The Badgers will return to Madison this weekend to play No. 14 Michigan, in a game they have to win if they want any chance at winning the West division.

11. (12) Indiana (2-2), W - 33-31 at Western Kentucky, Next Week: at No. 4 Penn State

The Hoosiers got back in the win column on Saturday, sneaking past a pretty solid Western Kentucky team on the road. Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. completed 35 of 53 passes for 372 yards, and most importantly committed no turnovers. USC transfer Stephen Carr lead the way on the ground, rushing for 109 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Indiana’s defense left much to be desired, allowing 365 yards through the air and forcing no turnovers. The Hoosiers will look for their first signature win of the season when they visit No. 4 Penn State this upcoming Saturday.

12. (13) Northwestern (2-2), W - 35-6 vs. Ohio, Next Week: at Nebraska

The Wildcats got a much-needed, confidence building win over Ohio in Evanston this past weekend. Running back Evan Hull led the way with 216 rushing yards and two touchdowns, including a 90-yard score in the first quarter. Sophomore quarterback Ryan Hilinski, a transfer from South Carolina, started his first game after early season struggles by Hunter Johnson. Hilinski didn’t have to do much and completed 12-of-20 passes for 88 yards in the win. Northwestern’s defense played well, holding the Bobcats scoreless until the final play of the game (55-yard rushing TD) and forcing three turnovers (two INTs, one fumble). The Wildcats will look to keep the momentum going against Nebraska in Lincoln this weekend.

13. (14) Illinois (1-4), L - 13-9 at Purdue, Next Week: vs. Charlotte

The Illini move up one spot this week after a hard-fought effort on the road against Purdue. Much like last week’s loss to Maryland, the Illini had a very real chance to win this game but couldn’t stop the Boilermakers in the fourth quarter, allowing a 10 play, 94-yard touchdown drive in the final minutes. The Illini actually got the ball back and drove inside the red zone, but three straight incompletions by quarterback Brandon Peters and a turnover on downs sealed the win for Purdue. Through five games, there isn’t much to like about this Illinois team in Bret Bielema’s first year at the helm. The Illini allow the most total yards per game in the Big Ten, and rank second to last in the conference in total offensive yards gained.

14. (8) Minnesota (2-2), L - 14-10 vs. Bowling Green, Next Week: at Purdue

Minnesota suffered an embarrassing home loss as 30.5-point favorites to lowly Bowling Green on Saturday afternoon. Just one week after destroying Colorado on the road, the Golden Gophers came crashing down to earth with a shocking loss due to their struggles on offense. Quarterback Tanner Morgan had perhaps the worst game of his career, completing just five of 13 passes for 59 yards and committing three turnovers (two INTs, one fumble). Running back Treyson Potts, who finished with 127 rushing yards and a touchdown, was the only bright spot on offense for the Gophers. Do I think Minnesota is the worst team in the conference? Probably not, but after a loss like that they deserve to be in the basement at least for this week. They’ll try and right the ship (or boat) this upcoming weekend when they visit Purdue.