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Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 1 Recap

Iowa stifles Indiana, Penn State squeaks past Wisconsin, and Illinois gets upset.

1. Ohio State (1-0), W - 45-31 at Minnesota, Next Week: vs. No. 12 Oregon

It was a tale of two halves for the Buckeyes on Thursday night. First-year starting quarterback C.J. Stroud threw for just 58 yards and one pick in the first half, while the Buckeyes trailed 14-10 at the break. Stroud bounced back in the second half throwing for 246 yards and three TDs to lead the Buckeyes to a victory in Minneapolis. The skill position talent on this team is off the charts and was on full display in Week 1. Wide receivers Chris Olave (117 yards, two TDs) and Garrett Wilson (80 yards, one TD) both had big days, while electric true freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson had a 70-yard touchdown catch. It looks like the Buckeyes have another star in the making under center, but Stroud will be tested this upcoming Saturday when Kayvon Thibodeaux and a talented Oregon defense travels to Columbus.

2. Penn State (1-0), W - 16-10 at Wisconsin, Next Week: vs. Ball State

The Nittany Lions deserve the number two spot after securing a hard-fought road win in Madison. Penn State’s defense caused problems for Graham Mertz, forcing him into two picks, and while Wisconsin was able to rush for 174 yards, they never broke a gain more than 19. On the offensive end, wide receiver Jahan Dotson and Sean Clifford made the plays needed to win, including a 49-yard touchdown on their first drive of the second half. The Nittany Lions deserve credit for taking advantage of some red zone mistakes by the Badgers and their front seven looked elite, led by Temple transfer Arnold Ebiketie. Penn State will look to get their running game going with a home matchup against Ball State in Week 2.

3. Iowa (1-0), W - 34-6 vs. Indiana, Next Week: at No. 9 Iowa State

Iowa made a strong case as the Big Ten’s second-best team, after a 34-6 thrashing of a ranked Indiana team on Saturday. The Hawkeyes used two pick sixes by cornerback Riley Moss to jump out to a 31-3 halftime lead and never looked back. Running back Tyler Goodson (First-team All-Big Ten in 2020) picked up where he left off last year, rushing for 99 yards and one touchdown in the win. All eyes will be on quarterback Spencer Petras in Week 2, as he’ll need to play better if the Hawkeyes hope to beat a top-10 Iowa State team on the road.

4. Michigan (1-0), W - 47-14 vs. Western Michigan, Next Week: vs. Washington

The Wolverines opened the season with a stress-free 47-14 win over Western Michigan at The Big House. Michigan ran all over the Broncos to the tune of 335 rushing yards and 7.8 yards per carry. Quarterback Cade McNamara was efficient through the air, finishing 9-for-11 with 136 yards, two TDs and no interceptions. The Wolverines were dealt a huge blow, however, as star wide receiver Ronnie Bell was carted off the field in the second quarter and will miss the rest of the season. Michigan will host Washington in Week 2, a team that will be hungry for a win after losing to FCS Montana in Week 1.

5. Michigan State (1-0), W - 38-21 at Northwestern, Next Week: vs. Youngstown State

As Badger fans know all too well, winning at Ryan Field is not an easy task, but the Spartans got it done on Saturday led by a 264-yard, four TD rushing performance by Wake Forest transfer Kenneth Walker III. As a team, the Spartans rushed for 8.8 yards per carry and overwhelmed a shaky Northwestern defense up front. This was an important conference win for Mel Tucker, who’s trying to rebuild the Spartans into a bowl team in his second year at the helm.

6. Wisconsin (0-1), L - 16-10 vs. Penn State, Next Week: vs. Eastern Michigan

It was not a great day for the Badgers, who turned the ball over twice inside the 10-yard line and lost a very winnable home game to Penn State. Quarterback Graham Mertz was unimpressive, throwing two picks, fumbling two handoffs (one of them at the 1-yard line) and missing several throws throughout the afternoon. Running back Chez Mellusi was the lone bright spot on offense, rushing for 121 yards and a touchdown. The Badgers defense looked solid, besides a few breakdowns in the back-half of the secondary. This was an excruciating loss for Wisconsin, who had the ball for nearly 43 minutes and outgained the Nittany Lions 359 to 297. Eastern Michigan will travel to Madison for a game in which Mertz can hopefully gain some confidence back under center.

7. Maryland (1-0), W - 30-24 vs. West Virginia, Next Week: vs. Howard

Maryland’s offense was clicking on all cylinders in a 30-24 win over West Virginia this past weekend. Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa threw for 332 yards, three TDs and no interceptions, and was aided by wide receivers Dontay Demus Jr. (133 yards, one TD) and Rakim Jarrett (122 yards, one TD). Maryland’s defense was no slouch either, as they forced four turnovers and held the Mountaineers to just 42 yards on the ground. Head coach Mike Locksley has recruited well the past several seasons, and with a talented quarterback in Tagovailoa under center, this could just be the season we see the Terps take the next step.

8. Purdue (1-0), W - 30-21 vs. Oregon State, Next Week: at UConn

The Boilermakers beat a Power-Five team, albeit a mediocre one in Oregon State on Saturday, but it was a solid win to kick off an important season for head coach Jeff Brohm. The Beavers had no answer for Purdue’s pass-heavy attack, as quarterback Jack Plummer threw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Wide receiver David Bell, arguably the best wideout in the conference, finished with eight catches for 134 yards and will continue to be an issue for opposing defenses all season. Brohm’s teams at Purdue have always been able to move the ball, but the Boilermakers’ chances of making a bowl game this season will come down to how improved they are on the defensive end. An easy home matchup against UConn is on the horizon in Week 2.

9. Northwestern (0-1), L - 38-21 vs. Michigan State, Next Week: vs. Indiana State

It was Northwestern’s typically stout defense that let the Wildcats down in a 38-21 home loss to Michigan State in Week 1. Pat Fitzgerald’s young defensive unit had no answer to Michigan State’s ground attack, allowing 326 rushing yards and four touchdowns. The silver lining is quarterback Hunter Johnson looked sharp, throwing for 275 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. Northwestern had to replace a ton of production from last year’s West division title team, so we could see an up and down season from the Wildcats in 2021. The defense will look to bounce back in Week 2 against FCS Indiana State.

10. Minnesota (0-1), L - 45-31 vs. Ohio State, Next Week: vs. Miami (OH)

The Golden Gophers held a halftime lead over Ohio State, which is impressive in it’s own right. Howver, there was just too much offensive firepower for the Buckeyes, as they pulled away in the second half. The story of the game though was the loss of All-Big Ten running back Mohamed Ibrahim, who rushed for 163 yards and two touchdowns before leaving the contest in the third quarter with a lower leg injury. News after the game confirmed Gopher fans’ worst fears, that Ibrahim will miss the rest of the season. I still think this Minnesota team can go bowling this year, but it’ll be an uphill battle without Ibrahim.

11. Indiana (0-1), L - 34-6 at Iowa, Next Week: vs. Idaho

After a breakthrough season last year, in which the Hoosiers lost just one conference game, Indiana was back to their old ways on Saturday and looked outclassed in a 34-6 loss at Iowa. Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was dreadful, throwing for three INTs and completing less than 50% of his passes. Penix isn’t quite as bad as he showed on Saturday, but the Hoosiers will need to readjust their expectations after Week 1’s performance. Tom Allen and his staff will use Week 2’s matchup against Idaho to hopefully get Penix back on track.

12. Rutgers (1-0), W - 61-14 vs. Temple, Next Week: at Syracuse

Rutgers took care of business on Saturday, cruising to a 61-14 victory over Temple. The defense was the story in this one, as the Scarlet Knights forced five turnovers (two INTs, three fumbles) and held the Owls’ offense in check for much of the game. Rutgers’ offense still has a long way to go, as quarterback Noah Vedral completed just 15 passes and their rushing attack could only muster 4.3 yards per carry. The Scarlet Knights will travel to the Carrier Dome to play Syracuse in Week 2.

13. Illinois (1-1), L - 37-30 vs. UTSA, Next Week: at Virginia

After winning Bret Bielema’s debut in Week 0, Illinois came crashing back to earth with a upset home loss to UTSA. The loss isn’t as shocking as you would think (Illinois was only a 5-point favorite) but after an encouraging win over Nebraska, it has to be disappointing to lose to a program that was formed just 10 years ago.

14. Nebraska (1-1), W - 52-7 vs. Fordham, Next Week: vs. Buffalo

The Cornhuskers predictably steamrolled FCS Fordham 52-7 in Lincoln on Saturday. Scott Frost’s team rushed for six touchdowns and finished with 633 total yards and 34 first downs in a game that will hopefully give the whole offense some confidence. The Cornhuskers will need to do more than just beat up on an FCS team before they shake off their disappointing loss to Illinois in Week 1. Nebraska will host Buffalo this upcoming weekend in another winnable game.