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Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 1

Ohio State gets by Notre Dame, Rutgers steals a win at BC and Penn State notched a key conference victory.


Find Week 0/Preseason rankings here.

1. (Last Week: 1) Ohio State (1-0), W - 21-10 vs. Notre Dame, Next Week: vs. Arkansas State

The Buckeyes overcame a slow first half offensively and relied on their new-look defense to get the win over a top-five Notre Dame team. Ohio State lost star wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba to an injury in the first quarter and it took a while for quarterback C.J. Stroud and the Buckeye's offense to get going. New defensive coordinator Jim Knowles’ defense looked strong in the win, holding Notre Dame scoreless in the second half and limiting the Irish to just 2.5 yards per carry.

This wasn’t a dominant win by any means for Ohio State, but credit to Ryan Day’s team for scheduling a tough opponent and getting the win. The offense will obviously see better days, starting with an easy home matchup against Arkansas State this weekend. I’d expect Stroud to get back on track and throw for at least four to five touchdowns in that one.

2. (2) Michigan (1-0), W - 51-7 vs. Colorado State, Next Week: vs Hawai’i

Michigan took care of business against a rebuilding Colorado State program, cruising to a 51-7 win at the Big House. Cade McNamara got the start under center but did not look sharp. The senior completed only 50% of his passes and finished with a pedestrian 136 passing yards, one touchdown, and no picks. J.J. McCarthy, who will start Week 2’s game against Hawai’i, looked like the better quarterback in a limited role, completing all four pass attempts and rushing for 50 yards and a touchdown. The Wolverines’ quarterback battle will be the main story in Ann Arbor in the first month or so of the season.

Michigan’s defense looked dominant in the win, forcing two turnovers (1 INT, 1 fumble) and notching seven sacks. The Wolverines have another immensely talented roster this season, but the battle between McNamara and McCarthy will need to play out before putting a ceiling on this team. Hawai’i will visit Ann Arbor this Saturday, where the Wolverines are currently 51-point favorites.

3. (3) Wisconsin (1-0), W - 38-0 vs. Illinois State, Next Week: vs. Washington State

The Badgers were never really tested in their shutout win over Illinois State on Saturday. Safety John Torchio returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown on the Redbirds’ second possession and Wisconsin never looked back. Running back Braelon Allen added to the fireworks with a 96-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and finished the night with 148 rushing yards and two scores. Quarterback Graham Mertz was efficient in the win, throwing just two incompletions and never turning the ball over.

Wisconsin’s defense was never really tested in this one, but All-American candidate Nick Herbig got off to a good start with a two-sack performance. The Badgers will face a much stiffer test this weekend when Washington State travels to Madison.

4. (4) Penn State (1-0), W - 35-31 at Purdue, Next Week: vs. Ohio

Quarterback Sean Clifford led the Nittany Lions on an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in the final minutes of the game to steal a road win at Purdue. Clifford battled through a knee injury to throw for 282 yards, three touchdowns, and one pick in the win. Penn State’s defense was carved up through the air by Purdue but really stepped up in the fourth quarter. The Nittany Lions forced the Boilermakers into five straight punts and a turnover on downs in their final six possessions of the game.

After two below-average seasons in Happy Valley, this was as close to a must-win game for Penn State as you can have in Week 1. James Franklin’s team responded well to adversity on the road and will look to keep the momentum going this weekend with a home matchup against Ohio.

5. (6) Michigan State (1-0), W - 35-13 vs. Western Michigan, Next Week: vs. Akron

The Spartans were up and down in their game against Western Michigan but pulled away in the fourth quarter to avoid the upset. Quarterback Payton Thorne threw for four touchdowns and one interception, while Wisconsin transfer running back Jalen Berger finished with 120 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Michigan State’s defense took a big hit in the win though, losing starting linebacker Darius Snow for the season and starting safety Xavier Henderson for at least a few weeks with leg injuries. Thankfully, Sparty gets another easy matchup in Week 2 with Akron coming to town.

6. (7) Minnesota (1-0), W - 38-0 vs. New Mexico State, Next Week: vs. Western Illinois

Minnesota used a relentless rushing attack and stout defensive performance to earn an easy win over New Mexico State and former head coach Jerry Kill. The Aggies just had no answer for the Gophers’ ground game, as Mohamed Ibrahim cruised to 132 rushing yards and two touchdowns, while Trey Potts added 89 yards and a touchdown of his own. Ibrahim and Potts should form one of the best one, two punches at running back in the conference this season.

On the defensive side of the ball, Minnesota completely shut down NMSU and held the Aggies to only 91 total yards in the game. New Mexico State is one of the worst teams at the FBS level this year, but Minnesota made it look easy last Thursday night. The Gophers welcome another cupcake opponent in Western Illinois to Minneapolis this upcoming weekend.

7. (5) Iowa (1-0), W - 7-3 vs. South Dakota State, Next Week: vs. Iowa State

Oh boy, Iowa. A wins a win I guess, but Saturday’s offensive performance against FCS South Dakota State was shockingly bad. If you assumed the Hawkeyes scored a touchdown after seeing the score, you would be wrong. Iowa managed to win a game with a single field goal and two safeties, which is impressive in and of itself. Quarterback Spencer Petras completed just eleven passes and threw a pick, while the Hawkeyes rushed for only 1.6 yards per attempt on 36 carries.

Iowa’s defense bailed out their putrid offense with a dominant game against the Jackrabbits. The Hawkeyes allowed just six first downs and 120 total yards while tacking on two safeties. Kirk Ferentz’s team will be looking for a better all-around showing this weekend when in-state rival Iowa State comes to town.

8. (8) Maryland (1-0), W - 31-10 vs. Buffalo, Next Week: at Charlotte

The Terps put up 446 total yards of offense in a stress-free win over Buffalo on Saturday. Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa completed 24 of 34 passes for 290 yards and an interception in the win. Freshman running back Roman Hemby finished with 114 yards and two scores on the ground, including a 70-yard touchdown run. Maryland’s passing attack is already one of the best in the Big Ten, but if Hemby develops into an explosive option at running back the Terps’ offense could become elite. A tricky road game at Charlotte is up next for Mike Locksley and company this weekend.

9. (11) Northwestern (1-0), BYE, Next Week: vs. Duke

After notching a win against Nebraska in Week 0 over in Dublin, the Wildcats had a bye week. Pat Fitzgerald’s team will host Duke this Saturday in a game that’ll pit two academic blue bloods against one another.

10. (12) Nebraska (1-1), W - 38-17 vs. North Dakota, Next Week: vs. Georgia Southern

The Cornhuskers followed up their disappointing Week 0 loss to Northwestern with a confidence-building win over FCS North Dakota. In typical Nebraska fashion, this game of course had some drama. The Huskers were tied 7-7 at halftime and didn’t take the lead until late in the third quarter. Scott Frost’s team put the game away in the fourth quarter though, scoring two touchdowns and holding North Dakota scoreless. Running back Anthony Grant was a bright spot for the Huskers, rushing for 189 yards and two touchdowns in the win. The Cornhuskers get another winnable game this weekend when Georgia Southern visits Lincoln.

11. (9) Purdue (0-1), L - 35-31 vs. Penn State, Next Week: vs. Indiana State

Purdue lost a heartbreaker to Penn State on Thursday night after allowing a game-winning, 80-yard touchdown drive in the final minutes. The Boilermakers’ offense was explosive as expected, but their defense left something to be desired after a stellar 2021 season. Iowa transfer wide receiver Charlie Jones had a massive game, finishing with 12 catches for 153 yards and a touchdown.

The Boilermakers get FCS Indiana State this upcoming Saturday in West Lafayette. Despite the opening week loss, this is still a talented Purdue team with a great quarterback and I’d expect them to be in the mix for a Big Ten West title for most of the season.

12. (13) Rutgers (1-0), W - 22-21 at Boston College, Next Week: vs. Wagner

It wasn’t pretty, but credit to Rutgers for finding a way to win on the road against BC on Saturday afternoon. The Scarlet Knights were down for most of this game but rallied to win on a 12-play, 96-yard touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter. Rutgers ran the ball on 11 of those 12 plays, including the game-winning 22-yard touchdown run by sophomore Al-Shadee Salaam. The passing attack was ineffective yet again (110 passing yards, 1 INT), as Greg Schiano had both Evan Simon and Gavin Wimsatt take snaps under center. Rutgers’ defense forced three turnovers and held the Eagles to just 29 rushing yards to seal the road win. Hopefully, the Scarlet Knights can get the passing game going against an overmatched Wagner team this weekend.

13. (14) Indiana (1-0), W - 23-20 vs. Illinois, Next Week: vs. Idaho

The Hoosiers got their season started on the right track with a close win over Illinois on Friday night. Mizzou transfer Connor Bazelak had a great debut for the Hoosiers and finished with 330 passing yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Most importantly though, Bazelak led Indiana on a 12-play, 75-yard game-winning touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter to gain the lead. Indiana’s receivers could be one of the best groups in the Big Ten this season. We knew wide receiver D.J. Matthews Jr. was primed for a big season but Juco transfer Cam Camper hauled in 11 catches for 156 yards in the win, and looks to be another talented pass catcher at Bazelak’s disposal.

Indiana’s offense, which finished second worst in scoring in the conference last season, looked back to form against the Illini and the defense showed some promise and forced four turnovers. Do I think Indiana is an eight-win team? Probably not, but I think a bowl is a realistic goal after watching the Hoosiers in Week 1. A favorable home matchup against Idaho is up next for Tom Allen and company this upcoming weekend.

14. (10) Illinois (1-1), L - 23-20 at Indiana, Next Week: vs. Virginia

The Illini tumble in these rankings after a lackluster performance in their loss to Indiana. Running back Chase Brown had another monster game, rushing for 199 yards, but it wasn’t enough to put the Illini over the top. Illinois also had two crucial turnovers and was stopped at the goal line in the second half.

Illinois’ defense played well for most of the night until allowing a 75-yard, game-winning touchdown drive on the Hoosiers’ final possession. While I don’t believe the Illini are the worst team in the Big Ten talent-wise, I do think they deserve this ranking after opening weekend. This is a game Brett Bielema and Illini fans should expect to win, and this loss puts them behind the eight-ball in earning a bowl berth this season.