1.) Michigan State – Last Week: 46-27 loss vs Oregon
Public perception of Michigan State may have taken a hit after that blowout loss against Oregon, but that outcome really wasn’t particularly surprising. Oregon still hasn’t lost in regulation in Eugene since 2011, and their home record is pretty stellar. The Spartans tried their hand at heading halfway across the country to beat an amazingly talented team and failed. Now they get a week to figure out why their team faltered in such an epic fashion on both the offense and defense.
2.) Wisconsin – Last Week: 37-3 win over W. Illinois
The Badgers took some flak for faltering against LSU last week, but they got back to their winning ways in a cakewalk game against Western Illinois. It’s definitely concerning that Melvin Gordon hasn’t been able to show off some of that dominance from last season, and that his touches have been limited to 16 and 17 carries. Why is he being handcuffed?
3.) Nebraska – Last Week: 31-24 win over McNeese State
The Cornhuskers are here because of one player, and that’s Ameer Abdullah. A player as amazing as him ensures that, no matter how horrendous your team has played in any give game, you have one guy who can change the entire outcome of a game. Abdullah only had 52 yards last weekend, but he bailed out Nebraska entirely with that late touchdown scamper. They’ve got a lot of work to do defensively through the middle, but in the end they won and are 2-0.
4.) Penn State – Last Week: 21-3 win over Akron
I hate putting Penn State this high because they’ve been a relative joke so far this year. Their ability to churn out a lousy 21 points against an Akron team that simply didn’t look good is a testament to how much more work their offense needs. Christian Hackenberg might have an amazing arm and all, but his decision making seems like an issue that will continue to arise.
5.) Rutgers – Last Week: 38-25 win over Howard
Rutgers is probably 4A right now, and that’s mostly because they’re winning and still exciting to watch. It’s nice to see Ralph Friedgen doing wonders with Paul James and Gary Nova, as the two look like one of the more exciting pairs in the Big Ten. After barely completing 50% of his passes last year and throwing 14 picks, Nova has four touchdowns and no picks, and is connecting on 67% of his throws. This team can score with anyone, and they control the clock well. Their defense is brutal and will catch up to them, but right now they’re hard to knock at 2-0.
6.) Maryland – Last Week: 24-17 win over South Florida
It wasn’t pretty and the victory definitely asked more questions than it answered, but a come from behind win on the road (in a state where Maryland is notoriously bad), is a win. The Terps overcame six turnovers in a game with virtually zero fan turnout (which can play on you mentally) to come away with a win. Not many teams can do that, and once this offensive unit starts clicking things should improve overall.
7.) Ohio State – Last Week: 35 – 21 loss vs Virginia Tech
Am I being too generous listing Ohio State this high? Honestly it feels like it. One of the league’s typically great representatives has looked like a joke this year thus far. Losing to Virginia Tech at home is a direct result of not having a quarterback. J.T. Barrett was thrust into the spotlight after Braxton Miller went down, and it’s clear (to this writer at least) that he may not be able to get the job done this year. Then again, he may look better if that offensive line wasn’t so horrible. Seven sacks vs VT.
8.) Iowa – Last Week: 17-13 win over Ball State
This team’s kicking unit is a hot mess this year, and that’s not good for an offense that plays games close. The Hawkeyes are not explosive at all with Jake Rudock’s arm throwing balls and Mark Weisman being the lead back. That’s not to say this team is bad, but it does suggest this squad won’t win a ton of games against Big Ten defenses unless they can get more playmaking out of…someone. Ball State shouldn’t have given this team that much of a problem (though BSU isn’t as bad as some have made them out to be), and that should worry Hawkeye fans heading into Big Ten play in a couple weeks.
9.) Minnesota – Last Week: 35-24 win over Middle Tennessee State
Minnesota is 2-0 right now and looking pretty good after blowout victories against Eastern Illinois and Middle Tennessee State. I was a big fan of David Cobb before the season began, and his 220 yards and two touchdowns last week continues to affirm the notion that this kid is a diamond in the rough. Cobb rushed for 1,202 yards last year, in his first season with more than ten carries, and it’s looking like he could top that number this year. Minnesota is going to face a still and very telling test against Texas Christian on Saturday, and we’ll see this team either rise or remain stagnant from there.
10.) Michigan – Last Week: 31-0 loss vs #16 Notre Dame
It’s almost impossible to win on the road when your team turns the ball over four times, and that’s exactly what Michigan did. Devin Gardner misfired on three passes that ended up getting picked off, fumbled another two balls away to stall drives, and Michigan’s field goal unit was pretty bad to start the game. Someone not named Gardner or Funchess needs to step up on offense, lest this team’s defense give up altogether. Don’t write this team off yet by any means, but their running game needs help and the D might not be as good as advertised.
The not-so-big boys…
11. Indiana – Bye
12. Illinois – Last Week: 42-34 win over Western Kentucky
13. Purdue – Last Week: 38-17 loss vs Central Michigan
14. Northwestern – Last Week: 23-15 loss vs Northern Illinois