Big 10 Power Rankings: Week 1
Written By ESPN 99.1's Christian Zylstra
In the inaugural edition of our weekly Big10 power rankings, the Ohio State Buckeyes reign supreme and come in at our top slot. This has less to do with bias and more to do with Ohio State’s annihilation of the defending MAC champion, Bowling Green.
Another team trending upwards in the rankings is Wisconsin, who scored a resume-boosting victory over No. 5 LSU at Lambeau Field. Headed in the opposite direction are the Northwestern Wildcats, who showed their 10-win 2015 campaign might be little more than an illusion.
1. Ohio State Buckeyes (1-0): The Buckeye football program is one of the most storied in the country with oodles of national championships and NFL draft picks. So when Ohio State accumulates its most yards (776) since 1930 and racks up 77 points, it’s going to warrant our notice. J.T. Barrett also set a single-game record for most touchdowns responsible for (7), six of which came through the air
2. Michigan Wolverines (1-0): Michigan dominated from the start (albeit for one pass) against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. We knew the Wolverines would possess a top-notch defense, and it was on full display as they held Hawaii to three points. Wilton Speight made few mistakes, and it appears Michigan has playmakers at every position.
3. Wisconsin (1-0): Red zone efficiency wasn’t the Badgers strong suit, but the defense was stout and shut down the LSU offense. Leonard Fournette got his yards, but little else worked offensively for the Tigers. Credit Wisconsin’s resiliency and clutch kicker, Rafael Gaglianone.
4. Iowa Hawkeyes (1-0): This might be one of the most explosive and talented offenses ever during the 20-year regime of Kirk Ferentz. With C.J. Beathard at quarterback and the running back tandem of Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels Jr., the Hawkeyes could be posed to score early and often.
5. Michigan State (1-0): As long as Mark Dantonio is head coach in East Lansing, the defense shouldn’t be an issue. But to score only 28 points on an FCS opponent is worrying for the Spartans. Furman even had the ball with a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter.
6. Nebraska Cornhuskers (1-0): In reality, nothing that happened on the field came anywhere close to the importance of Nebraska honoring fallen punter Sam Foltz. Nebraska ran the ball plenty of times (51 rushes on 64 offensive plays) and coasted to a comfortable victory over Fresno State.
7. Minnesota Golden Gophers (1-0): Oregon State struggled last season and gave Minnesota fits in Minneapolis, but when the Gophers scored, they did so in bunches (17 points in second quarter; 13 points in fourth quarter). Rodney Smith looks like a premier running back in a conference loaded with talent at that position.
8. Indiana Hosiers (1-0): Indiana won a football game because of its defense. Yes, you read that correctly. The Hoosiers returned two interceptions for touchdowns, erasing a fourth quarter-deficit and grabbing an early season road win. And, FIU was willing stuff Indiana’s pockets with some extra cash.
9. Penn State Nittany Lions (1-0): Penn State coasted to an easy win over Kent State, but the highlight of the game came when we all realized the Nittany Lions starting kicker should also play on the defensive line.
10. Maryland Terrapins (1-0): It’s hard to judge a team’s demolition of an FCS opponent, but Maryland looked impressive at all positions in a 52-13 victory over Howard. It’ll be crucial for the Terps to carry that success forward against FIU and UCF.
11. Northwestern Wildcats (0-1): A season-opening loss is never ideal, but it’s heart breaking when at home against a MAC opponent. Western Michigan is a decent team, but the Wildcats should have no business losing at home after a 10-win season. Justin Jackson was one of the lone bright spots.
12. Illinois Fighting Illini (1-0): The Lovie Smith era starts off with the destruction of Murray State. Again, another FCS opponent for a B1G team, but an encouraging sign for an Illini program that has struggled to get it right on and off the field over the past several years.
13. Purdue Boilermakers (1-0): When you’re surprised Purdue led a game against the likes of Eastern Kentucky from beginning to end, it’s not a good sign. Quality start for Darrell Hazell, but Purdue has a long ways to go before I start believing in the Boilermakers.
14. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (0-1): Rutgers was one of the worst B1G teams over the past few seasons, and it doesn’t look like the improvements are quite there yet. Washington picked apart the Scarlet Knights and kept them off the board for the majority of the game.