Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 4
The top three of this week's edition of my Big Ten Power Rankings is more volatile than ever. Moving up for a share of the top spot are the Michigan Wolverines after their demolition of the Penn State Nittany Lions (a tie is NOT a cop out).
Also climbing in the rankings are the Wisconsin Badgers after their second win this season over an Associated Press top-10 team.
1a. Ohio State Buckeyes (3-0): The Buckeyes had the week off and certainly haven't done anything to warrant losing the top spot. Depth at the linebacker position could be tested soon after Justin Hilliard posted about an injury he suffered on Instagram. Still, Ohio State is incredibly talented and should have little issue with Rutgers in Week 5.
1b. Michigan Wolverines (4-0): I knew Michigan was scary, but their defense looks lethal. After the 49-10 dismantling of Penn State on Saturday, the Wolverines have a top-10 showdown with Wisconsin waiting in the balance.
3. Wisconsin Badgers (4-0): There's not a single team in the Big Ten I underestimated more than Wisconsin. Their defense is fundamental and strong across the board. If Alex Hornibrook is as composed in Ann Arbor as he was in East Lansing, Bucky Badger has a real shot at pulling off the upset next weekend.
4. Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-0): This year's Tommy Armstrong is perplexing. After years of sloppy play with a myriad of interceptions and fumbles, Armstrong has learned to take care of the football. And when he holds on to the football, Nebraska wins.
5. Michigan State (2-1): Sparty learned just how good the Wisconsin defense is on Saturday. Outmatched from the beginning, Alex Hornibrook lead the Badger offense up and down the field on Michigan State, and Tyler O'Connor will see Wisconsin's front seven in his nightmares.
6. Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-0): It's hard to get a read on how good Minnesota will be this season. The competition hasn't been the toughest, but the Gophers have proven their ability to pull out wins in close games. But with the improvements Wisconsin and Nebraska have made in September, Minnesota has a tough road ahead for the Big Ten West crown.
7. Iowa Hawkeyes (3-1): If the Hawkeyes wanted to instill confidence in their fan base after a 23-21 loss to North Dakota State, a 14-7 nearly unwatchable win over Rutgers isn't the way to go. Iowa looks much worse in the trenches on both sides of the ball compared to last season.
8. Maryland Terrapins (3-0): D.J. Durkin's tenure in College Park has started without a blemish, and after a Week 4 bye, it should remain so after Maryland's 2016 Big Ten opener against Purdue.
9. Penn State Nittany Lions (2-2): There's no shame in losing at Michigan, but the game was never close. The sanctions are over for Penn State, but the talent gap between the top of the Big Ten East and the Nittany Lions is larger than imagined. Fortunately, Penn State's kicker Joey Julius can still pack a punch.
10. Indiana Hooisers (2-1): A 33-28 loss at home to Wake Forest would normally see you drop in the rankings, but I have no confidence in the bottom half of the Big Ten. That, and somehow the Demon Deacons are 4-0.
11. Purdue Boilermakers (2-1): Would you believe me if I told you this was the best start for Darrell Hazell during his time at Purdue? A 2-1 Boilermaker record, courtesy of wins over Eastern Kentucky and Nevada in West Lafayette.
12. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (2-2): Chris Ash has Rutgers fighting harder than anyone else since the Scarlet Knights joined the Big Ten. While it only scored seven points in 60 minutes against Iowa, Rutgers defense showed up and kept the game close all afternoon.
13. Northwestern Wildcats (1-3): I'm still not convinced Northwestern is awful, but three losses in four games wasn't what Pat Fitzgerald had in mind when envisioning his team's start to the season. The Wildcats battled with Nebraska but were overmatched against the Cornhusker defense.
14. Illinois Fighting Illini (1-2): A bye week for Illinois was more of a relief for us than the reeling Illini. Lovie Smith has a long road ahead of him.