Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 13
Big Ten football held the national stage yesterday and didn't disappoint. Ohio State and Michigan, despite losing the Big Ten East to Penn State, proved its rivalry is renewed and that the Big Ten might just be good enough to book two tickets to the College Football Playoff.
Michigan was the better team for the majority of its game at Ohio State, but the Buckeyes came out on top Saturday and come out on top in this week's Big Ten Power Rankings.
1. Ohio State Buckeyes: (11-1, 8-1): It was a game for the ages, one of the best installments in a rivalry series that dates back to the 1800s. 113 previous matchups, and this was the first overtime game featuring the Buckeyes and Wolverines (overtime implemented in 1996). Ohio State probably didn't deserve to win, but its defense forced enough turnovers to give the offense a chance, and J.T. Barrett and Curtis Samuel took care of the rest. No Big Ten title game for the Buckeyes, but a potential trip to the College Football Playoff still awaits. Next: bye.
2. Michigan Wolverines (10-2, 7-2): If Saturday was any indication, Michigan might legitimately be one of the four best teams in the country. Its No.1 defense held Ohio State at bay until the fourth quarter when the sheer amount of time spent on the field and the Buckeyes' up-tempo offense wore down the Wolverines. If not for Speight's fumble on Ohio State's 2-yard line in the third quarter, we might be talking about Michigan's national title hopes instead. Next: bye.
3. Wisconsin Badgers (10-2, 7-2): The Badgers were on upset alert for two and a half quarters on Saturday before coming back and finishing off the Gophers to claim Paul Bunyan's ax. Wisconsin took its time getting into the game's rhythm with a Big Ten title game spot already clinched, but it woke up in time to keep its College Football Playoff hopes alive. Next: vs. Penn State in Big Ten Championship.
4. Penn State Nittany Lions (10-2, 8-1): Michigan State thought it had a chance up 12-10 on Penn State at halftime, but the Nittany Lions weren't fooling anyone. One of the best second half teams in the country, Penn State erupted for 35 second half points and laid claim on the Big Ten East. The Nittany Lions, one of the most surprising stories in college football, are one win away from a legitimate College Football Playoff case. Next: vs. Wisconsin in Big Ten Championship.
5. Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4, 6-3): I understand North Dakota State is a five-time consecutive FCS champion, but the way Iowa's looked this November, there's no way the Hawkeyes should've ever lost to the Bison. Iowa's dominated the trenches on both sides of the ball for weeks, and for a road team, playing at Kinnick is no joke. Much deserved wins over Michigan and Nebraska give Iowa fans hope and some warm feelings about this year despite what could have been. Next: bye.
6. Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-3, 6-3): Things were promising for Nebraska after starting 7-0, but the Cornhuskers couldn't handle the toucher second half of the schedule, dropping three of its final five to Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa, all on the road. Still, a positive season for Nebraska and sign that Mike Riley has the program headed back in the correct direction. Next: bye.
7. Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-4, 5-4): Minnesota had a 10-point lead over Wisconsin at halftime, and for a while looked as if it might pull off the upset and take home the Paul Bunyan ax. Tracy Claeys did a decent job coaching this year, but the Gophers didn't beat many teams of note. Instead, it handled its business with the teams below and lost to the teams above in the standings. Next: bye.
8. Northwestern Wildcats (6-6, 5-4): The Wildcats overcame their rough 0-2 start to win six of their final 10 games. Like Minnesota, Northwestern struggled with the teams ahead of it in the standings. While it was unlikely Northwestern would go 10-3 again, this season will be classified as a disappointment for Pat Fitzgerald and his staff without a postseason bowl victory. Next: bye.
9. Indiana Hoosiers (6-6, 4-5): Indiana clinches back-to-back bowl bids for the first time since the early 1990s, which means the season can probably be classified as successful. The program is clearly headed in the right direction, but as expectations surrounding the Indiana program rise, so too will the need for more results. The Hoosiers can't keep losing one-score games against top-25 foes; it needs to start winning some.
10. Maryland Terrapins (6-6, 3-6): Arguably the worst bowl-eligible team in the Big Ten, Maryland did just enough to meander on over to six wins. Despite winning only two of its final eight games, the Terrapins beat three of the four worst teams in the conference and didn't play Illinois. No. 10 seems like the perfect spot for Maryland. Next: bye.
11. Michigan State Spartans (3-9, 1-8): This season will always be an unmitigated disaster to Michigan State, but the reality is the season could've been much worse. Despite mounting injuries in the final weeks of the season, the Spartans battled with Michigan and Ohio State, led Penn State at halftime in Happy Valley and trounced Rutgers. Next: bye.
12. Purdue Boilermakers (3-9, 1-8): Purdue was 3-2 and 1-1 in Big Ten play at one point this year, but seven straight losses left Purdue defeated and without a head coach. If I'm involved with the Boilermakers' head coaching search, I offer Les Miles and P.J. Fleck whatever they want and hope they're willing to settle. Next: bye.
13. Illinois Fighting Illini (3-9, 2-7): Well, Lovie, it can only go up from here. Wins over Michigan State and Rutgers mark the highs of the season for the Fighting Illini, so it could've been worse. But wins only over Murray State, Michigan State and Rutgers are why the season was atrocious. Next: bye.
14. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (2-10, 0-9): Offense, defense, special teams, take your pick and Rutgers was overmatched against almost everyone they faced. I hope Chris Ash knew what he was getting into when he left his co-defensive coordinator position at Ohio State to coach Rutgers. Next: bye.