Big Ten Power Ranking – Post Week Three
Every week Phil Harrison gives you Big Ten power rankings based on who is playing the best. Here’s how it all shakes out after week three.
We’re getting closer to the start of conference play in full bloom, and we’ve now got a handful of games to judge each team. Here’s the pecking order of the Big Ten teams after week three:
14. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Rutgers finally beat up on somebody, but it won’t be anything to write home about. Bullying Morgan State 65-0 still doesn’t solve the slew of problems across the board for the Scarlet Knights. It’s going to be a long rest of the season that begins with a trip to Lincoln up next. But hey, at least some of the team can dance.
13. Illinois Fighting Illini
Lovie Smith’s crew has been up and down, but mostly down. The latest was a flogging at the hands of a ranked USF squad, but anyone watching the game could see the chasm that exists between Illinois and a team playing in a non-Power Five conference. A record of 2-1 doesn’t tell the whole story here. This program still has a ways to go.
12. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Yes. Believe it. Based on what we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks, there are a myriad of issues the ‘Huskers need to correct. The O-line has yet to assert itself, and the defense has been far too inconsistent. It’s back to the drawing board after a loss at home to a MAC squad.
11. Northwestern Wildcats
I want to put the men in purple higher, but I can’t figure them out. After an escape act in week one, followed up by an embarrassing loss on the road to Duke, Northwestern finally showed its potential by blasting away at Bowling Green. It’s a good start, but I still need to see more.
10. Indiana Hoosiers
Time may prove to us that the Hoosiers are better than we think. The offense has shown flashes of being special, but after a week off because of Hurricane Irma, the jury is still out. The defense still needs to show that it can keep up against the better teams going forward.
9. Purdue Boilermakers
You could make the case for the ‘Boilers being higher here, but I’m not so sure Missouri is that good at playing the game of football right now. There are clearly signs of progress in West Lafayette, but a few more games against better competition will tell us more.
8. Maryland Terrapins
Much like Purdue, it’s still a wait and see game. However, also like the Boilermakers, the ‘Terps are showing signs of life with an ability to move the chains with an upgrade in personnel. D.J. Durkin has this team on the upswing but we’ll see what happens in the upcoming weeks.
7. Minnesota Golden Gophers
P.J. Fleck’s team is quietly improving on a weekly basis and now sits at 3-0 after a 34-3 drubbing of Middle Tennessee. The boat will be out of water for a bye week, and then its time to host Maryland in a litmus test for both teams on September 30th.
6. Iowa Hawkeyes
The Hawkeyes have some confidence going and it has everything to do with the play of their new QB Nathan Stanley. If he can continue to play at a high level, and the defense can keep getting stops, you could be looking at a dark-horse candidate to make some noise in the West Division.
5. Michigan State Spartans
I for one believe that the Spartans are flying under the radar. I know I’m not in the majority on this, but Brian Lewerke has been a breath of fresh air under center, and the running game will eventually get on track to go along with a defense that’s playing closer to the Spartan defense we all got accustomed to when Pat Narduzzi was running the show.
4. Michigan Wolverines
The Wolverines are a good ball club, but there still seems to be something missing on offense. Wilton Speight has struggled taking the next step as a play-maker and the running game has yet to fully get off the ground. Defensively Michigan will be fine, but there needs to be improvement on the other side of the ball — especially in the red zone. There is clearly plenty of time for Harbaugh to work his khaki colored magic.
3. Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State is still searching for an identity, and until it finds one, there are ways to exploit weaknesses in the secondary on defense and the inability to make plays down the field on offense. Urban Meyer’s club still has all the potential in the world, but right now, it’s not at a championship level.
2. Wisconsin Badgers
Ho hum. Another year, and another Wisconsin team that hasn’t seemed to miss a beat. The running game has improved from last year and the defense — though not as formidable as last year — is still getting it done. And if QB Alex Hornibrook can play like he did against BYU, the College Football Playoff Committee will have no choice but to take notice.
1. Penn State Nittany Lions
The competition level hasn’t been in the stratosphere so we might have to readjust our sights, but so far Penn State has looked every bit the power we thought it would be. The offense has been lights out with Barkley, McSorley and company, and the defense has been even better than advertised. So far at least, this team looks good enough to challenge about anyone in the country — Alabama and Clemson included.
What do you think? Which team is too high, which is too low? Am I off my rocker?
Phil Harrison is the lead Big Ten writer for College Football News. Get his opinion and analysis all year long. Follow him on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFB