Week three of the Big Ten saw everything. It had some blowouts, some close calls and even an upset. Although the season is into full swing, many teams are looking for that identity to set themselves apart from the rest.
Ohio State may be looking like the best team in the conference after a Michigan State loss, but the Buckeyes defense is far too soft and once Big Ten play rolls around, they may be in trouble against teams with offensive firepower.
Week three wasn’t as detrimental to the conference’s well-being as the previous week was, but that doesn’t change the fact that two more undefeated teams went down and there are now no remaining teams in the AP Poll’s top 10.
Here’s a breakdown of the Big Ten teams going into week four of play.
1. Ohio State(3-0) Last week: 2
Right now, the Buckeyes are the best team in the conference. They have an explosive offense behind Braxton Miller, averaging 40 points per game, and his new favorite target, wide receiver Devin Smith. Smith had five catches last week for 145 yards and two scores. Miller accounted for five total touchdowns in the win against Cal, four through the air and one on the ground along with 75 yards rushing. The Buckeyes are the Big Ten’s highest ranked team, but if they don’t find their defense, they could be in trouble come time for conference play.
2. Michigan(2-1) Last week: 3
After a poor start to the season, Brady Hoke‘s Wolverines rebounded nicely against a forceless Massachusetts squad. Not much was learned in this game because of the nature of the matchup and the expected margin of victory. UMass is 0-3 and one of the worst teams in the country, being outscored 145-19 in three games this season. Although Michigan’s offense looked solid behind another 200-yard passing and 100-yard rushing performance. They can’t rely on Denard Robinson to do everything for them as the weeks go on.
3. Nebraska(2-1) Last week: 4
Nebraska was coming off a week two loss to UCLA in the Rose Bowl and a poor performance by quarterback Taylor Martinez. They rebounded nicely this week, beating a feeble opponent in Arkansas State by the score of 42-13. Martinez played great, completing 13 of 14 passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns. Rex Burkhead missed another week with an MCL injury, but that didn’t affect the running game one bit. Ameer Abdullah ran the ball 30 times for 167 yards, adding two more touchdowns and looking like a solid starter. Watch out for this offense.
4. Michigan State(2-1) Last week: 1
Not many positives to take out of this week for the former No. 1 team in the power rankings. The offense looked flat, the receivers looked too young and Andrew Maxwell looked scared behind center. The one positive: the defense. Once again they prove to be one of the nation’s best, allowing just 300 yards total and 20 points against a solid Notre Dame offense. They played terrible this week and dropped to No. 4, but not terrible enough to land them at Wisconsin‘s current No. 5 spot. They need a lot of improvement if they plan on contending in the Big Ten.
5. Wisconsin(2-1) Last week: 5
People around the country are scratching their heads at the Badgers’ poor play to start the season. Where has the offense gone? Is Danny O’Brien the answer at quarterback? Is there cause for concern in Madison? Well, the only sure answer is they are still Wisconsin and they will most likely contend for another conference title. They are coming off of two straight Rose Bowl seasons, but have started slowly to begin the year. They almost lost to a surprisingly talented Utah State team. There is a cause for concern for the Badgers if the offense doesn’t show up.
6. Northwestern(3-0) Last week: 6
Northwestern does not move up this week in my power rankings, but they are still one of the top teams in the conference. The Wildcats are just one of just three undefeated teams left in the Big Ten. Although they remain unbeaten, they still haven’t proved that they are a better team than anyone in the top five. Their two-quarterback system worked well again with Kain Colter throwing for 144 yards and Trevor Siemian threw for 123 yards in a win over Boston College. The bad news for the Wildcats: Venric Mark missed the fourth quarter with an undisclosed body injury.
7. Minnesota(3-0) Last week: 9
Backup quarterback Max Shortell saw extended playing time this week as the Gophers saw MarQueis Gray go down with an injury. The Gophers continue to surprise the conference, being one of the three remaining unbeaten teams. The loss of Gray, however, could prove to be costly entering Big Ten play in week five, especially since he will be missing about a month. They are losing a dual-threat quarterback that has provided most of the offense. Minnesota racked up just 397 yards against Western Michigan, an amount Gray seemingly puts up by himself weekly.
8. Purdue(2-1) Last week: 8
The Boilermakers took care of business this week against Eastern Michigan, a week after losing starting quarterback Robert Marve for the season with a torn ACL. Caleb TerBush filled in nicely for the injured quarterback, completing 16 of 24 passed for 154 yards and two touchdowns, running for another. Purdue’s offense didn’t skip a beat, racking up 576 yards of total offense. Purdue’s defense was impressive, allowing just 313 yards to the Eagles and allowing just one offensive touchdown all game. They haven’t missed a beat, even with a devastating injury.
9. Iowa(2-1) Last week: 9
Another shocking performance for the Hawkeyes as they squeak by an unproven Northern Iowa team, 27-16. It seems as if this team is not ready to be one of the best teams in the conference and sees themselves at No. 9 for the second week in a row. The most surprising stat for the Hawkeyes: James Vandenberg has yet to throw a touchdown pass this season through three games. Another surprise this week for Iowa was the play of walk-on fullback Mark Weisman, rushing for 113, a number unheard of for a fullback.
10. Illinois(2-1) Last week: 11
The Illini move up one spot from last week and they did it without their starting quarterback, Nathan Scheelhaase. Reilly O’Toole looked impressive in the win over Charleston Southern, throwing for 333 yards and haveing as many touchdowns as incompletions with five. The running game didn’t quite take off, but that didn’t affect the passing game and the defense. The defense allowed just 125 yards of total offense, looking stellar like last season. If Scheelhaase struggles after coming back, Illinois will have no problem playing a talented O’Toole.
11. Penn State(1-2) Last week: 12
Matt McGloin had the best game of the season for the Nittany Lions, throwing for four touchdowns and 231 yards in a week three win over Navy. Bill O’Brien tallied his first victory as the coach of Penn State and the start of a new era in Happy Valley. The offense looked better this week but were still out performed in almost every category by the Midshipmen. The difference in the game: four turnovers by Navy that resulted in scored for the Nittany Lions. McGloin needs more performances like this if they want to creep farther up the power rankings.
12. Indiana(2-1) Last week: 10
Yet another Big Ten team goes down against a MAC team. Ball State got the better of the previously-unbeaten Hoosiers, 41-39 in an offensive battle in Bloomington. This is the first week the Hoosiers are without star quarterback Tre Roberson and they felt the loss of their best player against the Cardinals. Penalties seemed to be a big issue for the inexperienced Hoosiers and they could not seem to get Ball State’s offense off the field. Yet another appearance in the last spot in the power rankings, may as well get comfortable, Hoosiers.