When the season began, no one thought the Big Ten would have struggled so mightily. The conference’s top teams in the preseason all have a loss so far.
Michigan State and Michigan both lost to their shared rival, Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish showcased a stellar defense and did not allow a touchdown to either team. The Spartans offense has been a mystery thus far and Denard Robinson has had an up-and-down season with too many turnovers.
The Wisconsin Badgers have struggled as well, having close calls to Utah State and Northern Iowa, while losing to a surprising Oregon State squad.
Here are the power rankings for week five in the Big Ten.
1. Ohio State(4-0) Last week: 1
The Buckeyes may be the best team in the conference, but they will be unable to represent the Big Ten in the national championship, even if they do end the season unbeaten. They have glided through their schedule so far and will face their biggest test this week in Michigan State, which will teach both teams a lot about themselves.
2. Nebraska(3-1) Last week: 3
Possibly the best offensive team in the conference, the Cornhuskers handled Idaho State at home, 73-7. They are led by junior quarterback Taylor Martinez who looks much improved from a year ago. They play an underachieving Wisconsin team this week and will be a big Legends Division game.
3. Michigan State(3-1) Last week: 4
The Spartans are not playing to their full potential thus far and everyone knows it. Andrew Maxwell has been iffy so far at quarterbacks and the receivers have been suspect. They will go into this week of practice with many things to work on as their defense continues to excel. They play Ohio State at home Saturday, quite the early season matchup for the conference.
4. Northwestern(4-0) Last week: 6
The Wildcats have moved up two spots since last week and are one of the conference’s biggest surprises and one of three unbeatens. They have an issue at quarterback that they need to fix, but running back Venric Mark is one of the top backs in the league. Watch out for them as the season progresses.
5. Minnesota(4-0) Last week: 7
No one would have thought they would see the Gophers this highly respected, but they are finally playing well. They lost their starting quarterback MarQueis Gray in week three and haven’t missed a beat. He is expected to return within the next couple of weeks and that will be a monumental boost to the offense. They face off against Iowa this week on the road, their biggest test to this point of the season.
6. Wisconsin(3-1) Last week: 5
The Badgers are the conference’s biggest question mark and coach Bret Bielema is wondering what has gone wrong in Madison. They started the season with a close win against Northern Iowa, lost to Oregon State in week two, almost lost to Utah State in week three and edged out UTEP last week for their third win. They haven’t looked good on offense all year and even benched starting quarterback Danny O’Brien. Will their offense show up against Nebraska this week?
7. Michigan(2-2) Last week: 2
The Wolverines took the biggest drop in my power rankings this week compared to last week. They got outperformed by a solid Notre Dame team on the road and looked lost throughout the game. Denard Robinson played possibly the worst game of his career, throwing four picks to the Irish. They have a much needed bye week coming up and will face Purdue in two weeks. It will be interesting to see how they respond after all of this adversity.
8. Purdue(2-1) Last week: 8
Purdue had a bye week in week four and didn’t move up or down in my power rankings. They are my pick to win the Leaders Division this season and I’m sticking to it as the other teams in that division seem to be struggling more and more. Quarterback Robert Marve tore his ACL for the third time in week two and seemingly ended his season with this gruesome injury, but he shocked everyone when he said he wants to make a return. He will do so within the next few weeks and will lead this team for the rest of the year. Are the Boilermakers for real?
9. Penn State(2-2) Last week: 11
The Nittany Lions seemed like they wouldn’t win a game all year a couple weeks ago. After two straight wins, the morale in Happy Valley is sky-high and the team looks to be on the rise. Although they have a postseason ban, they will play every game like it is a bowl-clinching game and play spoiler as conference play begins. They play a struggling Illinois team this week and will look to have a winning record for the first time this season.
10) Iowa(2-2) Last week: 9
No one knew what to expect from the Hawkeyes this season, but they most likely didn’t expect a 2-2 record after four games. They have lost games to in-state rival Iowa State and lesser opponent, Central Michigan. They seem to have no confidence right now and they are playing without their starting running back Damon Bullock, too. They play an undefeated Minnesota squad this week and will be either a dagger to their season or a turn-around game.
11) Illinois(2-2) Last week: 10
Illinois has seen its fair share of blowouts this season, losing big to Arizona State early in the season and then getting tossed around by Louisiana Tech last week. They look like one of the most demoralized teams in the conference, especially since their strong point has been week thus far: their defense. They will look to get back on track this week against Penn State.
12) Indiana(2-1) Last week: 12
This is the Hoosiers second straight week at the bottom of my power rankings and they might have to make themselves at home there. They had a bye week last week and will play a surging Northwestern team this week, a matchup that does not bode well for the Hoosiers. Without Tre Roberson for the rest of the season, they might be in big trouble in Bloomington.