Big Ten power rankings after Week 5: Another new team at the top

With most, but not all, Big Ten teams in conference play, it was another wild week across the conference.

There were two nonconference games — Illinois hosted Charlotte while Michigan State took on Western Kentucky at Spartan Stadium — but we got some real meat on Saturday. Michigan went on the road and took down Wisconsin for the first time since 2001, Ohio State had its second complete game in a row, this time eviscerating what is thought to be a much-improved Rutgers team, and Penn State got revenge against Indiana.

While there were some other surprises, perhaps the biggest came on Friday night, when the offensively tepid Iowa Hawkeyes used its defensive prowess to give them a jump start against Maryland, absolutely annihilating the previously undefeated Terrapins.

There’s a lot to unpack after Week 5 and certainly a lot of changes. Here is our updated Big Ten power rankings with another week in the books.

Northwestern Wildcats (2-3)

(Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)

Pvs Rnk

Hi/Lo

Chg

14

13/14

While we have to give some credit to Ryan Hilinski for having a modicum of a decent performance (25-for-39, 256 yds, 1 TD, 0 INT), the rest of the Wildcats were a disaster. There was no rushing game to speak of while Northwestern allowed a staggering 427 yards on the ground to Nebraska. The game was over in the first quarter. Pat Fitzgerald’s squad is the worst in the Big Ten right now and by a wide margin.

Indiana Hoosiers (2-3)

Photo: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Pvs Rnk

Hi/Lo

Chg

13

9/13

In what was thought as a big game in the preseason had been marred by the Hoosiers laying an egg in 2021 — which is also what they did against Penn State on Saturday night in Happy Valley.

While the defense stood tall in the passing game, Indiana allowed 209 yards rushing, and the offense continues to free fall. A week after Michael Penix Jr. seemed to have put everything together against Western Kentucky, he devolved again, passing for just 118 yards while going 10-for-22. The run game continues to be moribund and this is just not the team we had seen in Tom Allen’s tenure.

IU has been atrocious and it’s now looking like missing a bowl game this season is a very strong possibility.

Illinois Fighting Illini (2-3)

Photo: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Pvs Rnk

Hi/Lo

Chg

11

11/14

-1

Illinois merely handled Charlotte — a team with a winning record and a win over Duke. While it ran all over and over and over the 49ers with 336 yards on the ground, Brandon Peters, yet again, did not have a good game. He went 10-for-19 for a measly 78 yards and a touchdown.

The defense did its part by limiting Charlotte to 14 points, 191 yards passing, and 81 yards rushing, but the Illini just aren’t clicking and just as well could fall back to the bottom of this list any given week. Even after a win.

Wisconsin Badgers (1-3)

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Pvs Rnk

Hi/Lo

Chg

10

6/11

-1

Who saw this coming at the outset of the season?

Let’s be fair: Wisconsin, thus far, has had an absolutely brutal schedule — despite Notre Dame having lost to Cincinnati on Saturday. It’s faced a top-ranked Penn State team, a ranked Irish squad, and an emerging Michigan that was desperate for revenge. At the moment, the Badgers have no hope on offense, though their defense will keep them in most games this season.

We’ll see if Graham Mertz can get healthy and rebound from just another atrocious outing. Either way, the next three games — Illinois, Army and Purdue — should (operative word: should) be an opportunity for Wisconsin to get back into the winning column. But that which wasn’t exposed in its first two losses was laid bare by Michigan in Camp Randall on Saturday.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (3-2)

(AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)

Pvs Rnk

Hi/Lo

Chg

8

7/10

-2

Oh, Rutgers. You had us convinced you had turned the corner, and then you go and do that.

After an inspired performance against Michigan in Week 4, the Buckeyes came to town and did what Ohio State has long been known for doing. But it wasn’t supposed to be this way. Losing 52-13, Ohio State did whatever it wanted through the air and on the ground for the first time this season against a team supposedly with a pulse. After taking care of the football most of the year, Noah Vedral threw three interceptions, not helping matters at all.

This was never a game, and a huge missed opportunity to at least show it belonged in the conference once and for all. We’ll see how the Scarlet Knights rebound after this, but these back-to-back losses have to be taking an emotional toll on the team considering the 3-0 start.

Purdue Boilermakers (3-2)

Photo: Nikos Frazier-Journal & Courier

Pvs Rnk

Hi/Lo

Chg

7

7/10

-2

Just when it seemed like Purdue really had something going, it wore special uniforms and couldn’t manage to do much of anything against an up-and-down Minnesota team. Taking over the quarterback position, Aidan O’Connell certainly had numbers (32-for-52, 371 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT), but the four sacks allowed were costly, as was the lack of a running game.

It’s hard to know for certain at this point whether or not the Boilermakers can contend for the West, after it started to appear like they were in position to challenge the other powers that be.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Photo: Nikos Frazier-Journal & Courier

Pvs Rnk

Hi/Lo

Chg

12

8/12

+4

Conversely, what a great defensive stand against an offense that seemed like it had everything going for it. No, the passing yards surrendered were not ideal, but the scoring defense certainly was.

Minnesota has become something of a Jekyll and Hyde on a week-to-week basis. It’ll look excellent one week and horrible the next. It wasn’t a great game for either Tanner Morgan nor Treyson Potts, but the defense stood tall and got the job done.

Expect the Gophers to struggle in two weeks against Nebraska before looking otherworldly vs. Maryland, because that seems to be the trend.

Maryland Terrapins (4-1)

Photo: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Pvs Rnk

Hi/Lo

Chg

6

6/8

-1

Honestly, Maryland deserves to drop more than one spot on this week’s list, but thanks to the other teams being more consistently bad thus far, that’s it for the Terps. But what a way to show the world on Friday night that you are not ready for prime time.

After having but one interception all season, Taulia Tagovailoa threw an astonishing six against Iowa. Dontay Demus Jr. went out early with a gruesome leg injury and the offense — which was already struggling — just had about as bad of a performance as it possibly could have. The defensive struggles continue to be apparent, so if you’re going to be one-dimensional, that has to work every game. But if the offense cannot achieve, then what are you left with?

Still, Maryland should become bowl eligible in a few weeks, but not before it likely gets some humble pie against a suddenly surging Ohio State team this next week.

Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-3)

(Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)

Pvs Rnk

Hi/Lo

Chg

9

6/14

+3

Congratulations Nebraska, you’re learning to get out of your own way, finally.

The Huskers did play the worst team in the conference, but give credit where it’s due. Nebraska managed 427 yards rushing to go along with 230 yards passing. Considering that the three losses suffered were all by one score, it’s safe to say that there could be something brewing in Lincoln if it doesn’t make dumb mistakes.

Of course, it could either set the tone for the rest of the season in a positive light or set its positive vibes alight when it hosts Michigan next Saturday night.

Michigan State Spartans (5-0)

Photo: Lansing State Journal

Pvs Rnk

Hi/Lo

Chg

4

4/5

-1

Yes, we dropped Michigan State a spot, but it’s partially because the Spartans were leap-frogged. While they did win convincingly — the 48-31 win over Western Kentucky wasn’t quite indicative of how dominant MSU was — there has been a very, very troubling trend in East Lansing in terms of the pass defense.

Yes, the Hilltoppers are a prolific passing team, but State allowed 488 yards passing two weeks after allowing 388 to Miami (FL). It might fare OK against teams that are likely to run over throwing, but any passing offense with a pulse and a defense to match is going to ruin Mel Tucker and co.’s day in a hurry.

Still, great offensive performance, yet again, albeit against another struggling team. Regardless, Tucker has MSU well ahead of schedule and should make it to Michigan week unblemished.

Ohio State Buckeyes (4-1)

(AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)

Pvs Rnk

Hi/Lo

Chg

5

1/14

+1

Finally, Ohio State has put together two complete performances in a row. We were very vocal that we considered Rutgers a threat, and we were very wrong.

C.J. Stroud returned as the starter and threw five touchdowns on 330 yards passing. The very balanced rushing attack also gouged the Scarlet Knights for 208 yards. The game was essentially over before it began. The question remains: who will actually take down the Buckeyes? They are still susceptible defensively but also starting to put the pieces back together. Rutgers hadn’t looked pedestrian all season, but OSU made it look like Chris Ash’s squad compared to what we had seen all season thus far from Greg Schiano.

Maryland and Indiana should be good warm-up games before Penn State closes out the month.

Michigan Wolverines (5-0)

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Pvs Rnk

Hi/Lo

Chg

3

3/4

‘Happy learned how to putt!’ or you could say, Michigan does have a passing offense!

Two things can be true: Wisconsin might simply be a bad team thanks to a barely functioning offense; and Michigan also might be really, really good. The defense, ironically, allowed the Badgers just 210 yards offensively — which is the number that Wisconsin’s defense was holding other teams before the Wolverines arrived. Michigan beat the Badgers in Madison for the first time since 2001, and the 38-17 score wasn’t even as close as it appears thanks to a garbage-time interception converted into points. The maize and blue defense was particularly ferocious, making the vaunted Wisconsin offensive line look very, very pedestrian.

Offensively, it took a quarter for Cade McNamara to warm up, but he eventually did, throwing for 197 yards and two touchdowns on 61% passing.

There will be no time to let up, however, as Michigan travels to Nebraska for a night game this next week.

Penn State Nittany Lions (5-0)

Photo: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Pvs Rnk

Hi/Lo

Chg

1

1/3

-1

After Penn State’s defensive domination and 24-0 win over Indiana, it’s not that the Nittany Lions have fallen as much as another team jumped them (more on that momentarily). Sean Clifford was just OK in this one, though the running game finally came alive once again, showing that it can be a focal point like it was supposed to be.

Again though, the defense was really the star as it blanked the Hoosiers en route to an easy win that really never felt like it was in question. Jahan Dotson continues to star, but this team will need to fire on all cylinders this next week when it makes the dreaded trip to Iowa City to face our once again No. 1 team in the conference.

Iowa Hawkeyes

Photo: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Pvs Rnk

Hi/Lo

Chg

2

1/3

+1

There is no question this week who the No. 1 team is. Though Maryland wasn’t ranked, it was undefeated and had a top-flight offense. Iowa rendered that null and void in an absolute beating on the Terps’ home turf.

We had waited all season for the Hawkeyes to dominate, and they just refused to in favor of merely beating teams. However, close to alone on the national stage on Friday night, Iowa was merciless defensively and used short fields off of six interceptions to capitalize offensively.

It was thorough domination from top-to-bottom in a game that most anticipated to be close — with many even giving Maryland a shot to win outright. Penn State looms large, but it’s at home and the Hawkeyes finally flexed big, justifying the lofty national ranking it earned the first two weeks of the season.

1

1