Howe: Big Ten Football Power Rankings After Week 12

November 18, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

Hawkeye Nation

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Wisconsin fans swallowed hard and pulled for rival Iowa on Saturday. The Hawkeyes helped out.

They handed No. 8 Minnesota its first loss of the season, aiding the Badgers in their pursuit of the Big Ten West Division title. Wisconsin pulled within a game of the Golden Gophers following its 37-21 win Saturday at Nebraska, setting up a winner-take-all matchup on Nov. 30 in Minneapolis should both teams prevail this weekend as heavy favorites.

Penn State and Michigan stayed within striking distance of Ohio State, the conference’s last remaining unbeaten team. The second-ranked Buckeyes play host to Penn State Saturday and then travel to Michigan in the regular-season finale.

There’s plenty for which to play heading into the final two weeks of the season. That’s a feather in the cap of this conference. Here’s how the Big ten teams stack up for me after 11 weeks:

1. Ohio State – The Buckeyes survived the gauntlet that was Maryland and Rutgers the last two weeks without star defensive end Chase Young. He’ll return Saturday when Penn State comes to Columbus and be on hand for the trip to Ann Arbor. I’d give the Nittany Lions and the Wolverines a puncher’s chance against Ohio State, but the latter would need to be off its game and the challengers clicking on all cylinders for an upset. Unlikely.

2. Wisconsin – I’m not sold on the Badgers being the second best team in the Big Ten, but it gets muddy after Ohio State. I’m going to rank these next five teams on who I believe would win on a neutral field if they were meeting today. And I think these games would be toss-ups and sensible arguments could be made for each. I’m looking forward to the Wisconsin-Minnesota showdown.

3. Michigan – Penn State beat the Wolverines earlier in the year, so I understand their placement here raises some eyebrows. I believe Michigan is playing the better football of the two teams now. It showed that Saturday with a blowout of rival Michigan State. Its dominating win against Notre Dame bests any triumph by the Nittany Lions.

4. Penn State – PSU bounced back from its first loss of the season with a solid victory against upstart Indiana Saturday. That said, the strength of the team, defense, looked shaky for a second game in a row. If it happens this weekend, the Buckeyes will deliver a hurting.

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5. Iowa – The Hawkeyes finally secured a signature victory a week after waving goodbye to their West Division title hopes in Madison. They should be applauded for getting up off the mat. With 10 wins still on the table, a memorable season remains achievable.

6. Minnesota – The Golden Gophers expected a conservative game plan from Iowa. They miscalculated and paid the price. Ratcheting up the defensive pressure in the second half was too little, too late. You live and you learn.

7. Indiana – The Hoosiers hung with Penn State in one of the conference’s toughest road environments. They get another crack at a signature win on Saturday when Michigan visits Bloomington.

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8. Illinois – After winning four in a row, including a historic upset of Wisconsin, the Illini enjoyed a bye. They visit Iowa on Saturday in what shapes up as an interesting matchup.

9. Michigan State – The Spartans have lost five games in a row, allowing 36.2 points in those contests. They need two wins for bowl eligibility and will be favored to get them against Rutgers and Maryland the next two weeks.

10. Purdue – The Boilermakers had the week off. They’ll need a wins at Wisconsin Saturday and at home against Indiana in the regular-season finale for a bowl bid.

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11. Nebraska – Wisconsin super back Jonathan Taylor exceeded 200 yards rushing against the Huskers for a third year in a row. He totaled 674 on the ground in those contests. Ouch.

12. Northwestern – The Wildcats pounded an awful UMass squad on Saturday, ending a six-game skid. They play host Minnesota this weekend. It was fun while it lasted.

13. Maryland – After dropping five games in a row in which they were outscored 163-31, the Terrapins had a bye this week. They travel to Nebraska on Saturday.

14. Rutgers – The Scarlet Knights covered the 53-point spread in a 56-21 home loss to Ohio State Saturday. That’s all I got.

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