Howe: Week 6 Big Ten Football Power Rankings

October 4, 2018

Written by Rob Howe

IOWA CITY, Iowa – There’s a faction of the college football world that thinks we should wait until some games are behind us before releasing Top 25 polls. I would fall into that group. While they’re fine for conversation, there’s little value in preseason ratings, especially in a sport with so much turnover.

It’s why I waited until we saw a sampling of the 2019 season before releasing my Big Ten Power Rankings. And even this might be a little early. We’re, at most, two games into a nine-game conference season.

But, what the heck? It seems like a good starting point, especially with Iowa’s bye week behind it.

So, here we go:

1. Ohio State – Naming the top and bottom teams in these rankings requires very little thought. The Buckeyes are clearly the top of the heap after not playing all that well and still winning Saturday at then Top 10-ranked Penn State, one of the toughest road environments in the sport. They also own a neutral-site victory against a solid TCU team.

2. Penn State – The 2-4 teams on this list a really close. The Nittany Lions hold down this spot because of how it played against Top 5 Ohio State, taking it down to the wire with a chance to win. Perhaps a better late-game play call could have changed their fortunes. I also think quarterback Trace McSorley is the best offensive player in the conference.

3. Wisconsin – No other team knows its identity better than the Wisconsin and that can take it a long way. The defense isn’t as good as it’s been in recent years but the offense is better. Frequently bashed quarterback Alex Hornibrook looks like he’s found how to play consistently well, Jonathan Taylor is a star running back, the offensive line is great and the receivers underrated.

4. Michigan – I’m still not ready to say this team is offensively competent to compete with the rival Buckeyes after watching it at Northwestern. It appears coach Jim Harbaugh is beginning to open up to his players’ strengths on that side of the ball, but let’s see if he goes conservative and power hungry again when the stakes are raised. The defense is the best in the league.

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5. Michigan State – I’m not really sure what to make of the Spartans. The defense is legit, no doubt. The offense is inconsistent despite having a veteran group, which includes quarterback Brian Lewerke and running back L.J. Scott. MSU ranks 104th nationally in rushing offense, averaging 3.3 yards per carry. That’s not going to get it done.

6. Iowa – As much as the Wisconsin loss was a straight punch to the gut, I think this a strong Hawkeye team. Iowa’s best years usually occur when it’s strong in the trenches and it is this season on both sides of the ball. That makes it a good team. Development at running back, receiver, linebacker and cornerback will determine if it can be a special one.

7. Maryland – I’m impressed with what the Terrapin players have done through the adversity of losing a teammate this summer and their head coach being suspended as a result of the investigation into that death. This team boasts some of the best big-play ability in this conference and owns a victory against No. 19 Texas. It ranks 10th nationally in rushing yards per game (258.5) and averages 6.2 a carry.

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8. Purdue – It might seem weird having a three-loss team ranked this high, but the Boilermakers are getting better every week after replacing a lot of members from last year’s stout defense. Not that it means what it did in the ’90s, but they demolished Nebraska in Lincoln last week. They rank 19th nationally in total offense (490.0 yards a game). David Blough as stabilized things at quarterback.

9. Indiana – The Hoosiers failed their only real test of the season, falling by two touchdowns at home against Michigan State. They also struggled to pull away from lowly Rutgers last week. Still, they’re two wins away from bowl eligibility and they do own a decent road win at Virginia.

10. Northwestern – The Wildcats came out fast against Michigan last week but then faded. While it was promising, they showed again that they lack much punch on offense. The good news for them is that they’re in the same boat as most of the other teams in the West Division. With a difficult schedule ahead of them, it’s going to be hard for them to reach a bowl.

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11. Minnesota – While Purdue might be one of the country’s better 2-3 teams, Minnesota looks like one of the worst 3-1 outfits. It lost its best offensive player in Rodney Smith, and top defensive player and return man, Antoine Winfield, to injury. Maybe the Gophers will prove me wrong, but I don’t see them going to a bowl game this season.

12. Illinois – We’re diving into the bottom of the barrel now. Illinois is at the top of said barrel by virtue of the likelihood it will be 3-2 after this week. It plays at Rutgers. More on the Knights in a bit. The Illini are young and have shown some signs of progress, but it’s been slight. There is potential, however.

13. Nebraska – Unlike Illinois, the winless Huskers very little that would instill confidence things are close to turning around. Adrian Martinez is an exciting quarterback with a bright future, but the defense is awful and the mistakes being made show a severe lack of discipline. They play at No. 16 Wisconsin this week with the Badgers coming off a bye. Good luck with that.

14. Rutgers – The Knights got blown out by Kanas. I don’t think we need to say any more than that.

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