Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 8

Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 8
October 20, 2013, 5:45 pm
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Vinnie Duber

The chaos that hit college football in Week 8 missed the Big Ten, though the Legends and Leaders were not without their own drama.

Michigan and Indiana combined for 1,323 yards of offense and 110 points, Michigan State continued its defensive dominance and Minnesota staged a big upset on the road at Northwestern.

So while top-ranked teams weren't dropping like flies, the Big Ten hierarchy certainly got a little bit of a shakeup (I'm looking at you, Wildcats).

Take a look at this week's Big Ten power rankings.

1. Ohio State Buckeyes (Last week: 1)

This was hardly the domination everyone expected when the nation's No. 4 team hosted a struggling group of Hawkeyes. Iowa put up quite the fight on the road in Columbus, and this game was tied at 24 when the fourth quarter started. But Ohio State's playmakers showed up — most notably on an incredibly impressive 19-yard touchdown run from Carlos Hyde to put the Buckeyes up for good in the fourth quarter. Hyde had another huge day, carrying the ball for 149 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Braxton Miller, meanwhile, racked up 371 total yards and threw two touchdown passes. The Buckeyes remain undefeated, but they'll face an uphill climb — or need some luck — if they want to make it to the national title game. The pollsters obviously are looking for a big win from Ohio State, deciding to vault former No. 5 Florida State over the Buckeyes after its win Saturday. Though there have been two impressive wins in its three since the start of Big Ten play, Ohio State has yet to blowout a conference opponent. An interesting note for a team that's supposed to be one of the nation's strongest.

2. Wisconsin Badgers (LW: 2)

Newsflash: The Badgers are good at running the football. It was another dominating game on the ground for Wisconsin on Saturday in its 56-32 win at Illinois, rushing for 289 yards. Melvin Gordon unsurprisingly led the way with 142 yards and three touchdowns, and James White added 98 yards and two touchdowns. Corey Clement also chipped in 54 yards and a touchdown, so that's six if you lost count. Surely the Illini defense did. Quarterback Joel Stave also had a nice day, with two touchdowns through the air. And, despite allowing 32 points, the Wisconsin defense again showed up, surrendering just 72 yards rushing to Illinois. The Badgers now have another blowout win under their belt, and there are no more ranked opponents waiting. If Wisconsin keeps playing like this, it figures to have a shot at playing in a big-time bowl game.

[MORE: No love for Big Ten in polls following crazy weekend]

3. Michigan State Spartans (LW: 3)

It wasn't exciting, but that's just how the Spartans like it. After a couple weeks of visible offensive improvement and some surprising offensive statistics, the Spartans settled back in to a low-scoring defensive battle Saturday in its 14-0 win over Purdue. Michigan State held the basement-dwelling Boilermakers to just 226 total yards, including just 66 on the ground. The offense didn't do much this week, finding the end zone just once on a trick play, but the defense was expectedly stout, even contributing a touchdown on a fumble recovery. Running back Jeremy Langford continued to do well, though, rushing for 131 yards. Using that dominant defense, the Spartans are cruising in Big Ten play so far, and they should continue that trend with Illinois up next. The two hurdles come after, games against Michigan and Nebraska, a pair of games that could determine who wins the Legends Division.

4. Michigan Wolverines (LW: 4)

Don't panic, Wolverines fans. Just erase this game from your memory. Indiana seems to be the outlier on every Big Ten team's schedule right now, as defenses — even the best, Michigan State — are getting repeatedly scorched by the Hoosiers' incredibly high-powered offense. Indiana poured 47 points and 572 yards on the Michigan D on Saturday, but, hey, that's Indiana. The Hoosiers do that an awful lot, but their porous defense does this: Michigan scored 63 points on 751 total offensive yards. Shootouts are the norm with the Hoosiers, and Saturday was no exception. As bad as Michigan's defense might have looked, the offense looked unbelievable, with quarterback Devin Gardner throwing for 503 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 81 yards and three more touchdowns. Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint rushed 32 times for 151 yards and four touchdowns. Wide receiver Jeremy Gallon caught 14 passes for 369 yards and two touchdowns. The numbers are eye-popping, and Michigan's drop out of the top 25 lasted just one week. The Wolverines are involved in this race for the Legends Division crown with a pair of other one-loss teams in Michigan State and Nebraska, the team's next two opponents.

[RELATED: No quit in Illini following loss to Wisconsin]

5. Nebraska Cornhuskers (LW: 6)

The Huskers didn't play in Week 8, leaving their record a solid 5-1 as they march into this Legends Division race. Those division-deciding games come in mid-November, but first come tests against Minnesota and Northwestern. As recently as a week ago, that Northwestern game would've been circled with great interest, but the Wildcats have since lost three in a row and need a hail mary to get back into the Legends race. Hopefully for the Cornhuskers, the return of Taylor Martinez isn't far off, even though the Nebraska offense has flourished in his absence. If it weren't for Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon, Ameer Abdullah would likely hold the title of the Big Ten's best back.

6. Penn State Nittany Lions (LW: 7)

The honeymoon from that four-overtime win against Michigan got to last a week longer thanks to a Penn State bye. Hopefully for the Lions, the bye week doesn't stop that momentum dead in its tracks because a big challenge awaits on the road this week against Ohio State. The Penn State defense is going to really need to come to play to stop playmakers Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde, something it didn't do a great job of against Michigan, as Devin Gardner, Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess had big games. Penn State's defense is in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten, but Ohio State is scoring more points than any of its conference-mates. The good news? Ohio State boasts a passing defense that's allowed 13 touchdowns through the air this year, second-most in the Big Ten. And Christian Hackenberg is the conference's top passer.

[MORE: Wisconsin runs right past Illini in 56-32 rout]

7. Indiana Hoosiers (LW: 8)

Sure, it was another Indiana loss, but this is getting really impressive, not to mention extremely fun to watch. Indiana's offense is so good, it renders opposing defenses, no matter how good, completely ineffective. The problem is that Indiana's defense is also routinely completely ineffective. Forty seven points and 572 yards of offense for the Hoosiers is awesome. Sixty three points and 751 yards for Michigan is not awesome. It's been the story following this team all season long, and sometimes the shootouts end in a win, like when Indiana topped Penn State. But most of the time, it ends like it did Saturday. One of these days, the Hoosiers are going to figure out both sides of the ball. Until then, let's just sit back and enjoy the offensive fireworks.

8. Minnesota Golden Gophers (LW: 11)

While the majority of the credit/blame for Northwestern's embarrassing home loss to the Gophers deserves to go to the Wildcats for another lifeless performance from the offense, Minnesota did force quarterback Trevor Siemian to turn the ball over three times and caused enough pressure to make sure this once high-powered offense was held ineffective for the second week in a row. Give credit where credit is due, like to running back David Cobb, who rushed for 103 yards. And give a bunch of credit to Minnesota, which rallied in its first game after head coach Jerry Kill took a leave of absence to deal with his epilepsy. Kill was in attendance Saturday, unbeknownst to his players, but you can't help but feel this team came to play — no matter how bad the host performed — inspired by its coach.

[RELATED: Northwestern drops third straight with loss to Minnesota]

9. Northwestern Wildcats (LW: 5)

What is going on in Evanston? Two weeks in a row now the Northwestern offense has played terribly. Granted, for most of its back-to-back embarrassing losses to Wisconsin and Minnesota, the Wildcats were without playmakers Kain Colter and Venric Mark, but that's no excuse for turnover after turnover and sack after sack. Finding the end zone seems to be an incredible challenge right now for a team that could be getting a sneak preview of 2014 — led completely by Trevor Siemian on offense rather than Pat Fitzgerald's two-headed quarterbacking monster. Siemian completed just 25 of 46 passes Saturday, and the team rushed for only 94 yards as a whole. Then there's the issue of allowing 20 points to a Minnesota team that was looking like a Big Ten bottom feeder. If things don't change fast for a Northwestern team still looking for a Big Ten win, that title could belong to the Wildcats.

10. Iowa Hawkeyes (LW: 9)

It was a valiant effort for the Hawkeyes in Columbus as they fell by just 10 to the No. 4 team in the country. The 375 yards of offense were good, as was quarterback Jake Rudock's day (245 yards and three touchdowns). But, as they've done several times this season, the Buckeyes made the plays when they needed to, leading to another Iowa loss. That's two in a row now for the Hawkeyes, though a game that looked like a big road block earlier in the year now looks winnable in this week's meeting with Northwestern. Iowa plays host in that tilt, and the Wildcats continue to have problems stopping the run. If the Hawkeyes can effectively unleash Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock on the ground and grab a win, they'd be one victory away from bowl eligibility.

[LAST WEEK: Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 7]

11. Illinois Fighting Illini (LW: 10)

The schedule isn't helping Illinois, throwing one Big Ten contender after another its way. A drubbing by Nebraska was followed by a rout at the hands of Wisconsin. This week it's Michigan State. The Illini can't stop catch their breath. Saturday night's loss to Wisconsin saw the Illini defense allow 478 yards of offense — including 289 yards on the ground alone — and 56 points. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase recovered for a nice game, throwing for 249 yards and rushing for a touchdown. But this one was over in the first quarter. If there's a positive to draw from this latest loss, it's that the offensive numbers were somewhat there again for Illinois. The strength of this team early seemed almost erased in that loss in Lincoln, but even in another blowout defeat, it's evident the Illini still have some offensive firepower up their sleeves. Now, if they can only get a chance to use it. Odds are they won't against Michigan State's terrific defense.

12. Purdue Boilermakers (LW: 12)

The Purdue defense can hang its hat on one thing: It held a one-loss team to one offensive touchdown. That's not bad. Unfortunately, that one-loss team was Michigan State, the team with the country's best defense, and the Boilermakers weren't going to do anything on offense. Danny Etling had a particularly rough afternoon, getting sacked five times, throwing an interception, fumbling a ball that was returned for a touchdown and posting a QB rating of 17. Mostly thanks to Etling's sacks, the Boilermakers amassed just 66 yards on the ground and 226 total yards. It was another tough afternoon for Darrell Hazell's team, and next up is Ohio State. Yikes.