Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 5

Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 5
September 29, 2013, 11:30 am
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Vinnie Duber

Six of the Big Ten's 12 teams didn't play a game in Week 5.

But that didn't prevent a power rankings shakeup. Ohio State topped Wisconsin in what has so far been the biggest game of the season for any Big Ten team, Iowa continued its impressive, under-the-radar play by capturing the Floyd of Rosedale and Illinois poured on the points yet again. Plus, the bye weeks allowed for some perspective, to sit back and soak in the first third of this college football season.

So what changed from a week ago? Let's see where your favorite Big Ten team stacks up.

1. Ohio State Buckeyes (Last week: 1)

Wins don't get much more statement-y than the one the Buckeyes pulled off over the Badgers on Saturday. While Wisconsin entered with a somewhat misleading one-loss record and figured to play a perfect foil to a powerhouse Buckeyes team, Ohio State looked dominant despite a 31-24 final score with just a touchdown as the margin of victory. On offense, Braxton Miller returned — Kenny Guiton, who had been incredible in Miller's absence, didn't see the field — and wowed with 281 total yards and four touchdown passes. The recently returned Carlos Hyde also had a strong day, leading all rushers with 85 yards. On defense, though, is where this Buckeye team really made that statement, stopping the previously believed unstoppable Wisconsin running game. The Badgers rushed for only 104 yards on the night, with Melvin Gordon's 74 making up the majority of that total. Sure, Badgers quarterback Joel Stave, forced to throw for most of the night, racked up nearly 300 yards passing, but that should actually be a credit to this Ohio State defense, as they completely shut down one of the more dominant offensive units in the country. This was billed as a battle to decide the fate of the Leaders Division, and that fate could be easily predictable now: The Buckeyes are going to roll.

2. Northwestern Wildcats (LW: 3)

What could Northwestern have done in its bye week to earn it a jump over Michigan into the conference's No. 2 slot? Well, a few things. First comes the help of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who suffered their second loss of the season Saturday — albeit it to a very talented Oklahoma team — and with it lowered the impressiveness of Michigan's signature win. Second, the bye for both the Cats and Wolverines allowed for some perspective. Michigan's signature win is looking shakier and shakier each week, and on the field the Wolverines look shakier and shakier each week, as well. Northwestern might not have had the ideal win over Maine, looking a little shaky themselves, but they've been vastly more dominant than Michigan against significantly stronger competition. The Cats have big wins over Cal and Syracuse that featured a ton of points. The Wolverines have near losses to Akron and UConn that featured heart-stopping escapes. Now, for the second week in a row, fans will see what could be argued is a matchup between the conference's top two teams. In Week 5 it was Ohio State hosting Wisconsin. In Week 6, it'll be Northwestern hosting Ohio State in a game that will truly prove how far the Wildcats have come.

[MORE: Illini offense steamrolls Miami]

3. Michigan Wolverines (LW: 2)

It happens every season, and unfortunately for the maize-and-blue, it's happening this year to Michigan: An early season win over a ranked opponent keeps losing luster thanks to a disappointing campaign from that opponent. Notre Dame lost for the second time this year on Saturday, getting soundly beat, 35-21, by an Oklahoma team that now seems to have the Big 12 title to lose. The Irish are a far cry from the team that went to the national title game last season, and perhaps that wasn't quite apparent when Michigan scored a huge win over them in Week 2. But now the Irish are showing their true colors, and, meanwhile, Michigan can't seem to come up with anything better than a last-second escape against poor competition. The Wolverines start their Big Ten schedule in Week 6 against a Minnesota team that's coming off its first loss of the season. The Gophers — despite their 4-0 non-conference sweep — are still considered part of the Big Ten's lower echelon, and this will be a good opportunity to get Devin Gardner — five interceptions in the last two games — back on track.

4. Wisconsin Badgers (LW: 4)

Yes, they now have two losses. Yes, their all-powerful run game was silenced Saturday night. But the Badgers are still one of the Big Ten's elite teams. As has been well explained, Wisconsin deserved to have Saturday's 31-24 loss at Ohio State be its first of the season. That doesn't change reality, perhaps, but it does provide a strong case for their remaining at this spot in the rankings. Ohio State proved itself as a true powerhouse by shutting down the Wisconsin running game, an accomplishment previously thought to be undoable. Melvin Gordon, who was leading the country with a yards-per-carry mark of more than 11, was held to 74 yards on 15 carries (4.9 YPC). James White was worse off, carrying just eight times for 31 yards. Between the ineffective run game and the fact that the Badgers were behind on the scoreboard, Joel Stave was thrust into the spotlight and did OK, completing 20-of-34 for 295 yards and two touchdowns. He did throw a pick, and those big passing numbers are mostly the work of amazing receiver Jared Abbrederis and his 10 catches for 207 yards. But Stave showed that — even if he requires some help — he can keep the Badgers in a game even when the unthinkable happens.

[RELATED: Northern Illinois routs Purdue, grabs second win vs. Big Ten]

5. Illinois Fighting Illini (LW: 6)

The Illini's resurgence is impressive, no matter how many grains of salt you want to take with it. Take the whole shaker, it'll still be impressive. Illinois is 3-1 and hasn't played a conference game yet, but look at what this team has done in those four games. After putting up one of the worst offensive seasons in college football a year ago, the Illini rank second in the Big Ten with 307.5 passing yards per game. Nathan Scheelhaase is healthy and having terrific game after terrific game, leading the Big Ten in both passing yards (1,162) and QB rating (174.8) and ranking second with 12 passing touchdowns. Five of those came in the first half of Illinois' 50-14 blowout win over Miami (Ohio) on Saturday. He threw just four in all of last season. Throw some additional credit Bill Cubit's way. The new Illinois offensive coordinator has turned this sputtering offense into one of the Big Ten's finest. And this will all be truly tested next week, when the Illini open conference play at Nebraska.

6. Iowa Hawkeyes (LW: 10)

If you thought Ohio State did a remarkable job shutting down the run game of Wisconsin, become very impressed with Iowa. The Hawkeyes went up against a Minnesota team that through four games ranked as one of the nation's best, and Saturday, the Iowa defense held the Gophers to 30 yards on the ground. Thirty yards. It was the most notable part of a very impressive 23-7 win for Iowa, a team that seems to keep getting better by the week. On offense, Mark Weisman again carried the load, rushing 24 times for 147 yards, and four other Iowa ball carriers combined for an additional 99 yards to make the Hawkeye ground attack a force to be reckoned with. Meanwhile, quarterback Jake Rudock continues to improve. He threw for 218 yards and a touchdown, and though he returned to his interception-throwing ways (he has four on the season) he had what could easily be argued was his best game of the year. Iowa gets Michigan State next week and could definitely emerge from that contest as a 5-1 team.

[MORE: Illini and Tar Heels to meet on gridiron in 2015, 2016]

7. Penn State Nittany Lions (LW: 7)

The story of Penn State's season thus far has been freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg, and he's certainly looked capable to this point. The Lions have scored 31 or more points in three of their four games, and a date this week with Indiana's lackluster defense could see Penn State stretch that to four out of five. Only three Big Ten quarterbacks have thrown for more yards this season than Hackenberg, and he's got a talented running game to go along with it. Are the Lions Leaders Division contenders? That's hard to say after a fairly weak non-conference schedule from Penn State plus the flashes of dominance from both Ohio State and Wisconsin. The schedule is hardly an easy one — Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois, Nebraska and Wisconsin all await — but the Lions can get off on the right foot with a win against Indiana.

8. Michigan State Spartans (LW: 8)

Michigan State's defense is really quite amazing. It's allowed just 13.2 points per game on 188.8 total offensive yards per game including just 58.2 rushing yards per game. Wow. And, with two of their next four games against Iowa and Purdue — teams that don't light up the scoreboard — the Spartans could definitely rebound from a start to the season that, despite a 3-1 record, has been anything but impressive. That, however, is entirely thanks to a lifeless offense that is seemingly stuck in indecision over who the quarterback should be. And that's not entirely the fault of Mark Dantonio, as none of the Michigan State quarterbacks have done enough to warrant separation from their equally unproductive colleagues. And, going up against a strong Iowa defense this week, it's unlikely that'll be happening any time soon. Chicago football fans can attest, however, that a team can go a long way on defense alone. The Spartans are going to try and prove that.

[RELATED: Big Ten commissioner: Players should go straight to pros]

9. Nebraska Cornhuskers (LW: 9)

The Huskers will face a pretty big crossroads this weekend in their Big Ten opener. Sure, they'll probably still be favored over the visiting Illini. But as Illinois has looked unexpectedly great, Nebraska has looked unexpectedly bad. The Husker defense has been a disaster, allowing more yards (1,855 total, 463.8 per game) than any team in the Big Ten and more points (108 total, 27 per game) than all Big Ten teams except Indiana and Purdue. The Illini, meanwhile, are surprisingly one of the conference's top offensive teams. Last week, Bo Pelini gave no indication whether or not Taylor Martinez, who sat out the Huskers' last game, would return for the Big Ten opener. To sum up, there are a lot of questions to be answered in Lincoln, and — for better or for worse — this week's game should go a long way toward answering them.

10. Minnesota Golden Gophers (LW: 5)

With everyone worried that a soft schedule would fool us when it came to Ohio State's strength, it's Minnesota that might have pulled off the biggest illusion. It was just one game against a rapidly improving Iowa team, but after going 4-0 in the non-conference schedule, the Gophers looked atrocious in the battle for the Floyd of Rosedale on Saturday. Their run game, which entered with the fourth-most rushing yards in the entire country, was held to just 30 yards. And the pass game didn't' fare much better, as a returning Philip Nelson threw for just 135 yards and threw two interceptions. Jerry Kill's decision to stick with Nelson the entire game was somewhat curious. Though it didn't seem anyone wearing a maroon jersey was going to get much of anything going, backup quarterback Mitch Leidner had picked up 391 total yards in the last two games. Whether or not Minnesota's non-conference sweep was completely misleading remains to be seen. They'll get a rested Michigan team next week.

[LAST WEEK: Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 4]

11. Indiana Hoosiers (LW: 11)

After getting thumped by Missouri, Indiana needed that bye week. As has been discussed, the on-again-off-again performances of this Hoosier team don't inspire a lot of confidence. In four games, two have been blowouts in favor of Indiana (Indiana State, Bowling Green) and two have seen the Hoosiers look just awful (losses to Navy and Missouri). So who really is this team? They host Penn State this week to kick off a tough stretch of games that features back-to-back trips to Michigan State and Michigan. Scoring hasn't been the problem for the Hoosiers, and quarterback Nate Sudfeld ranks near the top of several passing stat categories. But will Indiana be able to stop anybody? In the two losses and the season-opening win over Indiana State, the Hoosiers allowed 121 combined points. While the non-conference schedule was more difficult than most, there is significantly stronger competition on the horizon, which might not be a great sign.

12. Purdue Boilermakers (LW: 12)

There are 11 Big Ten teams, and then there's Purdue. The Boilermakers seem to follow up each performance with one more ugly than the last, and Saturday's rout at the hands of Northern Illinois must have been very hard for Purdue fans to watch. Jordan Lynch dominated the Boilermakers defense, throwing for 207 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 35 yards and another touchdown — in three quarters. The offensive yardage totals surprisingly weren't that bad, as Purdue actually out-gained NIU, 524-402, but the scoreboard is what matters and the 55-24 final is jarring. NIU is a strong team, now the first MAC team to beat two Big Ten opponents in a season, but Purdue is obviously in a bad place. There is big news from this game, though, as Darrell Hazell made a mid-game quarterback switch, subbing Danny Etling in for Rob Henry. Etling, despite two interceptions, had an impressive debut, throwing for 241 yards and two touchdowns. He'll likely remain the signal-caller, as Henry threw two more interceptions in this one before being removed, his fifth and sixth of the season compared to just four touchdowns.