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Big Ten Power Rankings - Week 3


Penn State v Auburn Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images

Hello there and welcome to the Big Ten Power Rankings! Each week we’ll rank how the teams across the conference are playing, in the hopes of seeing just who is a contender, and who is a pretender over the course of the season.

The rules are few, but resolute:

  • Teams are ranked by how they’re playing at that time. Not body of work, not rankings in the polls, but simply how each team is playing at that point in the season.
  • The approach to the rankings is not necessarily on the field results (though those do count, as an obvious, tangible data point), but more generally if the two teams played at a neutral site 100 times, which team would win 51 times (or more).
  • These rankings are subjective. As the author I get to follow the rules as closely or loosely as I want to, and if you don’t like the rankings, you’re wrong.

Week 2 is in the books and hoo boy have we got some shakeups. Let’s get to it!

1. Penn State


You might be surprised to learn that I am under immense pressure here at BSD. These power polls are viewed by literally tens of you, and each week I agonize over my rankings. Do I keep the previous week’s inertia going? What if two teams won against different opponents, but one looked better doing it? What if one margin of victory was 28 points, but the other was 27? WHO SHOULD BE ON TOP?!

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t lost sleep over these rankings, and my perception to all of you. I’m a deeply narcissistic man whose self-worth is almost inextricably tied to your reaction to these rankings. As the clock struck 0:00 against Auburn, and Penn State had left SEC country with a 41-12 win, my very first thought was “how am I going to rank the Lions in the power rankings? I can’t possibly put them #1 can I? . . . Can I?

What ensued was a full weekend of indecisiveness. PSU has looked better each and every week, and many of the advanced stats back up my eye test. And they’ve looked better against a strength of schedule that is honestly not bad - #37 in the country through three games. Compare that with OSU at #69 in the country and . . . oh holy crap, Michigan at #131. Then, we have Penn State with a strength of record at #3 in the country, and, well, shit - hands shaking, I updated my power rankings and hit submit on this article.


Next up, home vs. Central Michigan.

2. Ohio State

A 77-21 trouncing of Toledo is another day at the office for the Buckeyes, whose win over Notre Dame is looking worse by the week. Not that OSU is bad, mind you, I’m already going to get enough guff over my new #1 team in these rankings. Just that Notre Dame made OSU work for it, and the Irish have nooooooot looked great since.

Next up, home vs. Wisconsin.

3. Michigan

I knew the Wolverines were playing a terrible non-conference, but I didn’t realize just HOW bad it was. The interesting thing to me is not that their strength of schedule is #131 in the country, but that their strength of record is just #53 . . . which by my understanding of that definition is not that the average top 25 team wouldn’t also be 3-0 against that schedule so far, but that they’d have performed basically about the same. So why, exactly, are the Wolverines in everyone’s top 5 right now? Again, I’m not saying Michigan is a bad team by any stretch, but they seem to basically be coasting on last season’s playoff appearance and not actually playing real football teams for the month of September.

Next up, home vs. Maryland (that’s gonna be a fun game btw).

4. Minnesota

SOMEbody is going to have to win the West, and right now it’s looking like Minnesota may be it. The only undefeated team in the West pasted Colorado 49-7. Colorado is not good, but other teams around the country are being unduly rewarded for playing crap schedules - why not the Gophers?

Next up, away at Michigan State.

5. Maryland

I don’t know what to make of the Terrapins, who eked out a 34-27 win over SMU. The Terps can definitely play offense this year, and will likely cause some chaos along the way. But the lack of defense is also likely to keep them from breaking through to the upper tier of the conference.

Next up, away at Michigan (seriously, check this game out if you can).

6. Wisconsin

Oh hey, the Badgers figured out how to offense. Neat. A 66-7 win over New Mexico State still doesn’t do much to buoy Wisconsin in these rankings, but compared to some other teams, a win is a win.

Next up, away at Ohio State.

7. Purdue

Man, just when I start to put some faith in the Boilermakers, they reward me by laying an egg. Somehow, some way, Purdue played quite well against Syracuse, but came away with a 32-29 loss. Ah well, I still expect Purdue to cause mayhem out west.

Next up, home vs. Florida Atlantic (¡muy picante!).

8. Michigan State

TBH it felt like MSU was living on borrowed time, as it seemed like they couldn’t fully replicate last year’s success with another batch of transfers. I just didn’t expect the wheels to fall off so abruptly. A 39-28 loss to Washington, which was worse than the scoreboard would indicate, is not great for the Fightin’ Mel Tuckers.

Next up, home vs. Minnesota.

9. Iowa

A 27-0 win over Nevada at least proved that Iowa can move the ball on occasion, though they may be physically repulsed by the idea of it. But really, from here until like #12 or so, these teams are all just kinda blah.

Next up, away at Rutgers.

10. Rutgers

Oh hey the battle for the #9 spot in these rankings is next week, neat. Rutgers won their game and are undefeated on the year, which cannot be said of several teams above them in these power rankings. But a 16-14 win over Temple does NOT inspire much faith in the Scarlet Knights. A win over Iowa could, though.

Next up, home vs. Iowa.

11. Illinois


Next up, home vs. Chattanooga (¡not muy picante!).

12. Indiana

In college football, some weeks a win is a win, no matter how ugly. A 33-30 win over Western Kentucky in overtime is a win, and the Hoosiers are halfway to bowl eligibility. Will they make it all the way? Who knows! But they’ve surpassed last season’s win total already, so they’ve got that going for them.

Next up, away at Cincinnati (yikes).

13. Northwestern

Last week, I said the future looks bleak for the Wildcats, but I still expected them to beat Southern Illinois. I was wrong, and I must apologize to the . . . Salukis? What in the Sam Hill is a Saluki? Apparently it’s a type of hound most closely related to the Afghan hound, originally from the Fertile Crescent. Well hey, look, I learned something! Thanks Northwestern!

Next up, home vs. Miami Hydroxide.

14. Nebraska

You know how Penn State pulled its starters against Auburn with like 12 minutes to go in the game? Yeah Oklahoma did the same against Big Red, or the 49-14 score would have been even worse.

Next up, idle (oh thank goodness, this was getting to “stop, stop, he’s already dead” territory).

Look at these squiggly lines! Look! Look with your special eyes!

By virtue of their domination of Auburn, and their strength of record to date, Penn State takes over the top spot in the B1G. OSU and Michigan yield to the new #1, and Minnesota, Maryland, and Wisconsin rise to fill the power vacuum near the top. Purdue dips, while Michigan State plummets. Iowa and Rutgers do a tango, while Illinois, Indiana, Northwestern, and Nebraska all hold steady at the bottom.

On to Week 4!