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.
The fifth week of the 2023 season is in the books, and this week is a tale of two halves . . . in this case, the upper half of the conference and the lower half. Let’s get to it!
1. Penn State
A lot of the same words that I used to describe Penn State’s win over Iowa could be applied to their win over Northwestern, given the final score of 41-13. But this one definitely felt like a bit more of a struggle, and the final score may not be 100% indicative of the actual game play. Still, the anaconda did its thing again, and we’re all left with a solid, if not-quite-satisfying win. The bye week comes at a good time for the Lions as they lick some wounds, and work on a few things before things get serious.
The Wolverines finally found a second gear on offense, winning 45-7 over Nebraska. It’s possible that Nebraska has the worst defense that Michigan has played this season, I won’t rule that out. But the Wolverines getting some things clicking is bad news bears for the rest of the conference.
3. Ohio State
The month of September was again kind to the Terrapins, who finished off the month with a 44-17 win over Indiana. Can they continue their success into October?
BRIAN FERENTZ WATCH: The Hawkeyes scored 26 points, which is higher than the 25 PPG that Brian Ferentz needs to keep his job, but is actually below the clip Iowa needs to sustain to get there over the course of the season.
Oh, yeah, and Iowa won 26-16 over Michigan State.
A 52-3 win over Wagner doesn’t really tell us anything about the Scarlet Knights.
Hoo boy, buckle your chin straps because the bottom half of these rankings are about to get WEIRD. Rebounding from next-to-last place is Minnesota, who jumps right back up to their spot they held just 2 weeks ago. This is not due to their 35-24 win over Louisiana, heavens no. This is due to the fact that the entire rest of the conference is doodoo kaka.
The weirdness continues, as Purdue also vaults from actual last place up to ninth, thanks to their upset, blowout 44-19 win over Illinois. Frankly, pretty much everyone after Rutgers could slot in to any position in these rankings in any given week, so expect the squiggles to look confusing.
The Climb for Indiana finally falters, as they lose 44-17. They couldn’t quite crack the upper half, and then got smacked back down for their hubris. How dare they try to fail upward?!
I’d hoped that Nebraska had been hiding something to make the game against Michigan competitive. My hopes were dashed.
Yeah, sure, Illinois, go ahead and lose worse to Purdue than you did to Penn State, why not?
Wait, does this mean Purdue is better than Penn State??
13. Michigan State
What’s the opposite of The Climb? The Tumble? The Death Roll? Whatever it is, MSU is in it to
win lose it right now.
This ranking feels a bit unfair, as the Wildcats came out and hung with Penn State for a half before finally getting the anaconda treatment (no, that’s not a NSFW reference you sickos). The first half likely shouldn’t have been as close as it was, but kudos to NW for keeping it tight. They just didn’t have the athleticism to keep up as the game wore on.
Out on bail, fresh out of jail, squiggle dreamin’.
The top 7 (!) all stand firm: PSU, UM, OSU, UMD, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Rutgers retain their rankings before things get crazy. Minnesota and Purdue jump out of the basement, and Indiana’s climb takes a setback. Nebraska and Michigan State drop, while Illinois takes a big ol’ tumble. Northwestern returns to their den, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Wildcats eventually clamber out of there for good.
On to week 6!