We have finished three weeks of the college football season. After this week, we will have completed about 30 percent of the regular season.
So, with that in mind, it’s time we start looking at power rankings for the Big Ten. We’ve seen enough of each team, and they’ve had chances to iron out the kinks on the gridiron.
Let’s take a look at how these rankings look going into Week 4. You agree with the list? You hate the list? Sound off in the comments section.
1. Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State is off to a hot-start. First, they are ranked in the AP Poll Top 25, and come in as the highest ranked Big Ten school at No. 4.
This season, the Nittany Lions have laid waste to Akron, Pittsburgh and Georgia State. Even though James Franklin’s bunch spent two weeks of their non-conference schedule at the cupcake stand, they get a wake-up call against Iowa this Saturday.
Last season’s meeting between the two schools took place at Beaver Stadium, and the Nittany Lion faithful witnessed a complete dragging of the Hawkeyes. Penn State held Iowa to just 30 yards rushing, and won the game, 41-14. Once again, quarterback Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley lead the offense, however, this time around they are on the road against an undefeated Kirk Ferentz-coached Hawkeye program. Night games in Iowa City can go awry, and this one will prove whether or not Penn State is the real deal.
This week, Penn State plays: Iowa at 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
While the Buckeyes don’t really have a pass defense, they’ll get tested—to a degree—by Devonte Boyd of the UNLV Rebels. Boyd is leading the Mountain West in receiving yards, and will be a good test for this young OSU secondary.
Urban Meyer’s got the team to a 2-1 start, and even though Baker Mayfield rolled into Columbus and attempted to plant a flag inside The Horseshoe, the Bucks bounced back and beat an Army team that operated with the triple-option offense, 38-7, a week later.
For now, the Scarlet and Gray are No. 2 on the list. But, if they struggle with UNLV, who lost at home to Howard in Week 1, then the Buckeyes will slide to the left, slide to the right, and slide right on down the power rankings.
This week, Ohio State plays: UNLV at noon ET on BTN
3. Michigan Wolverines
Like last season, the Wolverines are in third place behind Penn State and Ohio State.
Is this a homer poll? I can’t confirm nor deny that. What I can confirm, though, is that Michigan has a chance to overtake the Buckeyes with a big win this week.
The Wolverines have captured 46 of their last 49 conference openers. However, this one is a tad trickier, as they have to go into
the storm drain West Lafayette, Ind., to take on Purdue.
Ross-Ade stadium is a place where the upset lives. If Jim Harbaugh can coach his team to a blowout win (and quarterback Wilton Speight can limit the interceptions while throwing touchdowns) then Michigan deserves to leap OSU in next week’s rankings.
This week, Michigan plays: Purdue at 4 p.m. on Fox
4. Wisconsin Badgers
Bye week is here for the Badgers; at the break, the defending West Division champs are 3-0.
A strong win against BYU on the road increases their stock, however, that same Cougars team was completely shutdown by LSU a few weeks back. Jury is still out on how good this team really is, but if the trend of big wins continue, you might as well start shipping the ‘West Division Champs 2017’ shirts around Madison, Wis.
This week, Wisconsin plays: Bye Week
5. Iowa Hawkeyes
Nate Stanley’s 10 passing touchdowns over the three-game stretch is the most since Chuck Hartlieb did it in 1987. This week, Iowa is gonna need Stanley to toss some six-point passes, as the Nittany Lions aren’t a team to fool around with.
While Iowa is 3-0, they really haven’t been tested by top-shelf opponents. In Week 1, they beat Wyoming by 21; in Week 2, the Hawkeyes downed Iowa State in overtime by three; last week against North Texas, it was a 17-point victory for Ferentz’s program.
Recent history is on the Hawkeyes’ side for the Saturday contest. Iowa has won their last five Big Ten openers and their last four night games at Kinnick Stadium.
This week, Iowa plays: Penn State at 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC
6. Purdue Boilermakers
I for one, am on this Purdue bandwagon. After giving Louisville their all in Week 1, the Boilermakers turned right around and laid the smackdown on Ohio and Missouri.
Amongst Big Ten schools, Purdue has scored the fourth most points (107) and has the third most passing yards at 860. However, they go up against a Michigan team that has the second best pass defense in the conference. Do the Boilermakers choo-choo their way to a win at home? If they do, then they have a ticket up the Big Ten power rankings.
This week, Purdue plays: Michigan at 4 p.m. on Fox
7. Michigan State Spartans
This is the week Michigan State proves if they are back or not. Fresh off a bye week, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish travel to East Lansing, Mich., for a primetime showdown.
The Spartans have, so far, the best pass and total defense amongst Big Ten schools. On top of that, an offensive touchdown hasn’t been allowed through the first two games of the season.
For football fans, the A-team of Gus Johnson, Joel Klatt and Jenny Taft will be calling the game. (And you know if Gus is on the call, things are about to go wild).
This week, Michigan State plays: Notre Dame at 8 p.m. ET on Fox
8. Maryland Terrapins
I may get flack for this one, since I’m from Maryland, but the Terps are in the bottom half of the rankings because, well, I can’t really gauge if this team is for real or not.
Yes, the same could be said of Purdue—the Boilermakers held close to Louisville, who later got dunked on by Clemson on national television—but the squad from College Park, Md., has one of the worst pass defense in the Big Ten through the first few weeks of the season, and struggles converting on third down on offense.
They have UCF, who dropped 61 in a game this season, on the slate. If the Terrapins secondary gets reduced to swiss cheese, then they’ll stay down here in the rankings. If they lockdown on the pass and can keep drives alive, then they are building a case for a move up.
This week, Maryland plays: UCF at 3 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1
9. Minnesota Golden Gophers
P.J. Fleck has rowed his boat to a 3-0 start at Minnesota. Not much more to report than to say that the boat is definitely being rowed in Minneapolis.
This week, Minnesota plays: Bye Week
10. Indiana Hoosiers
After last week’s game with Florida International was cancelled due to Hurricane Irma, the Hoosiers are back in action against Georgia Southern.
Tom Allen got his first win of his head coaching career against Virginia in Week 2, and shouldn’t have a problem getting win #2 against GSU. However, this game will be a litmus test for the passing game. Against Ohio State, the Hoosiers went cold down the stretch. With a couple more weeks to work out the problems, this game is their last chances to pull the playbook together before another meeting with an AP Top 5 (assuming all things hold up) program.
This week, Indiana plays: Georgia Southern at 3:30 p.m. ET on BTN.
12. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
After beating Morgan State, 65-0, Rutgers looks to get their first win against Nebraska. It’ll be a challenge, as they won’t be in New Brunswick, N.J. for this one.
Chris Ash has had his work cut out for him since he took over for the Scarlet Knights, but a win here could be the turning point. Already this season, Rutgers gave the Washington Huskies a fight. This team is a tad better than last season—but there is still work to be done.
This week, Rutgers plays: Nebraska at 3:30 p.m. ET on BTN.
13. Illinois Fighting Illini
Ball State lost to the Illini by three, and the South Florida Bulls committed 16 penalties before defeating the team from Champaign, Ill., 47-23.
That’s two rough games for the Lovie Smith-coached squad, and there’s still another game left in the month. Maybe they’ll sort it out this week, as the Illini are on the bye.
This week, Illinois plays: Bye Week
14. Nebraska Cornhuskers
It’s been a no good, terrible, bad seven-day stretch for Nebraska. Last Saturday, they lost at home to Northern Illinois, 21-17. On Thursday, the Cornhuskers said adios to athletic director Shawn Eichorst.
Rutgers is on the slate this week and it’s back at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb. A loss here, and it may be adios to head coach Mike Riley.
On the bright side: The Cornhuskers will always have that national title they won in 1997.
This week, Nebraska plays: Rutgers at 3:30 p.m. ET on BTN.