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Week 6: Big Ten Power Rankings and College Football Playoff Horserace Positioning

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Friends, there was movement at the top this week!

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Joshua A. Bickel/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Well this was a fun Saturday of college football, wasn’t it? Starting with the Buckeyes obliteration of Maryland at noon and wrapping up with Texas A&M’s upset of Alabama just before midnight (and then some Pac-12 After Dark rolling into Sunday on the east coast). The top-five matchup between Iowa and Penn State in the middle was neither particularly exciting, nor entertaining, but it was educational; and because of a crazy day of results, we have movement in both of our lists.

As always, keep in mind that these are just my lists, and they are simply looking at where things sit as of this very moment. Things will be fluid, rankings will change, but that’s what’s fun about this crazy ass sport, isn’t it?

I am sure that more astute and discerning college football watchers might have different opinions, so if that’s you, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.


My Current Big Ten Power Rankings

1.) Ohio State (5-1, 3-0) | 66-17 Win Over Maryland | Previously No. 4

Call me a homer, if you want, but if Ohio State had played Oregon in Week 3 or 4, rather than in Week 2, they would be undefeated and in the conversation to be the No. 1 team in the country. However, that is not how the schedule played out this year. Taking the recent results with a Rutgers and Maryland sized grain of salt, I think that it is fair to say that the Buckeyes have certainly looked like one of the four best teams in the country since C.J. Stroud returned from a week off to rest his ailing shoulder.

We’re obviously gonna have a ton of coverage for this game over the next few days (in addition to what we’ve already had), so I don’t want to spend too much time here rehashing it, but it is clear that despite the result in Iowa City on Saturday (and perhaps because of how painful that game was to watch), Ohio State is back to being the best team in the Big Ten, and it really isn’t even close.

2.) Iowa (6-0, 3-0) | 23-20 Win Over Penn State | Previously No. 2

Give the Hawkeyes credit, they came back from an early, double-digit deficit, but let’s be honest, watching that Iowa offense can be hazardous to your health. The defense is obviously one of the better units in the country — much better than Ohio State’s D — but teams in this conference are measured against how you stack up to the Buckeyes, and I just can’t see Kirk Ferentz’s squad keeping up with OSU on the scoreboard.

3.) Michigan State (6-0, 3-0) | 31-13 Win Over Rutgers | Previously No. 5

Sparty was 2-and-5 last season, but thanks to a full offseason of work with Mel Tucker and a healthy infusion of talent via the transfer portal, Michigan State is going to be a top-10 team after this weekend, and honestly, they deserve it. I’m really looking forward to the Buckeyes’ final home this season to see OSU and MSU square off.

4.) Michigan (6-0, 3-0) | 32-29 Win Over Nebraska | Previously No. 3

Cade McNamara is not a good quarterback, and Jim Harbaugh is not a good late game coach. But, if he pulls the trigger and puts true-freshman J.J. McCarthy behind center, they could be pretty decent on offense. Right now, TTUN is good enough on both sides of the ball, but not great anywhere. If they want their season ending matchup with Ohio State to mean anything, they’re gonna have to get better on both sides of the ball. Until Jimmy figures out his QB situation, I can’t in good conscience put them in the top-3.

5.) Penn State (5-1, 2-1) | 23-20 Loss to Iowa | Previously No. 1

Sean Clifford is not a good quarterback, despite this being his ninth season as the Nits’ starter. However, the PSU offense looks light years better with him running it than Ta’Quan Roberson, which I suppose explains why Clifford has been able to keep his job this long. The Nits’ defense is a solid unit, but you’ve gotta be able to score, hell you’ve gotta be able to complete passes, in order to win games, and for most of the game they couldn’t do either.

Clifford’s injury did not appear to be something that would keep him out through the end of the month when James Franklin brings his team to Columbus, but even if he is 100% healthy, I don’t see a world in which PSU is able to outscore OSU.

6.) Nebraska (3-4, 1-3) | 32-29 Loss to Michigan | Previously No. 7

Yes, I am moving Nebraska up in the rankings despite losing again and being just 1-and-3 in the B1G. That is partially because the Huskers appear to be ever so close to breaking through, but also because after you get past the five best teams in the conference, the pickings are pretty slim.

Look, I don’t know if Scott Frost is the guy to get Nebraska back to any level of prominence, but there is no doubt that he has clearly gotten his team to a much more competitive level than in recent years. With painfully close loses to Oklahoma, Michigan State, and now Michigan, the Huskers are right on the doorstep, but need to eliminate the boneheaded mistakes.

If Frost had a quarterback with all of the good that Adrian Martinez provides, but without any of his inherent flaws — primarily turnovers — the Nebraska coach could have something cooking in Lincoln.

7.) Purdue (3-2, 1-1) | Open Week | Previously No. 9

The Boilermakers beat a decent Oregon State team to open the season and hung tough with a decent-at-best Notre Dame team before the Irish made it look like a bigger win than it really was. I know that’s not a lot to hang your hat on, but who else am I gonna put here? So, I guess the Boilers get the No. 7 slot by default.

8.) Rutgers (3-3, 0-3) | 31-13 Loss to Michigan State | Previously No. 8

I said it after last week’s game, and it is still true now: Rutgers is a solid team. Not all that good, but not horrible either. The problem is that after a strong start, they are going to have to face a lineup of much better teams in the best division in college football. Their record might end up not being pretty, but they will play hard in each game, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they find a way to jump up and get someone before the season is over.

9.) Wisconsin (2-3, 1-2) | 24-0 Win Over Illinois | Previously No. 12

It was a win over Illinois, but it was a win nonetheless. Like I said last week, the Badgers have some wins built into their schedule the rest of the way, but even if they finish with eight wins, this is going to be the worst Wisconsin team in recent memory.

10.) Maryland (4-2, 1-2) | 66-17 Loss to Ohio State | Previously No. 6

I kind of feel bad for the Maryland players. They started 4-0 (including a win over not very good West Virginia) and looked really good in the first month of the season, but as the calendar flipped to October, they ran into the buzzsaw that was back-to-back games against Iowa and Ohio State.

There are three easily winnable games on their remaining schedule, but with back-to-back-to-back November games remaining against Penn State (Nov. 6), Michigan State (Nov. 13), and Michigan (Nov. 20), we could see a few more butt-kickings before the season is out for the Terps.

11.) Minnesota (3-2, 1-1) | Open Week | Previously No. 10

Without Mohamed Ibrahim, Minnesota is going to struggle on offense all year, and that’s too bad, because he’s fantastic.

12.) Indiana (2-2, 0-2) | Open Week | Previously No. 11

The Hoosiers better hope that they get healthy and figure some things out during their off week, because when they come back, they have Michigan State and Ohio State back-to-back, and that could be ugly for IU.

13.) Northwestern (2-3, 0-2) | Open Week | Previously No. 14

Congrats, Coach Fitz, not only did you have a chance to rest up and get healthy this week, but you moved out of the B1G basement without having to do anything to earn it.

14.) Illinois (2-5, 2-3) | 24-0 Loss to Wisconsin | Previously No. 13

Sorry, Bert, you cannot get shutout like that by the team that I had at No. 12 in the conference coming into this week. So, I have no choice but to do this. It hurts me more than it hurts you.


My Current College Football Playoff Positioning

Since there was some confusion on this list, I want to clarify, these are not the teams, nor the order, that I think will happen when the official College Football Playoff seedings are released in early December.

I am not prognosticating what will happen to any of them the rest of the season; these rankings will change nearly every week, especially as the better teams continue to play each other. Instead, this list is designed to highlight the four teams with the best claims to CFP berths as it stands right now.

Feel free to disagree and let me know in the comments below.

1.) Georgia (6-0) | 34-10 Win Over Auburn | Previously No. 2

There has been no question this season as to who had the best defense in the country, and now with Stetson Bennett at quarterback the Dawgs actually have a functioning offense. UGA hasn’t won a national title in my lifetime (I was born 176 days after their 1981 Sugar Bowl win over Notre Dame), and I wouldn’t really bet on them to change that this year, but I wouldn’t bet against them at this point either.

2.) Iowa (5-0) | 23-20 Win Over Penn State | Previously NR

I really wanted to put Ohio State in place of Iowa, because I think it’s clear that the Buckeyes are now the best team in the B1G and the odds-on favorite to win the conference title. But, that’s not what this list is for. Therefore, Iowa is in, even though I don’t think that they are the most likely team in the B1G to earn a CFP bid.

3.) Cincinnati (5-0) | 52-3 Win Over Temple | Previously No. 4

UC did to Temple what UC was supposed to do to Temple.

4.) Oklahoma (6-0) | 55-48 Win Over Texas | Previously NR

The Sooners have been pretty bad all season, despite being undefeated, and I thought about putting Ohio State here as well (I told you you can call me a homer if you want). But, if Lincoln Riley does what needs to be done and makes freshman Caleb Williams his full-time starting quarterback over the underperforming Spencer Rattler, then they have a legit shot to go undefeated the rest of the way, and that would warrant inclusion in the top-4.