In the Big Ten this week, three of the top teams were at home watching games on the couch, and a fourth wishes that it was. There was not a ton of good football taking place across the conference on Saturday — or the country for that matter — but we did learn some things. So there has been some movement in both of my rankings; AND I decided to wade into the Heisman race as well. So this should absolutely not make anyone angry.
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) | Off Week | Previously No. 1
Ohio State’s off week came at the perfect time, halfway through the season, giving the coaches and players extra time to get used to the changes that have been made throughout the season, and of course to get healthy where need be. Indiana is up next — and they are pretty terrible — but other than that, the back part of OSU’s schedule is turning out to be quite the gauntlet, so it will be nice to see how these midseason adjustments look against competent competition.
2.) Michigan State (7-0, 4-0) | 20-15 Win Over Indiana | Previously No. 3
I wanted — and expected — to see a lot more from Sparty in this game. But, they won and Iowa lost, so they move up. Kenneth Walker III was held to only 84 yards and MSU was out-gained by an offense led by a backup up quarterback. We know that Mel Tucker’s defense is legit, but if Michigan State wants to have a real shot to win the conference and earn a CFP berth, they are going to need to get their offense figured out soon.
3.) Michigan (6-0, 3-0) | Open Week | Previously No. 4
The Skunk Bears haven’t played anyone all that good so far this season, but the rest of the month they will be at least facing some stingy defenses in Northwestern and Michigan State. If they can get through those two contests unscathed, they very well could have a claim on the top spot in these power rankings. But, my prediction is that even if they win both, they won’t look especially inspiring doing so.
4.) Penn State (5-1, 2-1) | Open Week | Previously No. 5
Penn State is on its first of two straight off weeks as they didn’t have a game on Saturday and then have Illinois next week. So, they’ll be plenty rested and focused when they come to Columbus on the day (or night?) before Halloween.
5.) Iowa (6-1, 3-1) | 24-7 Loss to Purdue | Previously No. 2
Yes, Iowa lost to Purdue, so you knew that they would fall, but you might be asking how I could rank them behind Penn State... who the Hawkeyes beat just a week ago. Well, they were one injury to mediocre quarterback Sean Clifford away from losing two in a row. They’ve still had a slightly better season than the Boilers, so they are staying ahead of them, but I don’t see Iowa making it through the regular season without at least another loss.
6.) Purdue (4-2, 2-1) | 24-7 Win Over Iowa | Previously No. 7
Purdue has looked scrappy all season and pulled the Purduiest upset since... well, you know. So, don’t look now, but the Boilermakers could very well end up being a contender out west.
Also, our own Josh Dooley called this one long before the game kicked off:
So, @jdooleybuckeye is a genius, huh? pic.twitter.com/jgr2i481PB— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) October 16, 2021
7.) Minnesota (4-2, 2-1) | 30-23 Win Over Nebraska | Previously No. 11
I was genuinely surprised by this result. I was very high on Nebraska — as evidenced by their No. 6 rank last week — and had more or less given up on Minnesota in recent weeks. However, they proved that they could still row the boat, even without their best player.
8.) Nebraska (3-5, 1-4) | 30-23 Loss to Minnesota | Previously No. 6
The Huskers have lost five games this seasons, and all of them have been by eight points or less. They clearly aren’t a great team, and might not even be a good team, but they are absolutely a team that has played pretty well throughout the season and has been incredibly unlucky. Given the bottom half of the Big Ten this season, that’s probably good enough for the eighth position.
9.) Northwestern (3-3, 1-2) | 21-7 Win Over Rutgers | Previously No. 13
Coach Fitz is doing Coach Fitz things up in Evanston. Despite having no semblance of a functioning offense, after the off week, the Northwestern defense did what you expect a Northwestern defense to do. I’m not predicting them to rise up and win the B1G West or anything, but I absolutely believe that they are going to have a say in who does.
10.) Maryland (4-2, 1-2) | Open Week | Previously No. 10
After the beatdowns that the Terps took the last two weeks from Iowa and Ohio State, they needed this week off. Rest up boys, you’ve got two winnable games (Minnesota, Indiana) before getting your doors blown off again by Penn State, Michigan State, and TTUN in three consecutive weeks.
11.) Wisconsin (3-3, 1-2) | 20-14 Win Over Army | Previously No. 9
Woof. Absolute woof.
12.) Indiana (2-4, 0-4) | 20-15 Loss to Michigan State | Previously No. 12
Indiana has not played especially well this season, but they’ve also been a bit snakebitten by the fact that they’ve played a brutal schedule. All four of their losses have come against teams that are currently in the top 10... and they welcome the Buckeyes next week.
13.) Rutgers (3-4, 0-4) | 21-7 Loss to Northwestern | Previously No. 8
My affection for the Northwestern team has been well chronicled in these power rankings, but I recognize that they aren’t a very good team this season. So, after Saturday’s performance by the Scarlet Knights, Greg Schiano’s squad could be in danger of losing the s at the end of their name. So Knights, after an off week, you play Illinois on Oct. 30, don’t make me pull out the “Rutger” after that game.
14.) Illinois (2-5, 2-3) | Open Week | Previously No. 14
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 (7-0) | 30-13 Win Over Kentucky | Previously No. 1
Believe it or not, Kentucky is a legitimately good team, and this is a very impressive win for Georgia.
2.) Cincinnati (6-0) | 56-21 Win Over UCF | Previously No. 3
If Luke Fickell’s team goes undefeated and they do not make the College Football Playoff, there is absolutely no reason to continue with this sham of a process.
3.) Oklahoma (7-0) | 52-31 Win Over TCU | Previously No. 4
Caleb Williams gives OU a completely different look on offense and takes them from a team destined to lose at least two games in the season to a team that is absolutely a favorite to make the playoffs. There are still some tests on their Big 12 schedule — they end the season with Baylor, Iowa State, and Oklahoma State — but the Sooners look far more like a real deal playoff team than they did with Spencer Rattler at QB.
4.) Ohio State (5-1) | Off Week | Previously NR
I know, I know, I’m a homer, but hear me out. Who the hell else are you going to put here? The only other option is Alabama... an Alabama who lost to an unranked team last week. The Buckeyes lost to a top 10 team over a month ago and have improved dramatically since then. So you tell me who deserves the spot?
And, despite the fact that the Big Ten has a ton of highly ranked teams, Ohio State will be favored in every game the rest of the season. The Crimson Tide, however — should they make the SEC Title Game — will be an underdog against Georgia. So, give me the Buckeyes.
Heisman Trophy Finalist Predictions
Today, I am introducing another segment to this weekly column, my Hesiman Trophy finalist predictions. This list is the four players that I think will end up in New York for the ceremony. As we know, there is no guarantee as to what number of finalists will be invited, but I’m sticking to four for the time being.
Also, these predictions are in alphabetical order, as I’m just predicting finalists, not a winner... yet. As we get more information, this list almost certainly will change.
There are a number of other candidates that I think are deserving, Texas’ Bijan Robinson, Ole Miss’ Matt Corral, Georgia’s Jordyn Davis, and many more. But, there are a few tried and true Heisman rules that you’ve got to keep in mind when predicting these things: The Heisman is a quarterback award and your team needs to at least be in contention for a conference title to be considered.
Of course, there are exceptions to those rules, but they are few and far between and require and unbelievably impressive season to defy them. So, here is my current list of Heisman finalists: