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Week 3: Big Ten Power Rankings and College Football Playoff Projections

We’ve got a new leader in the Big Ten clubhouse.

NCAA Football: Auburn at Penn State Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Tamanini Matt Tamanini is the co-managing editor of Land-Grant Holy Land having joined the site in 2016.

Welcome to my Big Ten Power Rankings and College Football Playoff Projections. The key word in that first sentence is “my.” This is how I see the lay of the land in the B1G and CFP. I am sure that more astute and discerning college football watchers might have different opinions, so feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

My Current Big Ten Power Rankings

1) Penn State (3-0) | 28-20 Win Over Auburn | Previously No. 2

I admit that I have a tendency to be a bit of a prisoner of the moment, so these rankings will likely be a little fluid, especially early in the season when we still have limited data to base them on. But, with wins over Wisconsin and Auburn, the Nits take the top spot for me this week, whether I like it or not.

2) Iowa (3-0) | 30-7 Win Over Kent St. | Previously No. 1

Despite an impressive-ish looking final score, the Hawkeyes never actually looked all that dominant against the Flashes. Sure, their eventual win always felt inevitable, but if you are going to be the top team in the conference, you can’t struggle to score in a game like this.

3) Michigan (3-0) | 63-10 Win Over Northern Illinois | Previously No. 3

The Weasels haven’t played anyone yet, as their marquis out-of-conference game against Washington ended up being a dud thanks to UDub being terrible. But, the Skunk Bears are doing what they are supposed to be doing, and actually look like they have a pulse on offense. We’ll see what happens moving forward, but for now, they’re No. 3.

4) Michigan State (3-0) | 38-17 Win Over Miami (FL) | Previously No. 7

I know, I’m as shocked as you are. Mel Tucker has seemingly turned the Spartans around pretty damn quickly, given their two lone wins in the bizarre 2020 season. Kenneth Walker III is absolutely a monster, and since Tucker comes from both the Nick Saban and Jim Tressel coaching trees, you can expect him to ride his transfer running back for the entire season.

5) Ohio State (2-1) | 41-20 Win Over Tulsa | Previously No. 4

Though it was against a winless Tulsa Golden Hurricane team, there were signs of progress from Ohio State on Saturday. Granted, it looked like grudging progress as it took far too long for the defense to get aggressive, but nearly everything good that happened on Saturday for the Buckeyes was on the backs of the freshmen.

The coaches should take note of that and simply play the most talented players with the most upside, instead of whatever the hell it is that they were doing in the first two and a half games of this Woodyforsaken season.

For more of my always level-headed, never knee-jerk thoughts on the game, Click Here.

6) Wisconsin (1-1) | Open Week | Previously No. 6

They didn’t play, say the Badgers stayed put.

7) Maryland (3-0) | 20-17 Win Over Illinois | Previously No. 5

So, here’s the thing: On Saturday, West Virginia’s win over No. 15 Virginia Tech should have enhanced Maryland’s standing, but the fact that the Terps needing a last-second field goal to beat Bert and the Fighting Illini on Friday night absolutely did not.

If Maryland looks good against Iowa in two weeks (or takes care of Kent State in a more impressive fashion than Iowa did), I will gladly chalk up the Illinois game as a fluke, and give them full credit for the WVU win again. But until that happens, the stain of Friday night knocks them down a couple of rungs.

8) Purdue (2-1) | 27-13 Loss to Notre Dame | Previously No. 9

Though this was technically a two-score game, this one was a heck of a lot closer than that. Despite not having their drum on site, the Boilermakers gave Notre Dame everything that they could handle. I do believe in moral victories in college football, and this should absolutely be one for an improving Purdue squad.

9) Rutgers (3-0) | 45-13 Win Over Delaware | Previously No. 8

It was impressive, but it was Delaware. Greg Schiano’s team hasn’t really faced anything approaching a good team yet this year, so it’s tough to get a real gauge on if they themselves are any good. I tend to think that they are improved, but still not great. We will get a much more accurate picture of the Knights next week when they take on the Mitten Men.

10) Minnesota (2-1) | 30-0 Win Over Colorado | Previously No. 12

I think Minnesota is a pretty good team, but this was a weird one for me, because both the Gophers and the Buffalos looked very different here in Week 3 than they did in Week 2. Minnesota went from struggling against Miami (OH) to dominating a Pac-12 team. While Colorado went from nearly upsetting top-10 Texas A&M to getting shut out at home. Gonna need more data before I feel good about the Gophers’ placement.

11) Nebraska (2-2) | 23-16 Loss to Oklahoma | Previously No. 11

I know he’s been the starter seemingly forever, but quarterback Adrian Martinez just isn’t it, and that final possession showed exactly why.

12) Indiana (1-2) | 38-24 Loss to Cincinnati | Previously No. 10

Fact: Indiana is 1-2.
Fact: Indiana outplayed Cincinnati for most of this game.
Fact: I had no choice but to drop the Hoosiers down to 12th in the rankings.

This game was Indiana’s to win, but Tom Allen’s squad just couldn’t close it out. Michael Penix Jr. seems to have regressed from his previously impressive self. Perhaps it is a cumulation of all of the injuries that he’s sustained in his career, but he just does not look like the guy that we have seen light up the Big Ten (when healthy) in recent years.

I really like the Indiana story, and want them to do well, but this is starting to look like a disappointing year for IU. I genuinely hope that they can turn it around.

13) Northwestern (1-2) | 30-23 Loss to Duke | Previously No. 13

Their smart guys beat our smart guys.

14) Illinois (1-3) | 20-17 Loss to Maryland | Previously No. 14

My Current College Football Playoff Projections

1) Alabama (3-0) | 31-29 Win Over Florida | Previously No. 1

I had zero expectation that I would ever have to even contemplate moving the Crimson Tide off of this line, but it came dangerously close to happening on Saturday. Through the first two weeks, I assumed that Alabama was just different than everybody else, but the Gators showed that they are mortal and can be knocked off.

2) Georgia (3-0) | 40-13 Win Over South Carolina | Previously No. 2

Ho hum victory for UGA. This one could have been a lot uglier, but Kirby Smart called off the dawgs (see what I did there?) and the Cocks got back a little bit of respectability. Georgia destroys plays Vanderbilt next weekend, but I’m really looking forward to seeing how they look against Arkansas the following Saturday.

3) Penn State (3-0) | 28-20 Win Over Auburn | Previously NR

I couldn’t have the Nits jump Iowa in the Big Ten rankings and not have them jump the Hawkeyes in the playoff rankings, now could I? With two wins over ranked teams, PSU gets the benefit of the doubt for this week, but like I said earlier, everything is nebulous, so we’ll see what happens next weekend.

4) Cincinnati (3-0) | 38-24 Win Over Indiana | Previously No. 4

Luke Fickell gets this spot almost by default. All of the other contenders have had glaring red flags so far this season. While UC tried to give this one away via penalties early in the game, they rallied and secured a two-touchdown victory over what was expected to be a formidable Big Ten opponent.