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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Iowa, Ohio State top Big Ten teams so far

We're a quarter through the Big Ten season and nearly halfway through the entire season, so now is as good a time as any to post the first Big Ten power rankings.

By the way, these rankings are determined by this season, not last season or the pre-season rankings.

11 – Illinois (0-2 Big Ten, 1-3 overall)

The Fighting Illini have played perhaps the toughest schedule of any team in the conference, but they haven't been competitive at all.

Their lone win is over Illinois State of the FCS. The other three teams Illinois played are all currently ranked, but it still lost those three contests by a combined 76 points, or an average of 25.3 points per game.

The 2007 Rose Bowl appearance seems like a long time ago, and the miserable beginning to 2009 has head coach Ron Zook talking about benching his four-year starter at quarterback, Juice Williams.

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10 – Purdue (0-1 Big Ten, 1-4 overall)

The Boilermakers' record isn't better than Illinois', but at least they've been competitive in several tough games. The glaring blemish on Purdue's early schedule is the home loss to Northern Illinois, which came a week before the Huskies lost to Idaho.

The Boilermakers put up good fights against Oregon and Notre Dame, but the 1-4 record isn't satisfying anyone in West Lafayette.

9 – Michigan State (1-1 Big Ten, 2-3 overall)

If it weren't for their potential season-salvaging win over Michigan Saturday, the Spartans might be at the bottom of this list. The obvious killer here for Michigan State is the home loss to Central Michigan.

The Spartans failed to rebound, suffering a heartbreaking loss at Notre Dame before Wisconsin handled them fairly easily. The victory against the Wolverines gives Michigan State something to build on, but their 2-3 record is still far below what anyone around East Lansing expected.

8 – Indiana (0-2 Big Ten, 3-2 overall)

Unlike the Spartans, the Hoosiers took care of business early in the season. But two in-conference losses means Indiana is once again off to a slow start in the Big Ten, albeit against a tough schedule.

Indiana put up a valiant effort in the Big House and may have won that game if it weren't for a bad call. The blowout loss to Ohio State shows the Hoosiers are still a long way from competing in the Big Ten, though.

7 – Northwestern (1-1 Big Ten, 3-2 overall)

The Wildcats are looking to build on an encouraging 2008 season in which they won five Big Ten games. But they had a chance to capture a solid win against Minnesota and failed to do so.

A conference win and avoiding of a bad home loss keep Northwestern from the bottom of the pack.

6 – Minnesota (1-1 Big Ten, 3-2 overall)

The Gophers appear to be right where they were last year: in the middle tier of the Big Ten. They've made the step out of the basement but can't seem to catapult themselves into the upper echelon of the conference, slimly missing home chances against Cal and Wisconsin.

5 – Penn State (1-1 Big Ten, 4-1 overall)

The Nittany Lions may actually be better than most teams above them, but they haven't proved it on the field yet. They did take care of business early, but a double-digit home loss to open the Big Ten season was a major disappointment for Penn State fans and a missed opportunity to remain in the national-title chase.

4 – Michigan (1-1 Big Ten, 4-1 overall)

Like the opposite of Penn State, the Wolverines may have been playing a little over their heads to begin the season.

The last two contests, a loss to Michigan State and a narrow home win over Indiana, are a little troubling. Still, they have only one loss and a nice win over Notre Dame.

3 – Wisconsin (2-0 Big Ten, 5-0 overall)

Badger fans weren't really sure how good their team was after its 3-0 start against a weak nonconference slate, but now the verdict is in. The scores of their two Big Ten contests make the games look close, but make no mistake, Wisconsin dominated Michigan State at home and Minnesota on the road.

2 – Ohio State (2-0 Big Ten, 4-1 overall)

I can't penalize the Buckeyes too harshly for scheduling and falling to USC. Since that loss, although it's been a weak conference schedule thus far, Ohio State has exhibited pure command over its competition.

1 – Iowa (1-0 Big Ten, 5-0 overall)

The Hawkeyes take the cake after their marquee win at Penn State. Iowa's had some close calls in other games, but the road victory over the defending conference champions now makes them the Big Ten's team to beat.

Disagree with Scott's rankings? E-mail him at kellogg2@wisc.edu.

 

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