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Friday, June 09, 2023

DC Sports Big Ten Power Rankings: Spartans leapfrog OSU

There’s no change in this week’s power rankings, though Ohio State closed the gap between itself and the Michigan State Spartans. The week was fairly solid for the Big Ten as a majority of its teams wrapped up their non-conference schedules and now turn their attention to the start of Big Ten play.

1. Michigan State, 46 points

Michigan State barely retained its top spot for a second straight week after a 30-10 victory over Central Michigan that wasn’t decided until the fourth quarter.

The Spartans entered the final period leading only 17-10, leaving the door open for the Chippewas’ upset bid. Alas, it was not to be, as sophomore running back Gerald Holmes ran for a pair of touchdowns to seal the deal for Michigan State.

However, the Spartans did lose left tackle Jack Conklin to a leg injury. The severity of his injury and a timetable for his return are still unknown, but losing him for a significant amount of time would be yet another blow to a team that has already lost linebacker Ed Davis and cornerback Vayante Copeland to season-ending injuries.

In addition, their win over Oregon now looks substantially less impressive after the Ducks were railed by Utah.

Michigan State will ease into its conference schedule with games against Purdue and Rutgers before travelling to Ann Arbor for a Week 7 clash with archrival Michigan.

2. Ohio State, 44 points

Though it wasn’t the stunning performance that fans might’ve been hoping for, the Buckeyes also took care of their opponent from a directional Michigan school.

Ohio State comfortably beat Western Michigan 38-12, though its offense still wasn’t firing on all cylinders. 

Head coach Urban Meyer stuck with quarterback Cardale Jones as his starter despite a string of mediocre showings to start the year, and he did show at least a little improvement against the Broncos.

He threw for 288 yards, two touchdowns and an interception on 19-of-33 passing. Solid numbers, but still nowhere near the level he played at during the Buckeyes’ national championship run.

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Ohio State kicks off its Big Ten slate on the road against an Indiana team that has started the season 4-0 and has won five straight games for the first time in 28 years. Hopefully Hoosiers fans have enjoyed it while it lasted.

3. Wisconsin, 26 points

Corey Clement may be out for the foreseeable future while he recovers from surgery to repair a sports hernia, but Taiwan Deal’s performance against Hawaii has to give fans a confidence boost that the UW running game can survive without its starter.

Deal rushed for 147 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries under the lights at Camp Randall Stadium before a raucous crowd that showed up around the second quarter (those damn early kickoff times).

The Wisconsin defense also pitched another shutout and has now given up just three points over the last three games, a feat that Badgers hadn’t accomplished since the FDR administration.

The defense will get a tough test against C.J. Beathard and an Iowa offense that’s averaging 37.8 points per game thus far and doing its damnedest to save Kirk Ferentz’s job and prevent Bret Bielema from returning to the Big Ten.

4. Northwestern, 18 points

It wasn’t pretty, but the Wildcats are still undefeated heading into Big Ten play.

Northwestern survived a scare from Ball State to win 24-19 Saturday afternoon. The Cardinals actually led 10-7 at the half, but the Wildcats came to life in the third quarter, scoring 17 points to stave off the upset. Quarterback Clayton Thorson finished with 256 yards, three touchdowns and an interception on 18-of-31 passing, while Justin Jackson ran for a career-high 184 yards on 33 carries for Northwestern.

The Wildcats kick off their conference schedule with a pivotal five-game stretch that will see them welcome Minnesota, Iowa and Penn State into the magic realm of Evanston and hit the road to face off against Michigan and Nebraska.

5. Michigan, 16 points

“So do not worry, saying, ‘Who shall play quarterback?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What type of trousers shall we wear on gameday?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Harbaugh knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” – Matthew 6:31-33

The Wolverines are back in the AP poll for the first time since 2013 after their impressive 31-0 beatdown of No. 22 BYU last Saturday. Coming into the game, they had dropped 9 of their last 10 games against ranked opponents.

Michigan’s season-opening loss looks better following the Utes’ sheer annihilation of Oregon, and by the transitive property the Wolverines have pretty much already beaten Michigan State.

They’ll get their real shot at the Spartans on the field in three weeks after they play Maryland and Northwestern to start Big Ten play. It’s clear that Jim Harbaugh already has the program headed in the right direction and he already has the Wolverines as a team to watch in the East division.

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