The big game of the weekend was Wisconsin’s 23-17 overtime win over Nebraska at Camp Randall Stadium, knocking the Cornhuskers from the ranks of the unbeaten and shaking up the race for the Big Ten West. Other than that, it was a fairly ho-hum weekend in the Big Ten. As such, there are no changes in positioning in this week’s power rankings.
1. Michigan Wolverines, 60 points
It certainly wasn’t the bloodbath that many, myself included, were expecting, but the Wolverines took care of rival Michigan State in East Lansing to remain undefeated. There is always a chance that Michigan trips up at some point over the next three games, but it looks quite likely that the Wolverines will be 11-0 when they travel to Columbus for “The Game” to cap off their regular-season schedule. In fact, outside of Alabama, it doesn’t look like there is a more complete team in college football than Michigan. I, for one, welcome our new, khaki-wearing overlords.
2. Ohio State Buckeyes, 47 points
The Buckeyes have one of the most talented, young teams in the entire country, and that youth has been on full display the past few weeks. Inconsistency and woefully predictable offensive play calling have led to Ohio State having a rocky stretch over the last three games. In addition to their loss to Penn State, the Buckeyes have needed to eek out late wins against Wisconsin and Northwestern, though both the Badgers and the Wildcats have been playing well as of late. Still, Urban Meyer and Co. are still in the thick of the College Football Playoff hunt, but similar struggles could spell trouble when Nebraska comes to Columbus this Saturday.
3. Wisconsin Badgers, 43 points
Despite Paul Chryst’s ongoing quest to manufacture a quarterback controversy out of thin air, the Badgers were able to escape Saturday night with an overtime win over Nebraska. When Andrew Endicott missed a field goal late in regulation and then an extra point after Wisconsin scored a touchdown in overtime, fans had to be thinking they were about to witness yet another soul-crushing OT loss. Instead, the UW defense held strong—thanks in part to an inexplicable no-call on a pass interference on the penultimate play of the game—and the Badgers retained something called the Freedom Trophy. Next up, a road trip to Evanston to take on Northwestern, a place they haven’t at won since 1999.
4. Nebraska Cornhuskers, 29 points
I’m sure Nebraska fans don’t want to hear about moral victories, but that was one heck of a performance by the Huskers. They rallied back from a 17-7 second-half deficit to force overtime and could have very easily beaten a tough Wisconsin team in a hostile environment. That’s the kind of game where Nebraska got blown out of the water under Bo Pelini. But in addition to better recruiting, Mike Riley has brought a calm, steady demeanor that has rubbed off on the Cornhuskers. They don’t seem to panic when things aren’t going their way. Plus, Nebraska still can win the Big Ten West by winning out, which would need to include a road victory against Ohio State this weekend.
5. Penn State Nittany Lions, 21 points
After being tied 17-17 with Purdue at halftime last Saturday, the Nittany Lions came out in the second half and dropped 45 more points on the Boilermakers for a blowout win. Running back Saquon Barkley continued to impress, steamrolling the Purdue defense for 207 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Penn State should get a fairly tough test this weekend when the Iowa Hawkeyes make the trip to Beaver Stadium.
6. Northwestern Wildcats, 8 points
They had their three-game winning streak snapped, but the Wildcats still looked pretty darn good in a close road loss to Ohio State. Northwestern still has a distant shot at winning the Big Ten West despite being 4-4 overall, but would need to win out for there to be any chance. The Wildcats’ toughest remaining game comes Saturday when they play host to No. 8 Wisconsin. Badgers fans don’t need a reminder of how difficult it can be to win in Evanston.