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Sunday, June 26, 2022
Michigan's loss to Michigan State has opened up the Big Ten East division race.

Michigan's loss to Michigan State has opened up the Big Ten East division race.

Nittany Lions rise, Michigan still on top

For two glorious weeks, our power rankings had a consensus on who the top six teams in the Big Ten were. Unfortunately, all moderately satisfying things must eventually come to an end. While the top teams remained static, and Penn State established itself as a clear No. 4 in this week’s rankings, it’s a muddled mess after that. 

1. Michigan Wolverines, 60 points

Another week, another blowout victory by the Wolverines. This time it was poor Maryland that was on the receiving end of a 59-3 drubbing. Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight had one of his best games of the year, throwing for a career-high 362 yards and two touchdowns on 19-of-24 passing while running for another touchdown as well. First-year Maryland head coach and former Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin learned the hard way that, for Jim Harbaugh, friendship takes a backseat to a 50 percent discount at Ruth’s Chris Steak House.

2. Ohio State Buckeyes, 50 points

After several weeks of offensive struggles, the Buckeyes broke out in a big way in a 62-3 pummeling of No. 10 Nebraska. The Ohio State offense dropped 590 total yards on Nebraska and moved the chains 34 times, including an incredible 11-of-15 third-down conversion rate. After unleashing about a month’s worth of frustration on the Cornhuskers, the Buckeyes now hit the road for their next two games against Maryland and Michigan State. If all goes well for Urban Meyer’s team, they’ll be 11-1 when they return to Columbus for that highly anticipated regular-season finale against Michigan.

3. Wisconsin Badgers, 40 points

Remember, remember the fifth of November, the Badgers refuse to yield. With Paul Chryst at the helm, in that mystical realm, a triumph at Ryan Field. Hornibrook, Houston, ’twas Chryst’s plan, quarterback not played by any one man, to the UW faithful, an awful fright. Trips to Evanston a perpetual bane, since the long-ago days of Ron Dayne, for the mighty Cardinal and White. But Wisconsin did pass that challenging test, to seize control of the Big Ten West, as they make the trip back home. Three games left, no time to relax, to win the division and Paul Bunyan’s Axe. Thus ends this crappy poem.

4. Penn State Nittany Lions, 29 points

Don’t look now, but Penn State might be good at football again. The Nittany Lions cruised past Iowa 41-14 for their fifth straight win. Running back and dark horse Heisman candidate Saquon Barkley compiled 211 all-purpose yards (167 rushing, 44 receiving) and two touchdowns in the victory, marking the third time in the last four games that Barkley has reached 200 total yards. James Franklin’s team seems to be getting better and better with each passing week. Barring any upsets over the next three games, Penn State could reach 10 wins for the first time since 2009.

5. Nebraska Cornhuskers, 19 points

Last Saturday night was nothing short of a disaster for Nebraska. Not only did the Cornhuskers lose 62-3 on the road to Ohio State, but they also endured a terrifying moment when quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. had to be carted off the field in an ambulance after a head injury temporarily knocked him unconscious. But, the Huskers can still finish the regular season strong to get to 10-2, which would be a clear sign the program is headed in the right direction. On the other hand, they did just experience a 59-point loss to Ohio State. It’s hard to imagine any program worth a damn ever recovering from an embarrassment on a national stage like that.

6. Northwestern Wildcats, 6 points

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The Wildcats have now dropped back-to-back games to Ohio State and Wisconsin to fall to 4-5 on the year. But fear not Northwestern fans, those are two mighty fine quality losses to add to your résumé. In addition, the Wildcats’ final three games of the regular season feature road games against Purdue and Minnesota and a home game against Illinois. A 2-1 finish to achieve bowl eligibility shouldn’t be a problem, especially with the way Pat Fitzgerald’s team has played as of late.

7. Minnesota Golden Gophers, 3 points

Well, Minnesota is 7-2 and technically controls its own destiny in the Big Ten West. The Gophers have benefitted considerably from an easy schedule up to this point, but things get tougher for them to end the regular season. They’ll end the regular season with road games against Nebraska and Wisconsin and a home matchup with Northwestern. Buona fortuna, Gophers.

8. Indiana Hoosiers, 2 points

Indiana narrowly avoided what would have been a devastating loss to Rutgers last Saturday to move to 5-4. The next two weeks will see the Hoosiers be tested by ranked opponents Penn State and Michigan. After that, they host Purdue in their regular-season finale. Indiana needs just one win out of those three games to go bowling for a second, straight year.

9. Iowa Hawkeyes, 1 point

Back-to-back losses to Wisconsin and Northwestern have the Hawkeyes sitting at 5-4, and it doesn’t get any easier from here. Games against Michigan and Nebraska will be tough to win with Iowa’s offense as anemic as it has been, but a matchup with Illinois will give Kirk Ferentz’s team a chance to still reach bowl eligibility next week.

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