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Sunday, March 03, 2024

Ranking each Big Ten team as conference play heats up

The college football season is still young, and Big Ten play has barely begun. However, we still have enough information to analyze and rank each member of the chaotic conference.

As we enter the thick of the Big Ten football season, the dust seems to be settling and the truth is shining on the early successes of excelling teams — and shining right through the frauds. 

Through week four, evaluations of each squad can be made — which can be ugly for the underperformers and exciting for the likes of bottom-tier Big Ten West teams. Power rankings don’t mean everything, but as we enter week five, these rankings may be painfully truthful.

#14: Northwestern

No one really knows where the 10th ranked Wildcats from 2020 came from, or where they went. In the present day, though, we all know exactly what to expect from the program. Like the majority of the Big Ten West, expectations are low, especially after seeing their 1-3 record. Of course, they’ll pick up a random win over a team much better than them, but that’ll be the extent of the Wildcats’ success this season.

Week 5 Matchup v. Penn State 

Prediction: Nittany Lions 38-10 Wildcats

#13: Illinois

By Illinois standards, this has been one of the best seasons in almost 10 years. A 3-1 start has been joyful for the Fighting Illini, that is until you look at the competition. Wins over Wyoming and Virginia are unquestionably low in value, and when Illinois finds themselves in Camp Randall this weekend, a rude awakening lays in store.

Week 5 Matchup v. Wisconsin 

Prediction: Badgers 28-13 Fighting Illini

#12: Iowa

Disappointment has hung over Iowa City since they were thrashed by Michigan in last year’s Big Ten Championship. And, unfortunately for Hawkeye fans, there is no end in sight. Even though they started 3-1, a mere 7-3 win over an FCS team and a loss to their in-state rival Cyclones poses issues that are sure to persist through Big Ten play.

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Week 5 Matchup v. Michigan 

Prediction: Wolverines 42-14 Hawkeyes

#11: Nebraska

If I weren’t a Badger fan, I’d say I miss the glory days of Nebraska football. But, even after firing ex-head coach Scott Frost following an embarrassing loss to Georgia Southern University, it’s hard to see any bright spots in the near — or distant — future for Husker football. Their Big Ten West schedule may ebb the pain, but there is no hiding the massive holes within the program.

Week 5 Matchup v. Hoosiers 

Prediction: Cornhuskers 21-17 Hoosiers

#10: Purdue

As the Boilermakers enter yet another season with quarterback Aidan O’Connell, they look exactly as they have every year under his leadership. To be fair, Purdue’s two losses so far have come at the hands of two worthy teams. However, this proves Purdue will not be able to threaten many of their Big Ten opponents, as they’ve failed to rise to the occasion thus far.

Week 5 Matchup v. Minnesota 

Prediction: Golden Gophers 33-23 Boilermakers

#9: Rutgers

The Scarlet Knights have had one of their best starts to the season in years, winning their first three games. But, as soon as they found themselves in Big Ten competition, they were unable to continue their undefeated start, dropping their home opener 27-10 to Iowa. Quarterback Evan Simon has shown a strong connection with receiver Aron Cruickshank in the air, but they are far from dangerous in the daunting Big Ten East. 

Week 5 Matchup v. Ohio State 

Prediction: Buckeyes 56-13 Scarlet Knights

#8: Maryland

Almost as shocking as their multi-patterned uniforms was the Terrapins' week four performance against Michigan. Up until quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa left the game with an injury, it was the most we’ve seen Michigan struggle since their loss to Georgia in the playoffs last year. Tagovailoa claims to be back at 100%, but he is considered a game-time decision this Saturday, which can make or break their chances in a matchup against a struggling Michigan State secondary.

Week 5 Matchup v. Michigan State 

Prediction: Spartans 24-23 Terrapins

#7: Indiana

Throughout college football, the blue-bloods of basketball have emerged as threatening powers. The Hoosiers have added to this surge of “basketball school” success in football this season. The only issue is that they play in the Big Ten East. Unlucky. Indiana has picked up good wins against bad teams so far, but they will not be able to handle the likes of the eastern firepower.

Week 5 Matchup v. Nebraska 

Prediction: Cornhuskers 21-17 Hoosiers

#6: Michigan State

On the contrary of blazing starts, Michigan State can be found. Unfortunately, the secondary they saw struggle throughout all of last year has been riddled with injury and therefore suffered further this season. While they still have a dynamic running back room and receiving firepower with the Thorne-Reed connection, it’s safe to say the Spartans are unlikely to find themselves back in the top 25 this season, barring massive improvements.

Week 5 Matchup v. Michigan State 

Prediction: Spartans 24-23 Terrapins

#5: Wisconsin

It’s turning out to be yet another one of those seasons for the Badgers. While quarterback Graham Mertz has displayed flashes of accuracy, the only safe offensive option continues to be the Allen-Mellusi rushing combination. After losing tight end Clay Cundiff — who has been a surprise star so far — to an ankle injury, the potential of the team woefully continues to shrink. 

Week 5 Matchup v. Illinois 

Prediction: Badgers 28-13 Fighting Illini

#4: Minnesota (21)

Golden is just the word to describe the Gophers under head coach P.J. Fleck. Minnesota is off to another flying start, just as they broke through last year. While they have yet to face a true test, it is shameful of me to admit that Minnesota is a legitimate Big Ten contender while writing from Madison. Purdue will be a worthy evaluation of the Gophers’ true ceiling this season.

Week 5 Matchup v. Purdue 

Prediction: Golden Gophers 33-23 Boilermakers

#3: Penn State (11)

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises this season has been head coach James Franklin’s return to glory — finally. After years of mediocrity, Penn State firmly won their first four matchups under the leadership of sixth year quarterback Sean Clifford. After this week’s easy matchup against Northwestern, the Nittany Lions will face a true Big Ten gauntlet as they will match up against three ranked opponents in a row.

Week 5 Matchup v. Northwestern 

Prediction: Nittany Lions 38-10 Wildcats

#2: Michigan (4)

Quarterback J.J. McCarthy has undoubtedly proven himself after earning the starting spot. Michigan will likely not show weakness throughout the first few weeks of their Big Ten schedule, which will continue throughout the next few weeks, possibly up until their matchup with the Buckeyes in the last weekend of the year.

Week 5 Matchup v. Iowa 

Prediction: Wolverines 42-14 Hawkeyes

#1: Ohio State (3)

Under head coach Ryan Day, the Buckeyes have been the epitome of consistency, disregarding the painful loss to Michigan last season. To absolutely no one’s astoundment, quarterback C.J. Stroud has led OSU to a steamrolling of all of their opponents, including a 52-21 win in their first Big Ten matchup against Wisconsin — 21 points was a pleasant surprise for us Badger fans. There are no doubts that Ohio State will continue to dominate their Big Ten schedule up until the decisive week 12 showdown against the Wolverines.

Week 5 Matchup v. Rutgers 

Prediction: Buckeyes 56-13 Scarlet Knights

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