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Penn State

Big Ten power rankings: Did Penn State move up after dismantling Pitt?

| Monday, Sept. 10, 2018, 10:42 p.m.
Penn State coach James Franklin celebrates as players return to the sidelines after a touchdown during the second half against Pitt in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. Penn State won 51-6.
Penn State coach James Franklin celebrates as players return to the sidelines after a touchdown during the second half against Pitt in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. Penn State won 51-6.

Every week here at the Centre Daily Times, we’ll release our Big Ten power rankings online Monday. We had some movers and shakers this weekend — hello, Iowa — so let’s get straight to it.

Did Penn State rise from our Week 1 rankings? Who’s the new team at the bottom? Take a look.

1. Ohio State Buckeyes (2-0)

Game result: W, vs. Rutgers, 52-3

Movement from last poll: None

There’s no other way to say it: Ohio State is ridiculously good. The Buckeyes were a combined 30-of-33 passing against Rutgers for 354 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. Right now, this team looks like one of the best in the nation. If it can keep this dominance up against No. 15 TCU on Saturday night, future opponents have a right to be concerned.

2. Wisconsin Badgers (2-0)

Game result: W, vs. New Mexico, 45-14

Movement from last poll: None

Do we really have to explain this one? There’s a clear gap between Ohio State and Wisconsin, but the Badgers are one of the Big Ten’s best. And they’re the top team in the West, by a hefty margin. Against New Mexico, the Badgers had 417 rushing yards and four touchdowns. The offensive line is elite and could rankle a number of top-25 teams.

3. Penn State Nittany Lions (2-0)

Game result: W, at Pitt, 51-6

Movement from last poll: None

First, the good: Miles Sanders has shown he’s a tough runner, and the defense has the ability to step up in critical situations. The bad? This team still has some noticeable deficiencies. A big second half against Pitt doesn’t hide the dropped passes or the missed tackles. There’s a lot of talent on this team and it has the potential to be No. 1 in this poll — but it needs to put a full four quarters together against better opponents.

4. Michigan Wolverines (1-1)

Game result: W, vs. Western Michigan, 49-3

Movement from last poll: None

QB Shea Patterson looked a lot better this week. But Western Michigan is no Notre Dame. The Wolverines won’t really be tested until Sept. 22 against Nebraska and then with its Murderer’s Row of Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State starting Oct. 13. That’s a lot of time to show that Week 1 was an anomaly. This defense is elite, and the offense is still better than last season.

5. Iowa Hawkeyes (2-0)

Game result: W, vs. Iowa State, 13-3

Movement from last poll: Up (1 spot)

In the last two games, against two above-average opponents, the Hawkeyes have allowed just 10 combined points. This is the Big Ten West’s darkhorse and, although the offense isn’t very flashy (surprise, surprise), this is a team that has the ability to surprise. There are some budding stars here. Defensive end A.J. Epenesa already has three sacks and two forced fumbles on the season.

6. Maryland Terrapins (2-0)

Game result: W, vs. Bowling Green, 45-14

Movement from last poll: Up (2 spots)

We didn’t expect Maryland to be up this high this soon. But this team has quickly shown it can win in a lot of ways. Against Texas, the passing game was on-point and the defense was opportunistic. Against Bowling Green, the run defense dominated — allowing 15 yards on 28 carries — and the rushing offense wound up with 444 yards and five touchdowns. Watch out for the Terps.

7. Michigan State Spartans (1-1)

Game result: L, at Arizona State, 16-13

Movement from last poll: Down (2 spots)

The Sun Devils may be a good team, but couple last Saturday’s result with the previous struggle against Utah State, and Michigan State is fortunate it’s not ranked lower. LJ Scott has been a disappointment so far, as he’s averaging just 3.4 yards per carry. And QB Brian Lewerke doesn’t look like one of the conference’s best. Sparty has a lot of growing to do before the conference season starts up.

8. Minnesota Golden Gophers (2-0)

Game result: W, vs. Fresno State, 21-14

Movement from last poll: Up (2 spots)

Sure, it’s early. But Minnesota’s D is off to a hot start, as it currently ranks No. 8 in rush defense and No. 22 in third-down defense. As long as RB Rodney Smith’s injury isn’t serious — he left Saturday’s game early with a leg injury — the Golden Gophers should be bowling again this season after missing out last year.

9. Nebraska Cornhuskers (0-1)

Game result: L, vs. Colorado, 33-28

Movement from last poll: None

It’s been said that the biggest improvement comes between Week 1 and Week 2. If that’s the case, Nebraska’s Scott Frost definitely got the short end of the stick when his opening game was canceled. The Nebraska-Colorado game came down to the final minute, and the Huskers nearly held on. Nebraska shouldn’t stay down for long.

10. Indiana Hoosiers (2-0)

Game result: W, vs. Virginia, 20-16

Movement from last poll: Up (2 spots)

Indiana had a nice little run of running backs a few years ago, with guys such as Jordan Howard and Tevin Coleman. And the Hoosiers might have another special back in freshman Stevie Scott, who rushed for 204 yards last Saturday. This offense is much improved from 2017 and, as long as the defense remains steady, Indiana has the potential to be in that second tier of Big Ten teams.

11. Northwestern Wildcats (1-1)

Game result: L, vs. Duke, 21-7

Movement from last poll: Down (4 spots)

Clayton Thorson is still coming off last season’s torn ACL, but Pat Fitzgerald doesn’t exactly have the benefit of a Plan B. Thorson looked lost at times Saturday and had a QBR of 26.7. That’s bad — but backup TJ Green’s QBR was even worse at 3.6. (Yes, those ratings are out of 100.) This team will go as far as Thorson takes it. And, right now, the Wildcats have stalled.

12. Illinois Fighting Illini (2-0)

Game result: W, vs. Western Illinois, 34-14

Movement from last poll: Up (2 spots)

Earlier this year, we called Illinois one of the worst teams in the FBS. Even though the Illini are 2-0, we’re not backing down from that just yet. Illinois has beaten Kent State — which Athlon ranked as the second-worst team out of the 130 FBS programs — and a winless FCS team in Western Illinois. And both wins had their low points, with Western Illinois leading 7-0 into the second quarter. This team has a lot of deficiencies, both coaching- and player-wise, and we should have a much better idea of the real Illinois in another week (USF) or two (Penn State).

13. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-1)

Game result: L, at Ohio State, 52-3

Movement from last poll: None

Thank goodness for that New York TV market — right, Big Ten fans? Rutgers is a middle-of-the-road MAC team masquerading as a Big Ten squad. If the Scarlet Knights finish the season with four or five wins, it’d be a moral victory. There’s just not a lot to like here.

14. Purdue Boilermakers (0-2)

Game result: L, vs. Eastern Michigan, 20-19

Movement from last poll: Down (3 spots)

Jeff Brohm is a great coach, and the Boilermakers are a better program with him at the helm. But, as the only 0-2 team in the conference, Purdue has still earned its spot here. The Boilermakers fell to Eastern Michigan on a last-second field goal and they lost to Northwestern in Week 1, 31-27, after the Wildcats controlled the ball for the last 7:57 of the game. Purdue will get better with Brohm — but it’s got a long, long way to go.

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