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Penn State

Big Ten power rankings: Where is Penn State after the lopsided loss to Michigan?

| Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, 6:36 p.m.
Michigan wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones celebrates his 23-yard touchdown reception against Penn State in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018.
Michigan wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones celebrates his 23-yard touchdown reception against Penn State in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018.

Every week at the Centre Daily Times, we release our Big Ten power rankings.

We had a ton of movers and shakers this weekend — hello, Minnesota — so let’s get straight to it. How far did Penn State fall? How much did Purdue rise? Take a look.

1. Michigan Wolverines (8-1, 6-0 Big Ten)

Game result: W, vs. Penn State, 42-7

Movement from last poll: None

Jim Harbaugh’s crew is the clear No. 1 in the conference. The defense is elite, the offense is progressing, and Michigan is on pace to find itself in the College Football Playoff. We could be hearing some “We want ‘Bama!” chants in three weeks.

2. Ohio State Buckeyes (8-1, 5-1)

Game result: W, vs. Nebraska, 36-31

Movement from last poll: None

Call the Buckeyes overrated, and you won’t get any argument from us. They required an epic fourth-quarter comeback to beat Penn State, they needed the final quarter to put away struggling Indiana and Minnesota, and they barely slipped past two-win Nebraska. Oh, and they lost by four TDs to Purdue. But the fact is, struggles or not, Ohio State has still found a way to win — which is more than most Big Ten teams can say this year.

3. Penn State Nittany Lions (6-3, 3-3)

Game result: L, at Michigan, 42-7

Movement from last poll: None

How are the Nittany Lions still No. 3 after losing by five touchdowns? It’s a good question. Here’s the answer: It’s a bad year for the Big Ten. There’s a razor-thin margin between Nos. 3-6, and the Nittany Lions are just a few plays away from being a one-loss team. The same cannot be said of all but one team below PSU. Plus, the fact is that this team is also third in the Big Ten in both FPI and the AP Poll. So Penn State at No. 3 may not be a popular sentiment, but it appears to be the consensus.

4. Northwestern Wildcats (5-4, 5-1)

Game result: L, vs. Notre Dame, 31-21

Movement from last poll: None

We say this every week, but it bears repeating: Northwestern is the hardest Big Ten team to figure out. It beat Wisconsin and Michigan State by double digits but lost to Akron. It fell to Michigan by just a field goal but it beat Nebraska and the struggling squad from Jersey by just three points. Northwestern is the poster child for inconsistency, but it’s also No. 1 in the Big Ten West standings.

5. Michigan State Spartans (6-3, 4-2)

Game result: W, at Maryland, 24-3

Movement from last poll: Up (1 spot)

Sparty ranks No. 110 nationally in scoring offense at 23.4 points per game. Fortunately for Mark Dantonio, the team is No. 16 nationally in scoring defense at 19 ppg. It’s not difficult to see why the Spartans aren’t ranked higher. In their three losses, they scored a combined 39 points.

6. Purdue Boilermakers (5-4, 4-2)

Game result: W, vs. Iowa, 38-36

Movement from last poll: Up (2 spots)

If it wasn’t for the first three weeks of the season, Purdue might be the Big Ten’s No. 2 in the power rankings. Seriously. The Boilermakers started 0-3 before taking a page from Penn State’s 2016 playbook and going on a tear. They upset Ohio State, slipped past Iowa, and they’re tied for second in the West. You can’t refer to matchups against Purdue as “trap games” anymore. The Boilermakers are legit.

7. Iowa Hawkeyes (6-3, 3-3)

Game result: L, at Purdue, 38-36

Movement from last poll: Down (2 spots)

Kirk Ferentz’s team looked like the best team in the West — up until the last two weeks. Back-to-back losses against Penn State and Purdue, by a total of eight points, derailed what could’ve been a memorable season for the Hawkeyes.

8. Wisconsin Badgers (6-3, 4-2)

Game result: W, vs. Big-Ten-School-from-New-Jersey, 31-17

Movement from last poll: Down (1 spot)

Sure, we dropped Wisconsin after a win. But, again, it had more to do with Purdue deserving to move up than it did with Wiscy deserving to move down. At any rate, this is not the Wisconsin we’re used to seeing. It’s always had a one-dimensional offense, but it was able to overcome that with an elite defense. This season, the Badgers boast the No. 35 total defense. That’s pretty good — but it’s not like the end-of-season rankings of the last three seasons: No. 2, No. 7 and No. 2.

9. Maryland Terrapins (5-4, 3-3)

Game result: L, vs. Michigan State, 24-3

Movement from last poll: None

With a win over Indiana on Saturday, the Terps are going bowling. With a loss? Chances are they’re staying home. Maryland plays Ohio State and Penn State the final two weeks, so it really needs a victory now to clinch that eligibility. Maryland is essentially a poor man’s Wisconsin this season.

10. Indiana Hoosiers (4-5, 1-5)

Game result: Bye

Movement from last poll: Up (1 spot)

Say hello to the best team in the bottom tier of the Big Ten. Nos. 10-13 are close, but IU has at least remained competitive against top-tier competition. (The Hoosiers were within of a touchdown of Ohio State in the fourth quarter, and they nearly upset Penn State.) Tom Allen is a good coach, and there’s some talent here. Give IU time.

11. Nebraska Cornhuskers (2-7, 1-5)

Game result: L, at Ohio State, 36-31

Movement from last poll: Up (1 spot)

Give the Huskers a lot of credit for hanging tough against Ohio State. But a good loss doesn’t erase the fact this team has beaten only one Power Five team this season in Minnesota. It’s definitely made progress, but this will still go down as this program’s worst season in more than a half-century. (It went 3-6-1 in 1961 and 1-9 in 1957.)

12. Illinois Fighting Illini (4-5, 2-4)

Game result: W, vs. Minnesota, 55-31

Movement from last poll: Up (1 spot)

We were ready to crown Illinois as the West’s worst team until Saturday’s surprising blowout over Minnesota. Before the win, the Illini had beaten a MAC team, an FCS squad and the Big Ten’s worst. This still isn’t a good team … but it’s apparently better than Minnesota.

13. Minnesota Golden Gophers (4-5, 1-5)

Game result: L, at Illinois, 55-31

Movement from last poll: Down (3 spots)

This is the lowest the Gophers have been ranked all season. But this stat line is probably all we need to share to justify it. Illinois: 35 rushes, 430 yards, five touchdowns.

14. Big-Ten-school-from-New-Jersey (1-8, 0-6)

Game result: L, at Wisconsin, 31-17

Movement from last poll: None

Six weeks ago, we made the decision not to use this school’s actual name until it won another game because — and we don’t think anyone would argue this point — this university has been an embarrassment to the Big Ten. Don’t worry, fans of the unnamed school, you’ll always have that 1869 national championship.

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