Sep 7, 2013; Evanston, IL, USA; Northwestern Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald coaches against the Syracuse Orange during the first quarter at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Big Ten Power Rankings Week 3: Gophers move up thanks to special teams

Pretty good week for the Big Ten — 11-1 record after the weekend with the only hiccup being Indiana losing to a solid Navy team. Michigan looked superior against a Notre Dame team that played in the national championship game last year and Illinois stunned a Cincinnati team that routed Purdue a week earlier. Wisconsin extended its streak of holding their opponent without a touchdown to 11 quarters and Northwestern seemed to be building the sleeper team not only in the Big Ten, but maybe in the country.

As for the Gophers, the special teams shined again in their win against New Mexico State. But questions surrounding Philip Nelson’s arm remains an issue entering next week’s matchup against Western Illinois.

1. Ohio State: Who needs Braxton Miller when you have Kenny Guiton? The senior from Houston stepped in for the injured Miller and threw for 152 yards and two touchdowns. Guiton also added 83 yards rushing and a touchdown in a 42-7 blowout win over the San Diego State Aztecs.

2. Michigan: I’m not going to lie: I don”t want my quarterback to have abs. I like a little pudding on my quarterback. I like big, stocky quarterbacks that look like they could put away five pounds of chicken wings I just think they are a little less injury prone with an extra layer of jello. Devin Gardner seemingly has zero percent body fat and an eight pack of abs. He doesn’t look like your prototypical quarterback, but my gosh can the young man play as long as he stays healthy. Gardner completed 21-of-33 passes for 294 yards and four touchdowns (he was “ab”-solutely sensational). Now feed that young man a couple Big Macs and don’t let him take any unnecessary hits.

3. Wisconsin: Corey Clement, Melvin Gordon, and James White all rushed for over 100 yards for the second consecutive game. Just another day at the office for the Badger trio. The defense continued to impress pitching another shutout. No more clubbing baby seals for the Badgers — next week they go to Tempe, Ariz. to take on one of the most explosive offenses in the country in the Arizona State Sun Devils. The Badgers shutout streak will likely come to an end next week but the only way the Badgers can win is if the ground game can rush for over 300 yards and control the clock.

4. Northwestern: Why do I get the feeling that there will be a bidding war between Texas and USC for Pat Fitzgerald this off-season? And why do I get the feeling that he will stay put? Fitzgerald has a great gig when you think about it. Almost no pressure to win, low standards, new facilities on their way, and a great city in his backyard. Why go to Texas where they will massacre you for one loss or USC where you would have to pay $375 per square foot of real estate? Pat is the man in Evanston and if he losses? Eh, no big deal.

5. Penn State: Bill O’Brien is the next Jim Harbaugh — taking over a program in complete shambles and molding it into a winner. Stanford was arguably the worst BCS conference program in the country before Harbaugh took over, and he turned the Cardinal into a Pac-12 power. O’Brien took over Penn State during its darkest hours but Penn State seemingly gets better and better by the day, despite NCAA sanctions that will last three more years. Both Harbaugh and O’Brien are NFL guys that got into college coaching. Harbaugh could have named his job three years ago and he did, by taking the 49ers gig.  O’Brien, on the other hand, is getting to that point where he will be able to name his job, NFL or college. How long will he stay faithful to sleepy State College?

6. Nebraska: I feel like I’m watching Ground Hog Day when I watch the Huskers. There isn’t much difference in Taylor Martinez 2012 and Taylor Martinez 2013. The same can be said for the defense, which probably means the Huskers will lose three or four games like they always do. The schedule is favorable, but this team is missing something that will prevent them from winning 11 to 12 games this season. Best case scenario is that they win 10 games.

7.  Michigan State: The Spartans need to do something about their quarterback situation because it’s getting pathetic. Lane Kiffin is laughing at the Spartans quarterback problems for Pete’s sake. My hunch is freshman Damion Terry takes over sooner rather than later. He’s the only guy capable of igniting this offense. However, Mark Dantonio is a stubborn, old school football coach and I don’t know if he’s going to be able to play the youngster. Dantonio can’t depend on the defense to score touchdowns for him all week. Eventually the offense is going to have to hold up their end of the bargain.

8. Minnesota: The Gophers’ special teams was spectacular once again. Chris Hawthorne connected on all three field goal attempts and Marcus Jones returned a punt for a touchdown. Jerry Kill has always emphasized the importance of special teams and the Gophers once again rolled to a victory by a large margin thanks in part to strong special teams play. The Minnesota ground game finally got going rushing for over 300 yards for the first time since 2007. Philip Nelson on the other hand continues to struggle with his accuracy, which needs to be addressed before Big Ten play.

9. Illinois: Here come the Illini! I literally thought Nathan Scheelhaase had been abducted. This is the young man we saw when he was a freshman. Welcome back Nathan! Illinois is far from perfect, as they still haven’t found a consistent running game and the defense is leaky, but this is a nice start. The Illini have a real good shot at a bowl playing in the mediocre Leaders Division.

10. Indiana: Oh Indiana why did you have to remind us how bad your defense is? I wanted to get excited about the future of Hoosier football and then you go out and give up over 400 yards on the ground to the Naval Academy. On the bright side, sophomore quarterback Nate Sudfeld is the real deal and will keep IU in most games with his arm.

11. Iowa: I was expecting a lot more from the Hawkeyes than what I got. Jake Rudock looked like a freshman and the offense stalled. Next up for the Hawkeyes is a trip to Ames and a chance to capture the world’s ugliest trophy — the Cy-Hawk trophy.

12. Purdue: Just make it stop, please make it stop! I can’t take it anymore. Congratulations to everyone with Purdue on their schedule. You are all officially 1-0 in conference play already.

Tags: Football Minnesota Golden Gophers

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