Big Ten Power Rankings Week 2: Gophers drop a spot despite blowout win


Aug 29, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; UNLV Rebels quarterback Nick Sherry (3) and Minnesota Golden Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson (9) shake hands at the end of the game at TCF Bank Stadium. The Gophers won 51-23. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

If you follow me on Twitter you’ll note I went 12-0 picking games in Week 1.  However, the margins of some of those games I picked were way off.  What stood out to me after the first slate of games:

  1. The quarterback play in the conference is mediocre at best.
  2. Purdue is every bit as bad as I thought they would be.
  3. The conference overall doesn’t look much improved from last year.

It’s easy to come to knee jerk conclusions after the first week, because we have all been waiting to see how everyone looks for nearly eight months. Overreacting to every snap, play, missed tackle, touchdown, and coaching decision is magnified in the first week of the season and I can’t blame anyone for that.

In that light, I offer you my Week 2 Power Rankings, which is almost guaranteed to look way different now then when we compare in the last week of November.

1. Ohio State: Sloppy game for the Buckeyes.  I understand it’s tough to get motivated to play the Buffalo Bulls, but that was not a pretty showing at the Shoe.  Braxton Miller also got a little banged up, which is frightening if you’re a Buckeye fan.  He was their offense last year.   The Buckeyes get San Diego State at home next week before traveling to Berkeley to take on Cal.  Ohio State needs to clean it up quite a bit because both the Aztecs and Bears are capable of knocking them off.

2. Michigan: The Wolverines absolutely steamrolled the Chippewas from Central Michigan.  They clearly outclassed the Chips.  This was what they call a glorified scrimmage in front of 112,618 at the Big House.  There’s nothing new about the Wolverines after this one.

3. Wisconsin: UMass is awful, there is no other way of putting it.  Wisconsin did exactly what they should have and that was dominate an inferior opponent from start to finish.  Dave Aranda’s defense looked way better than I thought it would, even if it was against lowly UMass. Aranda’s 3-4 defense manufactures a lot of pressure through blitzing and he has the linebackers to do it.  The defensive interior is stout anchored by Beau Allen.  The secondary forced the Minutemen quarterbacks to complete less than 50 percent of their passes.  On the other end, the Badgers may have their best set of running backs ever with James White, Melvin Gordon, and true freshmen Corey Clement.  If the Badgers can get improved quarterback play they may challenge Ohio State in the Leaders Division.

4. Northwestern: The Cats went into Strawberry Canyon and took a couple of punches from the Cal Bears, only to fight right back and deliver the knockout punch in the fourth quarter.   Collin Ellis returned two interceptions for touchdowns and the Wildcats withstood a third quarter rally in which Cal took a 24-20 lead after Bears true freshman quarterback Jared Goff hit Chris Harper on a seven yard pass for a touchdown. Goff threw for 445 yards, but the Cats picked him off three times and two of those were returned for touchdowns, which proved to be the difference.  Trevor Siemian looked good in relief of the injured Kain Colter, throwing for 276 yards and a touchdown.

5. Nebraska: What’s going on with the Cornhuskers defense?  As I joked on Twitter the other night, maybe the blackshirts should be replaced with blackskirts.  Giving up 602 yards to the Wyoming Cowboys is inexcusable.   The offense looked fine, but if the Huskers want to challenge Michigan and Northwestern in the Legends, their defense needs to get a lot better, to say the least.

6. Michigan State: Maybe Mark Dantonio can defer, meaning choose to play defense the entire game?  He may end up scoring more points that way.  What’s scary is the Spartans’ defense may be even better than I thought.  What’s equally frightening is the Spartans’ offense may be even worse than I thought.   On the bright side for the offense is running back Jeremy Langford who showed a pulse rushing 20 times for 94 and a touchdown.

7. Penn State: Coach Bill O’Brien kept the training wheels on true freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg.  Keeping most of his passes short and sweet.  At the end of the day Hackenberg did complete 22 of 31 for 278 yards and 2 touchdowns to go along with 2 interceptions.   I have no doubt in my mind that Hackenberg will improve dramatically as the season progresses.  Again, PSU is a team that can’t afford injuries.

8. Indiana: Yeah, I know the Hoosiers gave up 35 points to an FCS school, but that offense is going to be really difficult to stop.  IU running back Tevin Coleman will be a star and I absolutely love sophomore quarterback Nate Sudfeld.  The Hoosiers have the potential to win a bunch of games 42-35 in conference play and could be a surprise team.  On the other hand, they have the potential to lose a lot of conference games 42-35 and be a disappointment.

9. Minnesota: The Gophers were the kings of explosive plays in Week 1, scoring touchdowns on plays of 48-plus yards four times.  Of those four scores, one was a defensive touchdown, two were on special teams, and one on offense.  The disturbing part of the game was the fact that the Gophers could not sustain drives by running the ball effectively. The defense was opportunistic, but gave up way too many pass completions in my opinion.

10. Iowa: I know Iowa lost, but I was impressed with the Hawkeyes.  Can I say that after a loss at home to a MAC team? NIU is no ordinary MAC team however, they are coming off a BCS appearance in the Orange Bowl and Jordan Lynch is a Heisman Candidate.  Damon Bullock and Mark Weismann will provide a nice 1-2 punch for the Hawkeyes at running back and first year starting quarterback Jake Ruddock impressed me with his composure.  The front seven on defense also impressed me.  I have a feeling Iowa will start to climb in the power rankings.

11. Illinois: Nathan Scheelhaase who was kidnapped and left for dead a couple years ago was found by offensive coordinator Bill Cubit. Scheelhaase threw for 416 yards and 2 touchdowns.  The defense looked bad against an FCS opponent, which is alarming, but if Scheelhaase and the offense can keep it up, the Illini have an opportunity to make a bowl game playing in the mediocre Legends Division.

12. Purdue: Poor Darrell Hazell.  You have to wonder if he is second guessing himself for taking the job in West Lafayette.  What a mess.  Rob Henry is the worst quarterback in the Big Ten and the conference is loaded with bad quarterbacks.  Whoof.