For the first time this season, there’s a change at the top of the Big Ten Power Rankings. Ohio State’s upset loss at Penn State was just one shakeup as the second half of the season kicked off in entertaining fashion.
Here’s how the Big Ten Power Rankings now look heading into the final weekend of October.
1. Michigan (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten): The work isn’t done yet, but in his second season leading his alma mater, coach Jim Harbaugh has Michigan on top of the conference. The Wolverines cruised to another easy victory at home against Illinois, then got to enjoy their evening as their arch nemesis was upset by Penn State to clear out the top spot.
2. Ohio State (6-1, 3-1): There is no denying now that the Buckeyes have issues in the passing game that must be addressed. Their stellar defense was still almost enough to help them escape another hostile environment against a well-rested opponent, but instead coach Urban Meyer’s margin for error is now gone in the chase for the College Football Playoff.
3. Wisconsin (5-2, 2-2): At some point, the Badgers might show some frustration with their brutal schedule and some physical throwdowns, but they clearly aren’t tired yet. Wisconsin's road victory over Iowa was a crucial first step in a second-half run at the West Division crown.
4. Nebraska (7-0, 4-0): There wasn’t anything overly impressive about the way the Huskers beat struggling Purdue, but Mike Riley’s team doesn’t have anything to apologize about as it just keeps on winning. Nebraska has tougher tests coming, but at this point, it’s still in the driver’s seat in the West.
5. Penn State (5-2, 3-1): The hot-seat speculation can be put to rest for a while with the Nittany Lions. James Franklin has his signature victory with the program thanks to a stunning comeback in the fourth quarter to hand Urban Meyer his first road loss with Ohio State.
6. Northwestern (4-3, 3-1): Just about written off completely thanks to the horrible start outside the league, the Wildcats have stormed back to life thanks to an offense on the upswing and a talented playmaking defense. Suddenly, coach Pat Fitzgerald appears to have a legitimate contender in the West on his hands.
7. Iowa (5-3, 3-2): After opening the season with such high expectations, there’s almost no chance the Hawkeyes are going to be able to reach their goals at this point. The College Football Playoff bid that was within reach a year ago was already gone, but now the path even to repeat as division champs has pretty much been closed after sputtering against the Badgers.
8. Minnesota (5-2, 2-2): If Tracy Claeys is being evaluated for his ability to get the Gophers to a bowl game in what might be an evaluation year thanks to his short contract, he’s in great shape at this point. The Gophers were given a scare by previously toothless Rutgers, but they only need one more victory to earn a postseason appearance, and they’re even still alive in the West.
9. Maryland (5-2, 2-2): The reigning conference champion is obviously a shadow of its former self, but that won’t diminish a victory over Michigan State for the Terrapins. Riding a strong performance by its rushing attack and more solid work from an improved defense, DJ Durkin has his club on the brink of bowl eligibility with more than a full month left in the season.
10. Indiana (3-4, 1-3): The Hoosiers have largely shown signs of improvement, but they are still waiting to put it on display with a meaningful victory. Falling behind by three touchdowns by halftime while only managing to score a field goal is a troubling development for Kevin Wilson’s offense.
11. Purdue (3-4, 1-3): There’s nothing left to lose, and Purdue played like a team that had all the pressure removed in the first game since Darrell Hazell was fired. The Boilermakers still have a talent disparity to deal with, and that eventually cost them against the Huskers, but they also haven’t given up on the season yet.
12. Michigan State (2-5, 0-4): The Spartans are in complete freefall mode, but how much worse can it get for Mark Dantonio and his team a year after going to the College Football Playoff? Michigan State is still looking for its first win in the league, and this wouldn’t seem to be a great time for a visit from Harbaugh and the Wolverines.
13. Illinois (2-5, 1-3): Overmatched in just about every conceivable way, Lovie Smith was given an up-close view of just how much work it’s going to take to close the gap against the conference powers. Even as lopsided as the 33-point final margin looked, the beating might have been more emphatic than the score suggests.
14. Rutgers (2-6, 0-5): Despite being kicked around so far in the league, it doesn’t appear like the Scarlet Knights have stopped playing hard for Chris Ash. They were even in position late to steal a win away from Minnesota, and the spark Giovanni Rescigno showed at quarterback could help get things turned around at some point.