1. OHIO STATE (6-0, 3-0)
Previous: 1. Last week: 49-26 vs. Indiana.
It took the No. 3 Buckeyes a longer time than they’d have liked to dispatch the Hoosiers, but eventually they did. Ohio State led by eight at the half and by nine after three quarters, but scored twice late to pull away. Dwayne Haskins finished 33-of-44 for 455 yards and six touchdowns. Yeah, OSU is in good shape. So is Haskins’ Heisman candidacy.
2. MICHIGAN (5-1, 3-0)
Previous: 2. Last week: W 42-21 vs. Maryland.
The No. 12 Wolverines got a really nice game from Shea Patterson (282 yards and three scores) and 100-plus from talented tight end Zach Gentry. The Terps put up some points, but 14 came in the fourth quarter. Michigan’s defense is the Big Ten’s best so far. A pivotal game in the Big Ten takes place Saturday at the Big House between UM and Wisconsin.
3. PENN STATE (4-1, 1-1)
Previous: 3. Last week: No game.
The No. 8 Nittany Lions didn’t play and stay at No. 3 in these rankings. James Franklin’s team probably wanted back on the field the week after losing by one to Ohio State, but the bye week also probably came at a good time. PSU hosts Michigan State in an East Division separator this weekend.
4. WISCONSIN (4-1, 2-0)
Previous: 4. Last week: W 41-24 vs. Nebraska.
The No. 15 Badgers rushed for 377 and led pretty comfortable for the entire second half against Nebraska on Saturday night. They also gave up 500-plus yards, though, and the Huskers made you wonder how the Badgers will hold up against the Big Ten’s upper crust. The first step to finding out comes when Paul Chryst’s team travels to Ann Arbor this weekend. Huge game.
5. IOWA (4-1, 1-1)
Previous: 6. Last week: W 48-31 at Minnesota.
The Hawkeyes did what they needed to, going on the road for a division win and bouncing back from a home loss to Wisconsin two weeks ago. T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant make one of the best, if not the best, tight end duos in the Big Ten, and it’s encouraging to see the offense break out.
6. NORTHWESTERN (2-3, 2-1)
Previous: 11. Last week: W 29-19 at Michigan State.
The biggest yo-yo in the league. Northwestern looked just bad against Duke, lost to Akron and lost its best running back and … scared the daylights out of Michigan and won at Michigan State. OK, then. Next up: Nebraska. Prediction: Who the heck knows?
7. MICHIGAN STATE (3-2, 1-1)
Previous: 5. Last week: L 29-19 vs. Northwestern.
The Spartans log the league’s most disappointing result (non-Rutgers division) for a lackluster loss at home against Northwestern. Can anybody figure out this MSU team? Mark Dantonio’s team loses on its home field and now it has to deal with Penn State and Michigan the next two weeks. Perhaps the Spartans pull one of those off. If not, it’ll mark one of the more surprising falls in the Big Ten this fall.
8. PURDUE (2-3, 1-1)
Previous: 9. Last week: No game.
The Boilermakers had an open date one week after beating Nebraska on the road. Now the Boilermakers have a real chance to make it three straight wins with a road date against Illinois. If David Blough keeps playing like this, Purdue is going to test a lot of teams in the second half of the season.
9. MARYLAND (3-2, 1-1)
Previous: 7. Last week: L 42-21 at Michigan.
The Terrapins got throttled at the Big House and needed 14 fourth-quarter points just to make the score look halfway respectable. The East is obviously tough, but Maryland has a chance still to put together a nice fall. The team is averaging 236 rushing yards per game, fourth-best in the Big Ten.
10. INDIANA (4-2, 1-2)
Previous: 8. Last week: L 49-26 at Ohio State.
The Hoosiers hung with Ohio State for three quarters in Columbus before fading late. Still not bad, all things considered, for Tom Allen’s team. An interesting game — and a big opportunity — awaits IU this weekend in a home game against Iowa.
11. ILLINOIS (3-2, 1-1)
Previous: 12. Last week: W 38-17 at Rutgers.
The Illini posted an impressive win against a bad team on the road. Baby steps for Lovie Smith and his group. But the offensive numbers must have been a welcome sight. Illinois is getting decent quarterback play from AJ Bush and freshman M.J. Rivers, and is averaging 5.6 yards per rush overall. Is it enough to give them a fighting chance against Purdue?
12. MINNESOTA (3-2, 0-2)
Previous: 10. Last week: L 48-31 vs. Iowa.
The Gophers have now lost their first two Big Ten games and given up 90 points in the process. P.J. Fleck’s team has injury problems on defense and a rugged test this weekend at Ohio State. After that, the schedule gets more manageable, but UM is going to have to battle for anything it gets the rest of the way.
13. NEBRASKA (0-5, 0-3)
Previous: 13. Last week: L 41-24 at Wisconsin.
Scott Frost said he thought a loss to Purdue was a turning point for his group and that it played better — but was physically outmanned against Wisconsin. It will be interesting to see how the Huskers line up against a Northwestern team that has at times looked putrid but then nearly knocked off Michigan and controlled Michigan State on the road. Just about anything could happen.
14. RUTGERS (1-5, 0-3)
Previous: 14. Last week: L 38-17 vs. Illinois.
Rutgers lost on its home field by three scores to Illinois. What else do you need to know?