Big Ten football rankings entering Week 10 of the 2016 season. Wisconsin and Nebraska met in crucial West division matchup in Madison that lived up to the hype.
Wisconsin is no stranger to playing top-10 opponents, and it got its fifth such test in a single season for the first time in school history when it hosted No. 7 Nebraska on Saturday. The Badgers picked up a much-needed win and kept alive hopes of winning the Big Ten West.
Michigan went into East Lansing seeking revenge after last year’s debacle that led to Michigan State improving to 7-2 in the rivalry showdowns under coach Mark Dantonio.
With another weekend in the books, here’s a look at how the Big Ten stacks up heading into Week 10 of the season.
Week 10 Big Ten Football Rankings
14. Rutgers (Last Week – 14)
If there’s a bright spot for Rutgers it’s that the team actually scored a respectable amount of points in the loss to Minnesota. Heck, if not for an early fumble and getting jumped on in that first quarter, the Scarlet Knights could’ve pulled out a win. With a week off to prepare for Indiana, Week 10 is Rutgers’ best chance at getting another win this season.
13. Illinois (13)
Minnesota had as many points off turnovers as the Illini tallied all day: 17. That’s pretty much all you need to know about the Illini at this point – they’re a group unable to keep from shooting themselves in the foot. Heck, their first play from scrimmage was a fumble. Given that the season is pretty much off the rails, might as well let Jeff George Jr. take his lumps and start prepping for next year.
12. Purdue (12)
At least we had those first 30 minutes, that magical time when Purdue looked like a real football program and a team capable of upsetting Penn State. And then, after going into halftime tied at 17, the Boilermakers came out and threw an interception, continued turning the ball over and stopped playing defense. If the first half was Dr. Henry Jekyll, then the second half was very much Mr. Edward Hyde.
11. Michigan State (11)
Michigan State is just not a good football team, and that notion has seeped into its coaches brains and really affected this game. Look no further than the Spartans’ final offensive play of the first half. Down only 14, they tried to force the issue by lofting a pass over the middle with :28 remaining in the second quarter. It was picked, Michigan used the rest of the time to move into field goal position, and eventually kick a field to end the half. Three second-half red zone trips resulting in zero points is not something we’ve grown accustomed to from Mark Dantonio’s teams. Being forced away from conservative play does not jibe the Spartans.
10. Maryland (9)
Some of the shine has worn off of Maryland, now that the Terps have lost three of their last four games. That said, there’s still reason for optimism in College Park. Walt Bell has the offense humming, and with time (and a couple recruiting cycles) D.J. Durkin will have the defense shored up (see: not giving up 42 points to Indiana). The road ahead is a bear – with games against Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska all looming. And if the Terps can’t pull an upset in one of those contests, they should have a better than good shot at becoming bowl-eligible in the season finale against Rutgers.
9. Northwestern (8)
It’s a death knell to commit an early turnover against a team of Ohio State’s caliber. That’s just what Northwestern did on its second possession, which allowed the Buckeyes to jump out to a quick 10-0 lead. The Wildcats battled all game, but that early interception and the trading of field goals to Ohio State’s touchdowns ultimately downed the ‘Cats.
8. Indiana (10)
What a balanced effort by the Hoosiers, and what a second half – with an opening series punt and a missed field goal being the only two possessions they failed to score. Zander Diamont, Tyler Natee and Devine Redding all eclipsed 100 yards rushing, while Richard Lagow added 207 through the air. This game was actually closer than it should’ve been, as Indiana chose to go for it on fourth down at the Maryland 6-yard line in the first half and failed to convert. There’s also the aforementioned missed field goal, and a failed two-point conversion early in the game. Kevin Wilson is doing work in Bloomington, and this is a team that could give Penn State and Michigan trouble as the calendar flips to November.
7. Iowa (6)
The good news for the Hawkeyes is that they had a week off to lick their wounds from a Wisconsin loss that saw five 3-and-outs and only two drives consisting of more than six plays. The bad news is that the most difficult part of the schedule looms: Penn State, Michigan and Nebraska make up three of the final four games.
6. Minnesota (7)
“Opportunistic” was the word of the day for Minnesota. They made sure to capitalize on all of Illinois’ mistakes, and toss in a safety for good measure. Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks helped take some of the pressure off Mitch Leidner. With Purdue up next, Minnesota looks primed for a four-game winning streak. The Golden Gophers’ outside chance or a Big Ten West title will be decided in the season’s final three weeks against the likes of Nebraska, Northwestern and Wisconsin.
5. Nebraska (4)
Saturday’s game was like watching two teams in a mirror. Inconsistent quarterback play, special teams gaffes and a pair of turnovers. Ultimately, it was the inability to contain Wisconsin’s rushing attack that did the Huskers in. No time to wallow in defeat, because a road game at The Horseshoe looms.
4. Penn State (5)
If there was any emotional hangover from last week’s upset, it lasted only 30 minutes. Once the Nittany Lions realized they were playing Purdue and were expected to put up at least 60, they happily obliged. Saquon Barkley’s 277 yards of total offense and two touchdowns were a high point.
3. Wisconsin (3)
Hornibrook, Houston, who cares. As long as Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale are in the backfield, all will be well for the Badgers. On 30 combined carries, the two backs totaled 202 yards and a touchdown. Ogunbowale, himself, was ripping off runs at 10.9 yards a clip. Moreover, the defense again proved formidable, forcing Tommy Armstrong into a pair of early interceptions and clamping down in overtime. Given all the injuries, and how Wisconsin keeps playing well, this team is the embodiment of “next man up.”
2. Ohio State (2)
It wasn’t the romp that many expected, but Ohio State came out victorious on Saturday against a good Northwestern team. No back went over 100 yards, but Mike Weber, J.T. Barrett and Curtis Samuel all made for a balanced rushing attack. The Buckeyes did a nice job of neutralizing Justin Jackson and forcing Clayton Thorson to try and win the game. Next up is a very good Nebraska club who is licking its wounds.
1. Michigan (1)
We’ve reached a point in the season where the accomplishments of Michigan’s defense dictate a game before the ball is even kicked off. It was evident from the jump that Michigan State felt pressured to play recklessly, even though they were very much in the game. Wilton Speight is the perfect quarterback to do just enough to keep opponents honest, and Jabrill Peppers is scary in the wildcat formation. It’ll be interesting watching the Wolverines take on former defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin next week, but at this juncture Michigan simply has opponents defeated, mentally, before even taking the field.