Big Ten power rankings: Stop sleeping on Minnesota, Michigan rebounds

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - OCTOBER 26: The Minnesota Gophers pose for a photo after defeating the Maryland Terrapins in the game at TCF Bank Stadium on October 26, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Gophers defeated the Terrapins 52-10. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - OCTOBER 26: The Minnesota Gophers pose for a photo after defeating the Maryland Terrapins in the game at TCF Bank Stadium on October 26, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Gophers defeated the Terrapins 52-10. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

This week’s Big Ten power rankings finally start to put some respect on Minnesota’s name and Michigan got a much-needed win vs. Notre Dame.

It’s official. Minnesota has made it through two-thirds of the season and is still undefeated. The Minnesota Golden Gophers just keep finding ways to win. That’s all they’ve done lately. Through the first three weeks of the season, Minnesota struggled to win, beating South Dakota State, Fresno State, and Georgia Southern by a combined 13 points.

The Gophers were far from intimidating or impressive and it was fair to question how good they were at that point. But now, in late October, Minnesota remains undefeated and has beaten eight teams in 2019. That’s an impressive feat by P.J. Fleck and his team.

All of that said, the toughest part of Minnesota’s schedule is up ahead. It remains to be seen if Fleck and his team can get through the month of November unscathed. Upcoming games against Penn State, at Iowa, and against Wisconsin will certainly test just how good the Gophers are.

Rutgers snapped its losing streak! The Scarlet Knights don’t have a head coach chosen just yet but they beat Liberty and Hugh Freeze! No, this win doesn’t help Rutgers move up in the world, but it does give the Scarlet Knights and their fans plenty to celebrate. For a program like Rutgers, every win is worth celebrating.

Northwestern was shutout by the Iowa Hawkeyes. That’s not the worst loss that the Wildcats have suffered through this season, but it’s one that they’d probably like to forget about. Northwestern now officially has fewer wins than Rutgers on the season. The Wildcats are probably better than the Scarlet Knights, but there’s something of a chance that Rutgers will have more wins at the end of this season.

This season has become forgettable for the Boilermakers. Purdue fell to 2-6 after losing to Illinois on Saturday. Purdue has endured a season that has been full of injuries, but the Boilermakers have taken a huge step back after a fun 2018 season. Now they’re almost certainly going to miss a bowl game. Purdue and Northwestern meet in a couple of weeks in a game that has to be played but will be less than enjoyable to watch.

Maryland had a bad time over the weekend. The Terrapins fell victim to the Golden Gophers and were gouged by Minnesota’s running game. The Terps were trampled and looked pathetic throughout the game.

The Nebraska Cornhuskers are not trending in the right direction right now. Nebraska had a chance to take down the Indiana Hoosiers but simply fell short. Now, head coach Scott Frost and the Huskers are left wondering what is next as they try to make it to a bowl game this season. To make things even more difficult for Frost, his starting quarterback Adrian Martinez is still dealing with injury issues and backup quarterback Noah Vedral got dinged up a bit against Indiana.

Lovie Smith and the Illinois Fighting Illini are on a roll right now. The Fighting Illini have seemingly finally broken through and are 4-4 on the season after thumping Purdue. An appearance in a bowl game is becoming more and more likely as Illinois has games against Rutgers, Michigan State, and Northwestern in the coming weeks.

While some teams are certainly happy to have made it to 4-4 on the season, Michigan State is not one of those teams. The Spartans were shoved around by Penn State on Saturday, giving Michigan State its third-straight loss in a season that is quickly spiraling. There are several winnable games up ahead in the month of November for Michigan State and Mark Dantonio probably needs as many wins as possible to salvage something from this season.

It’s not uncommon for teams to get bulldozed when they face the Ohio State Buckeyes. However, Wisconsin was not supposed to be one of those teams. Or, well, at least the Badgers didn’t appear to be one of those teams just a few weeks back. Regardless of that, Wisconsin was run over the Ohio State and completely embarrassed by a much better Big Ten team. Now, because of Wisconsin’s losses to Illinois and Ohio State, Minnesota is in the driver’s seat of the Big Ten West and has a realistic path to winning the division.

The Indiana Hoosiers won a closely contested matchup against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Indiana gets plenty of props for going into Memorial Stadium and using a backup quarterback to beat the Huskers. Peyton Ramsey shredded Nebraska’s struggling defense and the Hoosiers came out on top of a game full of explosive plays.

Iowa had a pretty easy time handling the Northwestern Wildcats. The Hawkeyes probably should have scored more than 20 points, but they did win by 20 points so that probably evens out. Northwestern’s offense remains miserable and Iowa’s defense certainly appeared to be fairly robust.

I am fully intrigued by what P.J. Fleck and the Minnesota Golden Gophers have been able to do this season. Beating Maryland by 42 points isn’t necessarily that remarkable of an accomplishment, but Minnesota is undefeated at 8-0. That right there is a fairly remarkable accomplishment for a football program still working to build. Minnesota has a tough slate of games set in November, but there’s a chance that the Golden Gophers will have double-digit wins at the end of the season.

The Michigan Wolverines finally looked like they’d be capable of beating a great team when they crushed the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Wolverines ran at, around, through, and over the Notre Dame defense and racked up 303 rushing yards in the process of a 31-point win. The Fighting Irish were exposed by the Wolverines. Now let’s see if Michigan can sustain any sort of positive momentum heading into the final month of the regular season.

Penn State’s offense struggled to run the ball against Michigan State, but the Spartans had no answer for Sean Clifford. The Nittany Lions were able to make it into the end zone four times thanks to Clifford throwing touchdowns. Now, the Nittany Lions will start preparing for an undefeated Minnesota and an upstart Indiana. If Penn State can survive both matchups, a meeting with a potentially undefeated Ohio State team will await it.

The Ohio State Buckeyes could very well be the best team in the country this season. Ryan Day’s team had no issue dispatching of the Wisconsin Badgers and now the Buckeyes enter the final stretch of the regular season. If Ohio State can remain undefeated through its last regular season games and then win the Big Ten championship, the Buckeyes will be in the playoffs without any sort of questions.

Next. The 15 blue bloods of college football. dark

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