Big Ten football power rankings: Iowa dips, Michigan moves up and Minnesota raises questions

Rainer Sabin
Detroit Free Press

Michigan football moves up.

Iowa falls ever so slightly.

Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State remain firmly in their spots.

There isn't much movement this past week in the Freep’s Big Ten football power rankings as the order in the conference becomes more defined.

The Buckeyes continue to reign supreme and the Badgers have done nothing to shake anyone’s confidence. The most intriguing team right now may be Minnesota, which has cobbled together an undefeated record by beating up on inferior competition.

See where the Golden Gophers stand among the rest of the Big Ten teams:

Updated:2019 Big Ten football standings

More rankings:Free Press college football top 25 at halfway mark of season

1. Ohio State (6-0)

Last week: 1. Last Tuesday, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio proclaimed the path to the Big Ten title goes through Columbus. He appears right thus far. The Buckeyes handled Dantonio’s Spartans on Saturday during a 24-point victory and rolled into their bye week with an unblemished record and the confidence they’re the best in this conference.

Next up: Bye.

2. Wisconsin (5-0)

Last week: 2. Wisconsin enjoyed an easy Saturday, dismantling Kent State and securing its third shutout this season. In five games, the Badgers have yielded 29 points – 11 more than their defense has produced. Now they get the chance to sink their claws into Michigan State, which is ranked 75th in the nation in scoring offense and is smarting from its loss to Ohio State last Saturday.

Next up: Saturday vs. Michigan State

3. Penn State (5-0)

Last week: 3. Which is better right now: Penn State's offense or defense? Fortunately for coach James Franklin, this doesn’t qualify as a dilemma. Penn State has held its past two Big Ten foes to a total of seven points while scoring 94 in consecutive wins over Maryland and Purdue. A stiffer test awaits this Saturday, when the Nittany Lions go on the road for a showdown with Iowa.

Next up: Saturday at Iowa

4. Michigan (4-1)

Last week: 5. As much as Michigan’s 10-3 victory over Iowa was a defensive masterpiece, to use the words of coach Jim Harbaugh, it was an ugly eyesore from an offensive standpoint. The Wolverines have yet to establish consistency in the passing game and have an average rushing attack. Harbaugh has one week to get it rectified before a trip to Penn State and a visit from Notre Dame in Ann Arbor.

Next up: Saturday at Illinois

Sabin:Michigan's defense allows Jim Harbaugh to escape to fantasyland

5. Iowa (4-1)

Last week: 4. The Hawkeyes had an opportunity to reveal themselves as contenders against Michigan. Instead, they were manhandled by a Michigan defense that conceded one rushing yard, forced four turnovers and sacked Nate Stanley eight times. Iowa left Ann Arbor battered and bruised, hoping the defeat to the Wolverines is an isolated event and not a prologue to a bad stretch of football.

Next up: Saturday vs. Penn State

6. Michigan State (4-2)

Last week: 6. The Spartans didn’t have the firepower to hang with Ohio State, and Michigan State doesn’t appear to have the offensive arsenal to break through Wisconsin’s defense. Because the way the schedule set up, Dantonio’s bunch could be staring at its third loss in seven games. But what else should be expected when faced with consecutive road tests against the Big Ten’s two best teams?

Next up: Saturday at Wisconsin

Windsor:Why Michigan State's next two games are bigger tests than OSU

7. Minnesota (5-0)

Sep 28, 2019; West Lafayette, IN, USA;  Minnesota Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck celebrates a touchdown with lineman Daniel Faalele (78) in the first half against the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross-Ade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Last week: 7. Minnesota made its debut in the coaches poll this week. But there is considerable skepticism about whether the Golden Gophers are for real. None of the opponents Minnesota have defeated are ranked above 74 in ESPN’s Football Power Index, which measures each team’s overall strength. Should Minnesota beat Nebraska on Saturday, it still won’t silence the doubters.

Next up: Saturday vs. Nebraska

8. Indiana (3-2)

Last week: 8. The Hoosiers come off a bye and face Rutgers. Oh, to be Indiana right now. All things considered, life is pretty good in Bloomington. Indiana has a winning record, and in the next four weeks they play the Scarlet Knights, Maryland, Nebraska and Northwestern. If everything goes right, Indiana could be bowl eligible by early November. Not too shabby.

Next up: Saturday vs. Rutgers

9. Nebraska (4-2)

Last week: 9. The Cornhuskers once again flirted with disaster Saturday, as they slipped by Northwestern in the final seconds to claim a 13-10 victory. Nebraska’s two Big Ten wins over the Illini and Wildcats have been decided by total of seven points. Nothing is easy in Lincoln these days, and now Nebraska faces Minnesota on the road with some uncertainty about the status of their injured starting quarterback, Adrian Martinez.

Next up: Saturday at Minnesota

10. Maryland (3-2)

Last week: 11. Another chapter was written in Maryland’s strange season. A team that failed to score a point against Penn State dropped 48 on Rutgers eight days later. For those who have followed the Terrapins since the opener, it’s is clear the Terrapins are a mercurial bunch, and radioactive to the betting man.

Next up: Saturday at Purdue

11. Northwestern (1-4)

Last week: 10. Northwestern’s ranking in the conference falls just below its scoring average this season. The Wildcats are producing only 14.4 points per game. Only one team in the FBS – yes it’s Rutgers – is scoring at a lower rate. With Northwestern on a bye, coach Pat Fitzgerald has time to come up with a solution. But the Wildcats face Ohio State next.  

Next up: Bye.

12. Purdue (1-4)

Last week: 12. Elijah Sindelar is sidelined. His replacement at quarterback, Jack Plummer, was sacked 10 times against Penn State. Life behind center at Purdue is bleak these days. The Boilermakers look ragged on offense after their defense unraveled in the weeks before. It’s how this team has won one of its first five games and appears to be going nowhere fast.

Next up: Saturday vs. Maryland

13. Illinois (2-3)

Last week: 13. Not everything was terrible in Illinois’ latest loss. The Illini scored two defensive touchdowns, after all. But considering they produced only 17 points, there is serious cause for concern. Quarterback Brandon Peters was injured and the offense cratered. With Michigan coming to town brandishing a revitalized defense, the end zone could prove to be foreign territory for Illinois once again.

Next up: Saturday vs. Michigan

14. Rutgers (1-4)

Last week: 14. The quarterback and running back decided they don’t want to play the rest of the season. The coach was fired and there is an interim replacement. The team has managed seven points in three Big Ten games. Rutgers is a train wreck.

Next up: Saturday at Indiana

Contact Rainer Sabin at Follow him on Twitter @RainerSabin. Read more on the Michigan Wolverines, Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Big Ten newsletter