Monday, September 13, 2010
Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 3
By Adam Rittenberg
The Big Ten had a good week overall, aside from a predictable loss in Tuscaloosa and a stunning one in Minneapolis.
Ohio State and Iowa have separated themselves so far, while Wisconsin needs to put together a complete performance this Saturday against Arizona State. Michigan makes another mini jump after a dramatic win against Notre Dame, although I still want to see a little more from the Maize and Blue. Penn State gets a pass this week, but there won't be any more. Minnesota pays the price in the rankings after crumbling on defense against South Dakota.
And away we go ...
1. Ohio State (2-0): The Buckeyes once again showed why turnover margin is so important, as they picked off Miami quarterback Jacory Harris four times and committed no major mistakes on offense. The formula helped Jim Tressel's squad overcome two uncharacteristic special-teams meltdowns and some inconsistency from quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Ohio State easily could have beaten Miami by 25 points, but the Buckeyes will take the win and move on.
2. Iowa (2-0): No Big Ten team has looked more dominant in the first two weeks than the Hawkeyes. Quarterback Ricky Stanzi is avoiding mistakes, Adam Robinson is sparking the run game and the defense is performing like we all expected. Iowa gave in-state rival Iowa State no chance Saturday, storming out to a 35-0 lead. Things get much tougher this week at Arizona, but the Hawkeyes appear ready for the challenge.
3. Wisconsin (2-0): The Badgers haven't been in any real danger of losing a game so far this season, but their victories are leaving everyone a little unsettled. Running back John Clay is a bona fide Heisman Trophy candidate in my mind, but there have been too many turnovers on offense, and the Badgers missed several chances for more points against San Jose State. Wisconsin needs to clean things up in a hurry as Arizona State visits this week.
4. Penn State (1-1): There's little shame in losing to top-ranked Alabama on the road, especially with a true freshman quarterback (Rob Bolden) making his first career road start. But Penn State won't be getting any more passes from me. The Lions need to get Evan Royster and the run game going beginning this week against Kent State. Bolden will get better and better, but if Penn State's offensive line can't create room for Royster, the Lions are no better than an eight-win team.
T-5. Michigan (2-0): In Denard they trust. Quarterback Denard Robinson has been nothing short of brilliant for the Wolverines, and he's showing no signs of slowing down. Michigan still has some issues with a young secondary -- the Kyle Rudolph touchdown was a major breakdown -- and the Wolverines must identify more weapons on offense to help Robinson. But two quality wins have lifted spirits in Ann Arbor, and Michigan once again is off to a great start.
T-5. Michigan State (2-0): The Florida Atlantic game raised some red flags on defense, as the Spartans struggled to finish the Owls and get off the field on third down. But the rushing attack, led by sophomore Edwin Baker, has been spectacular so far this season. Spartans backs are finding open space and making big plays. Kicker Dan Conroy and the overall special-teams play also looked good Saturday. The defense needs to step up this week against Notre Dame.
7. Northwestern (2-0): After letting an inferior Vanderbilt team hang around in Week 1, Northwestern left no doubt Saturday against Illinois State. Besides Michigan's Robinson, Wildcats junior Dan Persa has been the Big Ten's most impressive quarterback so far this season, completing 38 of 44 passes (86.4 percent) for 462 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. Linebacker Quentin Davie led a strong defensive effort, while the run game, despite showing signs of life, remains a concern.
8. Purdue (1-1): The Boilers evened their record and might have found an answer at running back in Dan Dierking (102 rush yards, 2 TDs), but the win against Western Illinois came at a cost. Purdue will have to survive without leading receiver Keith Smith, which puts pressure on Cortez Smith, Justin Siller and others to answer the bell. The Boilers also need to shore things up on defense after allowing 406 yards to WIU. I still like how the schedule sets up for Purdue.
9. Illinois (1-1): Nathan Scheelhaase and the Illini learned from their mistakes in Week 1 and delivered an impressive performance against a good FCS opponent (Southern Illinois). Scheelhaase limited mistakes and displayed impressive accuracy (14-for-18 passing) and got help from running back Mikel LeShoure (115 rush yards, 2 TDs) and receiver A.J. Jenkins (114 receiving yards, TD). Illinois' defense also is showing legit improvement from 2009.
10. Indiana (1-0): The Hoosiers were idle Saturday as they have an unusual 16-day break between games. We know less about Indiana than any Big Ten team to this point, and I'm not sure a soft upcoming schedule will reveal much more. All-Big Ten wideout Tandon Doss is expected back this week at Western Kentucky, where Indiana must clean up some things on defense.
11. Minnesota (1-1): You lose to South Dakota at home, you pay a price, especially when your defense allows 41 points and 444 yards. I recognize that Minnesota had to replace nine starters on defense this year, which isn't easy, but to let South Dakota quarterback Dante Warren do what he did was simply unacceptable. Gophers quarterback Adam Weber and running back Duane Bennett did their part, but the defense let them down. Up next: USC.