- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
You just knew Shakeup Saturday was coming, and it arrived in Week 6 throughout the Big Ten.
We saw three wins by road teams and four definitive victories, including one truly shocking score (Illinois 33, Penn State 13). We saw several squads exposed to different degrees -- Penn State, Northwestern, Michigan -- and several others (Illinois, Purdue) raise hope for the second half of the season.
The power rankings reward and punish teams for how they perform right now. I expect another shuffle next week, but here goes ...
1. Ohio State (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten): The Buckeyes took care of business in impressive fashion Saturday, making quick work of Indiana behind Terrelle Pryor's career-best passing performance and an opportunistic defense. Style points matter in college football, and Ohio State delivered them against IU. While the win would have solidified Ohio State at No. 2 in the polls, Alabama's loss vaults the Scarlet and Gray to No. 1 heading into their big road showdown at Wisconsin.
2. Michigan State (6-0, 2-0): My power rankings reward impressive wins, and the Spartans have recorded two of them against ranked opponents the past two weeks. Don Treadwell's offense displayed tremendous balance and execution at Michigan, and Pat Narduzzi's defense showed how to contain Denard Robinson. Just an excellent all-around effort for the Spartans, who validated themselves as legit Big Ten title contenders.
3. Iowa (4-1, 1-0): I know I'll hear it from Hawkeye Nation about being dropped a spot, but understand that it has much more to do with Michigan State's success than anything else. The Spartans have a stronger résumé than Iowa at this stage with wins against Wisconsin, Michigan and Notre Dame. Iowa also wasn't helped by Arizona's and Penn State's home losses Saturday. The good news is Iowa has a lot of time to make up ground, and remember that the Hawkeyes host both Michigan State and Ohio State.
4. Wisconsin (5-1, 1-1): Aside from the Austin Peay scrimmage, the Badgers delivered their most complete offensive performance of the season against Minnesota and pulled away from the Gophers in the third quarter. Wisconsin's offense has all the tools to be extremely dangerous in Big Ten play, and Saturday had to give John Clay, James White and the Badgers confidence heading into a game (Ohio State) where they'll need to put up points.
5. Illinois (3-2, 1-1): Not only did the Illini go into Happy Valley and win for the first time in team history, but they did so in dominating fashion. Nathan Scheelhaase and Mikel Leshoure capitalized on a banged-up Penn State defense, while Illinois' defense continued to make strides in shutting down Rob Bolden and the Penn State attack. This is the type of win that can change the course of the season for Ron Zook's crew, which gets another showcase opportunity this week at Michigan State.
6. Michigan (5-1, 1-1): Despite a good offensive game plan against Michigan State, Michigan couldn't make enough big plays and avoid the major breakdowns on defense we've seen for the past two and a half years. Robinson made several poor decisions in the passing game, and the Wolverines couldn't convert long, sustained drives into points. Things don't get any easier this week as Iowa comes to town, and Michigan needs a better showing to stem talk of a 2009 redux.
7. Purdue (3-2, 1-0): Danny Hope and his staff deserve a ton of credit for their work during the open week. They prepared an injury-ravaged offense filled with new faces for a Big Ten road night game, and more importantly, they got much better play out of a defense that had underperformed in nonconference play. Freshman quarterback Rob Henry gained a ton of confidence in the win at Northwestern, and the Boilers can move to 2-0 in Big Ten play with a Homecoming win against Minnesota.
8. Northwestern (5-1, 1-1): What a buzzkill for Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats, although an inexcusable loss like Saturday night's happens pretty much every year. This one is on the coaches, who didn't attack Purdue's suspect secondary with enough aggression or effectively contain the one-dimensional Henry. Special teams once again cost Northwestern a game, and the increase in penalties continues to be baffling. The bye week comes at a good time for the Wildcats, who have a lot to fix going forward.
9. Indiana (3-2, 0-2): After an explosive offensive performance against Michigan, the Hoosiers' attack stalled against an elite defense in Ohio State. I expected IU to put up more of a fight in The Shoe. Ben Chappell and the offense will rebound soon, but unless IU's defense makes dramatic improvements in the second half, this team has a fairly low ceiling. The Hoosiers should get well this week against Arkansas State, but you have to wonder if a weak nonconference slate is preparing them enough for Big Ten competition.
10. Penn State (3-3, 0-2): The defense is depleted by injuries, the offense has no identity and a bowl appearance is no longer guaranteed for Joe Paterno's squad. Penn State finished the first half with a thud, suffering its worst Homecoming loss in Paterno's lengthy tenure. At least the bye week comes at the perfect time, as Penn State needs to regroup on both sides of the ball. The Lions always could rely on their stout defense, but the injury situation really changes things going forward.
11. Minnesota (1-5, 0-2): It was bad enough for the Gophers to lose another rivalry game by a large margin, but Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema made it worse by going for a 2-point conversion in the fourth quarter with the game in hand. That had to be along bus ride back to Minneapolis on Saturday night. Coach Tim Brewster will have a tough time motivating his squad the rest of the way, although this week's trip to Purdue provides an opportunity to get back in the win column.