Big Ten Week 6 Power Rankings: A new leader emerges


It was another revealing Saturday in the Big Ten, complete with some wild endings in Lincoln and Piscataway.

When the smoke cleared, we had a surprising new leader in the league power rankings.

1. Michigan (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten): It's unusual that a team with one loss is ahead of three undefeated squads, including the defending national champion. But these rankings are about what's happening right now, and at the moment, no one in the Big Ten is playing better than the Wolverines. They are the first FBS team in 20 years to register three straight shutouts. Since a seven-point road loss at Utah to open the year, Michigan has outscored its opponents 160-14. I, for one, welcome our new Harbaugh overlords.

2. Ohio State (6-0, 2-0): You can focus on the negative, which is that the Buckeyes were tied with the sinking ship that is Maryland 21-21 in the third quarter. Or you can focus on the fact that Ohio State then ripped off 28 straight points and seemed to find a good way to use Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller in harmony. This team still hasn’t reached its peak, but it’s in there somewhere.

3. Iowa (6-0, 2-0): The Hawkeyes move up a notch as they just keep winning, even if they got a push from Illinois at home on Saturday. If they can complete the Lincoln State sweep and win at Northwestern this week, they might just run away with the West. The reported ACL injury to star defensive end Drew Ott is a major concern, however.

4. Michigan State (6-0, 2-0): The Spartans survived -- there's no better verb for it -- at Rutgers on Saturday but suffered even more injuries. They're so banged up right now that it's hard to see them winning next week at Michigan, even though Mark Dantonio's club has won six of the past seven meetings against the Wolverines. But admire this team for how it has scratched and clawed to a 6-0 record through major adversity.

5. Northwestern (5-1, 1-1): After a terrific 5-0 start to the season, the Wildcats got run out of the Big House from the opening kick Saturday. It was a bit of a reality check for Pat Fitzgerald’s crew, but if they can dust themselves off and beat Iowa this week, they can still accomplish some special things this season.

6. Wisconsin (4-2, 1-1): The Badgers might have saved their season by rallying to beat luckless Nebraska 23-21 on a late field goal. The Badgers still have offensive problems; having Joel Stave throw 50 times, as he did against the Cornhuskers, is not a sustainable formula for success. But the schedule is not terribly taxing the rest of the way.

7. Penn State (5-1, 2-0): Many people (including me) thought the Nittany Lions could start 6-0 because of their schedule. Well, they’re 5-1 right now, and the opening loss to Temple seems much more reasonable now that the Owls are 5-0 and knocking on the door of the Top 25. Not that James Franklin’s team has looked like world-beaters. But 5-1 is still 5-1. A trip to Ohio State is next.

8. Minnesota (4-2, 1-1): For maybe the first time this season, the Golden Gophers looked like they were supposed to look versus Purdue. They ran for 326 yards, and the defense shut things down in a 41-13 romp. The passing game is still a wreck, but Minnesota seemed to rediscover its formula a week before hosting reeling Nebraska.

9. Illinois (4-2, 1-1): The Fighting Illini had a chance to make things really interesting at Kinnick Stadium but fumbled on the most important drive of the game. The loss of do-it-all running back Josh Ferguson has made the offense a little too one-dimensional, and that could be a big problem this week against Wisconsin.

10. Nebraska (2-4, 0-2): What can you say at this point about the Cornhuskers’ season? Four losses by 11 points. Mike Riley has to keep this team together for the second half of the season, and it might be hard to find even four wins to get Nebraska to a bowl game this year.

11. Indiana (4-2, 0-2): Nate Sudfeld's ankle is the most important body part in the Hoosiers program right now. The team fell apart last year when Sudfeld was lost for the year, and the offense struggled against Penn State on Saturday without him -- and star tailback Jordan Howard. An injury to second-string quarterback Zander Diamont makes it even more imperative that Sudfeld get healthy soon.

12. Rutgers (2-3, 0-2): Chris Laviano's unfortunate spike on fourth down cost Rutgers one last shot at tying Michigan State, but the Scarlet Knights played pretty well most of the night. They're a different team with Leonte Carroo, who had three touchdown receptions Saturday.

13. Purdue (1-5, 0-2): The Boilermakers seemed to have a good chance of knocking off Minnesota at home for just their second Big Ten win under Darrell Hazell. Instead, they got blasted. How much more time can Purdue give to Hazell’s rebuilding project?

14. Maryland (2-4, 0-2): Randy Edsall stormed out of his postgame news conference Saturday. Will that be the last time we hear from him as Maryland’s head coach?