Big Ten Power Rankings: Purdue has edge in the West

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Week 11 in the Big Ten extended the status quo in the East — where Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State all rolled to blowout victories — while unleashing mayhem in the West. 

Front-runner Illinois lost its grip on the division with a heartbreaking loss to Purdue that thrust the Boilermakers into pole position for a spot in the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis. And with two weeks remaining in the 2022 regular season, four teams have identical 4-3 records in league play with a fifth team within one loss of the leaders. It’s time to buckle up.

Here are the Big Ten power rankings ahead of Week 12: 

1. Michigan

Record: 10-0, 7-0 Big Ten
Last week: 34-3 win vs. Nebraska
Up next: vs. No. 21 Illinois 
Previous ranking: 1

Each week, the story remains the same for head coach Jim Harbaugh’s smashmouth Wolverines. They hand the ball to star tailback Blake Corum — who rushed for another 162 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries — and they play smothering defense to control the game from the trenches on both sides of the ball. Corum now ranks third nationally in rushing with 1,349 yards on 227 attempts. His total of 17 rushing touchdowns is tied for second and just one off the pace of Minnesota star Mohamed Ibrahim. He’s the highest-graded running back in the country on Pro Football Focus and has picked up more first downs than any other tailback. The lone concern for Michigan is a lack of rhythm with its downfield passing game. Quarterback J.J. McCarthy has thrown for fewer than 170 yards in five of his last six games with a completion percentage below 50% the last two weeks. The Wolverines slipped to 95th in passing offense after the run-dominated win over Nebraska and have yet to prove they can win a game through the air.

Preview of Ohio State-Michigan from ‘Big Noon Kickoff’ crew

The “Big Noon Kickoff” crew gives their first extended preview of the Ohio State Buckeyes matchup with the Michigan Wolverines on Nov. 26, 2022.

2. Ohio State

Record: 10-0, 7-0 Big Ten 
Last week: 56-14 win vs. Indiana
Up next: at Maryland
Previous ranking: 2

It’s almost as if the football gods wanted to give Ohio State another chance. A week ago, the Buckeyes’ offense was stymied by horrible winds and driving rains at Ryan Field against Northwestern. This week, snow squalls and occasional sleet fell from the sky at Ohio Stadium. Head coach Ryan Day leaned on his running game, and tailback Miyan Williams rushed for 147 yards and a touchdown in the first half before exiting with an injury. An excellent performance from quarterback C.J. Stroud kept him atop the Heisman Trophy list with 297 yards and five touchdown passes to four different receivers. Neither Indiana quarterback found success against the Buckeyes, as the Hoosiers converted three times on 18 combined third- and fourth-down attempts. Ohio State finished plus-one in the turnover battle to remain among the top 10 teams nationally, and first in the Big Ten for that category at plus-10. Injury problems at running back will be the storyline for the next two weeks, with Williams dropping out of Saturday’s game and backfield partner TreVeyon Henderson (foot) unavailable to play.

3. Penn State

Record: 8-2, 5-2 Big Ten
Last week: 30-0 win vs. Maryland 
Up next: at Rutgers 
Previous ranking:

Saturday’s shutout of a wayward Maryland team belonged to Penn State’s defense under first-year coordinator Manny Diaz. The Nittany Lions harassed quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa across all four quarters to the tune of 24 pressures, seven sacks and five additional hits. They limited Tagovailoa to 74 passing yards and a 50% completion rate as the Terrapins finished with just 134 yards of total offense and nearly as many punts (nine) as first downs (11). Penn State’s offense continues to be paced by freshmen tailbacks Nicholas Singleton (11 carries, 122 yards, two TDs) and Kaytron Allen (16 carries, 73 yards), with the former ranking fourth nationally in rushing among first-year runners. The freshmen halfbacks with more yards than Singleton (801) are Quinshon Judkins from Ole Miss (1,169), Richard Reese of Baylor (852) and Roman Hemby of Maryland (815). Rutgers and Michigan State are the only opponents standing between Penn State and a 10-2 record. Head coach James Franklin and his team should be eyeing a potential trip to the Rose Bowl.

Watch: Nicholas Singleton is too much for Maryland

Nicholas Singleton ran for a 27-yard touchdown against Maryland on Saturday in Penn State’s easy victory.

4. Purdue

Record: 6-4, 4-3 Big Ten
Last week: 31-24 win at No. 21 Illinois
Up next: vs. Northwestern
Previous ranking: 10

A huge vault up the rankings for the Boilermakers after they scored one of the most important wins in this year’s Big Ten by knocking off No. 21 Illinois to regain control of their destiny in the hodgepodge West. The nip-and-tuck affair tilted in Purdue’s direction when quarterback Aidan O’Connell (25-for-40 for 237 yards, three TDs, one INT) orchestrated three consecutive touchdown drives bridging the second and third quarters. The Boilermakers never trailed from the 1:40 mark of the first half through the final buzzer and forced a ground-heavy Illinois offense to shift toward its passing game with repeated deficits on the scoreboard. Purdue held star tailback Chase Brown (23 carries, 98 yards, two TDs) under 100 yards for the first time all season to extinguish the dream season in Champaign. Now it’s the Boilermakers who are considered the favorites to reach Indianapolis with remaining games against the worst teams in the conference in Northwestern and Indiana.

5. Iowa

Record: 6-4, 4-3 Big Ten
Last week: 24-10 win vs. Wisconsin 
Up next: at Minnesota
Previous ranking: 7

It wouldn’t be an Iowa victory without the defense or special teams contributing some of the biggest plays of the game. Saturday’s rivalry win over Wisconsin was headlined by a 32-yard interception return for a touchdown by star cornerback Cooper DeJean and a critical 41-yard punt return by DeJean that gave the Hawkeyes excellent field position for a scoring drive. Those two scores would have been enough to topple the Badgers, as the potent one-two punch of tailbacks Braelon Allen and Isaac Guerendo was held to 68 combined yards on 24 carries by an Iowa defense ranked eighth nationally against the run at 88.6 yards per game. DeJean is tied for 10th in FBS with four interceptions and is one of only six players from Power 5 schools with multiple defensive scores. A trip to Minnesota on Saturday is shaping up as another trench battle between defenses that haven’t surrendered more than 13 points in their last three games.

Spencer Petras puts Iowa up 21-10

Iowa’s Spencer Petras scored a 1-yard rushing touchdown to help the Hawkeyes gain control vs. Wisconsin.

6. Illinois

Record: 7-3, 4-3 Big Ten
Last week: 31-24 loss vs. Purdue 
Up next: at No. 3 Michigan
Previous ranking:

How quickly the fairytale has gone awry for head coach Bret Bielema and the Illini after an unexpected 7-1 start handed them the keys in the West. A disappointing slip-up against Michigan State two weeks ago gave way to another home loss against Purdue, turning the tide in the division. Tailback Chase Brown, who flashed the Heisman Trophy pose after one of his two rushing touchdowns on Saturday, dropped out with an apparent leg injury in the final minute of the loss. Brown was held under 100 yards for the first time all season as the Illini settled for 3.1 yards per carry against a Purdue run defense ranked seventh in the Big Ten (116.8 YPG). The downfield passing game from quarterback Tommy DeVito (18-of-32 for 201 yards, one TD, one INT) was unable to erase a late-game deficit that swelled to 10 in the fourth quarter. DeVito completed just four of his final nine passes, including an interception, as control of the division was wrested away by the Boilermakers.

7. Minnesota

Record: 7-3, 4-3 Big Ten
Last week: 31-3 win vs. Northwestern 
Up next: vs. Iowa
Previous ranking: 6

Is there a better player in the Big Ten who receives less recognition than Minnesota running back Mohamed Ibrahim? The sixth-year senior continues to bludgeon his way through defenses to extend the nation’s longest streak of consecutive 100-yard games to 18, the most for an FBS player since 2000. Ibrahim carried 36 times for 178 yards and three scores in Saturday’s win and now leads the country with 18 rushing touchdowns. That he still ranks third in the Big Ten with 1,261 rushing yards speaks to the talent of fellow tailbacks Chase Brown from Illinois (1,442) and Blake Corum from Michigan (1,349). There are obvious parallels between what Minnesota has done in the West — losing to front-runners Purdue and Illinois but beating everyone else — and what Penn State has done across the conference. The Gophers finish with difficult tests against Iowa and Wisconsin as head coach P.J. Fleck looks for his third nine-win season in Minneapolis.

8. Wisconsin

Record: 5-5, 3-4 Big Ten
Last week: 24-10 loss at Iowa  
Up next: at Nebraska 
Previous ranking:

After throwing nine touchdown passes and only one interception in his last four games, Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz reverted to the turnover-prone form he showed last season in a deflating road loss to Iowa. Mertz tossed a pair of interceptions and lost a fumble Saturday as the Badgers outgained the Hawkeyes by 227-146 but never scored in the second half. It was the first time Mertz had thrown multiple interceptions in a game since a 34-10 loss to Illinois on Oct. 1. The loss deflated a Wisconsin program that had won three of its preceding four games under interim head coach Jim Leonhard, who continues lobbying for the full-time job. But another wave of controversy has engulfed the program following Leonhard’s accusations that other teams are tampering with players who have yet to enter the transfer portal. His comments came in the wake of rumors that tailback Braelon Allen might be headed to Michigan at the end of the season, though Leonhard didn’t mention the Wolverines directly.

9. Michigan State

Record: 5-5, 3-4 Big Ten
Last week: 27-21 win vs. Rutgers 
Up next: vs. Indiana
Previous ranking: 9

There is plenty of legitimate criticism that can be lobbed at Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker in the wake of his team’s violent behavior after a loss to Michigan last month. But Tucker must also be given credit for the way his players have responded on the field with consecutive wins over No. 16 Illinois on the road and Rutgers at home. The Spartans, who host lowly Indiana this weekend, are just one win from bowl eligibility after an unsightly event that could have derailed their season. Tucker’s group built a 21-7 lead over the Scarlet Knights behind a pair of touchdown passes from quarterback Payton Thorne (19-of-35 for 256 yards) and the balanced running of tailbacks Jalen Berger and Jarek Broussard, both of whom gained at least 80 yards and averaged better than five yards per carry. Michigan State has won three of its last four games by an average margin of 6.7 points per victory.

Jalen Berger punches in the touchdown

Jalen Berger scores from two yards out to give Michigan State a lead against Rutgers on Saturday.

10. Maryland

Record: 6-4, 3-4 Big Ten
Last week: 30-0 loss at No. 14 Penn State 
Up next: vs. No. 2 Ohio State
Previous ranking: 8

It’s never a good sign when the head coach uses a portion of his postgame news conference to say the team must rethink everything it’s doing in all phases to get back on track, but that’s exactly what Mike Locksley did following his team’s shutout loss to Penn State. The Terrapins were outgained 413-134 in total offense to drop their second consecutive game following a disappointing defeat to Wisconsin two weeks ago. Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa mustered fewer than 80 passing yards in each of those losses after accounting for at least 270 in five of the team’s first seven games. A relatively soft non-conference schedule against Buffalo, Charlotte and SMU — all wins — means Locksley’s team has already secured bowl eligibility, but the Terrapins are limping toward the finish for the second consecutive year after dropping six of their final eight to close the 2021 regular season.

11. Rutgers

Record: 4-6, 1-6 Big Ten
Last week: 27-21 loss at Michigan State 
Up next: vs. No. 14 Penn State 
Previous ranking: 12 

The headline for Rutgers is a third consecutive defeat and a sixth loss in its last seven games after an attempted fourth-quarter comeback fell short. But there’s reason for head coach Greg Schiano and his staff to be encouraged following the best performance of former four-star quarterback Gavin Wimsatt’s young career. Wimsatt, a sophomore, completed 20 of 34 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns while avoiding an interception for the first time since assuming the starting role on Oct. 29. The Scarlet Knights lost despite gaining 460 yards and converting eight of 16 third-down attempts in an impressive outburst for a team ranked 121st in total offense (308.3 YPG). Fourteen penalties for 108 yards hamstrung Rutgers in its second one-score loss this season.

12. Nebraska

Record: 3-7, 2-5 Big Ten
Last week: 34-3 loss vs. No. 3 Michigan 
Up next: vs. Wisconsin
Previous ranking: 11

The Cornhuskers continue to fight a losing battle without starting quarterback Casey Thompson, who missed his second consecutive game with a nerve injury to his elbow. Thompson racked up three 300-yard games in his first eight starts for Nebraska after transferring from Texas, and the drop in talent between he and backups Chubba Purdy and Logan Smothers is vast. Purdy completed six of 11 passes for 56 yards against Michigan, while Smothers completed four of eight attempts for 15 yards in relief. The absence of a downfield passing attack made the offense predictable, one-dimensional and ineffective in Nebraska’s third straight game scoring 13 or fewer points. The Cornhuskers were outgained 412-146 in total offense and only picked up eight first downs. They close the season against tough defenses from Wisconsin and Iowa.

13. Northwestern

Record: 1-9, 1-6 Big Ten
Last week: 31-3 loss at Minnesota 
Up next: at Purdue 
Previous ranking: 13

Northwestern’s run defense was gashed for 302 yards on 58 carries as the Gophers identified a critical weakness and exploited it unrelentingly for four quarters. The Wildcats have now allowed 509 rushing yards in their last two games after giving up 207 in a 14-point loss to Ohio State on Nov. 5. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald’s team, which ranked 119th in run defense last season, has sunk to 119th again following Saturday’s defeat. With remaining games against Purdue and No. 21 Illinois, there’s a chance the Wildcats finish the year without winning a game on American soil.

14. Indiana

Record: 3-7, 1-6 Big Ten
Last week: 56-14 loss vs. No. 2 Ohio State 
Up next: at Michigan State
Previous ranking: 14 

The losing streak stretched to seven for an Indiana team that has allowed 101 points across its last two games. Head coach Tom Allen continues to face pointed questions from reporters about how to regain the form IU showed in winning 14 games combined during the 2019 and 2020 seasons, but the answer is as complex as it is simple: The Hoosiers need a lot more talent. Indiana’s 2023 recruiting class, which only has nine commits thus far, ranks 84th nationally and last in the Big Ten. Reinforcements aren’t exactly on the way.

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Michael Cohen covers college football and basketball for FOX Sports with an emphasis on the Big Ten. Follow him on Twitter at @Michael_Cohen13.


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