While things cooled down briefly for Christmas, we still got plenty of Big Ten action last weekend. A number of teams faced off against quality competition, including big games for Indiana and Ohio State. Those results certainly had an impact on this week’s rankings.
But before you do jump into the Power Rankings, a reminder about how my rankings are made. Once the season starts, my Power Rankings reflect actual gameplay. Who have you beaten, when did you do it, and how have you played otherwise? Those are the questions I focus on. The same can be said for losses. And given that these are Power Rankings, it’s a rolling scale. More recent results will be weighed more heavily.
Big Ten Week Eight Power Rankings
#1 - Michigan State Spartans (+1)
The Spartans had one game last week and cruised to an easy win, blowing out Western Michigan at home on Sunday night. The win pushed Michigan State to 10-3 overall and gave the team its fifth win in a row, with all five wins coming by double-digits.
Entering this week, there are still a lot of people skeptical about Michigan State and its performance to date. And admittedly, some of those criticisms are justified. The Spartans are 1-2 against top 50 opponents this season and really only have one win of note (at Seton Hall) through the team’s first 13 games. That’s generally not something you like to see.
However, Michigan State has clearly been trending up over the last month and has utterly dominated its last few opponents. The computers still love the Spartans and it seems likely some of those quality wins are on the way with Illinois and Michigan at home this week.
#2 - Ohio State Buckeyes (-1)
The Buckeyes only had one game this week, which came on Sunday on a neutral court against a really good West Virginia team. And while the game was competitive, Ohio State ended up falling short. The loss dropped the team to 11-2 overall as the team prepares to get back into league play.
Even with Sunday’s loss, Ohio State’s resume remains really impressive. The Buckeyes are still top five on KenPom and have six wins against top 100 opponents. And there really isn’t much to be ashamed about with regard to the losses either, as both came away from home against top 45 opponents. Few teams would have made it through Ohio State’s schedule with an 11-2 overall record.
Ohio State only has one game this week, which will come on Friday at home against a hot Wisconsin squad. This presents another opportunity for the team to add a quality win.
#3 - Penn State Nittany Lions (--)
The Nittany Lions had one game this week and cruised to an easy win in it, beating Cornell at home on Sunday afternoon. The win pushed Penn State to 11-2 overall. It’s the program’s best start since the 2014-’15 season. And given how tough Penn State’s schedule has been this year, this year’s 11-2 start looks far more impressive than what fans saw in 2014.
Penn State will now face one of its toughest challenges to date, facing Iowa in Philadelphia on Saturday. A win there would turn a lot of heads nationally.
#4 - Michigan Wolverines (--)
Another week and another easy win for Michigan at home against an underwhelming opponent. The Wolverines beat Presbyterian earlier this month and added a win over UMass Lowell this week. That win pushed Michigan to 10-3 overall and to 13th on KenPom.
By this point in the season, we have enough data to tell us that Michigan’s a quality squad. The question is whether the Wolverines can take the next step, win on the road, and compete for the Big Ten title. And with a matchup against Michigan State on the road on Sunday, we should get some answers this week.
#5 - Maryland Terrapins (--)
The Terps only had one game this week, beating Bryant at home on Sunday afternoon. The win pushed Maryland to 11-2 overall. Maryland’s overall resume remains really impressive and the team sits at eighth nationally on KenPom. Maryland will now get a few days off before hosting Indiana at home on Saturday.
#6 - Iowa Hawkeyes (+1)
The Hawkeyes were another team that had a single game against a thoroughly overmatched opponent. Iowa’s lone matchup came on Sunday against a really bad Kennesaw State team. A win there pushed Iowa to 10-3 overall. The team only has one matchup this week, which will be on Saturday in Philly against Penn State.
#7 - Indiana Hoosiers (-1)
Although Indiana entered last week sitting at 11-1 overall, it was hard not to feel skeptical about how the Hoosiers would perform going forward. Indiana was winning, but often doing it against mediocre competition and with little margin for error. After all, Indiana’s previous three games included an overtime win against a weak Nebraska squad and one possession wins against decent, but not great Notre Dame and UConn teams.
By any measure, Indiana was winning, but it wasn’t always pretty.
Unfortunately, that finally caught up with Indiana last week, as the team fell to Arkansas at home on Sunday evening. The Hoosiers controlled large segments of the game, but couldn’t close things off against the Razorbacks. The loss dropped the team to 11-2. Arkansas isn’t a bad team, so it’s not a horrible loss. However, it’s certainly a tough one to stomach for an 11-1 team at home. Indiana will get a chance to bounce back this week on the road against Maryland on Saturday.
#8 - Purdue Boilermakers (--)
The Boilermakers only had one game last week, which came at home against Central Michigan on Saturday. Purdue was able to put that one away easily and improved to 8-5 overall. It was the team’s fourth win in the last six games.
Purdue has two intriguing games this week with Minnesota at home on Thursday and Illinois on the road on Sunday. Two wins there would be absolutely massive for the Boilermakers.
#9 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (--)
The Scarlet Knights added another win to the team’s resume last week with a win over Caldwell College on Monday night. With the win, Rutgers improved to 10-3 overall. It also marked the team’s fourth win in a row, including two victories over top 40 opponents. Rutgers will hope to keep things rolling this week with Nebraska on the road on Friday.
#10 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (--)
The Gophers had one game last week and scored an easy win in it over FIU at home on Saturday. With the win, Minnesota now sits at 7-5 overall. Saturday was also the team’s third straight win and fourth win in five games. And that includes three wins over top 100 opponents.
This week, Minnesota will have a major challenge on its hands with Purdue on the road on Thursday and Northwestern at home on Sunday. Fans are likely expecting a split, but two wins would be a huge boost for the team’s profile.
#11 - Wisconsin Badgers (+1)
Perhaps no Big Ten team had a more impressive last few days than Wisconsin. Despite starting the season at 6-5 overall, Wisconsin went on the road on Saturday and blew out a Tennessee team ranked in the top 50 on KenPom. It was one of Tennessee’s toughest losses over the last few years. The win vaulted Wisconsin up to 36th nationally on KenPom.
At this point, Wisconsin’s really hard to get a read on. The Badgers have blowout wins over Indiana, Marquette, and Tennessee, but also have losses to New Mexico, Richmond, and Rutgers among others. It’s a bizarre resume and Badger fans are certainly hoping the team resembles the one that played on Saturday moving forward.
Wisconsin will return to action on Tuesday at home against Rider to close out non-conference play. The team will then face Ohio State on the road on Friday. The Badgers need to split those two games at minimum.
#12 - Illinois Fighting Illini (-1)
The Illini didn’t disappoint last week, but also didn’t do anything to change their perception. Illinois only had one game, which came at home against North Carolina A&T on Sunday. The win pushed Illinois to 9-4 overall heading back into the restart of league play.
Illinois will get an immensely challenging slate this week with Michigan State on the road on Thursday and Purdue at home on Sunday. Even a split would be massive for the Illini.
#13 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (+1)
The Huskers bounced back last week with a win over Texas A&M Corpus Christi on Sunday. The win pushed Nebraska to 6-7 overall. It was the team’s second win in three games. Nebraska will hope to keep building momentum this week with Rutgers at home on Friday.
#14 - Northwestern Wildcats (-1)
The Wildcats had another embarrassing performance this week. Northwestern only had one game last week and it ended in defeated, as the team fell to Hartford at home on Sunday. It was Northwestern’s third loss in a row and its second loss to a team outside the top 200 on KenPom so far this season. Northwestern will hope to bounce back this week with Minnesota on the road on Sunday.