If you were underwhelmed with the Big Ten’s schedule so far this season, that certainly ended last week. Fans got to enjoy an absolutely fantastic week of games, starting with the Big Ten/ACC Challenge early in the week, conference play starting on Friday, and even a non-conference rivalry game thrown in there on Saturday. And the results also severely shook up things across the league.
And with those results in mind, let’s take a look at my latest Big Ten Power 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 Five Power Rankings
#1 - Ohio State Buckeyes (+1)
The Buckeyes had one of the more impressive weeks of any Big Ten team so far this season. We had an idea Ohio State was pretty good this season after the Buckeyes beat Cincinnati and Villanova at home in early November, but we had yet to see the team on the road and against some other quality opponents.
Well, that changed last week.
And Ohio State answered the bell.
The Buckeyes not only won both of the team’s matchups last week, but they won both in convincing fashion. Ohio State blew out North Carolina on the road on Wednesday and followed that up with a blowout with over a Penn State team ranked among the top 25 on KenPom on Saturday at home. The wins pushed Ohio State to 9-0 overall, 1-0 in Big Ten play, and to No. 1 nationally on KenPom.
So, yeah, this team is pretty good.
The only real question about Ohio State moving forward is really just whether the team can keep up this absurd level of play. We’ll find out a bit on this front as the Buckeyes only play one game this week on the road against Minnesota on Sunday.
#2 - Michigan Wolverines (-1)
The Wolverines had a mixed, but altogether pretty good week of play. Michigan lost on the road against Louisville on Tuesday, but rebounded with a win against Iowa at home on Friday. The split left Michigan sitting at 8-1 overall and 1-0 in league play. Michigan’s overall resume remains very impressive with five wins over top 60 opponents.
And while many teams are preparing to enter the soft part of their schedule for the holidays, Michigan sits primed for another really difficult week. The Wolverines will face Illinois on the road on Wednesday and Oregon at home on Saturday. Another split under these circumstances wouldn’t even be a bad result.
#3 - Maryland Terrapins (--)
The Terps didn’t play perfectly last week, but came away with two wins in the process. Maryland blew out Notre Dame at home on Wednesday and then narrowly avoided an upset against Illinois at home on Saturday. The wins pushed Maryland to 10-0 for the first time in well over a decade and to 1-0 in league play.
In a lot of other weeks, I probably would have dropped Maryland after its underwhelming start against Illinois on Saturday. The Terps were genuinely lucky to get out of that game with a win, considering Illinois had above 75 percent in-game odds to win with just over a minute remaining. However, it’s hard to argue with 10-0 and the teams below Maryland just haven’t done enough to justify moving above the Terps right now.
Maryland will hope to keep thins rolling this week with Penn State on the road on Tuesday for the team’s only matchup in the coming days.
#4 - Purdue Boilermakers (+3)
The Boilermakers jumped significantly this week after two double-digit wins at home over Virginia on Wednesday and Northwestern on Sunday. The wins improved Purdue’s overall record to 6-3 overall. They also moved the team up to No. 6 nationally on KenPom. Despite letting a few games slip away early, the computers still love the Boilermakers.
Purdue only has one game this week with Nebraska on the road on Sunday. That should be a win, but the Boilermakers are still looking for the team’s first road win of the year. As such, it could be an interesting one.
#5 - Penn State Nittany Lions (--)
The Nittany Lions had two games last week and ended up splitting them, with a win over Wake Forest at home on Wednesday and a loss on the road to Ohio State on Saturday. The split left Penn State sitting at 7-2 overall and 0-1 in Big Ten play. Penn State currently sits at 24th nationally on KenPom.
Penn State remains a bit of a mystery at this point. The computers love the team and the results have been pretty encouraging. However, this generally doesn’t look like a top 25 squad via the “eye test.” It’s a solid team, but top 25 seems a bit much. But even so, where should this team be ranked? Top 35? Top 50? It’s hard to tell right now and that’s what makes this team so interesting. It also makes the NCAAs quite possible.
This week, Penn State has two significant games at home with Maryland at home on Tuesday and Alabama at home on Saturday. Two wins and the Nittany Lions are going to start rising on a lot of those bracketology posts.
#6 - Michigan State Spartans (-2)
The Spartans are another conundrum right now. After entering the season as the preseason No. 1 ranked team, expectations were high for this group. Unfortunately, things got off to a rough start with losses to Kentucky, Virginia Tech, and Duke through the team’s first eight games. And things were particularly rough last week with a loss to Duke on Tuesday and a near loss to Rutgers on Sunday. The split left the team sitting at 6-3 overall.
What’s so hard to evaluate about this team is that it’s ranged between great, good, mediocre, and bad through its first nine games. My gut says this team’s best days are still to come, but through nine games, things just haven’t looked that great. Michigan State has looked a lot more like a “receiving votes” type of team than No. 1.
The good news is that this is the best opportunity Tom Izzo has to get things corrected. Michigan State gets a few days off this week before a beatable Oakland team on a neutral court on Saturday. And the team faces no marquee opponents until January. It will be interesting to see how the Spartans look coming out the other end of that stretch.
#7 - Indiana Hoosiers (-1)
It’s not often that a team will be coming off a 20-point loss and not dive in these rankings. However, it just didn’t seem to make sense with the teams ranked around Indiana this week. The Hoosiers may have lost to Wisconsin on the road on Saturday, but the team is still 8-1 overall and just beat Florida State at home on Tuesday by double-digits. Most fans would have taken 1-1 in last week’s two games, so it seems silly to overreact to one game.
All told, Indiana remains in pretty solid shape. The Hoosiers are 8-1 and have two interesting games on the docket this week with UConn in New York City on Tuesday and Nebraska at home on Friday. Indiana will be favored in both matchups. Two wins there and fans will really start getting excited for this season.
#8 - Iowa Hawkeyes (--)
The Hawkeyes split the team’s games last week, but generally had a pretty solid performance. Iowa beat Syracuse on the road on Tuesday and followed that up with a competitive loss to Michigan on Friday night. The mixed results left Iowa at 6-3 overall and 0-1 in league play.
This week, Iowa will prepare for Minnesota at home on Monday night and Iowa State on the road on Thursday. This figures to be one of the team’s most important weeks of the season.
#9 - Wisconsin Badgers (+1)
The Badgers went 1-1 in the team’s games last week with a road loss to North Carolina State on Wednesday and a win over Indiana on Saturday. The split left Wisconsin sitting at 5-4 overall and 1-0 in Big Ten play.
Saturday’s win was particularly notable for Wisconsin. I didn’t go as far as calling it a “must win” game, but it was in that discussion. The Badgers desperately needed to get back on track after four straight losses. And I think we learned that this might be a year where Wisconsin has to rely extensively on its impressive home court play, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Wisconsin only has one game this week with Rutgers on the road on Wednesday. The Badgers are actually underdogs heading into the matchup.
#10 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (+1)
The Gophers only had one game last week, but came away with a win over Clemson at home on Monday night. The win pushed Minnesota to 4-4 overall. The Gophers will now get a big week of games with Iowa on the road on Monday and Ohio State at home on Sunday. Even a split would be huge news for Minnesota.
#11 - Illinois Fighting Illini (-2)
Ah, so close. So very close. For roughly 35 minutes on Saturday, it looked like Illinois was finally going to get its first resume win of the season. Unfortunately, Illinois let it slip away and Maryland escaped with a win. That loss only added on top of Illinois’ disappointment against Miami (FL) on Monday night. The Illini now sit at 6-3 overall and 0-1 in league play.
Illinois will get two opportunities to get back on track this week with Michigan at home on Wednesday and Old Dominion at home on Saturday. A 2-0 record in those games would be fantastic for the team’s postseason hopes.
#12 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (--)
The Scarlet Knights had a rough week of play with two losses. The first came on the road against Pittsburgh on Tuesday and the second came on Sunday in East Lansing against Michigan State. The losses dropped Rutgers to 6-3 overall and 0-1 in Big Ten play.
While this still looks like one of the better Rutgers teams in years, we’re now nine games into the season and the Scarlet Knights have yet to beat a top 180 opponent. Part of that is a byproduct of the team’s schedule, but it also makes it hard to know how good this team is moving forward. The good news for fans is that Rutgers gets two big opportunities this week with Wisconsin at home on Wednesday and Seton Hall at home on Saturday. Rutgers needs to find a way to win one of those games.
#13 - Northwestern Wildcats (--)
The Wildcats split the team’s games last week with a win over Boston College on the road on Tuesday and a loss to Purdue on Sunday. The split left the team sitting at 4-4 overall and 0-1 in Big Ten play. Northwestern also sits 98th on KenPom. Northwestern will only get one game this week, at home against SIU Edwardsville on Sunday.
#14 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (--)
The Huskers lost both of the team’s games last week. The first loss came on the road to Georgia Tech on Wednesday and the second came against Creighton on Saturday. The losses dropped the team to 4-5 overall. Nebraska will hope to get things turned around this week against Indiana on the road on Friday and Purdue at home on Sunday.