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Where is Penn State football in the updated Big Ten power rankings?

Who is the best in the Big Ten after Week 1?



Penn State Football, Big Ten power rankings
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) warms up wearing a Free Harbaugh shirt before the East Carolina game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023.

Week 1 of college football is in the books. Penn State football took care of business, moving to 1-0 on the season. There were some surprises, and while we learned some things, we should not draw too many conclusions in the Big Ten or elsewhere from a very small sample size. Unless that team is Northwestern, more on them in a moment.

Updated Big Ten power rankings

Regarding the Big Ten power rankings, there are some clear gaps right now separating teams. There is a gap between the bottom couple of teams and a muddled middle where most of the conference teams reside. Then, there is the top echelon of the Big Ten. It is pretty apparent the tier that Penn State football belongs to right now, but you may disagree with the Nittany Lions’ ranking. Read on to find out the reasoning.

14. Northwestern (Last week 14)

This is a bad Northwestern team. Maybe historically bad. Yes, it was one game against Rutgers, but I’m going to draw that conclusion right now, regardless. It did not appear the Wildcats even wanted to be playing.

Northwestern has its home opener against UTEP this upcoming Saturday. Could the Wildcats lose? Sure, anything is possible with this terrible team.

13. Indiana (Last week 13)

Let’s get to the good news first. The Hoosiers held Ohio State under 30 points for the first time since 2001. A small, moral victory. The bad news was they could only put up three points on the board. They also were held to 153 yards and only eight first downs.

The Hoosiers will look to notch their first victory of the young season as they host Indiana State on Saturday night.

12. Purdue (Last week 11)

For the second season opener in a row, Purdue blew a lead with less than a minute to go. Instead of Penn State, this time the loss was against Fresno State. Quarterback Hudson Card played well, but his counterpart, Mikey Keene, overshadowed him. The Boilermaker defense needs a ton of work, giving up nearly 40 points and 487 total yards.

The Boilermakers did not seem like they would be in contention for the Big Ten West this season, and while a non-conference loss does nothing to setback a division title goal, it certainly is not a good start to the season. Purdue travels to Brent Pry and Virginia Tech next.

11. Rutgers (Last week 12)

Rutgers gets a bump up in the Big Ten power rankings this week. It’s not really for its win but more for docking Purdue for its loss. But let’s give the Scarlet Knights some credit. Their defense played well, allowing the Wildcats only 201 yards total offense while nearly pitching a shutout. Quarterback Gavin Wimsatt also played fairly well and protected the football.

Rutgers will look to make it 2-0 as the host Temple this Saturday night.

10. Nebraska (Last week 9)

New coaching staff, same old Huskers. Nebraska once again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. With about five minutes to go, the Huskers had a 10-3 lead. Minnesota had done very little on offense to that point. Should have known that was just where the Gophers wanted them based on Nebraska’s history of blowing one-point games.

Nebraska will look to bounce back in Week 2. Unfortunately for the Huskers, they travel to Boulder to take on a Colorado team that is now the darling of college football, at least for this week.

9. Michigan State (Last week 10)

Like Rutgers, the Spartans are moving up in the Big Ten power rankings because another team ahead of them lost. Not really because anything they did. Michigan State looked sluggish in the first half against Central Michigan and only led 10-7 at halftime. The Spartans picked it up in the second half to win 31-7.

The Spartans get a tune-up game against Richmond this Saturday. A much larger test against Washington looms in two weeks.

8. Minnesota (Last week 8)

Minnesota did not have to do much to record the victory in its season opener against Nebraska. Just wait long enough for the Huskers to implode themselves. Athan Kaliakmanis is no Tanner Morgan, and Sean Tyler is by far not Mo Ibrahim. The Gopher offense must improve if Minnesota wants to compete in the West.

The Gophers get to stay at home this week against Eastern Michigan.

7. Illinois (Last week 7)

Toledo gave the Illini everything it had, but Illinois was able to pull off a victory with a last-second field goal. Surprisingly, Illinois gave up a ton of yards, 416, uncharacteristic of a Bret Bielema-coached team. But it is easier to correct mistakes after a win than after a loss.

Illinois takes its first road trip this season as it heads to Kansas for a Friday night matchup.

6. Iowa (Last week 6)

It appeared the Hawkeyes turned over a new leaf on offense after their first two drives against Utah State. Two touchdowns that gave them the early 14-0. Then offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz remembered who he was and what team he was on. The Hawkeye offense pumped the brakes and won 24-14 over the Aggies. Punting really is winning for the Hawkeyes.

Iowa has the CyHawk game next versus its in-state rivals Iowa State. Will the players be betting the under?

5. Maryland (Last week 5)

The Terps had a true tune-up game this week against Towson, winning 38-6. Taulia Tagovailoa was solid in victory, throwing for three scores and adding another on the ground.

Probably not going to learn how good Maryland is until later in the season. Up next is a Saturday night home game against Charlotte.

4. Wisconsin (Last week 4)

It could have been some growing pains with a new staff, coaching philosophy, and some new players. Or it could be that Buffalo is one of the better MAC teams. Whatever the reason, Wisconsin had some trouble in the first half but finished strong to defeat the Bulls 38-17. The duo of Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi combined for nearly 300 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

Wisconsin travels west for a Saturday night game at Washington State. The Badgers are looking for revenge after the Cougars defeated them a year ago in Madison.

3. Penn State (Last week 3)

Penn State football looked pretty good against West Virginia to open the season. While the Nittany Lions held only a 14-7 lead at halftime, the lead could have been larger if not for two missed field goals. 

Drew Allar was spectacular in his debut as a starter, throwing for 325 yards and three touchdowns. Outside of a couple bad throws, he made really good decisions in the pocket.

There are some areas to improve, particularly the run defense and special teams. But overall, no major complaints. The gap in the Big Ten power rankings may be even smaller between Penn State football and Ohio State (see below). But this writer is not quite ready to put the Lions ahead of the Buckeyes after just one game. Penn State football hosts Delaware this Saturday.

2. Ohio State 1-0 (Last week 2)

Do not want to draw too many conclusions, but this was not a good showing for the Buckeyes. They slept walk through their victory over Indiana. The blame goes to the offense, really. How can Kyle McCord only complete two passes for 18 yards to future NFL top 10 draft pick Marvin Harrison Jr.? It makes no sense, except maybe they kept the offense super vanilla.

The Buckeyes almost assuredly will improve as the season moves along. We are not going to learn much, though, from their matchup with Youngstown State next week.

1. Michigan 1-0 (Last week 1)

Michigan keeps the top spot in this week’s Big Ten Power rankings. It was a ho-hum victory 30-3 victory for the Wolverines over East Carolina. When not wearing a Free Harbaugh shirt, J.J McCarthy threw for 280 yards and three touchdowns. The run game was not spectacular but did not need to be. Blake Corum can ease back into things after his season-ending injury a year ago. The defense was stout and nearly had the shutout until the Pirates notched a field goal with time expiring.

Michigan’s next game without Jim Harbaugh on the sidelines will be against UNLV. Sure hope they can manage without their fallen coach.

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Shane has been a Penn State fan since he attended his first game in Beaver Stadium when he was 8 years old. A Class of 2005 alum, he has been a contributing writer for Victory Bell Rings, Saturday Blitz and now Basic Blues Nation. He also hosts The Nittany and Badger: A Big Ten Football Podcast. Shane lives near Pittsburgh with his wife and son.


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