The first weekend of college football has come and gone, and every single team in the Big Ten now has one game under their belt. Unlike Kansas, who for the second year in a row, has had a bye week on the first week of the college football season. Feel free to insert your own basketball school joke here, but I'm fairly certain that if Barta tried that once, let alone twice, at Iowa, we'd all riot.
Anyway, despite having each played a game apiece, it's still really early to know a whole lot about each team. Most everybody kicked their season off playing either an FCS team or a low-level FBS team, thus it's difficult to judge a team based off their performance against an inferior opponent. Not to mention, it's hard to judge how a team's season will go after watching just one game. Because of this, the power rankings below are currently made up of 80% preseason projections and 20% real data from this past weekend. The preseason projections will slowly get stripped out, and will be fully out of each team's THOR+ rating after they have played five games.
For a refresher of how these ratings work, see here. Also, the numbers that are listed under categories ending in "vs Avg." represent a team's projected winning percentage, number of wins out of a 12 game schedule, points per game, and points allowed per game if they were to play an average college football schedule.
Post-Week 1 Power Rankings
|Rank||Nat'l Rank||Team||Offense+||Defense+||Special Teams+||THOR+||Proj. Win% vs Avg.||Proj. Wins vs Avg.||Proj. PPG+ vs Avg.||Proj. PPGA+ vs Avg.|
1. Wisconsin #12, 135 THOR+
Despite blowing a 17 point lead in the second half, Wisconsin comes out of week 1 sitting atop the conference. In the first half of their game against LSU, the Badgers looked unstoppable. Melvin Gordon looked like a Heisman candidate, and the Badger defense even looked pretty stingy. However, the stinginess of the defense wore off after some key injuries, and the offense unsurprisingly looked bad when Melvin Gordon no longer carried the rock and Tanner McEvoy was forced to throw the ball. This football team looks to have the potential to be the best team in the Big Ten, but they also look like they may have the potential to go 'splodey. If we strip out the preseason projections, Wisconsin's passing performance was 125% worse than the week 1 average. If we adjust for the fact that LSU is a talented football team, that number goes up, but not nearly enough to make it even remotely respectable. If Tanner McEvoy is indeed the quarterback for Wisconsin -- what the hell is up with Joel Stave? -- expect teams to stack the box and attempt to force Wisconsin to throw the ball this season. But even with no passing game to speak of, Bucky still may be fine considering their schedule for the rest of the year.
Next Up: vs. Western Illinois
THOR+ Projected Chance of Winning: No projection for FCS teams, but Wisconsin should win fairly easily.
2. Michigan #13, 135 THOR+
THOR+ loved Michigan coming into this season, and THOR+ still loves Michigan after their demolition of Appalachian State. So much so, that Michigan passed Ohio State and jumped to #2 in the conference. Now, Appalachian State is not a good football team, so it's hard to put much stock in the Wolverines performance. However, when you do play a cupcake like the Mountaineers, you want to crush them, and that's what Michigan did. Michigan has fallen short of their THOR+ projections the past two years, and my theory had always been it was because of Al Borges. With Doug Nussmeier in at offensive coordinator this season, it may not be all that surprising to see Michigan actually perform like a top tier team once again.
Next Up: at Notre Dame
THOR+ Projected Chance of Winning: 49.17%
Average Score: Michigan 26, Notre Dame 28
3. Ohio State #14, 134 THOR+
The Big Ten has the #12, 13, and 14 teams in the nation after week 1, according to THOR+. The Buckeyes struggled with Navy for a little while, before putting them away in the second half. Because of their struggles at Navy and because of the injury to Braxton Miller, a lot of people seem to have given up on Ohio State. THOR+ thinks not so fast, and only dropped them from #12 to #14 this week, mainly because the model thinks Navy is a pretty good team and because Ohio State was playing on them on the road. I'm not 100% sure what to think of the Buckeyes yet, but they always recruit great talent and Urban Meyer has shown the ability to really coach up that talent. Therefore, I'm not going to write them off just yet. They should still be pretty damn good, even with J.T. Barrett at quarterback.
Next Up: vs. Virginia Tech
THOR+ Projected Chance of Winning: 83.73%
Average Score: Ohio State 29, Virginia Tech 15
4. Michigan State #23, 127 THOR+
Michigan State looked good damn good in week 1. The disclaimer, of course, is that they played Jacksonville State. Anytime you play a state school named after a city, you can be fairly sure that you are not playing the cream of the crop. Still, Michigan State did what you're supposed to do against an inferior opponent, and they took care of business pretty handily. Because of that, THOR+ moved them inside the top 25 and even bumped their Offense+ rating up from the preseason projection of around average to 12% above average. If Michigan State shows that their offense is potent, and their defense isn't replacing too many guys from last year -- essentially, what they showed against Jacksonville State -- then they will move up even further in the rankings. They have a prime opportunity to show what they are made of this week, as playing Oregon should really increase their strength of schedule.
Next Up: at Oregon
THOR+ Projected Chance of Winning: 12.45%
Average Score: Michigan State 15, Oregon 30
5. Nebraska #33, 119 THOR+
The Cornhuskers absolutely throttled Florida Atlantic, and as a result, jumped to #33 in the country, according to THOR+. There really isn't much else to say here. Nebraska did what you would expect them to do against a light opponent and moved up four spots because of it. Expect a similar performance in week 2, as they face McNeese State.
Next Up: vs. McNeese State
THOR+ Projected Chance of Winning: No projection for FCS teams. Nebraska should roll.
6. Maryland #38, 115 THOR+
Like Michigan State, Maryland faced an FCS team in the first week of the season, and clobbered the living hell out of them. Unlike Michigan State, they didn't exactly calm fears about the state of their offense. Yes, they put up 52 points on James Madison, but they also only averaged 5.54 yards per play, which was 7% below the week 1 average. The running game looked fine, averaging 5.7 yards per carry, but the passing game only averaged 5.3 yards per pass attempt, despite having an extremely talented wide receiver in Stefon Diggs at its disposal. That's not fine. And it's made even more not fine by the fact that it came against James Madison. In other words, THOR+ still doesn't totally trust the Terps' offense this season. The defense, on the other hand, THOR+ likes quite a bit.
Next Up: at South Florida
THOR+ Projected Chance of Winning: 67.22%
Average Score: Maryland 28, South Florida 16
7. Iowa #45, 113 THOR+
Our beloved Hawkeyes looked pretty much as expected on Saturday. The offense was inconsistent, looking explosive at times only to return to their horizontal shell for large portions of the game. Let's be clear, though, this unit has talent: Kevonte Martin-Manley, Tevaun Smith, Derrick Willies, and Damond Powell all look like good to great wide receivers; Jake Duzey and Ray Hamilton are capable of producing at the tight end spot; and between Mark Weisman, Jordan Canzeri, Damon Bullock, and LeShun Daniels, Iowa should have a fairly decent running attack this year. Throw in a solid, smart quarterback in Jake Rudock and what should be a pretty good offensive line, and this unit should be more than competent. However, the coaching staff still has to put them in position to succeed. That was hit and miss on Saturday. As for the defense, Saturday's defensive passing rating was 32% below FBS average, thanks largely to plays like this:
(Click to embiggen)
The good news for the defense is twofold, in that they probably won't see another running back as good as David Johnson until November, and the issues on defense look to be due to youth and inexperience, for the most part. In other words, just like every other team this time of year, the Hawkeyes could look much better or much worse as the season goes on.*
* Vague predictions like that are why they pay me the big bucks.
Next Up: vs. Ball State
THOR+ Projected Chance of Winning: 78.04%
Average Score: Iowa 36, Ball State 17
8. Indiana #49, 111 THOR+
Indiana started the season off against Indiana State, and unlike last season, they didn't quite put up a basketball score. Instead, the Hoosiers only scored 28 points against the Sycamores this time around. Now, I didn't watch this game, so I can't exactly speak to what happened. However, I don't think I'm going out on a limb by saying that Nate Sudfeld and the passing game's lack of effectiveness was surprising and a bit disappointing. Sudfeld's statline against Indiana state went like this: 11-18, 111 yards, 0 TD, and 1 INT. That's something we might expect if Indiana was going up against Michigan State. But Indiana State? Umm... what now? Of course, the Hoosiers more than made up for the crappy passing game by gashing the Sycamores on the ground for 455 rushing yards on 69 carries. That's 6.6 yards per carry, and like Maryland, more yards per carry than they averaged per pass attempt. Because they played Indiana State, and it's still only one game, it's hard to know much about Indiana this year. Indiana State didn't give us a good gauge on whether or not Indiana can put a competent defense on the field this year. But the lack of ease with which Indiana threw the ball on Saturday may be something to keep an eye on.
Next Up: Bye Week
9. Minnesota #52, 109 THOR+
After a 22 point win over Eastern Illinois, I really don't have a lot to say about our rodent friends to the north. Running back looks pretty good with David Cobb and throwing in Berkley Edwards as a change of pace guy. As for the passing game, it still looks pretty non-existent. Mitch Leidner isn't going to strike fear into the hearts of anybody through the air this year. So while THOR+ thinks Minnesota's defense should be pretty decent this season, it still doesn't have a whole lot of hope for that offense, outside of running back.
Next Up: at Middle Tennessee
THOR+ Projected Chance of Winning: 77.84%
Average Score: Minnesota 35, Middle Tennessee 16
10. Rutgers #54, 108 THOR+
Rutgers surprised just about everybody by traveling three time zones west and coming away with a close victory against Washington State in Century Link Field. It remains to be seen, however, if Washington State is worse than we thought they would be in year three under Mike Leach, or if Rutgers might actually surprise some people this year. Paul James certainly surprised some folks on opening night, and the 41 point outburst was enough to make THOR+ think their offense might be above average this season. Of course, allowing 38 points on defense also helped drop it's initial Defense+ rating to 12% below average. THOR+ giveth, and THOR+ taketh away.
Next Up: vs. Howard
THOR+ Projected Chance of Winning: No projection for FCS teams. Did you know Howard's logo looks like the Buffalo Bills?
11. Illinois #57, 107 THOR+
Well, that was close. Illinois went into the fourth quarter trailing Youngstown State 7-9 before finally kicking their offense in gear and pulling out a 28-17 victory. Wes Lunt and the passing game came alive in the aforementioned fourth quarter and he finished with a pretty solid 4 touchdown day. Of course, the running game never really got anything going and it did take until the fourth quarter for the offense to really start clicking. The defense pretty much did their job all day, but it's still more notable when you struggle against lower competition than when you do something good. All in all, it probably wasn't the start to the season that Illini fans were hoping for, but at least they won.
Next Up: vs. Western Kentucky
THOR+ Projected Chance of Winning: 79.61%
Average Score: Illinois 45, Western Kentucky 25
12. Penn State #62, 101 THOR+
The Penn State Nittany Hackenbergs. That's all I've got.
Next Up: vs. Akron
THOR+ Projected Chance of Winning: 75.89%
Average Score: Penn State 31, Akron 14
13. Northwestern #67, 97 THOR+
Northwestern looked like the least-prepared Big Ten team of the weekend. They came out flat and found themselves down 17-0 until midway through the second quarter when they finally answered with a touchdown. The Wildcats looked about as offensively-challenged as THOR+ expected before the season started, but the defense looked worse than projected. I guess the main question after this game is: Is Northwestern's defense worse than expected or is Cal's offense better than expected?
Next Up: vs. Northern Illinois
THOR+ Projected Chance of Winning: 43.63%
Average Score: Northwestern 24, Northern Illinois 26
14. Purdue #112, 67 THOR+
And we have Purdue. The Boilermakers were favored against Western Michigan, and they were able to come through with a nine point victory. Unfortunately, right now, THOR+ doesn't see them as being favored against any other FBS teams for the remainder of the season. Central Michigan, this weekend, looks like their best opportunity to prove THOR+ wrong.
Next Up: vs. Central Michigan
THOR+ Projected Chance of Winning: 45.53%
Average Score: Purdue 29, Central Michigan 34