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2015 BIG TEN POWER RANKINGS: POST-WEEK 7

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This week in the power rankings: What should we take away from the Michigan-Michigan State game? Which former Iowa team does 2015 remind you of? Will Ohio State's quarterback decision finally get them clicking? What do we make of Nebraska? And much more!

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

You may have noticed that the "way too early" or the "slightly less-early" has now disappeared from the title of the weekly power rankings. That's because I decided it was now far enough into the season that we weren't dealing with that much of a small sample size any longer. Of course, just because I happened to choose week 8 to do this, doesn't mean now is necessarily the best time to proclaim that we know everything about every team. There are arguments to be made that I could have taken it off last week or even the week before. There are also arguments to be made that it shouldn't be taken off for a few more weeks, if at all.

The college football regular season is only 12 games long, and that really does not give us a whole lot of data points from which to construct an axiomatic truth regarding every team. These proclamations may be fine for the teams on the extreme edge of the talent scale -- for instance, we know that a team like Alabama is very good and we know that a team like North Texas is very bad. But most teams fall somewhere in the vast gray, muddled middle and have the ability to rise and fall as the season goes on. Trying to determine the true talent level of a college football team can be difficult when they all play schedules of differing qualities. And trying to determine whether a team is very good or simply very lucky -- or the reverse, as in Nebraska's case -- in a 12-game schedule can be a tough task.

With those concerns still looming, there are a number of things we do know about each team in the Big Ten with a fairly high degree of confidence, even with a small sample size of just 6 or 7 games. And that is why the cautionary signifiers on the beginning of this post are now gone.

As a reminder, if you would like a refresher on how THOR+ works, I would direct you to the second paragraph of this post.

To the power rankings!

Big Ten Power Rankings Post-Week 7

Rank Team Coach Offense+ Defense+ Special Teams+ THOR+ PPG vs. Avg. PPGA vs. Avg. W% vs. Avg. W vs. Avg.
10 Michigan Jim Harbaugh 101 165 165 134 32.2 13.9 0.776 9.3
12 Iowa Kirk Ferentz 116 155 93 133 35.8 17.2 0.772 9.3
16 Ohio State Urban Meyer 129 137 102 131 38.6 20.9 0.758 9.1
36 Nebraska Mike Riley 113 122 108 117 35.2 24.6 0.649 7.8
43 Michigan State Mark Dantonio 116 117 68 115 35.2 25.8 0.629 7.6
44 Wisconsin Paul Chryst 83 145 140 114 27.1 18.8 0.627 7.5
49 Illinois Bill Cubit 84 139 104 110 27.6 20.8 0.598 7.2
63 Penn State James Franklin 81 124 112 103 26.6 23.8 0.540 6.5
64 Northwestern Pat Fitzgerald 52 152 121 102 19.5 17.6 0.533 6.4
78 Minnesota Jerry Kill 63 128 94 95 21.8 23.2 0.479 5.8
79 Rutgers Kyle Flood 110 73 144 94 34.8 35.6 0.473 5.7
81 Purdue Darrell Hazell 89 102 56 94 27.8 29.2 0.470 5.6
84 Maryland Mike Locksley 98 83 143 93 31.3 33.2 0.462 5.5
92 Indiana Kevin Wilson 97 71 113 85 30.9 36.2 0.407 4.9

1. Michigan #10, 134 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
62 Michigan Jim Harbaugh 88 104 108 124 101 27.9
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
2 Michigan Jim Harbaugh 150 142 81 145 165 10.8
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
2 Michigan Jim Harbaugh 141 4.3 189 3.1 165

Despite an unbelievable ending that resulted in a tough loss to Michigan State, the Wolverines remain in the top spot this week. Playing what was probably the best offense they have faced all year, Michigan's defense was up to the task. But the clear strength of this Wolverine team was not the issue on Saturday. Instead, Michigan's deficiencies were on display; namely, the offense. Michigan State demonstrated what we all knew -- and what Utah had already showed us in week 1 -- if you can stuff the Michigan run game, you can win. It's not a clear road to victory, by any means; that defense is still very good. However, if you can shut down the run lanes and force Jake Rudock to beat you with his arm, you can compete with this team. How many teams left on the schedule can do that, though? Maybe Minnesota, but their defense is one big, walking injury. After that, Michigan doesn't really see a stiff defense until the last couple of weeks against Penn State and Ohio State. And out of all those teams, only Ohio State has an offense that's worth a damn. So while this loss really hurts their odds of winning the Big Ten East, it wouldn't be totally surprising to see them win the rest of the games on their schedule. And a 10-2 season under a first year coach is nothing to be ashamed of.

Up Next: Bye Week

2. Iowa #12, 133 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
36 Iowa Kirk Ferentz 116 116 127 113 116 31.8
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
7 Iowa Kirk Ferentz 126 130 138 116 155 13.2
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
80 Iowa Kirk Ferentz 114 4.1 72 4.0 93

I'm still not entirely sure how Iowa is doing what they are doing, but holy hell, they are doing it. Not that I don't believe this team isn't talented (they have convinced me they are) but the injuries, one would imagine, should be devastating. So far, though, they haven't been and this Iowa team has been able to adapt and adjust as the injuries have piled up. The season started with the offense looking better when they threw the ball. Lately, though, with a banged up Beathard and offensive line, this side of the ball has looked like the old Bullies of the Big Ten, plowing opponents over on their way to huge rushing performances. And all of this has come with AIRBHG going full strength this season. And that is without even mentioning that the defense is playing excellent football, too.

We've talked about which former Kirk Ferentz team this reminds us of, and 2009 has been a popular pick. That's understandable due to the undefeated start. Ferentz, himself, thinks 2004 is a decent comparison because of injuries. I, on the other hand, feel like this is one of the more complete teams that KF has had, in that the defense isn't the only above average unit Iowa runs out on the field. So, if I use THOR+ as a tool for comparison, I think this team somewhat reminds me of 2005 or 2010 without the horrible luck. Beathard constantly gets compared to Drew Tate and Ricky Stanzi, after all. Of course, with the recent way that Iowa is running the ball, this could be another 2003 or 2008 with a more capable quarterback. There really is no perfect comparison. This team is its own unique entity. But no matter what the comparison is for this team, 2015 is shaping up to be a special year all on its own.

Up Next: Bye Week

3. Ohio State #16, 131 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
18 Ohio State Urban Meyer 103 122 79 109 129 35.1
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
20 Ohio State Urban Meyer 149 107 106 112 137 17.3
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
66 Ohio State Urban Meyer 68 3.6 135 3.5 102

The Ohio State offense got off to a slow start against Penn State in the first quarter of Saturday's game, but after falling behind 3-0 after the first 15 minutes, the Buckeyes outscored the Nittany Lions 38-7 the rest of the way. Cardale Jones turned in another lackluster performance in the passing game, which led Urban Meyer replace him with J.T. Barrett right before halftime. Barrett didn't do a whole lot with his arm - he went 4/4 for 30 yards and 2 touchdowns - but he didn't have to; he ran for 102 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 11 carries. His performance was enough to convince the entire Ohio State fan base (if they weren't convinced already) that Barrett should be the main guy under center. Urban Meyer agreed, and named him the starter for the Rutgers game and going forward. The Ohio State defense is playing well and their rushing attack is one of the best in the conference, thanks to Ezekiel Elliot. If they can find some consistency at the quarterback position with J.T. Barrett, don't be surprised if they climb in the power rankings as the season goes on.

Up Next: at #79 Rutgers

Game Watch Rating: 93

Win Probability: 72%

Projected Score: Ohio State 42, Rutgers 26

4. Nebraska #36, 117 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
42 Nebraska Mike Riley 115 124 101 120 113 31.0
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
37 Nebraska Mike Riley 73 122 77 105 122 20.7
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
54 Nebraska Mike Riley 125 4.2 91 3.9 108

Nebraska moving up this week isn't all that surprising. As much as I have thoroughly enjoyed their agonizing losses this season, there has been an element of bad luck involved. There has also been some bad coaching involved -- hence, Corn Nation making a shirt that reads "run the dadgummed ball" -- but I don't think that is representative of the true talent of this Husker team. At this point, I think we can say that Nebraska has a fairly potent offense, but a defense that has some holes in it. The Blackshirts are more than capable of shutting down the run, but their secondary is more than capable of making Mitch Leidner look like Peyton Manning at times. That could be an issue later in the season against the likes of Connor Cook and Michigan State, whoever is throwing the ball to Leonte Caroo at Rutgers, and C.J. Beathard and Iowa. But this week, against Clayton Thorson and Northwestern, this appears to be a second straight favorable match up for Nebraska.

Up Next: vs. #64 Northwestern

Game Watch Rating: 116

Win Probability: 69%

Projected Score: Nebraska 22, Northwestern 14

5. Michigan State #43, 115 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
38 Michigan State Mark Dantonio 138 87 172 114 116 31.6
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
42 Michigan State Mark Dantonio 101 108 113 126 117 21.8
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
108 Michigan State Mark Dantonio 66 3.6 70 4.0 68

Last week I wrote:

Secondly, Dantonio's special teams units continue to make multiple mistakes per game. Special teams mistakes can be overcome against bad teams, but they can be the difference between winning and losing games against talented foes, like Michigan and Ohio State.

That paragraph was totally true until that crazy final play. Up until that point, Michigan had averaged just about 27 yards per return on kickoffs and 16 yards per return on punts. The Spartans struggled to punt the ball well, averaging only 37 yards per attempt. And, finally, Mark Dantonio declined a few 40-something yard field goal opportunities because their kicking game has been so terrible this year. But special teams ended up being Michigan's demise, rather than Michigan State's. Figure that one out.

But for as flawed as Michigan State has looked at times this year, they are still a talented team. They remind me a bit of Nebraska, but with a much more consistent quarterback and a whole lot better end-of-game luck. Their offense is strong and their run defense is solid, but they are vulnerable to a good passing attack. Luckily for them, Jake Rudock wasn't able to fully exploit that weakness. Nate Sudfeld may be able to, though...

Up Next: vs. #92 Indiana

Game Watch Rating: 84

Win Probability: 77%

Projected Score: Michigan State 44, Indiana 24

6. Wisconsin #44, 114 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
92 Wisconsin Paul Chryst 96 87 138 117 83 23.1
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
14 Wisconsin Paul Chryst 133 108 92 106 145 15.5
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
11 Wisconsin Paul Chryst 104 4.0 175 3.2 140

THOR+ continues to be less than impressed with Wisconsin this season. While it has been a big fan of the Badger defense, it has not been a fan of its counterpart. And that trend continued in week 7, where the Badger defense only allowed 7 points to Purdue, but the offense only mustered 24 points. Bucky's offense continues to be hampered by injuries to the running back position, where a former scout team inside linebacker named "Alec Ingold" is now running the ball on a fairly regular basis. There's a possibility of Corey Clement returning this week and taking the pressure off of a Joel Stave-led passing attack, but the odds don't sound that promising unless Wisconsin is trying to keep things on the hush. Of course, even with a below average passing game and a running game decimated by owies, Wisconsin still has a very favorable schedule remaining. All their games left to play are winnable, and that could be an issue for Iowa if the Hawkeyes find a way to lose two games this season. However, on the road at Illinois currently looks like Wisconsin's best bet to lose. (Although, Northwestern and Minnesota aren't necessarily easy games, either.) Both teams' strengths lie on the defensive side of the ball, so expect a low-scoring game this Saturday. But every time I say that, one of the teams goes and scores 38 or 40 points. So this will probably be somewhere in the neighborhood of 45-38.

Up Next: at #49 Illinois

Game Watch Rating: 155

Win Probability: 46%

Projected Score: Wisconsin 17, Illinois 19

7. Illinois #49, 110 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
90 Illinois Bill Cubit 92 87 124 118 84 23.3
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
18 Illinois Bill Cubit 124 113 102 118 139 16.8
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
60 Illinois Bill Cubit 134 4.3 74 4.0 104

The Illini are coming off a bye in week 7, and whether or not it actually matters, they have had two weeks to prepare for Wisconsin. And the focus of their preparation should be figuring out how to stop Wisconsin's pass rush. The Iowa game should be all the evidence you need to know that Wes Lunt is good if you give him all day to throw. But when he starts to feel pressure, that's when he starts to miss on his throws and make bad decisions. If the offensive line can keep Lunt upright, they stand a good chance of coming away with the win. And with the Hawkeyes on a bye and given Illinois' more difficult schedule going forward, I suggest we all become Illini fans for week 8.

Up Next: vs. #44 Wisconsin

Game Watch Rating: 155

Win Probability: 54%

Projected Score: Illinois 19, Wisconsin 17

8. Penn State #63, 103 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
93 Penn State James Franklin 89 109 147 69 81 22.7
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
32 Penn State James Franklin 139 96 113 144 124 20.2
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
47 Penn State James Franklin 98 3.9 127 3.6 112

At this point, I think we know for sure what Penn State's true talent level is. They aren't horrible, but they aren't great either. With a terrible (and predictable) offense and a stout defense they are basically somewhere around the FBS average. They can beat the cupcakes on their schedule fairly easily, but they don't stand a chance against someone like Ohio State. If you are looking for someone on the Penn State roster who is clearly better than the FBS average, Saquon Barkley continued to look like a special talent against the Buckeyes in week 7, and that's a positive, considering how anemic their offense looks otherwise.

But looking forward to this week's match up against Maryland, there are some interesting things to watch. First of all, Maryland's defense has been absolutely terrible against the pass this year, so will Christian Hackenberg finally look like the NFL signal-caller that he was supposed to be? Not so fast. though, because Maryland's defense has actually been excellent at generating pressure on the opposing quarterback this season and Penn State's line has not been excellent in protecting their QB.* So, while I'm fairly confident Saquon Barkly should look good running the ball and Penn State's defense won't have much issue stopping Maryland's turnover-prone offense, I'm curious to see if the Penn State passing game looks good or if Hackenberg is running for his life all day long. Maryland's pass rush vs. Penn State's pass protection could play a huge factor in whether this game is close or not.

*Maryland has been great at generating pressure on bad teams, where 14 of their 20 sacks came in the first 3 games of the season. Penn State's offensive line is really bad, though, so I think this is a legitimate match up to watch.

Up Next: vs. #84 Maryland

Game Watch Rating: 151

Win Probability: 58%

Projected Score: Penn State 29, Maryland 24

9. Northwestern #64, 102 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
123 Northwestern Pat Fitzgerald 69 95 115 109 52 15.1
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
8 Northwestern Pat Fitzgerald 139 111 102 111 152 13.8
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
29 Northwestern Pat Fitzgerald 143 4.4 99 3.8 121

Like I already mentioned earlier this week in the win projections, being outscored 78-10 in your last two conference games isn't a great way to show that you are a legitimate contender nationally or in the Big Ten. The big question after this game is what has happened to their once-vaunted defense? But another important question buried in the article I just linked, is why isn't Justin Jackson touching the ball more? Sure, he's not the most explosive running back in the country, but he's easily Northwestern's best offensive player. So why has he only averaged 14 touches per game in their last two blowout losses? Of course, even if Jackson gets more carries, that doesn't change the outcome of either of those games. The offense is bad no matter how often he touches the ball. The main thing Northwestern needs to fix is their defense (the offense is probably a lost cause this year). If they can't hold their opponents below 20 points, they likely aren't going to have a chance at winning any game the rest of the year.

Up Next: at #36 Nebraska

Game Watch Rating: 116

Win Probability: 31%

Projected Score: Northwestern 14, Nebraska 22

10. Minnesota #78, 95 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
113 Minnesota Jerry Kill 79 91 73 113 63 18.0
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
29 Minnesota Jerry Kill 120 115 87 94 128 19.4
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
78 Minnesota Jerry Kill 97 3.9 91 3.9 94

Minnesota's dreams of a Big Ten championship are now pretty much done. Sure, they only have two losses, but they are only really back in the mix if they win out, Iowa loses two games and Northwestern and Nebraska lose a third. So yeah, that's probably not happening. Instead, after their second demoralizing loss in three weeks, some fans are now asking for patience after this season has failed to live up to the preseason expectations. And with a remaining schedule of Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin, people may need a whole lot of patience. Because, at this point, a bowl game is far from being a sure thing.

Up Next: Bye Week

11. Rutgers #79, 94 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
45 Rutgers Kyle Flood 114 106 84 103 110 30.2
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
105 Rutgers Kyle Flood 71 99 74 97 73 32.0
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
8 Rutgers Kyle Flood 161 4.5 127 3.6 144

It took about three quarters, but Rutgers finally realized they were playing Indiana's defense and scored 28 unanswered points to beat the Hoosiers 55-52 on Saturday. But for as entertaining as the final 20 minutes of that game were, the blog war between On the Banks and The Crimson Quarry that kicked off in the comments section of this post was probably more entertaining.

Oh, and Rutgers and Ohio State are the 8:00 ABC game this Saturday? Yuck.

Up Next: vs. #16 Ohio State

Game Watch Rating: 93

Win Probability: 28%

Projected Score: Rutgers 26, Ohio State 42

12. Purdue #81, 94 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
83 Purdue Darrell Hazell 66 96 43 120 89 24.6
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
63 Purdue Darrell Hazell 91 100 91 105 102 25.3
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
119 Purdue Darrell Hazell 34 3.2 78 4.0 56

Purdue played about as well as it could and still lost by 17 against Wisconsin. There's really not much else to say about this team anymore unless we are talking about coaching changes and facility upgrades.

Up Next: Bye Week

13. Maryland #84, 93 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
69 Maryland Mike Locksley 32 131 0 104 98 27.1
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
92 Maryland Mike Locksley 73 105 72 111 83 29.8
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
10 Maryland Mike Locksley 132 4.2 155 3.4 143

Speaking of coaching changes, here is a list of every possible candidate for the Maryland job. Understandably, this topic is dominating the Maryland football scene right now, rather than... you know, the actual on-field performance.

Up Next: vs. #63 Penn State

Game Watch Rating: 151

Win Probability: 42%

Projected Score: Maryland 24, Penn State 29

14. Indiana #92, 85 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
72 Indiana Kevin Wilson 128 87 152 117 97 26.8
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
108 Indiana Kevin Wilson 68 85 107 83 71 32.4
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
45 Indiana Kevin Wilson 119 4.1 107 3.7 113

No matter how many points the offense can score, Indiana's defense is always capable of giving up more. Now, I still don't necessarily think Maryland or Purdue are better than Indiana, but without Jordan Howard and with this defense, I can see an argument for the Hoosiers being the worst team in the conference.

Up Next: at #43 Michigan State

Game Watch Rating: 84

Win Probability: 23%

Projected Score: Indiana 24, Michigan State 44