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2015 BIG TEN POWER RANKINGS: POST-WEEK 8

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This week in the power rankings: Is week 9 destined to be a boring slate of Big Ten games? What familiar face is back atop the power rankings? Is Wisconsin on upset alert this weekend? Why do I have trouble hating Minnesota? And much more!

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

A couple of weeks ago, we saw a ridiculously good week of Big Ten games that had real division championship implications. Last week, there were some meh games. But this week... well, all you really need to know is that Penn State and Illinois are likely the headliners...

But at least Iowa plays this week!

To the power rankings!

Big Ten Power Rankings: Post-Week 8

Rank Team Coach Offense+ Defense+ Special Teams+ THOR+ PPG vs. Avg. PPGA vs. Avg. W% vs. Avg. W vs. Avg.
8 Ohio State Urban Meyer 138 139 102 137 41.1 20.2 0.803 9.6
12 Michigan Jim Harbaugh 101 165 165 134 32.3 13.9 0.778 9.3
13 Iowa Kirk Ferentz 117 155 94 134 36.1 17.2 0.777 9.3
38 Wisconsin Paul Chryst 85 148 132 117 27.6 18.0 0.646 7.8
41 Nebraska Mike Riley 107 122 104 114 33.7 24.7 0.625 7.5
42 Michigan State Mark Dantonio 120 110 78 114 36.4 27.3 0.624 7.5
50 Illinois Bill Cubit 81 137 110 109 27.0 21.2 0.585 7.0
54 Penn State James Franklin 89 124 104 106 28.7 24.0 0.565 6.8
60 Northwestern Pat Fitzgerald 57 150 126 103 20.8 18.1 0.544 6.5
78 Minnesota Jerry Kill 63 127 93 94 21.7 23.4 0.474 5.7
79 Purdue Darrell Hazell 89 102 56 94 27.9 29.2 0.473 5.7
84 Maryland Mike Locksley 98 82 148 93 31.5 33.2 0.465 5.6
88 Rutgers Kyle Flood 108 66 144 89 34.0 37.1 0.439 5.3
89 Indiana Kevin Wilson 104 71 109 88 32.5 36.2 0.430 5.2

1. Ohio State #8, 137 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
13 Ohio State Urban Meyer 115 121 85 109 138 37.6
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
18 Ohio State Urban Meyer 145 107 104 112 139 16.7
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
61 Ohio State Urban Meyer 61 3.5 142 3.5 102

Don't say I didn't warn you:

"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."

Well, it only took one week before Ohio State jumped to the #1 spot this week after absolutely dismantling an inferior Rutgers team. And J.T. Barrett's play is the reason the offense is running less clunky lately. Barrett completed 14 of his 18 attempts against Rutgers' "defense" for 223 yards and 3 touchdowns. Most importantly, though, he threw 0 interceptions. Turnovers were a big part of why Ohio State's offense wasn't living up to expectations early in the season, but Barrett took care of the ball on Saturday. On top of his almost perfect passing performance, he also rushed for 101 yards and 2 touchdowns on 13 carries. And we shouldn't overlook the fact that Ezekiel Elliot had 142 yards and 2 touchdowns on 19 carries. Yes, we shouldn't necessarily proclaim that Ohio State's offense is magically fixed just yet; this was against Rutgers, after all. However, this performance is more in line with what we expect out of Ohio State against a bad team. And it is sure as hell a more positive sign for their offense then, you know, the Indiana game was.

Up Next: Bye Week

2. Michigan #12, 134 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
63 Michigan Jim Harbaugh 88 103 107 124 101 27.9
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
2 Michigan Jim Harbaugh 150 143 82 145 165 10.8
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
2 Michigan Jim Harbaugh 142 4.3 189 3.1 165

Coming off a bye week, Michigan gets to face a Jerry Kill-less Minnesota team (more on that later). Ideally, this should be an easy victory for Michigan. Minnesota's offense is one-dimensional and horrible, so Michigan should be able to stack the box to stuff the run and make Mitch Leidner beat them with his arm. The only potential causes for concern in this game that I see are twofold: 1) Minnesota's defense (depending on their health status) may have the ability to stop Michigan's run game and force Jake Rudock to make plays; 2) Minnesota should be fired up and focused on winning this game at home for Jerry Kill. Michigan is the better team, but both of those are causes for concern.

Up Next: at #78 Minnesota

Game Watch Rating: 86

Win Probability: 74%

Projected Score: Michigan 23, Minnesota 11

3. Iowa #13, 134 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
34 Iowa Kirk Ferentz 117 116 127 113 117 32.0
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
4 Iowa Kirk Ferentz 126 130 139 116 155 13.2
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
81 Iowa Kirk Ferentz 115 4.1 73 4.0 94

Speaking of causes for concern, Maryland gave Penn State a scare this past weekend. Perry Hills seems to be a legitimate running threat at the quarterback position for the Terps. And, on top of that, new head coach Mike Locksley has also shown that he's not afraid to use the always-explosive Will Likely in the reverse/end-around game on offense. Hills' ability to run the ball and the threat of Will Likely getting to the edge of Iowa's defense has me a little worried about the Hawkeyes keeping contain.

But that is the only thing that really worries me about this game. Ultimately, I have more reasons to be confident that Iowa should win (hopefully) fairly easy. First of all, Perry Hills is a run threat, but he is a huge turnover liability when it comes to throwing the ball. Maryland's Passing+ rating is 65 percentage points worse than the FBS average, while their Turnover rating is actually -33. Yes, they are so bad with turnovers that they broke my scaling system. (I have to adjust it to 0 every week.) On top of Perry Hills' passing problems, Maryland's secondary is extremely vulnerable to the deep ball. So vulnerable that Penn State and Christian Hackenberg had 315 passing yards on just 13 completions. Hackenberg only completed 13 of his 30 attempts, but he made the ones he did connect on count. So, if there was ever a game for Desmond King to get like 3 interceptions and for Greg Davis to open up the "deep pass play" section of the playbook and let C.J. Beathard firebomb a team into submission, this would be that game.

Up Next: vs. #84 Maryland

Game Watch Rating: 56

Win Probability: 85%

Projected Score: Iowa 42, Maryland 16

4. Wisconsin #38, 117 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
90 Wisconsin Paul Chryst 97 89 130 117 85 23.7
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
13 Wisconsin Paul Chryst 127 112 100 104 148 14.7
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
14 Wisconsin Paul Chryst 106 4.0 159 3.4 132

Should the Badgers be on upset alert this weekend? Maybe. Wisconsin has dealt with a crap-ton of injuries this season, and their offense looks to be even more depleted this Saturday when Rutgers pays a visit. Joel Stave is undergoing concussion protocol, their top running backs are still not healthy, they are now missing their second leading wide receiver, and the cherry on top is that they just lost their starting center for the season. And if you have been keeping count at home, that is now three of their five starting offensive linemen from the beginning of the season who are missing from the lineup. Of course, Wisconsin's defense is good enough that they should overcome all that. However, if Leonte Carroo plays (he is a game time decision), it wouldn't be all that shocking to see Rutgers at least give Wisconsin a good game.

Up Next: vs. #88 Rutgers

Game Watch Rating: 85

Win Probability: 76%

Projected Score: Wisconsin 36, Rutgers 18

5. Nebraska #41, 114 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
48 Nebraska Mike Riley 110 115 107 116 107 29.5
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
37 Nebraska Mike Riley 74 116 70 103 122 20.8
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
59 Nebraska Mike Riley 126 4.2 81 3.9 104

Going into last week, I thought Nebraska had a favorable match up with a Northwestern team that had a freshman at quarterback and no real receivers to speak of to catch the ball. Of course, Mike Riley and Co. still found a way to lose this game. How? Well, the same issues that have haunted them all season long, stuck around for this game. As indicated by grades of D- and C for the linebackers and secondary, the pass defense continued to struggle -- even against a bad offensive team in Northwestern -- for the umpteenth week in a row. And, on offense, Mike Riley continues to lean heavy on the pass, while ignoring the run game. All of these issues likely will not matter all that much this week, as Nebraska faces Purdue in West Lafayette. However, THOR+ and its semi-love for Purdue (somehow they continue to avoid the bottom of the power rankings each week) have this game being closer than what we would normally expect.

Up Next: at #79 Purdue

Game Watch Rating: 130

Win Probability: 58%

Projected Score: Nebraska 30, Purdue 24

6. Michigan State #42, 117 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
31 Michigan State Mark Dantonio 135 85 168 104 120 32.8
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
51 Michigan State Mark Dantonio 98 107 118 120 110 23.4
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
102 Michigan State Mark Dantonio 69 3.6 88 3.9 78

Michigan State pulled away from Indiana, but the game on Saturday was closer than the final score indicates for a good part of the contest. But all that matters is the win, and the Spartans got their eighth of the season. Now they get an extra week to rest and prepare for Nebraska.

Up Next: Bye Week

7. Illinois #50, 109 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
93 Illinois Bill Cubit 94 89 115 124 81 22.7
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
20 Illinois Bill Cubit 120 116 104 119 137 17.2
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
48 Illinois Bill Cubit 140 4.3 80 3.9 110

Like I said before, you know it looks like a bad week of games in the conference when Illinois and Penn State seem to be the closest match up. And it's not like this game is expected to be the type of close game that is fun to watch for the entire 60 minutes. This looks like one of those games that you ignore for the first 55 minutes of game time and then switch over for the final five minutes to see who kicks the game-winning field goal. This one should be all defense, folks.

Up Next: at #54 Penn State

Game Watch Rating: 154

Win Probability: 45%

Projected Score: Illinois 19, Penn State 22

8. Penn State #54, 106 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
82 Penn State James Franklin 102 104 126 73 89 24.8
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
34 Penn State James Franklin 140 95 139 146 124 20.3
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
58 Penn State James Franklin 98 3.9 111 3.7 104

Penn State participated in an ugly game against Maryland last week, that highlighted the fact that they likely aren't as good as their 6-2 record indicates.* Outside of playing Temple and Ohio State this season (both losses), the Nittany Lions have earned their 6 wins by beating Rutgers, a banged up Indiana, and Maryland (three of the worst teams in the Big Ten) and by feasting on cupcakes like Army, Buffalo, and San Diego State. Unfortunately for them, Maryland was the last bad team on their schedule. Out of the four games remaining, THOR+ currently sees two of them as toss ups and has Penn State as pretty decent-sized underdogs in the other two. They are already going bowling, but how many wins does this team have left? These last four games are the most critical stretch of the schedule in deciding whether this season will be defined as a success or failure. And that definition starts with the Illini this week.

*Duh.

Up Next: vs. #50 Illinois

Game Watch Rating: 154

Win Probability: 55%

Projected Score: Penn State 22, Illinois 19

9. Northwestern #60, 103 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
119 Northwestern Pat Fitzgerald 76 101 122 113 57 16.3
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
9 Northwestern Pat Fitzgerald 132 117 95 114 150 14.3
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
22 Northwestern Pat Fitzgerald 154 4.5 98 3.8 126

Northwestern stopped their humiliating losing skid by beating Nebraska in Lincoln in week 8. Now they get a bye week to rest up and prepare for an ugly game against Penn State.

Up Next: Bye Week

10. Minnesota #78, 94 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
112 Minnesota Tracy Claeys 78 89 72 112 63 17.8
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
31 Minnesota Tracy Claeys 121 114 88 92 127 19.6
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
82 Minnesota Tracy Claeys 96 3.9 89 3.9 93

Let's talk about Minnesota and Jerry Kill, shall we? First of all, I don't care for Minnesota. But, for whatever reason, I have a hard time hating them. I think that's due to the years of Tim Brewster as head coach and the years of irrelevance that ensued after Glen Mason was shown the door. And then they hired Jerry Kill, and I never found myself hating the guy. He was just too likable and I had a lot of respect for how he did things. But, without getting long-winded about this, I just want to say that I will be rooting for Minnesota to pull the upset this week and beat Michigan for Jerry Kill. More importantly, I hope coach Kill is able to use the time off to address his health concerns because that's the most important thing. And, whoever is named the next head coach at the University of Minnesota, I hope he can make me hate the Gophers again. It's been too long.

Up Next: vs. #12 Michigan

Game Watch Rating: 86

Win Probability: 26%

Projected Score: Minnesota 11, Michigan 23

11. Purdue #79, 94 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
83 Purdue Darrell Hazell 67 96 41 120 89 24.7
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
66 Purdue Darrell Hazell 91 100 92 105 102 25.2
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

I know some people have been wondering why THOR+ doesn't hate Purdue more. I have wondered the same thing, and all I can really come up with is that they have a lot of close losses. Whatever it is, the system is predicting a close game against Nebraska this weekend, so I guess we will see if it knows something we don't.

Up Next: vs. #41 Nebraska

Game Watch Rating: 130

Win Probability: 42%

Projected Score: Purdue 24, Nebraska 30

12. Maryland #84, 93 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
68 Maryland Mike Locksley 35 133 0 97 98 27.2
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
95 Maryland Mike Locksley 62 111 89 114 82 29.8
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
5 Maryland Mike Locksley 144 4.4 151 3.4 148

Maryland is bad, you guys. They are one-dimensional on offense, they can't stop the pass on defense, and the turnover battle just isn't going their way this year. Iowa should be able to win this game comfortably, barring any Halloween witchcraft.

Up Next: at #13 Iowa

Game Watch Rating: 56

Win Probability: 15%

Projected Score: Maryland 16, Iowa 42

13. Rutgers #88, 89 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
46 Rutgers Kyle Flood 116 109 87 105 108 29.6
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
113 Rutgers Kyle Flood 55 100 73 100 66 33.6
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
7 Rutgers Kyle Flood 148 4.4 140 3.5 144

Like I already mentioned above, the key to the game for Rutgers on Saturday is probably whether or not Leonte Carroo plays. That's basically it. That -- in addition to Wisconsin's laundry list of injuries -- is essentially your preview of the game.

Up Next: at #38 Wisconsin

Game Watch Rating: 85

Win Probability: 24%

Projected Score: Rutgers 18, Wisconsin 36

14. Indiana #89, 88 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
56 Indiana Kevin Wilson 132 91 142 121 104 28.5
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
103 Indiana Kevin Wilson 62 94 98 94 71 32.5
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
51 Indiana Kevin Wilson 107 4.0 110 3.7 109

Here's a fun little Indiana stat from the last 2 games:

That's less than ideal. But, anyhow, the Hoosiers get a week off in order to get Jordan Howard closer to full health for when Iowa heads to Bloomington next weekend. Hooray.

Up Next: Bye Week