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BIG TEN POWER RANKINGS: POST-WEEK 11

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This week in the power rankings: Is Michigan's offense actually good, or getting a bump from bad defenses? Will Iowa clinch the Big Ten West this Saturday? Can Michigan State keep it close against Ohio State? Is Northwestern lucky or good? Can Indiana finally win a Big Ten game? And much more!

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Week 12 is the week in which Iowa can and should clinch the division title. No long, rambling introduction this week, folks. I will be in Kinnick on Saturday and I want to fully experience an 11-0, Big Ten West champion Iowa Hawkeyes.

Let's do this.

To the power rankings!

2015 Big Ten Power Rankings: Post-Week 11

Rank Team Coach Offense+ Defense+ Special Teams+ THOR+ PPG vs. Avg. PPGA vs. Avg. W% vs. Avg. W vs. Avg.
5 Ohio State Urban Meyer 134 147 100 139 39.8 18.5 0.812 9.7
7 Michigan Jim Harbaugh 119 158 98 136 36.6 16.4 0.796 9.6
21 Iowa Kirk Ferentz 118 137 89 126 36.1 21.2 0.716 8.6
28 Wisconsin Paul Chryst 94 147 126 120 30.2 18.5 0.673 8.1
37 Michigan State Mark Dantonio 120 113 87 115 36.4 26.5 0.636 7.6
38 Penn State James Franklin 96 136 101 115 30.4 21.3 0.633 7.6
46 Nebraska Mike Riley 119 104 109 111 36.6 28.7 0.605 7.3
67 Illinois Bill Cubit 78 128 115 103 25.9 23.1 0.541 6.5
69 Northwestern Pat Fitzgerald 58 144 126 101 20.8 19.3 0.527 6.3
72 Minnesota Tracy Claeys 79 118 111 99 26.2 25.2 0.511 6.1
74 Maryland Mike Locksley 95 99 134 98 30.5 29.6 0.505 6.1
81 Purdue Darrell Hazell 99 93 62 95 30.3 31.1 0.477 5.7
89 Indiana Kevin Wilson 104 71 133 90 33.0 36.0 0.442 5.3
101 Rutgers Kyle Flood 93 64 141 82 30.3 37.5 0.379 4.6

1. Ohio State #5, 139 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
18 Ohio State Urban Meyer 112 119 89 104 134 36.4
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
9 Ohio State Urban Meyer 136 117 102 113 147 15.1
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
67 Ohio State Urban Meyer 51 3.4 148 3.4 100

The Buckeyes move up quite a bit this week to #5 because THOR+ had some shakeups at the top of the rankings and also because a 3 percentage point increase in their THOR+ rating. And that 3 percentage point bump came mainly from a dominant defensive performance in which Ohio State allowed Illinois to score only 3 points the whole game. I figured Ohio State would jump back to #1 in the Big Ten this past weekend because J.T. Barrett was back. Instead, Barrett had a bit of a rough day, but it didn't matter as Ezekiel Elliot continued to quietly be one of the best players in the nation and the defense, again, held the Illini to 3 points. The Buckeyes have really switched things up from last year, where they relied on offense to overcome a shaky defense. This season, the offense has been in search of consistency (mainly in the passing game, as Elliot has been rock-solid running the ball), while the defense has been great. Just like we all expected.

Up Next: at #37 Michigan State

Game Watch Rating: 100

Win Probability: 79%

Projected Score: Ohio State 37, Michigan State 20

2. Michigan #7, 136 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
31 Michigan Jim Harbaugh 110 95 114 111 119 32.4
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
2 Michigan Jim Harbaugh 138 122 62 123 158 12.4
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
71 Michigan Jim Harbaugh 122 4.1 75 4.0 98

Before you take your shots at THOR+ in the comments section, let me explain how Michigan moved up to #7 this week in spite of almost losing to Indiana. First of all, Michigan's THOR+ rating actually went down this week from 138 last week. As I mentioned in the Ohio State paragraph, there were some shakeups this week near the top for THOR+, thanks to the Pac-12's vicious cannibalism and others like Oklahoma State not playing up to their rankings. Michigan's defense played one of their worst games of the season, and their Defense+ rating dropped 6 percentage points, as a result. However, their defense only allowed 3 Indiana touchdowns all afternoon. That's still not bad.

And even with the defense not being its usual vicious self, the offense more than made up for it, as Indiana made Jake Rudock look like Aaron Rodgers. Yes, it was Indiana's defense, but I think we were all a little surprised that Rudock looked that good. I mean, no other Michigan quarterback has ever put up those types of numbers in a single game. And because of his performance, Michigan's Offense+ rating went up 6 percentage points.

After two weeks of facing terrible defenses, though, things get real again for the Wolverines over the final two games. Next comes Penn State's defense and then Ohio State's. This is when I expect Michigan's offense to come back to earth. If that happens to be the case, even adjusting for better opponents over the next couple of weeks, they could still fall back to the teens as their Offense+ rating dips. Of course, I could also be totally wrong. It wouldn't be the first time.

Up Next: at #38 Penn State

Game Watch Rating: 135

Win Probability: 61%

Projected Score: Michigan 23, Penn State 18

3. Iowa #21, 126 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
33 Iowa Kirk Ferentz 114 108 143 109 118 32.2
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
16 Iowa Kirk Ferentz 127 115 133 103 137 17.2
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
90 Iowa Kirk Ferentz 100 3.9 77 4.0 89

Iowa falls to #21 this week due to their defense giving up 5 touchdowns to a Minnesota offense that has been pretty atrocious this season. It was a little worrisome that Iowa's defense failed to make proper adjustments all night long. But give credit where it is due to Matt Limegrover and Tracy Claeys. That was a great offensive game plan. If that continues the rest of the year, Minnesota is much better than their record indicates and it's a better win for Iowa than most national folks will give them credit for.

Anyway, with the defense looking unlike its usually-stingy self, they still made enough stops and the offense more than came to play on Saturday. On a generally stingy Minnesota defense, the Hawkeyes put up 506 yards of total offense and 40 points. The Gophers actually outdid Iowa in yards and points per play, but Iowa's run game (48 attempts at 5.7 yards per carry) helped milk the clock and carry them to victory.

Next up is lowly Purdue. If there was one game on the back end of the schedule that makes us the least nervous, it is probably this one. Of course, Kirk Ferentz will preach all week that his team shouldn't take them lightly—and they shouldn't. But facing Purdue at home should be just what Iowa needs for the defense to get things back in order and for the offense to put another big number on the scoreboard. Iowa should have the Big Ten West officially wrapped up at about 2:30pm this Saturday.

Up Next: vs. #81 Purdue

Game Watch Rating: 73

Win Probability: 79%

Projected Score: Iowa 39, Purdue 19

4. Wisconsin #28, 120 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
75 Wisconsin Paul Chryst 93 88 124 107 94 26.1
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
8 Wisconsin Paul Chryst 135 114 109 107 147 15.0
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
20 Wisconsin Paul Chryst 118 4.1 135 3.5 126

Coming off a bye, Wisconsin has a week to get healthy and prepare for Northwestern. The week off probably came at the best time for running back, Corey Clement, who missed most of the season, came back for one game against Rutgers and then sat out the next week vs. Maryland. Will he be healthy for this weekend's game against the Wildcats? Well, he is expected to fully participate in practice this week. That would seem like a good sign. Even without him, I do think Wisconsin can win this game. Northwestern's offense is so bad that a Corey Clement-less offense can probably hang with the Wildcats, especially with how good the Badger defense is. But, without Clement, the margin of error for Wisconsin is likely smaller. Having to rely on Joel Stave for more than 20 passes per game really raises the odds of a back-breaking interception. And turnovers could make or break a low-scoring affair like this one is expected to be.

Up Next: vs. #69 Northwestern

Game Watch Rating: 100

Win Probability: 72%

Projected Score: Wisconsin 21, Northwestern 11

5. Michigan State #37, 115 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
26 Michigan State Mark Dantonio 128 86 149 110 120 32.7
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
48 Michigan State Mark Dantonio 103 111 140 121 113 22.7
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
93 Michigan State Mark Dantonio 74 3.6 99 3.8 87

Despite Connor Cook getting injured and backup, Tyler O'Connor, playing for a good chunk of the game, Michigan State was able to beat Maryland by 17 points. On a day when the offense was ugly, the defense and the special teams were actually very good. Will Likely was held in check, which is surprising considering how bad Michigan State's return units have looked this season. But the defense was also much improved after getting gashed by Nebraska a week ago. Sure, Maryland isn't much of an offensive threat and they hand out turnovers like candy at Halloween, but this is what you would expect the Spartan defense to do against an offense of this caliber.

Next up is Ohio State. THOR+ doesn't see this game as being particularly close. Michigan State seems to play every team close this year, whether they should or not. I'm thinking this one could be closer than the 17 points projected below.

Up Next: at #5 Ohio State

Game Watch Rating: 100

Win Probability: 21%

Projected Score: Michigan State 20, Ohio State 37

6. Penn State #38, 115 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
72 Penn State James Franklin 104 102 113 74 96 26.6
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
18 Penn State James Franklin 148 97 122 147 136 17.6
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
65 Penn State James Franklin 90 3.8 111 3.7 101

Penn State exits the bye week with the Michigan Wolverines visiting Happy Valley this Saturday. Despite Michigan having the higher rankings, I actually think this is a somewhat favorable match up for the Nittany Lions. Their defense should be good enough to make Jake Rudock look more like Jake Rudock, and Michigan's run game hasn't exactly been amazing this season, so points could be in short supply for Michigan. Of course, points will probably be in short supply for the Nittany Lions as well, whose offense isn't exactly their strength. Toss in the fact that they are playing the #2 ranked defense in the nation, according to THOR+, and I would imagine this should be a low-scoring game. I'm not guaranteeing a Penn State win, but I wouldn't be surprised if this game is close enough that they have a chance to steal one at the end, either.

Up Next: vs. #7 Michigan

Game Watch Rating: 135

Win Probability: 39%

Projected Score: Penn State 18, Michigan 23

7. Nebraska #46, 111 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
30 Nebraska Mike Riley 107 108 74 110 119 32.5
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
62 Nebraska Mike Riley 79 115 67 100 104 24.9
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
49 Nebraska Mike Riley 117 4.1 102 3.8 109

Nebraska was able to hold Leonte Carroo to just 4 catches and 62 yards this past Saturday, and that helped them come away with a 31-14 win in Piscataway. What didn't help them, and what made the game likely closer than it should have been, was Tommy Armstrong Jr. throwing 3 interceptions against a Rutgers secondary that has been just about as bad as Indiana's this season. Rutgers was only down 7 in the third quarter, as a result, but Nebraska was eventually able to pull away and hold onto the win. It wasn't a great win, but a win is a win, and that is doubly so for Nebraska this year. They now have a very late bye week, which gives them time to rest up and prepare for a rivalry game against Iowa. Let's all hope the extra week to prepare doesn't pay off.

Up Next: Bye Week

8. Illinois #67, 103 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
102 Illinois Bill Cubit 88 102 122 117 78 21.8
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
25 Illinois Bill Cubit 118 115 110 123 128 19.3
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
34 Illinois Bill Cubit 125 4.2 106 3.8 115

Week 11 saw the Illini lose an uninspiring game of football, 28-3 to Ohio State. Nobody expected the Illini to win, but this was still a pretty lousy performance, considering that fact. Even with Josh Fergusonthe offense looked awful. Illinois' defense honestly did pretty good to space out Ohio State's touchdowns to one each quarter, but the offense gave them no chance at any point in the game. And things aren't going to get much easier in the coming weeks. Minnesota and Northwestern are left on the schedule, and both of them possess well-above average defenses. Throw in the fact that Minnesota may have figured this whole offense thing out, and the Illini are far from guaranteed to win another game this season.

Up Next: at #72 Minnesota

Game Watch Rating: 151

Win Probability: 46%

Projected Score: Illinois 20, Minnesota 22

9. Northwestern #69, 101 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
119 Northwestern Pat Fitzgerald 64 100 113 105 58 16.6
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
12 Northwestern Pat Fitzgerald 130 116 95 110 144 15.7
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
22 Northwestern Pat Fitzgerald 137 4.3 114 3.7 126

THOR+ continues to dislike Northwestern due to their offensive struggles this season and thinks they have been fairly lucky this season (others are thinking that, too.) That trend continued to be the case against Purdue in week 11, where the Wildcat offense could only muster 3 touchdowns in 72 plays all day. That's a pretty below average performance against a below average Purdue defense. The Northwestern defense, though, continued to do its job and that is how they continue to win games. This defense should be able to keep them within striking distance of Wisconsin this week, but will the offense be able to score any points? Probably not. And, if that's the case, they may need a defensive score or another kick return touchdown by Solomon Vault to propel them to another close win.

Up Next: at #28 Wisconsin

Game Watch Rating: 100

Win Probability: 28%

Projected Score: Northwestern 11, Wisconsin 21

10. Minnesota #72, 99 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
99 Minnesota Tracy Claeys 105 95 102 127 79 22.2
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
42 Minnesota Tracy Claeys 104 116 82 107 118 21.6
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
44 Minnesota Tracy Claeys 105 4.0 117 3.7 111

The question on everybody's mind has to be: Where has that offense been all season? Is this what happens when Matt Limegrover is no longer constrained by Jerry Kill? I mean, earlier this season this offense was content to run guys like Shannon Brooks and Co. into the middle of a stacked box. Lately, though, the Gophers have been using misdirection and play action off the zone read and jet sweep to perfection. And that Shannon Brooks pass to Drew Wolitarsky - as much as it pains me to say it - was pure aesthetic perfection for the football fan who admires the sport as art. The Gophers have looked vastly improved over the last three weeks and have done so against three of the best teams in the conference. If this offense is suddenly fixed, Minnesota has a real chance to win their final two games against Illinois and Wisconsin.

Up Next: vs. #67 Illinois

Game Watch Rating: 151

Win Probability: 54%

Projected Score: Minnesota 22, Illinois 20

11. Maryland #74, 98 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
74 Maryland Mike Locksley 32 132 0 101 95 26.2
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
70 Maryland Mike Locksley 73 122 94 137 99 26.0
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
10 Maryland Mike Locksley 136 4.3 132 3.6 134

We are to the point in the power rankings at which I start to run out of interesting things to say about the teams. Maryland has been playing better lately, but they are still bad. The offense can't decide on a quarterback, and no matter which one is taking snaps - Perry Hills or Caleb Rowe - neither of them can stop giving the ball away. The defense is pretty good up front, but they can't stop the pass to save their lives. Put those two things together and you have a football team that isn't very good. But, who knows, maybe Bill O'Brien can be their savior?

Up Next: vs. #98 Indiana

Game Watch Rating: 129

Win Probability: 63%

Projected Score: Maryland 38, Indiana 30

12. Purdue #81, 95 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
65 Purdue Darrell Hazell 73 95 72 122 99 27.2
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
85 Purdue Darrell Hazell 97 95 111 101 93 27.3
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
119 Purdue Darrell Hazell 25 3.1 99 3.8 62

Purdue hung close with Northwestern this past Saturday, but lost a close game that Purdue fans are putting on the offensive coordinator. The Boilers were in striking distance all game and were actually tied with Northwestern into the 4th quarter. But the offense ultimately couldn't do enough to win them the game, and Purdue was handed yet another moral victory (if you can even call it that anymore).

Looking forward to this week, though, OMHR is really terrible, you guys (feel the manufactured hate). The only reason they were in the Northwestern game is because the Wildcat offense is so bad. Iowa should be able to move the ball at will through the air and on the ground. The Hawkeye defense should force plenty of 3-and-outs, punts, and turnovers. This should be a game that Iowa controls the time of possession, imposes their will on the team visiting Kinnick, and clinches the Big Ten West. Anything can happen in a (Delaney-imposed) rivalry game, but this should be an easy win for Iowa. I'm not usually this confident - especially when a perfect season is on the line - but I think Iowa is a terrible match up for Purdue. This Saturday should not be pretty for OMHR.

Up Next: at #21 Iowa

Game Watch Rating: 73

Win Probability: 21%

Projected Score: Purdue 19, Iowa 39

13. Indiana #89, 90 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
54 Indiana Kevin Wilson 128 101 148 131 104 28.6
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
105 Indiana Kevin Wilson 53 99 86 99 71 32.3
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
11 Indiana Kevin Wilson 149 4.4 118 3.7 133

Being an Indiana football fan is hard enough, but this year has been a special kind of pain. If you can remember back to September, Indiana was 4-0 and begging College Game Day to visit Bloomington for the showdown with Ohio State. Hoosier fans were feeling good, and despite being 4-0 against mostly bad competition (Western Kentucky is pretty good), I can't blame them. Then Big Ten play started and Hoosier fans have experienced nothing but heartbreaking losses. Probably the only one that didn't yank out their life-giving organ was the Penn State game, and that's because a lack of Nate Sudfeld and Jordan Howard made it so things weren't particularly close. Otherwise, Indiana has hung tough with Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa, and Michigan. Of course, they also suffered an embarrassing loss to Rutgers in which they blew a huge lead late in the game. Things happen.

On the bright side, the difficult part of the schedule is over now. They finish the regular season with Maryland and Purdue. This is their last chance to get bowl-eligible, and I am actually rooting for them to do it. They have been a fun team to watch this year, and I would love to see Jordan Howard run roughshod over some poor team in a bowl game.

Up Next: at #74 Maryland

Game Watch Rating: 129

Win Probability: 37%

Projected Score: Indiana 30, Maryland 38

14. Rutgers #101, 82 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
78 Rutgers Kyle Flood 95 111 84 99 93 25.9
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
112 Rutgers Kyle Flood 46 110 85 108 64 33.9
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
5 Rutgers Kyle Flood 155 4.5 127 3.6 141

Times may be trying in Bloomington for Indiana fans, but things are doubly worse in Piscataway. The Rutgers football team is pretty horrible in just about all areas that don't utilize Leonte Carroo or the special teams in some way, shape, or form. Fans are doing a March Madness-style bracket to vote on who they would like to be the next coach. The entire vision for the athletic program is being openly questioned, and the blame isn't stopping at the athletic director, it's going all the way to the university president. And, on top of that, THOR+ actually has Army slightly favored in this week's match up against the Scarlet Knights.

Now, ignoring the fact that a non-conference game against a cupcake is stupid this late in the season (looking at you, SEC), this would be rock bottom for Rutgers if they lost to a horrible Army team. The home field advantage is why the projection is the way it is, but I expect Rutgers to beat the Golden Knights. Not because I particularly care about Rutgers football, I just don't want them to embarrass the conference. They should win this game, and they better win this game. Otherwise, the natives won't be restless anymore. They could turn violent.

Up Next: vs. #103 Army

Game Watch Rating: 153

Win Probability: 46%

Projected Score: Rutgers 35, Army 36