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2015 BIG TEN POWER RANKINGS: POST-WEEK 9

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This week in the power rankings: Is the Big Ten in rare territory with three undefeated teams heading into November? Do Penn State and Minnesota have actual offenses now? Just how good are the two Big Ten teams from the state of Illinois? Just how bad is Indiana's defense? And much more!

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Numerically, following week 9, comes week 10. The significance of week 10 does not come from the number 10 alone, but more from the fact that there are only 13-15 weeks of regular season football depending on a team's schedule. Having only 3-5 weeks left for each team means we are coming down the home stretch here. I mean, yesterday saw the release of the first College Football Playoff Rankings of the season. Things are getting critical.

And this is particularly so for the Big Ten, who always have their regular season games wrapped up by Thanksgiving weekend. That means the start of November is the beginning of the end of the regular season. So, while every win matters in college football, the games in November seem to carry extra meaning for teams who are still in the hunt for postseason play. This year the Big Ten currently sports three teams with undefeated records heading into November: Iowa, Ohio State, and Michigan State. I'm not sure how rare this actually is, but I feel like we are in pretty uncommon territory. Rather than watching a perennial Big Ten juggernaut like Ohio State from a distance each and every week to see if this is the week they are finally going to lose, we have three teams representing the conference this year who are having a metaphorical microscope taken to each and every one of their past and future performances. The debates can get pretty exhausting, but I would be a liar if I tried to sit here tell you I wasn't excited on some level about the attention Iowa and the Big Ten, in general, are getting this season.

Anyhow, the spotlight is only going to get brighter as the season wears on and each team remains perfect. One of Ohio State's or Michigan State's quest for perfection must come to an end on November 21st. Meanwhile, Iowa probably has the best odds out of the current trio to finish 12-0. But, as we all know, college football can be a cruel, cruel mistress and nothing is guaranteed. But, no matter what happens, no matter what amazing or amazingly cruel events occur, the end of the season is now 4 games away. This is when stakes are raised and this is when it really matters.

So, buckle up and enjoy the ride, you guys. It's nice to have our team be nationally relevant at this stage in the year again.

Big Ten Power Rankings: Post-Week 9

Rank Team Coach Offense+ Defense+ Special Teams+ THOR+ PPG vs. Avg. PPGA vs. Avg. W% vs. Avg. W vs. Avg.
9 Ohio State Urban Meyer 139 140 102 138 41.2 20.1 0.807 9.7
15 Michigan Jim Harbaugh 106 162 137 133 33.2 15.0 0.772 9.3
18 Iowa Kirk Ferentz 112 154 88 131 34.8 17.5 0.753 9.0
26 Wisconsin Paul Chryst 93 153 120 122 29.7 17.3 0.686 8.2
39 Michigan State Mark Dantonio 122 112 81 116 36.9 26.9 0.638 7.7
43 Penn State James Franklin 95 133 111 114 30.2 21.8 0.622 7.5
51 Nebraska Mike Riley 113 105 103 109 34.9 28.5 0.584 7.0
61 Northwestern Pat Fitzgerald 56 150 124 103 20.5 18.2 0.539 6.5
65 Illinois Bill Cubit 73 129 104 101 24.7 23.0 0.523 6.3
70 Purdue Darrell Hazell 106 95 61 99 32.4 30.8 0.513 6.2
78 Maryland Mike Locksley 97 89 152 95 31.3 31.7 0.484 5.8
84 Minnesota Tracy Claeys 64 121 113 93 22.4 24.6 0.467 5.6
90 Indiana Kevin Wilson 104 71 109 89 32.5 36.1 0.432 5.2
93 Rutgers Kyle Flood 102 65 136 86 32.3 37.4 0.409 4.9

1. Ohio State #9, 138 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
13 Ohio State Urban Meyer 115 121 84 109 139 37.7
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
18 Ohio State Urban Meyer 145 108 105 112 140 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 3.5 144 3.5 102

It was an eventful bye week for Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes, and not in the good way. The big story coming out of Columbus in week 9 was the arrest of J.T. Barrett and his suspension for the Minnesota game. Being without Barrett shouldn't be a deathblow for the Buckeyes, who are at home, when they face the Gophers this week. However, with the inconsistent Cardale Jones at quarterback against a solid Minnesota defense, don't be surprised if the score is closer than THOR+ is projecting. Oh, and if Jones is struggling, don't be surprised to see Braxton Miller take some snaps at quarterback.

Up Next: vs. #84 Minnesota

Game Watch Rating: 54

Win Probability: 87%

Projected Score: Ohio State 36, Minnesota 13

2. Michigan #15, 133 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
50 Michigan Jim Harbaugh 87 101 100 120 106 29.1
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
2 Michigan Jim Harbaugh 136 137 71 136 162 11.6
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
2 Michigan Jim Harbaugh 122 4.1 153 3.4 137

The Wolverines played their worst game of the season against Minnesota, but still found a way to win. Or, your alternative narrative could be that Minnesota found a way to throw away a win. But no matter how you spin it, this game goes in the win column for Harbaugh. Anyway, the biggest surprise of this game (outside of Minnesota's last drive) was probably how Minnesota managed to put up 26 points on Michigan's defense. Other than that, this was another textbook case of how teams that can stop Michigan's run game can at least hang with them, if not beat them. Jake Rudock continued his inconsistent ways with his arm, but left the game after taking a scary hit while scrambling. Then we all got to see just how bad Michigan's quarterback situation truly is, because outside of making the game-winning touchdown pass backup quarterback Wilton Speight looked like the inexperience underclassman that he is. It looks like Rudock should be able to play this weekend. And, even if he couldn't go, the Wolverine defense and running game would likely be enough to beat Rutgers and Indiana by themselves over the next two weeks. Instead, the quarterback position could have ramifications for the final two weeks of the season. Because a non-100% Rudock or starting an inexperienced sophomore at quarterback could very well spell disaster against Penn State and Ohio State.

Up Next: vs. #93 Rutgers

Game Watch Rating: 45

Win Probability: 87%

Projected Score: Michigan 43, Rutgers 14

3. Iowa #18, 131 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
41 Iowa Kirk Ferentz 111 108 127 103 112 30.8
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
6 Iowa Kirk Ferentz 137 124 158 112 154 13.4
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
81 Iowa Kirk Ferentz 108 4.0 67 4.0 88

I'm sure some of you will be unhappy with THOR+ since Iowa dropped to #18 this week. That's fine and all, but just know that it is taking on-the-field performance into account and it's hard to deny that Iowa's offense and special teams didn't have some issues on Saturday. On the latter unit, Marshall Koehn missed a field goal and Will Likely ran back a kick return for a touchdown. As for the offense, injuries are likely slowing the offense down, as C.J. Beathard has limited mobility and the pass blocking is a huge mess. In fact, Iowa's offensive line is 17 percentage points above the national average when it comes to not allowing negative run plays this season. But, when it comes to pass protection, the same Hawkeye offensive line is 18 percentage points worse than the FBS norm in sacks allowed per pass play.

Luckily, Indiana's defense has been its usually-terrible self this season. The main concern for the Hawkeyes is keeping the Hoosier offense on lockdown. But, with the way the defense is playing right now, I'm not that worried.*

*I'm always a little worried -- especially this year, when Iowa is undefeated and favored in the rest of their games.

Up Next: at #90 Indiana

Game Watch Rating: 79

Win Probability: 74%

Projected Score: Iowa 39, Indiana 20

4. Wisconsin #26, 122 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
77 Wisconsin Paul Chryst 94 89 123 116 93 25.7
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
7 Wisconsin Paul Chryst 134 114 106 103 153 13.7
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
14 Wisconsin Paul Chryst 105 4.0 135 3.5 120

Corey Clement returned from injury and picked up right where we all expected him to. He only carried the ball 11 times, but that's all he needed to put up 115 yards and 3 touchdowns against Rutgers. Clement's presence was a welcome sightfor Wisconsin fans who were tired of having to lean on Joel Stave's arm for offensive output. With a consistent run game and a stingy defense, Wisconsin has a real good chance of winning their remaining 3 games.

Up Next: at #78 Maryland

Game Watch Rating: 112

Win Probability: 63%

Projected Score: Wisconsin 29, Maryland 19

5. Michigan State #39, 116 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
28 Michigan State Mark Dantonio 137 87 168 106 122 33.3
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
48 Michigan State Mark Dantonio 97 109 119 122 112 23.0
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 93 3.9 81

Yes, the weirdest projection THOR+ has this week is the Michigan State, Nebraska game. Again, no, I don't think Nebraska will actually win -- this Husker pass defense is just way too horrible for Connor Cook not to throw for at least 300 yards and 3 touchdowns on Saturday. But is there a chance Nebraska could keep it competitive? Probably not, but maybe. Michigan State also has some holes in their secondary, so the Huskers may be able to put some points up through the air if Tommy Armstrong Jr. is playing. (Or maybe not, now that De'Mornay Pierson-El is out for the year.) Michigan State has yet to actually blow the doors off of anyone this year, and they have played some scary close games. I know we are all enjoying the epic meltdown in Lincoln, but for the sake of the helping Iowa in the College Football Playoff Rankings, we should all hope THOR+ is right on this one.

Up Next: at #51 Nebraska

Game Watch Rating: 166

Win Probability: 48%

Projected Score: Michigan State 32, Nebraska 33

6. Penn State #43, 114 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
74 Penn State James Franklin 107 101 118 73 95 26.3
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
20 Penn State James Franklin 148 99 130 146 133 18.2
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
58 Penn State James Franklin 99 3.9 123 3.6 111

Just how good is Penn State? A week after I mention how they earned their first 6 wins of the year against less-than-stellar competition, they go out and thrash what had looked like a decent Illinois team 39-0. So what do we take from this game? Is Penn State getting better? Is Illinois starting to show that they are worse than we thought? Was this just one of those games that snowballed, got out of hand, and would be much closer if they were to play 9 more times? I'm not sure.

But the only real surprise out of this game was Penn State's offense actually looking like a competent offense. Well, that, and Christian Hackenberg catching a touchdown pass:

Will this improved offensive play continue? This week's bout against Northwestern's defense should give us a decent idea of whether or not Penn State's offense is getting better.

Up Next: at #61 Northwestern

Game Watch Rating: 152

Win Probability: 51%

Projected Score: Penn State 16.4, Northwestern 16.2

7. Nebraska #51, 109 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
40 Nebraska Mike Riley 106 109 83 112 113 30.9
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
59 Nebraska Mike Riley 76 113 61 96 105 24.6
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
59 Nebraska Mike Riley 115 4.1 91 3.9 103

After finding a way to lose to Purdue, Nebraska may have just hit rock bottom. I say may because if they find a way to lose to Rutgers that would probably be rock bottom. But, for now, it's pretty easy to understand why Nebraska fans feel that his would be the jagged bottom of a tall cliff. I mean, it would be one thing to lose a close heart-breaker to Purdue. But this was a game in which Purdue controlled everything from the very beginning. This was a game in which Purdue - PURDUE - scored 55 points. 14 more than Purdue had scored in their 3 Big Ten games prior to Nebraska combined! This is the type of loss where fans start to question if the coach has lost the team. And this is the type of loss grown men cry over, apparently.

Can Nebraska bounce back from this or is the nail all but in the coffin at this point? If they lose to Michigan State this weekend, the Huskers' odds at a bowl game go from very slim to absolutely none. Their season could effectively be over after this week, and their only motivation for the remaining games would be just not to lose to a terrible Rutgers team and to spoil a potentially perfect season for the much-hated Hawkeyes.

Up Next: vs. #39 Michigan State

Game Watch Rating: 166

Win Probability: 52%

Projected Score: Nebraska 33, Michigan State 32

8. Northwestern #61, 103 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
119 Northwestern Pat Fitzgerald 74 99 121 111 56 16.1
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
8 Northwestern Pat Fitzgerald 134 117 96 113 150 14.4
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
22 Northwestern Pat Fitzgerald 149 4.4 99 3.8 124

Similar to what I asked about Penn State, I am also wondering just how good Northwestern is. I mean, they played a difficult non-conference schedule and came out of it unblemished. They went on to demolish an admittedly bad Minnesota team, but they routed them - and that is what you are supposed to do to a bad team. But then Michigan and Iowa happened, and the Wildcats' impressive season started to go downhill. They were able to stop the bleeding a few weeks ago when they came away with a close win on the road against Nebraska, but they are now entering the home stretch of the season. It is now make or break time, and the Wildcats - if they play the way they did to start the season - have a manageable remaining schedule that allows itself for 8 or 9 wins. And, for the sake of Iowa's schedule, I will be rooting for them to get to at least 9 wins this year.

Up Next: vs. #43 Penn State

Game Watch Rating: 152

Win Probability: 49%

Projected Score: Northwestern 16.2, Penn State 16.4

9. Illinois #65, 101 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
105 Illinois Bill Cubit 85 89 116 117 73 20.5
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
31 Illinois Bill Cubit 109 118 108 123 129 19.1
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
48 Illinois Bill Cubit 124 4.2 85 3.9 104

Speaking of make or break time, Illinois is 4-4 on the year with remaining games against Purdue, Ohio State, Minnesota, and Northwestern. Three of those are potentially winnable, but I don't know if I would say any are guaranteed wins. And that goes for this week against Purdue. Outside of the Michigan State game, the other upset pick that THOR+ is calling for is Illinois falling victim to the Boilermakers. Illinois' defense should likely do better against Purdue's offense than Nebraska did, but Illinois' main problem this season has been on the offensive side of the ball, where injuries have taken a toll. The Illini might get running back Josh Ferguson back this weekend, which would help the offense look less terrible for this game and over the remainder of the season. At this point, though, with three losses in a row (albeit, to good competition), Bill Cubit's chances of being the head coach next year are dwindling.

Up Next: at #70 Purdue

Game Watch Rating: 149

Win Probability: 44%

Projected Score: Illinois 23, Purdue 26

10. Purdue #70, 99 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
48 Purdue Darrell Hazell 76 98 61 126 106 29.2
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
78 Purdue Darrell Hazell 93 104 117 107 95 26.9
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
119 Purdue Darrell Hazell 31 3.2 91 3.9 61

Purdue jumps this week after an offensive explosion against Nebraska. Sure, Nebraska was hampered by injuries on offense, but that's not the unit that gave up 8 total offensive touchdowns to the Boilermakers. Part of me wants to chalk that win up to Nebraska not being fully healthy, but part of me is wondering if Purdue has been a little unlucky this year and they are not quite as bad as they have looked at times. I mean, they are still a bad team, but maybe they really are closer to #70 than something like #90. That doesn't seem like a big distinction, but that's a couple of wins on your season total worth of a difference. Speaking of which, THOR+ has them as a slight favorite at home this weekend. Let's see if they can get win number three.

Up Next: vs. #65 Illinois

Game Watch Rating: 149

Win Probability: 56%

Projected Score: Purdue 26, Illinois 23

11. Maryland #78, 95 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
70 Maryland Mike Locksley 29 136 0 103 97 26.8
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
92 Maryland Mike Locksley 61 117 87 125 89 28.3
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
5 Maryland Mike Locksley 154 4.5 150 3.4 152

Will Likely's kick return abilities, along with Maryland stopping Iowa's run game in the second half and pressuring C.J. Beathard basically all game long gave them a 2 percentage point bump this week and moved them up a spot in the power rankings. You have to appreciate the little victories in life, you guys. Plus, I don't really have anything to talk about in regards to Maryland. I went over to Testudo Times for inspiration, but the bulk of the content is focused on the upcoming basketball season and who new football coach will be next season.

Up Next: vs. #26 Wisconsin

Game Watch Rating: 112

Win Probability: 37%

Projected Score: Maryland 19, Wisconsin 29

12. Minnesota #80, 93 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
114 Minnesota Tracy Claeys 89 93 86 117 64 18.3
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
35 Minnesota Tracy Claeys 118 117 95 97 121 20.8
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
82 Minnesota Tracy Claeys 119 4.1 107 3.7 113

Last week, in these here power rankings, I mentioned how I thought Minnesota might give Michigan some trouble due to Jerry Kill's sudden departure and Minnesota's defense being able to stop the Wolverine rushing attack. Well, I was partially right. I was correct in that I thought it might be a close game, but I was wrong in that I thought it would be a low-scoring game. Yet, Minnesota -- one of the worst offenses in the nation -- put up 26 points (and should have had more) against one of the best defensive units in the nation. How did they do it? Well, in the most unlikely of scenarios, they did it with Mitch Leidner's arm. It seems as if the Minnesota coaching staff finally found a successful way to marry the shotgun, quick passing game that they used at Northern Illinois to the power run game from under center they've used at Minnesota. As firsthand witnesses to the awkward Kirk Ferentz and Greg Davis marriage, we Iowa fans know that these things can take a while. I'm curious to see if this continues to work, or if it was just a one game thing.

Up Next: at #9 Ohio State

Game Watch Rating: 54

Win Probability: 13%

Projected Score: Minnesota 13, Ohio State 36

13. Indiana #90, 89 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
55 Indiana Kevin Wilson 132 90 141 120 104 28.6
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
102 Indiana Kevin Wilson 63 94 99 94 71 32.4
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
51 Indiana Kevin Wilson 105 4.0 112 3.7 109

If Minnesota wasn't already worrying people as the team that could potentially ruin Iowa's undefeated season, it is probably Indiana. Or Nebraska. Really, I feel like we are all on edge about every game right now. But Indiana worries most of us because they consistently have an explosive offense and we still have collective PTSD from the James Hardy years. And this year, Indiana's offense is good once again. But the thing about them in 2015 is that they are less explosive than in past years. The Hoosiers are running 78 plays per game, on average, this season, which is the most in the Big Ten. But they are only scoring a touchdown every 20 plays this season, which is only slightly better than the national average. Meanwhile, opposing teams are running almost 86 plays per game this season and scoring on every 16 against their defense. So, yes, their passing numbers look efficient and their rushing numbers look good when Jordan Howard gets the ball, but they aren't exactly putting up huge offensive numbers unless they play the Rutgers and Western Kentuckys of the world. And need I remind you that Tevin Coleman rushed for 219 yards and 3 touchdowns on only 15 carries last year against an Iowa defense that was much less-disciplined than this one and Indiana still lost.

Jordan Howard may have had a week to rest and get healthy, but he isn't Tevin Coleman and 2015 Iowa isn't 2014 Iowa. As long as the Hawkeyes avoid stupid mistakes this weekend, they should be able to win this game fairly easily.

Up Next: vs. #18 Iowa

Game Watch Rating: 79

Win Probability: 26%

Projected Score: Indiana 20, Iowa 39

14. Rutgers #93, 86 THOR+

Rank Offense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Blocking+ Offense+ PPG vs. Avg.
59 Rutgers Kyle Flood 111 109 82 107 102 28.0
Rank Defense Coach Passing+ Rushing+ Turnovers Pressure+ Defense+ PPGA vs. Avg
109 Rutgers Kyle Flood 55 103 81 102 65 33.9
Rank Special Teams Coach Off. Special Teams+ PPG vs. Avg. Def. Special Teams+ PPGA vs. Avg. Special Teams+
7 Rutgers Kyle Flood 137 4.3 134 3.5 136

Rutgers plays Michigan this weekend, and Leonte Carroo is again questionable to play. If he is able to play at close to 100%, Rutgers may have a chance to keep the game close. Probably not, though.

Up Next: at #15 Michigan

Game Watch Rating: 45

Win Probability: 13%

Projected Score: Rutgers 14, Michigan 43