As shocking as it may seem, we’re just past the midway point in the college football season. As we enter week eight, there are six weeks left in the regular season before we jump to championship week and ultimately bowl season and the College Football Playoff.
In this the last year of the Big Ten’s East and West divisions, there has perhaps never been a more stark contrast in the two divisions. That’s been obvious at the top, but the middle and bottom of the West this year seem to have fallen further behind the East in a way that makes winning the West no a death march toward a sacrificial public decimation on December 2nd.
With the back half of the season still to go, here’s a look at the standings in the two divisions.
#24 Iowa 6-1, 3-1
Wisconsin 4-2, 2-1
Northwestern 3-3, 1-2
Minnesota 3-3, 1-2
Nebraska 3-3, 1-2
Purdue 2-5, 1-3
Illinois 3-4, 1-3
While those are the actual Big Ten standings, current records aren’t necessarily an indication of future results. Often they’re a result of scheduling and impacted by injury and other circumstances.
Let’s take a look at the midseason power rankings with an eye toward the back half of the season.
Week 8 Big Ten Power Rankings
No surprises here. The Wolverines have absolutely obliterated everything in their path so far this season. They look the part of a playoff team that not only can get there, but perhaps make some noise.
Now, Michigan hasn’t exactly played a murderer’s row of opponents and won’t get a real test until they travel to Happy Valley in four weeks. Until then, it’s hard to envision them falling from this top spot and I feel bad for anyone left on their schedule save PSU and OSU.
2. Ohio State
Speaking of OSU, the Buckeyes are up to #2 on the list by way of being the only team in the cluster atop the East to win a truly meaningful game so far this season. Neither Penn State nor Michigan have faced a high quality opponent yet (OK, sure, Iowa was ranked #24 when PSU beat them but that’s a different universe than a road win over Notre Dame) while the Buckeyes enter their big showdown with the Nittany Lions battle-tested. Well, at least they’ve had a battle, that is.
OSU got off to a slower start and didn’t look great in their win over Notre Dame, but they do have a road win over a top-10 team. And they get Penn State at home this weekend so if they lose that you can make your arguments about PSU.
3. Penn State
Like OSU, Penn State frankly didn’t look great early on. They struggled against Illinois. Then they got the Hawkeyes and all has been well ever since. Drew Allar is not JJ McCarthy, but he is perhaps the second best QB in the conference and the Nittany Lions have looked the part of a borderline top-5 team the last several weeks. If they beat Ohio State in Columbus, they deserve the top spot.
Talk the talk about the offense, but take a look at those standings in the West. Nobody there deserves to be ahead of Iowa and half the teams have somehow, inexplicably, scored fewer points than the Hawkeyes this season. None of them have Iowa’s defense. And the way that group and the special teams unit have been playing, nobody in the East is beating the Hawkeyes save the top three.
(And any of those top three will absolutely throttle the Hawkeyes in Indy)
Frankly, this is higher than the Badgers deserve to be but I don’t know who I would put higher. I’ve said it to anyone who will listen this week but I’ll say it again: you know what’s worse than being dead last in total offense and throwing for an abysmal 37 yards in an entire game? Losing to a team that is dead last in total offense and only threw for 37 yards.
Now imagine you just managed that feat and you’ve lost your starting QB in a year where you’re transitioning to an entirely new offensive philosophy. Yeah, I think the Badgers have a couple more losses in their future. But who you putting ahead of them?!?
A week ago, the answer to that question would have probably been Maryland. In fact, a lot of people probably would have put Maryland above both Iowa and Wisconsin. Then they lost to Illinois. ILLINOIS!! The last place team in the most miserable division in college football beat Maryland last week! WHY DO I HAVE THEM IN THE TOP HALF OF THE LEAGUE?!?
Oh yeah, because Rutgers is the only team I could consider putting ahead of them. And while I’m not going to call them rutger, they’re not exactly a juggernaut having barely squeaked one out over Michigan State and taken an L to that same Wisconsin team that managed just 6 points against Iowa and LOST TO THE WORST OFFENSE IN THE COUNTRY.
This is as high as you go.
Nebraska is not a good team. They might win the West. If they win this weekend, they probably jump above one of Maryland and Rutgers and maybe Wisconsin. My goodness this conference is not good.
Am I nervous Minnesota finds a way to knock off Iowa in Iowa City this week? Yes. Do I think that means Minnesota is any good? No. This is another bad offense that’s paired with a mediocre defense. They’re getting healthy just in time to spoil the Hawkeyes’ season, but they have a walking turnover at QB and if we’re being honest, there’s a decent chance he doesn’t finish the game on Saturday.
When we started this season, the Wildcats were a team in turmoil without a coach and without a direction. They beat Howard by a field goal a week after hanging with Penn State for 30 minutes and then getting run out of the building, which doesn’t exactly scream that they’ve figured it out. And yet, their schedule sets up quite nicely and at 1-2 in the conference they are 100% still in the West race pending the results of Saturday’s matchup with Nebraska.
Bert knocked off Maryland and that’s enough to make you think the Illini are dangerous. They also lost to Purdue, Nebraska and Kansas. They’re at the bottom of the standings and that’s probably where they will finish.
Unless Purdue has something to say about it! Talk about a team that seems to turn it on and off. The Boilers absolutely throttled Illinois. Then they turned around and lost to Iowa with out abysmal offense and Deacon Hill under center. Ohio State took them to the woodshed and they still have a date with Michigan on the calendar. And that’s after they managed to lose to Fresno State and Syracuse in the non-con. The Boilers are in full tear it down mode.
Indiana would be a perfectly fine bottom third Big Ten West team. Unfortunately for them, they play in the East.
14. Michigan State
I don’t know how there are any players on this roster who haven’t filed their papers to hit the portal.