Two weeks of college football are in the books, so it's time to update the BadgerBlitz.com Big Ten Power Poll, where Jon McNamara, Jon Gorman and I will rank the Big Ten teams from 1 to 12 every week.
I complied the list in a traditional power poll style- a first place vote was good for 12 points, a second place one for 11, and so on.
1. Ohio State (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten) - 36 points (3 1st place votes) Weekly change: None Last game: defeated San Diego State 42-7
The Buckeyes didn't have any trouble holding on to the top spot in this week's poll, but they did have a scare this week when quarterback Braxton Miller went down in the first half with a knee injury. The team is saying that it's just a sprain and they expect Miller to be back this week, but even if he isn't it looks like Ohio State has a pretty capable backup: Kenny Guiton completed 19-of-28 passes for 152 yards and threw two touchdown passes after Miller left the game. He also rushed for 83 yards and one touchdown, so even if the Buckeyes have to give Miller more time to heal there doesn't seem like there's much reason to worry.
I don't know about either of the other Jons, but I really struggled with where to rank Michigan this week. I almost talked myself in to giving them my first place vote, and as I'm typing this I'm regretting chickening out. This Michigan team is better than I thought they would be. The defense looked solid against a good Notre Dame team, and the game only got close after quarterback Devin Gardner made the inexplicable decision to throw the ball away in the endzone instead of just taking the safety. They have the running backs and the wide receivers to move the ball, and have to be considered the favorite in the Legends Division at this point if they weren't already.
My bet is that the Badgers won't be at this spot this time next week- I'm just not sure if they'll be up or down. They've cruised to easy victories against overmatched opponents, but Arizona State will test their new defense for the whole game, and we'll get a great idea of just how good their offense is when they take on a solid defensive line. It's tempting to draw conclusions after two shutouts (which is still an impressive feat), but we still don't know what Wisconsin's ceiling is. If they beat Arizona State on the road they'll be pretty confident at the start of the Big Ten season.
Northwestern is off to a good start this season, and could very well climb up these rankings over the next few weeks. They'll take on Western Michigan and Maine in weeks three and four, before hosting Ohio State and travelling to Wisconsin. Their offense has been as good as advertised, but giving up 27 points to Syracuse is a little concerning. I'm still not convinced their defense will be good enough to win a division title in the Big Ten, but we'll see.
5. Nebraska (2-0, 0-0) - 25 points Weekly change: +1 Last game: defeated Southern Miss 56-13
Nebraska jumps up a spot after they held the Golden Eagles in check, and their offense kept humming against poor competition. But this is not a "blackshirt" defense, and they'll run in to problems against Michigan and Northwestern. I'll be interested to see their game against Michigan State- my expectation is that it will be like the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. But first they'll have to handle UCLA at home, which will be a good measuring stick game for them.
6. Michigan State (2-0, 0-0) - 21 points Weekly change: -1 Last game: defeated South Florida 21-6
Michigan State's best offense is quite literally its defense. It's almost unfair to waste a championship caliber defense on a team with a tire fire for an offense, but that's the hand the Spartans were dealt. Andrew Maxwell is probably their best option under center, which should serve as a good reminder for Wisconsin fans- even last year, with Danny O'Brien and Curt Phillips battling for playing time after Joel Stave got the start, it could have been a lot worse.
7. Penn State (2-0, 0-0) - 19 points Weekly change: None Last game: defeated Eastern Michigan 45-7
Again, Penn State will go as far as Christian Hackenberg can take them. I like what he's shown so far through two games- 45-for-64, 589 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. That's pretty good for an 18-year-old, and in a few years I think Penn State will be a dangerous team again after he's gotten a few seasons under his belt and the scholarship reductions won't hurt quite so hard. But for now it's hard for me or the other guys to rank Penn State much higher than this, when Hackenberg is still untested and prone to freshman slip-ups.
8. Minnesota (2-0, 0-0) - 14 points Weekly change: +1 Last game: defeated New Mexico State 44-21
It's hard to get a good read on the Gophers since their game was hard to acquire on TV, but they did what they were supposed to do- they beat a weaker team on the road. That's not something you could say about Jerry Kill's first two Minnesota squads, or especially under Tim Brewster. They'll have a big test in two weeks: San Jose State is no patsy, and we'll have a much better idea of just how good the Gophers are after that game.
9. Iowa (1-1, 0-0) - 1 points Weekly change: None Last game: defeated Missouri State 28-14
Iowa bounced back after a tough loss to Northern Illinois in their first game of the season, but it's not as though they beat Missouri State in a convincing fashion. Iowa allowed 14 points in the fourth quarter, and led by just seven points until quarterback Jake Rudock scampered in to the endzone on a two-yard run. Iowa State should provide a good test- the Cyclones have given the Hawkeyes headaches over the last few seasons.
Illinois beat an FBS team for the first time since their bowl game two seasons ago this week when they took down Cincinnati, who I had pegged as a pretty solid team this season. The Bearcats did lose their starting quarterback Munchie Legeaux to a pretty horrific knee injury, but Illinois still gets credit for pulling out the win. Nathan Scheelhaase has looked pretty good this season, too. He might have enough in him to keep the Illini out of the Big Ten's basement.
11. Indiana (1-1, 0-0) - 8 points Weekly change: +1 Last game: lost to Navy 41-35
Indiana pretty much needed to run the table in the non-conference if they wanted to make a bowl this season, since I don't see three Big Ten wins on their schedule. Navy's option attack shredded their defense, and the offense didn't have enough juice to put them over the top. That's a disappointing loss for the Hoosiers, who I thought looked as though they were turning the corner under Kevin Wilson. The option offense is unlike any other they'll see again this season, but losing to Navy puts them in a tough spot.
12. Purdue (1-1, 0-0) - 5 points Weekly change: None Last game: beat Indiana State 20-14
Yeah, Purdue won, but it was far from impressive. They had trouble putting Indiana State away, and it's clear that they're going to have to struggle through the switch to a pro-style offense. It doesn't get much easier, either: Purdue still has to play Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Nebraska, Michigan State and Penn State. Those could be pretty ugly games if the Boilers don't get their act together soon.