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Week 3: Power Ranking Big Ten Conference Football Teams

Posted on September 16, 2010 by JA Allen

The Big Ten has seven unbeaten teams going into Week 3 of the football season––but let’s face it, many of the opponents during the first two weeks of the season have not exactly provided stiff competition.

This, however, is true of most conference schedules.

Yes, there are exceptions, with Penn State taking on No. 1 ranked Alabama and Ohio State taking on No. 13 ranked Miami Hurricanes.

Illinois played Missouri out of the Big 12 in their opener, just as the Iowa Hawkeyes took on Big 12 In-State rival Iowa State.

Additionally, Purdue played Notre Dame––just as Michigan played the Irish, as well Connecticut, out of the Big East.

It is a little premature to conjecture about the strength and weaknesses of the Big Ten Conference. But as we head into Week 3, this is how the Big Ten Teams line up in the latest Power Rankings…

11. Minnesota Golden Gophers [1-1]

The Gophers are already reeling after being upset by the South Dakota Coyotes 41-38 in Week 2.

Duane Bennett, who rushed 18 times for 104 yards, kept the Gophers competitive with two one-yard touchdown runs in the fourth quarter, the last with 3:21 left to cut the lead to three.

Every time the Gophers have played football teams from the Dakotas, they’ve found themselves in deep trouble.

North Dakota State came up one point short in 2006, but found a way to win at the Metrodome in 2007. Minnesota had to struggle mightily for a 16-13 victory over South Dakota State last November.

The Gophers did not help themselves by turning the ball over twice in the first half last Saturday. First, Minnesota failed on a fourth down attempt at the South Dakota 30, and then QB Adam Weber fumbled at the Coyotes 30 in the closing seconds.

Kicker Ellestad, who missed from 39 and 40 yards in the opening win at Middle Tennessee, also hooked a 48-yard field goal left.

Weber found Stoudermire open on a post pattern from 49 yards out for Minnesota’s first touchdown and hit Gray and Da’Jon McKnight for scores in the third quarter. Weber was 21 for 31 for 258 yards.

This week as the Gophers welcome the USC Trojans, they had better find a way to steady this sinking ship.

Purdue is 1-1 going into Week 3.

10. Purdue Boilermakers [1-1]

Purdue opened their season with a loss to Notre Dame.

But the Boilers came back to win against the Western Illinois Leathernecks 31-21 last Saturday, even though Purdue played lackluster football, perhaps losing receiver Keith Smith for the season with an injury to his right leg.

Smith caught six passes for 43 yards before Purdue’s top receiver left the game in the fourth quarter with an injured right knee. Running Back Dan Dierking rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns to help Purdue secure their win.

QB Robert Marve threw for 171 yards, one touchdown and one interception for the Boilermakers . It was Marve’s first win as Purdue’s quarterback after transferring from Miami (Fla.).

On defense, Ryan Kerrigan dominated for Purdue. The defensive end had career highs with 12 tackles and four tackles for loss. He had a sack and forced a fumble.

Purdue welcomes the Ball State Cardinals this week, hopefully to add another win to their total.

9. Illinois Fighting Illini [1-1]

Illinois lost their opener to the Missouri Tigers 23-13 but won against Southern Illinois 35-3 as the Illini continue to climb out of the quagmire of 2009.

Red shirt freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase continues to impress while running back Mikel LeShoure ran for 115 yards and two touchdowns. A.J. Jenkins had 114 receiving yards and a score Saturday night to help lead Illinois past Southern Illinois.

With Northern Illinois the opponent in Week 3, the Illini should continue to gain confidence and momentum.

This will aid the Fighting Illini in climbing out of the bottom of the Big Ten Power Rankings.

Indiana is looking for win No. 2 this weekend.

8. Indiana Hoosiers [1-0]

Indiana had a week off following their opener on Sept. 4, after knocking off the Towson Tigers by a 51-17 margin.

Indiana (1-0) scored 38 points in a wild first half that included three touchdown drives of two plays and RB Darius Willis rushing for more than 100 yards.

The Hoosiers also forced two turnovers and blocked a punt in the first 30 minutes.

For the Hoosiers (1-0), things couldn’t have gone any better in the season opener.

Willis finished with 14 carries for 102 yards, an average of 7.3 yards per carry, and the two scores.

Chappell was 16-of-23 for 182 yards and the two scores and the first-half point total was the most produced by Indiana since a 42-point effort against Northwestern in November 2001.

Not surprisingly, the Hoosiers produced their third lopsided home-opening win in four years. Playing the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers this Saturday, Indiana should notch another win.

7. Northwestern Wildcats [2-0]

Northwestern has won twice in a row against Vanderbilt 23-21 on the road and against Illinois State at home, 37-3.

Wildcat QB Dan Persa threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score to lead Northwestern past Illinois State 37-3 Saturday. Persa was 19 of 23 for 240 yards, and Drake Dunsmore caught both his TD passes.

RB Arby Fields ran for 96 yards and a touchdown run for the Wildcats. The Wildcats scored on their first three possessions and led 30-3 at halftime. The Northwestern defense limited Illinois State to 263 yards.

This coming weekend the Wildcats, undefeated, will travel to Texas where they will face the Rice Owls.

Northwestern holds its own in the Power Rankings.

Michigan State plays Notre Dame this Saturday night.

6. Michigan State Spartans [2-0]

Michigan State defeated Western Michigan in Week 1.

In Week 2, RB Edwin Baker ran for an 80-yard touchdown and had 183 yards rushing to lead Michigan State to a 30-17 win over Florida Atlantic on Saturday.

The Owls, however, had a chance to pull within a TD and two-point conversion with 2:50 left.

Florida Atlantic Coach Howard Schnellenberger decided to settle for a field goal instead of going for it from the Michigan State 6.

During the game QB Kirk Cousins had 142 yards passing, a TD, and an interception for the Spartans.

There is not much to tell in the early Spartan wins, except that Michigan State is running and kicking well.   What they are not doing well is guarding against the pass.

The Spartans’ weakness on pass defense was evident against FAU QB Van Camp, as he completed nearly two-thirds of his passes tossed to constantly wide-open receivers.

This is a failing that Michigan State will wish to remedy before the Irish come calling on Saturday night.

5. Penn State Nittany Lions (22) [1-1]

Penn State lost to Alabama 24-3 in Week 2. Alabama is ranked No. 1 in the nation. No one really expected a different outcome.

The question remains, how will Penn State use this defeat to help them for the rest of the season?

Considering the fact that the Lions turned the ball over three times inside the Alabama 20-yard line, the game could have been considerably closer against the No. 1 ranked team in the country.

Yet, the Tide hardly slowed down without injured Mark Ingram.

Alabama’s young defense forced freshman QB Rob Bolden and the Nittany Lions into several turnovers that ended compelling drives. Alabama continually harassed QB Bolden, causing two interceptions in his first road start.

Bolden was 13-of-29 passing for 144 yards. It was the first time Penn State was held without a touchdown since a 14-9 loss to Michigan in 2007. The shutout lasted until the final 10 minutes.

The Crimson Tide defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown yet and hit Bolden with calamitous blitzes.

Alabama’s Trent Richardson had 102 yards in the first half against a defense that had gone the previous 17 games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. Iowa’s Shonn Greene gained 117 yards on Nov. 8, 2008.

Penn State’s Evan Royster finished with just 32 yards on nine carries and remains 10 yards shy of 3,000 for his career.

With a loss, Penn State falls back in the Power Rankings.

They should win the next couple of weeks before they head off to Iowa City to face the Hawkeyes for their Big Ten Opener when the season gets very interesting.

Wisconsin is 2-0 heading into their contest against Arizona State.

4. Wisconsin Badgers (11), [2-0]

Wisconsin managed to win their game last week against the San Jose Spartans––but just barely.

It wasn’t total yardage or lack of effort that almost proved their undoing. Rather it was the inevitable turnovers that plagued the Badgers.

Just as in Week 1, when the Badgers turned the ball over twice to the UNLV Running Rebels, they continued down this unwilled path last Saturday by committing untimely turnovers.

Badger quarterback Scott Tolzien was 15 of 22 for 191 yards with a touchdown. But Tolzien fumbled the ball three times––all of which he managed to recover.

Adding to the fumble count, RB James White lost possession as he stretched the ball out to reach the end zone and to make matters worse, Tolzien tossed an interception.

Badger John Clay, reigning Big Ten offensive player of the year, has 260 yards and four touchdowns so far this season.  On Saturday Clay ran for 137 yards and two touchdowns,

It was Clay’s eighth straight 100-yard rushing game as the Badgers won their 15th consecutive home opener and improved to 13-0 in non-conference regular-season games under head coach Bret Bielema.

The Badgers will have a stiffer test this week and must learn to hang onto the ball in order to hang onto their upper tier ranking.

3. Michigan Wolverines (20), [2-0]

With their victory on the road at Notre Dame, the Wolverines suddenly find themselves ranked in the top twenty in college football.

Denard Robinson, the Michigan quarterback, is proving himself to be “the offense” for the Wolverines and his performances so far this season have been jaw-dropping.

If what Robinson accomplished last week was astonishing, what he did against Notre Dame on Saturday surpassed it. He made the longest run in the history of Notre Dame’s famous stadium––an 87-yard scamper for a touchdown.

That was just the beginning.  Robinson compiled a school-record 502 yards total offense for a QB, including 258 yards rushing on 28 carries and 244 more passing.

Robinson under the gun, orchestrated the game-winning 12-play, 72 yard drive, taking the ball in himself from two yards out with 27 seconds left to send Michigan (2-0) to a breath-taking 28-24 victory.

During the game-winning drive, seemingly stopped on downs, Robinson carried to pick up a crucial first on a fourth-and-1 at the Notre Dame 35. Then on a third-and-five from the 17, Robinson drilled a 15-yard pass to Roy Roundtree to the two to set up his TD.

This is one very exciting team, exceeding everyone’s expectations to date.

It allowed Michigan to bound up the ladder of the Big Ten Power Rankings.

Iowa travels out West to play No. 24 Arizona.

2. Iowa Hawkeyes (9), [2-0]

The Iowa Hawkeyes, ranked No. 9 in the polls, hold onto the No. 2 spot in this week’s power rankings, as they dominated the Iowa State Cyclones in Week 2, 35-7.

Iowa scored on their first three possessions, controlling the scoreboard, the clock, and Iowa State’s offense.

Cyclone QB Austen Arnaud threw three interceptions in the third quarter, making Iowa’s task that much simpler.

Nearly all of Iowa’s 11 victories came down to the fourth quarter in 2009. This year the Hawkeyes seem determined to lessen the dramatic and often heart-stopping endings.

Iowa has outscored its opponents 56-7 in the first half this season

RB Adam Robinson rushed for a career-high 156 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries as No. 9 Iowa took its third straight victory over the rival Cyclones.

RB Jewel Hampton, who red-shirted last season following knee surgery, added 84 yards on 20 carries, including a two-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

Stanzi threw short TD passes to Marvin McNutt and Allen Reisner, and his one-yard TD plunge gave Iowa a 28-0 lead at halftime. Stanzi finished 11 of 18 passing for 204 yards.

The defense continues to be the driving force for the Hawkeyes, but the offense appears to have come around, too, after struggling at times a year ago.

The Hawks must travel out West to face the No. 24 Arizona Wildcats on Saturday––their toughest test of the young season.

1. Ohio State Buckeyes (2), [2-0]

Still leading the pack is the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes.

Last Saturday, the No. 13 Miami Hurricanes blew into Columbus, intent on blasting the Buckeyes out of their lofty No. 2 ranking.

The Canes failed, however, to hang onto the football and turnovers cost them a victory.

Ohio State slammed the door shut on Miami, 36-24, keeping them out of the top 10––and sending them back to the drawing board.

Miami quarterback Jacory Harris and the 12th-ranked Hurricanes came into their showdown with No. 2 Ohio State ready and willing but four interceptions later, the Canes were down and out.

Terrelle Pryor ran for 113 yards and a touchdown and passed for another score on Saturday.

This game had all the earmarks of an early season contest with numerous sloppy plays and some bad tackling.

But it kept the Buckeyes perfect and prevented the Hurricanes from making a case they belonged back among the nation’s elite.

The Ohio State Buckeyes hold onto the No. 1 spot in the Big Ten Power Rankings.

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