I will reiterate this, oh, every week. This isn’t a power ranking. This isn’t a ranking based on the season’s body of work. It simply ranks the previous Saturday’s games only.
Let’s repeat: It ranks the previous Saturday’s games only. How well a team played, and the quality of its opposition.
That said, the No. 1 team is last week’s No. 1 team.
1. Michigan. W 41-30 vs. Notre Dame. It was the league’s only marquee game of the week, and it was a good one. The Wolverines put on an exciting, clutch performance. Devin Gardner was big-time at quarterback with four touchdown passes. Jeremy Gallon was big-time at wide receiver with three TD catches and 181 yards.
The Wolverines play Akron this Saturday. That won’t be pretty.
They played “Chicken Dance” on the Michigan p.a. after the game. Click the link in this paragraph, and you’ll find out why.
But more importantly, Brent Musburger had this interview with Eminem during ABC’s telecast of the game. No one will ever forget where they were when they saw it.
2. Illinois. W 45-17 vs. Cincinnati. Like much of the world who cares, I was shocked. The Illini had the ball for over 36 minutes, passed for four tochdowns and 312 yards, and rushed for 210 yards. Against a good team!
We thought the Illini were the Big Ten’s clear weak link. But do you see Indiana, Purdue, Iowa, Michigan State, and selected other teams beating Cincinnati by four touchdowns?
“It has got nothing to do with me,” Illinois Coach Tim Beckman said. ” It has everything to do with these players. They believe in what we’re doing. And you could see a little bit of that today.”
But if you say it’s the players believing in what you’re doing, aren’t you really giving yourself some credit?
3. Northwestern, W 48-27 vs. Syracuse. The Wildcats didn’t mess around. They scored their first touchdown 51 seconds into the game. They scored on six of their first seven drives. They led 34-7 at halftime.
They racked up 581 yards and completed 30 of 37 passes for 375 yards and four TDs. Kain Colter was 15-of-18. Trevor Siemian was 15-of-19. That’s balance.
That’s three Big Ten teams with four passing touchdowns if you’re keeping track.
Northwestern’s defense has seven interceptions in two games, tied for the nation’s most with Tennessee.
4. Ohio State, W 42-7 vs. San Diego State. Had the Aztecs not lost 40-19 to Eastern Illinois the week before, this win would be ranked third, not fourth.
It was 35-0 at halftime. A long plane ride for a bloodletting.
OSU quarterback Braxton Miller sprained a knee. Enter Kenny Guiton, already a folk hero in Columbus for stepping in to a game against Purdue last season. The Buckeyes won that one in overtime. Miller was hurt, Guiton came in, and led the Buckeyes to a game-tying touchdown drive in the final minute of regulation. Guiton passed for 152 yards and two TDs and rushed for 83 yards and a score against San Diego State.
“With Kenny Guiton, it’s not like you’re bringing in some guy off the street,” said OSU co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers.
Do teams occasionally do that?
5. Minnesota, W 44-21 at New Mexico State. Yes, the Aggies of Las Cruces have been horrible at football forever. No, I don’t know how Minnesota got goat-roped into making this trip.
But it was a road game, and the Gophers took care of business. Top running back Donnell Kirkwood didn’t make the trip, so Rodrick Williams rushed for 148 yards.
For the second-straight week, the Gophers had two returns for touchdowns. They now have two via interception return, one via blocked-kick return, and one via fumble-return. And both of their opponents were FBS, though UNLV and New Mexico State aren’t a pair of programs that would dominate FCS.
6. Nebraska, W 56-13 vs. Southern Mississippi. USM has lost 14 straight games. But Nebraska, trampled by Wyoming’s offense the week before, took no chances and buried the Golden Eagles with a 35-6 first-half blitz.
Three plays into the game, Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste picked off a pass and returned it for a touchdown.
Stanley Jean-Baptiste doesn’t sound like an American football name. But he now has two career INT returns for scores, and that’s pretty good.
Nebraska liked Jean-Baptiste’s play so much that Ciante Evans returned a pick for six later in the quarter.
Ciante Evans. Another great name.
7. Penn State, W 45-7 at Eastern Michigan. Yes, Eastern Michigan is a perennial tomato can. I’ve always loved that phrase “tomato can.”
Akeel Lynch and Bill Belton both topped 100 rushing yards for the Nittany Lions. Lynch almost went to Iowa. Twice.
8. Michigan State, W 21-6 vs. South Florida. For the second-straight week over a less-than-stellar FBS team, the Spartans were dominant defensively and lackluster offensively.
MSU is fourth in the nation in rushing defense, third in total defense. First in total defense and scoring defense is …
9. Wisconsin, W 48-0 vs. Tennessee Tech. Two games, two shutouts for the Badgers. They outgained Tech, 606 yards to 113.
But it was Tennessee Tech. The Badgers play at Arizona State Saturday. Two games, two shutouts for Arizona State. It hasn’t played anyone, either.
10. Iowa, W 28-14 vs. Missouri State. The opponent was Missouri State. I can’t rank the win above the aforementioned nine. The first eight were FBS teams, the ninth was total dominance by Wisconsin.
11. Indiana, L 41-35 vs. Navy. A step back for the Hoosiers in a game they may have needed to get bowl-eligible this season.
Navy rushed for 444 yards. It ran on its first 29 plays. It ran for 10 or more yards on 18 different plays.
Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo’s mother died in Hawaii two nights before the game. So his players wore a heart-shaped decal on their shoulder pads.
“I coach great kids,” Niumatalolo said. “They presented me with the heart, that was all their idea. I’m the luckiest coach in the world.”
12. Purdue, W 20-14 vs. Indiana State. The Boilermakers are my No. 12 team for the second-straight week.
They lost to Cincinnati in Week 1, 42-7. That means they’re 63 points worse than Illinois.
Indiana State lost 73-35 at Indiana the week before, but outgained Purdue, 295 yards to 284. And the Sycamores played without running back Shakir Bell, who rushed for 113 yards against the Hoosiers.
“This is a win business,” said Purdue’s Ricardo Allen, who had an interception at the Boilermakers 30-yard line with 19 seconds to play to secure the win. “That’s what we did. We’re happy about that, but we know we have strides to make.”
Purdue plays Notre Dame Saturday. That’s unfortunate.
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