Big Ten power rankings after Week 13: A new (likely) king

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It was rivalry week in the Big Ten, and some of the big games upended what most thought about the complexion of the conference.

Some things didn’t change: Nebraska lost a game it was controlling, Indiana and Northwestern got blown out; Rutgers couldn’t get to six wins. But others were surprising: Penn State finished 7-5, Iowa somehow found its way to Indianapolis though Wisconsin controlled its own destiny, and Michigan finally beat Ohio State.

Now, only two teams will get to play next week: the Wolverines and Hawkeyes, with the former having a chance to get to the College Football Playoff if they win. Here are our final regular-season Big Ten power rankings with Week 13 in the books.

Indiana Hoosiers (2-10)

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Indiana is on its fourth-string quarterback in Grant Gremel and could do next to nothing offensively, managing just 205 total yards. The defense couldn’t contain rival Purdue, either.

After starting the season ranked with higher aspirations for the first time, the year is mercifully over.

Northwestern Wildcats (3-9)

Photo: Isaiah Hole

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From the Big Ten West champion to the worst in the division, Northwestern’s season is mercifully over after it got blown out in the rivalry game against Illinois. It mustered just 241 yards altogether and Pat Fitzgerald will have to find some answers to get the Wildcats to rebound next year.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (5-7)

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Rutgers started 3-0 and managed to win just two more games all season. This team is certainly improved, but when it needed just one more win to get to bowl eligibility, its defense faltered early and often.

Like Illinois, it has an outside chance at bowl eligibility.

Illinois Fighting Illini (5-7)

Photo: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, Illinois should probably be ranked higher after blowing out Northwestern, but we had to keep Nebraska exactly where it is.

The Illini put together its most complete game of the season with Brandon Peters passing for 242 yards while the run game amassed 217. The defense allowed just 241 yards of offense, altogether.

There’s an outside chance at a bowl game for the Illini, but it will depend on where a lot of other teams across college football fall.

Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-9)

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Nebraska remains the nation’s best three-win team, managing to wrest defeat from the jaws of victory, to lose yet another game by one score.

The game against Iowa is a microcosm of who Nebraska has been all season: tenacious, but mistake-ridden. The sweet elixir of having to wait until next year is here for the Huskers now.

Maryland Terrapins (6-6)

Photo: Isaiah Hole

It may be a far cry from where Maryland fans thought this team might be at the season’s end, but a win over Rutgers to end the season wasn’t exactly a foregone conclusion. However, the Terps took advantage and got a resounding win over the Scarlet Knights.

Taulia Tagovailoa threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns while the rushing attack added 263 yards. It’s the most complete performance Maryland has had since the early season, and it earned the Terrapins bowl eligibility.

Penn State Nittany Lions (7-5)

Photo: Isaiah Hole

What a disappointing season for Penn State.

It gave a max contract to James Franklin this week, but he couldn’t get the job done in East Lansing, in large part due to the ineffectiveness of the rushing attack and inability to stop the run. Sean Clifford returned to the helm and did a solid job, but he could only do so much himself. The defense wasn’t nearly as solid as it had been, allowing 268 yards through the air and 183 on the ground.

Penn State will play in the postseason, but it won’t be anything close to resembling a big-time matchup.

Purdue Boilermakers (8-4)

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

What a season for Purdue, with two big upsets and a rivalry win over lowly Indiana. Before the season, winning this Saturday seemed unlikely, but the Boilermakers took advantage of the decimated Hoosiers team. It wasn’t flashy, but a 44-7 win doesn’t have to be. Aidan O’Connell threw for four touchdowns and no interceptions and the defense was spectacular.

Purdue will get an opportunity to showcase it’s solid year with a decent bowl game.

Wisconsin Badgers (8-4)

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Redemption for the early season didn’t come as Wisconsin lost its first game since the Week 5 loss to Michigan.

The run game went nowhere and the Badgers had to rely on Graham Mertz, who didn’t do much either. He passed for 171 yards and the sole touchdown in the game came from a pick-six by safety Scott Nelson — not ideal.

Wisconsin will now await its fate, which will likely be a middle second-tier bowl game.

Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-4)

Photo: HawkCentral

That road loss at Iowa now seems like a distant memory since the Gophers managed to get a home rivalry win over Wisconsin.

Minnesota slowed what may have been the hottest team in the Big Ten, holding Braelon Allen and the vaunted rushing attack to just 62 yards. The Gophers couldn’t run the ball against Wisconsin’s stout run defense, but Tanner Morgan was efficient, and his 199 yards was just enough to knock off the presumed West representative in Indianapolis to ensure his rival stays home until the bowl game.

Michigan State Spartans (10-2)

Photo by: Isaiah Hole

Michigan State gave its head coach a landmark contract and he made good on it almost immediately, taking down a solid Penn State team.

The defense still allowed an insane amount of passing yards, but keyed in on the run quite well, allowing the Nittany Lions just 61 yards. Kenneth Walker III had 30 carries for 138 yards and a touchdown while Payton Thorne threw for 268 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

We nearly placed them third this week, but the 56-7 loss last week to Ohio State means the Spartans stay put.

Iowa Hawkeyes (10-2)

Photo: HawkCentral

This feels lucky, doesn’t it?

Iowa was getting dominated by Nebraska, but as the Huskers made more and more mistakes, as it’s wont to do, the Hawkeyes took advantage, edging Nebraska by one score, as most teams do. But Iowa didn’t have its own destiny in its hands, because of the head-to-head loss to Wisconsin. However, the red-hot Badgers got beat by Minnesota, and Iowa will now be the West’s representative in Indianapolis.

It’ll need a lot more firepower either from an injured Spencer Petras — who played some spot duty vs. Nebraska — or reserve Alex Padilla. Tyler Goodson and the run game amassed 186 yards in Lincoln, and the defense is still stout. Still, it’ll be a challenge, given what Michigan has done of late.

Ohio State Buckeyes (10-2)

Adam Cairns-The Columbus Dispatch

Pride comes before the fall.

There was a feeling coming out of Columbus, especially after the dominant win over Michigan State last week, that a ninth-straight win over rival Michigan and a trip to Indianapolis and the College Football Playoff was providence.

About that.

The Buckeyes got bullied up front, and the Wolverines asserted their dominance on the ground, breaking Ohio State’s will eventually. Aidan Hutchinson got to quarterback C.J. Stroud early and often, as OSU allowed more sacks against the Wolverines than it had all season.

Now, Ohio State awaits its fate, which is likely a New Year’s Six bowl. But it almost certainly won’t be the College Football Playoff unless a lot of crazy things happen.

Michigan Wolverines (11-1)

Photo: Isaiah Hole

It’s great to be a Michigan Wolverine!

At no point as we were doing these power rankings all year, was Michigan ever in the top spot. After a 2-4 season last year, it seemed unfathomable. After the loss to Michigan State, a game that the Wolverines were controlling but found ways to lose, it seemed impossible. But Ohio State came to town and was dominated on both sides of the ball, in a game where nearly every ‘expert’ (including me) picked the Wolverines to lose.

Now Michigan is at the top of our rankings and is the only team in the Big Ten who likely has a chance to reach the College Football Playoff since it’s the conference’s sole one-loss team.

It ran all over Ohio State, with 297 total rushing yards, led by Hassan Haskins and his five touchdowns. OSU still nearly managed 400 yards through the air, but only mustered 64 yards rushing. The Buckeyes were bullied up front, and now it’s Michigan that heads to Indianapolis after Ohio State has been the East’s representative the past four years.

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