Big Ten football power rankings: Michigan still reigns, middle strengthens

Michigan, Penn State stay on top with victories

Michigan and Penn State held on to the top spots in this week's Big Ten football power rankings, while Wisconsin and Ohio State cracked the top five (Getty Images).
Michigan and Penn State held on to the top spots in this week's Big Ten football power rankings, while Wisconsin and Ohio State cracked the top five (Getty Images).

DETROIT – It was a bounce-back weekend for the Big Ten after an ugly Week 2, but there weren't many big wins on the conference's resume.

Only two Big Ten teams lost, but the biggest win in the conference came against a BYU team that isn't very good.

FLASHBACK: Week 2 Big Ten football power rankings

Here are the power rankings for Week 3:

1. Michigan Wolverines

Last week: 1

Result: Michigan 29, Air Force 13

The general sentiment after Michigan's win over Air Force was that the team didn't play well, and that was reflected in the team's drop to No. 8 in both the AP and Coaches polls.

But I didn't see it that way. Air Force is a good team that won 10 games last season and had two weeks to prepare for the Wolverines. Despite struggling in the red zone, the Michigan offense put up 359 yards, while the defense held the Falcons to just one touchdown that came on the first completed pass of the game in the third quarter.

Don Brown's defense is still dominant, and the offense was better between the 20s. The loss of Tarik Black hurts, but the Wolverines have a deep group of young receivers, so they should be able to survive the blow.

2. Penn State Nittany Lions

Last week: 2

Result: Penn State 56, Georgia State 0

Penn State looked impressive in a blowout victory over Georgia State, but it takes much more to vault into the No. 1 spot on this list.

In three games, Penn State has dominated Akron, Pittsburgh and Georgia State. That's good for a perfect nonconference season, but the resume isn't the least bit impressive. Those three teams don't have a single win over an FBS team, and the only win Pittsburgh has came against Youngstown State in overtime.

Trace McSorley was masterful against Georgia State, completing 18 of 23 passes for 309 yards and five total touchdowns. Saquon Barkley didn't have to do very much in the blowout, carrying the ball just 10 times for 47 yards.

The Nittany Lions might very well be the best team in the Big Ten, but the resume is lacking an impressive win.

3. Maryland Terrapins

Last week: 3

Result: Bye week

The Terrapins didn't play this weekend, but the rest of the Big Ten didn't do anything overly impressive, so they held on to the No. 3 spot.

Maryland is this high on the list mostly because it went on the road to play a Power Five opponent and won the game. If Texas would have held on to beat Southern Cal this weekend, Maryland's opening-week victory would have looked even better.

4. Wisconsin Badgers

Last week: 7 (Up 3)

Result: Wisconsin 40, BYU 6

When Wisconsin scheduled BYU, it probably thought it would get a chance to play a quality nonconference opponent. Unfortunately, the Cougars aren't very good this season.

That doesn't mean the Badgers weren't impressive. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook completed 18 of 19 passes for 256 yards and four touchdowns in one of the best passing performances in the Big Ten this season.

Wisconsin held a terrible BYU offense under 200 yards, and the game was over by halftime.

As the favorite in the West Division, Wisconsin took care of business during the nonconference season, but now the real test begins.

5. Ohio State Buckeyes

Last week: 5

Result: Ohio State 38, Army 7

Ohio State took care of business this weekend, bouncing back from its first loss to dominate Army.

J.T. Barrett's passing abilities have been the top storyline this season, and he looked good against the Knights, completing 25 of 33 passes for 270 yards and a pair of scores.

J.K. Dobbins needed just 13 carries to pick up 172 yards and two touchdowns, while Mike Weber received just four carries in the game.

Ohio State should get a free pass through the next several weeks. The Buckeyes will blow through UNLV and Rutgers to finish up September before games against Maryland and Nebraska -- both of which will be heavy underdogs.

6. Iowa Hawkeyes

Last week: 4 (Down 2)

Result: Iowa 31, North Texas 14

The final score says Iowa won this game pretty handily, but the real story is that North Texas was within three points midway through the fourth quarter.

Quarterback Nathan Stanley had another strong performance, completing 16 of 27 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns. Iowa's offense held the ball for more than 40 minutes and racked up 435 total yards.

Iowa's resume got an early boost when the Hawkeyes dominated Josh Allen and Wyoming, but they've struggled against Iowa State and North Texas in the two games since. Throw in the fact that Oregon pummeled Wyoming by 36 points in Laremy and the Iowa resume doesn't look as strong as it did two weeks ago.

7. Michigan State Spartans

Last week: 6 (Down 1)

Result: Bye week

The Spartans dropped one spot this week, but only because Wisconsin was so dominant at BYU.

Michigan State is off to a nice start in 2017, knocking off a pair of MAC teams without breaking a sweat. The Spartans' defense has been particularly impressive, allowing just three points in two games.

Michigan State will look to pick up its biggest win of the season this weekend when a much-improved Notre Dame team comes to East Lansing. If they can pull off a victory, the Spartans will be moving up the list.

8. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Last week: 8

Result: Minnesota 34, Middle Tennessee 3

The lackluster Week 1 performance against Buffalo is a distant memory as Minnesota has bounced back to beat Oregon State and Middle Tennessee by a combined score of 82-17.

P.J. Fleck inherited a solid Big Ten team, and he appears to have improved on the defensive toughness. The Blue Raiders mustered just 230 yards, including 46 yards rushing, against the Golden Gophers.

Kobe McCrary and Rodney Smith each gained 107 yards on the ground, and McCrary found the end zone three times.

The upcoming schedule isn't exactly a gauntlet, but after a bye this weekend, the Golden Gophers will play three improved teams in Maryland, Purdue and Michigan State.

9. Purdue Boilermakers

Last week: 10 (Up 1)

Result: Purdue 35, Missouri 3

Missouri isn't one of the better teams in the SEC, but this massive road victory poured gasoline all over the Purdue comeback fire.

When Purdue hung with Louisville in week one, it was easy to pass that off as a fluke. Then Purdue dominated Ohio, a very good MAC program. After a dominant outing on the road against a Power Five team, it's time to give Jeff Brohm his props.

Brohm took over a team that has been the laughingstock of the Big Ten West Division over the last decade, and just three games into his tenure, new life has been breathed into the fan base.

Michigan will have its hands full in West Lafayette as the new-look Boilermakers look to defend their home turf.

10. Indiana Hoosiers

Last week: 9 (Down 1)

Result: Game vs. Florida International canceled

Indiana was supposed to host Florida International this weekend, but due to the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, the game was canceled.

The Hoosiers certainly didn't want to miss a week after pounding Virginia on the road. They've played seven good quarters this season, with the only disaster coming in the fourth quarter against Ohio State.

Now, the final nonconference test will come against Georgia Southern before a tough trip to Penn State.

11. Northwestern Wildcats

Last week: 13 (Up 2)

Result: Northwestern 49, Bowling Green 7

Northwestern's rise to No. 11 has very little to do with its win over Bowling Green and much more to do with the terrible trio of teams below.

The Wildcats failed their only true nonconference test when they went to Duke and got steamrolled by 24 points. They kept the boat from sinking with double-digit margins of victory against Nevada and Bowling Green, but the next two games against Wisconsin and Penn State will set the tone for the remainder of the season.

12. Illinois Fighting Illini

Last week: 11 (Down 1)

Result: South Florida 47, Illinois 23

After a very solid victory over Western Kentucky in week two, this weekend's game felt like one the Fighting Illini would lose handily, and that's exactly what happened.

Illinois gave up 680 yards of offense to No. 22 South Florida in the blowout loss. Jeff George Jr. and Chayce Crouch combined for three interceptions and aside from one 45-yard run, the running backs couldn't move the ball on the ground.

13. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Last week: 12 (Down 1)

Result: Northern Illinois 21, Nebraska 17

After struggling to beat Arkansas State at home and losing at Oregon to start the season, things couldn't get any worse for Nebraska, right?

Spoiler alert: It got a whole lot worse.

Nebraska returned home and got dropped by Northern Illinois, which scored 14 points in the first quarter, shut Nebraska out in the first half and scored the winning touchdown with 8:52 remaining in the fourth.

Back-to-back games against Rutgers and Illinois couldn't come at a better time for Nebraska, but there's not much hope for this season in Lincoln. Is Bo Pelini available?

14. Rutgers Scarlett Knights

Last week: 14

Result: Rutgers 65, Morgan State 0

Luckily for Nebraska, Rutgers also has a home loss to a MAC school, but the Scarlett Knights don't have a win against an FBS opponent.

They did, however, destroy winless Morgan State this weekend behind 326 rushing yards and three interceptions on defense. Chris Ash needed this victory, because wins have been hard to come by in Big Ten play.