Penn St Maryland Football

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford (14) passes against Maryland linebacker Isaiah Davis earlier this season in College Park, Md. Content Exchange

1. OHIO STATE (6-0, 3-0)

Previous: 1. Last week: W 34-10 vs. Michigan State.

The No. 3 Buckeyes put together another dominant performance, jumping out to a 27-10 halftime lead against the ranked Spartans and then cruising in the second half. Justin Fields turned the ball over for the first time in his OSU career  oh, the horror  but JK Dobbins rushed for 172 yards (Ryan Day’s team finished with 323 on the ground overall) and the Buckeyes rolled to 529 overall. They’re a runaway train through the first half of the season. Now a bye week before a trip to Northwestern on Oct. 18.

2. WISCONSIN (5-0, 2-0)

Previous: 2. Last week: W 48-0 vs. Kent State.

The No. 8 Badgers rounded out nonconference play by dominating an overmatched Kent State team. Jonathan Taylor’s Heisman Trophy campaign continued as the junior rushed for 186 yards (9.8 per carry) and four touchdowns and caught a score, too. Paul Chryst’s team outscored its three nonconference opponents 158-0. The Badgers' homestand continues on Saturday with a key game against Michigan State.

3. PENN STATE (5-0, 2-0)

Previous: 3. Last week: W 35-7 vs. Purdue.

The No. 10 Nittany Lions have hit their stride and perhaps represent Ohio State’s biggest threat in the East. The most recent victim? Purdue. Sean Clifford was 20-of-29 for 264 yards and three TDs, and PSU ran for 196. More impressively, James Franklin’s defense held the Boilermakers to minus-19 yards rushing and 104 yards overall. This defense looks like the best in years in Happy Valley. A tough test in prime time is up next as PSU travels to Iowa.

4. MICHIGAN (4-1, 2-1)

Previous: 6. Last week: W 10-3 vs. Iowa.

The No. 14 Wolverines put forth an impressive defensive outing against Iowa, forcing four turnovers and completely shutting down the Hawkeyes’ run game. The offense is still struggling — Shea Patterson was 14-of-26 for 147 and an interception on Saturday — but at least freshman back Zach Charbonnet is getting back toward healthy. Michigan travels to Illinois this weekend before visiting Penn State and traveling to Notre Dame back-to-back weekends.

5. IOWA (4-1, 1-1)

Previous: 4. Last week: L 10-3 at Michigan.

The No. 16 Hawkeyes’ offense just couldn’t get much going against Michigan's defense. For the first time this fall, turnovers cropped up. Iowa entered with just one on the season but committed four against the Wolverines. Kirk Ferentz’s team rushed 30 times for 1 yard. Yikes. Another big one looms this weekend, this time at home against Penn State.

6. MINNESOTA (5-0, 2-0)

Previous: 7. Last week: W 40-17 vs. Illinois.

The Gophers just keep finding ways to get it done. P.J. Fleck’s team pulled away from Illinois in the second half to remain unbeaten this fall and stay squarely in the Big Ten West conversation. While UM’s receivers have been the story most of the year, senior Rodney Smith rushed for 211 yards against the Illini and Shannon Brooks chipped in with 111. A 332-yard rushing day will certainly get Nebraska’s attention before a Saturday night game in Minneapolis.

7. MICHIGAN STATE (4-2, 2-1)

Previous: 5. Last week: L 34-10 at Ohio State.

The Spartans became the latest victim of powerful Ohio State and is in the midst of a rugged stretch. MSU couldn’t get its ground game going against the Buckeyes (27 carries for 67 yards) and now is tasked with trying to get it on track against Wisconsin on Saturday in Madison. The Badgers are allowing 1.8 yards per carry and 47.6 per game. After that, a bye week before Penn State. Mark Dantonio’s crew has its work cut out.

8. MARYLAND (3-2, 1-1)

Previous: 8. Last week: W 48-7 at Rutgers.

The Terrapins bounced back from two consecutive losses to stomp Rutgers on the road. Maryland rushed for 200 yards and four scores. The main concern: Josh Jackson, the team's redshirt junior quarterback, was hurt throwing a pass. Tyrrell Pigrome is the guy if Jackson misses time. The Terps visit Purdue this weekend before hosting Indiana and visiting Minnesota to close out October.

9. NEBRASKA (4-2, 2-1)

Previous: 9. Last week: W 13-10 vs. Northwestern.

The Huskers found a way against Northwestern, getting a walk-off field goal from walk-on defensive back Lane McCallum to win it. NU has matched its 2018 and 2017 win totals with half the schedule remaining. The win could be costly, though. Both sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez and standout junior wide receiver JD Spielman left the game with injuries. Next up: a trip to Minnesota for a key Big Ten West game before a bye week.

10. NORTHWESTERN (1-4, 0-3)

Previous: 10. Last week: L 13-10 at Nebraska.

The Wildcats look like longshots to repeat as division champions after falling to 0-3 in close fashion at Nebraska. Northwestern’s defense is talented and tough, but its offensive limitations make it difficult to envision Pat Fitzgerald’s team getting hot in league play. Still, they will not be an easy task for anybody. The Wildcats are off this week and then host Ohio State on a Friday night.

11. INDIANA (3-2, 0-2)

Previous: 11. Last week: No game.

The Hoosiers return to action this week by hosting Rutgers.

12. ILLINOIS (2-3, 0-2)

Previous: 13. Last week: L 40-17 at Minnesota.

Illinois hung around with Minnesota for a while but just couldn’t stop the run. After starting 2-0, Lovie Smith’s team has lost three straight and hosts Michigan and Wisconsin the next two weeks. The Illini are somewhat improved, but it’s in danger of getting ugly in Champaign the next few weeks.

13. PURDUE (1-4, 0-2)

Previous: 12. Last week: L 35-7 at Penn State.

The Boilermakers’ sour season continued with a blowout loss at Penn State in which they finished with minus-19 rushing yards. Ouch. Without quarterback Elijah Sindelar and star receiver Rondale Moore, Purdue had very little in the way of answers. Even if Moore returns, that defense has been leaky all year.

14. RUTGERS (1-4, 0-3)

Previous: 14. Last week: L 48-7 vs. Maryland.

Interim head coach Nunzio Campanile made his debut and saw his team get dominated at home by Maryland. It’s not like there are a lot of answers waiting right around the corner for the Scarlet Knights, but the next four weeks feature Indiana, Minnesota, Liberty and Illinois. Can they find another win?

Contact the writer at or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.

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