September 17, 2023 2: 42 am ET
For many teams in the Big Ten, you could call Week 3 a struggle session.
While Ohio State finally rolled after a few weeks of limping through games, Penn State wasn’t exactly electric against Illinois. Michigan football was mistake-prone and kept Bowling Green in the game much longer than anyone would have anticipated. Michigan State got annihilated by Washington. Maryland pulled away in the second half after playing even with Virginia in the first.
Buy Wolverines Tickets
But there are six undefeated teams in the Big Ten through three weeks, three 2-1 teams, and five 1-2 teams.
With a wild week now in the books, here are our latest Big Ten power rankings.
Northwestern Wildcats (1-2)
Coming off of a win, not a great showing for the Wildcats against a ranked, Power Five team. The offense continued to sputter and the defense was porous against the run.
Northwestern is likely still the worst team in the conference.
Nebraska Cornhuskers (1-2)
Nebraska finally added a one to the win column, but it did so against Northern Illinois. With Heinrich Haarberg taking over for Jeff Sims at quarterback, there weren’t a ton of turnovers, so that’s a step in the right direction.
The defense continues to be solid and the run game stepped up. But the Huskers still have a lot of work to do in order to be competitive in Big Ten play.
Purdue Boilermakers (1-2)
The Ryan Walters era is off to a rough start and though quarterback Hudson Card had a decent game, the defensive-minded head coach couldn’t field much of a defense against Syracuse.
The game was relatively even until the second half when the Orange pulled away, but it’s unclear how the Boilermakers will fare in conference play.
Michigan State Spartans (2-1)
Where do we begin?
The Spartan faithful were convinced they’d have a good showing hosting Washington, but the 41-7 loss wasn’t even as close as it appeared. Of MSU’s 261 offensive yards, 99 came in garbage time. Noah Kim was abysmal in his first big game and the run game was non-existent.
The defense was a bigger mess than ever, allowing Michael Penix Jr. to throw for 473 yards while the run game for the Huskies amassed 177 yards on the ground.
It turns out wins over Central Michigan and Richmond aren’t indicative of a program on the rise.
Indiana Hoosiers (1-2)
Indiana was down 21-0 before it scored 14 consecutive points to make it a game against undefeated Louisville.
The defense played OK, and the run game left a lot to be desired. But quarterback Tayven Jackson went 24-for-34 for 299 yards with a touchdown and an interception. If the Hoosiers can continuously get performances like that at QB (they’ve played Brendan Sorsby each of the first two weeks, but Sorsby did not play on Saturday), then they could be a tough out in Big Ten play.
Illinois Fighting Illini (1-2)
Yes, Illinois moved way up after a loss, and one that wasn’t a particularly good game for the Illini. But they played the best team of any Big Ten team in Week 3, having had to face No. 7 Penn State.
The defense was actually pretty good, but quarterback Luke Altmyer threw four interceptions to go along with a fumble by Josh McCray. The Illini frequently put their defense in a tough situation and yet the defense did the best it could.
For that, Illinois deserves a little credit.
Minnesota Golden Gophers (2-1)
Yes, Minnesota moved up after its first loss, but it faced a tough opponent on the road in North Carolina. It also says a lot more about the teams below the Gophers that they moved up.
Drake Maye picked the Minnesota defense apart after some solid early showings to begin the season. Athan Kaliakmanis was more than pedestrian, and with Big Ten play starting next week, PJ Fleck will need to figure some things out.
Wisconsin Badgers (2-1)
Wisconsin bounced back in Week 3 after losing to Wazzu in Week 2, but it took until the second half.
The pass and run games were great for the Badgers, but the pass defense — well? It didn’t look good. At all. Against Georgia Southern.
There were bound to be growing pains, and there are some. But with the meat of the schedule coming up, Luke Fickell will need to get his team in a little better shape.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (3-0)
Once upon a time, a game against any Power Five opponent in the nonconference was an automatic loss for Rutgers. Yet, the Scarlet Knights downed Virginia Tech — a once formidable foe that’s fallen on hard times.
Gavin Wimsatt had an awful stat line, but the run game and defense were phenomenal. We’ll know more about Rutgers next week when it heads to Ann Arbor.
Maryland Terrapins (3-0)
Early struggles gave way to a blowout win over a Power Five opponent. Taulia Tagovailoa threw for 342 yards, taking advantage of the defense netting three interceptions of the Virginia quarterback.
Let’s be clear: Virginia is not good, as it’s a winless team through three weeks. But the Terps beating up on a bad team in the Power Five is a welcome development, indicating they certainly could make some noise in the Big Ten East on any given Saturday.
Iowa Hawkeyes (3-0)
So many points! And none from the defense!
Cade McNamara actually didn’t have a good day on Saturday, going 9-for-19 for 103 yards and with two touchdowns to two interceptions. But the run game was prolific and the defense continued to be stout. This was a step in the right direction, even if it looked distinctly Iowa.
Ohio State Buckeyes (3-0)
Ohio State finally looked like Ohio State, annihilating Western Kentucky, 63-10. It was a big second quarter, where the Buckeyes scored 35 points, but the concerns of the fans and the media had to feel very justified in the first quarter.
Still, it was an excellent game for Kyle McCord, with a 318-yard and three-touchdown performance. The scarlet and gray defense also held the sometimes-prolific WKU pass game in check.
But given that this was the first real good showing of the year for OSU, we cannot move them up higher just yet. We’ll find out more next week when it travels to Notre Dame.
Michigan Wolverines (3-0)
Yes, Michigan football managed to win handily, with a 25-point difference over Bowling Green. But the No. 2 team in the nation deserves to be dinged after the performance it had, where it was on the ropes against a team it had no business struggling with.
Let’s be clear, the game wasn’t really ever in doubt after the Wolverines scored the first touchdown. But the mistakes compounded over time, and if the Michigan defense wasn’t so dominant, it could have been a different story of a game.
For now, Michigan is No. 2, a likely temporary setback — unless the mistakes from Saturday are an omen of things to come.
Penn State Nittany Lions (3-0)
Let’s be clear: Penn State did not move up into the No. 1 spot because it’s truly earned it as much as Michigan football deserved to be dinged after playing the way it did. The Nittany Lions were not particularly impressive against Illinois and Drew Allar — not quite to the extent of J.J. McCarthy — came back down to earth in Week 3.
But, at the moment, it feels like PSU has had fewer growing pains through a quarter of the regular season than any other team. So, for now, reluctantly, Penn State is in the No. 1 spot.
Follow all of your favorite Michigan teams at Wolverines Wire, Lions Wire and get the latest Detroit news at the Detroit Free Press!