In this week’s Big Ten power rankings, we look at the undefeated Minnesota Golden Gophers and examine if they’re actually good or just lucky.
Alright, look, as the season began, I wasn’t convinced Minnesota would turn out to be a good team. Through the first three weeks, Minnesota managed to scrape by, beating South Dakota State by a touchdown, Fresno State in overtime and Georgia Southern by three points. Now, at roughly the halfway point of the 2019 season, Golden Gophers have reached a point where it’s impressive to still be undefeated.
That doesn’t mean Minnesota is a great team, but it looks to be a pretty good one. There are four unbeaten teams left in the Big Ten right now, and Minnesota happens to be one of them. Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State are the three other unblemished teams in this conference right now.
Of course, those three teams look notably better than the Golden Gophers at the moment, but Minnesota will have plenty of opportunities to continue to get respect moving forward. If P.J. Fleck‘s team can continue to improve, this could be a very special season for Minnesota.
Rutgers is holding strong at No. 14, so nothing has really changed there. The Scarlet Knights still aren’t any good and firing Chris Ash hasn’t changed that at all. There’s no hope for Rutgers football this season, but at least they’ll be getting a new coach for next year?
The Illinois Fighting Illini were absolutely demolished by Minnesota over the weekend. While Minnesota may actually be a good team, the Golden Gophers aren’t one of the best teams in the country by any means. Losing 40-17 certainly doesn’t help Illinois’ case as the Fighting Illini try to get more respect and build a better program.
Purdue has really fallen off from where it was a season ago. The Boilermakers are 1-4 and probably won’t make a bowl if they continue to play as they did on Saturday against Penn State. The Nittany Lions were simply better than the Boilermakers and won by four scores. Purdue doesn’t seem to be the electrifying, odds-defying team it was a season ago, and that’s disappointing to see.
Yes, Northwestern and Purdue are tied right now in these Big Ten power rankings. They’re both 1-4 and they both have the potential to be so much better than they have been so far this season. Northwestern took Nebraska down to the wire, but an interception late in the game against the Huskers set up a game-winning field goal as time expired for Nebraska, and it gave Northwestern yet another frustrating loss in 2019.
Indiana didn’t do anything this week, so the Hoosiers can’t be penalized. Plus, there’s plenty of other bad teams in the Big Ten right now, so setting Indiana at No. 10 here just feels right.
The Cornhuskers certainly aren’t very good right now. Nebraska is just two wins away from making it to a bowl game, but with an injured Adrian Martinez, the Huskers probably aren’t going to make a good bowl game unless their starting quarterback bounces back. Halfway through the season, the Huskers have seen their fair share of struggles, but have managed to make it to 4-2 on the year. Can Nebraska finish the season strong and earn some of the respect that was thrown its way at the beginning of the season?
After starting the season with an explosive and fun offense, Maryland hit a rough patch and has struggled over the past few weeks. The perfect cure for those struggles, evidently, was playing Rutgers, whom Maryland ran over. The Terps will get another shot at a struggling team with they play the Purdue Boilermakers this weekend.
Michigan State had an opportunity to prove that it belonged in the Big Ten championship discussion when the Spartans faced the Ohio State Buckeyes. Unfortunately for MSU, Ohio State ended those discussions with ease and knocked the Spartans around on Saturday night. The Spartans tried slowing the Buckeyes’ impressive offense, but simply couldn’t do it well enough, or keep up on offense enough, to come out on top.
In the most stereotypical Big Ten game possible, the Iowa Hawkeyes lost to the Michigan Wolverines in a dull, 10-3 slugfest. It wasn’t exciting. There were plenty of mistakes. Iowa lost. The Hawkeyes had issues keeping their quarterback upright and Michigan’s pass rush at bay, but clearly Michigan had issues scoring on Saturday as well.
Minnesota, I am admittedly impressed that you’ve made it to this point and are still undefeated. Given your first three games of the season, I was unimpressed with your 3-0 record. The Golden Gophers have a legitimate shot at making it to 6-0 with their upcoming game against Nebraska. Minnesota may not be a great team by any stretch of the imagination, but remaining undefeated after five games deserve some recognition. Remaining undefeated after six games would earn even more respect.
Michigan isn’t an impressive team right now, but the Wolverines did win against a previously undefeated Iowa team on Saturday. It was ugly and difficult to watch at times, but the Wolverines won thanks to their defense. Now comes the task of fixing Michigan’s offense.
The Penn State Nittany Lions remain unbeaten after pushing the Purdue Boilermakers around. Beating the Boilermakers, who are clearly struggling this season, isn’t something that is worth hanging a banner about, but Penn State is still unbeaten and still has a shot to make it to the Big Ten title game.
Wisconsin’s defense is remarkable with three shutouts in their first five games. The Badgers likely have the best collective defense in the country and it blanked yet another team this weekend. Wisconsin pummeled Kent State in a win that was expected. The Badgers might just be the best team in the Big Ten, but they haven’t had a chance to truly prove that just yet.
Ohio State looked remarkable against Michigan State. The Buckeyes navigated one of the tougher defenses in the Big Ten and came out on top. In addition to that, Ohio State’s defense locked down Michigan State’s offense (though this isn’t nearly as much of an accomplishment) and the Buckeyes won in a blowout. Ohio State still sits at the top of the Big Ten this week.