The college football season has finally arrived and Week 1 is in the books. It was a week full of excitement and entertainment, although the Big Ten conference as a whole didn’t perform too well. Teams in the Big Ten ended up combining for an 8-6 record overall.
That isn’t necessarily a bad overall record, but there were quite a few losses by teams that shouldn’t have lost. Obviously that is the case in every college sport, but it shook up the conference rankings looking ahead at next week.
Ranking each conference is something that is done following each and every week of the season. Everyone has differing opinions on who the top teams in the conference are at this point, although they have likely changed in a major way from the preseason ranking that Campus Sports gave the Big Ten.
Nebraska was one team that came up with a very disappointing opening game, while the Penn State Nittany Lions were also incredibly disappointing.
Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines didn’t get off to a good start, neither did the Wisconsin Badgers. That being said, who are the top five teams in the Big Ten conference following the first weekend of football?
5. Illinois Fighting Illini
Quite a few fans will likely disagree with this selection as the fifth best team in the conference, but Wes Lunt and company put on a show in their opening game against Kent State. Lunt ended up throwing for 162 yards and four touchdowns in their massive 52-3 blowout of the Golden Flashes.
More than likely the Fighting Illini will cool off once they hit real competition, but they certainly looked strong on both sides of the football.
Illinois has quite a bit of talent on paper on both sides of the football, but it won’t be easy for them to go up against teams like the Wisconsin Badgers or Ohio State Buckeyes that they play later this season.
There is always a chance that they can continue playing the impressive brand of football that they showed this weekend, but it just doesn’t seem that likely.
4. Northwestern Wildcats
One of the ugliest games of the weekend was the Northwestern Wildcats vs. Stanford Cardinal matchup on Saturday. Neither team played great football, although the Wildcats were able to upset the No. 21 ranked team in the country.
It certainly opened some eyes to Northwestern, who wasn’t originally viewed as a legitimate team to watch in the Big Ten. Northwestern was able to play strong defense and frustrate the Cardinal game plan. They forced Stanford out of their comfort zone and were able to take advantage of the mistakes that the Cardinal made because of their frustration.
That is exactly how underdog teams have to play to come up with key victories and they have another chance to prove themselves by taking care of business against Eastern Illinois this coming weekend.
Northwestern deserves this spot in the rankings due to the upset that they had over Stanford. Many excuses can be made about why the Cardinal lost, but it all comes back to Northwestern coming away with a victory.
3. Wisconsin Badgers
It was a very difficult weekend for the Wisconsin Badgers, who were hoping to shock the nation and come away with a big win over the No. 3-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. That didn’t end up happening and the Badgers lost by a final score of 35-17.
While they are sitting at 0-1 and other Big Ten teams are better than them record-wise, they simply can’t be dropped from the third spot in the conference. Wisconsin went up against a better team than them and still showed some good things throughout the game.
Wisconsin’s schedule gets a bit easier this week as they will face Miami of Ohio in their second game of the season. More than likely, the Badgers will come out angry and looking to prove a point and will show why they shouldn’t drop.
There is no denying the talent that the Badgers have on their roster and they should end up contending in the Big Ten throughout the remainder of the season. It will be very entertaining to see whether or not they lose another game this season, as their schedule gets fairly easy from this point forward.
The Badgers have to face a couple talented Big Ten teams in conference play, but there simply isn’t much talent on their side of the conference.
2. Michigan State Spartans
Connor Cook was able to lead his Michigan State Spartans to a 34-17 victory over Western Michigan. It wasn’t the prettiest game that the program has played in recent years, but they still got the job done and improved to 1-0 on the season.
Next week will be the true test of just how good the Spartans are capable of being.
The Spartans are currently ranked as the No. 5 team in the nation, but they will have to take care of business on their home field against the No. 7 ranked Oregon Ducks. Obviously the two teams are the game of the week and will have quite a bit of meaning for the remainder of the season.
Michigan State could very well end up winning the Big Ten conference when everything is said and done, but it all starts this week against Oregon.
Don’t be surprised if Michigan State comes out and wins a huge football game this weekend. There is always the chance that Oregon outplays them and heads home with a win, but that shouldn’t be expected with the talent that the Spartans have on their roster.
1. Ohio State Buckeyes
Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes got off to a bit of a slow start against the Virginia Tech Hokies last night. They trailed the Hokies 17-14 at halftime, but came back strong in the second half and finished the game with a 42-24 victory.
Cardale Jones ended up being the starting quarterback for the Buckeyes and played a very solid game. Ezekiel Elliott also had a big performance on the night despite not getting a heavy workload. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the game was the impact that wide receiver Braxton Miller had on the game, picking up 62 yards and a touchdown on the ground and 78 yards and a touchdown through the air.
Ohio State is without question the best team in the Big Ten conference, as well as the best team in the nation.
Hawaii is in for a rude awakening when the Buckeyes welcome them into Columbus, Ohio this coming week. It will be a much easier game on both sides of the football for Ohio State and fans can expect to see a massive blowout by the Buckeyes.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports