You know, I was thinking... the talk will start soon. IF, and please notice the emphasis on IF, the Gophers can win their next game against a team ranked 56th in SP+ at home (Illinois), they’ll be 5-0. Not many Power 5 teams can go 5-0 at the beginning of a college football season and not be ranked. But it’s likely that Minnesota could do just that but come up with a big goose egg in the polls. The talk, especially around our beloved blog, will be about the merits of being undefeated against a rather weak schedule. It’s highly possible that this will be the case IF the Gophers can win. And this discussion will exist because the schedule thus far has been comprised of, for lack of a better word, cupcakes. Mmmmm..... Cupcakes....
This line of thinking led me to craving a Hostess CupCake. Sure, there are more luxurious and delicious desserts. And perhaps the nostalgia for childhood trips to the Hostess Surplus Bakery makes my association with Hostess snacks waaaaaaay more positive than it should be. But I think there’s common ground among most people to be found in enjoying a carbohydrate-loaded, absolute abomination of a food that is a Hostess snack/dessert. There is literally no redeemable nutritional value in one of these snacks, much like a schedule full of teams in the lower echelons of the SP+ rankings. So with this in mind, the Week 6 Power Rankings will be arranged by tiers inspired by Hostess Snacks.
The Twinkie Tier
#1 - Ohio State Buckeyes (2nd, 2nd)
The Hostess website calls the Twinkie the “Snack Cake Golden Child.” I don’t think anyone would argue with Ohio State being the Golden Child of the Big Ten now or in the past. They are the crown jewel of the conference, likely its only chance at a College Football Playoff participant, and it’s superior statistically, according to the eye test, and any other metric you wish to use to assess strength in college football. They dispatched of Nebraska in Lincoln with ease and probably could have posted 60+ points on them if they had really wanted to. They are the unassailable king of the conference much like the Twinkie is king of the Hostess snack line.
The CupCake Tier
#2 - Wisconsin Badgers (8th, 6th)
#3 - Penn State Nittany Lions (7th, 11th)
#4 - Iowa Hawkeyes (20th, 12th)
This tier of teams, much like the CupCake, play second fiddle to the first tier. However, they are still high in quality but just can’t quite match the superiority of the reigning champions. Wisconsin dropped out of the top tier due to a worrying offensive performance against Northwestern. While they still have a great statistical profile compared to the other Big Ten brethren, they belong to be lumped with Penn State and Iowa until we get more clarity on these squads. Both Penn State and Iowa have now obliterated one conference opponent each and had a close call against a non-conference rival. Their statistical profiles are respectable and back up their quality on both sides of the ball. The ordering here isn’t set in stone and for the time being I consider all three to be interchangeable to one’s preference.
The Ding Dong Tier
#5 - Michigan State Spartans (21st, 15th)
#6 - Michigan Wolverines (13th, 22nd)
Michigan was able to restore some faith with a thrashing of Rutgers. I know that Rutgers is an abomination but the performance was enough to put Michigan in with their hated in-state rival. The Spartans scored a much higher quality win, beating a pesky Indiana squad while displaying some aptitude on the offensive side of the ball that was previously lacking. They still rank much higher on the defensive side (2nd SP+ defense vs 62nd SP+ offense) of the ball but the offense is at least trending upward. Despite both coaches being a bit of a Ding Dong when it comes to coaching offenses, these two teams still find their way into the top half of the conference.
The Ho-Ho Tier
#7 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (33rd, 36th)
#8 - Indiana Hoosiers (29th, 41st)
I have cautious optimism with both of these squads. Much like the Ho-Ho, the narratives for these teams are multi-layered. Minnesota has won every game by one score or less. Indiana has proven to be a strong squad when examining their statistical profile despite a 3-2 record. Playing Ohio State will do that to you. Like a Ho-Ho, these two teams have high-powered (or high-caloric) offenses but will leave you still unsatisfied. The upside is still there though to move up.
The Zingers Tier
#9 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (39th, 71st)
#10 - Northwestern Wildcats (69th, 60th)
#11 - Purdue Boilermakers (63rd, 78th)
An assortment of “Zingers” submarined these three teams in Week 5. One was in the form of injuries (Purdue), one was inept offenses (Northwestern), and one was getting embarrassed on national TV on their home field (Nebraska). All three of these teams have very evident flaws but as the season wears on, any of the three could prove to be a “Zinger” to a conference contender to trip up on.
The Donettes Tier
#12 - Illinois Fighting Illini (56th, 89th)
#13 - Maryland Terrapins (46th, 88th)
These teams convey a variety of colors and flashes of brilliance, much like the six different varieties of Donettes offered by Hostess. But much like the Donettes, they just don’t measure up to their conference peers all that well. Illinois had a bye week after competing with Nebraska while Maryland further distanced themselves from their hot start by getting curb-stomped at home by “rival” Penn State. While their SP+ rankings aren’t atrocious, I don’t know if we’ll see much upward movement for either of these teams in the coming weeks, although Maryland’s upcoming schedule is somewhat favorable. Besides a visit to the Twin Cities, Illinois better prepare to put up some doughnuts with contests against quality defenses in Michigan and Wisconsin.
The Mini Muffins Tier
#14 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (97th, 120th)
There’s just no real point to them...