College football teams develop over time. I touched on the concept a bit at the beginning of last week’s power rankings. Much like our favorite teams and conferences, perspective, structure, and composition can morph as more data is gathered and the variables into the complex formula of the college football ecosystem are changed. The structure of these very power rankings will change as well from time to time. We are nothing here at The Daily Gopher, if not adaptable, much like our furry cousin of Caddyshack fame. So stay with me as the look may be slightly different as I hone and perfect the format of the power rankings.
I was texting back and forth with a friend and fellow Gopher enthusiast over the last few days and he mentioned that he was re-watching The Office, mostly due to the fact that it will be dropping off of Netflix to move to NBC’s streaming service in 2021. I was inspired to do this week’s power rankings by tiers defined by some of Michael Scott’s finest quotes. Michael Scott was the boss of the Scranton branch of Dunder-Mifflin for the majority of The Office’s run and was the heart and soul of the show’s comedy. His free spirit, misplaced ingenuity, and sheer absurdity on a day-to-day basis closely reflects the Big Ten and its ever-changing landscape especially with the heart of conference play about to begin.
Without further ado, I present to you the Week 4 Power Rankings. Do with them what you will. SP+ rank and FEI (Fremeau Efficiency Index)* rank is provided next to each team. Click these links for more information on SP+ and FEI.
*FEI had yet been updated after Week 3 results as of time of posting.
The “Would I rather be feared or love? Easy. Both. I want people to be afraid how much they love me.” Tier
#1 - Ohio State Buckeyes (5th, 4th)
Michael Scott wants it both ways in this famous quote from season 2. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, they have it going on both sides of the ball. They defeated Indiana 51-10 in Bloomington this past weekend and the rest of the Big Ten continues to be terrified of the Ohio State while the Buckeye faithful continue to love their team.
“Guess what I have flaws. What are they? Oh I don’t know. I sing in the shower. Sometimes I spend too much time volunteering. Occasionally I’ll hit somebody with my car. So sue me.” Tier
#2 - Wisconsin Badgers (7th, 7th)
#3 - Penn State Nittany Lions (14th, 14th)
#4 - Iowa Hawkeyes (24th, 12th)
#5 - Michigan Wolverines (16th, 9th)
#6 - Michigan State Spartans (23rd, 22nd)
These teams have their flaws. Whether it be having not played anyone (Wisconsin) or having played ugly (Iowa, Penn State) or lost on an ugly officiating call (Michigan State) or having not played at all last week (Michigan). They have their flaws but maybe only if you consider things that are not really flaws to be flaws. Much like Michael Scott, these teams still have plenty going for them and while they are all playing second-fiddle to Ohio State, there is plenty of positives to see thus far.
Wisconsin has yet to allow a point. Penn State is undefeated and rates well by the advanced metrics. Iowa defeated their hated rival on the road and are playing their preferred style of football. Michigan State is also playing their preferred style. And Michigan was able to get a bye before a huge game in Madison this weekend. Things will become much clearer in this tier in the coming weeks and perhaps we’ll see some separation and tier fissures in the near future.
The “There’s such a thing as good grief. Just ask Charlie Brown.” Tier
#7 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (41st, 32nd)
#8 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (39th, 63rd)
#9 - Northwestern Wildcats (69th, 40th)
#10 - Purdue Boilermakers (58th, 76th)
All these teams have had grief for whatever reason so far this season. But there is some “good” in there for all four teams. The first, and most obvious, positive they all have going for them is that they play in the Big Ten West and will have ample opportunities against other mediocre competition to attempt to move up the division standings.
In the case of Minnesota and Nebraska, they haven’t even remotely played their best football yet but remain positive about their seasons’ outlook. The Gophers remain undefeated. The Cornhuskers still have a favorable schedule. As for Northwestern, there was no shame in losing on the road to Stanford. While they may have lost their quarterback, the defense remains fearsome. They’ll be in many games throughout the season. Purdue sits at 1-2 but played have played a very respectable non-conference slate and are more battle-testing coming into conference play than any team in the conference. There may yet be bountiful positives for any of these squads going forward.
The “You know what they say, ‘Fool me once, strike one. But fool me twice... strike three.’” Tier
#11 - Maryland Terrapins (54th, 32nd)
#12 - Indiana Hoosiers (48th, 36th)
If you have been following along thus far this year in the power rankings, I was fooled by Maryland’s impressive offensive output against the likes of Howard and Syracuse. They then proceeded to lose to Temple. Now, Temple isn’t terrible (47th in SP+) and it was a road game, but after Syracuse continues to look less and less impressive (dropped to 66th in SP+), Maryland’s results have begun to lose their luster. I was fooled by the Terrapins... Strike three for me. As for Indiana, I thought they might give Ohio State some trouble like in year’s past. They didn’t. The advanced numbers are more bullish on the Hoosiers than I. Hopefully I don’t get strike four in this regard.
The “I hate so much about the things that you choose to be.” Tier
#13 - Illinois Fighting Illini (83rd, 98th)
The very few Illini faithful who are left are probably thinking this about Lovie Smith.
The “I love inside jokes. I’d love to be a part of one someday.” Tier
#14 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (112th, 108th)
Rutgers wishes its conference brethren would consider it a part of the Big Ten. Maybe someday...