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Big Ten Power Rankings - Week 2 Edition

Groups of teams, groups of animals. One game sample leads to some “unkind” movement of teams in the rankings

NCAA Football: Penn State at Wisconsin Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY Sports

The first full week of college football is in the books and it’s a half-hearted prognosticator's favorite time of year... time to overreact to one-game sample sizes! Miami (Florida edition) is garbage! Iowa is a College Football Playoff contender! Ryan Greenhagen is a Heisman front-runner! Wisconsin will average 13 points per game on offense!

While we finally have game action to take into account, it is limited game action. A single result does not a season make. Buuuuuuut on the other hand, you are what you are on the field. No amount of SP+ skullduggery can erase what actually transpires on the field, even if it’s only one game. Unfortunately for some squads, some of their seasons’ most important games (conference and non-conference) happened to fall on Week 1 and thus, this single-game sample could in fact encapsulate their season. It is up to me to navigate through the noise and false data and deliver to you the infallible, absolutely fool-proof rankings of the 14 Big Ten teams you have come to not expect from this rarely read weekly post.

As for the tier titles this week, I have always heavily enjoyed obscure animal group names. I find them unnecessary, highly amusing, and essential trivia. And since most of the tiers happen to be groups of teams, I found the synergy between groups of teams in tiers and groups of animals in herds (or as you will see other names) to be significant enough to warrant inclusion in this lame attempt at a season long (and beyond!) bit.

(Do with these rankings what you will. SP+ rank and FEI (Fremeau Efficiency Index) rank is provided next to each team, respectively. Click these links for more information on SP+ and FEI. The previous week’s position in these pointless power rankings follows those two superior metrics. )

The Unkindness of Ravens Tier

#1 - Ohio State Buckeyes (3rd, 2nd, last week #1)

The Buckeyes were unkind to the Gophers on Thursday night in the 2nd half, especially when you factor in the injury to Mohamed Ibrahim. Obviously, injuries in football happen and Ohio State did nothing intentional but that extra salt in the wound to Gopher fans feels like a worthy match to the intriguing and delight name for a group of ravens. I have a feeling that as the Ryan Day’s squad rounds into form, the will be extremely unkind to the hopes of other Big Ten fan bases. The advanced metrics certainly think so and if CJ Stroud continues to improve week over week, the Buckeye faithful may see their squad return to the CFP at season’s end.

The Crash of Rhinoceroses Tier

#2 - Penn State Nittany Lions (5th, 11th, last week #4)

#3 - Iowa Hawkeyes (12th, 6th, last week #3)

Both of these teams crashed into their opponents in Week 1 with great aplomb and success. Despite me personally not being fond of the second team in this tier, one must give credit where credit is due. While the Hoosiers might have been overrated to begin the season, the Hawkeyes dominated in every facet of the game and appear to be every bit the Big Ten West contender that many pre-season pundits had pegged for a comeback season. I have the Nittany Lions leap-frogging the Hawkeyes on account of their ranked win coming on the road. Despite the fact that they didn’t display much offensive push, they were playing the 6th best (per SP+) defense on the road and came away with a victory compared to Iowa playing the 44th best defense at home. Their matchup on October 9th in Iowa City might clarify this conundrum.

The Maelstrom of Salamanders Tier

#4 - Wisconsin Badgers (18th, 10th, last week #2)

#5 - Michigan Wolverines (7th, 16th, last week #6)

#6 - Michigan State Spartans (34th, 44th, last week #9)

#7 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (31st, 34th, last week #7)

There is talent and quality within this tier to cause problems for other division hopeful throughout the conference. And differentiating between them will be a bit of a stormy proposition. Hence, a maelstrom is an excellent summary for these four squads. Additionally, if you locked these four programs in a room, there would undoubtedly be a lot of conflict due to long-standing hatred and rivalries. There very well could be a lot of turnover in this middle tier throughout the season, especially if Wisconsin’s defense continues to watch Graham Mertz perform at the level he did against Penn State or Michigan holds true to its usual Harbaughian form. Can PJ Fleck’s Gophers weather the waters of this maelstrom? We shall see...

The Pandemonium of Parrots Tier

#8 - Maryland Terrapins (37th, 82nd, last week #10)

#9 - Indiana Hoosiers (51st, 45th, last week #5)

#10 - Purdue Boilermakers (56th, 62nd, last week #12)

First off, spectacular alliteration for a group of parrots. Shoutout to whomever coined that term and the effort to make it mainstream. I suppose it makes sense when you consider the definition of pandemonium and you envision what a group of parrots might be like. These teams seem like the kind that will cause noisy disorder and confusion throughout the season. They have potent offenses (or at least that’s what we’re led to believe) and the ability to play spoiler but also seem unlikely to string together the consistent results required to rise into the upper tiers of these rankings. They will undoubtedly contribute to the pandemonium that is expected from around third place on down through the Big Ten this year. Shoutout to Maryland for a quality non-conference win. They may continue to fly (hehe) up the rankings with those kind of results.

The Risk of Lobsters Tier

#11 - Northwestern Wildcats (99th, 57th, last week #8)

#12 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (70th, 90th, last week #13)

These teams had diametric results in Week 1. Northwestern returned to its 2019 version. Rutgers performed like a competent team should against an also-ran. These two programs are hard to figure on any given day, especially if the advanced metric continue to indicate improvement for the Scarlet Knights (83rd to 70th in SP+, 112th to 90th in FEI). Therefore, projecting the results of their games may come at high RISK to gamblers, pundits, and Big Ten fans alike. Yes, I know that’s bad but come on, what did you expect?

The Embarrassment of Pandas Tier

#13 - Illinois Fighting Illini (80th, 99th, last week #11)

#14 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (40th, 81st, last week #14)

It is a travesty that an animal as noble, cuddly, and cute as the panda has to be associated with the bottom tier of these most prestigious rankings but alas, is there anything more embarrassing than extending your sell-out streak by buying up a bunch of unsold tickets (around 2,400 of them)? The on-field product was much improved and the Cornhuskers are obviously not the worst team in the Big Ten (I think?...) but the fact that a program that was once a perennial national title contender is now clinging to a sellout streak deserves an exception to the general format. As for Illinois, we knew there would be growing pains with a new coaching regime but a home loss to a albeit solid UTSA squad probably isn’t what this metaphorical Seaver clan in Chambana expected after knocking off Nebraska in Week 0. They may still have many more pains before the season is over.

Bonus Rankings!!! (Why? I don’t know)

My Personal Favorite Animal Group Names

  1. Implausibility of Gnus
  2. Flamboyance of Flamingos
  3. Unkindness of Ravens
  4. Parliament of Owls
  5. Conspiracy of Lemurs
  6. Kaleidoscope of Butterflies
  7. Consortium of Octopuses
  8. Congregation of Alligators
  9. Slaughter of Iguanas
  10. Ostentation of Peacocks