Mitch Sherman, ESPN Staff Writer 431d

Big Ten Week 6 power rankings: Spartans continue to rise

Michigan State made the big jump in Week 6 on the strength of its win over rival Michigan in the pouring rain.

Sunny skies rule the day at the top of both Big Ten divisions as Penn State and Wisconsin remained unbeaten with road victories. And Ohio State continued its surge. Here’s a full rundown of the weekend in the Big Ten with our power rankings.

1. Penn State (previous ranking: 1): Heisman Trophy front-runner Saquon Barkley was largely held in check by Northwestern in a 31-7 road win for the Nittany Lions. What’s that? Oh, there goes Barkley on a 53-yard touchdown run. OK, he still scored twice, and it’s best for PSU to save the best from its premier playmaker for better competition ahead. Meanwhile, QB Trace McSorley completed a school-record 15 consecutive passes.

2. Wisconsin (2): The Badgers obliterated Nebraska in the second half of a 38-17 victory in Lincoln, running the football on 22 straight plays in the second half after the Cornhuskers tied it on a pick-six of Alex Hornibrook. Freshman Jonathan Taylor ran for 249 of Wisconsin’s 353 yards. Is there a challenger out there for this team in the West?

3. Ohio State (3): Safe to say the Buckeyes have regained lost momentum since Week 2, scoring 210 points in four easy victories after that week's loss to Oklahoma. Urban Meyer’s team may not have enjoyed watching the Sooners fall at home to Iowa State, but that’s another topic for a different place. For these purposes, Ohio State, after allowing just 66 yards in a 62-14 defeat of Maryland, heads to Nebraska, then gets a week off before a huge Oct. 28 visit from Penn State.

4. Michigan State (6): The Spartans are doing their thing again. If there was any doubt, MSU erased it with a 14-10 win at Michigan -- a fourth win in five years and eighth in 10 years over the Wolverines. But hey, who’s counting? MSU snagged three interceptions at the Big House and didn’t need late heroics to pull off the upset. QB Brian Lewerke provided all the offense that Michigan State needed with a touchdown on the ground and another through the air.

5. Michigan (4): The loss to injury of quarterback Wilton Speight hurt Michigan, no doubt, but when the Wolverines needed a final defensive stop to preserve their chance with two minutes to play, they couldn’t get it. Spread the blame equally in Ann Arbor, where they’re lamenting a third season under coach Jim Harbaugh that’s slipping off track in the quest to win a division title.

6. Purdue (5): No fun to drop a spot in the power rankings after a league victory, which has been so hard to come by in recent seasons. But this is the new Purdue, where the expectations have grown immensely in the first year under Jeff Brohm. And it’s difficult to move the Boilermakers ahead of Michigan, who won in West Lafayette two weeks ago. Regardless, an 18-point fourth quarter completed a 31-17 comeback win over Minnesota as Purdue overcame four first-half turnovers.

7. Iowa (8): The Hawkeyes welcomed their first divisional game after consecutive losses to Penn State and Michigan State to open Big Ten play, defeating Illinois 45-16. QB Nate Stanley threw for 247 yards and three touchdowns, and Akrum Wadley ran for 115 yards and a score as Iowa posted its highest point total against the Illini since 1990. The Hawkeyes got an 89-yard pick-six from safety Brandon Snyder, making his season debut that followed a recovery from knee surgery.

8. Indiana (9): Aside from the solid performance from freshman Peyton Ramsey in his first game as the Hoosiers’ full-time QB, there’s not much to see here. In a late scheduled game to make up for a cancellation against Florida International last month because of Hurricane Irma, Indiana hammered Charleston Southern of the FCS, 27-0. The visitors did not complete a pass on 10 attempts.

9. Maryland (7): Reality is catching up to the Terrapins, who tried to muster some offense behind Max Bortenschlager, their third QB of the season who beat Minnesota last week in his debut. No such luck against the Buckeyes, who held the Maryland sophomore to three completions for 16 yards. The Terps scored on a 100-yard kickoff return by Ty Johnson and a 20-yard run by Javon Leake when down 55 points in the fourth quarter.

10. Minnesota (10): Speaking of reality, the Golden Gophers dropped to 0-2 in the league with losses to Maryland and Purdue. Minnesota rushed for 227 yards behind Shannon Brooks and Rodney Smith but had few answers in the fourth quarter.

11. Northwestern (11): The schedule was not kind to the Wildcats, who faced Wisconsin and Penn State to open Big Ten play. Yes, it gets easier from here, but how will Northwestern rebound from a near-shutout loss at home? QB Clayton Thorson struggled while throwing two interceptions and absorbing four sacks. That’s 12 sacks of Thorson, by the way, over the past two weeks. Ouch.

12. Nebraska (12): For a second time in the past four weeks, Tanner Lee began by tossing a pick-six while in the red zone on the opening drive of the game. From there, the Cornhuskers hung tough for about 35 minutes before submitting to Wisconsin’s powerful ground game. Gone is Nebraska’s 20-game streak under the lights at Memorial Stadium. And gone is much of the optimism of an October surge, with Ohio State to visit next.

13. Rutgers (14): The Scarlet Knights got a week off after the punishment administered by Ohio State in a 56-0 rout. They actually jumped a spot here because of Illinois’ continued woes. And guess who’s up next?

14. Illinois (13): Yes, it will be a battle to stay out of the basement Week 7 in Champaign as Rutgers comes calling. Illinois promoted Jeff George Jr. into the starting spot against Iowa. He threw for 246 yards but tossed three interceptions, which the Hawkeyes converted into 17 points.

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