A week filled with more blowouts than competitive games didn't do much to change our impressions of the Big Ten as the regular season draws to a close. The stage is set for Wisconsin and Ohio State to fight for the top spot in the league Saturday night in Indianapolis, but a 31-0 victory to cap off a 12-0 season makes the Badgers the clear leader in this week's rankings.
The top five teams in the league all won by double digits. None of the bottom-dwellers made much of a case to move upward. A fairly stagnant Big Ten power rankings list brings us down the home stretch.
1. Wisconsin (last week: 1): The Badgers left no doubt while finishing off an undefeated regular season with the blowout at Minnesota. The doubt about whether they belong in the College Football Playoff discussion is gone, too. Wisconsin’s defense allowed 216 rushing yards ... in the entire month of November. That’s as good as it gets.
2. Ohio State (2): The Buckeyes are East Division champs again, but some familiar issues re-emerged during a dodgy first quarter against Michigan. If it takes some time to get the offense going Saturday, staging a comeback might prove to be more difficult.
3. Penn State (3): Another 10-win season for James Franklin & Co. is reason to smile in Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions will need to replace a ton of top-end talent in 2018, but they’ve built a foundation that should keep them among the conference’s elite moving forward.
4. Northwestern (4): There might not be a more quietly improved team in the country this season than Northwestern. The Wildcats have won their past seven games and allowed a total of 20 points in the most recent three. They’ll be a tough draw for whoever is paired with them in bowl season.
5. Michigan State (5): The Spartans have a shot at a 10-win season less than a year after it appeared that the wheels were spinning off the Mark Dantonio era in East Lansing. Brian Lewerke and his young receivers provided some more reasons to believe in a bright future during the regular-season finale at Rutgers.
6. Michigan (6): The Wolverines mostly won comfortably the games they were supposed to win this season, but they comfortably lost the games they were expected to lose. The defense in Ann Arbor is still one of the best in the country, but a 3-3 record in the East will leave a sour taste in Michigan’s mouth when remembering 2017.
7. Purdue (8): Markell Jones ran for 217 yards against Indiana to get the Boilermakers to their first bowl game since the 2012 season. When Jeff Brohm gets his offense fully stocked and installed, this team will be one of the league’s most fun to watch.
8. Iowa (9): The most mercurial team in the Big Ten ended its season on a high note by posting 56 points against Nebraska. The Hawkeyes nearly climbed into the top half of the league, but a head-to-head loss to Purdue kept them a spot behind.
9. Indiana (7): The Hoosiers will miss a bowl game in their first season under Tom Allen. They lost four games by a possession or less, but closing out close games has vexed Indiana for too long.
10. Minnesota (10): Back-to-back weeks without scoring a point drop Minnesota into double digits in the final regular-season power rankings. The Gophers completed a total of five passes during those two games. That’s not going to cut it.
11. Rutgers (11): Did the Scarlet Knights get better in Year 2 under Chris Ash? You bet. It was a low bar to clear, though, and with an average margin of defeat of 34.3 points in the final three games of the season taking the next step to being a bowl contender still seems far away.
12. Maryland (12): No one below this point in the rankings has had a victory since Halloween. The Terps got off to a promising start back in September, but some chronic quarterback-injury issues flattened their offense. They looked like a defeated group giving up 66 points to Penn State in the finale.
13. Nebraska (13): The Cornhuskers gave up 166 points in the final three games of the Mike Riley era, which officially came to a close Saturday morning. Riley, of course, handled his exit with grace, and now Nebraska can pin its hopes on a fresh start with whichever coach takes his place.
14. Illinois (14): The Illini have held tight to the bottom rung of the ladder since mid-October. Another embarrassing loss Saturday -- this one to Northwestern -- brings a merciful end to a winless Big Ten season.