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Sam McKewon's Big Ten football power rankings, Week 4

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Check out how Sam McKewon ranks the Big Ten teams heading into Week 4 of the college football season.

The World-Herald's Sam McKewon compiled his Big Ten football power rankings entering Week 4 of the 2021 season.

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1. Penn State (3-0 , 1-0)

Previous week: No. 2

Last game: Beat Auburn 28-20

Next: vs. Villanova, 11 a.m. BTN

Excellent win on national TV with nearly 110,000 fans going crazy. I don’t particularly enjoy the trip to Happy Valley — especially in November — but it’s a cool scene.

2. Iowa (3-0, 1-0)

Previous week: No. 1

Last game: Kent State 30-7

Next game: vs. Colorado State, 2:30 p.m. FS1

Another dominant defensive performance from Iowa, which will be heavy favorites until that big Oct. 9 game with Penn State.

3. Ohio State (2-1, 1-0)

Previous week: No. 3

Last game: Beat Tulsa 41-20

Next game: vs. Akron, 6:30 p.m. BTN

The Buckeyes have two freshmen averaging more than 8.5 yards per carry. Can Nebraska borrow one of them for a few weeks? OSU also has essentially defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs, who didn’t call the game against Tulsa.

4. Wisconsin (1-1, 0-1)

Previous week: No. 4

Last week: Bye

Next game: vs. Notre Dame, 11 a.m. FOX

Lots on the line Saturday in Chicago’s Soldier Field. Call it the Brat Bowl.

5. Michigan (3-0, 0-0)

Previous week: No. 5

Last game: Beat Northern Illinois 63-10

Next game: vs. Rutgers, 2:30 p.m. ABC

The Wolverines are firing on all cylinders, looking more like the 2016 squad than the 2020 team that couldn’t break an egg. UM has proven it's superior to out-of-conference foes, but a nasty schedule awaits in the Big Ten.

6. Michigan State (3-0, 1-0)

Previous week: No. 7

Last game: Beat Miami 38-17

Next game: vs. Nebraska, 6 p.m. FS1

Kenneth Walker is the Big Ten’s best back at the moment. The Wake Forest transfer has big legs, a mean jump cut and accelerates well after a change of direction.

7. Minnesota (2-1, 0-1)

Previous week: No. 6

Last game: Beat Colorado 30-0

Next game: vs. Bowling Green, 11 a.m. ESPNU

A truly amazing defensive performance, as the Gophers held CU to 63 total yards in the program’s first shutout of a Power Five team on the road since 1977. Minnesota has won 21 straight nonconference games.

8. Maryland (3-0, 1-0)

Previous week: No. 8

Last game: Beat Illinois 20-17

Next game: vs. Kent State, 2:30 p.m. BTN

Ugly win over the Illini, who did not play well. Taulia Tagovailoa found enough answers late. Maryland is poised to start 4-0 with an upcoming win over Kent State. After that, it gets rough.

9. Rutgers (3-0, 0-0)

Previous week: No. 10

Last game: Beat Delaware 45-13

Next game: at Michigan, 2:30 p.m. ABC

RU’s defense is doing work, and quarterback Noah Vedral completed 21 of 25 passes for 323 yards in the victory.

10. Indiana (1-2, 0-1)

Previous week: No. 9

Last game: Lost to Cincinnati 38-24

Next game: at Western Kentucky, 7 p.m. CBSSN

The Hoosiers are back to being who we thought they were — a .500 program that falls short in the biggest games.

11. Purdue (2-1, 0-0)

Previous week: No. 11

Last game: Lost to Notre Dame 27-13

Next game: vs. Illinois, 2:30 p.m. BTN

Purdue coach Jeff Brohm benched Jack Plummer — who was having a decent day against a tough Notre Dame D — for Aidan O’Connell, beginning once again a quarterback discussion Brohm has never been able to quiet since his arrival. He just won’t stick with a guy.

12. Illinois (1-3, 1-1)

Previous week: No. 12

Last game: Lost to Maryland 20-17

Next game: at Purdue, 2:30 p.m. BTN

This is a bad, mistake-prone team, and it could lose every game it plays from here on out. Including to Charlotte. But it beat Nebraska. Somehow NU lost that game.

13. Nebraska (2-2, 0-1)

Previous week: No. 13

Last game: Lost to Oklahoma 23-16

Next game: at Michigan State, 6 p.m. FS1

The Huskers have to find a workable run game for the Big Ten. Not dominant. Workable.

14. Northwestern (1-2, 0-1)

Previous week: No. 14

Last game: Lost to Duke 30-23

Next game: vs. Ohio, 11 a.m., BTN

The Wildcats are back to 2019 mode on offense. The bigger concern? Northwestern’s defense isn’t a vintage Pat Fitzgerald bunch, allowing 413.7 yards per game — 72 more than last year.


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