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Sam McKewon's Big Ten football power rankings, Week 6

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The World-Herald's Sam McKewon compiled his Big Ten football power rankings entering Week 6 of the 2021 season.

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1. Penn State (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten)

Previous week: No. 1

Last game: Beat Indiana 24-0

Next: at Iowa, 3 p.m., FOX

Steady on offense, overwhelming on defense, Penn State was never seriously threatened by the Hoosiers. If it can avoid turnovers in Iowa City, the Nittany Lions should win. Sean Clifford is probably a slight leader for All-Big Ten quarterback.

2. Iowa (5-0, 2-0)

Previous week: No. 2

Last game: Beat Maryland 51-14

Next: vs. Penn State, 3 p.m., FOX

Does Hawkeye defensive coordinator Phil Parker perform some kind of pregame ritual to hex opposing quarterbacks? Iowa went on the road to Iowa State and Maryland, and both Brock Purdy and Taulia Tagovailoa turned into pumpkins. Will Clifford do the same? How many offensive points will these two teams score?

3. Ohio State (4-1, 2-0)

Previous week: No. 3

Last game: Beat Rutgers 52-13

Next: vs. Maryland, 11 a.m., FOX

TreVeyon Henderson already belongs in the conversation with great Buckeye freshman running backs like Ezekiel Elliott, JK Dobbins and Maurice Clarett. Henderson has 510 yards and seven touchdowns on 54 carries. Given OSU’s weapons at receiver, Henderson has a lot of room to run.

4. Michigan (5-0, 2-0)

Previous week: No. 4

Last game: Beat Wisconsin 38-17

Next: at Nebraska, 6:30 p.m., ABC

The Wolverines do the little things right on special teams, don’t allow big plays and have just one turnover all season. And that was an interception thrown in garbage time. Michigan is well-coached and a tough nut to crack.

5. Michigan State (5-0, 2-0)

Previous week: No. 5

Last game: Beat Western Kentucky 48-31

Next: at Rutgers, 11 a.m., BTN

Receiver Jayden Reed — the guy who returned The Punt — is having one heck of a year with 20 catches, 463 yards and five touchdowns. In a league full of big-time receivers and multiple future first-rounders, Reed is one of the best.

6. Nebraska (3-3, 1-2)

Previous week: No. 13

Last game: Beat Northwestern 56-7

Next: vs. Michigan, 6:30 p.m., ABC

The Huskers outgain opponents by 180 yards per game and outscore them by 16.8 points. Those numbers point to a 5-1 record, not 3-3. It’s a stretch to suggest NU goes 5-1 in the back half of the season, but it’s possible.

7. Maryland (4-1, 1-1)

Previous week: No. 6

Last game: Lost to Iowa 51-14

Next: at Ohio State, 11 a.m., FOX

The Terrapins flopped on the Friday night stage against Iowa. That’s not uncommon — remember the faceplant against Penn State a few years ago in a similar scenario? — and it probably won't get better at Ohio State, which must win every game with enthusiasm to position itself for the College Football Playoff.

8. Minnesota (3-2, 1-1)

Previous week: No. 11

Last game: Beat Purdue 20-13

Next: Bye

Until Saturday, Minnesota had never won under PJ Fleck after trailing at halftime. The Gophers dominated the second half. Now they have a bye — and a favorable schedule after it.

9. Rutgers (3-2, 0-2)

Previous week: No. 7

Last game: Lost to Ohio State 52-13

Next: vs Michigan State, 11 a.m., BTN

The Scarlet nights have just five plays of 30 yards or more this season. That kind of station-to-station offense can’t punch up against the Buckeyes, but could RU drag MSU into a rock fight?

10. Purdue (3-2, 1-1)

Previous week: No. 9

Last game: Lost to Minnesota 20-13

Next: Bye

Purdue has scored just 10 touchdowns on 21 red-zone trips (47.6%). Two years ago it was 70.7%. Something is not working with Jeff Brohm’s offense, no matter which quarterback he plays.

11. Indiana (2-3, 0-2)

Previous week: No. 8

Last game: Lost to Penn State 24-0

Next: Bye

Michael Penix got hurt again. He's a talented quarterback but has struggled to stay healthy. He'll have a week to get better though. If he can’t go, and Jack Tuttle has to fill in, IU may not have another win.

12. Wisconsin (1-3, 0-2)

Previous week: No. 10

Last game: Lost to Michigan 38-17

Next: at Illinois, 2:30 p.m., BTN

Bury the Badgers at your own risk. They still play darn good defense, and the remaining schedule is much more manageable than playing Penn State, Notre Dame and Michigan in a month. Wisconsin may have to win 14-10 — but it can win that way. For now it’s hanging out near the basement.

13. Illinois (2-4, 1-2)

Previous week: No. 12

Last game: Beat Charlotte 24-14

Next: vs. Wisconsin, 2:30 p.m, BTN

Chase Brown rumbled for 257 yards on 26 carries in the win. I like that guy. Good to see he finally got the full load at tailback after limited play in 2021.

14. Northwestern (2-3, 0-2)

Previous week: No. 14

Last game: Lost to Nebraska 56-7

Next: Bye

I’ve never seen a Northwestern team play like that since Nebraska joined the Big Ten. The Wildcats looked slow, soft and maybe a little disinterested. Trouble on Lake Michigan.


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