Welcome to Week 2 of the college football season and the Big Ten's last chance for months to bolster its position in the national pecking order.

It almost happened last week. Rutgers surprised Washington State. Christian Hackenberg led Penn State to a dramatic win over Central Florida. And Wisconsin built a 24-7 lead over Louisiana State, with Melvin Gordon proving SEC players aren't the only ones with breathtaking speed.

But then Gordon injured his hip. And LSU coach Les Miles faked a punt. And Gary Andersen inexplicably stuck with inept Badgers quarterback Tanner McEvoy, as LSU roared back to win 28-24.

The answers Andersen, the Badgers coach, gave about Gordon and backup quarterback Joel Stave only muddled things. The coaching staff and Gordon clearly weren't on the same page with his hip pointer after he disappeared in the second half.

Stave apparently didn't play because of the yips, but Andersen tried covering for him, citing a phantom injury. What a mess. Big Ten teams went 12-2 for the week, but that Badgers loss seems like a cloud that could hover over the conference all season.

Fortunately, the schedule brings three more significant nonconference tests this week: Michigan State at Oregon, Michigan at Notre Dame and Virginia Tech at Ohio State.

The Big Ten will get other chances to make nonconference statements this year — the Gophers at TCU, Illinois at Washington, Indiana at Missouri, to name three — but no week could move the needle quite like this one.

In ESPN's most recent conference power rankings, the Big Ten sits fourth behind the SEC, Pac-12 and Big 12. The Pac-12, in particular, is seen as the conference on the rise. That's one reason why the Michigan State-Oregon game is so intriguing.

The third-ranked Ducks have Heisman candidate Marcus Mariota at quarterback, running their high-octane offense, and No. 7 Michigan State counters with its perennially strong defense.

But these teams are very good on the other side of the ball, too. Oregon quietly ranked 13th in the nation last year in scoring defense, and with junior quarterback Connor Cook oozing confidence, Michigan State's offense has been on a serious roll.

Asked if the Spartans need to win this game to prove the Big Ten can win marquee games against the Pac-12, coach Mark Dantonio said, "We won the Rose Bowl last year. …. So what are you talking about?"

Michigan State's 24-20 win over Stanford in Pasadena had to resonate for Oregon. The Ducks went 33-3 over the past two seasons, and two of those losses were to Stanford.

Oregon is a 12-point favorite, but if Michigan State pulls the road upset, that will bolster the Big Ten's résumé, which could be important when the selection committee picks the four-team College Football Playoff bracket.

The Michigan-Notre Dame matchup in South Bend, Ind., will be filled with nostalgia. It's their last scheduled meeting in a rivalry that's been played most years since 1978. Michigan stumbled to a 7-6 finish last year, but that season sure looked promising after its 41-30 victory over the Irish.

Finally, Ohio State could have its hands full with Virginia Tech. The Hokies went 7-6 and 8-5 the past two seasons, but have been picked to win the ACC's Coastal Division.

The Buckeyes keep hoping Braxton Miller's replacement, redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett, will learn fast. Virginia Tech's defense will be a tough test, and this is another win the Big Ten needs.

Big Ten short takes

• Rutgers was a consensus last-place pick in the Big Ten East, and Washington State was viewed as an upstart in the Pac-12 North. But Paul James rushed 29 times for 173 yards and three touchdowns, leading Rutgers' 41-38 win in Seattle.

Rutgers had the nation's fourth-best rushing defense last year and held the Cougars to 6 yards on 14 carries.

• Pat Fitzgerald used extreme caution with Northwestern's top players during preseason camp, hoping to avoid injuries. Second-guessers screamed when Northwestern fell behind 31-7 and lost its opener to Cal, a team that went 1-11 last season.

"I'm sure I have plenty of critics," Fitzgerald said. "I wore white today. I'm sure people wanted me to wear purple. I'm over it."

• Nebraska and Wisconsin are among the schools that have added snazzy new practice facilities with weight rooms, nutrition centers and glitz. Now, Iowa is moving into a new $55 million football facility, which included $35 million in private donations. The Hawkeyes got their new indoor complex two years ago, but will move into the rest of the 76,000-square foot facility later this month.

Big Ten power poll

1. Michigan State (1-0): Connor Cook, Big Ten title game and Rose Bowl MVP, picked up right where he left off.

2. Ohio State (1-0): Navy rushed for a surprising 370 yards but passed for only 20 against the Buckeyes defense.

3. Iowa (1-0): Jake Rudock's 250-yard, two-TD, no-INT performance highlighted victory over Northern Iowa.

4. Nebraska (1-0): Yes, it was only Florida Atlantic, but 784 yards of offense was a modern Big Ten record.

5. Wisconsin (0-1): Tanner McEvoy, dual threat QB — threat to run, threat to injure vendors with his throws.

6. Michigan (1-0): Trimmed down RB Derrick Green averaged 11.3 yards per carry against Appalachian State.

7. Gophers (1-0): Eastern Illinois outgained them 409-339, but the Gophers won 42-20.

8. Penn State (1-0): Pennlive.com ranks Christian Hackenberg as school's second-best all-time QB to Kerry Collins.

9. Rutgers (1-0): Expansion critics warmed to the idea of adding Rutgers after that win over Washington State.

10. Indiana (1-0): The passing game might not be as explosive this year, but RB Tevin Coleman certainly is.

11. Maryland (1-0): C.J. Brown's three rushing touchdowns were nice, but he completed just 11 of 24 passes.

12. Illinois (1-0): Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt prevented Youngstown State upset with four TD passes.

13. Northwestern (0-1): Wildcats hope for bounce-back season seems far-fetched after brutal opening loss to Cal.

14. Purdue (1-0): After beating Western Michigan, the Boilers get Central Michigan and then Notre Dame.