Ohio State and Michigan State are starting to look like runaway favorites to meet in Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship game. Meanwhile, Michigan and Nebraska have proven that they’re not league championship caliber while Wisconsin is playing like they could be a dark horse contender in the conference.
The power rankings underwent the biggest shakeup to date after this weekend’s games, mostly thanks to Minnesota’s upset of Nebraska — the first win for the Gophers over their southern neighbors since 1960.
1. Ohio State: Urban Meyer looked like he wanted to make a point to all those that were writing off the Buckeyes as a national championship contender. He did so by dismantling Penn State 63-14.
2. Wisconsin: The Badgers were on a bye week and will get back to action next week as arguably the hottest team in the conference. They have to play the most improved team in the conference, the Iowa Hawkeyes, on the road. The matchup will be a good game between two teams that have similar styles.
3. Michigan State: Don’t look now, but the Spartans have found an offense and a quarterback in Conner Shaw. They’re a dangerous team coming down the stretch and could easily run the table on the way to Indy.
4. Iowa: Call me crazy, but I believe the Hawkeyes are a more consistent and better coached team than Michigan. They won’t beat themselves, are solid along both lines of scrimmage, and get enough from their skill positions to be in every game. This reminds me of one of those Kirk Ferentz coached teams that gets better as the season progresses. Fact: the combined record of the teams Iowa has lost to is 23-1.
5. Michigan: Outside of their blowout win over Minnesota a few weeks ago, the Wolverines have not looked impressive this year. Devin Gardner has been a turnover machine and the secondary has been horrible. The personnel isn’t up to Michigan standards yet, however, Brady Hoke is recruiting at an elite level so that should change soon. Also, check out the Wolverines’ closing stretch: Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Iowa, and Ohio State. Ouch! Looks like an 8-4 record to me.
6. Minnesota: The Gophers’ upset victory over Nebraska was not a fluke. Minnesota out gained Nebraska 430 yards to 328. The Gophers also missed some opportunities to make the score more one-sided than the 11 point deficit. Now the Gophers must go on the road to play an inferior team in Indiana after the big victory at home — something they’ve struggled with historically.
7. Nebraska: The Cornhuskers continue to struggle defending the run. That’s not the characteristic of a classic blackshirts defense. It needs to change if Bo Pelini wants to keep his job. A loss to Minnesota puts him on the hot seat.
8. Penn State: The Nittany Lions were routed by the Buckeyes. If you couple that with a 20 point loss to Indiana a few weeks ago, it leaves some folks scratching their heads. Despite having a talented quarterback in Christian Hackenberg, he’s young and prone to mistakes. This is starting to look like the start of a long rebuilding project for Bill O’Brien in Happy Valley.
9. Indiana: The Hoosiers face a critical game against Minnesota at home after the bye week. If they lose, they likely won’t go bowling for yet another year.
10. Northwestern: The Wildcats are on their way to an 0-5 start in the Big Ten with a trip to Lincoln to face an angry Nebraska team next week. I don’t think Northwestern will make a bowl game this year, especially with Nebraska, Michigan, and Michigan State still left on the schedule.
11. Illinois: The Illini looked good or at least competitive for one half against Michigan State. However, that didn’t last long as they ended up getting drilled by the Spartans, 42-3. Still plenty of winnable games left on the schedule for the Illini playing in the lousy Leaders Division, so they still may end up feeling good about themselves by the end of the season.
12. Purdue: The Boilermakers were off this weak, making it arguably their most impressive week to date. Not much else to say here, other than godspeed Darrell Hazell.