We are entering the stretch drive of the Big Ten season with just four weeks left. Ohio State has seemingly clinched the Leaders Division title and Buckeyes fans have probably booked their hotel rooms in Indy already.
The Legends Division, however, is wide open. Michigan State is certainly in the drivers seat, but with games against Nebraska and Minnesota remaining, they have work to do before they can clinch.
Nebraska, Minnesota, and Michigan have outside chances to capture the division but I think Michigan has the least chance given their difficult schedule and their head-to-head loss against Michigan State. However, Minnesota and Nebraska have legitimate chances because they play the Spartans and can own the tie breaker with head-to-head victories.
We are starting to see some separation in the power rankings. We have the good, the mediocre, and the terrible. Let’s get to it.
1. Ohio State: The Buckeyes are starting to show off now. Urban Meyer is coaching like a man trying to make it to the National Championship, despite the fact that they are a distant fourth in the latest BCS Rankings. I’m not counting the Buckeyes out just yet. You could make an argument that the Buckeyes have the best and second best quarterbacks in the conference with Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton.
2. Wisconsin: It’s too bad that the Badgers are in the same division as Ohio State because they appear to be the second best team in the conference. The Badgers’ only losses are to Ohio State and a white hot Arizona State club. The two question marks for the Badgers in the preseason were 1) can they throw the football? and 2) how good can their defense be? The answers are yes and very good.
3. Michigan State: The Spartans are playing like the best team in the Big Ten. Their defense is absurdly good. They held Michigan to -48 yards rushing over the weekend. They need to take care of business with three critical games in the division remaining against Nebraska, Northwestern, and Minnesota. None of those games are gimmies.
4. Minnesota: Raise your hand if you thought Minnesota would win three straight after getting blown out by Iowa and Michigan. Anyone? Bueller? Didn’t think so. Now, with a little help, the Gophers have an outside chance to win the Legends Division. My biggest takeaway from the game was the fact the Gophers won a game that they had historically lost over and over again. This has the feel of a special season.
5. Nebraska: The Huskers were a failed Hail Mary attempt away from placing near last in this week’s power rankings. Instead, they beat Northwestern and saved Bo Pelini’s job.
6. Michigan: Michigan is terrible. The most alarming thing may be how overly-matched Brady Hoke looks as a head coach. With a difficult schedule remaining, it’s not inconceivable to see Michigan finishing 6-6. How on earth did the Gophers lose to Michigan 42-13?
7. Iowa: Redshirt freshman quarterback C.J. Beathard was awful in relief of Jake Rudock. Rudock will need to return to the field for the Hawkeyes to get their sixth victory.
8. Northwestern: The Wildcats should’ve beaten Nebraska, but a successful Hail Mary pass did them in. The Wildcats have lost their last three Big Ten games by a combined 13 points. I wonder if Pat Fitzgerald will have wandering eyes this off-season?
9. Penn State: The Nittany Lions almost lost at home to Illinois. Yuck. Penn State is a well coached team with sub par talent. Now they must go on the road to play another well coached team with superior talent in Minnesota.
10. Indiana: How can Indiana stop anyone? If Ohio State and Wisconsin want to score 100 against the Hoosiers, they will. And you know what? I wouldn’t put it past Urban Meyer to go for it.
11. Illinois: Tim Beckman came within an eyelash of collecting his first Big Ten victory. I think he’ll get off the schneid next week against a defensively inept and vulnerable Indiana team.
12. Purdon’t: I’m officially bored with the Jim Tressel disciple speak about Darrell Hazell. Purdue is a complete joke right now. Danny Hope’s team last year was light years ahead of Darrell Hazell’s team this year. I’m not going to give up on Hazell yet, but he couldn’t have looked more over matched than he has been this year.