It’s become clear after this weekend that the conference elite is made up of three teams. Ohio State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin are heads and heels above everyone else. The rest of the conference isn’t nearly as good. Even though Michigan and Ohio State are playing each other next weekend, I think the Wolverines have about a 1-in-100 chance of beating Ohio State and I’m not being facetious.
The Big Ten Championship game has already been determined. It’ll be Ohio State and Michigan State and it should be one heck of a ball game. The only way the Buckeyes don’t make it to the championship is if Michigan knocks them off but according to my previous paragraph, that isn’t going to happen.
1. Ohio State: The Buckeyes easily dispatched an overmatched Indiana team 42-14. Look for a similar score next week when the Buckeyes travel to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan in arguably the greatest rivalry game in all of college football.
2. Wisconsin: Once again, I can’t tell you how impressed I am with the Badgers’ defense. Defensive tackle Beau Allen is a beast on the interior and Chris Borland is one of the best linebackers in the country. Cornerback Sojourn Shelton made the play of the game against the Gophers when he broke up a long pass in the end zone intended for receiver Drew Wolitarsky in the fourth quarter. Had the ball been caught, it would have pulled Minnesota within a touchdown.
3. Michigan State: Now that the Spartans have found their offense, they’re starting to beat teams comfortably. They made quick work of Northwestern, 30-6. The Gophers will have their hands full next weekend in East Lansing.
4. Iowa: I know I’ve beaten this drum before, but look at who the Hawkeyes have lost to: Ohio State, Northern Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan State. Those teams have a combined three losses. Also considering the Hawkeyes beat the Gophers earlier this year, I have no choice but to place them ahead of Minnesota.
5. Minnesota: It was a strong effort on Saturday from Minnesota’s defense. They played their tails off but the offense couldn’t produce any points. Tailback David Cobb ran well in the first half, before being neutralized in the second half with Minnesota finding themselves down two possessions and needing to throw. In the passing game, the Gophers were haunted by several key drops and inaccurate throws by Philip Nelson, not to forget three lost fumbles.
6. Nebraska: I couldn’t be more unimpressed by Nebraska. I’ll give them credit for winning close games, but this is not a great team. They’re deeply flawed and they’ll be exposed by Iowa next weekend at home. Make sure to root for a Nebraska loss next weekend as it would improve Minnesota’s bowl standing.
7. Penn State: The Nittany Lions gave a valiant effort against Nebraska, but came up short in overtime losing, 23-20. Next week they take on Wisconsin, so in all likelihood the Nitts won’t win another game until 2014.
8. Michigan: This is a transitional year for Brady Hoke and the Wolverines. They’re weeding out the last of Rich Rodriguez’s personnel and starting to work in their own. I think the Wolverines are a couple years away from competing for national titles.
9. Northwestern: For a while, it looked like the Wildcats were going to give Michigan State a fight. At one point, the Wildcats had a 3-0 lead in the second quarter. Unfortunately, reality set in and Northwestern lost the game, 30-6. After starting the season ranked in the Top 25, they’ve gone 0-7 in Big Ten games.
10. Illinois: The Illini beat Purdue 20-16 to snap their 20 game Big Ten losing streak, but unfortunately for them, very few witnessed it. Tickets to the game were allegedly selling on StubHub for as low as 39 cents.
11. Indiana: The Hoosiers are starting to let their season get away from them. It’s one thing to lose on the road to Wisconsin and Ohio State, no shame in that, but the Hoosiers haven’t even looked competitive, which makes it seem like progress hasn’t been made under Kevin Wilson in his third year at the helm.
12. Purdue: I knew Purdue would stink this year, but this is atrocious. Darrel Hazell inherited a mess, but somehow, they’ve taken a bad situation and made it even worse.