Big 10 Power Rankings: Post Week 4.
Though things are beginning to come into focus a bit for the Big 10, there is still a lot of football to play.
We are starting to see a separation at the top, and a new doormat of the Big 10 is also staking its claim.
Qualification: These rankings are not based solely on record, or if one team beats another, but on how the talent is distributed and how they might finish.
#11 Purdue Boilermakers: The New Doormat of the Big 10?
Congratulations Purdue, you are now the doormat of the Big 10.
Purdue's spot among the conference's upper division has started to slide in year's past, but it's evident that they are descending into deeper valleys this year.
Things started off great with a win over Toledo to open up the year, but so far, that is the only bright spot for the "Spoilermakers."
The scoring has actually not been that bad (28 points a game), but Purdue has given up even more points because they continue to hand over the football at an alarming rate. After Saturday's game, Purdue now has a turnover margin of -9.
This is not the way Danny Hope wanted to start his rookie campaign.
# 10 Illinois: Welcome Back to Years Past!
The Illinois program may just win the cake for the most inconsistent history in the Big 10. They continue this trend by being pegged by everyone and their mother as a program on the rise after the 2007 season.
Welcome back to reality Illini.
This underachieving group has befuddled everyone by their lack of production on offense. The senior, Juice Williams, has looked hesitant at best throughout his collegiate career.
Most thought that Illinois had an outside chance at contending for the Big 10 title this year, but expectations must now be reset and looking towards next year.
Should we look for the fireronzook.com to gain popularity again?
#9 Indiana Hoosiers: Time to Jump off the Bandwagon
Has anyone gotten more mileage out of an almost win as Indiana did against Michigan?
Many thought that this hard fought battle was proof that Indiana had turned the page and may just be a force to be reckoned with in this year's Big 10 race.
Imagine the shock when many heard a paid Big 10 Network correspondent pick Indiana to beat Ohio State.
Lesson #1: Never pick Indiana (yes, that Indiana) to beat Ohio State in College Football.
After Ohio State stopped by for a quick bite to eat, the Hoosiers then got blitzed by a Virginia team that has had troubles of their own.
The reality is that basketball season is just around the corner.
Defend the Rock!!
Let's start first by finding a pebble and working your way up.
#8 Northwestern Wildcats: Keeping the Status Quo
Hey has anyone heard: Pat Fitzgerald was an All-American linebacker at Northwestern.
You know your program has an identity crisis when the coach and not the team on the field always gets the most attention.
The reality is that Northwestern has actually been pretty good over the last decade plus.
The other reality is that despite the comments of their head coach- it is Northwestern- and nobody needs to get used to them winning and/or contending for conference titles year in and out.
The Wildcats aren't horrible, but they have yet to beat anybody with a pulse. Still, they do have an outside shot of becoming bowl eligible.
That, and I'll bet their coach could still lay a mean hit on opposing running backs.
#7 Minnesota Golden Gophers: What a Shiny, New Stadium
The fighting TCF Bank Stadiums have been able to climb out of the basement in the past couple of years and seem to have things pointed in the right direction.
The Golden Gophers have been more than competitive this year in all of their games and now stand at 4-2 (2-1 in the Big 10).
Still, the schedule has been soft thus far. There are much tougher battles to come and they have yet to have a signature win. They will probably continue to play well at home and struggle on the road.
Despite all of this, the Golden Gophers seem to have things steered towards at least being a middle of the pack team in the coming years.
This year, they should squeak into a bowl and finish right around that dreaded middle.
When all else fails, the new stadium and facilities are second to none.
#6 Michigan State Spartans: A Step Back
So you're ready to play with the big boys eh?
If you are like me, you are still not quite sure what to think of Michigan State. There was the bad loss to Central Michigan coupled with a good win against their arch rival Michigan.
In most of their other games, Sparty has played well but fell short. This is alarming because its all too similar to recent memory.
After last year, football started to raise a notch closer to basketball in East Lansing, but what a difference a year makes.
It is evident that Dantonio still has some work to do in order to get Michigan State among the contenders.
I tend to believe that Michigan State is better than their record indicates, but were sincerely overrated to start the season.
#5 Michigan: Trying to Become the Leaders and Best
Does anyone else get an overwhelming sense that there's been a lot of bandwagon jumping this year (enter stage left Michigan)?
Michigan started off by winning game after game.
They started by winning their first four games and beat an overrated Notre Dame team.
Cue up the fight song..
Oh wait, there's the loss to Michigan State and then Iowa. They're back to not being horrible.
Michigan is definitely better this year, but the fact remains that there has yet to be a signature win. I am not sold on Notre Dame and you shouldn't be either.
Michigan may very well be on their way back, but this is not the year. Look for a further step forward next year.
As a side note: It will be interesting to see how the smaller, quicker play that Rodriquez has been targeting plays out during a grueling Big 10 season in years to come.
#4 Iowa Hawkeyes: I know, I know
I hope my wife doesn't read this. She is a graduate of Iowa and will probably relegate me to the couch for the cold winter months for putting her beloved Hawkeyes this low.
Yes, Iowa has played well. Yes, Iowa is undefeated. Yes, I know I will get backlash from putting them at number four (even behind Penn State whom they beat).
I am also very aware of the fact that Iowa has a formidable defense.
I could eat crow here, but I have yet to drink the Hawkeye flavored (ewe) Kool-Aid. Iowa is getting by on defensive takeaways and it's not even close.
One could argue that the defense is causing the turnovers, and you would be correct. The flip side of that is that one cannot continue to hang their hat on getting turnovers to win ballgames.
After last Saturday, Iowa is +9 in the turnover category. One has to believe that this pace is not going to keep up.
The same team that beat Penn State because of poor decision making by Darryl Clark and gang, is the same team that had to block two field goal attempts at the end of the game just to get by Football Championship Subdivision school, Northern Iowa.
Michigan continued the trend by throwing to the wrong team with the game on the line Saturday. If this were an Ohio State ball-club, everyone would be stating how overrated they are.
The bottom line is that Iowa is well coached, well liked, and portrays itself as the little engine that could.
But, I am not fooled and expect them to still drop a couple in league play.
#3 Penn State Nittany Lions: Down, But Not Forgotten
Many people have been quick to discount Penn State's hopes of reaching anywhere close to a Big 10 title after their loss to Iowa.
If you look closer to the play on the field, you can easily argue that Penn State gave that game away. They were in control most of the game only to lose focus and composure.
I am not ready to write the boys of Mount Nittany off just yet. I still believe they can hold a candle to any team's talent in the Big 10, but just had an off day.
We all know that the best team does not always win. I may get barbecued for it, but I still firmly believe that Penn State is better than Iowa and is still very dangerous.
Penn State still has to go to Michigan and Michigan State, but the lone remaining big game has Ohio State coming to Happy Valley.
Don't forget about the men wearing the Plain Jane uniforms.
#2 Wisconsin Badgers: Underrated and Underappreciated
On the surface, it would appear as though Wisconsin was merely a paper tiger that got exposed last week at Ohio State.
Don't count me in that camp.
If you watched the game at all, you saw a team that was physical, well coached, and had plenty of talent. In many ways, Wisconsin dominated every aspect of the game except for defense and special teams.
Unfortunately, that is how Ohio State scored.
Wisconsin had the ball for over 40 minutes at Ohio State Saturday because of an efficient offense and solid defense. They may just be the most balanced team in the Big 10.
The only reason that Wisconsin did not come away with a win is because of two defensive scores and a kick return by Ohio State. It was the bizzarest of bizzare games, but a loss nonetheless.
Despite the loss, I still believe that Wisconsin will be a player in this Big 10 race until the end. The schedule shapes up nicely from here on out, and they will begin by giving Iowa all they can handle next week.
# 1 Ohio State Buckeyes: Still on Top
There have been a few unpleasant surprises with Ohio State this season.
Terrelle Pryor's inability to progress at the rate many predicted and the resulting lack of consistency put up by the offense this year is at the forefront.
Despite this, there has been one huge surprise this year that make Ohio State the team to beat in the Big 10 once again: The Buckeye defense has been lights out.
Surprisingly enough, the only team to break into the 20's in points scored against Ohio State this year is Navy.
The defensive line has manhandled every opponent (including USC) that has stepped on the field with them, and has left the back seven with freedom and space to run and make plays.
Ohio State fans are used to having a good defense, but this year's installment has been better than expected, and one can argue, the best in recent years.
Ohio State still has some work to do on the offensive side of the ball, but when you can continue to beat teams into submission with the fury that has been unleashed thus far on opponents, they have to again be the favorite to win another Big 10 title.
There are three key games left on the slate, and they just happen to be the last three regular season games that are played this year. I
If the offense can find itself over the next three weeks leading up to this stretch, they could be looking for bigger and better things on the national scene as well.