In the first edition of the Big Ten Power Rankings, the members of the Big Ten roundtable forecasted a situation where five teams would battle to the end for the Big Ten crown.
Those five teams—Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan State—now all find themselves in position to do just that.
The Hawkeyes and Buckeyes control their own destiny and are marching toward a showdown on Nov. 14 in the 'Shoe, but both teams must also face another member of this quintet first.
Ohio State must travel to Happy Valley to face the Nittany Lions and their brutal home crowd, and Iowa faces Michigan State this week in a game that could put the Spartans in the driver's seat if they can pull of the upset.
Penn State must beat the Buckeyes at home and then root for the Buckeyes to beat the Hawkeyes in Columbus to get back in control, while the Badgers need help from Iowa and Ohio State.
The Big Ten title race is heating up, but the race for bowl contention is just as interesting.
Northwestern and Indiana are in must win situations heading into their showdown in Evanston, Ill. this week. A loss for either team would be a serious blow to their bowl hopes.
Minnesota finds itself at 4-3 with games at Ohio State and Iowa, as well as a home date with Michigan State still remaining. Bowl eligibility will rely on wins against Illinois and South Dakota State.
Michigan is the wild card. Sitting at 1-2 in the conference, the Wolverines aren't out of the title race just yet. If Tate Forcier and company can upset the Nittany Lions in Ann Arbor this weekend, Rich Rodriguez's squad will be right back in the mix.
The B/R Big Ten Players of the Week:
Offensive Player of the Week: QB Ben Chappell, Indiana
Defensive Player of the Week: DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
Special Teams Player of the Week: K Carson Wiggs, Purdue
On to the rankings...
1. Iowa Hawkeyes (6) 66 points
TC: Championship teams find a way to win every game, and that's what Iowa's looking like right now. Shutting out the Badgers in the second half at Camp Randall shows a lot about this team.
BF: For the sixth time this season, the Hawkeyes come from behind for the victory. Iowa put on a defensive performance again in the second half of this game, with Amari Spievey recording two interceptions. Ricky Stanzi had an all-around solid game too, going 17-of-23 for 218 yards and a touchdown.
JA: After a slow start on Saturday, the Iowa defense slammed the door hard on the Badger offense, completely shutting it down with eight minutes left in the first half. At the same time the Iowa offense found its footing as Iowa scored 20 unanswered points behind the leadership of quarterback Ricky Stanzi. Iowa won 20-10. At 7-0, Iowa is getting close to clicking on all cylinders.
KT: After a win in Madison, the Hawkeyes proved they are the team to beat in the Big Ten. The offense, especially Ricky Stanzi, stepped up and the defense made one of the Big Ten's best offenses look pretty bad, holding the Badgers to 75 yards rushing and recording three interceptions. If the offense keeps improving, 12-0 is a very attainable goal.
2. Penn State Nittany Lions 60 points
BF: The Nittany Lion defense held the typically high-scoring Gophers scoreless on Saturday. Every bit of Penn State looked good, with Clark tossing for almost 300 yards and Royster rushing for more than 135 yards.
RJ: The Nittany Lions defense looked dominant again but now they will get a real test as they will face their first offense that isn't ranked below 75th in the nation when they travel to Ann Arbor to face the Wolverines.
TC: I'm not sure the Titans or Buccaneers would score on this defense either. Impressive performance against the Gophers.
KG: Joe Paterno has to be pleased at how his team has progressed after the loss to Iowa, but the meat of the Penn State schedule is still in front of them. Road trips to Ann Arbor and East Lansing will be no picnic and then there is the showdown with Ohio State in Happy Valley.
3. Ohio State Buckeyes 48 points
TC: The sky's not falling yet, folks. Calm down and let Terrelle Pryor mature. The Buckeyes control their own destiny toward winning their fifth straight Big Ten title, but from the reaction in Ohio, you'd think they were 0-and-something.
JA: The Buckeyes were lucky against the Badgers when the Wisconsin team dropped the ball a few too many times two weeks ago. But against Purdue on Saturday luck did not help as a convincing Purdue offense took charge of the game. This week it was Ohio State miscues that cost them the victory 26-18. Their quarterback, Terrelle Pryor, seems to suffer from a confidence crisis. The question remains, can Ohio State repack the cargo and bring home the rest of the season intact?
KT: The Buckeyes have a great defense, but they need some offense. If the offense doesn't give the defense such bad field position to work with, Ohio State can win the rest of their games, but they need to get better production from the offensive side of the ball.
KG: Jim Tressel cold be facing his toughest challenge yet as the head coach of the Buckeyes. Terrelle Pryor is having some major growing pains, his offense has gone from mediocre to bad, and fans are calling for backup Joe Bauserman. The Buckeyes must get back on track the next two weeks in home games against Minnesota and New Mexico State before a brutal final stretch (at Penn State, Iowa, at Michigan).
T4. Michigan Wolverines 43 points
TC: RichRod's team has been better than people expected. That's step one. Step two is figuring out how to beat the Buckeyes, and they appear to have a shot later this year.
JA: Michigan stomped on Delaware State 63-6. Did anyone expect any less? Mainly we should be surprised that the Hornets scored at all. This game really did not help Michigan improve their standing this week—regardless of what poll you survey. Next week when Penn State comes calling—now that will be a rankings changer.
RJ: The Wolverines cruised last week as they should have, but the game should boost their confidence for their visit from Penn State this weekend, who the Wolverines have lost to only once to in the past 10 years.
KG: The Wolverines looked brilliant last week in their "scrimmage" against Delaware State, but can Rich Rodriguez's squad look that good against the Nittany Lions on Saturday? In Michigan's two biggest conference games of the year (Michigan State and Iowa) the offense struggled against powerful, fast defenses. Joe Paterno's squad is as good (or better) than those two defensive teams and could make it a long day for Tate Forcier.
T4. Michigan State Spartans 43 points
JA: The Spartans started slow but picked up speed in the second half to overtake the Northwestern Wildcats 24-14 on Saturday. After getting off to a rocky start in the Big Ten, the Spartans have climbed back into the conference race with some positive results the past two Saturdays. Michigan State faces Iowa at home this coming weekend and must ratchet up the gears to secure a win against the soaring Hawkeyes.
KT: A win over Northwestern is nice, but not overly impressive. The Spartans will face a huge test at home this week against Iowa.
TC: They're a long way from that loss to Central Michigan. Sparty's put together a nice winning streak and could contend for the Big Ten title if they can knock off the unbeaten Hawkeyes Saturday night. It remains to be seen if their rushing attack will survive long-term with Glenn Winston out. Larry Caper's been solid, but carrying the load is a lot to ask of a true freshman.
KG: Michigan State has followed up a three-game losing streak with a three-game winning streak and now find themselves sitting in a three way tie at second with Ohio State and Penn State. If the Spartans can upset the Hawkeyes on Saturday in Spartan Stadium, Mark Dantonio's squad will control its own destiny for at least a share of the Big Ten title.
6. Wisconsin Badgers 41 points
KT: Wisconsin needs to learn to play the whole game. They played a good first half against Iowa, but couldn't get anything going on the ground in the second half and suffered from Scott Tolzien's three interceptions. The defense was great in the first 30 minutes as well, but they were shut down in the second half, as Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi had a big day.
TC: The Badgers have lost two in a row, but there's no shame in dropping tough defeats at Ohio Stadium and to an unbeaten at home. The question is how Wisconsin responds to adversity.
BF: The first half looked like John Clay was going to have his way with the Hawkeyes, but after a slight ankle tweak, Wisconsin never could get any momentum going. The Iowa D proved to be too much for Tolzien, who threw three interceptions in the game.
KG: Wisconsin isn't out of it yet. With the toughest part of its schedule out of the way, there is a very real possibility that the Badgers could finish 10-2 and finish in the top three. The only real test on the schedule is a home date with Michigan and if the Badgers stay focused, a January bowl game awaits.
7. Minnesota Golden Gophers 27 points
TC: Teams are finally figuring out how to slow down the Gophers ... and even Eric Decker. At 4-3, Minnesota's in decent shape for a bowl berth, but they need to find their offense again.
RJ: The Badgers stumbled again this past weekend, this time at home against Iowa. Fortunately for the Badgers they now have a bye week to regroup before they get Purdue and Indiana.
JA: Simply put, Minnesota could not move the ball on offense against Penn State. Their running game fell short and Penn State had Eric Decker covered—so the passing game came up missing. Happy Valley is never generous to outsiders—and the temperatures were as chilly as the reception by the Nittany Lions—putting a real damper on the the Gophers chances in the Big Ten ... no warmer in Columbus we fear.
KT: Just when we thought the Gophers could be a top-five team in the Big Ten, they disappoint. The offense was non-existent against Penn State, and while the defense was good, the offense needs to step up if the Gophers want any chance at a good bowl game.
8. Purdue Boilermakers 26 points
TC: The Boilermakers showed what can happen when they don't beat themselves. The question now is if it was a fluke or if they've finally kicked the turnover bug. Still some winnable games down the stretch if they play well.
JA: The Boilers finally fulfilled their promise and took an important step in reclaiming their season by beating the Ohio State Buckeyes in West Lafayette 26-18 last Saturday. Joey Elliot, the Purdue quarterback, threw for 281 yards and two touchdowns. It was a fitting statement for a team so close to winning—yet inevitably coming up short—until last Saturday.
RJ: The Boilermakers pulled off the first big upset of the Big Ten season knocking off the Buckeyes and hope to use the momentum to help them through the rest of their schedule
KG: Danny Hope has done something that more veteran Big Ten coaches Bret Bielema, Tim Brewster, Bill Lynch, Rich Rodriguez, and Mark Dantonio haven't ... beat the Buckeyes. Purdue's unlikely victory against Ohio State in West Lafayette last week proved the Boilermakers are a highly capable team that can get the job done when it plays to its abilities.
9. Northwestern Wildcats 19 points
JA: Even though Mike Kafka threw for 291 yards and two touchdowns, the Wildcats failed to capitalize on a halftime lead over the Spartans of Michigan State. The 'Cats floundered in the second half to lose again, falling to 1-2 in Big Ten play. Next week the Wildcats host Indiana where they hope to improve their standings
RJ: The Wildcats fell again this week and now are facing a must win this weekend if they hope to be bowl eligible when they take on Indiana as they still have Penn State, Wisconsin, and Iowa on the schedule, which are likely losses.
TC: The Wildcats shut out Michigan State in East Lansing for 30 minutes, but ultimately faltered. Big game for Fitz against the Hoosiers this weekend in Evanston.
KG: The Wildcats will travel to Bloomington, Ind. this week for an important conference game for both squads that will be overlooked by the majority of Big Ten fans. Pat Fitzgerald's squad needs a victory against the Hoosiers to keep their bowl hopes alive. With Penn State, Iowa, and Wisconsin still on the schedule, wins against Indiana and Illinois are musts.
10. Indiana Hoosiers 17 points
KT: The Hooisers got what may be their last win of the season over Illinois at home, giving them enough credibility to crawl out of the cellar of the Big Ten.
TC: Hard to find a lot of possible wins for this team (4-3 now) outside of at Northwestern and Purdue at home in the season finale. If they want to go bowling, they need a win at Ryan Field.
JA: Finally out of the dungeon and into the light—Ben Chappell, Indiana’s quarterback, passed for 333 yards against a weak Illini defense, throwing for three touchdowns in an effort that might salvage the Hoosier season. The Indiana team benefited from critical Illini fumbles. Next week they travel to Purdue in another crucial contest.
KG: The Hoosiers are in must win mode. If Bill Lynch's squad hopes to make a return to post season play, it must at least get wins against comparable teams in Evanston against Northwestern and against rival Purdue.
11. Illinois Fighting Illini 6 points
TC: It keeps getting worse for the Zooker in Champaign. The funny thing is that the offense seems to move the ball exceptionally well in spurts. Maybe it's time to go no-huddle the entire time? At least something to change up this underachieving unit ... although it's probably too late now anyway.
KG: Down seven in the third quarter, with the Illini driving in the red zone, Juice Williams ran keeper and lumbered toward the goal line only to have the ball ripped away and recovered by the Hoosiers. Ron Zook could do nothing but laugh. Though his hot seat is completely warranted, the Zooker is not completely to blame for the Illini's downward spiral. Zook is trying to get this team back on track, but the team has to make it happen.
JA: The Illini are dead in the water. Next week they have to travel to play a renewed Purdue team that just upset Ohio State. Unless the Boilers are still sky high and oblivious, Purdue will win this game. It is time for Illinois to forget about bowls and postseason and start concentrating on fundamentals once again. There is something to be said for playing the game as it should be played whether you win or lose.
BF: Something tells me Zook's days at Illinois might be numbered.