We have another week to now form some opinions of how things are shaping up in the Big Ten.
After some pretty interesting games during Week 2, here is an opinion of how the Big Ten landscape shapes up.
1. Ohio State (Last Week: 1—No change)
Even though Ohio State looked impressive against Marshall, the jury was still out on just how good this team was. After the display against Miami, you've got to believe that the pollsters, coaches, and fans are believing that this team is for real. Time will tell just how good Miami was, but if you believe the eye test, Ohio State has a legitimate shot at running the table this year.
2. Iowa (Last Week: 2—No change)
Iowa just may be as good as or, dare I say, better than Ohio State. They may also be a product of playing inferior opponents. We will definitely know more about Iowa after they play a character type of game this weekend.
If there is anything that screams land mine game, it is traveling west across time zones and playing an away game extremely late at night in the desert. If Iowa gets through this game unscathed, many more will be believing in the Hawkeyes.
3. Michigan (Last Week: 5—Up two spots)
Are you drinking the Maize and Blue Kool-Aid just yet? There are a lot of people beginning to jump on the Michigan bandwagon this week after two strong showings against Connecticut and Notre Dame.
To be realistic, there is still a lot of football to be played and a lot of perception to become reality for Connecticut and Notre Dame, but with Denard Robinson doing his thing and the defense holding its own, the winged helmets are beginning to take on an intimidating look once again.
4. Wisconsin (Last Week: 3—Down one spot)
After an okay showing at UNLV in Week 1, coupled by a very lackluster effort at home against San Jose State, Wisconsin is losing the beauty pageant. There is still plenty of time to win the bathing suit contest, but the offense is going to have to finish drives, and the defense is going to have to look better against stiffer competition.
I see this team molding more (John) Clay as they move forward in the season. Wisconsin is one of those teams that can look very average against lesser competition but rise to the occasion and play with anybody because of their style of play. Wisconsin can make a little better case against Arizona State this week.
5. Penn State (Last Week: 4—Down one spot)
Penn State is the latest Big Ten team to hurt the conference's perception against an SEC team. The reality is that nobody is going to waltz into Tuscaloosa and look great, but Penn State failed to even look like it had a puncher's chance. Maybe Alabama is just that good and will blow away the rest of the competition, but maybe Penn State is just too young at key positions to expect exceptional things this year.
6. Michigan State (Last Week: 7—Up one spot)
As a Michigan State fan, you had to hope for a Notre Dame win last week so that this would be a match p of two 2-0 teams. Still, Michigan State is looking for respect, and Notre Dame brings a national television audience and a chance to get on the map.
The two wins thus far have been solid, but not overwhelming. Right or wrong, this week will be an opportunity to gauge Michigan State against rival Michigan. It is another "show me" opportunity for a Big Ten team that nobody knows anything about just yet.
7. Northwestern (Last Week: 6—Down one spot)
In some ways, Northwestern may have a better case to be at No. 6 because of its win at Vandy. Dan Persa looks strong enough at quarterback, and the offense will continue to move the ball against about anyone, but you still have to wonder how this team stacks up against teams in the upper division of the Big Ten.
Northwestern doesn't have much of a chance to impress in the non-conference schedule, so we may have to wait until conference play begins to truly see how Pat Fitzgerald's team stacks up.
8. Indiana (Last Week: 8—No change)
Another week, another easy opponent, another win. The offense continues to score points, and the defense continues to look average. In keeping with the pattern of the day, it is hard to gauge just how good Indiana is until it plays somebody with a pulse. Still, if history is any indication, they should slot in right about here.
9. Illinois (Last Week: 11—Up two spots)
Let's at least recognize Illinois for what it has shown. Everyone thought that they would get whitewashed against Missouri, and they nearly pulled off a win that they probably deserved. Add to that showing a pretty solid game against Southern Illinois, and just maybe the Illini are not quite as bad as everyone thought.
Before the Illinois fans start to feel good about this, remember that everyone thought that Illinois would be lucky to finish out of the basement this year. All of these encouraging signs can go down the toilet with a loss to Northern Illinois.
10. Purdue (Last Week: 7—Down two spots)
The loss of the Boilermakers' No. 1 receiver Keith Smith is going to hurt. Breaking in a new quarterback without a go-to guy could spell disaster for a team that was already trying to create some chemistry and continuity on the offensive side of the ball.
It would be a bit of a stretch to say this week is a must win so early in the season, but if Purdue wants to go bowling, this is the one that could keep them out. A win against Ball State does nothing to bolster the perception, while a loss hurts badly.
11. Minnesota (Last Week: 9—Down two spots)
Ouch. All of the talk going into this season for Minnesota was how they were going to get back to being physical with the run game. After two games, we can agree that the run game has become more of a staple of the offense, but the Golden Gophers have had a hard time playing physical against teams that they should be pushing around the field on the defensive side of the ball.
Last week's clunker against South Dakota may be the worst loss for an FBS team outside of the Virginia Tech loss. Unless Minnesota turns it around, this could be Tim Brewster's last game as head coach in the Twin Cities.