It's four weeks into the 2010 college football season, and frankly, we've learned absolutely nothing about the Big Ten race. Well, we've learned a little. The main contenders—Ohio State, Iowa, and Wisconsin—are still in the discussion, but some new possible contenders have seemingly joined the chase.
We'll learn a lot more this weekend thanks to marquee matchups such as Iowa-Penn State and Wisconsin-Michigan State.
For now, here's our best guess at the current undefeated teams who will separate themselves as contenders as the season goes on.
As much as Denard Robinson has impressed me, I can't get last year out of my head.
The Wolverines started the year 4-0, but after a tough game against Iowa, Tate Forcier was unable to keep up his remarkable start, and Michigan ended the season 5-7 and home for the holidays for the second straight year.
But the good news for Wolverine fans is that Denard Robinson probably won't turn out like Tate Forcier. His stats have been off the charts so far, and he has burst onto the Heisman scene.
But there is still uncertainty about how he will perform against an elite defense. Forcier fell apart when he faced the Iowa defense, which is currently the top-ranked unit in the country, and it will be interesting to see how Robinson can handle the league's top Ds.
The Michigan defense is also concerning, both against the run and the pass. It gave up 37 points to UMass and almost ruined Robinson's tremendous performance against Notre Dame. We need to see the Wolverines play a good team, like Iowa in two weeks, before coming to any conclusions.
The bottom line: Michigan has a chance to be a good team this year, but its defense is too suspect for it to be considered a contender right now.
After entering last season with high expectations, the Spartans underachieved for much of the year and ended 2009 with an Alamo Bowl loss to Texas Tech.
This year, Michigan State has exceeded expectations and jumped into the national rankings.
Unlike last year, MSU has blown out inferior opponents and beat Notre Dame on a fake field goal in overtime.
To prove themselves this year, Michigan State must beat Wisconsin—an established contender—in the first week of conference play.
The Spartans have all the intangibles lining up in their favor, namely home field advantage and coach Mark Dantonio's first game back after suffering a heart attack.
If MSU can get a win against a very talented Wisconsin squad, it will officially enter the Big Ten title chase. But right now, Sparty isn't quite a contender.
Notorious for bad non-conference play, Northwestern was lucky to escape the 2010 non-conference slate with an undefeated record. The Wildcats barely escaped Vanderbilt with a win, and otherwise we learned very little from this squad's games against overmatched opponents.
The problem is, we won't learn very much about this team until later in the year thanks to an easy schedule.
Northwestern should be able to start the season at least 7-1, with a game against Michigan State being the only roadblock in the early-going.
But later in the season with games against Penn State, Iowa, and Wisconsin looming, the Wildcats' season could turn mediocre.
With so much to replace on defense and a few question marks on offense, Northwestern can't be considered a real contender. But if quarterback Dan Persa continues his impressive play, the Wildcats could find themselves back in Florida come January.
Ohio State came into the season with an enormous amount of preseason hype, and so far the Buckeyes look like they have deserved the attention.
Terrelle Pryor has been very impressive, the entire team—minus the special teams—was outstanding in a tough game against Miami, and the offense has been explosive against inferior teams.
The one question mark would be the defense, which gave up 20 points to Eastern Michigan, but overall there aren't many holes in this Ohio State unit.
We'll know more when the Buckeyes play Wisconsin and Iowa, but for now, the Buckeyes are contenders for a conference title or even more.
Of the top three contenders heading into the season, Wisconsin has looked the most suspect.
Yes, Iowa has a loss, but the Badgers would have been very lucky to escape Tucson with a win if they played at the level they did the first three weeks.
Running back John Clay has been solid, as expected, but the rest of the offense has yet to turn in a complete performance.
The defense hasn't looked elite in 2010 either, and it took a big hit when star linebacker Chris Bolland was lost for the season.
Things started to look up last week, as the Badgers routed Austin Peay 70-3. But remember, this is Austin Peay, not Iowa or Ohio State.
I'm hesitant to completely believe in Wisconsin right now due to its poor performances early in the season, but because of the talent the Badgers have on both sides of the ball, they keep their contender status.
This is basically a no-brainer. Indiana starts the season undefeated every year and then becomes irrelevant come Big Ten play.
Heck, even Minnesota could be undefeated if it had played Towson, Western Kentucky, and Akron.
Even against inferior competition, the Indiana defense has struggled. The offense has been solid, as it very well may be in Big Ten play, but the defense won't be good enough to pull out many Big Ten wins.
The story should be the same for the Hoosiers this year: Sweep the non-conference slate and win a conference game or two.
Bowl eligibility is a serious possibility for Indiana this year, but it is a long way from being a conference title contender.