Big Ten Power Rankings Week 7: Who is No. 1, the Hawks, Sparty or Badgers?

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Big Ten Power Rankings Week 7: Who is No. 1, the Hawks, Sparty or Badgers?
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Mark Dantonio of Michigan State

The mighty Ohio State Buckeyes fell on the road at Wisconsin raising the following two immediate questions: How far does Ohio State fall in this week’s poll, and which team among Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan State will sit atop the Power Ranking poll?

The long range question concerning the Big Ten is whether the conference will be represented in the BCS National Championship game.  In looking at the teams ahead of the Big Ten teams, they will need some help, but Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa all have legitimate shots to play in the final BCS Bowl game of the year if they can win their remaining games on the season.

11. Minnesota

Coach Tim Brewster was fired on Sunday morning after the Gophers lost 28-17 to Purdue, dropping their record to 1-6 on the season.  Offensive Coordinator Jeff Horton has been named interim head coach.

Next game: The Gophers host Penn State in a week that will be likely to be filled with many distractions.

10. Penn State

Joe Paterno needs three victories this season to get to 400 career wins.   The Nittany Lions have had a week to rest and get healthy; Penn State should be well positioned to take advantage of the turmoil in Minnesota.

Next game: The Nittany Lions go to Minnesota and should move Paterno one win closer to 400.

9. Indiana

The Hoosiers had a tough time putting away Arkansas State at home but did manage a 36-34 win due to in large part to Quarterback Ben Chappell throwing four touchdowns and passing for 382 yards.   The Red Wolves did a nice job moving the ball on Indiana’s defense as they accounted for 337 yards of total offense.

Next game:   The Hoosiers travel to Illinois, where they will need to figure out how to generate more offense on the ground.

8. Northwestern

The Wildcats likely spent the bye week attempting to figure out how they can shore up their run defense with the Michigan State running tandem of Le’Veon Bell and Edwin Baker coming to Evanston.  In the previous two weeks, Northwestern’s run defense gave up 165 yards to Minnesota and 232 yards to Purdue.  Fortunately for Wildcat fans, Dan Persa is the type of quarterback that gives the Spartans defense problems.

Next game: The Evanston crowd will need to be especially rowdy if they are to upset Michigan State at home.

7. Purdue

Quarterback Rob Henry, 163 passing yards and 57 rushing yards, and Fullback Dan Dierking, 126 rushing yards, provided a potent one-two punch to defeat Minnesota on homecoming weekend.  Defensive end Ryan Kerrigan continues to impress with his ability to put pressure on the quarterback and stop the run.

Next game: The Boilermakers pick the wrong week to travel to Columbus to play Ohio State.

6. Michigan

Denard Robinson was knocked out of the 38-28 loss against Iowa with a shoulder injury when he was tackled by Tyler Nielsen and Mike Daniels.  Tate Forcier was impressive coming off the bench and playing well running for a touchdown and accounting for a touchdown through the air with 239 passing yards.  Michigan’s defense, however, could not come with a big stop against Iowa when they needed one.

Next game: Bye

5. Illinois

The Illini led the Spartans at half time 6-3, but they could not generate any offense in the second half as they lost 26-6.   The only play longer than 20 yards in the second half for the Illini was a 37 yard reception by A.J. Jenkins.  Unfortunately, while battling for extra yardage, Jenkins was stripped of the ball at the Spartan 19 yard line.  Illini Coach Ron Zook challenged the play, but the officials' call on the field of a fumble was upheld.  The Illini defense may be the most underrated unit in the Big Ten.

Next game: Illini’s defense will get tested by Indiana’s passing game in Champaign.

4. Ohio State

Wisconsin raced out to a quick 21-0 lead, and it appeared that Ohio State would not be able to get back into the game.  The Buckeyes, however, battled back to score the next 18 points to make things interesting in the fourth quarter.  Unfortunately, Ohio State could not complete their comeback bid and fell short 31-18. 

Aspirations for a National Championship may have ended in Madison, but there is a lot of football left, and with a little luck, the Buckeyes game late in the year against Iowa will have BCS National Championship implications.

Next game: Buckeyes host Purdue this week as they hope to get themselves back into the National Championship conversation.

3.  Wisconsin

Prior to the game against Ohio State, Coach Bret Bielema was 0-4 against teams ranked in the top ten.  Bielema challenged his offensive line this week to step up and accept the challenge.  Wisconsin ran the ball 43 times, had three rushing touchdowns, kept quarterback Scott Tolzien from being sacked and did not have a single three and out possession in the game.  The most impressive series was when the Badgers drove the ball 73 yards on 10 plays at the start of the fourth quarter to seal the victory over Ohio State.

Next game: Showdown in Iowa City against the Hawkeyes.

2. Iowa

Derrell Johnson-Koulianos had a big day in Iowa’s 38-28 victory over Michigan in Ann Arbor.  Johnson-Koulianos scored three touchdowns, and his 78 receiving yards pushed him past Tim Dwight at the top of the Hawkeyes’ all-time receiving list with 2,274 yards.  Almost overlooked was Adam Robinson, who rushed for 143 yards on 31 carries and two touchdowns.

Next game: Host the Badgers in the Big Ten game of the week.

1. Michigan State

The Spartans improved to 7-0 and as the sole undefeated team in the Big Ten they ascend to the top of the Big Ten rankings.  The Spartans running game struggled against Illinois, as the team failed to rush for 100 yards for the first time this season as they could only muster 93 yards.  Quarterback Kirk Cousins picked up the slack for the running game by connecting with B.J. Cunningham on a 48 yard toss in the third quarter.  Spartan kicker Dan Conroy made four field goals on the day and is perfect on the season connecting on all of his 13 field goal attempts.

Next game: Spartans play their first game out of the state of Michigan this season as they travel to Evanston to play Northwestern.

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