The Michigan Wolverines came back from the brink of destruction to snatch a victory from a talented and determined Illinois team at the conclusion of the most exhilarating football game in the country on Saturday afternoon.
Following that game, Penn State’s Joe Paterno notched his 400th career win by upending Northwestern in Happy Valley to move Penn State back to an impact position.
Many of the BCS top 25 went down to defeat in Week 10.
Three of the four teams bumping each other for the Big Ten Title won––all except Ohio State, who sat idle.
The victories at the top, however, were low-key against the bottom dwellers of the Big Ten.
Iowa, after its splendid victory over Michigan State in Week 9, could barely find the football field in Bloomington. The Hawkeyes were lucky to get out of town with a win.
All the real excitement for TV audiences in the Big Ten happened in Ann Arbor and in Happy Valley.
The Power Rankings are based on the BCS Rankings, plus win-loss nets and most importantly the team’s past weekend results––for upsets or victories over ranked teams.
Understandably, the Power Rankings may change dramatically from week to week. This week's Power Rankings reflect a distinct rise in the middle of the pack, edging ever closer to the top four.
11. Minnesota (1-9, 0-6, PR -8):
On Saturday, Minnesota lost to the Michigan State Spartans, 31-8 in East Lansing.
It goes without saying that Minnesota has become the doormat of the Big Ten.
This represents a sad state of affairs for Gopher players and fans.
With only two games remaining at Illinois and at home against Iowa, Minnesota will slink out of the season and pray for a new coach who will offer future Gopher players and fans a much improved outlook in 2011.
In the meantime, Big Ten teams continue to trample the Gophers.
The two teams remaining on Minnesota's schedule will feel no pity because neither Illinois nor Iowa can afford another loss.
10. Indiana (4-5, 0-5, PR -6):
Indiana hosted Iowa in Bloomington, losing 18-13 in Week 10.
The Hoosiers played tag with the Hawkeyes all afternoon as the two teams leapfrogged each other for the lead.
Indiana led at the end of the third quarter but could not muster another score in the fourth as Iowa finally got a touchdown with a little over two minutes to play.
Indiana’s last pass play to win the game failed.
Iowa escaped. The Hoosiers did everything better than the Hawkeyes, except win the game.
Indiana has three games remaining at Wisconsin, on a neutral field (FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland) against Penn State and at Purdue.
The Hoosiers need two wins to become eligible to compete in postseason play.
9. Purdue (4-5, 2-3, PR -2):
Purdue lost to the Wisconsin Badgers, 34-13 on Saturday.
The Boilermakers led at halftime in their game against Wisconsin in West Lafayette as a sluggish Wisconsin team lined up against them.
Showing the spark that gave this Purdue team its early season success, first-time starter at quarterback Sean Robinson offered a glimpse of better things ahead.
But after Wisconsin regained its power and conviction in the second half, Purdue could not keep pace, losing 34-13.
Purdue, with depleted forces, will need a great surge to become bowl eligible.
The Boilers must face Michigan at home, Michigan State on the road and Indiana at home to finish out the season.
8. Illinois (5-4, 3-3, PR 1):
Ron Zook's Illinois team lost to Michigan, 67-65 in triple overtime on Saturday.
Illinois was so close to victory over its rivals in Ann Arbor that the defeat did not sink in readily.
Poised to match Michigan score for score in the third overtime, freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase was unable to avoid the trap of a well-executed Wolverine blitz.
When the two-point conversion failed, Illinois left the field a loser on the day.
But, the Illini played splendidly in defeat as half of a very entertaining football game.
This week Illinois will welcome the Golden Gophers to Champaign where a victory will make the Fighting Illini bowl eligible.
7. Northwestern (6-3, 2-3 PR 2):
Northwestern lost on the road to Penn State, 35-21.
The Wildcats shot out to a 21-point lead over the Penn State Nittany Lions, looking to extend their winning ways on the road this season.
But the Cats could not overcome a stiffened Penn State defense in the second half.
At the same time, the Lions began to hum on offense, scoring 35 unanswered points.
Despite the Herculean efforts of quarterback Dan Persa, the Cats could not muster another score in the second half.
This week Northwestern welcomes the Iowa Hawkeyes to Evanston for a home contest.
This could be a real trap game for the Hawkeyes because they seem to have a weakness for the Wildcats.
6. Michigan (6-3, 2-3, PR 2):
Michigan defeated Illinois on Saturday, 67-65 in triple overtime in Ann Arbor.
As many have suggested, the triple overtime score against Illinois sounds more like a basketball final than a football final.
This was not exactly a defensive struggle––the scores were flying up faster than the scoreboard could keep pace, setting all kinds of individual and Big Ten records.
But it was Michigan’s defense that finally pulled the curtain down on the game that threatened to never end.
Michigan’s blitz prevented Illinois from scoring its two-point conversion in the third overtime to even the score.
The win kept Michigan’s season alive, as Big Blue became bowl eligible, leaving Coach Rodriguez on extended life support.
5. Penn State (6-3, 3-2 PR 4):
Penn State defeated Northwestern, 35-21 on Saturday in Happy Valley.
At one point, Penn State trailed 21-0 late in the second quarter.
It seemed impossible that the Lions could come back that far to win against a road warrior team like Northwestern, but that is exactly what Joe Paterno and his football team did last Saturday.
In the process, Paterno won his 400th game as a college football head coach.
Next week the Lions have a road trip of their own to Columbus to face the Ohio State Buckeyes.
That will be another game entirely, but one Penn State will face with more confidence and a belief that it can win.
4. Iowa Hawkeyes (7-2, 4-1, PR 18):
Iowa defeated Indiana, 18-13 on Saturday in Bloomington.
Iowa redeemed its season in Week 9, defeating the unbeaten BCS No. 5 Michigan State Spartans in Iowa City.
But that team did not make the trip to Bloomington when the Hawkeyes faced the Indiana Hoosiers.
The players looked the same, but did not play with the same competitive fire and resolve the Hawkeyes exhibited against the Spartans.
True, the Hawkeyes were without the services of first-team running back Adam Robinson, but freshman Marcus Coker filled in admirably, gaining 129 yards on 22 carries.
Luckily for the Hawkeyes and their fans, Iowa was able to take the 18-13 lead with just over two minutes remaining, hanging on for the win.
There are no style points awarded in the power rankings, however. A win is a win.
3. Michigan State (9-1, 5-1, PR 23):
Michigan State defeated Minnesota, 31-8 in East Lansing.
Michigan State welcomed the Minnesota Golden Gophers to Spartan Stadium on Saturday then proceeded to run over them, slowly, quarter by quarter until the end of the game.
After the definitive loss to Iowa on the road during Week 9, this easy victory was just what the Spartans needed to revitalize the fans and instill confidence back in the players.
Michigan State has a bye next week and has only two games remaining––at home against Purdue and on the road at Penn State.
Winning out ensures the Spartans a share of the Big Ten title.
With only one loss, they stay alive in hoping for a berth in a BCS Bowl in January.
2. Ohio State (8-1, 4-1, PR 24):
Ohio State, idle in Week 10, no doubt paid plenty of attention to Penn State’s return to football fortune.
The Nittany Lions defeated Northwestern after trailing 21-0 late into the second quarter. The reinvigorated Lions will be visiting Columbus on Saturday afternoon in another Big Ten clash.
The Buckeyes will be well prepared, knowing that Penn State will not go down to defeat easily.
Joe Paterno will have his team believing it can win this contest against highly ranked Ohio State.
It could be a dangerous game for the Buckeyes. Luckily, Ohio State is playing inside the Horseshoe, where they seldom lose.
Penn State’s fledgling offense may be running into the proverbial wall, the Buckeye defense.
It should be a tough contest for both teams.
1. Wisconsin (8-1, 4-1, PR 26):
Wisconsin defeated the Purdue Boilermakers, 34-13 in West Lafayette in Week 10.
The Badgers trailed Purdue at halftime 10-6, playing lackluster football against a fired-up Purdue team.
At the start of the game, the week off appeared to slow down Wisconsin as it came off the ball a step behind.
But the Badgers came back, as expected, in the second half to re-establish themselves as the top-ranked team in the Big Ten with one loss to Michigan State.
The Wisconsin defense spurred the scoring in the second half with three interceptions as order was established once again in the Big Ten.
Wisconsin welcomes the Indiana Hoosiers into Camp Randall in Week 11, where all will expect the Badgers to hold onto their lead.