Three weeks left in the season and the question as to who is best team in the Big Ten is very much undecided as there are four teams in the Big Ten with only one loss in the conference. Those four teams also share the distinction of being ranked among the top 15 teams in the country.
What makes the conversation interesting as to which team is the best in the Big Ten this year at your favorite watering hole is that all of the Big Ten title contenders have suffered one loss in conference play to another team that claim the title of best in the Big Ten.
Further complicating matters is that one of arguably the four best teams in the Big Ten will finish the season having played only two of the other four best teams in the Big Ten.
Which team is the best in the Big Ten? Below, the case is made for you as to which team should be considered the best in the Big Ten.
Pro – The Hawkeyes blew out the Spartans 37-6 in Iowa City on October 30 in the most dominating performance among the Big Ten contenders in a head to head matchup. Iowa led Michigan State 30-0 at half time. The vaunted running game of the Spartans was suffocated by the Hawkeyes as they gained only 31 yards on 20 carries.
Con – Iowa’s 34-27 loss to Arizona is significant in this conversation as the margin for error to be deemed the best in the Big Ten conference is razor thin. When you have two losses and the other teams have only one loss it is hard to say you are clearly the better team.
The close call against Indiana this past week, 18-13, where the Hawkeyes needed an Indiana receiver to drop a pass in the end zone to win the game also tarnishes the work Iowa has done this year.
Key remaining game – Iowa can help themselves by decisively beating Ohio State on November 20 in Iowa City.
Michigan State Spartans
Pro – The Spartans had the best start of any of the big four teams in the Big Ten as they raced out to a 8-0 record. The first three weeks in October for Michigan State may have been the best three week period for any of the contenders as the Spartans beat Wisconsin 34-24, defeated Michigan in Ann Arbor 34-17 and then overpowered Illinois with a big second half to win 26-6.
As a result, in large part of these victories, the Spartans found themselves ranked among the top five teams in the country.
Con – Many feel that the Spartans successful season is due in large part to playing their first seven games in the state of Michigan. When Michigan State leaves the friendly confines of the state of the Michigan they have struggled. The Spartans barely survived their game against Northwestern which some believe they should have lost and the Spartans were trounced by Iowa 37-6.
Key remaining game – Spartans travel to Penn State on November 27; can Michigan State make an emphatic statement in their last game during the regular season?
Ohio State Buckeyes
Pro - Ohio State beat then No. 12 Miami 36-24 on the second weekend of the season; the Buckeyes are the only Big Ten team this season to beat a team ranked among the top 15 in the country. In six of Ohio State’s eight victories they have thoroughly dominated their opponents winning by more than four touchdowns—Marshall 45-7, Ohio 43-7, Eastern Michigan 73-20, Indiana 38-10, Purdue 49-0, and Minnesota 52-10.
Con - After Ohio State achieved the No. 1 ranking, the Buckeyes promptly lost 31-18 to Wisconsin in Madison. The Badgers ran over Ohio State as Badger running backs John Clay (104 yards, 21 carries and two touchdowns) and James White (75 yards, 17 carries and a touchdown) were able to run effectively on long sustained drives.
Key remaining game – If the Buckeyes beat Iowa on November 20, Ohio State will likely finish ahead of the Badgers in the final BCS poll much to the chagrin of Wisconsin fans.
Pro – Wisconsin had the best two wins on consecutive weekends in the Big Ten as they throttled Ohio State 31-18 at home before going to Iowa City to beat Iowa 31-30. The offense has performed as expected but the real surprise in Madison has been how well the defense has played this year in bending but not breaking.
Wisconsin loss against Michigan State was a road game and until the 2:43 mark in the fourth quarter, the Badgers were within a field goal of the Spartans.
Con – The Badgers had a slow start; how did 1-8 San Jose State stay within 13 points of Wisconsin? Wisconsin also needed a blocked extra point to avoid being upset against Arizona State the following weekend.
Key remaining game – November 20, the Badgers travel to Ann Arbor to play Michigan. Will Wisconsin’s defense rise once again to the challenge and contain Michigan’s Denard Robinson?