BCS Rankings 2011: Grading Wisconsin and All Ranked Big Ten Teams

Bob BajekAnalyst IIIOctober 17, 2011

BCS Rankings 2011: Grading Wisconsin and All Ranked Big Ten Teams

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    The BCS rankings are out, and the Big Ten is well represented.

    Six teams—Penn State, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska and Wisconsin—cracked the top 25 and are looking to make some serious damage come bowl season.

    How are these Big Ten powerhouses doing so far this year? Are their respective BCS rankings too high or too low?

    The answers will follow in the upcoming slides.

Penn State: C+

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    Strengths: If the Nittany Lions scare opponents in any area, it would be defensively.

    Penn State is ranked sixth in points allowed, with 11.6 points. The Nittany Lions' secondary is extremely strong, ranking seventh in interceptions with 11, and third in passes defended with 36.

    Senior safety Nick Sukay, who has 32 tackles and three interceptions leads the secondary. Senior defensive tackle Devon Still, who has 34 tackles and two sacks, and junior defensive end Sean Stanley, who has 18 tackles and three sacks, provide a strong line play for Penn State.

    Offensively, sophomore running back Silas Redd has been strong, with 705 yards and five touchdowns.

    Areas of Improvement: While the Nittany Lions have a potent defense, their offensive attack isn't so hot.

    They are 96th in scoring offense (21.7), 80th in passing (208.3 yards a game) and 52nd in rushing (164.9 ypg).

    Junior quarterback Matthew McGloin has not be spectacular. He has 903 yards, five touchdowns and two picks and needs to find senior wide receiver Derek Moye—485 yards and three touchdowns—and junior wide receiver Justin Brown—311 yards—more often.

    BCS Ranking: The ranking of 21 is very high because Penn State has had cream puff opponents in Indiana State and Eastern Michigan. Their unimpressive Big Ten wins against ho hum Indiana, Iowa and Purdue should have counted against them. Their only loss is against then No. 3 Alabama 27-11.

Illinois: A-

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    Strengths: Illinois' defense is ranked 17th nationally in points allowed, with 17.7, and have studs in junior defensive lineman Whitney Mercilus, who has 34 tackles, and junior defensive back Michael Buchanan, who has 34 tackles and five sacks.

    The Illini have a one-two punch in sophomore quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase and senior wide receiver A.J. Jenkins. Scheelhaase has 11 touchdowns and 1,407 passing yards. Jenkins is the Big Ten's leading receiver with 895 yards on 54 receptions and seven scores.

    The Illini also are ranked 20th nationally in the run with 210.4 yards a game.

    Areas of Improvement: For Illinois, another receiver needs to step up other than Jenkins. Nationally, the team is ranked 76th with 214 passing yards a game.

    Sophomore Darius Millines is the next closest with 10 catches for 174 yards and a touchdown.

    BCS Ranking: A BCS ranking of 23 is fair given the Illini's relatively easy schedule coupled with a bad loss to a struggling Ohio State team.

Michigan State: B+

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    Strengths: The Spartans boast a nationally ranked defense. They are fourth in points allowed, with 10.8, and have forced 21 sacks and eight interceptions.

    The defense linebacking corps is lead by junior Chris Norman, with 35 tackles and two sacks, and sophomore Denicos Allen, with 32 tackles, 4.5 sacks. Junior defensive tackle Jerel Worthy, who has 12 tackles and 2.5 sacks, and senior defensive tackle Kevin Pickelman, who has 13 tackles and two sacks, are strong up the middle.

    Offensively, Michigan State's top threat is senior wide receiver B.J. Cunningham, who has 42 catches, 621 yards and two touchdowns.

    Areas of Improvement: Senior quarterback Kirk Cousins has done an adequate job, but he needs to improve if the Spartans have a shot to making a top bowl. He has eight touchdowns and four picks.

    The rushing game is ranked 66th nationally, with 142.8 yards a game. Junior running back Edwin Baker and sophomore running back Le'Veon Bell need to step up their games.

    BCS Ranking: A BCS ranking of 16 is fair given their relatively given a big win over No. 11 Michigan and losing to Notre Dame.

Michigan: B

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    Strengths: Michigan also has a top ranking defense. The Wolverines are 10th in points allowed, with 14.7.

    Junior safety Jordan Kovacs paces the defense with 42 tackles, three sacks and a pick. Junior defensive end Craig Roh has been solid upfront with 20 tackles—six for loss—and 2.5 sacks.

    Offensively, Michigan's top player is junior quarterback Denard Robinson. Robinson has 1,253 passing yards and 11 touchdowns. No. 16 can also light up defenders with his legs, going 762 yards and nine scores. He is 10th nationally in rushing yards.

    With Robinson and sophomore running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, who has 333 yards and four touchdowns. Michigan is 14th nationally, with 232.0 yards in the run.

    Areas of Improvement: Robinson and the passing game has not be spectacular. He has 10 interceptions already while the Wolverines are 92nd nationally, with 195.9 yards.

    Senior Junior Hemingway and sophomore Jeremy Gallon will be key wide receiving targets for Robinson.

    BCS Ranking: The ranking is a bit high at No. 18. It's true Michigan was undefeated before losing 28-14 to a solid Michigan State team, but their schedule (Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Minnesota and San Diego State) has been very easy.

Nebraska: B-

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    Strengths: The Cornhuskers' game plan is to run right over their opposition.Their rushing attack is ranked 11th nationally, with 246.8 yards, with the help of junior running back Rex Burkhead, who has 635 yards and nine touchdowns, and sophomore quarterback Taylor Martinez, who has 584 yards and nine touchdowns.

    Nebraska's scoring offense is also ranked 22nd, scoring 37 points a game.

    Junior safety Jordan Kovacs paces the defense with 42 tackles, three sacks and a pick. Junior defensive end Craig Roh has been solid upfront with 20 tackles—six for loss—and 2.5 sacks.

    Areas of Improvement: Nebraska's passing game has been pitiful, being ranked 102nd, with 172.2 yards. Martinez has six touchdowns but also six picks. For that aspect to improve, Martinez needs to hit freshman wide receiver Jamal Turner, who has 223 yards, and sophomore receiver Quincy Enunwa, who has 176 yards and two scores, more frequently. 

    Probably a big concern is Nebraska's defense. The unit ranks 67th nationally in points allowed, with 27.2, and has surrendered 38 or more points in three contests. Junior defensive end Cameron Meredith, with 26 tackles and three sacks, is a key contributor for the unit.

    BCS Ranking: The ranking is a bit high at No. 13. They are ranked ahead of Michigan State, who has a quality win over Michigan. Nebraska had a horrible 48-17 loss to Wisconsin while beating weaker teams like Wyoming, Fresno State and Chattanooga.

Wisconsin: A+

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    Strengths: What is Wisconsin not good at? The Badgers are ranked 1st in scoring, with 50.2 points per game, seventh in rushing, with 257.5 yards per game, and 3rd in scoring defense, with a 9.7 ppg.

    Senior quarterback Russell Wilson leads the NCAA with a 210.9 passing rating. He has 1,557 yards, 14 touchdowns and one interception.

    Junior running back Montee Ball has been a star, having 653 yards on 107 carries a 6.1 yard average and 16 scores. He is second in touchdowns by a running back.

    The three-headed-monster of senior Nick Toon,  and sophomores Jard Abberderis and Jacob Pedersen at wide receiver have combined for 66 catches for 1,077 yards and 13 touchdowns.

    On defense, some standouts include junior linebacker Mike Taylor, with 49 tackles, a sack and interception, senior safety Aaron Henry, with 19 tackles and two interceptions and senior defensive back Antonio Fenelus, with 15 tackles, two interceptions.

    Areas of Improvement: The Badgers are a solid team throughout, but they could improve on their aerial attack—31st at 265.7 ypg. Wisconsin also has a young linebacking corps behind the starters. If there is a blowout, some of these freshmen might see some action.

    BCS Ranking: The ranking is a bit low at No. 6. It's true the only quality win Wisconsin has is against Nebraska, the Badgers have annihilated opponents, wining every game by 31 points or more. Wisconsin could gain points in the rankings with wins over nationally ranked Illinois, Michigan State and Penn State.

    Bob Bajek is a writing intern at Bleacher Report. He is also a freelance reporter and can be followed at Patch.com and Twitter.