The 2009 college football season is a quarter gone, and now our attention will be turned inward.
Conference play is always exciting.
It is the time when pretenders are exposed, contenders step to the forefront, and future superstars are made or broken.
The Big Ten seems about as close as it has ever been this season, and the B/R Big Ten Pollsters have reflected that in their ballots. For the first time this season, there is a tie at the top.
The Buckeyes, who were the preseason favorites, fell after a close call with Navy in Week One. But Jim Tressel's squad has been inching its way closer to the Nittany Lions.
The Buckeyes caught Penn State in this week's poll after a completely dominating performance last week against a Toledo team than was ranked in the top five nationally for offensive production and whose quarterback led the nation in total yards through the first two weeks.
The Lions did receive more first-place votes, but some pollsters felt less than enthused about a Penn State squad that has looked good but not great against far inferior competition.
The race for the Big Ten Championship begins Saturday. Notable games include Illinois at Ohio State, Michigan State at Wisconsin, Minnesota at Northwestern, and Iowa at Penn State.
The B/R Roundtable Big Ten Players of the Week:
Offensive Player of the Week: RB Carlos Brown, Michigan
Defensive Player of the Week: DE Adrian Claybourne, Iowa
Special Teams Player of the Week: MLB Chris Borland, Wisconsin
On to the rankings...
T1. Ohio State Buckeyes (2) 71 points
Feddern: Terrelle Pryor put on a great performance and the OSU defense held Toledo scoreless. All-around good show by the Buckeyes, who should have no problem with Illinois this week.
Cary: The Buckeyes surprised me by rebounding from the USC disappointment with a dominating performance against Toledo Saturday. Credit the coaching staff for having their team ready to play in Cleveland.
Trahan: Ohio State 38, Toledo 0. Wow! Who saw that coming?
T1. Penn State Nittany Lions (4) 71 points
Cary: We've learned almost nothing about the Lions due to their horrible non-conference schedule. That will change Saturday, when the Hawkeyes and the College GameDay crew come to town.
Bielik: After breezing through an easy OOC schedule, the Lions get their chance at redemption Saturday night in Happy Valley. If they can run the football more consistently, Penn State will have an upper hand against Ohio State and Michigan in the coming weeks.
Jelley: The Nittany Lions have looked good so far but will finally face their first test this Saturday; if they come out victorious, they will remain atop the Big Ten.
3. Michigan Wolverines (1) 64 points
Feddern: Carlos Brown’s 90-yard run was impressive as were the Wolverine’s 380 total rushing yards. The passing game was a different story with Forcier having a lackluster day, to say the least.
Bielik: The offense seems to be flowing once again, and Carlos Brown adds a second running threat to go with Brandon Minor. The defense will have to be more stingy if they want to compete with Penn State and Ohio State.
Cary: The Wolverines took care of business against in-state foe EMU this weekend. Carlos Brown had a breakout game on the ground, and a solid rushing attack will certainly help young freshman quarterbacks Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson.
4. Iowa Hawkeyes 60 points
Jelley: The Hawkeyes have bounced back well for their Week One troubles and should provide a difficult challenge for Penn State this weekend.
Trahan: A 27-17 win over Arizona is impressive, and the defense looked like one of the best in the country, but Ricky Stanzi will need to improve during the first half of games to come out with a win in Happy Valley.
Allen: Iowa’s defense won this game. It suffocated Arizona’s chances to advance the ball on the ground or in the air, holding the Wildcats to eight first downs on the afternoon. If Iowa is peaking, it is at just the right moment with the Nittany Lions up next.
5. Wisconsin Badgers 47 points
Trahan: Northern Illinois played them pretty close, Fresno State took them to two overtimes, and they blew out Wofford. Now those are some quality wins.
Cary: The Badgers' foe Saturday presented about the same quality of ferociousness as one would expect a team called the Terriers to display. The final margin was 30, but it really wasn't that close, as Wisconsin led 31-0 at the break.
Allen: The Wofford Terriers showed up at Camp Randall in Madison to bark at the bashful Badgers and worry them some the first quarter. In the end, the Badgers muzzled the Terriers 44-14 and compiled a perfect season record to date. But so far the Badgers have not played anyone of substance, and they have been very shaky on offense.
6. Minnesota Golden Gophers 41 points
Feddern: The Gophers looked decent in their effort against California. They lost, but they played better than I thought they would. Decker is a stud, but they might want to work on their run defense.
Trahan: A loss is a loss, but Minnesota really impressed me against Cal. The defense, especially the run defense needs some work, but they were facing Jahvid Best, the nation's best running back. Adam Weber got a little flustered late, but Eric Decker is the real deal.
Cary: The Eric Decker Show rolls on. Decker caught two touchdowns and threw for another in the Gophers' tough loss to nationally-ranked Cal. If only Minnesota hadn't let Jahvid Best rush for 29 touchdowns in the game (or something like that).
T7. Indiana Hoosiers 29 points
Trahan: While it probably won't last, Indiana is finally out of the Big Ten cellar with a 3-0 record.
Cary: This is why the games aren't played on paper. Despite not having the most difficult of non-conference schedules, almost nobody expected the Hoosiers to be 3-0 at this point of the season. Coach Bill Lynch needs to get his team into a bowl game in 2009.
Jelley: The Hoosiers perfect start is the biggest surprise in the Big Ten so far but should end this week with their trip to Ann Arbor.
T7. Northwestern Wildcats 29 points
Trahan: The Wildcats have played two awful games in a row and haven't lived up to the expectations that they set after last season. A loss to Syracuse and a last second field goal to beat Eastern Illinois are inexcusable for this team.
Cary: Greg Paulus has had his way with Big Ten teams for years as a Duke point guard, and I figured he would get the better of at least one as a Syracuse quarterback. The Wildcats were the unfortunate victim, coming up just short in a road thriller. Strong performance by Kafka in a losing effort.
Jelley: The emergence of Mike Kafka on Saturday should boost the Wildcats' confidence heading into conference play, but the defense will need to step up if they hope to compete.
9. Michigan State Spartans 23 points
Trahan: A 1-2 record entering Big Ten play isn't exactly what Spartan fans had in mind at the beginning of the season and it looks like their Big Ten Championship sleeper hopes are all but over.
Allen: When the Chippewas of Central Michigan upset Michigan State in Week Two, it was hard to expect the Spartans to bounce back in week three against a hungry and desperate Notre Dame team. But, the Spartans rose to the occasion, almost. Michigan State has the game to beat Wisconsin on the road, but do they have the will?
Cary: In the past, disappointing performances have snowballed into ugly seasons for the Spartans. It's up to Coach Dantonio and the seniors on this team to turn things around; a bowl game is still a likely possibility.
10. Illinois Fighting Illini 20 points
Trahan: Not playing actually helped Illinois, as they move up because everyone else underneath them sucked.
Bielik: The bye week was not great to the Illini, who lost Martez Wilson for the season with a neck injury. It doesn't get any easier this Saturday when they come to Columbus against an Ohio State team bent on revenge.
Allen: With the worst past defense in the league plus the most penalties it would be hard to get too excited about the Illini bouncing back to win their Big 10 opener at Ohio State. It just will not happen.
11. Purdue Boilermakers 7 points
Bielik: The Boilermaker defense has gone ole' and a home loss to Northern Illinois makes West Lafayette feel uneasy as they welcome Notre Dame on Saturday. On the positive side, Ralph Bolden might be the biggest breakout star of the Big Ten.
Jelley: The Boilermakers looked dreadful against Northern Illinois and Ralph Bolden will have to bounce back if he hopes to remain the Big Ten's top back.
Allen: After fighting so hard and coming up short against the Oregon, Purdue looked a little flat against Northern Illinois last Saturday. But they had an opportunity to produce an end of the game scoring drive trailing 28-21. Except the Huskies pulled a fake punt and killed the clock. Next week they get to host Notre Dame. Will their luck change against the Irish?