Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 9
Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 9
Another week is in the books and the Big Ten is starting to think about the upcoming bowl season. College football has seen many great endings this year and the Big Ten can claim two of those from just this past week.
We witnessed games such as the Ohio State versus Purdue and a classic rivalry-- Michigan versus Michigan State.
The Buckeyes played from behind all game long and edged out the perky Boilermakers in an overtime thriller in Columbus. While, in Ann Arbor, a heated rivalry was brewing between Michigan and Michigan State that finished as a game to remember, or forget, for Spartans and Wolverines alike.
Both games were decided on final plays-- one in overtime, the other in the final seconds of regulation, and both failed to disappoint the home crowd.
It has been said and proven, no win is an easy win in the Big Ten. No matter how bad the conference has been this year, there will always be competition from top to bottom.
Another close game took place in Evanston, Ill., as the Northwestern Wildcats hosted the Nebraska Conrhuskers in their first Big Ten trip to Evanston. The stadium was, however, clad in red and white as the Nebraska fans traveled well and made it seem like a home game for their team. Time ticked down to the final two minutes before Taylor Martinez threw the go-ahead touchdown pass that gave his team the lead for good, winning 29-28.
Although there were a lot of tough, ugly wins this weekend, the wins were all well-deserved and the better teams prevailed. Some teams saw their conference title chances skyrocket, while other saw them dwindle away.
Here's a look at the best, and worst, teams in the Big Ten after week eight.
12. Illinois(2-5, 0-3)
The Big Ten's bottom-dweller this season seems to be Illinois as the Fighting Illini have yet to put up a good fight in conference play. They have scored a combined 21 points in three conference games and have lost each game by at least 17 points. Those numbers are the makings for a sorry season the year after firing Ron Zook from the head coaching position. Junior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has yet to get anything going for the Illini, leading one of the worst offenses in the country to a 2-5 record and four straight losses. It's safe to say they won't be challenging for the Legends Division title this season.
11. Indiana(2-5, 0-3)
Indiana seems to be conference's favorite bad team. Although they have lost five straight games, people seem to love watching their offense and lack of defense make each game interesting. Yes, I know they are just 2-5, but they are just a few plays and lucky bounces away from being 6-1 and they are doing it without their starting quarterback, Tre Roberson. They have a showdown with lowly Illinois this week to see who the worst team in the conference is.
10. Minnesota(4-3, 0-3)
We are two-thirds of the way through the season and Minnesota finds themselves in a familiar spot-- the bottom half of the conference. Jerry Kill has this team headed in the right direction, just two wins away from a bowl bid, but after three straight losses, they find themselves fighting for their bowl lives. They had a chance to make a statement with a win at Wisconsin on Saturday, but instead found themselves on the wrong side of a blowout. If quarterback MarQueis Gray plays this week, they have a good chance of beating a demoralized Purdue team.
9. Purdue(3-4, 0-3)
Purdue was once a dark horse pick to win the Big Ten, now they are a dark horse pick to just make a bowl game. They have a favorable schedule coming up, but the Boilermakers know nothing comes easy in this conference. As was the case when Purdue traveled to Columbus on Saturday to take on the Buckeyes, they led most of the game and looked to have it put away after an interception, but a three-and-out and a last-second touchdown pass sent the game into overtime. The Boilermakers went on to lose the game because of a lack of urgency and the Buckeyes seemed to want it more. If Purdue wants to finish the season on a high note, this can't happen again.
8. Michigan State(4-4, 1-3)
Michigan State may be the biggest surprise in the conference this season. Being picked by many as preseason favorites to win the Legends Division, the Spartans fired out of the gate with a 2-0 start, beating a solid Boise State team in the season opener. They have gone 2-4 since their perfect start and have lost three home games this season, as many as they've had in the last three seasons combined. Andrew Maxwell leads the conference in passing yards as Le'Veon Bell is second in the conference in rushing yards, but the offense has struggled mightily this year-- a puzzling statistic. They travel to Madison to take on the Badgers this weekend in a showdown between two old rivals. MSU will be the underdog, but they thrive in that role.
7. Iowa(4-3, 2-1)
The only reason Iowa is ahead of the Spartans in the power rankings in because of a head to head matchup. They have a mediocre offense, ranked closer to the bottom in all of college football in rush yards per game(89th), pass yards per game(103rd) and points for(103rd). They got blown out by Penn State at home last week, 38-14, and saw their chances of a Big Ten title take a huge hit. Granted, they have just one conference loss, they have to play three of their final five games on the road. This was a disappointing loss a week after they had a statement win in East Lansing.
6. Northwestern(6-2, 2-2)
Northwestern is just one of two bowl eligible teams right now in the Big Ten. With that being said, they have lost two of three and have a tough remaining schedule. They lost a heartbeaker to Nebraska in week eight-- a game which they led from the end of the second quarter until late in the fourth quarter. They have two tough division foes in the coming weeks and that will likely decide their chances of making the Big Ten title game. They are a much improved team, but it seems like every year they fade out in the second half of the season. They seem to be on that same track.
5. Wisconsin(6-2, 3-1)
The Badgers are one of the most improved squads over the course of the season. They began 2012 a little shaky and the offense simply wasn't there. Now, the season has shifted in their favor, outscoring opponents 107-41 in their past three games and achieving bowl eligibility with a win against Minnesota last week. Montee Ball seems to have found his stride running the ball with his third straight 100+ yard game. He has taken over the top rushing spot in the conference and finally looks like 2011 Montee Ball. They play a Michigan State team this week that is hungry for a win after three straight close losses. This will be a huge test for the Badgers.
4. Nebraska(5-2, 2-1)
The newest team in the Big Ten has also been one of the most consistent teams this season. A big reason for that is the two-headed monster at running back: sophomore Ameer Abdullah and senior Rex Burkhead. They have 615 and 405 rush yards on the season, respectively, and have combined for 10 rushing touchdowns. As well as they have played, Taylor Martinez has been one of the most improved, if not the most improved, quarterbacks in the conference. Outside of Braxton Miller of Ohio State, Martinez has looked like the conference's best quarterback in terms of accuracy, yardage and touchdowns on a consistent basis. If their offense can continue rolling, they will finish the season strong and make a New Year's Day bowl.
3. Michigan(5-2, 3-0)
Michigan had their ugliest, yet most satisfying, victory of the season, and possibly the most satisfying win in the past five seasons. They beat in-state foe Michigan State 12-10 in a defensive battle, something they haven't done since 2007 and the Lloyd Carr era. They have waited a long time for a win against the Spartans and what better way to do it then ripping out the Spartans' hearts in the final seconds with the winning field goal. They failed to score a touchdown, yet saw themselves improve to 3-0 in the conference and put them in a prime position to win the Legends Division.
2. Penn State(5-2, 3-0)
Penn State has easily been the shock of the college football world, winning five straight after losing their first two games of the season. Matt McGloin looks like a serious Big Ten Player of the Year candidate and their defense has been one of the best in the conference. He has the Nittany Lions on a roll and one of just three undefeated teams in Big Ten conference play. Team unity has played a vital role in this team's success and we have seen a school rally around their football team. Morale is at an all-time high in Happy Valley despite bowl ineligibility.
1. Ohio State(8-0, 4-0)
Easily the top team not only in their division, but in the entire conference. They can't make a bowl game this season, which is a disappointment because of the down year the Big Ten is experiencing, but the Buckeyes love playing the role of spoiler as they are now 8-0 and have won a variety of close games. Braxton Miller was injured in week eight's game against Purdue as he was dragged to the ground, looking like a serious injury as he lay on the field, crippled. He has passed all tests for concussion and serious injury and has been cleared to play this week in Happy Valley in a huge showdown against Penn State. They are playing for the top spot in the conference and you better believe Miller will be ready to play.