Big Ten Football Power Rankings: Week 12
Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 12
The Big Ten is entering its final two weeks of play and yes, Illinois is still winless in conference play. Oh, and Ohio State is still unbeaten in a season that makes Buckeye fans think "what if" they weren't banned from a bowl game.
There are teams still looking for a postseason birth with a win this week and some teams need to win the final two games of the season in order to reach bowl eligibility.
Michigan State is the lone team in the conference with five wins and need a win either this week against Northwestern at home or next week at Minnesota, but either way, the Spartans are one of the best five-win teams in college football.
Purdue, Iowa and Indiana are all sitting at 4-6 with two games remaining and face elimination this week. My pick to make a bowl out of those three teams is my preseason Leaders Division favorite, Purdue.
The Boilermakers seemed down and out of the bowl picture just last week when they were 3-6 and had to travel to Iowa and stole a win from the Hawkeyes to end a five-game losing streak. Purdue now has a favorable schedule left while the Hawkeyes must travel to Michigan and their bowl chances are looking a bit cloudy.
Indiana had a chance to compete for the Leaders Division title last week against Wisconsin-- yes, I said Indiana, that is not a typo. However, Wisconsin put an end to those hopes with a huge 62-14 win over the Hoosiers and now it looks like a long shot for Indiana to win out and make a bowl.
Here are my Big Ten power rankings for week 12.
12. Illinois(2-8, 0-6)
I'm sorry Illini fans, it has been a rough season for everyone involved in this organization. Some teams are thinking about bowl games and possible matchups in postseason play while Illinois is wondering whether to bring back head coach Tim Beckman for another season. It has been a nightmare in Champagne as the Illini and quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase have one of the worst offenses in the nation. There's always basketball season, right Illinois fans?
11. Indiana(4-6, 2-4)
Indiana may be the 11th ranked team in my power rankings this week, but they still have a chance to make a bowl, but with Penn State next up on the schedule in Happy Valley, the Hoosiers may be looking towards next season for a bowl. Cameron Coffman and Nate Sudfeld have been great for Indiana this season and the offense has been sneaky good. Don't count this team out yet, they could pull off the improbable and win out to make their first bowl since 2007.
10. Iowa(4-6, 2-4)
Possibly one of the most disappointing finishes to the season after such a promising start, the Iowa Hawkeyes have let a bowl game slip right out of their grasp. The Hawkeyes won an emotional game in the second week of the Big Ten season at Michigan State and have experienced a four-week letdown since, losing to teams like Purdue at home and Indiana. James Vandenberg has had a disappointing senior season, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns in 2012 so far. Did I mention that Mark Weisman is out of the Heisman race?
9. Purdue(4-6, 1-5)
The Boilermakers have seen somewhat of a resurgence after a week 11 win at Iowa. They seemed to be completely out of the bowl picture at 3-6 and needing a win at a tough place to play. They went to Kinnick Stadium and stole a win from the Hawkeyes, now face a favorable schedule in the final two games. Last week, three straight wins seemed like a stretch, but now, the Boilermakers are the 4-6 team with the best chance at a bowl game in the conference. Watch out, Robert Marve and his torn ACL may be taking home a bowl trophy in over a month from now.
8. Minnesota(6-4, 2-4)
Minnesota is coming off a 3-9 season in 2011 and head coach Jerry Kill has this team bowl eligible for the first time since 2009 after a win against-- you guessed it-- Illinois. Although talented athlete, MarQueis Gray, is no longer the starting quarterback of the team, he has become a very skilled wide receiver and a valuable asset to the Golder Gophers' offense. They have quite a tough schedule remaining, traveling to a scary Nebraska and then hosting a tough Michigan State defense at home. Good thing they got their six wins out of the way early, because they may end the season on two straight losses.
7. Michigan State(5-5, 2-4)
The Spartans may be the best 5-5 team in the country-- OK, that might be a stretch, but they are not a 5-5 team with all of the talent they have. Andrew Maxwell has received most of the blame for the team's average play, but it has been a team effort. They have all had their fare share of mistakes, dropped passes and poor play, but they are still just 10 points away from being a 9-1 team and being the best team in the conference. They will host a solid Northwestern team this week and will look to end a four-game home losing streak and reach bowl eligibility for the sixth straight season under Mark Dantonio.
6. Wisconsin(7-3, 4-2)
Wisconsin comes in at number six this week after a huge win at Indiana to clinch the Leaders Division. The Badgers will be headed to their second straight Big Ten title game and will look to remain the only team in the conference with a Big Ten Championship win. They racked up over 550 yards in the win and Montee Ball looks like the Montee Ball of old. He now has 16 touchdowns this season with over 1,200 yards and looks to be the main offensive threat with freshman quarterback Joel Stave out for the season.
5. Northwestern(7-3, 3-3)
The Wildcats suffered their toughest loss of the season. They had a win locked up against Michigan on the road and all they had to do was prevent a long completion to the Wolverines with just seconds left. When the ball left Devin Gardner's hands, it looked like Northwestern's defender would tip the ball and end all hopes for a Michigan victory. Well, he did tip the ball, but Roy Roundtree made a spectacular catch off the tip inside the 20-yard line, setting them up for a game-tying field goal. Overtime was not good to the Wildcats as they came up on the wrong side of a great game. They will travel to Michigan State this week, looking to avoid the sweep from Michigan teams.
4. Penn State(6-4, 4-2)
Penn State has been the surprise team of the conference this season as they began the season on a low-- starting 0-2-- and then winning five straight games before losing two of their last three. Nobody expected this team to even compete this season, let alone win six games. Yes, I understand they can't play in a bowl game, but they are a feel-good story for a school that has had to deal with a horrific situation and try to play the sport that tarnished to university's reputation. A 6-4 season and a 4-2 record in conference play is nothing to sneeze at, while Matthew McGloin has been one of the best quarterbacks in the entire conference with 19 touchdowns and nearly 2,700 yards. Bill O'Brien may be the conference's coach of the year.
3. Michigan(7-3, 5-1)
The Wolverines experienced their second game in a row without senior quarterback Denard Robinson and they came away with their second win in as many games. Denard was hurt in a week nine loss at Nebraska, injuring nerves in his elbow, but will look to make a comeback this week as the Wolverines host Iowa. Devin Gardner played well in his absence, completing 60 percent of his passes for 520 yards and four touchdowns in just two games. He could have a bright future if Brady Hoke decides to make him the starting quarterback once Robinson graduates this year.
2. Nebraska(8-2, 5-1)
It's not often you see a quarterback with such great field vision and it could be argued that he is a more skilled runner than he is a passer, but Taylor Martinez has been impressive this season. Martinez has totaled 27 touchdowns this season(19 passing, 8 rushing) and almost 3,000 all-purpose yards. Nebraska still has the best offense in the conference and have a favorable schedule remaining if they are to win the Legends Division. They hold the head-to-head tie-breaker against Michigan. No team wants to play this Nebraska team because of their option to run with either Martinez or one of the two talented running backs-- a very tough offense to defend as Michigan State found out two weeks ago.
1. Ohio State(10-0, 6-0)
This is still the no-brainer No. 1 team in my power rankings and probably the Big Ten power rankings of any expert. The Buckeyes and Urban Meyer are 10-0 and could see their first undefeated season since the National Championship years under Jim Tressel. Braxton Miller is the best quarterback in the conference and the Buckeyes find a way to win no matter what. Their final two game: at Wisconsin and home against heated-rival Michigan. They could go undefeated, but the Badgers will have a lot to say about that this week at Camp Randall Stadium.