| 8 years ago||
There's clarity at both the top and the bottom of the league. It's the middle where things get fuzzy. How far should Michigan State drop after a typical Michigan State collapse against Ohio State? The Spartans beat Northwestern, which beat Iowa, which could be the hottest team of the league's midsection following back-to-back blowouts. The Hawkeyes looked impressive Saturday, but so did Northwestern and Illinois. It's a mess.
Here's the rundown after a week of one-sided affairs.
1. Penn State (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) -- The Nittany Lions had their highest-ever points total against Michigan (46) and won their eighth game by 14 points or more despite looking sluggish early on. Penn State doesn't hurt itself with turnovers or penalties, and it's hard to hold down Daryll Clark, Evan Royster and the offense for four quarters. Joe Paterno's team faces its biggest test of the season this week in Columbus.
2. Ohio State (7-1, 4-0) -- A truly dominant performance in East Lansing makes Ohio State a solid No. 2 with the chance to reclaim the top spot this week. Though Terrelle Pryor and Chris "Beanie" Wells were tremendous against Michigan State, the most encouraging signs came from a defense that forced five turnovers and shut down Javon Ringer.
3. Minnesota (6-1, 2-1) -- Don't know how long the Golden Gophers will stay here, but the bye week boosted them up a spot after Michigan State's collapse. The rest of the schedule looks manageable, beginning this week with a trip to sputtering Purdue. If Adam Weber continues to limit mistakes and the defense forces more turnovers, Minnesota could be this year's Illinois.
4. Michigan State (6-2, 3-1) -- This is only a slap on the wrist for the Spartans, but their convincing win against Northwestern keeps them from a major drop. Michigan State fans are bracing for the worst after seeing this movie before, but Spartans players have had the Michigan game circled for quite some time. It's the perfect opportunity to bounce back from a clunker.
5. Northwestern (6-1, 2-1) -- The Wildcats heeded coach Pat Fitzgerald's advice and "flushed" the Michigan State loss. They responded well against Purdue, making big plays on both sides of the ball to get bowl eligible. Quarterback C.J. Bacher and the Northwestern offense moved the ball well against a Purdue defense that had performed decently against Ohio State, Penn State and Oregon.
6. Iowa (5-3, 2-2) -- If you don't know the name Shonn Greene by now, you haven't been paying attention. Greene has more impressive numbers than any back in the Big Ten, and he finally increased his touchdowns total with four scores against Wisconsin. Iowa will be a dangerous team down the stretch and can still make a decent bowl.
7. Illinois (4-3, 2-2) -- The offensive highlights will always be there with this team, but Illinois sprinkled in some solid defense against Indiana and pulled away for a big win. If the defense continues to make strides, the Illini will be extremely tough in the second half of the year. Quarterback Juice Williams aims for another road conquest this week at Wisconsin.
8. Michigan (2-5, 1-2) -- Things didn't end well for Michigan in Happy Valley, but there were some encouraging signs early on with Steven Threet and Brandon Minor. The Wolverines weren't the same after Threet reinjured his throwing elbow, and this is still a team that can't put together a complete game. A loss this week to in-state rival Michigan State will only enhance Michigan's misery.
9. Wisconsin (3-4, 0-4) -- Few FBS teams outside of Clemson have been as disappointing as the Badgers, who entered the season with BCS bowl aspirations. At this rate, they'll be fortunate to go bowling at all. From poor quarterback play to a banged-up offensive line to a seemingly deflated defense, coach Bret Bielema has a lot of problems on his hands.
10. Purdue (2-5, 0-3) -- This isn't the way Purdue wanted to send out head coach Joe Tiller. The Boilermakers seemed to lose focus and confidence against Northwestern, committing five turnovers and nine penalties. A big-yards, little-points offense won't cut it in Big Ten play, and the defense seemed to lose its edge after a strong effort at Ohio State.
11. Indiana (2-5, 0-4) -- The Hoosiers' losing streak has reached five, and four of the defeats have come by 13 points or more. If Kellen Lewis (high ankle sprain) misses an extended period of time, more blowout losses could be on the way. Indiana doesn't have enough weapons on offense, and the defense has regressed despite returning several core players.