Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 8
The Big Ten and college football continue to be unpredictable. Despite this chaotic model, the Michigan Wolverines continue to consistently dominate the opposition, deservedly claiming the No. 1 ranking in this week's Big Ten Power Rankings.
Remaining in the top-five of the rankings are the Penn State Nittany Lions, who upset AP Poll No. 2 Ohio State in Happy Valley. Continuing to slide are the Michigan State Spartans.
1. Michigan Wolverines (7-0, 4-0): The Wolverines continue to obliterate the competition. Only one of the seven Wolverine wins have been by single digits (14-7 win over Wisconsin). And that defense: Alabama may be the only team who can truly challenge for the title of "best defense" in NCAA Division I.
2. Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-0, 4-0): It isn't always easy for the Huskers, but nobody has consistently held them in check for 60 minutes. With some room for error, Nebraska is your current Big Ten West favorite. But, the favorite can fall quickly with Wisconsin and Ohio State next on the docket.
3. Ohio State Buckeyes (6-1, 3-1): Ohio State had been playing with fire for weeks. An anemic passing game and the worst special teams performance of the season resulted in a major upset at Penn State. The Buckeyes allowed 24 points, the final 10 of which came courtesy of a blocked punt and field goal.
4. Wisconsin Badgers (5-2, 2-2): Nothing screams "Big Ten slugfest" more than a physical showdown between Iowa and Wisconsin. The Badger defense proved dominate again, but there's no room for error the remainder of the season. The Big Ten West champion could very well be decided next Saturday.
5. Penn State Nittany Lions (5-2, 3-1): James Franklin and the Nittany Lions finally got the program-defining win they've been looking for since the Sandusky scandal reared its ugly head. It wasn't a fluke: Penn State dominated Ohio State with its special teams and defense. Iowa is the toughest remaining game left on Penn State's schedule, leaving hope for a Big Ten title game appearance.
6. Iowa Hawkeyes (5-3, 3-2): The season hasn't gone according to plan for the Hawkeyes, but the talent and team skill is still there. Iowa gave Wisconsin a run for its money and held the Badgers to 17 points. The flash might not be there, but the physical strength and will is.
7. Northwestern Wildcats (4-3, 3-1): Only weeks ago, we found Northwestern's offense lethargic and unable to move the football. But in the past three weeks, the Wildcats have scored 116 points and reeled off three straight conference wins. If the offense avoids running stagnant, Northwestern should find itself 7-5.
8. Minnesota Golden Gophers (5-2, 2-2): It took a late field goal to save Minnesota and avoid a horrific collapse at home against Rutgers. Tracy Claeys and Minnesota are hoping these close calls build character rather than doubt. Good news for the Gophers: 8-4 is a reasonable goal.
9. Maryland Terrapins (5-2, 2-2): The improvements in Year One under D.J. Durkin are evident, but Maryland still doesn't have the talent to compete with the upper echelon of the Big Ten. And with Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska--three AP Poll top-seven ranked teams--still on the schedule, wins like Saturday's over Michigan State could be rare from here on out.
10. Indiana Hoosiers (3-4, 1-3): Indiana's strength used to be offense, but it hasn't hit its stride all season. Until Richard Lagow consistently takes care of the football and Indiana finds a balanced offensive attack, the Hoosiers' fight for bowl eligibility will be a tough one.
11. Purdue Boilermakers (3-4, 1-3): The first Saturday following Darrell Hazell's firing, Purdue put up a strong fight in Lincoln. Leading Nebraska 14-10 at halftime, Purdue just didn't have enough skill in the tank to pull off the upset.
12. Illinois Fighting Illini (2-5, 1-3): Only a handful of teams can challenge Michigan this season, and Illinois isn't one of those teams. A 41-8 loss at the Big House was nothing compared to what Rutgers and Penn State experienced.
13. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (2-6, 0-5): Even when Rutgers has an impressive comeback to take the lead on the road, the chances of the opponent winning are still higher than Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights battled all the way back at Minnesota only to suffer the heartbreak of a late field goal.
14. Michigan State Spartans (2-5, 0-4): Every week brings a worse performance from Michigan State. The skid if a full-fledged disaster, and bowl eligibility is probably out of the question.