1. Ohio State, 7-0 (3-0 Big Ten). No. 7 AP Poll/Ineligible for Coaches and BCS Polls. Last Week: W 52-49 over Indiana. Next: vs. Purdue, 11 a.m. The Buckeyes had some big plays in this one. Who would have guessed they would need them? Indiana scored twice in the final two minutes to put some fear into Ohio State. Fans should be concerned that the OSU defense has been putting up West Virginia-like numbers up since shutting down Michigan State. A team Iowa just shut down. Look for the Buckeyes to bounce back to Top 10 form against free falling Purdue.
2. Michigan, 4-2 (2-0). No. 23/No. 25/Unranked. Last Week: W 45-0 over Illinois. Next: vs. Michigan State, 2:30 p.m. The Wolverines pounced on the Illini early and often. As a matter of fact, they might still be pouncing. Denard Robinson eclipsed the 10,000-career yard mark in the rout. Michigan has looked much improved the last two weeks against lesser competition, but rival Michigan State has a much more stout defense. Michigan should win big if Robinson can run and not throw interceptions.
3. Penn State, 4-2 (2-0). Last Week: Bye. Next: at Iowa, 7 p.m. A bye week couldn’t have come at a worse time as the momentum that PSU has built up could have cooled down during the off week. Iowa’s defense confounded Michigan State last week. This could be an old fashioned, 9-6 Big Ten slug-fest if Penn State can’t get the passing game going.
4. Iowa, 4-2 (2-0). Last Week: W 19-16, 2OT over Michigan State. Next: vs. Penn State, 7 p.m. It’s nice to see that players can get arrested and still make the big game. Big back Mark Weisman rushed for 116 yards and the game-tying score before going down with an ankle injury. Weisman is doubtful for the Penn State game. Iowa needs to control the clock against a PSU team that will look to open up the field with a New England Patriots-style attack, otherwise this one might get out of hand.
5. Nebraska, 4-2 (1-1). Last Week: Bye. Next: at Northwestern, 2:30 p.m. Nebraska needs to stop turning the ball over. The Cornhuskers have a potent enough offense to keep up with most teams, even with a porous defense. Northwestern has the No. 22 rush defense in the nation, but the best rush team the Wildcats have faced has been Minnesota with the No. 61 rushing offense. People seem to be forgetting that Nebraska still has the No. 5 rushing offense, No. 14 passing offense and No. 8 scoring offense. Nebraska has scored at least 30 points in every game this season. The Huskers will score and grind it out, even if Rex Burkhead is hobbled. Northwestern will score as well, but probably won’t put up 30 on the Big Red.
6. Wisconsin, 5-2 (2-1). Last Week: W 38-14 over Purdue. Next: vs. Minnesota, 11 a.m. Montee Ball ran for a career-high 247 yards and three touchdowns, taking sole possession of third place of total career touchdowns in NCAA history. The Badgers are looking to keep that head of steam going against a decent Minnesota defense.
7. Michigan State, 4-3 (1-2). Last Week: L 19-16, 2OT to Iowa. Next: at Michigan, 2:30 p.m. Michigan State let Iowa hang around where the Hawkeyes had no business being and it came back to bite them in the end. Le’Veon Bell rushed for 140 yards and a score, yet the Spartans seemingly refused to give him the ball in overtime. Instead, MSU put the ball in the hands of shaky QB Andrew Maxwell, who threw a game-ending interception in the second overtime period. Rival Michigan will dominate Michigan State if the Spartans have a repeat performance.
8. Northwestern, 6-1 (2-1). Last Week: W 21-13 over Minnesota. Next: vs. Nebraska, 2:30 p.m. Running back Venric Mark ran 20 times for 182 yards, scoring from 26 and 48 yards out. Kain Colter returned to playing quarterback, going 10-for-10 passing for a scant 63 yards. The wins have piled up for the Wildcats, but they have been less-than-convincing. Nebraska’s offense and renewed focus out of the bye week could mean a rough day for Northwestern.
9. Indiana, 2-4 (0-3). Last Week: L 52-49 to Ohio State. Next: at Navy (3-3), 2:30 p.m. Indiana may be one of the best bad teams in the nation. Running back Stephen Houston rushed 11 times for 91 yards and two touchdowns, and caught another score. Indiana’s schedule lightens up a bit for the remainder of the season.
10. Minnesota, 4-2 (0-2). Last Week: L 21-13 to Northwestern. Next: at Wisconsin, 11 a.m. Coach Jerry Kill suffered what has been referred to as a minor seizure after the Northwestern game. He was taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure and held overnight before being released. Kill has suffered from a seizure disorder since being diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2005. Golden Gopher QB MarQueis Gray played well until aggravating his high ankle sprain late in the third quarter. Gray was seen in a walking boot and may be out for the foreseeable future. Minnesota had trouble stopping Northwestern’s rushing attack, but kept the passing game under wraps to keep the game close. The Gophers have their work cut out for them against a Wisconsin run game that has really kicked into gear.
11. Purdue, 3-3 (0-2). Last Week: L 38-14 to Wisconsin. Next: at Ohio State, 11 a.m. Purdue has been awful lately. The Boilermaker defense added to its recent woes, allowing Wisconsin rushers of 247, 124 and 80 yards as the Badgers rolled on to 645 total yards. The offense hasn’t been much better. Three quarterbacks got to play, combining for 11-of-31 passing for 124 yards, an INT and 5 sacks. Ohio State should have a field day in this one.
12. Illinois, 2-5 (0-3). Last Week: L 45-0 to Michigan. Next: Bye. Illinois has been outscored 153-45 over the past four games. ‘Nuff said. The Illini have a week off before hosting a surging Indiana offense.