1. Ohio State, 9-0 (5-0 Big Ten). No. 6 AP Poll/Ineligible for Coaches and BCS Polls. Last Week: W 35-23 over Penn State. Next: vs. Illinois, 2:30 p.m. Heisman hopeful quarterback Braxton Miller put his super hero cape back on a week after being taken to the hospital against Purdue. Miller finished 7-for-19 with 143 yards, a TD and an INT through the air, and 134 yards and two scores on 25 carries on the ground. OSU wore down Penn State and took control of the game in the second half. There isn’t much to anticipate about the upcoming game against toothless Illinois.
2. Nebraska, 6-2 (3-1). No. 21/No. 21/No. 20. Last Week: W 23-9 over Michigan. Next: at Michigan State, 2:30 p.m. Nebraska was playing a conservative, contain defense to force Denard Robinson to beat them through the air. A strategy that seemed to be working before Robinson awkwardly fell on his arm and left the game. The Cornhuskers changed their tone and let slip the dogs of war when redshirt freshman QB Russell Bellomy entered the game. Bellomy went 0-for-10 with an interception before completing a pass, finishing 3-for-16 passing with 38 yards and 3 INTs. Ameer Abdullah carried the load at running back, carrying the ball 24 times for 101 yards and a score. Expect the Big Red to really spread the ball around on offense against a stout Spartan defense this week.
3. Michigan, 5-3 (3-1). Last Week: L 23-9 to Nebraska. Next: at Minnesota, 11 a.m. Star quarterback Denard Robinson aggravated a nerve injury in the elbow on his throwing arm and had to come out of the game. Robinson is expected to return this week, but the Wolverines could be in trouble if he can’t go against the scrappy Golden Gophers.
4. Wisconsin, 6-3 (3-2). Last Week: L 16-13, OT to Michigan State. Next: Bye. Wisconsin doesn’t lose if QB Joel Stave stays in this game. Stave was 9-of-11 passing for 127 yards and a score before being injured. The Badger playbook shrank noticeably with Danny O’Brien at the helm. The Badgers have a week off to lick their wounds before traveling to Indiana. UPDATE: Stave is out for the season with a collarbone injury.
5. Penn State, 5-3 (3-1). Last Week: L 35-23 to Ohio State. Next: at Purdue, 2:30 p.m. Nittany Lions or cowardly lions? Penn State has played exactly one quality opponent and got boat-raced in the second half against Ohio State. It’s difficult to say whether Penn State is for real, and taking on wildcard Purdue isn’t likely to answer that question.
6. Northwestern, 7-2 (3-2). Last Week: W 28-17 over Iowa. Next: Bye. The Wildcats took a 28-3 lead late into the third quarter. Quarterback Kain Colter and running back Venric Mark combined for 328 yards on 42 carries. Northwestern gets a week off before taking the Tour de Michigan against two of the Big Ten’s better defenses.
7. Michigan State, 5-4 (2-3). Last Week: W 16-13, OT over Wisconsin. Next: vs. Nebraska, 2:30 p.m. Maligned quarterback Andrew Maxwell finished 24-of-39 passing with the game-tying shovel pass to Le’Veon Bell and game-winning pass to Bennie Fowler. The Spartan offense will be put to the test against the surging Blackshirts of Nebraska.
8. Minnesota, 5-3 (1-3). Last Week: W 44-28 over Purdue. Next: vs. Michigan, 11 p.m. Freshman QB Philip Nelson went 15-for-22 passing for 246 yards and three touchdowns. MarQueis Gray hauled in a 33-yard pass in the game. Minnesota’s run defense may be tested as Michigan expects QB Denard Robinson to be back from an elbow injury.
9. Indiana, 3-5 (1-3). Last Week: W 31-17 over Illinois. Next: vs. Iowa, 2:30 p.m. Running back Stephen Houston accounted for three touchdowns as the Hoosiers won their first game since September 8th, and won their first Big Ten game since November 27, 2010. Indiana will look to make it two in a row against a beat up, reeling Iowa squad.
10. Iowa, 4-4 (2-2). Last Week: L 28-17 to Northwestern. Next: at Indiana, 2:30 p.m. Running back Mark Weisman left the game in the second quarter due to a lingering injury. Damon Bullock did run for 107 yards in relief, but the Hawkeyes weren’t anywhere close in this one until late in the game. Iowa will have its hands full with Indiana if an offensive spark can’t be found.
11. Purdue, 3-5 (0-4).Last Week: L 44-28 to Minnesota. Next: vs. Penn State, 2:30 p.m. The Boilermakers continue to ineffectively play musical chairs at QB. Purdue gave up 44 unanswered points to a Minnesota squad that had been struggling on offense. Penn State is going to be looking to take out some frustration this week. On the plus side, Danny Hope’s mustache is pretty awesome.
12. Illinois, 2-6 (0-4). Last Week: L 31-17 to Indiana. Next: at Ohio State, 2:30 p.m. Keeping a game respectable against Indiana isn’t exactly a moral victory. Things can and will get ugly this week in Columbus.
By Steve Siedlik