1. Ohio State, 11-0 (7-0 Big Ten). Last Week: W 21-14, OT over Wisconsin. Next: vs. Michigan, 11 a.m. Ohio State has looked totally unstoppable at times. Last week’s victory over Wisconsin was not one of those times. Michigan is firing on all cylinders and is looking to mar the Buckeyes’ season. Upset alert.
2. Nebraska, 9-2 (6-1). Last Week: W 38-14 over Minnesota. Next: at Iowa, Friday 11 a.m. Tom Osborne led the Tunnel Walk on Senior Day. Running back Rex Burkhead suited up, but didn’t see any playing time. He wasn’t needed. Quarterback Taylor Martinez went 21-for-29 passing for 308 yards, nine of those passes went to receiver Kenny Bell for 136 yards with two scores. Martinez now holds the career passing record at Nebraska as a junior. RB Ameer Abdullah had his streak of 100-yard rushing games come to an end, but he did eclipse the 1,000-yard mark for the season with his 79 yards. Nebraska can clinch the division title with a win at Iowa on Black Friday.
3. Michigan, 8-3 (6-1). Last Week: W 42-17 over Iowa. Next: at Ohio State, 11 a.m. Michigan may actually be a better team without Denard Robinson at the helm; good enough to defeat Ohio State. Quarterback Devin Gardner went 18-for-23 passing with 314 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, and ran for three more scores against the hapless Hawkeyes. Running back Fitz Toussaint suffered a broken his leg early in the contest. Robinson came back from his elbow injury to play a little bit of everything, running the ball 13 times for 98 yards. He did not throw a pass. Expect the Wolverines to take shots at big plays while not turning the ball over much as they try and ruin their rival’s perfect year.
4. Wisconsin, 7-4 (4-3). Last Week: L 21-14, OT to Ohio State. Next at Penn State, 2:30 p.m. Running back Montee Ball ran roughshod over the Buckeye defense. Ball ran 39 times for 191 yards and a touchdown that tied him for the career touchdown record. Of course, Ball unnecessarily diving for the end zone on fourth down when a half of a yard would have given the Badgers a first down may have cost them the game. Ball jumped, stretched and had the ball knocked from his hands into the arms of a OSU defender. Thanks to double secret probations, that game didn’t really matter. The trip to Happy Valley doesn’t matter, either. Another tough game against a surging Penn State squad could beat Wisconsin up a bit before the title game.
5. Northwestern, 8-3 (4-3). Last Week: W 23-20 over Michigan State. Next: vs. Illinois, 11 a.m. Northwestern finally gets lobbed a softball after a tough tour of Michigan. It should be interesting how much Pat Fitzgerald’s name comes up in coaching searches this off-season.
6. Penn State, 7-4 (5-2). Last Week: W 45-22 over Indiana. Next: vs. Wisconsin, 2:30 p.m. QB Matt McGloin and receiver Allen Robinson joined forces to produce career days. McGloin threw for 395 yards and four scores, with 197 yards and three scores going to Robinson. Running back Zach Zwinak added 135 yards on the ground on 29 carries. A win over Wisconsin would go a long way to show that the Nittany Lions are for real and not just the benefactors of bad football.
7. Michigan State, 5-6 (2-5). Last Week: L 23-20 to Northwestern. Next: at Minnesota, 2:30 p.m. Michigan State plays like a good team, yet the Spartans’ record doesn’t reflect that. The Spartans need one more win to gain bowl eligibility, and Le’Veon Bell along with a staunch defense should be more than enough to handle the Golden Gophers.
8. Purdue, 5-6 (2-5). Last Week: W 20-17 over Illinois. Next vs. Indiana, 11 a.m. The Boilermakers won the pillow fight against Illinois and now need only defeat in-state rival Indiana to be bowl eligible.
9. Indiana, 4-7 (2-5). Last Week: L 45-22 to Penn State. Next: at Purdue, 11 a.m. The Hoosiers haven’t been able to put up the gaudy offensive numbers that they were earlier in the year. Rival Purdue will check to see if Indiana has truly ran out of gas.
10. Iowa, 4-7 (2-5). Last Week: L 42-17 to Michigan. Next: vs. Nebraska, Friday 11 a.m. Tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz was the lone bright spot for the Hawkeyes, catching 8 passes for 99 yards. Mark Weisman started at running back after being hobbled with injuries. Weisman ran for 63 yards and caught a TD pass, but was otherwise ineffective against a tough Michigan D as Iowa was knocked out of bowl eligibility. Iowa will try to get a run game going against Nebraska to open up the tight end passing game over the middle. A bleak prospective considering how well the Big Red has been tackling as of late.
11. Minnesota, 6-5 (2-5). Last Week: L 38-14 to Nebraska. Next: vs. Michigan State, 2:30 p.m. That was the worst opponent on Nebraska’s schedule since Idaho State. The Golden Gophers were overwhelmed at pretty much every aspect of the game and didn’t score until garbage time against the Husker second- and third-stringers. Minnesota had 98 total yards and no points going into the fourth quarter. The Gophers face a frustrated Michigan State team that needs a win in the finale to gain bowl eligibility.
12. Illinois, 2-9 (0-7). Last Week: L 20-17 to Purdue. Next: at Northwestern, 11 a.m. Expect Illinois to go 0-8 in conference play with the way Northwestern has been playing lately.
By Steve Siedlik