In the spirit of Denard Robinson, I hereby declare: NO MORE TIES.
Big Ten fans have spoken, and I agree with you. The annoying Big Ten co-champs tag will be a thing of the past after the season, and so should the ties in my power rankings. I still don’t see much separating Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State, but there's an order developing as Big Ten play begins this week.
1. Ohio State (4-0): The Buckeyes boast their most dynamic offense since 2006, and Terrelle Pryor continues to evolve as the trigger-man. No one will be pleased with Ohio State's defensive performance against Eastern Michigan, but Pryor and the offense put up historic numbers. Ohio State remains the team to beat in the Big Ten.
2. Wisconsin (4-0): We finally saw a dominating performance from the Badgers, albeit against a totally overmatched Austin Peay team. Quarterback Scott Tolzien has played very well the past two weeks, and he'll need another polished performance on the road this week against Michigan State, which will test a Badgers defense missing star linebacker Chris Borland.
3. Iowa (3-1): Aside from the first half at Arizona, Iowa has been very impressive this season. The Hawkeyes easily dispatched of Ball State on Saturday, rebounding nicely from the loss in the desert. Quarterback Ricky Stanzi and defensive lineman Mike Daniels both were outstanding as Iowa is building momentum for the Big Ten slate.
4. Michigan (4-0): The offense continued to surge Saturday against Bowling Green, even after Robinson went down with a knee injury. Tate Forcier got his groove back, completing all 12 of his pass attempts, and receiver Roy Roundtree continued to impress. The defense still shows some cracks, but until someone slows down the Wolverines’ offense, they’ll keep winning.
5. Michigan State (4-0): Michigan State took care of business in its first game without coach Mark Dantonio, who appears to be recovering well from a mild heart attack. Kirk Cousins and his receivers are starting to provide balance in the offense, and linebacker Greg Jones recorded the first two interceptions of his career. Jones and the defense face a big test this week against Wisconsin.
6. Penn State (3-1): JoePa’s squad found a way to beat Temple, and quarterback Rob Bolden, and the offense should gain some confidence from its 12-play, 96-yard drive late in the fourth quarter. But Penn State left the door open for Temple numerous times Saturday, and if the Owls had a better passing attack, they could have notched the upset. The Lions need to be much more efficient in the red zone to beat Iowa this week.
7. Northwestern (4-0): The Wildcats swept through nonconference play for just the second time since 1963, and their schedule sets up very well in the coming weeks. Quarterback Dan Persa continues to look great, but Saturday’s win against Central Michigan featured too many mistakes on both sides of the ball. If Northwestern can clean things up and establish a bona fide run game, it’ll be in good shape for a strong bowl push.
8. Indiana (3-0): Pryor and Robinson get all the national attention, but Hoosiers senior quarterback Ben Chappell has been spectacular in the first three games. Chappell had another big performance Saturday against Akron. It’s tough to fully assess Indiana because of its woeful competition, but two things are clear: the Hoosiers can sling it with the best of them, and their defense remains shaky. Get ready for a shootout this week as Michigan visits.
9. Illinois (2-1): A bye week came at a good time for Illinois, which gave injured players like cornerback Terry Hawthorne and receiver Eddie McGee time to rest up. The Illini need all hands on deck as they open Big Ten play with a challenging stretch against Ohio State (home), Penn State (road) and Michigan State (road). We’ll learn a lot about this team in the next three weeks.
10. Purdue (2-2): Things aren’t looking good for the Boilers as they head into the bye week. Quarterback Robert Marve's knee injury appears to be serious, and the the junior likely will miss an extended period of time, if not the rest of the season. Purdue must continue to fill the gaps because of all the injuries, and a bigger concern could be the defense, which struggled Saturday against the nation's worst offense.
11. Minnesota (1-3): The Golden Gophers couldn't stop the run against Northern Illinois, and they couldn't get a yard with their own run game at two key points in the second half. Time is running out on embattled coach Tim Brewster to turn this thing around. Minnesota needs a winning record in Big Ten play to qualify for the postseason, something it has accomplished just twice since 1990.