Big Ten in the polls: Few surprises

September, 2, 2008
9/02/08
6:54
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The Big Ten presence in this week's polls played out mostly as expected.

USC's impressive showing bumped Ohio State down a spot in the AP Poll, and concerns about Beanie Wells' health make it hard to put the Buckeyes higher. Georgia has more injury issues than Ohio State but none that quite match the magnitude of Wells'. If the Bulldogs struggle Saturday against Central Michigan, they could swap places with the Buckeyes. Fortunately for Ohio State, it has a chance to claim the No. 1 ranking -- possibly for good -- with a win against USC in Week 3.

Wisconsin's move to No. 11 in both polls stemmed more from Clemson's disaster than anything the Badgers did against Akron. I had the Badgers at No. 14 in my latest power rankings more because of lingering injury problems. Don't underestimate the loss of defensive end Kirk DeCremer. He was a young playmaker who provided depth on a defensive line filled with guys coming off major injuries. The Badgers really need linebacker Jonathan Casillas on the field next week at Fresno State.

Penn State's move up to 19th also looks about right. This isn't a reward for beating Coastal Carolina but an acknowledgment that the Nittany Lions could be a force in the Big Ten this season. They have a ton of weapons on the offensive side, and if quarterback Daryll Clark limits mistakes, there's no reason to think the unit won't average 30-35 points a game. A win against Oregon State should keep Penn State in the 15-20 range in the rankings.

We knew Illinois would drop after allowing 52 points to Missouri, but how far? The Illini barely remained in both polls -- I had them at No. 24 in my rankings -- and soon could be bumped by Cal and East Carolina. Looking at the overall talent, Illinois is clearly one of the nation's 25 best teams, but it can't afford fundamental breakdowns on defense like the ones last Saturday. Sure-fire wins against Eastern Illinois and Louisiana-Lafayette should keep Illinois in the polls before a Sept. 27 visit to Penn State.

Michigan dropped out of the coaches' poll after never deserving to be in there in the first place. Coach Rich Rodriguez acknowledged as much after the first preseason practice. The Wolverines shouldn't be worried about rankings right now, but they have a chance -- after the Miami (Ohio) game -- to get noticed with matchups against Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Illinois.

Michigan State should be back in the fringe soon, but the Spartans first have to correct some problems in crunch time.

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BIG TEN SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12