Monday, November 14, 2011
Big Ten power rankings: Week 12
By Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett
» Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC
The No. 1 spot in the Big Ten power rankings has been a rather precarious position. It seems like no team can stay on top.
Perhaps Michigan State will change things this week.
Let's get to the rundown.
1. Michigan State (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten): The Spartans turned in arguably their most complete performance of the season at Iowa, making big plays in all three phases. Their 37-21 victory puts them in the driver's seat in the Legends division. Michigan State can clinch a spot in Indianapolis next week with a win and a Nebraska loss to Michigan.
2. Wisconsin (8-2, 4-2): It was a very big week for the Badgers, who regained control of their own fate in the Leaders division because of losses by both Penn State and Ohio State. Wisconsin might have the nation's most dynamic offensive backfield in quarterback Russell Wilson and running back Montee "Moneyball" Ball, both of whom will set records this season. If the Badgers can get past struggling Illinois and Penn State, they'll be headed to Indy.
3. Nebraska (8-2, 4-2): The Huskers rebounded Saturday by winning in a tough environment (Penn State's Beaver Stadium) and doing so under very tough circumstances. Bo Pelini's team displayed good poise and received better play from both lines in holding off a motivated Penn State team. The road win helps Nebraska before another big test away from Lincoln this week at Michigan.
4. Penn State (8-2, 5-1): After the worst week in team history, Penn State fought hard and performed admirably under the circumstances against Nebraska. Devon Still had a huge game for the defense, but Nebraska ran the ball well (188 yards). The Lions offense once again took a while to get going, and on Saturday it was too late. Penn State still controls its fate in the division but finishes with road games at Ohio State and at Wisconsin.
5. Michigan (8-2, 4-2): The Wolverines bounced back nicely from the Iowa loss and handled Illinois rather easily in Champaign. Defensive tackle Mike Martin led a ferocious performance by the defensive line, which limited Illinois to 37 rush yards on 33 carries. While the offense still makes too many mistakes, Fitz Toussaint has emerged at running back. Michigan needs a lot of help in the division but still could reach 10 wins.
6. Purdue (5-5, 3-3): Danny Hope's squad makes a move up the rankings following its second consecutive home win against Ohio State. A defense that looked lost against the run the previous two weeks received a big performance from the front seven, particularly star DT Kawann Short. Purdue needs one more win to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2007.
7. Ohio State (6-4, 3-3): Penn State's loss gave Ohio State a golden opportunity to take control in the Leaders division, but the Buckeyes couldn't capitalize. They were outplayed by Purdue for most of Saturday's game and, after rallying late, suffered an inexcusable breakdown on special teams. Ohio State can still win the division but really needs Wisconsin to stumble next week at Illinois.
8. Iowa (6-4, 3-3): After playing so well on its home field this season, Iowa ended things with a thud against Michigan State. The Hawkeyes committed three turnovers and six penalties and struggled at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. They need another win to firm up their bowl position but finish with two games on the road, where they're 0-2 in Big Ten play.
9. Northwestern (5-5, 2-4): The Wildcats are heating up at the right time, as they've won three straight. The defense built on a strong effort Saturday against Nebraska and held Rice scoreless for more than 55 minutes. Wide receiver Jeremy Ebert turned in a career performance (7 catches, 208 yards, 2 TDs) as the big-play pass game ignited. Northwestern can become bowl-eligible by beating Minnesota this week.
10. Illinois (6-4, 2-4): An open week didn't cure Illinois' problems. In fact, the Illini looked even worse after the break. They failed to score a point in the first half for the fourth consecutive game and could have lost by more than 17 points. A once-promising season is spiraling out of control, and embattled coach Ron Zook and his staff are scrambling for answers.
11. Minnesota (2-8, 1-5): After hoisting the Floyd of Rosedale two weeks earlier, Minnesota could only watch as Wisconsin paraded Paul Bunyan's Axe around TCF Bank Stadium yet again. The Gophers' defense had no answer for Ball and Wilson, and Minnesota QB MarQueis Gray struggled after two encouraging performances. Minnesota finishes the season at Northwestern and then home against Illinois.
12. Indiana (1-9, 0-6): Idle in Week 11, Indiana now can play spoiler in its final two games. The Hoosiers head to East Lansing looking to shock Legends division frontruner Michigan State. Kevin Wilson's squad then finishes the season against Purdue, which could need a victory to become bowl-eligible. These final two games are important for QB Tre Roberson to continue building confidence.