Monday, November 2, 2009
Big Ten power rankings: Week 10
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
November is upon us, and the Big Ten has clear separation at the top with Iowa, Penn State, Ohio State and Wisconsin. It has been a rough year for teams in Indiana, Michigan and Illinois, as the bottom half of this league is pretty bad.
Here's hoping for a memorable month.
1. Iowa (9-0, 5-0): Call them the Heart Attack Hawkeyes after another wild win, but Iowa remains on track for Pasadena, whether it's the Rose Bowl or the BCS national title game. Iowa's early struggles against Indiana won't ease some doubts about this team, but the Hawkeyes flat out own the fourth quarter. And in college football, winning is all that matters.
2. Penn State (8-1, 4-1): The Nittany Lions continued to surge after pulling away from Northwestern in the fourth quarter. The Spread HD offense is starting to show the explosiveness we saw throughout 2008, as wide receiver Derek Moye and running back Evan Royster made big plays. Penn State faces by far its biggest challenge since the Iowa loss when Ohio State visits Happy Valley next week. The Lions need to win to keep their BCS bowl hopes alive.
3. Ohio State (7-2, 4-1): Jim Tressel's team usually does its best work in November, and the Buckeyes got an early start in pounding New Mexico State 45-0. Penn State's defense might have the better numbers, but Ohio State's unit has been the most dominant in the Big Ten this season. The Buckeyes own three shutouts and are getting more contributions on offense from wideout DeVier Posey and others.
4. Wisconsin (6-2, 3-2): The Badgers might lack signature wins, but they're a very solid team and much improved from 2008. Wisconsin shut out a Big Ten opponent for the first time in a decade and received another dominating performance from running back John Clay. Wisconsin won't win the league, but a 10-win season looks very possible for Bret Bielema's team.
5. Minnesota (5-4, 3-3): It was a crazy game on Halloween night at TCF Bank Stadium, but Minnesota came out on the winning end. Give the Gophers credit for digging deep in their first game this season without star wide receiver Eric Decker. Quarterback Adam Weber turned in a career performance, and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch called a great game as the Gophers inched closer to bowl eligibility.
6. Michigan State (4-5, 3-3): Mark Dantonio admitted his team was outcoached in Minneapolis, and Dantonio's record in close games is starting to become a problem. The officiating certainly didn't help matters, but Michigan State fell into a 14-0 hole and once again struggled in the secondary. Michigan State looks like a better team than its record shows. Dantonio looks like a better coach than his record shows. But the Spartans are what they are, a 4-5 team. And Dantonio is 5-12 at Michigan State in games decided by eight points or fewer.
7. Northwestern (5-4, 2-3): This simply isn't Northwestern's year. The Wildcats played admirably for three quarters against a much more talented Penn State team, but they couldn't overcome an injury to starting quarterback Mike Kafka and defensive breakdowns in the fourth quarter. Injuries at key positions have decimated the Wildcats, and the program doesn't have enough depth to recover. NU needs to win one of its last three to become bowl eligible.
8. Indiana (4-5, 1-4): Purdue is no longer the Big Ten's cursed team. That would be Indiana, which blew a fourth-quarter lead in a Big Ten stadium for the third time this season. Bill Lynch's team dominated Iowa in the first half and overcame Tyler Sash's wacky interception return and a short missed field goal. But two meltdowns in the secondary proved to be the downfall for a program that just can't get over the hump.
9. Purdue (3-6, 2-3): What a buzz kill for the Boilers. Things seemed to have turned around for Danny Hope's crew after consecutive victories, but Purdue never showed up against Wisconsin. The Boilers suffered their worst loss (37-0) since 1996, otherwise known as the end of the dark ages in West Lafayette. Wisconsin dominated Purdue in every facet of the game, so the Boilers pay a price in the rankings.
10. Illinois (2-6, 1-5): The nightmare is over in Champaign, at least for a week. Illinois received a huge boost on the field and gets rewarded with a slight bump in the power rankings. There's no team Illinois fans hate more than Michigan, so a second consecutive blowout victory against the Wolverines has to feel good for Illini Nation. Senior quarterback Juice Williams deserved a game like this, as he and running backs Mikel LeShoure and Jason Ford combined for 375 rush yards and three touchdowns.
11. Michigan (5-4, 1-4): You read that right. Michigan sits at the bottom of the rankings after an embarrassing performance against Illinois. The 4-0 start looks like a fluke as Michigan melted down in October. Greg Robinson's defense has been horrible for most of the season, and quarterback play is starting to be a major issue for head coach Rich Rodriguez. The Year 2 turnaround many had expected under Rodriguez hasn't happened. Michigan faces a must-win situation next week against Purdue.