Monday, November 23, 2009
Big Ten power rankings: Week 13
Big Ten play is complete, so there will be minimal movement the rest of the way.
1. Ohio State (10-2, 7-1): It seemed extremely unlikely back on Oct. 17, but Ohio State once again found its way to the top of the Big Ten. The Buckeyes won their fifth consecutive Big Ten title and their third outright league title in the past four seasons. Never doubt Jim Tressel in the month of November. Never doubt Tressel against Michigan. Buckeyes are at the top, again.
2. Iowa (10-2, 6-2): Head-to-head isn't everything, but when teams are as close as Iowa and Penn State on paper, it has to be the deciding factor. The Hawkeyes don't have as many dominant wins as the Nittany Lions, but they have better wins, including a 21-10 triumph at Penn State on Sept. 26. Iowa's defense bounced back strong against Minnesota after struggling at Ohio State. The Hawkeyes likely need a healthy Ricky Stanzi to win their bowl game.
3. Penn State (10-2, 6-2): The Nittany Lions on Saturday not only looked like a team that belongs in a BCS bowl game, but a team that could win one. Senior quarterback Daryll Clark stepped up in a big way, and the defense totally shut down Michigan State in the second half. It took a while, but Penn State seems to be peaking right now.
T-4. Wisconsin (8-3, 5-3): Wisconsin doesn't have a bad loss on its résumé, but the Badgers are certainly a notch below the top three after their loss at Northwestern. I'm sold on quarterback Scott Tolzien, running back John Clay and tight end Garrett Graham, but the defense struggled against Northwestern's spread attack. Still, the Badgers are in line for a possible Outback Bowl berth if they beat Hawaii on Dec. 5.
T-4. Northwestern (8-4, 5-3): When Northwestern trailed Indiana 28-3 on Oct. 24, no one thought the Wildcats would end up here. OK, maybe Pat Fitzgerald and his players kept the faith, but this was a flawed team that found itself down the stretch. Besides Ohio State, no Big Ten team had a better November than Northwestern, which notched two wins against top-20 teams. Like Tressel and Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, Fitzgerald does his best work in November.
6. Michigan State (6-6, 4-4): The Spartans might be beyond the collapses of the John L. Smith era, but they still haven't turned the corner as a program. With a chance to make a statement at home against Penn State, Michigan State fell flat on its face after halftime. Mark Dantonio's team will be an underdog in a bowl game and can redeem itself, but the season has been a disappointment.
7. Minnesota (6-6, 3-5): Another season has passed without a win in November or a victory in a rivalry game. The Gophers' defense came to play Saturday, as it has for most of the season, but the offense really struggled. Minnesota went scoreless against Iowa for the second straight season and endured its second shutout of the season (there was nearly another against Ohio State). The coaches downplayed the magnitude of the shift in offensive philosophy, but this unit looks lost right now.
8. Purdue (5-7, 4-4): I'd really like to rank the Boilermakers higher, but their losses to Michigan State and Minnesota keep them at No. 8. It's really a shame that Purdue won't be going bowling because the Boilers would be a very dangerous team in December or January. Kudos to head coach Danny Hope, quarterback Joey Elliott and others for keeping the team united after a 1-5 start.
9. Illinois (3-7, 2-6): The Illini didn't play this week, and they're assured of finishing outside the Big Ten basement because both Michigan and Indiana lost. Illinois really needs to win one of its remaining two games to build some momentum for a make-or-break 2010 season. A victory against No. 5 Cincinnati on Friday (ABC, noon ET) would provide a major confidence boost for Ron Zook and his team.
10. Michigan (5-7, 1-7): The Wolverines move up a spot because of a solid defensive effort against Ohio State, which couldn't pull away until Tate Forcier began firing interceptions in the second half. Mistakes doomed Michigan throughout its miserable Big Ten season, and head coach Rich Rodriguez needs Forcier and his other young players to grow up fast for 2010.
11. Indiana (4-8, 1-7): I'm very disappointed in the way Indiana finished the season. The Hoosiers had the mojo on their side Saturday, with a large crowd and archrival Purdue in their stadium. But they seemed to come out uninspired and made too many mistakes in all three phases. Head coach Bill Lynch has some exciting offensive weapons, but he needs to find a way to get this program over the hump in 2010 or he'll be gone.