Big Ten: AP Poll


Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


The Big Ten has three teams in the top 15 and two others lingering just outside the AP Top 25 poll.

Ohio State remains at No. 9 despite its third consecutive victory by two touchdowns or more. It's clear the Buckeyes have an uphill battle to impress the voters, but they can help their cause this week against Wisconsin. But hey, at least they're not behind Oklahoma any more.

Iowa moves up a spot to No. 12 despite a too-close-for-comfort victory against Arkansas State. I'm a little surprised the Hawkeyes didn't pay a price for a lackluster performance, but there wasn't much fluctuation between Nos. 10-20. Penn State also moves up a spot to No. 14.

Michigan is out of the rankings after its overtime loss Saturday at Michigan State. The Wolverines likely will jump in if they upset Iowa this week. Wisconsin is the top team in the others receiving votes category. The undefeated Badgers will be in my power rankings this week, and they can crack the real poll by upsetting Ohio State in Columbus.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The polls are out, and four Big Ten teams are in the final rankings. 

As the only Big Ten team to win its bowl, Iowa finally cracked the Top 25 at No. 20 in both the Associated Press and coaches' polls. Two other Big Ten teams -- Penn State and Michigan State -- moved down the rankings, while Northwestern fell out following its overtime loss to Missouri. 

Penn State finished at No. 8 in both polls, marking the team's 22nd final top 10 ranking under head coach Joe Paterno.

Ohio State actually moved up a spot to No. 9 in the final AP Poll, a good indication of the respect the Buckeyes regained with their performance against Texas in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. The Buckeyes fell one spot to No. 11 in the final coaches' poll.

Michigan State finished No. 24 in both polls, dropping from No. 19 in the AP and No. 18 in the coaches'. 

I voted Penn State at No. 8, Ohio State at No. 12 and Iowa at No. 20 in my final ballot for the ESPN.com Power Rankings. I might have weighted bowl victories more than most. Both Michigan State and Northwestern dropped out of my rankings, but not by much. And because Northwestern performed better in its bowl and finished the season stronger than the Spartans, who peaked in early October, I think both teams are in the 26-30 range. 

Big Ten mailbag

December, 9, 2008
12/09/08
9:47
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The bowl assignments are out, and you have opinions. I hopefully have some answers.

Frank from Des Moines, Iowa, writes: Can Iowa Break Into Top 25 before Outback Bowl??

Adam Rittenberg: The next AP Poll won't come out until after the BCS title game, so Iowa won't move up or down in the rankings until after the Outback Bowl. If the Hawkeyes take care of business against South Carolina, they'll definitely be ranked in the final poll.


Matt from Midland, Mich., writes: How could Rich Rodriguez put Northwestern at 16 and Michigan State at 18 if MSU won by 17 at Northwestern, they both lost to Ohio State but Northwestern lost to Indiana who MSU beat, so MSU has a better Big Ten record too?

Adam Rittenberg: It's an interesting placement, to say the least. Michigan State also beat Michigan by more than Northwestern did (14 vs. 7). I know Rodriguez has more of a connection to Northwestern's staff through his offensive system, which Northwestern implemented almost verbatim after former coach Randy Walker and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson visited Rodriguez at Clemson in 2000. But it's hard not to see this as a dig at intrastate rival Michigan State.


Jim from Parts Unknown: Hey Adam, Do you have any insight if Shon Greene will be coming back to Iowa for his senior year? When does his decision need to be made?

Adam Rittenberg: Jim, I'd be surprised if Shonn Greene returns for his senior season. A lot depends on his draft projection, but he looked like an NFL back this season and at 23 years old, he's ready for the next level. He's not the greatest pass-blocker and wasn't used much as a receiver out of the backfield, so there could be teams hesitant to draft him in the first two rounds. The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft is Jan. 15.


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Big Ten mailbag

October, 7, 2008
10/07/08
6:22
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The conference title race is taking shape, some teams are surging and others are sliding.

It's time to take the pulse of Big Ten fans.

Derek from St. Louis writes: Explain this to me... Illinois has 2 losses, both to top 5 teams, both on the road, neither were embarrassing. They don't break the top 25 in ANY poll after destroying Michigan in Ann Arbor after (still ranked and 0-2 in the Big Ten) Wisconsin loses there a week prior. Auburn (also still ranked) also has 2 losses and a pillow fight 3-2 victory AT HOME to Miss St. WAKE FORREST is still ranked... and they're coming off of a loss to NAVY... AT HOME. How is ANY of this possible. I can't say it's because the Big Ten doesn't get any love because WISCONSIN is included in this mess.

Adam Rittenberg: For the first time this season, the Illini played to their potential in the final three quarters at Michigan and will regain some respect by continuing to win. Illinois soured some people with a poor performance against Louisiana-Lafayette, but pounding Michigan at the Big House still means something, even this year. Wisconsin fell out of the AP Poll, if it makes you happy, and the Badgers need to beat No. 6 Penn State at home to remain in any other rankings. Auburn's continued inclusion has to do with the strength of the SEC, nothing else. Wake Forest moved up in the poll only because a bunch of teams between 20-25 lost last week.


J.Z. from Bloomington, Ind., writes: Many IU fans including me had high expectations for the football team this year. Coming off our first bowl game in ages, 8 home games, a super soft OOC schedule. The way I see it we should have ended with at minimum a winning record this year. Ending the year with 4 wins seems like wishful thinking now. There are many fans that never wanted Coach Lynch hired based off his terrible past in the MAC and lack of Big school experience. With the new stadium and facility renovations come higher expectations. Do you think if things continue the way they are that Coach Lynch could get his walking papers this year? With a new AD coming in I could see that happening. I do also realize that IU also needs to step up and be willing to pay a new coach to come in, as there are some coaches in conf USA that make double what our Head Football coach makes. Do you think IU will be willing to finally spend the cash on football that they do on basketball?

Adam Rittenberg: The Ball State loss looks better and better, but I agree with you that Indiana has been a major disappointment this year. Lynch acknowledged today that the team could still be looking for its identity, which should be based around quarterback Kellen Lewis and several promising defenders. But turnovers and penalties kill teams, and Indiana hasn't been able to avoid them so far. The new athletic director will have a decision to make if things don't improve, but I don't see Lynch getting fired less than a year after receiving a contract extension. Next year, maybe, but the program has been through some tragedy and transition, much like Northwestern went through in 2006-07, and Lynch deserves a ton of credit for last year's bowl run. Indiana is making a greater commitment to football with the stadium renovations and even with the eight home games, so expectations are justifiably higher. But I would wait a little bit longer to see how things play out.


Andrew from Pittsburgh writes: What are your thoughts on the Spartan defense? We're giving up tons of yards between the 20s the last several weeks, but we keep coming up with stops or turnovers in the red zone. Is that the mark of a better defense, or have we just been lucky?

Adam Rittenberg: They are tough and physical, a perfect reflection of head coach Mark Dantonio. They don't have the most talent in any one area, but stars like safety Otis Wiley and linebacker Greg Jones take on a lot of responsibility and guys like Adam Decker step up and make big plays like the fourth-down stop on Iowa's Shonn Greene to seal last week's win. Honestly, giving up yards between the 20's doesn't matter if you make stops in the red zone, and that's how teams like Michigan State and Northwestern have improved on the defensive side. Michigan State is limiting the big play and forcing other teams to execute near the goal line.

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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Winning ugly has consequences, as Ohio State found out today.

As top-ranked USC sat at home and Georgia, Oklahoma and Florida posted wins over solid opponents, Ohio State fell to No. 5 in both polls after Saturday's too-close-for-comfort win against Ohio. The good news for the Buckeyes is they likely will grab the No. 1 ranking by knocking off USC on Saturday in Los Angeles. Ohio State deserved to drop. An elite team shouldn't trail Ohio heading into the fourth quarter at home. But the Buckeyes should work their way back to the top 3 at some point, even if they fall to USC.

Wisconsin moved up a spot to No. 10 as West Virginia tumbled, but the Badgers need a strong effort at Fresno State to stay there. Another slow start won't cut it on the road, and Wisconsin needs tight end Travis Beckum and linebacker Jonathan Casillas back on the field.

Penn State's rout of Oregon State moved the Nittany Lions up two spots to No. 17 in both polls. If Daryll Clark, Evan Royster and the offense keep rolling, Penn State will continue to climb. But defensive line depth is becoming a greater concern after Penn State lost end Jerome Hayes to a season-ending knee injury. With the status of starters Maurice Evans and Abe Koroma very much in doubt, Penn State can't afford to lose more bodies up front.

Illinois remained at No. 24 in the AP Poll and just outside the coaches' poll. The Illini can make their move in the first two weeks of Big Ten play, when they visit Penn State and Michigan.

Iowa got four votes in the coaches' poll and Northwestern somehow got a vote, too. Is that you, Pat Fitzgerald?

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.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Before getting to the links, I spoke today with Minnesota coach Tim Brewster (Q&A to follow soon), and he said former Gophers star safety Dominic Jones, who is serving a year in the county workhouse after being convicted of fourth-degree sexual conduct, will not address the team tonight, as originally planned. Brewster didn't elaborate on the reason for the change and said he wasn't sure if Jones could talk to the team at a later date.

Around the league:

  • Wisconsin cornerback Aaron Henry underwent a second surgery on his right knee Friday, this time to repair a torn meniscus. Despite the setback, the sophomore expects to be ready for the Badgers' Big Ten opener at the Big House on Sept. 27, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Jeff Potrykus writes in his blog.
  • There was a Big Ten flavor in FoxSports.com's recent rankings. The league is No. 4 in the conference rankings, which isn't as much of a surprise as the Big 12's selection at No. 1. Ohio State tops the preseason power rankings, while Wisconsin comes in a surprising 10th. Iowa's Kirk Ferentz rounds out the coaches on the hot seat chart, while Michigan State's Mark Dantonio is No. 5 among coaches on the rise. I guess Wisconsin's Bret Bielema has already risen. Ohio State-Michigan is the sports top rivalry, and the Buckeyes rank No. 4 among the best teams of the last decade.
  • Ohio State stars Beanie Wells, James Laurinaitis and Malcolm Jenkins occupy the top three spots in SI.com's list of 10 best Big Ten players. It was nice to see Indiana's Greg Middleton get some love at No. 9, but no Arrelious Benn? That'll change.
  • Rich Rodriguez isn't what Michigan fans are used to, but the Old Blues will acclimate as long as the team wins, Jamie Samuelsen blogs in the Detroit Free Press.
  • Leave your cameras at home if you're headed to Ohio State's open practice tonight. Offensive lineman Andrew Moses will be there, and his brother Chris will be watching, Ken Gordon writes in The Columbus Dispatch.
  • If you missed it on the ESPN.com preps page, Bill Kurelic takes an early look at Big Ten recruiting for 2009. No surprise that Ohio State is excelling, but Michigan State has also joined the lead pack.
  • The Lansing State Journal's Joe Rexrode reveals his AP Top 25 ballot. He's big on Ohio State (No. 1) but not so hot on Wisconsin (No. 18). Penn State, Michigan State and Michigan are on the outside looking in. Joe has a nice explanation for his voting.
  • Bobby Bowden says Florida State's succession plan has helped him in recruiting. Would a similar setup aid Penn State and Joe Paterno?

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The AP preseason Top 25 poll is out and Ohio State ranks No. 2 behind Georgia. The Buckeyes were extremely close to nabbing the top spot, receiving only one fewer first-place vote than the Bulldogs.

Wisconsin came in at No. 13, while Illinois is No. 20 and Penn State is No. 22. Both Michigan and Michigan State also received votes.

It's important to reiterate that the voting took place before Aug. 1, but the poll shapes up mostly as expected. I had the Buckeyes at No. 3 behind both Georgia and Florida in our ESPN.com preseason Power Rankings, but our votes were due back in July. If the ballots were collected today, I'd have Ohio State at No. 1, followed by Georgia, Oklahoma, USC and Florida.

Wisconsin could be a spot or two lower, and Illinois and Penn State are somewhat interchangeable and could fall anywhere between Nos. 18-23. It was good to see the media vote on merit rather than tradition and leave Michigan out of the preseason poll. If the Wolverines beat Utah in Week 1, they might have a case. Same goes for Michigan State if it beats Cal on the road.

As ESPN.com's former non-BCS guy, I was disappointed to see BYU as the only entry in the poll. The Cougars are better than No. 16 in my view, and Fresno State also deserves to be included. Utah is just outside the poll along with Fresno State, about where the Utes should be. South Florida is a little high in my book, and I would swap Clemson and Texas at Nos. 9 and 11.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The AP preseason poll comes out Saturday, and it'll be interesting to see where Big Ten teams end up. You probably know my thoughts about preseason polls [not a big fan], but they hold some weight in college football. The ballots were due before Aug. 1, so the recent developments at places like Georgia, Florida and USC won't be reflected. I think Ohio State would be No. 1 if voting took place today, but the Buckeyes probably will end up No. 3. I'd be stunned if the media puts Michigan in the Top 25.

Several scrimmages take place Saturday, so check back for updates.

Here are a few more items before the weekend.

Big Ten falls from 2002 perch

August, 12, 2008
8/12/08
12:31
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

It's hardly a revelation that the Big Ten has fallen off a bit in recent years, but just how far?

SI.com put together a comprehensive formula to see how the power balance has shifted among BCS conferences from the first five years of the BCS compared with the last five. The Conference Power Index included: "BCS bowl record, percentage of teams in the final AP poll, nonconference performance [as measured by the RPI formula used for basketball], record in other bowl games and NFL draft picks per teams."

The Big Ten led all conferences in the first five years (1998-2003) but slipped to fourth in the last five (2003-08), the biggest tumble of any league. Here's the Big Ten breakdown. Purdue coach Joe Tiller tells SI.com's Stewart Mandel that although these things are cyclical, high school football in the Midwest has declined a bit. As the chart shows, Big Ten continues to produce NFL draft picks at a high rate, but the recent bowl record, particularly in BCS games, really hurts.

As I've mentioned before, the biggest key for the Big Ten to change its sagging national perception might not be Ohio State winning a national title, but other teams closing the gap with the Buckeyes. More bowl wins from Michigan, a return to national prominence from Penn State, a BCS bowl appearance from Wisconsin and continued progress from Illinois and Michigan State would do more for the league than an Ohio State championship. It wouldn't hurt to have Iowa back in the BCS bowl mix, either.

My only issue with the formula is I have a really hard time buying the fact the ACC improved much when I look at the league's BCS bowl record. I know the Big Ten has struggled big time in BCS bowls lately, but 1-9 doesn't scream, "Respect us."

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