- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Not many changes this week, aside from a shuffle at the bottom.
1. Wisconsin (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten): It's dangerous for anyone to get in Wisconsin's path right now. The Badgers bullied their way to a share of the Big Ten title and most likely earned their first trip to the Rose Bowl since Jan. 1, 2000. Paul Chryst's offense is the most dangerous unit in the conference.
2. Ohio State (11-1, 7-1): Big Ten titles and beat-downs of Michigan have become the norm for Ohio State, and the 2010 Buckeyes kept the streaks alive. Ohio State is a team that gets stronger as games go on and as the season goes on. The Buckeyes likely will aim for a second consecutive BCS bowl win, most likely in New Orleans against the dreaded SEC.
3. Michigan State (11-1, 7-1): Whatever happens with the bowl selections, Michigan State can call itself a champion after an impressive performance against Penn State. The Spartans have a strong case for BCS selection but could get snubbed because of more impressive finishes by both Wisconsin and Ohio State. Still, Mark Dantonio's team has overcome a ton of adversity both on and off the field.
4. Penn State (7-5, 4-4): At least Penn State competed on Saturday, which is more than I can say for Michigan and Northwestern, and, for that matter, Iowa in the closing minutes. The Nittany Lions clearly are not an elite team, but they have fared very well in bowl games under Joe Paterno and can start building toward 2011 in the upcoming practices before a New Year's Day contest.
5. Iowa (7-5, 4-4): What happened here? After dismantling Michigan State on Oct. 30, the Hawkeyes backslid in November and finished the regular season with three consecutive losses. The team that was so good at finishing last fall allowed late touchdowns in all five of its losses and repeatedly lost its poise in clutch situations. Extremely disappointing.
6. Illinois (6-5, 4-4): The open week came at a good time for Illinois, which got to sit back and watch its fellow mid-tier mates fall apart. Illinois faces a huge test Friday night at Fresno State, which is always tough to beat on its home field. A victory secures a winning season for Illinois and gives the Illini some momentum entering a bowl game.
7. Michigan (7-5, 3-5): Back-to-back blowout losses put a damper on a season that began with a surge but slowed down considerably in Big Ten play. Quarterback Denard Robinson is a stud but he does not have enough weapons around him, and Michigan's repeated breakdowns on defense and specials teams are discouraging so late in the season.
8. Northwestern (7-5, 3-5): You expected the offense to have its struggles without star quarterback Dan Persa, but Northwestern's defense simply has not shown up the past two weeks. Whether it is youth or a lack of leadership, the Wildcats have to be concerned after surrendering 118 points to Illinois and Wisconsin. Pat Fitzgerald's teams have finished the season strong until this year.
9. Minnesota (3-9, 2-6): Written off in mid November, Minnesota won its final two regular-season games to end things on a good note. You had to be pleased for senior quarterback Adam Weber, who finally got his hands on a rivalry trophy as the Gophers hoisted the Floyd of Rosedale. Uncertain times are ahead for Minnesota, but the players have a reason to smile entering the offseason.
10. Indiana (5-7, 1-7): Winning the Bucket game wasn't enough to save coach Bill Lynch, but Indiana moves up a spot in the power rankings after winning at Ross-Ade Stadium for the first time since 1996. The Hoosiers really will miss Ben Chappell, one of the nation's more underrated quarterbacks. All eyes now turn to the coaching search.
11. Purdue (4-8, 2-6): If Purdue could hold a lead, it would be going bowling as one of the nation's more improbable success stories. But the Boilers didn't get it done against Michigan State and Indiana and finished the season with six consecutive defeats. The injury excuse works this season, but Danny Hope needs to make a bowl in Year 3 to avoid some serious heat.