Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NCF Nation [Print without images]

Monday, November 30, 2009
Big Ten power rankings: Week 14

By Adam Rittenberg

After giving it some thought, I decided to make a few tweaks to last week's rankings. These are supposed to reflect how teams are playing right now, and I lost sight of that a bit.

1. Ohio State (10-2, 7-1): The Buckeyes once again played their best football in November, knocking off two ranked teams as well as archrival Michigan for the sixth consecutive time. Now Jim Tressel needs to find the same magic on Jan. 1 at the Rose Bowl.

2. Iowa (10-2, 6-2): A lot of teams talk about a next-man-in philosophy, but Iowa displayed it for much of the season after losing several key performers to injury. The Hawkeyes need quarterback Ricky Stanzi (ankle) to heal before their bowl game, which could be in Glendale, Ariz.

3. Penn State (10-2, 6-2): Some Penn State fans will read my intro and declare the Nittany Lions were playing much better than Iowa down the stretch. In reality, Penn State had one excellent half against Michigan State and a solid second half against Indiana after stumbling out of the gate. But I still wouldn't bet against Joe Paterno in a bowl game.

4. Northwestern (8-4, 5-3): A 3-0 November highlighted by two wins against top 20 programs gives the Wildcats the nod over Wisconsin. Though the Wildcats certainly have some ugly losses, the quality of their wins trumps Wisconsin's.

5. Wisconsin (8-3, 5-3): The Badgers still have a chance to move up by thumping Hawaii this week in Oahu. Wisconsin lacks a true signature win but doesn't have any terrible losses, either. I'm excited about the future for Bret Bielema's team with so many young players.

6. Michigan State (6-6, 4-4): It hasn't been a great stretch for the Spartans, who crumbled against Penn State and then saw the dismissals of running back Glenn Winston and safety Roderick Jenrette. An alleged on-campus fight involving football players could also spell trouble for the program as it tries to finish on a good note in a bowl.

7. Purdue (5-7, 4-4): The Boilers lost to Minnesota back on Oct. 10, but they certainly played better football down the stretch than the Gophers. It's a shame Purdue can't represent the Big Ten in a bowl game because Danny Hope's squad held its own in all but one game this fall.

8. Minnesota (6-6, 3-5): It's imperative that the Gophers show some progress on offense in their bowl appearance, most likely against a Big 12 opponent. Minnesota loses many of its top defenders to graduation and will need to lean on the offense more in 2010. Adam Weber and the Gophers must shake off a second straight shutout against Iowa.

9. Illinois (3-8, 2-6): The Illini didn't get steamrolled against Cincinnati, but they also never really had the fifth-ranked Bearcats worried about an upset. Juice Williams and the offense put up points and moved the ball, but breakdowns on both defense and special teams led to another double-digit defeat. Illinois wraps up a rough season Saturday against Fresno State.

10. Michigan (5-7, 1-7): Embattled head coach Rich Rodriguez needs his young players to grow up fast during the offseason. While Rodriguez's offense showed signs of life this fall, the defense needs major work after losing All-Big Ten end Brandon Graham and possibly All-Big Ten cornerback Donovan Warren.

11. Indiana (4-8, 1-7): Bill Lynch was very disappointed in his team's finish, and he should be. Indiana needs to translate progress into more victories in 2010. The offense should be potent, but an always susceptible defense loses starters in all three areas (line, linebacker, secondary).