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Monday, November 17, 2008
Big Ten power rankings


Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

No major upsets Saturday, so there's minimal shuffling in the rankings. The regular season wraps up this week, so it marks the final chance for a team to move up or down.

1. Penn State (10-1, 6-1 Big Ten) -- Another slow start on offense might be cause for concern, but Penn State played dominant defense and opened things up in the second half. The Lions need to cut down their turnovers this week against Michigan State, but they remain the league's most balanced team. A win Saturday punches Penn State's ticket to the Rose Bowl.

2. Ohio State (9-2, 6-1) -- The Buckeyes are playing their best football in November. It might be too late for an outright Big Ten title or a trip to the Rose Bowl, but Ohio State will be in good shape for a BCS berth with a win this week against archrival Michigan. Ohio State finally has an identity on both sides of the ball, and it could result in a BCS bowl victory.

3. Michigan State (9-2, 6-1) -- This has already been a successful season for the Spartans, who were idle Saturday. But it can be a special season with a win this week at Penn State. Michigan State still lacks a signature win, and an upset in Happy Valley could result in a BCS bowl berth.

4. Northwestern (8-3, 4-3) -- It's extremely close between Northwestern and Iowa for the fourth spot, but the Wildcats get the nod after finishing their road schedule at 4-1, including a win in Iowa City on Sept. 27. The defensive resurgence behind first-year coordinator Mike Hankwitz is the primary reason why Northwestern finds itself in good shape for bowl selection.

5. Iowa (7-4, 4-3) -- If things fall right for the Hawkeyes, they could end up in a New Year's Day bowl, a destiny that seemed impossible three weeks ago. The Shonn Greene show heads to the Metrodome, where Iowa can finish the regular season with wins in five of its final six games by knocking off slumping Minnesota.

6. Wisconsin (6-5, 3-5) -- It tells you something about this league that the Badgers occupy the sixth spot. Nothing against Bret Bielema's squad, which has played pretty well the last four games, but Wisconsin is well shy of its preseason expectations. The Badgers are bowl eligible and can improve their standing with a win this week against Cal-Poly.

7. Minnesota (7-4, 3-4) -- The Gophers were well on their way to claiming Paul Bunyan's Axe before a disastrous fourth quarter at Camp Randall Stadium. Minnesota's flaws on both the offensive and defensive lines are beginning to show, and Tim Brewster's team has dropped three straight. A win this week against streaking Iowa would stop a tumble down the bowl pecking order.

8. Illinois (5-6, 3-4) -- So it's come to this for the Illini, who need to beat Northwestern on the road this week merely to get bowl eligible. Despite a Rose Bowl run in 2007 and loads of talent returning, Illinois has underachieved in almost every area. Mistakes on special teams and in the red zone continue to haunt Ron Zook's squad.

9. Purdue (3-8, 1-6) -- The Boilers are playing hard, and quite honestly, this defense deserves better. Purdue has lost five games in which it allowed 22 points or fewer. Joe Tiller coaches his final game this week against Indiana. Perhaps his once-feared offense can send him out on the right note.

10. Michigan (3-8, 2-5) -- Just when it appeared the Wolverines had figured things out a bit, they backslid again. That Monday-through-Friday progress Rich Rodriguez keeps talking about rarely shows up on Saturday, making us wonder if it really exists at all. An upset of archrival Ohio State would take the sting off this season, but Michigan hasn't shown much to make anyone think it can keep pace with the Buckeyes.

11. Indiana (3-8, 1-6) -- The Hoosiers deserve a ton of credit for the way they performed in the first half at Penn State. This team is banged up, physically and emotionally, but it continues to fight. Unfortunately, Saturday resulted in another lopsided loss for a team that can't wait to start over.