Monday, October 4, 2010
Big Ten power rankings: Week 6
By Adam Rittenberg
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The Big Ten race tightened a bit on the first Saturday of league play. Ohio State looked beatable at Illinois, while both Iowa and Michigan State delivered impressive performances against ranked opponents. Northwestern found a way to stay undefeated, and Michigan rode Denard Robinson to another win.
Here's the new rundown ...
1. Ohio State (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten): Championship teams face adversity along the way, and Ohio State encountered plenty of it against pesky Illinois. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor played through an injury and finally got some help from a running back (Dan Herron) late in the game. Ohio State's defense shut down Illinois in the second half despite losing key contributor Tyler Moeller to a chest injury. The Buckeyes certainly didn't win many style points at Memorial Stadium, but they won a game.
2. Iowa (4-1, 1-0): The Hawkeyes return to their rightful place in the power rankings after a dominant defensive performance against Penn State. End Adrian Clayborn made an impact both on the field and in the stat sheet, Shaun Prater had a pick-six and the Hawkeyes kept Penn State out of the end zone with an impressive goal-line stand. Iowa has two weeks to prepare for Robinson and Michigan.
3. Michigan State (5-0, 1-0): Adversity is no longer the Spartans' Kryptonite. Coach Mark Dantonio's absence didn't faze Michigan State, and neither did three first-half turnovers. Michigan State controlled the game against Wisconsin and put things away with a 15-play, 84-yard touchdown drive that featured great execution by quarterback Kirk Cousins and great play calling by coordinator Don Treadwell. Now things get fun as the Spartans visit archrival Michigan.
4. Michigan (5-0, 1-0): The Wolverines are still pretty much a one-man show, but what a show he puts on. Robinson continued his assault on the record books against Indiana, racking up 494 yards of total offense and becoming the first player in FBS history to twice record 200 rush yards and 200 pass yards in a game. Robinson's brilliance rescued Michigan's defense again, however, and Greg Robinson's unit has to get a lot better quickly if the Wolverines want to keep winning.
5. Wisconsin (4-1, 0-1): Bret Bielema must really hate the state of Michigan. Bielema's teams continued to struggle in the Great Lake State, as the Badgers couldn't match Michigan State in all of the important categories Saturday. Wisconsin's veteran offense is underachieving right now, especially up front, and the defense sorely misses linebacker Chris Borland. No one will be impressed if Wisconsin pounds Minnesota next week, but a chance for redemption returns Oct. 16 against Ohio State.
6. Northwestern (5-0, 1-0): Michigan isn't the only Big Ten team that needs to find a new formula for winning. The Wildcats escaped Minnesota with a W despite doing all they could to give the game to the hapless Gophers. Coach Pat Fitzgerald finally has enough talent to win games despite mistakes, but Northwestern has a lot of things to clean up. The schedule continues to help the Wildcats, who face banged-up Purdue this week before a bye.
7. Penn State (3-2, 0-1): Yes, the Nittany Lions have lost to two outstanding teams on the road, but their body of work reeks of mediocrity. Tom Bradley's defense is strong enough to keep Penn State in games, but the offense remains inconsistent and continues to struggle along the line. Penn State's red zone woes continued early in the second half at Kinnick Stadium, as it couldn't convert an opportunity to get back in the game. If the execution doesn't improve on offense, Penn State is staring at a four- or five-loss season.
8. Indiana (3-1, 0-1): What a performance by Ben Chappell and Tandon Doss. You have to feel for Indiana's top quarterback and wide receiver as Chappell torched Michigan for 480 pass yards, 221 of which went to Doss. Indiana might have the Big Ten's best passing attack, but it doesn't translate into wins. I know I sound like a broken record, but until the Hoosiers significantly upgrade their defense, they'll be unable to get over the hump in Big Ten play. Still, IU can take several positives from the Michigan game and should reach a bowl.
9. Illinois (2-2, 0-1): The improvement on defense is legit, as Vic Koenning's unit did a good job against Pryor and the Buckeyes' offense until the fourth quarter. But Illinois really had some chances to win but couldn't overcome several inexcusable penalties and a questionable decision by coach Ron Zook to kick a field goal rather than go for a game-tying touchdown with 4:40 left. The Illini also had five fourth-quarter penalties, including an offside call right in front of the bench after stopping Ohio State on third-and-1. There's still a lot to clean up.
10. Purdue (2-2): Purdue clearly needed the bye week after learning quarterback Robert Marve would miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. No team in America has had worse luck on the injury front, but Purdue needs to get young quarterbacks Rob Henry and Sean Robinson ready for this week's trip to Northwestern. More importantly, the Boilers have to tighten things up on defense, the unit that will determine whether Purdue turns things around or not.
11. Minnesota (1-4, 0-1): A potential season-turning win was right there for the Golden Gophers, and they still couldn't take it. Despite an eight-point fourth-quarter lead, a 3-0 edge in turnovers until the final minute, a very good offensive game plan and an opponent (Northwestern) making mistake after mistake, Minnesota once again couldn't finish. Tim Brewster's power of positivity will truly be tested as players have to be questioning themselves right now. At least Minnesota will recharge for a rivalry game this week at Wisconsin.