Monday, September 14, 2009
Big Ten power rankings
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Michigan has made things a lot more interesting in the Big Ten, while the league's midsection remains as muddled as ever.
Just as a reminder, these rankings are fluid. Wins are rewarded. Losses carry a price.
1. Penn State (2-0) -- It's safe to say the Nittany Lions are the league's best team right now, but the mood isn't totally comfortable in Happy Valley. Penn State wants to see more from its run game and offensive line to take some pressure off of senior quarterback Daryll Clark.
2. Michigan (2-0) -- Too high a placement for Rich Rodriguez's crew? Name another Big Ten team that has looked impressive in back-to-back weeks. Michigan still has some concerns (youth, depth), but it looks completely different on offense and continues to get big performances from young players like quarterback Tate Forcier.
3. Ohio State (1-1) -- The Buckeyes would have been No. 1 had they held off USC, but another close loss raises questions about Jim Tressel, Terrelle Pryor and the offense. Cameron Heyward and the defense played masterfully, but does Tressel-ball still work in this era of college football, or does Ohio State need to evolve?
4. Iowa (2-0) -- Iowa State isn't very good, but a 32-point road win in a rivalry game speaks for itself. Tyler Sash led an opportunistic Iowa defense with three interceptions, and the Hawkeyes established a run game with freshmen Brandon Wegher and Adam Robinson. After some tough luck on the health front, Iowa is back on track heading into a big stretch against Arizona and Penn State.
5. Minnesota (2-0) -- The Gophers have a road win against an improved Syracuse team and a hard-fought home victory against always-tough Air Force. Their lack of explosiveness on offense is still a concern, but the defense has taken a step forward under Kevin Cosgrove and Ron Lee. A huge opportunity arrives Saturday as Cal visits TCF Bank Stadium.
T-6 Northwestern (2-0) -- The Wildcats drop two spots after letting their guard down in the second half against Eastern Michigan and nearly falling to the Eagles. Star defensive end Corey Wootton hasn't shown up so far, and Northwestern's overall defensive line play has been uninspiring. Things get tougher next week against Syracuse at the Carrier Dome.
T-6 Wisconsin (2-0) -- It's hard to know what to make of the Badgers at this point, but they're finding a way to win despite some flaws. Scott Tolzien clearly was the right choice at quarterback, and running back John Clay came up big against Fresno State. The defense is a major concern, especially on third downs, but Wisconsin has done a nice job of surviving against decent teams.
8. Michigan State (1-1) -- Mark Dantonio often brings up Michigan State's struggles under high expectations, and Saturday's loss to Central Michigan certainly looked a lot like other Spartans' collapses. A lack of discipline showed up often, especially on special teams, but perhaps more damaging were the struggles of a deep and experienced secondary. Next week's game at Notre Dame will be huge.
9. Illinois (1-1) -- The Illini took care of business against Illinois State, pulling away to an easy win despite losing quarterback Juice Williams (bruised quadriceps) early. It wasn't a spotless performance, but running back Jason Ford made a difference in his return. Illinois can climb the rankings in the coming weeks with games against Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State -- or it can tumble to the bottom.
10. Purdue (1-1) -- Danny Hope's team would have made a big jump had it won at Oregon, but giveaways and other mistakes doomed the Boilers in Eugene. This team is better than many of us expected, and Ralph Bolden looks like a star at running back, but it can't win games with so many miscues. Purdue must bounce back against Northern Illinois before Notre Dame visits Ross-Ade Stadium.
11. Indiana (2-0) -- Improved defense has paid off early on for the Hoosiers, and the team sparked its rushing attack against Western Michigan behind Demetrius McCray. I'm not totally sold on IU, but there are certainly some encouraging signs for Bill Lynch's crew. This week's trip to Akron is huge before opening Big Ten play with Michigan and Ohio State.