NCF Nation: Shavodrick
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The Big Ten wrapped up its regular-season schedule 16 days ago -- feels like 1,600 -- so the power rankings have not changed. But some of you have demanded a fresh lineup before bowl season begins, so here it is.
1. Penn State (11-1) -- The Nittany Lions are clearly the Big Ten's best team, but will they be good enough to keep pace with USC? A Rose Bowl victory would go a long way toward restoring the Big Ten's national reputation, and Penn State could finally distinguish itself from its conference brethren who recently have stumbled on the big stage.
2. Ohio State (10-2) -- Fiesta Bowls have been good to the Buckeyes and head coach Jim Tressel, and a Jan. 5 matchup with Texas is absolutely huge for this program. Dominating Michigan and the rest of the Big Ten doesn't mean much when the league is struggling. Ohio State must re-establish itself as a national power by knocking off the Longhorns.
3. Michigan State (9-3) -- After struggling against elite competition during the regular season, the Spartans can take a big step by knocking off preseason No. 1 Georgia in the Capital One Bowl. A talent upgrade is on its way to East Lansing and the future is bright, but running back Javon Ringer and his fellow seniors want to finish their careers on a high note.
4. Northwestern (9-3) -- Respect remains hard to come by for the Wildcats, who got passed over by the Outback Bowl for the second time in nine seasons. An Alamo Bowl victory against a talented Missouri squad would generate the buzz Northwestern sorely needs heading into 2009. Northwestern needs to do a better job of filling its home stadium, and a 10-win season would certainly help.
5. Iowa (8-4) -- Shonn Greene and the Hawkeyes are playing on New Year's Day, and they have an excellent opportunity to climb the power rankings by beating a very average South Carolina team. Iowa's strong finish has made its early season struggles a distant memory. Now the Hawkeyes must capitalize on a golden opportunity.
6. Wisconsin (7-5) -- Bret Bielema has several things to fix during the offseason, but his team seemed to come together around quarterback Dustin Sherer down the stretch. A Champs Sports Bowl victory against Florida State would springboard the Badgers toward 2009, when they return a formidable rushing attack in P.J. Hill and John Clay.
7. Minnesota (7-5) -- Head coach Tim Brewster isn't afraid to talk titles and Rose Bowls, but this season resembled those of the past, as the Gophers started strong and faded fast. This is a young team that will only get better, and an Insight Bowl upset of Kansas would validate an impressive turnaround from a 1-11 campaign.
8. Illinois (5-7) -- Sustained success remains the goal for the Illini after a deflating Rose-Bowl-to-no-bowl tumble. Head coach Ron Zook is spending this time doing what he does best -- recruiting -- but the team leaders need to do a better job of building chemistry for 2009.
9. Purdue (4-8) -- The Danny Hope era officially begins Jan. 1, but the new head coach already is forming his staff for 2009 and hitting the recruiting trail hard.
10. Michigan (3-9) -- Roster attrition might not be as bad as some envisioned for Rich Rodriguez's team, but there's plenty to fix in the offseason. Rodriguez has to be counting the days until incoming quarterback recruits Shavodrick Beaver and Tate Forcier step on campus.
11. Indiana (3-9) -- Head coach Bill Lynch received a vote of confidence from his soon-to-be boss, Fred Glass, but Lynch is very much on the hot seat entering 2009.