World-Herald staff writer Lee Barfknecht rates the Big Ten. Find out which team is on top. Published in The World-Herald on Oct. 29.
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1. Ohio State (9-0, 5-0)
Last week: beat Penn State 35-23. Up next: Illinois, 2:30 p.m., ESPN. Quarterback Braxton Miller persevered through a slow start at Penn State to keep the Buckeyes undefeated and his Heisman Trophy hopes alive.
2. Nebraska (6-2, 3-1)
Last week: beat Michigan 23-9. Up next: at Michigan State, 2:30 p.m., ABC. With the defense coming on, moving up to 26th nationally, the Huskers will be tough to beat as long as they avoid beating themselves.
3. Northwestern (7-2, 3-2)
Last week: beat Iowa 28-17. Up next: idle. Kain Colter criticized the lack of offensive identity after the loss to Nebraska. With Colter playing nearly every snap at QB vs. Iowa, success returned quickly.
4. Penn State (5-3, 3-1)
Last week: lost to Ohio State 35-23. Up next: at Purdue, 2:30 p.m., ESPNU. Giving up second-half touchdown drives of 52, 85 and 92 yards, respectively, at home to Ohio State probably has put an end to the Nittany Lions’ trophy hopes.
5. Michigan (5-3, 3-1)
Last week: lost to Nebraska 23-9. Up next: at Minnesota, 11 a.m., BTN. The trend lines aren’t looking good for the Wolverines. Denard Robinson is dinged up, the running game is so-so and the game plan is more about surviving than attacking.
6. Michigan State (5-4, 2-3)
Last week: beat Wisconsin 16-13 in OT. Up next: Nebraska, 2:30 p.m., ABC. After a slow start, defensive end William Gholston is living up to his press clippings. He had 412 tackles for loss against Wisconsin, and KO’ed a QB.
7. Wisconsin (6-3, 3-2)
Last week: lost to Michigan State 16-13 in OT. Up next: idle. Coach Bret Bielema buried season-opening starter Danny O’Brien on the bench after 2 12 games. Watch that relationship now that O’Brien will have to start again.
8. Minnesota (5-3, 1-3)
Last week: beat Purdue 44-28. Up next: Michigan, 11 a.m., BTN. True freshman quarterback Philip Nelson looked like a three-year veteran in slicing and dicing Purdue’s defense for 283 total yards and three touchdowns.
9. Indiana (3-5, 1-3)
Last week: beat Illinois 31-17. Up next: Iowa, 2:30 p.m., BTN. A heretofore porous defense keyed the win against Illinois, with seven sacks and two goal-line stands to set the tone.
10. Iowa (4-4, 2-2)
Last week: lost to Northwestern 28-17. Up next: at Indiana, 2:30 p.m., BTN. In this case, the numbers don’t lie. The Hawkeyes are 100th nationally in passing offense, 104th in total offense and 107th in scoring offense.
11. Purdue (3-5, 0-4)
Last week: lost to Minnesota 44-28. Up next: Penn State, 2:30 p.m., ESPNU. The Boilermakers went 0-for-October, putting themselves in jeopardy of falling short of the six wins needed for bowl eligibility.
12. Illinois (2-6, 0-4)
Last week: lost to Indiana 31-17. Up next: at Ohio State, 2:30 p.m., ESPN. Coach Tim Beckman told the Champaign News-Gazette that he has lost 22 pounds during the Illini’s five-game skid. That’s a hard way to diet.