World-Herald staff writer Lee Barfknecht rates the Big Ten. Published in The World-Herald on Nov. 12.
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1. Ohio State (10-0, 6-0)
Last week: idle. Up next: at Wisconsin, 2:30 p.m., ABC. Only Wisconsin and Michigan stand in the way of the Buckeyes' fourth undefeated, untied season in the post-World War II era.
2. Nebraska (8-2, 5-1)
Last week: beat Penn State 32-23. Up next: Minnesota, 2:30 p.m., BTN. What's left to say? The Huskers win and advance in heart-stopping fashion. Still, you wonder if they are truly improving, and when that catches up to them.
3. Wisconsin (7-3, 4-2)
Last week: beat Indiana 62-14. Up next: Ohio State, 2:30 p.m., ABC. First-time starting QB Curt Phillips needed to throw only seven times against Indiana. Why throw when you have 14 runs of 15 yards or more?
4. Michigan (7-3, 5-1)
Last week: beat Northwestern 38-31 in OT. Up next: Iowa, 11 a.m., ESPN. If you think Nebraska has been fortunate, check out Michigan's final drive in regulation against Northwestern. Some blind luck keeps UM in the race.
5. Northwestern (7-3, 3-3)
Last week: lost to Michigan 38-31 in OT. Up next: at Michigan State, 11 a.m., ESPN2. All three losses have come after the Wildcats built double-digit leads in the second half, derailing a potential dream season.
6. Penn State (6-4, 4-2)
Last week: lost to Nebraska 32-23. Up next: Indiana, 11 a.m., BTN. What a well-coached, hard-nosed football team. What a shame QB Matt McGloin tarnished the effort at Nebraska with his conspiracy theories.
7. Michigan State (5-5, 2-4)
Last week: idle. Up next: Northwestern, 11 a.m., ESPN2. We're about to find out if the Spartans really want to go to a bowl game or if they want this puzzling, frustrating season to end.
8. Minnesota (6-4, 2-4)
Last week: beat Illinois 17-3. Up next: at Nebraska, 2:30 p.m., BTN. Bowl eligibility in coach Jerry Kill's second year is a huge step. With a young QB and a strong defensive standard being set, even better days are ahead.
9. Indiana (4-6, 2-4)
Last week: lost to Wisconsin 62-14. Up next: at Penn State, 11 a.m., BTN. OK, so the Hoosiers are still a long way from being a legitimate contender. But the experience of getting into the mix can do nothing but help in the future.
10. Purdue (4-6, 1-5)
Last week: beat Iowa 27-24. Up next: at Illinois, 2:30 p.m., BTN. QB Robert Marve deserves some love. The senior, playing with a torn ACL, helped the Boilers break a five-game skid with a win at Iowa.
11. Iowa (4-6, 2-4)
Last week: lost to Purdue 27-24. Up next: at Michigan, 11 a.m., ESPN. Kirk Ferentz said he doesn't buy the idea that Iowa “has been a dog-crap team.” Many might beg to differ after he got outcoached at home by Purdue's Danny Hope.
12. Illinois (2-8, 0-6)
Last week: lost to Minnesota 17-3. Up next: Purdue, 2:30 p.m., BTN. The bad news keeps building for the Illini: 12 straight Big Ten losses and failure to score a touchdown at home for the first time in 83 games.