World-Herald Big Ten conference beat writer Lee Barfknecht ranks the Big Ten from top to bottom as published in The World-Herald on Monday, Aug. 26. * * *
1. Ohio State
Next game: Buffalo, 11 a.m., ESPN2. There's already talk among the Bucknuts about playing Michigan in back to back weeks — the second time for the Big Ten title. OSU looks good to be there. But will Michigan?
Next game: Wyoming, 7 p.m., BTN. Predictions that the Huskers will score 50 points a game while giving up about the same amount are overblown. Both sides will be fine. Special teams is where this program needs to get its act together, and fast.
Next game: Central Michigan, 2:30 p.m., BTN. With Denard Robinson now in the NFL, the reinstatement of “Michigan football” is complete: a pro-style offense with a power running game, which in turn MU coaches said has toughened their defense.
Next game: Massachusetts, 11 a.m., BTN. New coach Gary Andersen has made such a good impression that the only time ex-coach Bret Bielema's name has come up is when Badger fans talk about things they don't miss.
5. Michigan State
Next game: Western Michigan on Friday, 7 p.m., BTN: Coach Mark Dantonio is naming a No. 1 quarterback Monday. He should choose true freshman Damion Terry for the fact that everyone in the conference would faint over such a bold move.
Next game: at California, 9:30 p.m., ESPN2. The Wildcats have maybe the highest expectations ever, but open with a trap game. West Coast road games with late-night kickoffs haven't been kind to Midwestern teams.
7. Penn State
Next game: Syracuse in East Rutherford, N.J., 2:30 p.m., ABC: This will be interesting to watch. PSU has 67 scholarship players. Full contact has been extremely limited to keep players healthy. Will the Nittany Lions be ready or rusty on game day?
Next game: Indiana State on Thursday, 6 p.m., BTN. Indiana has a legitimate high-scoring offense. But the Hoosiers are still far behind in Kevin Wilson's third season in molding a defense that can even slow down opponents.
Next game: at Cincinnati, 11 a.m., ESPNU. First-year coach Darrell Hazell is instilling his philosophy of defense and special teams first with a roster that was built to emphasize offense. Let the growing pains begin.
Next game: UNLV on Thursday, 6 p.m., BTN. In Jerry Kill's third season, the addition of more Big Ten-caliber players on the roster is evident. Staying healthy and developing consistent quarterback play will determine the Gophers' fate.
Next game: Northern Illinois, 2:30 p.m., BTN. One great mystery from college football last season — why coach Kirk Ferentz never gave a single snap to a backup quarterback — will hover over this season as three newbie QBs try to adjust.
Next game: Southern Illinois, 11 a.m., BTN. When you start the season with a carryover nine-game skid, you better not overlook anybody. That is the challenge for the not-so-Fighting Illini.