World-Herald staff writer Lee Barfknecht ranks the football teams of the Big Ten Conference as published in The World-Herald on Oct. 28.
* * *
1. Ohio State (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten)
Last week: beat Penn State 63-14. This week: at Purdue, 11 a.m. BTN. The Buckeyes are rounding into “Chase the Title” mode. Look for more lopsided margins throughout the month in trying to wrangle more BCS points.
2. Wisconsin (5-2, 3-1)
Last week: Idle. This week: at Iowa, 11 a.m. ABC. The Badgers still have plenty to play for. A second BCS bid for the Big Ten after Ohio State isn’t totally out of the question.
3. Michigan State (7-1, 4-0)
Last week: beat Illinois 42-3. This week: Michigan, 2:30 p.m. ABC. The final score was impressive against the Illini. But the Spartans wobbled in the first half, needing a goal-line stand and a fluke touchdown to pull ahead 14-3 at halftime.
4. Michigan (6-1, 2-1)
Last week: Idle. This week: at Michigan State, 2:30 p.m. ABC. The Wolverines installed some pistol and shotgun formations to fuel their 63-47 win against Indiana. Will QB Devin Gardner keep running them against Michigan State?
5. Iowa (5-3, 2-2)
Last week: beat Northwestern 17-10 in OT. This week: Wisconsin, 11 a.m. ABC. It’s not always pretty, but the Hawkeyes keep plowing along. Stopping the big play will be essential this week to have any chance to upset Wisconsin.
6. Minnesota (6-2, 2-2)
Last week: beat Nebraska 34-23. This week: at Indiana, 2:30 p.m. BTN. Good on the Minnesota staff to dial up plays from Wisconsin’s romp over Nebraska in the Big Ten title game and make the Huskers stop them. They didn’t.
7. Nebraska (5-2, 2-1)
Last week: lost to Minnesota 34-23. This week: Northwestern, 2:30 p.m. BTN. Run the ball, run the ball, run the ball, run the ball, run the ball, run the ball, run the ball, run the ball, run the ball, run the ball, run the ball, run the ball.
8. Penn State (4-3, 1-2)
Last week: lost to Ohio State 63-14. This week: Illinois, 11 a.m. ESPN. Nittany Lions fans are praying the shoulder injury to freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg is only a mild strain.
9. Indiana (3-4, 1-2)
Last week: Idle. This week: Minnesota, 2:30 p.m. BTN. Coach Kevin Wilson is supporting defensive coordinator Doug Mallory. But the numbers don’t lie: The Hoosiers are 121st out of 125 teams in total defense (498.1 yards).
10. Northwestern (4-4, 0-4)
Last week: lost to Iowa 17-10 in OT. This week: at Nebraska, 2:30 p.m. BTN. The Wildcats are on a four-game skid, but they haven’t conceded. Three of the losses have gone to the last possession.
11. Illinois (3-4, 0-3)
Last week: lost to Michigan State 42-3. This week: at Penn State, 11 a.m. ESPN. The losing streak in Big Ten play is 17 games, and now speedy wide receiver Ryan Lankford appears out for the season (shoulder).
12. Purdue (1-6, 0-3)
Last week: Idle. This week: Ohio State, 11 a.m. BTN. The Boilermakers could have six open dates and it wouldn’t matter against Ohio State. The goal here is to avoid injury and get on to playing someone their own size.