World-Herald staff writer Lee Barfknecht rates the Big Ten. Find out which team is on top. Published in The World-Herald on Oct. 15.
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1. Ohio State (7-0, 3-0)
Last week: beat Indiana 52-49. Up next: Purdue, 11 a.m., ABC. Quarterback Braxton Miller keeps piling up the yards and points, but he can't play defense, too. Spread offenses are openly gouging the Buckeyes.
2. Michigan (4-2, 2-0)
Last week: beat Illinois 45-0. Up next: Michigan State, 2:30 p.m., BTN. Since a bye week, the Wolverines have hammered Purdue and Illinois, hitting stride in time for a run at the Legends Division title.
3. Penn State (4-2, 2-0)
Last week: idle. Up next: at Iowa, 7 p.m., BTN. Why is PSU better than expected? Good quarterback play (Matt McGloin 17 TDs, two turnovers) and strong defense (No. 1 in the Big Ten in the red zone, forced 12 turnovers).
4. Northwestern (6-1, 2-1)
Last week: beat Minnesota 21-13. Up next: Nebraska, 2:30 p.m., ABC. Scratch your head all you want at what you see from the Wildcats, then tip your hat to them because they keep winning. Ugly or not, they all count.
5. Iowa (4-2, 2-0)
Last week: beat Michigan State 19-16 in 2 OTs. Up next: Penn State, 7 p.m., BTN. Road wins inside the division are extra special when seeking a title. The Hawkeyes now have such a victory, helping fans forget the early season ugliness.
6. Nebraska (4-2, 1-1)
Last week: idle. Up next: at Northwestern, 2:30 p.m., ABC. Bo Pelini has thrown down the gauntlet about needing to win out. But the Huskers have to prove they can win a road game before thinking about running the table.
7. Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1)
Last week: beat Purdue 38-14. Up next: Minnesota, 11 a.m., ESPNU. Give Bret Bielema credit for his changes at quarterback and in offensive line coaching. He saw problems early, addressed them and now likely will get to Indy.
8. Michigan State (4-3, 1-2)
Last week: lost to Iowa 19-16 in 2 OTs. Up next: at Michigan, 2:30 p.m., BTN. The way things are crumbling for the Spartans, it's not outrageous to ask where the two remaining wins come from for bowl eligibility.
9. Minnesota (4-2, 0-2)
Last week: lost to Northwestern 21-13. Up next: at Wisconsin, 11 a.m., ESPNU. Both quarterbacks — Max Shortell (head), MarQueis Gray (ankle) — had to leave the game Saturday at times. UM can't afford any injuries.
10. Purdue (3-3, 0-2)
Last week: lost to Wisconsin 38-14. Up next: at Ohio State, 11 a.m., ABC. In the two biggest games of coach Danny Hope's four years, the Boilermakers lost 44-13 and 38-14 the past two weeks. And both were at home.
11. Indiana (2-4, 0-3)
Last week: lost to Ohio State 52-49. Up next: at Navy, 2:30 p.m., CBS College Sports. Somebody with a better record is going to end up on the wrong side of the scoreboard against the offensive-minded Hoosiers eventually.
12. Illinois (2-5, 0-3)
Last week: lost to Michigan 45-0. Up next: idle. Illini fans are petitioning for the open-date week to be extended through late November. This program is in ugly free fall under new coach Tim Beckman, outscored 111-21 in league play.