World-Herald staff writer Lee Barfknecht rates the Big Ten. Published in The World-Herald on Nov. 5.
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1. Ohio State (10-0, 6-0)
Last week: beat Illinois 52-22. Up next: idle. Wisconsin and Michigan stand between the Buckeyes and an undefeated season. Too bad the school arrogantly refused to accept a one-year bowl ban last year when it went 6-6.
2. Nebraska (7-2, 4-1)
Last week: beat Michigan State 28-24. Up next: Penn State, 2:30 p.m., ABC. Anybody print up those Cardiac Cornhusker shirts yet? That style of play is why orders for Rose Bowl gear are still on hold.
3. Penn State (6-3, 4-1)
Last week: beat Purdue 34-9. Up next: at Nebraska, 2:30 p.m., ABC. Don’t think this week’s trip to Lincoln will rattle the Nittany Lions in any way. This is a very smart and mentally tough team with a mission mentality.
4. Northwestern (7-2, 3-2)
Last week: idle. Up next: at Michigan, 11 a.m., ESPN. The Wildcats are still in the Legends title chase, but need to win out and get some help. The week off to heal some key injuries came at the right time.
5. Michigan (6-3, 4-1)
Last week: beat Minnesota 35-13. Up next: Northwestern, 11 a.m., ESPN. Nothing that coach Brady Hoke said about the future health of quarterback Denard Robinson can be believed after the optimistic fairy tale spun last week.
6. Wisconsin (6-3, 3-2)
Last week: idle. Up next: at Indiana, 11 a.m., ESPN2. A win Saturday against Indiana and the Badgers can book their trip to Indianapolis. The QB competition to replace Joel Stave (shoulder) will go through the week.
7. Michigan State (5-5, 2-4)
Last week: lost to Nebraska 28-24. Up next: idle. Not sure a week off is good for the Spartans. They might not want to come back. Have to beat Northwestern or Minnesota to get to a bowl.
8. Indiana (4-5, 2-3)
Last week: beat Iowa 24-21. Up next: Wisconsin, 11 a.m., ESPN2. Down 14 points early and four points late against Iowa, Indiana showed the maturity to fight back and keep its divisional title hopes alive.
9. Minnesota (5-4, 1-4)
Last week: lost to Michigan 35-13. Up next: at Illinois, 2:30 p.m., BTN. The Gophers have a great shot to lock up bowl eligibility this week. They deserve that for the progress made in Jerry Kill’s second season.
10. Iowa (4-5, 2-3)
Last week: lost to Indiana 24-21. Up next: Purdue, 11 a.m., BTN. If there is any good news to this season, it has been the serviceable work of the defense. Iowa is 29th nationally in scoring defense and 41st in total defense.
11. Purdue (3-6, 0-5)
Last week: lost to Penn State 34-9. Up next: at Iowa, 11 a.m., BTN. On a team in which defense was to have been a strength, the Boilermakers have allowed three teams to come into their stadium and roll up more than 500 yards.
12. Illinois (2-7, 0-5)
Last week: lost to Ohio State 52-22. Up next: Minnesota, 2:30 p.m., BTN. The losses keep on coming. Now, the injuries are piling up. The latest: Butkus semifinalist Jonathan Brown (shoulder), who left for good in the first quarter.