World-Herald staff writer Lee Barfknecht rates the Big Ten football teams, as published in The World-Herald on Sept. 16.
* * *
1. Ohio State (3-0)
Last week: beat California 52-34. This week: Florida A&M, 11 a.m., BTN. Did you hear about the Buckeyes' quarterback controversy? Senior backup Kenny Guiton, in place of injured starter Braxton Miller, earned national offensive player of the week honors with 368 yards and four touchdowns in a thrashing of California.
2. Michigan (3-0)
Last week: beat Akron 28-24. This week: at Connecticut, 7 p.m., ABC. In one week, quarterback Devin Gardner went from newfound star after a win over Notre Dame to turnover machine by losing the ball four times in the Wolverines' scary victory over Akron.
3. Northwestern (3-0)
Last week: beat Western Michigan 38-17. This week: Maine, 2:30 p.m., BTN. Good teams have the depth to carry on with a key player injured. That's happening with the Wildcats as tailback Treyvon Green, in place of All-American Venric Mark (leg), topped 125 yards rushing for the second time in three games.
4. Wisconsin (2-1)
Last week: lost to Arizona State 32-30. This week: Purdue, 2:30 p.m., ABC. The Badgers let a great chance at a tough road victory slip away with a questionable end-game decision. But that doesn't diminish the effort, which was far better than other Big Ten teams have produced at Arizona State in many years.
5. Michigan State (3-0)
Last week: beat Youngstown State 55-17. This week: at Notre Dame, 2:30 p.m., NBC. For one week, the Spartans clicked on offense, with sophomore Connor Cook (15 of 22 passing, four TDs) in control. But doing it against an FCS team and doing it this week against Notre Dame are different deals.
6. Nebraska (2-1)
Last week: lost to UCLA 41-21. This week: South Dakota State, 2:30 p.m., BTN. The Huskers picked a team motto before the season of R.A.C., which stands for “relentless, accountable and competitive.” In the UCLA game, they finished 0 for 3 in those categories. Somebody has to take charge here.
7. Penn State (2-1)
Last week: lost to Central Florida 34-31. This week: Kent State, 2:30 p.m., BTN. The Nittany Lions never led at home against Central Florida as the defense gave up 507 yards, including 10 plays of 20 yards or more. There are certain days Penn State's lack of depth will show plainly.
8. Illinois (2-1)
Last week: lost to Washington 34-24. This week: idle. The Fighting Illini continue to surprise, pushing No. 19 Washington deep into the fourth quarter. But the defense got dented for 615 yards.
9. Minnesota (3-0)
Last week: beat Western Illinois 29-12. This week: San Jose State, 11 a.m., ESPN2. Head coach Jerry Kill's health situation continues to overshadow anything this team does on the field — and that's unfortunate on all counts. Starting QB Philip Nelson's bad hamstring is a concern.
10. Indiana (2-1)
Last week: beat Bowling Green 42-10. This week: Missouri, 7 p.m., BTN. In the win over Bowling Green, the Hoosiers held an opponent without an offensive touchdown for the first time in 61 games.
11. Iowa (2-1)
Last week: beat Iowa State 27-21. This week: Western Michigan, 11 a.m, BTN. Nice win for the Hawkeyes, but they still haven't beaten an opponent that has an FBS victory. Give coordinator Greg Davis credit for riding workhorse tailback Mark Weisman long and hard against an undersized ISU defense.
12. Purdue (1-2)
Last week: lost to Notre Dame 31-24. This week: at Wisconsin, 2:30 p.m., ABC. No team in the country made a bigger one-week turnaround than the Boilermakers, from struggling against an FCS foe to nearly knocking off Notre Dame. So which is the real Purdue?