World-Herald Big Ten beat writer Lee Barfknecht ranks the conference from top to bottom, as published in The World-Herald on Oct. 14.
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1. Ohio State (6-0, 2-0)
Last week: Idle. This week: Iowa, 2:30 p.m., ABC. Buckeye fans and coaches are looking for quarterback Braxton Miller to cut loose in the running game after a week off provided more healing time for his sprained knee.
2. Wisconsin (4-2, 2-1)
Last week: beat Northwestern 35-6. This week: at Illinois, 7 p.m., BTN. The Badgers will be a strong favorite in their remaining six regular-season games. But they still need Ohio State to lose twice for a Big Ten title bid.
3. Michigan State (5-1, 2-0)
Last week: beat Indiana 42-28. This week: Purdue, 11 a.m., BTN. Look at that point total on the scoreboard next to Michigan State: 42. That production and back-to-back 400-yard games have boosted MSU's title hopes.
4. Nebraska (5-1, 2-0)
Last week: beat Purdue 44-7. This week: Idle. OK, so Purdue is bad and Illinois isn't very good, either. All you can do is play the teams on the schedule and get better. Looks like some young defenders are reading their playbooks.
5. Michigan (5-1, 1-1)
Last week: lost to Penn State 43-40 in 4OTs. This week: Indiana, 2:30 p.m., BTN. Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner gives (361 total yards, three touchdowns) and he taketh away (two interceptions, a lost fumble). That ain't changing.
6. Northwestern (4-2, 0-2)
Last week: lost to Wisconsin 35-6. This week: Minnesota, 11 a.m., ESPN2. A close loss to Wisconsin would have been understandable. Getting manhandled raises doubt about where the Wildcats fit in the Legends Division.
7. Penn State (4-2, 1-1)
Last week: beat Michigan 43-40 in 4OTs. This week: Idle. Look for PSU coach Bill O'Brien's attitude to go from snippy last week to zippy this week after this crazy win. It was a key victory for a team needing a mental boost.
8. Indiana (3-3, 1-1)
Last week: lost to Michigan State 42-28. This week: at Michigan, 2:30 p.m., BTN. The Hoosiers have bowl eligibility in sight with games against Minnesota, Illinois and Purdue. But they sure would like a big upset some day.
9. Iowa (4-2, 1-1)
Last week: Idle. This week: at Ohio State, 2:30 p.m., ABC. The Hawkeyes hopefully used their open week wisely. Up next are Ohio State, Northwestern and Wisconsin.
10. Illinois (3-2, 0-1)
Last week: Idle. This week: Wisconsin, 7 p.m., BTN. Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah ran for 225 yards on Illinois' under-talented defense. Don't be shocked if Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon tops that number this week.
11. Minnesota (4-2, 0-2)
Last week: Idle. This week: at Northwestern, 11 a.m., ESPN2. Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Jim Souhan wrote that Gophers coach Jerry Kill should resign for health reasons. The suggested hire? Former Minnesota coach Glen Mason.
12. Purdue (1-5, 0-2)
Last week: lost to Nebraska 44-7. This week: at Michigan State, 11 a.m., BTN. Can the Boilermakers win another game? Home contests in November against Iowa and Illinois look like the only chances, and those are slim chances.