World-Herald staff writer Lee Barfknecht ranks the Big Ten conference football teams as published in The World-Herald on Oct. 21.
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1. Ohio State (7-0, 3-0)
Last week: beat Iowa 34-24. This week: Penn State. 7 p.m., ABC. The standard is sky-high in Buckeye land. So even when OSU is undefeated, fans and media dissect why wins weren't easier and by bigger margins.
2. Wisconsin (5-2, 3-1)
Last week: beat Illinois 56-32. This week: Idle. How important is linebacker Chris Borland to the Badgers? UW led Illinois 21-0 before Borland left with a hamstring injury. The score after that was 35-32.
3. Michigan State (6-1, 3-0)
Last week: beat Purdue 14-0. This week: at Illinois, 2:30 p.m., ABC. In this league, any win is a good win, even when you have to hold your nose and score on defense and with a trick play to beat Purdue at home.
4. Nebraska (5-1, 2-0)
Last week: Idle. This week: at Minnesota, 11 a.m., ESPN. The Huskers should have had their eyes opened watching Minnesota win at Northwestern. Don't get lulled to sleep. Just take care of business and get to 3-0 entering November.
5. Michigan (6-1, 2-1)
Last week: beat Indiana 63-47. This week: Idle. College football may have never seen a 6-1 team with so many question marks. Wild shootouts isn't the identity Brady Hoke wants, but that's what he'll have to live with for now.
6. Penn State (4-2, 1-1)
Last week: Idle. This week: at Ohio State, 7 p.m., ABC. Dear Big Ten office: This is why you schedule night games. This is an excellent matchup of name brands that fans around the country will pay attention to.
7. Iowa (4-3, 1-2)
Last week: lost to Ohio State 34-24. This week: Northwestern, 11 a.m., BTN. The Hawkeyes are much improved. They are still missing an electric playmaker in the backfield and the secondary, but things are looking up.
8. Minnesota (5-2, 1-2)
Last week: beat Northwestern 20-17. This week: Nebraska, 11 a.m., ESPN. An emotional win at Northwestern, with coach Jerry Kill in the press box, smooths the path toward six wins and bowl eligibility.
9. Indiana (3-4, 1-2)
Last week: lost to Michigan 63-47. This week: Idle. Here are the point totals the Hoosiers have allowed in their past six conference games the past two seasons: 62, 45, 56, 24, 42, 63. That's the definition of a disturbing trend.
10. Northwestern (4-3, 0-3)
Last week: lost to Minnesota 20-17. This week: at Iowa, 11 a.m., BTN. The Wildcats are in total free-fall. Injuries to RB Venric Mark and QB Kain Colter haven't helped. But we've gone from title talk to worries about making a bowl.
11. Illinois (3-3, 0-2)
Last week: lost to Wisconsin 56-32. This week: Michigan State, 2:30 p.m., ABC. The Illini's Big Ten losing streak has grown to 16 games in three seasons. Don't look for any better news this week with Michigan State coming to town.
12. Purdue (1-6, 0-3)
Last week: lost to Michigan State 14-0. This week: Idle. Nobody buys the old moral victory tale. But Purdue went on the road after a miserable home showing vs. Nebraska and scared the Spartans to the end. That's a plus.