World-Herald staff writer Lee Barfknecht ranks the Big Ten conference football teams as published in The World-Herald on Nov. 18.
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1. Ohio State (10-0, 6-0)
Last week: beat Illinois 60-35. This week: Indiana, 11 a.m. BTN. After a bye week of BCS talk and a scrum with Illinois, coach Urban Meyer doesn't want to hear title talk again. “I'm learning a lesson,” he said. “Just shut your mouth and quit worrying about this.”
2. Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1)
Last week: beat Indiana 51-3. This week: at Minnesota, 2:30 p.m. ESPN. The pollsters and computers are woefully wrong about the Badgers. This is a highly tuned, well-rounded team that nobody in the country would enjoy playing right now.
3. Michigan State (9-1, 6-0)
Last week: beat Nebraska 41-28. This week: at Northwestern, 11 a.m. ESPN. The win at Nebraska gave the Spartans' senior class its 38th victory. That's a school record, topping the Class of 2011 led by QB Kirk Cousins.
4. Minnesota (8-2, 4-2)
Last week: Idle. This week: Wisconsin, 2:30 p.m. ESPN. The Gophers have become a national darling with their unexpected run to eight wins and overcoming the health trials of coach Jerry Kill. This could become a full-blown love affair if they beat Wisconsin this week or Michigan State the next.
5. Nebraska (7-3, 4-2)
Last week: lost to Michigan State 41-28. This week: at Penn State, 2:30 p.m. BTN. Same stuff, different day for the Huskers. Far too much talent on this roster to perform the way it does. Coaching and attention to detail are in short supply. And no quick-and-easy fixes are apparent.
6. Iowa (6-4, 3-3)
Last week: Idle. This week: Michigan, 11 a.m. BTN. The Hawkeyes are bowl eligible, but there really aren't that many signs of major improvement. It would help to add a victory over Michigan this week or Nebraska the next.
7. Penn State (6-4, 3-3)
Last week: beat Purdue 45-21. This week: Nebraska, 2:30 p.m. BTN. NCAA sanctions will sideline the Nittany Lions for the postseason. So what's to play for? It's Senior Day and a win over Nebraska guarantees a winning season.
8. Michigan (7-3, 3-3)
Last week: beat Northwestern 27-19, 3OT. This week: at Iowa, 11 a.m. BTN. You take your victories where you can get them, but slopping out the way the Wolverines did against Northwestern is almost too much. Maybe that took some sting out of UM losing the nation's No. 1 ranked recruit for 2014 to Alabama.
9. Indiana (4-6, 2-4)
Last week: lost to Wisconsin 51-3. This week: at Ohio State, 11 a.m. BTN. In a 48-point loss to Wisconsin, the Hoosiers got a reminder how far they are from this league's upper echelon. Indiana is improved, but the bowl hopes are gone.
10. Northwestern (4-6, 0-6)
Last week: lost to Michigan 27-19, 3OT. This week: Michigan State, 11 a.m. ESPN. The last time the Wildcats lost six straight conference games was 15 years ago when they went 0-8 in the final season of Gary Barnett. Keep all sharp objects away from coach Pat Fitzgerald.
11. Illinois (3-7, 0-6)
Last week: lost to Ohio State 60-35. This week: at Purdue, 11 a.m. BTN. From the comments Illini Athletic Director Mike Thomas made last week, this looks like the game that will either save or cost coach Tim Beckman's job. Maybe that's why Beckman and offensive coordinator Bill Cubit nearly came to blows on the sideline.
12. Purdue (1-9, 0-6)
Last week: lost to Penn State 45-21. This week: Illinois, 11 a.m. BTN. If the Boilermakers don't beat Illinois this week or Indiana the next, this will go down as one of the worst seasons by a Big Ten team in 20 years.