Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Big Ten Power Rankings - Week Six

1. Penn State (1) 6-0 W: 20-6 @ Purdue
Sure, Penn State failed to blow Purdue out of the water, but they were in control of the game from beginning to end and won their first conference game on the road. They’re still undefeated and facing a trip to Camp Randall. Running back Evan Royster is carrying a nice load of the offense (18-141, one touchdown), while the defense held Purdue to 241 yards total offense. Before the imminent clash of the titans in two weeks against Ohio State, the Lions have that stop in Wisconsin. Can you say “trap game”?

2. Ohio State (2) 5-1 W: 20-17 @ Wisconsin
At Wisconsin, Buckeye sensation Terrelle Pryor had big shoes to fill - he filled them, ran with them, and ran away with the distaste of the 80,000+ faithful in Madison. Two questions: 1) who does opposing defenses key against: Pryor, Beanie Wells, or Brian Hartline/Brian Robiskie and 2) Who wants to play Ohio State now?

3. Michigan State (3) 5-1 W: 16-13 vs. Iowa
Michigan State rounds off the upper echelon of the conference with a nice win against a tough Iowa squad. Running back Javon Ringer was held in check and scoreless for the first time this season (25-91 yards), but the Spartan defense stood strong against a late Hawkeye surge. A road tester against Northwestern will help continue to build credibility for a team already on the rise.

4. Illinois (7) 3-2 W: 45-20 @ Michigan
Excellent regroup after a bad loss last week (38-24 at Penn State). Thanks to a Big House record-breaking performance by Juice Williams (421 total yards), Illinois put up 500 yards on what was previously a formidable Wolverine defense. Illinois’ losses to two top-six ranked teams hang heavy, but this win may be a nice launching pad to make a run at the conference title.

5. Northwestern (5) 5-0 BYE
Northwestern rested up over their bye week. If the Wildcats take care of Michigan State at home, they have two or three winnable games after that (Purdue, at Indiana, at Minnesota), putting them in a serious position to spoil bowl positioning for the rest of the conference or, better, to earn an “A+” in gym class by taking the conference crown. They’re still too untested to rank higher.

6. Minnesota (6) 5-1 W: 16-7 vs. Indiana

Nothing flashy for Minnesota against the Hoosiers- they couldn’t get their ground game going but made up for it with solid quarterback play by Adam Weber (22-37, 274 yards). The Gophers shut out Indiana in the second half, slowly pulling away with three field goals from Joel Monroe (29, 42, 38 yards). Illinois is next, and a win would help build momentum and keep a dream season alive.

7. Wisconsin (4) 3-2 L: 38-24 @ Penn State
Two blown first half leads (19-0 at Michigan, 13-10 vs. Ohio State) are the first two for Coach Brett Bielema (previously 18-0) after starting the season undefeated. The Ohio State game proves much more costly than one loss – had they won, the Badgers would be right back in the thick of conference/BCS implications. Now, Wisconsin is in serious jeopardy of dropping three straight with Penn State coming to town. The Badgers can’t be happy with their schedulers either – this is the first time a team has ever started their conference schedule against Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State. Wisconsin has much more at stake now – their pride.

8. Iowa (9) 3-3 L: 16-13 @ Michigan State
Running back Shonn Greene (30-157 yards) outplayed Michigan State’s Ringer and continues to be a shining star in an otherwise punchless offense. The recipe exists for the Hawkeyes to be successful (strong rushing, solid defense), but their red zone offense and turnover margin are holding them back from beating comparable or better teams. This three game skid must end next week (at Indiana) before they square off against Wisconsin, Illinois, and Penn State.

9. Purdue (10) 2-3 L: 20-6 vs. Penn State
College football is really about confidence. Don’t believe so? If Purdue had pulled off their overtime game against Oregon (which they were leading), they go into South Bend at 3-0. Against Notre Dame, they had the lead and could have blown them out, but instead found a way to lose by three. With this as Purdue’s backdrop, don’t you think the Boilermakers would have liked their chances a little more had they hosted the Nittany Lions at 4-0 instead of 2-2? You can bet on it. Next up? Ohio State.

10. Michigan (8) 2-3 L: 45-20 vs. Illinois
I can’t describe Michigan right now any better than as a partially eaten, discarded ice cream sundae: sweet, fun, and refreshing at first, but eventually turning soft and inconsistent with some lonely rainbow sprinkles (Wisconsin win) slowly running down the side of the cup. If it weren’t for the turnover margin, self-destructing offense and underachieving defense, I may have placed them higher. Luckily, Toledo comes to Ann Arbor next. Or is it lucky?

11. Indiana (11) 2-3 L: 16-7 @ Minnesota
Indiana falls in the middle of the pack for essentially every team statistic in the Big Ten except for penalties and turnovers, which they are last. Maybe the Hoosiers need a hard-taught lesson that discipline counts. Scoring too – they are third in total offense (421 yards/game) but only sixth in points (26.4/game). A visit from Iowa’s third ranked defense (281 yards/game) won’t make it easy for the Hoosiers to move in the right direction.