Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Big Ten Power Rankings - Week Eleven


1. Penn State (1) 9-1 L: 24-23 at Iowa

Not the Nittany Lions’ best effort. A 30-mph headwind did not help matters, but seemed to bother Penn State more than Iowa. With the wind at their back in the third quarter, Penn State could not pull away; in the fourth quarter, Daryll Clark’s (9-23, 86 yards, one interception) third and long pass to Derrick Williams sailed high and was intercepted by Iowa, setting up their game-winning drive. All is not lost — just the Lions’ national championship hopes and an undefeated season…the Rose Bowl now looms as a disappointing consolation prize.

2. Ohio State (2) 8-2 W: 45-10 at Northwestern
Quarterback Terrelle Pryor looked calm and determined coming off the loss to Penn State. He kept plays alive with his feet and notched three scores with his arm. He was complemented nicely by the powerful running of Beanie Wells (28, 140 yards, two touchdowns) and a stout defense that gave up 294 yards and 10 points while taking the ball away three times. The Buckeyes are staring down another ten-win season (at Illinois, Michigan).

3. Michigan State (3) 9-2 W: 21-7 at Purdue

The Spartans handled Purdue for almost the game’s entirety, surrendering the sole Boilermaker touchdown with just under a minute left in the game. Michigan State, with Penn State’s loss and an extra game played, actually holds a half-game lead in the conference; their fate will likely be determined in their showdown with Penn State to end the season. Meanwhile, running back Javon Ringer (32, 121 yards, two touchdowns) should rest up after logging his 353rd carry of the season and FBS-leading 20th touchdown. Thumbs up to the defense for holding Purdue under 200 total yards.

4. Iowa (7) 6-4 W: 24-23 vs. Penn State
They did it. Coach Kirk Ferentz said before the game they needed to play perfect football to beat Penn State. It wasn’t quite perfect, but it was good enough. The Hawkeyes punched Penn State in the mouth immediately; pressuring Penn State’s passing attack and containing their rushing. Iowa limited Penn St. to almost half of their average offensive output (289 total yards). Daniel Murray ignored the gusty conditions and became the Iowa City hero, booting the game-winning field goal from 31 yards to seal the upset. Game balls go to Shonn Greene (tenth consecutive 100-yard rushing [28, 117 yards, two touchdowns]) and mother nature.

5. Northwestern (4) 7-3 L: 45-10 vs. Ohio State

The battle of quarterbacks between freshman Terrelle Pryor and back-up Mike Kafka (260 total yards, one touchdown) undoubtedly goes to the Buckeye. The Wildcats’ defense simply did not have an answer to Pryor’s fleet feet or Beanie Wells’ power running. Northwestern just looked outmatched against Ohio State (again), but can rebound next week on the road against Michigan.

6. Minnesota (5) 7-3 L: 29-6 vs. Michigan
Minnesota lost their leading receiver Eric Decker early in the game and could not find a way to recover offensively. Scoring in the first half certainly would have kept Minnesota in the game as their defense limited the Wolverines to five field goals in their first six scoring drives. Adam Weber had a tough go at it (13-24, 105 yards, one interception) and the Gophers were out-rushed 232-83.

7. Wisconsin (8) 5-5 W: 55-20 at Indiana

The three-headed monster of P.J. Hill, John Clay and David Gilreath combined for 406 yards and six touchdowns on the ground and the Badgers totaled 441 total rushing yards, tying the Memorial Stadium record. Wisconsin will host Minnesota and Cal Poly to finish off the season, both winnable games. Dustin Sherer (64-122, 770 yards, three touchdowns, four interceptions) and Allan Evridge (71-132, 949 yards, five touchdowns, five interceptions) have similar numbers at quarterback, so it seems the Badgers live and die by the run game. Run, Bucky, run!

8. Illinois (7) 5-5 L: 23-17 vs. Western Michigan
A bad hiccup on Illinois’ path toward bowl eligibility. Juice Williams threw two costly interceptions, which led to 14 Western Michigan points. A Toledo-Michigan replay? Like Michigan against Toledo’s Nick Moore, Illinois was unable to stop big, shifty receiver JeMarko Simmons, who gashed the Illini defense with 11 catches, 174 yards and a touchdown. Illinois now has two shots (Ohio State, at Northwestern) left at bowl eligibility, but may very well need both victories to find their way into the post-season.

9. Purdue (10) 3-7 L:21-7 vs. Michigan State
Purdue’s success against the Michigan team from Ann Arbor last week was squashed by the Michigan team from East Lansing this week. Dustin Siller and Kory Sheets combined for 182 yards and zero touchdowns (compared to last week – 461 yards, six touchdowns). They could not take advantage of four Spartans’ turnovers, while giving up a back-breaking interception returned for a score just before halftime. Bowl eligibility has now officially been squandered, so Purdue is left playing for Coach Joe Tiller, whose coaching pulse is down to two beats in 120 minutes.

10. Michigan (11) 3-7 W: 29-6 at Minnesota

Michigan sails up the rankings this week after keeping the Little Brown Jug in a surprising, yet impressive win over Minnesota. The defensive line implored the coaches to shift them back to a four-man front, which worked like a charm. After all this “change”, Michigan’s traditional base 4-2-5 contained Minnesota to six points (first half shutout), 83 yards rushing and 105 yards passing. Nick Sheridan took the offensive reins like a veteran (18-30, 203 yards, two touchdowns), but the Wolverines kept Minnesota off balance with 232 rushing yards. Third-string quarterback Justin Feagin lost his red-shirt but showed flashes of his running ability with 49 yards on seven carries. Potential energy yields kinetic energy in the presence of a catalyst. Was this Michigan’s catalyst?

11. Indiana (9) 3-7 L: 55-20 vs. Wisconsin

Holding onto conference’s worst slot is shaping up to be quite the battle. This week’s three-way scuffle leaves Indiana picking up the pieces after getting blown out by Wisconsin. The Hoosiers were unable to stop the Wisconsin ground attack, and needed a MASH unit to deal with their quarterback injuries. Thankfully, Purdue and Indiana square off at season’s end to settle this log-jam at the bottom of the conference on the field.