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October 8, 2013Big Ten, Week Six power rankings. Plenty of movement on the list this week, with a familiar team at No. 1.
1. Ohio State (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten, Beat Northwestern 40-30). The Buckeyes got some breaks for the second week in a row and beat arguably the second (or third) best team in the conference in the Wildcats behind quarterback Braxton Miller. The Bucks beat Wisconsin a week earlier and should now cruise into their season ending match-up at Michigan undefeated and with a Leaders Division title wrapped up.
2. Wisconsin (3-2, 1-1, Bye). Wisconsin blew its chance to upset Ohio State with some late first half gaffes, but the Badgers were robbed of an opportunity at a last second field goal by poor officiating in a loss at Arizona State. They're the Big Ten's second best team right now, and they'll prove it when they handle Northwestern at home this weekend. Wisconsin was a 10.5-point favorite last we'd checked.
3. Northwestern (4-1, 0-1, Lost to Ohio State 40-30). The Ohio State game was there for the taking, but the Wildcats settled for field goals in the first half, fumbled a fourth down snap that would have kept a late drive alive and succumbed to a better Buckeyes team in the second half. Still, the Wildcats proved they're very good. Getting back Venric Mark back helps, but the schedule prevents a Legends title.
4. Michigan (5-0, 1-0, Beat Minnesota 42-13). They say the most flawed team is the one you cover on a regular basis - that could be why we have an undefeated Michigan team No. 4. The Wolverines aren't perfect on either side of the ball and don't have that one thing they can hang their hats on. They did improve against the Gophers, but they'll have to get much better to beat some of the others on the schedule. Devin Funchess' emergence as a pass catcher helps a receiving corps looking for a boost, but the defense needs Jake Ryan.
5. Michigan State (4-1, 1-0, Beat Iowa 26-14). MSU, meanwhile, does have something to hang its hat on - a defense that is likely the best in the Big Ten. The Spartans are improving on offense, too, behind quarterback Connor Cook, who played well in a win at improving Iowa. The Hawkeyes still have plenty of question marks, but it's clear Michigan State is making strides. Wide receiver Macgarrett Kings caught five passes for 94 yards at Iowa and has emerged as a threat. MSU could be No. 2 or 3 on this list in a few weeks.
6. Nebraska (4-1, 1-0, Beat Illinois 39-19). Offense has never really been an issue for the Cornhuskers, even with quarterback Taylor Martinez hurting. The defense had been downright bad, though, but took a step forward in a win over the Illini. Illinois looked as though it was ready to make a move in the conference and had been playing well before Nebraska brought the Illini back to reality.
7. Iowa (4-2, 1-1, lost to MSU 26-14). The Hawkeyes seemed to be improving, but they couldn't move the ball in the second half against a tough Michigan State defense. Worse yet, the Spartans seemed to move the ball at will, and they're not exactly the conference standard on offense. Iowa is tough in the trenches but still seems to lacking playmakers on both sides of the ball.
8. Indiana (3-2, 1-0, Beat PSU 44-24). We knew the Hoosiers could score, but we didn't expect them to have as much success defensively as they did against the Nittany Lions. Indiana's offense put on another show in the big win, but it will be tested in a big way Saturday at Michigan State.
9. Penn State (3-2, 0-1, Lost to Indiana 44-24). Special teams and defense have been a major disappointment, but the offense is still dangerous behind freshman Christian Hackenburg. PSU has a chance to cure a lot of ills with a victory over Michigan, and the Nittany Lions will be tough to beat at home in that environment, even if they aren't very good.
10. Illinois (3-2, 0-1, Lost to Nebraska 39-19). We thought Illinois had turned a corner and had a chance to make a statement at Nebraska. They did - they're still too inconsistent to be taken seriously. They'll have a chance with their offense when quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is playing well, but when he's not - well, No. 10 in the Big Ten says it all.
11. Minnesota (4-2, 0-2, Lost to U-M 42-13). Mitch Leidner gives the Gophers a shot in the arm at quarterback, but Minnesota lacks playmakers outside a talented tight end. The Golden Gophers can be competitive, but they're still lacking talent to be anything but an occasional spoiler.
12. Purdue (1-4, 0-1, Bye). New quarterback Danny Etling will have a chance to pull the Boilermakers out of the basement. It's not an enviable task for the league's worst team.