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September 25, 2013

Around the Big Ten: Week Four Power Rankings

A weekly look at the Big Ten power rankings. Ohio State remains at the top after another big win while Michigan slips again …

1: Ohio State (4-0; beat Florida A&M, 76-0) Backup quarterback Kenny Guiton threw for six touchdowns in the first half, opening up a 56-0 halftime lead for the Buckeyes. OSU continued to roll through the non-conference portion of its schedule, as it should have, and faces its first test Saturday night when it hosts Wisconsin in what should be a telling game.

2: Northwestern (4-0; Beat Maine, 35-21):
It wasn't a great day for the Wildcats. They gave up 379 yards and 23 first downs to the Black Bears, but they also returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns and played again without outstanding back Venric Mark. The Wildcats get a week off before hosting Ohio State in their first big test of the year.

3: Wisconsin (3-1; Beat Purdue, 42-10): Only poor officiating at Arizona State cost the Badgers a solid shot at 4-0, and they might well be the second best (maybe even the best) team in the Big Ten at this point. That's not saying much right now, of course. But Saturday night at Ohio State will be interesting, nonetheless. Can a team that's been dominant on the ground do it in Columbus?

4: Michigan (4-0; beat UConn, 24-21): The Wolverines needed a rally to beat the Huskies, down 21-7 in the second half. Though they improved defensively, the offense looks lost at times and has become a turnover machine. The interior line problems are still there, too, and even the defense is allowing too many big plays. Still more questions than answers heading into Big Ten play.

5: Michigan State (3-1; Lost to Notre Dame, 17-13): The Spartans stalled on offense behind Connor Cook, replacing him late with Andrew Maxwell, and their clutch and grab defense cost them a number of pass interference penalties. MSU has the defense and the schedule to compete in the Legends Division and will be a player despite a lousy offense.

6: Penn State (3-1; Beat Kent State, 34-0): Freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg struggled to 13 for 35 passing but the PSU defense was outstanding, holding KSU to nine first downs and 190 yards. The Nittany Lions get a week off before opening Big Ten play at Indiana in what could be a tricky game.

7: Nebraska (3-1; Beat South Dakota St., 59-20): The Cornhuskers gave up a boatload of rushing yardage and fell behind 17-14 after the first quarter before pulling away. Still, the defense is lousy. It gave up 465 yards and 25 first downs along with 227 yards rushing.

8: Minnesota (4-0; Beat San Jose State, 43-24) Michigan's first Big Ten opponent has yet to play anyone great, but the Gophers have taken care of business. San Jose State put up 486 yards and moved the ball through the air, but Minnesota rode back-up quarterback Mitch Leidner to victory. The Gophers play Iowa at home Saturday to open Big Ten play.

9: Iowa (3-1; Beat Western Michigan, 59-3) The Hawkeyes aren't there yet, but they're improving. They scored four non-offensive touchdowns in hammering the Broncos and held WMU to nine first downs. Quarterback Jake Rudock continues to improve.

10: Illinois (2-1; Bye) The Illini have pieces, led by quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, and seem to have improved. They'll play Miami (Ohio) Saturday before opening Big Ten play at Nebraska Oct. 5.

11: Indiana (2-2; Lost to Missouri, 45-28) The Hoosiers can move the ball - they just can't stop anybody. They gave up a school record 623 yards to the Tigers on 97 plays, and quarterback Nate Sudfeld threw three picks.

12: Purdue (1-3; lost to Wisconsin 41-10): The Boilermakers stayed close with the Badgers for a quarter and a half before Wisconsin pulled away. The Boilers only managed 180 net yards and gave up 388 rushing. They play Northern Illinois before facing Nebraska Oct. 12.

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