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September 30, 2013

Around the Big Ten: Week Five Power Rankings

Several Big Ten teams had byes in Week Five, but some made waves with big wins. Here are the latest conference power rankings ...

1. Ohio State (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten: Beat Wisconsin, 31-24): Braxton Miller, Kenny Guiton - it doesn't matter who's at the helm for the Buckeyes, they just keep rolling. OSU looked vulnerable against the pass in a 31-24 win over Wisconsin but did what was necessary to win its 17th straight game, the nation's best streak. OSU plays at Northwestern next week in another big conference test.

2. Northwestern (4-0, 0-0: Bye): The Wildcats haven't been great in their last two games, last beating Maine 35-21. But they have playmakers on offense and play with pride under head coach Pat Fitzgerald. If not for the schedule, they might be the favorite in the Legends Division.

3. Wisconsin (3-2, 1-1: Lost to OSU, 31-24): Somehow, the Badgers continue to be among the biggest, strongest and best in the Big Ten despite marginal recruiting classes. They might well be the second best team in the Big Ten, but they lost their chance at a conference championship berth during week one. A couple of bounces and they'd have been in the driver's seat.

4. Michigan (4-0, 0-0): The Wolverines needed rallies to beat two of college football's worst teams, the second (UConn) of which just fired its coach. Quarterback Devin Gardner needs to stop turning the ball over and a (revamped?) offensive line has to get better push and provide better protection if the Wolverines want to compete for a Legends Division title.

5. Iowa (4-1, 1-0: Beat Minnesota, 23-7): The Hawkeyes are looking like the Hawkeyes of old. They dominated Minnesota in the trenches and held the Golden Gophers to only seven points at home. Quarterback Jake Rudock continues to make strides. The Hawkeyes will get a test from Michigan State this weekend, but will the Spartans be able to move the ball against this defense? Iowa City in November won't be easy for U-M>

6: Penn State (3-1, 0-0: Bye): Freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg had a week to scout an Indiana defense that looks worse on film than it does on paper. The Nittany Lions lost at home to Central Florida, but UCF is formidable. This is a program with momentum after the NCAA softened some of its sanctions, very well coached and usually tough at home. U-M travels to Happy Valley in two weeks.

7. Michigan State (3-1, 0-0: Bye): With any offense whatsoever, the Spartans would be the favorite in the Legends Division. They can still make some noise with their soft schedule, but they'll have to start Saturday at Iowa. That's a tough task for even a good offensive football team. This one lacks playmakers at just about every offensive position.

T-7: Nebraska (3-1, 0-0: Bye): The Cornhuskers still have no defense, which doesn't bode well with red hot Illinois coming to town. The Illini appear to be one of the Big Ten's most improved teams behind quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. Nebraska will always be able to score as long as quarterback Taylor Martinez is healthy, but he's nursing an injured toe.

9. Illinois (3-1, 0-0): The Fighting Illini lost by a touchdown to Washington a few weeks back, fighting back from a big deficit, and put up 600-plus yards of offense in a rout of Miami (Ohio). Illinois could make things interesting in the Leaders Division should the Illini win at Nebraska this week - and it's not out of the question.

10. Minnesota (4-1, 0-1: Lost to Iowa, 23-7): As usual, Minnesota faltered when the competition got stiffer. Iowa controlled the Gophers and held the Minnesota running game (and offense) in check to capture the pig trophy. It doesn't get any easier next week with a trip to rested Michigan on the docket.

11. Indiana (2-2, 0-0: Bye): The Hoosiers can move the ball, but they can't stop anyone. They gave up 600-plus yards to Missouri in a blowout loss last week and next face a freshman quarterback in PSU's Christian Hackenberg who can carve up good defenses. If it's not a track meet, Indiana will probably have no shot.

12. Purdue (1-4, 0-1: Lost to Northern Illinois, 55-24): And that was on homecoming. No heart, no leadership, nothing positive for this Purdue team, other than it gets a bye this week and avoids another loss.


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