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October 14, 2013

Around the Big Ten: Week Seven Power Rankings

This weeks's Big Ten power rankings. Michigan falls after a disappointing loss, while others continue to improve.

1. Ohio State (6-0, 2-0, Bye): Ohio State's nation-best 18-game winning streak remained intact after a bye week. The Buckeyes are the clear class of the conference and have already beaten the only team good enough to challenge them in Wisconsin. There are few big tests left on the schedule, too, especially with the way Michigan's been playing. Iowa is next up.

2. Wisconsin (4-2, 2-1, beat Northwestern 35-6): The Badgers are likely to win the rest of the games on their schedule, but they won't get a rematch with the Buckeyes, obviously, being in the same division. This team is balanced and physical, capable of wearing most opponents down with the running game but underrated as a passing team.

3. Nebraska (5-1, 2-0, beat Purdue 44-7): Nebraska isn't great, but the Cornhuskers are the third best team in the conference, at least for now. They're doing something Michigan isn't - improving on a weekly basis - especially on defense. This team is a microcosm of much of the conference in that its good enough to compete within it, not so much outside of it.

4. Michigan State (5-1, 2-0, beat Indiana 42-28): If not for playing at Nebraska instead of at home, the Spartans might be the favorite to win the Legends Division (and might be anyway). They're also improving on a weekly basis, particularly on offense, and are as physical as anyone in the conference. They could well be No. 2 on this list in a few weeks and set to battle OSU for the conference title.

5. Michigan (5-1, 1-1, lost to PSU 43-40): Season on the brink was the name of Bob Knight's book, and it might be appropriate given that's where U-M is heading into Indiana week following a loss to a bad Penn State team. Turnovers, poor decisions and missed opportunities down the stretch kept the Wolverines from heading into game seven undefeated, and it shouldn't have happened. Six weeks in, this is still a team without an identity.

6. Northwestern (4-2, 0-2, lost at Wisconsin 35-6): We've predicted the Wildcats would fall victim to their schedule and they have, allowing 75 points in the last two games. There are still a number of tough games remaining on the schedule, too, including tilts with Michigan State and Michigan. This is a good football team that could have won a Legends title with, say, MSU's schedule.

7. Iowa (4-2, 1-1, bye): The Hawkeyes didn't play following a disappointing, 26-14 home loss to Michigan State. They'd seemed to be making progress to that point, and this is still a solid football team in the trenches. They'll likely get spanked at Ohio State this weekend, but they'll be a tough out at home - where they get Michigan in the second to last game on the schedule.

8. Indiana (3-3, 1-1, lost at MSU 42-28): Indiana gave MSU a game for three quarters and is capable of hanging with, maybe beating, most of the teams in the middle of the Big Ten pack. The up-tempo offense is tough to defend, and the defense, while extremely inconsistent, has its moments and is a bit more athletic than usual. This is not a good team, but it's not terrible.

9. Penn State (4-2, 1-1, beat U-M 43-40):The Nittany Lions took a gift from Michigan after losing at Indiana, but this is not a good football team. They'll be lucky to go .500 in the league even with talented quarterback Christian Hackenberg playing at a high level. There are plenty of holes, no depth and not enough playmakers, but the team does play with heart and is well coached.

10. Illinois (3-2, 0-1, bye): We thought the Fighting Illini had turned a corner, but they looked like the Illinois of old in a blowout loss to Nebraska a few weeks back, extending a Big Ten losing streak to 15 games. Wisconsin comes calling this weekend, so it will probably be 16 by this time next week. Illinois isn't awful, but we'll see just how much improvement the Illini have made in the weeks to come - and how much heart this team has.

11. Minnesota (4-2, 0-2, bye): Head coach Jerry Kill is on indefinite leave due to his health concerns, another obstacle for the program to overcome. The Golden Gophers can't seem to get a break, though they'll get a shot to turn things around with a game at reeling Northwestern this weekend.

12. Purdue (1-5, 0-2, lost to Nebraska 44-7): Just as there's a clear No. 1 in the Big Ten, there's also a clear No. 12. And just think - this team had Notre Dame on the ropes at home.


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