1. PURDUE: Until somebody slows down Kyle Orton, the Boilers are going to be tough to supplant from the top spot. Orton has been named the Big Ten's offensive player of the week three times this season. Though the defense looked shaky against Illinois two weeks ago, they came back and did a nice job against Notre Dame. They shut down the Irish ground game and though Brady Quinn was able to put up some impressive numbers through the air, it was because the Boilers made them one dimensional. They travel to Penn State this week, so we don't look for a change in next week's rankings, unless they come out flat.
2. WISCONSIN: Bret Bielema has the Badgers playing some old school defense this season, and their offense just got a shot in the arm, or the leg, as Anthony Davis returned to the lineup and put up more than 200 yards rushing last week against Illinois. If the offense continues to come around, and if they can put together any kind of passing attack, the Badgers will have a strong season. A road game at Ohio State this week is going to be a big test for Wisconsin, but their defense against yet another ‘average' Ohio State offense sets up well for them, even though the game is at Columbus.
3. MINNESOTA: Glen Mason's Gophers finally get a test this week as they play at Michigan. This might be the most pivotal game on their schedule this year, as they do NOT play Purdue or Ohio State. Last year, Minnesota finished Big Ten play with a record of 5-3. Their five wins came against teams that finished 6th through 11th in the Big Ten. It's time for Minnesota to beat one of the big boys in the Big Ten, or they will not get the respect that they are looking for.
4. MICHIGAN: The Wolverines have not looked all that impressive when compared to Michigan teams of recent years. They have a true frosh QB and RB this year, and that might be one of the reasons. Their offensive line is not playing out of this world, and their defense is not as good as many experts felt they would be. Beating Minnesota at home would be a good win for them, and they will have to stop the Gophers vaunted ground game. This is the marquee game in the league this week.
5. IOWA: The Hawkeyes had a must win game last week and they answered the call, stifling Michigan State and opening up their playbook with an impressive yet ball-controlled passing game. The bye week comes at a good time for the Hawkeyes as they look to heal early wounds and work on cohesion within the offensive line. Matt Melloy, Todd Plagman and Sean Considine should all be ready for action when they resume play October 16th against Ohio State in Iowa City. Michigan State was a must win, but the game against Ohio State might be the game of the year for Iowa as they look to keep their place among the Big Ten's elite on a year in, year out basis. Because 2005 and 2006 look to be very good years for Iowa.
6. OHIO STATE: The Buckeyes have been living on the edge for the past two and a half seasons, and they finally took one in the tail Saturday night against Northwestern. Mike Nugent, the best kicker in America this year and one of the best for the past three seasons, missed a field goal in overtime. Northwestern spread the field against Ohio State, and they were able to move the football with success. Wisconsin should play more of a straightforward game against the Buckeyes this week, something that will work in their favor. But OSU starts a new QB this year and they lost so many players to the NFL last year, so it should not come as a surprise that they would scuffle early on this year. They still don't have an impressive offensive attack, something that is mind blowing when you consider the talent they recruit each year. But they still might be the toughest team to beat in the Big Ten, because you have to play flawless football to win, because you know they will.
7. NORTHWESTERN: Yes, the Wildcats just beat Ohio State, but they have a unique offense that was the perfect attack for an Ohio State defense geared to stop the run. But NW has a veteran offense and they should cause some problems for teams this year in Evanston. They have a tough schedule, having to travel to Wisconsin and Michigan yet this year. But they get Purdue and Illinois at home later this year. Not that Evanston is a house of horrors, but playing at home is always better than playing on the road.
T8. PENN STATE: At this point of the rankings, its sort of a ‘so what'. But Penn State did a good job on the road at Minnesota last week in holding the Gophers to just 16 points. But they were only able to amass 21 rushing yards against a defense that is not great. With Michael Robinson on the sidelines for a few more games, Zach Mills is still the man under center.
T8. MICHGAN STATE: We expected the Spartans to sputter this year, having to replace so many starters on both sides of the ball in 2004. Though they beat Indiana on the road to open B10 play, they were down 20-7 after sleepwalking through the first half. They looked sluggish against Iowa last week, and it just amazes us at how a team that always has talent seems to lack focus and motivation on a regular basis. They have Illinois at home this week, which is always a good thing, but after that, they play Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State in consecutive weeks, before closing the season at Penn State. HN felt that three wins were possible for this team before the year began, with two looking most likely. We are still sticking to that.
10. INDIANA: The Hoosiers trailed Michigan 14-7 at the break last week, but they fell to the big play abilities of the Wolverines in the second half. Indiana might still trip up one or two teams along the way this year, but we doubt it.
11. ILLINOIS: This has to be Ron Turner's last season in Champaign, don't you think? They will probably hold this slot in our power rankings all season. The most interesting thing about Illinois football right now, from an Iowa perspective, is making sure that Jon Beutjer stays healthy and starts against Iowa on October 30th, and whether or not Chuck Long will be Illinois' next head coach.