#1 MICHIGAN (last week, #2): The Wolverines came from behind and beat their in state rivals Michigan State in three overtimes in a game that the Spartans had in the bag. But the late game heroics by Braylon Edwards and Chad Henne, combined with another 200-yard rushing performance from Hart won out in the end. I would love to see a Michigan-Wisconsin game this year, but it's not going to happen. I think Michigan would win this game on a neutral field, just as I felt Iowa would beat Ohio State in 2002 on a neutral field.
#2 WISCONSIN (last week, #1): Speaking of neutral…some argue that players should not lose their starting positions due to injury. One might argue that a team should not lose its top spot in our power rankings due to having a bye week. Sue me. It's a close call in my mind, but I just like Michigan over the Badgers. This week, it's the battle for Paul Bunyun's axe and a chance for Minnesota to finally beat an upper division Big Ten team. I am just not optimistic that the Gophers have the heart to do that.
#3 IOWA (last week, #3): The Hawks are getting some separation here in our power rankings. They went 4-0 in October, something they absolutely had to do if they wanted to be in a position come November to get back to a Florida Bowl game. They have given themselves a chance to do just that. So Iowa begins a ‘new' season; winning season. Go 3-0 in November, and you have a shot at a Big Ten title. Go 2-1, and you are going back to Florida and play in your third straight New Years Day bowl. Go 1-2, and it's 50-50 that you go to the Alamo. Go 0-3, and you might be a redneck, or at least, you might be hanging with a few of them in Nashville. (NOTE: I was raised in small town Iowa, and I my family hails from redneck territory in Missouri, so I can use the word in a non-offensive fashion. And I have been to Nashville, and it's a great town.)
#4 NORTHWESTERN (last week, #7): That's right, the Wildcats are #4. They sit at 3-2, tied for fourth place. They travel to State College this weekend, and though that will be a tough game in a tough place, Penn State is not exactly solid on offense, as we all know. It's a winnable football game. They travel to Michigan a week later, before ending the year at home against Illinois. I think 4-4 is the worst this team will finish. Even though a win at Michigan seems highly unlikely, Northwestern's offense is always tricky enough to make things interesting…it's just that their defense doesn't do all that much.
#5 MICHIGAN STATE (last week, #4): Michigan State hosts Ohio State this weekend, and the Spartans will be without quarterback Drew Stanton. Michigan State without Stanton is probably more like the team they had when they lost to Rutgers in the season opener. And you have to expect the Spartans to have a hangover from that tough loss last week in Ann Arbor. But they are a dangerous team, and if Stanton can get healthy before MSU's home game on the 13th against Wisconsin, they could be the big spoiler in the league this year.
#6 PURDUE (last week, #5): The Boilers have lost three straight, and now look up at the upper division of the Big Ten. They are still a dangerous team, capable of beating everyone on their schedule. They are still very much in the hunt for a New Year's Day bowl game, and their biggest obstacle is this weekend in Iowa City. After that game, they are at home against Ohio State and Indiana. The status of Kyle Orton's health is in question, which adds another element to this week's game. So for the Boilers, their future is there for them in Kinnick Stadium…the task is daunting, as Iowa has won 16-straight home games. Folks, this should be a fantastic football game.
#7 MINNESOTA (last week, #6): The Gophers sit at 6-3, but more importantly, 3-3 in the Big Ten. They still can't beat the big boys of the league, and if they fail to do that at least once in their final two games against Wisconsin and Iowa, Glen Mason's legacy at Minnesota will that of a bully without anything to back it up; you beat the bottom feeders, and beat them badly, but you lose to the cream.
#8 OHIO STATE (last week, #8): OK Hawkeye fans, take note here. Ohio State might come back to bite you, even though the Hawks dominated the Bucks in Kinnick Stadium earlier this year. If Iowa goes 0-3 or 1-2 over its final three games, and Ohio State wins just one more game, the Alamo Bowl will be very tempted to take a crack at the OSU fan base, no matter that Iowa will likely have a better league record and the head to head win. But winning just one game seems a tall task for the Buckeyes. They have to beat a Stanton-less Michigan State team on the road this week, or they are looking at real long odds, as they travel to Purdue to the next week before hosting Michigan in the season finale. If MSU wins this week, I think that the Hawks are looking real good for at least a bowl game in San Antonio.
#9 INDIANA (last week, #10): Congrats to Gerry DiNardo for the big homecoming win against the paper Gophers. They face the hapless Illini the wind tunnel known as Champaign, and they can win that game (the world will be watching!). Then they host Penn State next week, before the season ender against Purdue.
#10 PENN STATE (last week, #9): The Nittany Lions were ‘Luckeyed' last week, as OSU scored 14 of their 21 points on returns in the punting game and on an interception. A PSU beat reporter finally asked THE question this week; is it time to hang em up? Paterno bristled, saying that 55 years in the coaching game means that he should not have to answer that question. But the question is very valid.
#11 ILLINOIS (last week, like every week, #11): Ron Turner is a class act, and I hate to see class acts go down. But Turner is going to go down. I will now type a name for the last time; so long, Jon Beutjer.