Last week: def. Eastern Michigan 73-20
Business as usual for the Buckeyes. OSU enters Big Ten play as the clear-cut favorite, though the four teams listed directly below Ohio State in these rankings (and only those four teams) have realistic conference title aspirations.
Next: at Illinois, Sat. 11 am
2) No. 17 Iowa (3-1); LW, 2
Last week: def. Ball State 45-0
Not a bad way to bounce back from a disappointing loss in the desert. 562 total yards, their first shutout of the year and complete domination of an overmatched MAC opponent in all three phases of the game. Now let's see if it translates to the Big Ten.
Next: vs. No. 22 Penn State, Sat. 7 pm
3) No. 24 Michigan State (4-0); LW, 3
Last week: def. Northern Colorado 45-7
Don't underestimate the power of the two following facts: teams tend to galvanize around a coach or teammate in need, and the Spartans don't play Ohio State this year. The first is emotional, the second is factual. MSU is a sneaky dark horse for BCS action.
Next: vs. No. 11 Wisconsin, Sat. 2:30 pm
4) No. 11 Wisconsin (4-0); LW, 5
Last week: def. Austin Peay 70-3
The most interesting reaction from this meaningless rout: shouldn't Bucky (or any other mascot) have a second-stringer on hand for these types of games? The Badgers' fuzzy friend reportedly did 385 pushups during Saturday's game. Stands to reason that if a backup offensive unit scores points, the backup Buckingham U. should have to complete the pushups.
Next: at No. 24 Michigan State, Sat. 2:30 pm
5) No. 20 Michigan (4-0); LW, 4
Last week: def. Bowling Green 65-21
Rich Rodriguez is entitled to express concern over his quarterbacks' wayward decision to put himself in danger of an injury at the end of a long run. But in the long-term, as long as Denard Robinson stays healthy, that reckless abandon gives Michigan a chance against anybody.
Next: at Indiana, Sat. 2:30 pm
6) No. 22 Penn State (3-1); LW, 6
Last week: def. Temple 22-13
That conference contender list stops at Michigan. Penn State reeks of a rich man's rebuilding project; it's not unfair to pencil in the Nittany Lions at 7, maybe 8 wins and a lower-tier bowl game. On the positive side, a loss to Temple (eminently plausible until the later stages of the game) would have triggered a firestorm of JoePa retirement talk.
Next: at No. 17 Iowa, Sat. 7 pm
7) Northwestern (4-0); LW, 7
Last week: def. Central Michigan 30-25
Like their fellow felines in State College, it wasn't a pretty effort for the Wildcats. However, NU has plenty of time to find its rhythm against a soft first half to the conference schedule.
Next: at Minnesota, Sat. 11 am
8) Illinois (2-1); LW, 8
Last week: Idle
Once again, not much to say about Illinois. The Illini have played Ohio State tough in recent years, but this is a new crew with low expectations.
Next: vs. No. 2 Ohio State, Sat. 11 am
9) Indiana (3-0); LW, 10
Last week: def. Akron 35-20
Consider the opponents, to be sure, but Ben Chappell is passed the ball at a ridiculously high level in early September: 73 percent completions, averaging 300 yards and 3 touchdowns a clip without an interceptions. Can he keep it up going forward?
Next: vs. No. 20 Michigan, 2:30 pm
10) Purdue (2-2); LW, 9
Last week: lost to Toledo 31-20
Ouch. Any bowl hopes took a huge hit with a bad loss to Toledo. Pairing this with the 2008 win against Michigan, Toledo might not be receiving too many phone calls from Big Ten institutions anytime soon.
11) Minnesota (1-3); LW, 11
Last week: lost to Northern Illinois 34-23
Strange but true: the Gophers won its opening game on the road before dropping three straight at its new home digs. Badger fans better look out, since Wisconsin is the Gophers' next road contest.
Next: vs. Northwestern, Sat. 11 am