Last week: def. Illinois 24-13
Hmmmm...did Ohio State show some vulnerability in Saturday's win, which was closer than the final score intends? (The Buckeyes happened to score on a clock-bleeding drive in the final minutes, when it was still a 4-point game.) Don't read too much into it. The increase in opponent quality was sure to affect Ohio State a tad, and this was Illinois' (arguably) biggest game of the season. Next: vs. Indiana, Sat. 11 a.m.
2) No. 15 Iowa (4-1, 1-0); LW, 2
Last week: def. No. 22 Penn State 24-3
Oh, hey, Adrian Clayborn, there you are. The top-ten draft candidate was invisible for most the pre-Big Ten slate, but punished PSU freshman Robert Bolden. Even though Clayborn college fantasy owners were getting restless due to lack of defensive stats (does anybody actually play college fantasy football with IDPs?), the Hawkeye defense has been consistently stellar once again in 2010. After the bye, a gauntlet awaits.
3) No. 17 Michigan State (5-0, 1-0); LW, 3
Last week: def. No. 11 Wisconsin 34-24
My favorite reaction from the game in East Lansing was tweeted by Badger Herald alum Tom Ziemer: "Michigan State just outWisconsined Wisconsin." That pretty much says it all. If the Spartans can bottle up that passion that has carried them to huge wins over Notre Dame and Wisconsin - and, you know, take it on the road, too - they'll be BCS contenders this year.
Next: at No. 18 Michigan, Sat. 2:30 p.m.
4) No. 18 Michigan (5-0, 1-0); LW, 5
Last week: def. Indiana 42-35
Almost left the Badgers above Michigan, but early rumblings are Denard Robinson is the closest thing to a sure Heisman bet right now. The Indiana effort wasn't pretty ... but, the point about OSU's adjustment to better opponents resonates here.
Next: vs. No. 17 Michigan State, Sat. 2:30 p.m.
5) No. 20 Wisconsin (4-1, 0-1); LW, 4
Last week: lost to No. 24 Michigan State 34-24
Yes, Michigan State played with emotion for their hospital-stricken coach. But Wisconsin needs to get back to playing with that fire in its belly. If you think about it, through five games, you haven't seen UW play with a real gusto, with the possible exception of the second half in Las Vegas. Two quarters out of 20? Not good.
Next: vs. Minnesota, 11 a.m.
6) Penn State (3-2, 0-1); LW, 6
Last week: lost to No. 17 Iowa 24-3
The record's about right: beat three doormats at home, lose on the road to top-15 opponents in night games. But good teams score more than a field goal in each of those tests at Alabama and Iowa.
Next: vs. Illinois, Sat. 11 a.m.
7) Northwestern (5-0, 1-0); LW, 7
Last week: def. Minnesota 29-28
That point about adjusting, which served as excuses for Ohio State and Michigan, doesn't apply to Northwestern. The Wildcats have made things pretty interesting for themselves the past two weeks against poor opposition. They remain in this No. 7 slot only because there are seven decent teams in the conference, but they're playing clearly below the level of the top group.
Next: vs. Purdue, Sat. 6:30 p.m.
8) Illinois (2-2, 0-1); LW, 8
Last week: lost to No. 2 Ohio State 24-13
So are the Illini worthy of consideration as a bowl contender? Their season has been fairly nondescript so far, though the Ohio State game has to serve as a confidence boost. But with road games in Happy Valley and East Lansing looming, Illinois could be behind the eight-ball quickly.
Next: at Penn State, Sat. 11 a.m.
9) Indiana (3-1, 0-1); LW, 9
Last week: lost to No. 20 Michigan 42-35
Boy, the Hoosiers better not look ahead to that Arkansas State showdown a week from Saturday. First they have to travel to Columbus. Indiana definitely doesn't want to overlook its host.
Next: at No. 2 Ohio State, Sat. 11 a.m.
10) Purdue (2-2, 0-0); LW, 10
Last week: Idle
If the Boilermakers are going to make something interesting of their season, the time is now. October, to be specific. Three of Purdue's first four conference games are on the road, but they include Northwestern, Minnesota and Illinois. Be on alert for an upset in Evanston this weekend.
Next: at Northwestern, Sat. 6:30 p.m.
11) Minnesota (1-4, 0-1); LW, 11
Last week: lost to Northwestern 29-28
Under big-mouthed Tim Brewster, Minnesota has lost nearly two-thirds of its games. How long will the Golden Gopher faithful put up with this? Helps that the Twinkies and the MLB playoffs are taking attention away from the most putrid team in the Big Ten.
Next: at No. 20 Wisconsin, Sat. 11 a.m.