Big Ten Power Rankings

With just three weekends of Big Ten play remaining, nine conference teams maintain hopes of earning at least a share of the Big Ten Championship. Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa each boast only one loss in conference action and three more teams hope to gain bowl eligibility. Who said the Big Ten wasn't going to be competitive?

(rankings are current BCS standings)

1) No. 7 Wisconsin (8-1, 4-1 Big Ten); Last week, 2

Last week: won at Purdue 34-13

The Badgers control their fate for a BCS birth and staying on top of the power rankings. Not a completely fair fight for Ohio State, which could do nothing to impress voters from their couches on a bye week, but the Badgers hold the head-to-head advantage and have been ranked higher for a few weeks now. Just one more week before a culminating moment in Badger football history: trying to win in their House of Horrors. It cannot be overstated how wonderful UW's running back depth is, with Montee Ball cruising for 127 and a pair.

Next: vs. Indiana, 11 a.m. ESPN2

2) No. 9 Ohio State (8-1, 4-1); LW, 1

Last week: Idle

So Terrelle Pryor made his intentions clear that he wants to return to Ohio State for his senior year. Shudder the thought, Big Ten Conference. Though it's a lovely possibility for two reasons: a) next year's addition of Nebraska and the divisional realignment makes the 2011 Big Ten season one of the most anticipated years ever, so having Pryor back adds to the fun, and b) who doesn't love seeing a kid stay in school and resist the urge to chase the dollars? (Assuming he's not getting paid in Columbus. Ahem.)

Next: vs. Penn State, 2:30 p.m. ABC

3) No. 11 Michigan State (9-1, 5-1); LW, 4

Last week: won vs. Minnesota 31-8

It was about this time last year that Michigan State fans completely turned their attention to the hardcourt. Much to root for this fall in East Lansing. Now it's the Spartans' turn to rest up for a week. That season finale at Penn State is going to be tougher than people realize.

Next: Idle

4) No. 13 Iowa (7-2, 4-1); LW, 3

Last week: won at Indiana 18-13

Marvin McNutt certainly has a flair for the dramatic. He saved the Hawkeyes with a TD catch last year at MSU, and saved them again from disaster against Indiana on Saturday. It doesn't get too much easier with a trip to Ryan Field.

Next: at Northwestern, 11 a.m. ESPN

5) Penn State (6-3, 3-2); LW, 6

Last week: won vs. Northwestern 35-21

Look out now, because the Nittany Lions have won three straight for the first time this season. They could make a giant splash yet against their fellow States, with BCS contenders OSU and PSU ahead.

Next: at No. 9 Ohio State, 2:30 p.m. ABC

6) Illinois (5-4, 3-3); LW, 5

Last week: lost at Michigan 67-65 (3 OT)

Still trying to come to grips with the idea of 67-65. Just crazy. The Illini have been solid bounce-backers, winning all three games after previous losses, and the Golden Gophers offer Illinois a great opportunity to forget about the Big House Shootout.

Next: vs. Minnesota, 11 a.m. BTN

7) Michigan (6-3, 2-3); LW, 8

Last week: won vs. Illinois 67-65 (3 OT)

Other than getting pasted at home by Michigan State, the Wolverines have played all their conference games to a 10-point margin or less. Figure on a close game in West Lafayette, before Michigan sets out to do its own spoiling against UW and OSU.

Next: at Purdue, 11 a.m. BTN

8) Northwestern (6-3, 2-3); LW, 7

Last week: lost at Penn State 35-21

This Saturday and the next are the only back-to-back weekends NU will host opponents at Ryan Field. Saddled with an inflated overall record, this is an opportunity for the Wildcats to show they actually belong at a middle-tier bowl.

Next: vs. No. 13 Iowa, 11 a.m. ESPN

9) Purdue (4-5, 2-3); LW, 9

Last week: lost vs. No. 7 Wisconsin 34-13

Every season, it seems like Purdue makes fair progress. But the Boilermakers just haven't figured out what it takes to do more than just scare opponents, and actually beat them. That was apparent again when they let Wisconsin walk out of Ross-Ade with a deceiving three-touchdown victory.

Next: vs. Michigan, 11 a.m. BTN

10) Indiana (4-5, 0-5); LW, 10

Last week: lost vs. No. 13 Iowa 18-13

Everyone knows about the kids playing in ‘Punt, Pass and Kick' competitions, yes? An idea struck me the other day that they should have ‘Catch, Cover and Tackle' divisions. If I were a football coach, those would be the three most important area my team would need to excel. I bring this up because Damario Belcher may be a wonderful teammate, stand-up human being and above-average receiver. But he dropped the ball - literally - on what should have been a marquee win over Iowa. Catch the football, fellas.

Next: at No. 7 Wisconsin, 11 a.m. ESPN2

11) Minnesota (1-9, 0-6); LW, 11

Last week: lost at No. 11 Michigan State 31-8

My lawyers are working on a summons for the people who make me say something interesting about Minnesota week after week. Since the near-miss against Northwestern in the Big Ten opener, the Gophers have lost five games by an average of 21.2 points.

Next: at Illinois, 11 a.m. BTN

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