Last week: won vs. Northern Illinois 49-7 at Soldier Field
Saw the Badgers live for the first time this season over the weekend. In seven years covering and observing UW to some degree, this is far and away the strongest, most well-rounded team. Russell Wilson is the real deal and then some - he's absolutely the college version of Michael Vick. People forget that UW's power running game is still one of the best around. And the Badgers' defense has two bona fide pass-rushing threats. As long as UW can contain the run against athletic opponents, 11 wins are in the bank, and maybe more.
Next: vs. South Dakota, 2:30 p.m. BTN
2) No. 9 Nebraska (3-0); LW, 2
Last week: won vs. Washington 51-38
It's a long season, right? This statement doesn't necessarily hold water when you're stuffing the turkey on Thanksgiving, but the Cornhuskers are the only team with a shot to contend with Wisconsin. But surrendering 38 points at home to Washington - especially the way Nebraska let the Huskies hang around in the fourth - doesn't bode well for Big Ten play. The Huskers were also ineffective on third down on both sides of the ball, something Wisconsin is mastering right now.
Next: at Wyoming, 6:30 p.m. Versus
3) RV Michigan State (2-1); LW, 3
Last week: lost at Notre Dame 31-13
Let's not read too far into this one loss: it was at South Bend, and a game the Fighting Irish had to have. The Spartans obviously have got to fine-tune the running game, but Kirk Cousins is going to give them a chance in any tough contest. Better for MSU to slip up now than starting in two weeks.
Next: vs. Central Michigan, 11 a.m. ESPNU
4) Iowa (2-1); LW, 6
Last week: won vs. Pittsburgh 31-27
In the third quarter, I get a text from my friend, a diehard Iowa fan (aren't all Iowa fans under the diehard designation?), that simply stated: "Vandenburg is gonna lose his job." James Vandenberg (as it's correctly spelled) ended up winning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week by running the no-huddle offense brilliantly to the tune of 162 fourth-quarter yards. That's not a bad win at all for the Hawkeyes, who were bordering on panic mode after that triple-OT loss in Ames.
Next: vs. Louisiana-Monroe, 11 a.m. BTN
5) No. 24 Illinois (3-0); LW, 9
Last week: won vs. No. 22 Arizona State 17-14
Yet another buddy of mine, a diehard Illinois fan (yes, I'm letting friends' impressions run the reactions this week), couldn't believe when Illinois was picked so lowly in the preseason pecking order. He might be on to something. The Illini are gonna quietly win out in their non-conference schedule, and easily could reach 8-4 Land in a few months.
Next: vs. Western Michigan, 2:30 p.m. BTN
6) RV Ohio State (2-1); LW, 4
Last week: lost at Miami 24-6
The Buckeyes have some work to do. After going away quietly in the Sanctions Bowl, OSU's out of the AP poll for the first time since Barry Alvarez was prowling the sidelines. That's probably too harsh of a demotion, but there's no question the Buckeyes forgot to take their talents to South Beach. Man, the state of Ohio just cannot catch a break.
Next: vs. Colorado, 2:30 p.m. ABC/ESPN
7) No. 22 Michigan (3-0); LW, 8
Last week: won vs. Eastern Michigan 31-3
Imagine, fans in Ann Arbor rooting for Notre Dame. That was the reality this week, for two obvious reasons: the Irish were playing even-more-hated Michigan State, and any success ND has from here on out reflects well upon the Wolverines.
Next: vs. San Diego State, 11 a.m. BTN
8) Northwestern (2-1); LW, 5
Last week: lost at Army 21-14
Good ol' Northwestern: drums up all kinds of hype, only to follow with a momentum-deflating loss that questions all sanity. We knew Army could run the football, but the Wildcats have got to score more points than that, and that falls on Kain Colter, who couldn't bring it for a third straight game in place of Dan Persa.
Next: Oct. 1 at No. 24 Illinois
9) Penn State (2-1); LW, 7
Last week: won at Temple 14-10
Finally finishing off a drive in the last three minutes saved the Nittany Lions' bacon. PSU is still error-prone, and will only go as far as its defense takes it.
Next: vs. Eastern Michigan, 11 a.m. ESPN2
10) Purdue (2-1); LW, 11
Last week: won vs. Southeast Missouri State 59-0
Hey, forgot Robert Marve was around! He's back after ACL rehab, and the Boilermakers returned to their high-scoring ways. The shutout is a real head-turner.
Next: Oct. 1 vs. Notre Dame
11) Minnesota (1-2); LW, 10
Last week: won vs. Miami (Ohio) 29-23
An emotional win to be sure, with Jerry Kill back on the sidelines after having a seizure the week before. Throw in Eric Decker's sudden rush to prominence, and the Gophers are having themselves a pretty good week.
Next: vs. North Dakota State, 6 p.m. BTN
12) Indiana (1-2); LW, 12
Last week: won vs. South Carolina State 38-21
It won't be a goose egg in Bloomington this year. Edward Wright-Baker, who sounds more like a 17th-century poet than a quarterback, captained the offense to 557 total yards. South Carolina "Don't Call Us Gamecocks" State has never beaten an FBS opponent, and it apparently wasn't ready to start now.
Next: at North Texas, 6 p.m. ESPN3.com
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