Big Ten Power Rankings - Week Five

Michigan State at Ohio State, Northwestern at Illinois, Minnesota at Michigan and ... I think we are forgetting a big one. The eyes of college football will be on Madison and the Big Ten this weekend for the matchup between the highest ranked Big Ten teams in the polls and the top two teams in the Badger Nation Power Rankings.

1) No. 7 Wisconsin (4-0); Last week, 1 Last week: won vs. South Dakota 59-10

Threw out the idea on Facebook the other day this might be the biggest game in Wisconsin football history. (To be clear, it was merely a suggestion, not a proclamation.) Stark disagreement followed, with such refrains as the 90s Rose Bowls and last year's Ohio State game thrown out. Heck, I'd even go back further: the Badgers lopped off the No. 1 Buckeyes back in 1942 and reached as high as No. 2 before losing to Iowa, which marked the program's closest chance to a national title. (That's right: pick up a history book once in a while. Or, you know, browse Wikipedia.)

So how about this amended statement: this is the most important 1-0 attempt in the Bret Bielema era. Last year's OSU game, at the time, didn't have much Rose Bowl impact or any national title ramifications. Saturday brings a whole lotta both.

Next: vs. No. 8 Nebraska, 7 p.m. ABC

2) No. 8 Nebraska (4-0); LW, 2

Last week: won at Wyoming 38-14

Part of why Wisconsin fans aren't quite as big on this Saturday showdown is Nebraska doesn't look totally up to snuff. Look, you struggle with Fresno State, Washington and Wyoming, you're asking for that stigma. But to be fair, this means the Huskers have experience focusing on all 60 minutes, whereas every one of Bucky's post-Jump Around plays have been more a nuisance than anything else. UW's defense must stop Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead on the ground, who are statistical twins - both have 63 carries, are averaging 6.7 yards on those carries and have scored seven touchdowns.

Next: at No. 7 Wisconsin, 7 p.m. ABC

3) Iowa (3-1); LW, 4

Last week: won vs. Louisiana-Monroe 45-17

All in all, the Hawkeyes can't be too upset with the nonconference results. OK, they lost a hard-fought battle on the road against a hated rival. Iowa also showed it can battle adversity in erasing a hefty deficit against Pittsburgh. And the usually bland offense has been spiced up with the no-huddle, thanks to quick learning by Iowa's underrated quarterback James Vanderberg.

Next: Oct. 8 at Penn State

4) RV Michigan State (3-1); LW, 3

Last week: won vs. Central Michigan 45-7

Nicely done by the Spartans to easily get back on track, but they've still got to be chewing on that butt-kicking in South Bend. Ohio State seems like a sleeping dog right now - it'll be up to Michigan State to kick the dog when it's down.

Next: at Ohio State, 2:30 p.m. ABC/ESPN

5) RV Ohio State (3-1); LW, 6

Last week: won vs. Colorado 37-17

Week 4 has notoriously been the Big Ten's version of the NFL's fourth preseason week - bad matchups, not much worth watching, simply waiting a week until the real challenges begin. When OSU knocking off a bad Pac-12 team that has now lost 19 straight road games is considered the conference's coup, that speaks pretty loudly. By the way, Braxton Miller played all right, but he'll have to complete more than five passes to make OSU believe in 10 wins.

Next: vs. Michigan State, 2:30 p.m. ABC/ESPN

6) No. 24 Illinois (4-0); LW, 5

Last week: won vs. Western Michigan 23-20

The Illini's hopes rest with Nate Scheelhause, but don't leave out the defense, which albeit against a weak schedule has permitted just 13 points a game. The next two weeks against nearby struggling rivals could bring more of the same. Because Illinois misses Iowa and Nebraska, a very nice bowl destination could be in Illinois' future.

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

7) No. 19 Michigan (4-0); LW, 7

Last week: won vs. San Diego State 28-7

So it's easy to dog on Michigan's defense after many people just saw the highlights of the closing minutes against Notre Dame. But against two directional Michigans and decent San Diego State, the Wolverines have allowed 20 points. Do you believe in Good Michigan or Bad Michigan going forward? Like Illinois, Michigan eases its way into league play.

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

8) Northwestern (2-1); LW, 8

Last week: Idle

The word is Dan Persa will return for the Big Ten opener, and while NU has scored points in his absence, his presence will be a welcome factor after that Army debacle that has to have resonated in Evanston for two weeks.

Next: at No. 24 Illinois, 11 a.m. ESPN2

9) RV Penn State (3-1); LW, 9

Last week: won vs. Eastern Michigan 34-6

In one of those quirky stats, Penn State entered the week as one of just a small handful of FBS schools that hadn't recorded a passing touchdown yet. Matt McGloin fixed that with three scores through the air, and Rob Bolden added another. Maybe JoePa stalking the sideline again made a difference.

Next: at Indiana, 11 a.m. ESPNU

10) Purdue (2-1); LW, 10

Last week: Idle

The Boilermakers, historically dependent on a stat-happy quarterback, might have a starter's controversy between incumbent Caleb Terbush and back-from-ACL-rehab Robert Marve. With two weeks to prepare for the Fighting Irish, that's a storyline worth watching.

Next: vs. Notre Dame, 7 p.m. ESPN

11) Minnesota (1-3); LW, 11

Last week: lost vs. North Dakota State 37-24

The Big Ten's critics grew louder with this loss. The response: conference reputation should be staked to its best teams, not its worst.

Next: at No. 19 Michigan, 11 a.m. BTN

12) Indiana (1-3); LW, 12

Last week: lost at North Texas 24-21

The Big Ten's critics grew louder with this loss. The response: conference reputation should be staked to its best teams, not its worst. Next: vs. Penn State, 11 a.m. ESPNU

Badger Nation Top Stories