Last week: lost at No. 15 Michigan State 37-31
This isn't a standings column, it's power rankings and if those teams played again Saturday on a neutral field, Wisconsin wins by two touchdowns. Allow me to join the outcry at Wisconsin's new BCS position. Apparently, either we all dreamed that 31-point beating of Nebraska actually happened or computers have short memories. There are actually valid reasons why the current system works, but it doesn't reflect well at all when a Hail Mary-responsible defeat means the difference between No. 3 and No. 15. Ludicrous. On the football standpoint, Bret Bielema's mentality was sound when he made those timeouts. But his strategy was shoddy at best. He says he was trying to get Russell Wilson the ball back, but Bret, it's not the NFL. Wilson would have had a chance in overtime. The Badgers' ball coach can defend the decision much as he wants for the camera, but only he knows inside whether he stands behind it in reality, and has to live with the calls for a long, long time.
Next: at Ohio State, 7 p.m. ESPN
2) No. 9 Michigan State (6-1, 3-0 Legends); LW, 2
Last week: won vs. No. 4 Wisconsin 37-31
If there's been another team in college sports that's won more epic finishes in its home digs than the Spartans, ESPN must not have located it, because Spartan Stadium continues to churn out instant classics. That being said, every ... single ... break ... went Michigan State's way, and it still needed one last incredible stroke of luck on the fated Hail Mary just to win. Can't possibly justify raising Sparty to the top spot. Beat Nebraska on the road? Maybe then, if UW's sour taste lingers into Columbus as well.
Next: at No. 13 Nebraska, 11 a.m. ESPN
3) No. 13 Nebraska (6-1, 2-1 Legends); LW, 3
Last week: won at Minnesota 41-14
That's what you should expect out of the new kid in class, bullying Minnesota from the very start. Big plays highlighted the day, but the Cornhuskers are still searching for a little more consistency. We'll see if MSU's vaunted pass rush can bottle up Rex Burkhead and Taylor Martinez better than it did the Badgers' offense, which put up 31 points in defeat.
Next: vs. No. 9 Michigan State, 11 a.m. ESPN
4) No. 17 Michigan (6-1, 2-1 Legends); LW, 4
Last week: Idle
Think the Wolverines had some mixed feelings about the MSU-Wisconsin turnout? On the one hand, the Spartans winning makes UM's loss from the prior week look a little better, and it's not like Michigan fans have enjoyed watching Wisconsin steal its long-term thunder. But then again, the Legends division just became that much more competitive, and those ‘little sister' chants had to cut deep to the core in Ann Arbor.
Next: vs. Purdue, 11 a.m. ESPN2
5) No. 21 Penn State (7-1, 4-0 Leaders); LW, 8
Last week: won at Northwestern 34-24
Oh, great. Now that Joe Paterno's equaled Eddie Robinson on the Division I wins list, he's 73 away from the all-time coaching record. That would be nine solid seasons of victories. Since the man's clearly going to stop at nothing to own every coaching record, prepare for another decade of "Penn State Subtly Tries To Force Out JoePa" headlines.
Next: vs. Illinois, 2:30 p.m. ABC/ESPN2
6) Iowa (5-2, 2-1 Legends); LW, 5
Last week: won vs. Indiana 45-24
Not that the Iowa State loss is necessarily excusable, but that was a triple-overtime blazer in hostile territory. A play or two bounces Iowa's way, and we're looking at a 6-1 outfit that's probably the sixth Big Ten ranked team. Marvin McNutt running wild against the Indiana secondary was like watching a sixth-grader manned by second-graders on the playground.
Next: at Minnesota, 2:30 p.m. BTN
7) Ohio State (4-3, 1-2 Leaders); LW, 6
Last week: Idle
The Illini stinker at Purdue makes last week's win look a little less impressive, which is why the one-spot drop. The Buckeyes didn't do anything wrong. Wait ... did they do anything wrong? That was an entire bye week to commit more NCAA infractions. Can we check DeVier Posey for any fresh tattoos?
Next: vs. No. 12 Wisconsin, 7 p.m. ESPN
8) Purdue (4-3, 2-1 Leaders); LW, 9
Last week: won vs. No. 23 Illinois 21-14
Perhaps the nice defensive effort and unexpected victory - thrusting Purdue back into bowl contention - will help the Boilermaker players spend more time on the practice field and less time worrying about a cut of TV money.
Next: at No. 17 Michigan, 11 a.m. ESPN2
9) RV Illinois (6-2, 2-2 Leaders); LW, 7
Last week: lost at Purdue 21-14
Either three AP voters are still nodding Illinois' direction at No. 25, or somebody slotted it No. 23. Uh ... why? 17 points in eight quarters against mediocre-at-best teams isn't exactly bringing sexy back.
Next: at No. 21 Penn State, 2:30 p.m. ABC/ESPN2
10) Northwestern (2-5, 0-4 Legends); LW, 10
Last week: lost vs. Penn State 34-24 An excellent statistical effort against the defensively-stout Nittany Lions for Dan Persa, who's becoming a collegiate version of Matthew Stafford. Looks good when he's in there, but you could have a lot of fun starting a ‘when will he suffer his next injury' pool.
Next: at Indiana, 11 a.m. BTN
11) Indiana (1-7, 0-4 Leaders); LW, 11
Last week: lost at Iowa 45-24
After staying reasonably competitive for five weeks - winning a game and losing four by 7, 3, 3 and 6 points, the latter to Penn State - the Hoosiers have looked dreadful ever since. Probably somewhat a product of the schedule, which gets slightly easier this Saturday. Goes without saying Indiana is, once again, officially not requiring use of bowling shoes.
Next: vs. Northwestern, 11 a.m. BTN
12) Minnesota (1-6, 0-3 Legends); LW, 12
Last week: lost vs. No. 13 Nebraska 41-14
What????? Let's repeat that ... WHAT????? A seven-year extension, after seven horrible games? The Gophers are giving up nearly two points for every point they score. Belief in your new head coach is fine, but boy, did Minnesota settle for way less in Jerry Kill that'll last over the next two presidential terms.
Next: vs. Iowa, 2:30 p.m. BTN