2) No. 15 Iowa (9-2, 5-2; last week, 2)
Kirk Ferentz has a quarterback controversy on his hands for 2010. He may get some time in Arizona to mull it over, if his team gets a Fiesta Bowl bid (and it does appear, despite a late-season swoon, that Iowa is the favorite to crack the BCS tenth pick).
3) No. 17 Wisconsin (8-2, 5-2; last week, 3)
In many ways, Wisconsin and Penn State have similar resumes. They blew leads at home to Iowa; Ohio State is their other loss; they don't have a particularly great win to their name and their non-conference schedules are lacking, but two losses is two losses. New Year's Day is calling.
Now, look a little closer. First off, the Nittany Lions lost to the Buckeyes at home, whereas Bucky had to go to the Shoe. Even more telling, check out Wisconsin's track record against currently bowl-eligible teams (besides OSU and Iowa): win vs. 7-3 Northern Illinois, win vs. 6-4 Fresno State, win vs. 6-5 Michigan State, win at 6-5 Minnesota. Penn State? A win vs. 8-2 Temple and a win at 7-4 Northwestern.
If Wisconsin matches the latter accomplishment on Saturday and moves to 5-2 against bowling teams (provided no letdown in the Aloha State), it absolutely should earn a better bowl destination than Penn State. And folks, that's from a humble, unbiased opinion right there.
4) No. 13 Penn State (9-2, 5-2; last week, 4)
See above. JoePa can't get by on reputation alone.
5) Northwestern (7-4, 4-3; last week, 6)
The Badgers haven't played the Wildcats since way back on Oct. 7, 2006. A 41-9 victory gave some young kid named Bret Bielema a 5-1 career coaching record.
But the last time Wisconsin invaded that high school field NU calls a stadium? It was Barry Alvarez's final season, and No. 14 Wisconsin was rolling in at 5-0. John Stocco threw for 326 yards, Jonathan Orr caught four touchdowns, Brian Calhoun racked up 250 yards from scrimmage leading UW to 48 points … and the Badgers still lost by three, as Northwestern gashed the Badgers for 674 yards. Who was the defensive coordinator? That young Bielema kid. There. A little history lesson for you.
Oh, and don't underestimate the sleepiness of Ryan Field. This game reeks of a trap.
6) Michigan State (6-5, 4-3; last week, 5)
Seems so long ago that the Spartans were considered the clear-cut No. 3 in the conference. Now they're just fighting for the right to leave their own state for a decent bowl bid.
7) Minnesota (6-5, 3-4; last week, 8)
I felt like docking the Gophers for needing a late field goal to knock off the mighty Jackrabbits of South Dakota State ... but hey, records don't lie. Minnesota's going bowling, and the other four Big Ten teams aren't.
8) Illinois (3-7, 2-6; last week, 7)
The rebuilding begins in Champaign, with Jacob Charest now taking the reins at quarterback.
9) Purdue (4-7, 3-4; last week, 9)
The Boilers lost to Oregon by 2, Notre Dame by 3, Northwestern by 6, and Michigan State by 3 … the last three of those heartbreakers coming at home. It'll be a long offseason of "what if's" for Purdue.
10) Indiana (4-7, 1-6; last week, 10)
Can't fault them for playing tough in Happy Valley. Should be a ton of pride on the line – along with a fifth victory – in that Hoosier State finale against Purdue.
11) Michigan (5-6, 1-6; last week, 11)
Tate Forcier says he'll "spend 10 hours this week watching film" if he has to, "to get the seniors to a bowl game" with a win against Ohio State. Well, Tate, if you stick to your word, I don't suppose Michigan will make you fill out any NCAA-mandated logs dictating how much time you spent in the video room.
(Ba-dum ching! Good night, everyone! I'll be here all week!)