Even in a week with little action outside of some lower ranked teams losing to higher ones, Penn State was able to jump back into the USA Today Coaches' poll at #25 with 77 points, way behind Baylor at #24 (185 points), just ahead of Florida (72 points). I still maintain that rankings are irrelevant after te top seven or so, but operating weekly with a number next to your name on the tube box instills some confidence and labels you relevant, at least in the general sense of the word.
As for the Big Ten? Well, for starters, Michigan is a top ten team. Read that again. Wisconsin jumped Stanford and sits at #4 despite being on a bye; the Cardinal
s smoked Colorado, but then again so did Ohio State. Nebraska, Illinois and Michigan State sit in that order in the 14-19 range. With Penn State at #25 that's half the conference.
Standings In Early Developmental Stages.
Illinois - 2-0
Penn State - 2-0
Wisconsin - 1-0
Purdue - 0-1
Ohio State - 0-2
Indiana - 0-2
Michigan - 2-0
Michigan State - 1-0
Nebraska - 1-1
Iowa - 0-1
Northwestern - 0-2
Minnesota - 0-2
How realistic are Penn State's chances at a trip to Indy? Low, certainly, with Wisconsin sitting on top of the talent pool, but perhaps not as long of a shot as it should be for a team with this many parts still in the manufacturing stage.
- Penn State's three misses - Michigan, Michigan State and Minesota - are shaping up to be the 1a&1b in the Leaders (we'll find out much more this weekend) and possibly the worst Big Ten team of the past 50 years. Nebraska may have turned a corner last night, so it's possible they are actually much better than either of the mitten teams, but at this point everyone is so inconsistant it's hard to tell.
- Ohio State already has two losses, and thanks to Ohio State and Michigan's self-centeredness, both of them count despite neither being in the division. I still think OSU hits their stride with a growing Miller, returning suspended talent and stout-ish front seven (maybe there's more to them rolling over on the sweeps last night than I suspected -- we'll wait and see), but down two games already, a loss to them might not matter. They also get Wisconsin at home and after a bye, although maybe not late enough to close the talent gap.
- That leaves two teams, one of which is Illinois. Despite their best start since 1412, Sagarin hates them - in fact his Predictor rankings put them seventh in the Big Ten, 4.2 points behind Penn State. With the game in Happy Vally, that's a predicted seven point win for Paterno. The Arizona State win still looks good, so there is that to reconcile.
- And of course Wisconsin. Probably one of the best five or six teams in the country, on the road. This is your gatekeeper right now.
Week Seven - The Saturday Of Half Tests. Michigan takes on their toughest challenge to date, depending on how you feel about the Notre Dame game. Penn State will have to see if they can keep up with Purdue, who is likely to score more than three points, Illinois may get the luckiest break in the conference if Braxton Miller doesn't return for Ohio State, and I can't wait to see where that Northwestern-Iowa line opens up at tonight.
Michigan(10) at Michigan State(19) - ESPN
Indiana at Wisconsin(4) - ESPN2
Purdue at (25) Penn State - BTN
Ohio State at Illinois(15) - ABC/ESPN Mirror
Northwestern at Iowa - BTN