Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 8

Ethan Miller - Getty Images

Three weeks into the Big Ten slate, and we're still trying to figure out who half this league's teams are. Will the real Wisconsin please stand up?

For the past two weeks, we've been calling Ohio State the undisputed head-and-shoulders top-of-the-class dominant team in a down Big Ten. So, of course, they'd go into Bloomington and get tested by the (maybe-not-so-) lowly Hoosiers. Just when we were ready to count out Wisconsin after its stunningly bad nonconference play, the Badgers went into West Lafayette and beat down on Purdue, which has, all of a sudden, lost any of the positive mojo it had coming out of a strong preseason. See also: Iowa, vis-a-vis Michigan State.

It's a mad, mad, mad, mad conference, and we're just trying to make sense of it.

At least we can always be confident in knowing that Illinois still sucks.

Rank Team Why?
1 (7-0, 3-0; Last week: #1) Well, the Buckeyes certainly look beatable now. Indiana's a much improved team under Kevin Wilson, but a three-point win is hardly something Urban Meyer and co. can be proud of. Neither can allowing just shy of 500 yards of offense. But, to be fair, Ohio State led 52-34 before a pair of Hoosier touchdowns in the final two minutes, and this game was never as close as the final score looks. Still, another poor showing from a suddenly depleted defense is a troubling sign.

(4-2, 2-0; Last week: #2) No, it's not exactly an accomplishment to beat up on a hapless Illinois team, especially once you've knocked Nathan Scheelhaase out of the game early. But it sure is encouraging for the Wolverines, and discouraging, for the rest of the Legends division, to see Denard Robinson return to form. And that 7-point loss to Notre Dame looks better every week.

3 (4-2, 2-0; Last week: #3) Penn State had the week off, but all of a sudden, that matchup in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday looks scary.
4 (4-2, 2-1; Last week: #4) Nebraska also had the week off, and all of a sudden, that squeaker over Wisconsin looks a lot better.
5 (5-2, 2-1; Last week: #8) Maybe it's an overreaction, but the Wisconsin team that we've seen through three weeks of conference play is an entirely different one than the team that just squeaked by Northern Iowa, Utah State and UTEP, and lost to Oregon State though, and bear with me here, all of a sudden, that 3-point loss in Corvallis looks a whole lot better. Sure, it's only been wins over Illinois and Purdue, but the Badgers seem to have found their mojo. And given Michigan State's freefall, the schedule lines up for the Badgers to be 8-2 heading into the final two games of the season, against Ohio State and at Penn State.
6 (4-2, 2-0; Last week: #7) In what's an early contender for the Big Tenniest game of the season, the Hawkeyes proved that they can win without engaging in contemporary notions of "offense." Getting inside the 10 yard line four times and coming away with one touchdown and three field goals isn't going to get it done most days. And the legend of Mark Weisman is continuing to blossom--but of course, AIRBHG couldn't let that go unpunished.
7 (6-1, 2-1; Last week: #5) Northwestern played its worst game of the season, but showed that it's willing to tinker with the offense. After appearing sparingly at the position last week, Kain Colter started at QB and threw 10 passes, while Trevor Siemian, who threw 36 times against Penn State, had just 7 attempts. But given that Minnesota dominated the time of possession, and racked up 50 more yards, you can't be too encouraged if you're a Northwestern fan.
8 (3-3, 1-2; Last week: #6) Michigan State's two Big Ten losses have come by a combined four points, and its most recent defeat came in double OT. But the Spartans are their own worst enemy. I mean, you just can't get inside the 10 yard line four times and come away with just one touchdown and three field goals! That'll kill you.
9 (2-4, 0-3; Last week: #10) I'm buying on these Hoosiers--not as a team that's going to win out, or even necessarily make a bowl, but they'll play spoiler somewhere down the line. They're too resilient, and too overlooked to not catch a good team napping. For three straight weeks, they've come damn close to doing just that. With Navy and Illinois coming up on the schedule, the opportunity will be there for the Hoosiers to even their record, and after 2011, 4 wins sounds pretty good.
10 (4-2, 0-2; Last week: #11) If MarQuies Gray plays the whole game against Northwestern, Minnesota's probably 5-1. As it was, the Gophers shot themselves in the foot with three turnovers and nine penalties in a game in which they otherwise outplayed the Wildcats. But with games remaining against Purdue and Illinois, bowl eligibility is still a possibility for Minnesota.
11 (3-3; 0-2; Last week: #9) Purdue is not very good at football. That's the only explanation after the Boilermakers spectacularly lay another egg at home against a desperate team. The offense is bad, the defense is worse, and this is just getting sad. Being worse at football and basketball than Indiana? Ouch.
12 (2-5, 0-3; Last week: #12)
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