CBS 2 Chicago wbbm7801059 670 The Score

Northwestern

Hoge: Big Ten Title Is Up For Grabs

Pat Fitzgerald

Pat Fitzgerald (Photo Credit: Getty)

Sports Fan Insider

Keep up with your favorite teams and athletes with daily updates.
Sign Up

By Adam Hoge

What a weekend in the Big Ten. It’s not too often that a No. 1 team goes down and a head coach gets fired in the same weekend.

Wisconsin’s win over Ohio State probably hurt the Big Ten’s chances of having a representative in the BCS National Championship Game, but Michigan State is still undefeated so it could happen. The Badgers’ upset over the previously No. 1 ranked Buckeyes did however create an exciting conference title race. The Big Ten leads all conferences with four teams in the BCS Top 15 and all four of those teams will continue to have a chance to knock each other off. The Badgers head to Iowa this week looking to hand the Hawkeyes their first Big Ten loss.

Power Rankings (BCS rankings are used)

1. No. 7 Michigan State (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) – Who knew the Spartans would debut at No. 7 in BCS Standings when the season began? And let’s not forget they missed head coach Mark Dantonio for two games after he suffered a mild heart attack. Michigan State needs to be careful this week though. Northwestern is coming off a bye week and has a lot of motivation after falling to Purdue two week ago.

2. No. 15 Iowa (5-1, 2-0) – The Hawkeyes know how close they are from being undefeated and since their loss at Arizona they have played very well. But Iowa will be tested Saturday with the Badgers in town coming off their win over Ohio State. The Hawkeyes have three home games remaining: Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State. Oh how lucky they are to have all three games at home. But that certainly doesn’t mean they will win them all.

3. No. 13 Wisconsin (6-1, 2-1) – Saturday’s win over Ohio State was easily the biggest win the program has had since the Barry Alvarez years and it got the monkey off Bret Bielema’s back. He finally showed he could beat the Big Ten’s best, but now he needs to prove he can do it on the road. If the Badgers beat Iowa, they could easily win out and finish 7-1 in the Big Ten.

4. No. 10 Ohio State (6-1, 2-1) – The Buckeyes sort of backed their way into the nation’s No. 1 ranking so it really wasn’t a huge surprise they lost in Madison. They really haven’t looked like any of the dominant Ohio State teams we have seen in the past and the players need to regroup in a hurry. A home game against Purdue will help, but let’s not forget the Boilermakers stole one from OSU last year.

5. Purdue (4-2, 2-0) – The Boilermakers are now 6-2 in their last eight Big Ten games going back to last season. Eight games makes up a full Big Ten slate and Danny Hope deserves a lot of credit, especially with all the injuries his team has endured this season. But can the Boilers beat Ohio State on the road? A reality check might be in order this Saturday.

6. Northwestern (5-1, 1-1) – Those who know Northwestern know how bad of a loss it was two Saturdays ago in Evanston. We just mentioned that Purdue is playing good football, but that was a game the Wildcats had to have. A bye week will help regroup and this might be the right team to hand the Spartans their first loss of the season.

7. Michigan (5-2, 1-2) – I’m still trying to figure out how the Wolverines got seven votes in the A.P. Poll and 23 in the coaches poll. You would think the coaches would at least recognize how bad of a defense Michigan has. Denard Robinson is great, but I’m not buying in to this team until they prove they can stop a Big Ten team from scoring.

8. Illinois (3-3, 1-2) – There’s no question the Illini have made great strides this season, especially on defense. But they couldn’t get a touchdown in East Lansing? This team should still reach a bowl game because the hardest part of their schedule is over, but Illinois still has a lot of work to do.

9. Penn State (3-3, 0-2) – The best cure for a Penn State team that can’t score points? How about Minnesota, which gives up 31.7 points per game? The Nittany Lions should get their first Big Ten win this weekend in Minneapolis.

10. Indiana (4-2, 0-2) – Ben Chappell continues to be the most underrated quarterback in the league, but he needs help from his defense. The Hoosiers need to come up with three wins if they want to make a bowl game. A 6-6 record won’t do it with the horrible non-conference schedule they played.

11. Minnesota (1-6, 0-3) – A 15-30 record and losses to North Dakota State and South Dakota just won’t cut it for any FBS head coach and Minnesota had enough of Tim Brewster. Offensive coordinator Jeff Horton takes over as interim head coach for the rest of the season, but don’t expect any kind of Mike Quade turnaround. The Gophers are as good as dead this season.

Five random nuggets

  • Wisconsin long snapper Kyle Wojta tore his ACL last Tuesday, but still snapped the ball on field goals and extra points in Saturday’s win over Ohio State.
  • This is the third straight year the Big Ten’s last undefeated team was not among the top three teams revealed at Big Ten Media Days.
  • Four Big Ten teams have already matched or surpassed their win total from 2009. Those teams are Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State and Michigan.
  • Michigan State has yet to play a game outside the state of Michigan this season.
  • Big Ten attendance is at an all-time high. The 11 schools are averaging 73,220 fans per game this season, which would break the conference record of 72,566 established in 2005.

Get more college football coverage from Adam Hoge by following him on Twitter @AdamHoge670.