By Adam Hoge -
The Big Ten title race took a dramatic turn Saturday when Wisconsin went into Iowa and came away with a win. That, along with Michigan State’s comeback in Evanston, were the two biggest and best games of the weekend. The Spartans now head to Iowa City Saturday with their Big Ten and National Championship dreams on the line. If they can beat Iowa, only two easy home games and a manageable trip to Penn State remain. But if the Hawkeyes rebound with a win, we’re looking at a four-horse battle that could go down to the final week of the season.
Week 9 Power Rankings (BCS rankings are used)
1. No. 3 Michigan State (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) – The Spartans continue to squeak by without a loss after surviving a tough test at Northwestern. Mark Dantonio has now won two games with fakes and it’s calls like those that win championships in tough conferences. If MSU can go into Iowa City this weekend and get a win, the Spartans could easily finish 12-0 and end up in the National Championship Game.
2. No. 10 Wisconsin (7-1, 3-1) – Speaking of winning games because of great calls by a head coach, the Badgers stole a win in Iowa after Bret Bielema called for a fake punt deep in their own territory. Get this: Wisconsin scored 31 points on Iowa’s respected defense without their No. 1 tight end, No. 1 receiver, No. 1 center and No. 2 running back. That’s impressive.
3. No. 11 Ohio State (7-1, 3-1) – Want evidence that the BCS could care less about big wins over bad teams? The Buckeyes steamrolled the Boilermakers 49-0 and fell one spot in the BCS standings.
4. No. 18 Iowa (5-2, 2-1) – It would be easy to say the Hawkeyes defense was exposed Saturday, but the players actually made very few mistakes. The coaching was the real issue as Iowa fell victim to a number of creative plays by the Badgers. Kirk Ferentz’s clock-management was also big problem and Iowa’s special teams were atrocious.
5. Northwestern (5-2, 1-2) – The Wildcats lost Saturday but actually move up one spot in my rankings. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not because I thought they did a great job against Michigan State. That was a game Northwestern should have won and they don’t deserve much credit for blowing a 17-0 lead. I’m just not convinced any of the remaining teams are better than NU.
6. Illinois (4-3, 2-2) – I’m still very impressed with the Illini defense but 43 points against Indiana doesn’t change my mind about the offense. The score was a little deceiving because the defense scored two touchdowns. Three offensive touchdowns against IU’s defense is nothing to brag about. With that said, this was a very convincing and optimistic win for Illinois.
7. Michigan (5-2, 1-2) – The Wolverines’ two losses (Michigan State and Iowa) don’t look too bad right now, but this is a team that is about to get completely exposed. Both of those losses came at home, which means three Big Ten road games remain. A 3-5 conference record looks likely.
8. Penn State (4-3, 1-2) – No team needed a trip to Minneapolis more than the Nittany Lions. Their 33-21 win against Gophers was their first road win of the season. This weekend’s home game against Michigan will tell us a lot about both teams.
9. Purdue (4-3, 2-1) – The Boilermakers fall the hardest this week, but based on their 2-0 start in the Big Ten and win over Northwestern, it would have been in impossible to rank them lower than No. 5 last week. Ohio State showed us that the Boilermakers were exactly who we thought they were.
10. Indiana (4-3, 0-3) – Another week, another Big Ten loss for the Hoosiers. This team needs two more wins to be bowl eligible and if you look at Indiana’s schedule, I’m not sure they get there.
11. Minnesota (1-7, 0-4) – The Gophers have lost seven straight games and still has to play Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa. Ouch. A 1-11 season looks likely.
Five random nuggets
- The Spartans’ national championship hopes are on the line this weekend. Bad news: MSU hasn’t won at Iowa since 1989.
- Before Saturday’s game against Wisconsin, Iowa had only given up two rushing touchdowns all season. The Badgers scored three on the ground.
- Michigan State is 8-0 for the fifth time in school history. The last four times the Spartans started 8-0 they won the national championship.
- According to the official NCAA schedule strength rankings, Illinois has faced the toughest schedule in the nation thus far.
- Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa currently leads all Division I (FBS and FCS) quarterbacks in completion percentage (.757) and ranks fifth in total offense (313 ypg), yet he wasn’t named one of the 16 semi-finalists for the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award.
Get more college football coverage from Adam Hoge by following him on Twitter @AdamHoge670.