The Big Ten season is halfway over. There have been a few surprises so far. I for one did not expect Penn State to have a commanding lead in the Leaders Division after watching them play in any game. They are easily the worst 8-1 team in the nation. If you like ugly football, watch Penn State. We will see just how good they are with their next three opponents being Nebraska, Ohio State, and Wisconsin.
Here is my power ranking for both divisions of the Big Ten.
1. Nebraska (3-1, 7-1) - With the
win over demolition of Michigan State on Saturday, Nebraska took a grasp of the top spot in the division for me. If they beat Michigan, they will force a tie with MSU for first. Thanks to Saturday, Nebraska has the tie-breaker and controls their own destiny. The Husker schedule is not the easiest, but I don't think any of their remaining opponents are as good as everyone thinks. Simply put, win and you're in. That defense is sickeningly good. Kirk Cousins threw into double coverage a lot. That's because there wasn't an open receiver all day long. And it was a long day for the Spartans. Nebraska still has to hope they don't need Taylor Martinez to win a game. Urban Meyer did a great job breaking down Martinez's throwing mechanics and boy was it ugly.
Biggest Game: November 19 @ Michigan. A win takes control of the division.
Remaining Schedule: Northwestern, @PSU, @MICH, Iowa
2. Michigan State (3-1, 6-2)- The loss Saturday hurt, but don't forget what the Spartans just went through. MSU beat Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin three consecutive games. At the beginning of the season, hell even at the beginning of the Big Ten schedule, if you told me MSU would go 3-1 through that stretch I would take it in an instant. MSU needs some help. Nebraska has to lose. Ideally that loss will come against Michigan putting MSU back in the lead for the division. Thankfully the Spartan schedule is much easier in the second half. They are far from out of the race. The offensive line is getting an identity and by now everyone knows about the defense. The secondary is still an issue for MSU. Darqueze Dennard had a terrible day Saturday. He's not the only one who's gotten burned a few times this year. It would be great if a second receiver stepped up to help out BJ Cunningham. Teams are realizing that he is the only real target. Kirk Cousins had two good games, then went on the road. He is a completely different QB on the road.
Biggest Game: November 12 @ Iowa. Anyone remember @ Iowa last year? Let's hope the Spartans do and they know not to do anything like it this year.
Remaining Schedule: Minnesota, @ Iowa, Indiana, @ Northwestern
3. Michigan (3-1, 7-1) - The offense is electric. Well it's electric when they play teams that suck on defense. It was a good bounce back win after a bye over an improving Purdue team Saturday. They are about to get punished for having a very easy schedule so far. I never trust Denard Robinson to win a game with his arm. He is slightly better throwing than Martinez and is more dangerous on his own, but I still do not trust him. A win over Nebraska would be huge. That doesn't seal the division for them after losing to MSU but it helps. The biggest thing for them is to not drop a game around that Nebraska game. They have the second most difficult remaining schedule after PSU.
Biggest Game: November 19 vs. Nebraska. Lose and lose your chance at the division.
Remaining Schedule: @ Iowa, @ Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio State
4. Iowa (2-2, 5-3) - They are only here because they do have 5 wins and Northwestern and Minnesota are terrible. It is tempting, however, to drop the Hawkeyes after that effort against Minnesota. If you saw them against PSU, you saw what happens when that offense is forced to throw late in a game. It's strange because Marvin McNutt is a great receiver and Marcus Coker has nearly 1000 yards rushing. This is not the Iowa team of the last few years that we have become familiar with. They lost out on a big opportunity to make noise in the division with the loss to Minnesota. They get Michigan and MSU both at home. They are now going to be spoiler. Of course if they win out, they could easily take the division.
Biggest Game: November 25 @ Nebraska. Iowa still plays all three of the top teams in the division. If they beat Michigan and MSU, this game could be for the championship.
Remaining Schedule: Michigan, MSU, @ Purdue, @ Nebraska
5. Minnesota (1-3, 2-6) - I have to reward the win over Iowa. This is my reward.
Biggest Game: November 5 @ MSU. Can they roll over the win Saturday and upset a reeling and somewhat banged up MSU team?
Remaining Schedule: @ MSU, Nebraska, @ Northwestern, Illinois
6. Northwestern (1-4, 3-5) - If only Dan Persa had been healthy this year. I think a healthy Persa is the best/most dangerous QB in the league. A win over Indiana isn't quite as impressive as a win over Iowa.
Biggest Game: November 26 vs. MSU. The NU season is over. They can play spoiler dropping the Spartans at home avenging last year's loss.
Remaining Schedule: @ Nebraska, Rice, Minnesota, MSU
1. Penn State (5-0, 8-1) - They do have a 2 game lead in the division with only having to play 3 games. That can't go unheard. They are not a good team though. At least they are in good position with the remaining schedule they have. It's Penn State. They have a good defense and a good running game. They don't have a good quarterback though. I thought they would decide on one guy after last year but when both options aren't any good you are left with what they have. Look for Marty Mornhingweg's son to take over soon.
Biggest Game: Whichever game is next on their schedule. If I had to pick one it would be @ Wisconsin the last game of the year as Wisconsin has the best chance of not losing until then.
Remaining Schedule: Nebraska, @ Ohio State, @ Wisconsin
2. Ohio State (2-2, 5-3) - Braxton Miller will be dangerous in the coming years. It's hard to believe that he is still just a freshman. He has taken a lot of heat this season, but he should have calmed his critics with that pass against Wisconsin. I think Wisconsin is the better team week in and week out, but I can't put them ahead of OSU after Saturday.
Biggest Game: November 19 vs. Penn State. PSU has a horribly difficult schedule remaining. This game could shift the rankings at the top.
Remaining Games: Indiana, @ Purdue, Penn State, @ Michigan
3. Wisconsin (2-2, 6-2) - Russell Wilson is still a great quarterback, and the team is very good...on offense. That defense leaves a lot to be desired. And somebody please make a stop late in the game! Not only did their BCS Championship hopes go out the window in the last two weeks, but they might not even make it to a BCS Bowl now.
Biggest Game: November 29 vs. PSU. The game is meaningless unless PSU drops a game before then. If they do, this could be for the division.
Remaining Schedule: Purdue, @ Minnesota, @ Illinois, Penn State
4. Illinois (2-3, 6-3) - I have jumped off the Illini band wagon with their three straight losses. I actually thought they had a chance early in the season. How wrong I was. Scheelhaase and Jenkins are great. It's too bad the rest of the team hasn't been anywhere close to as good. They are bowl eligible and with 3 games left have a chance to ruin some seasons having Michigan and Wisconsin at home.
Biggest Game: November 12 vs. Michigan. Coming off a bye week they could knock off the Wolverines. I would love for that to happen since I said they were better than UM earlier this year.
Remaining Schedule: Michigan, Wisconsin, @ Minnesota
5. Purdue (2-2, 4-4) - They came out of nowhere to beat Illinois. The real team showed up on Saturday getting lit by Michigan. It's going to be a while before Purdue makes any noise in this league.
Biggest Game: November 12 vs. Ohio State. They have a chance to make the season a success and possibly make a bowl.
Remaining Schedule: @ Wisconsin, Ohio State, Iowa, @ Indiana
6. Indiana (0-5, 1-8) - Their one "win" is over South Caroline State. That doesn't count when you get into tie-breakers. They will go winless.
Biggest Game: November 26 vs. Purdue. This is their only chance to win a real game.
Remaining Schedule: @ Ohio State, @ MSU, PurdueBack to the Michigan State Spartans Newsfeed