Things could get ugly this week, as my #1 team in the power poll will take on the #10 team. Of course, we have seen strange things before. Purdue has played Ohio State to a close game in the past. The Buckeyes are coming off of a tough game as well, so who knows. Here is this week's Big Ten power poll, submitted to The Rivalry, Esq. Sorry there isn't more Keanu.
1. Ohio State (5-1, 3-0) - Here is the one reason I think Ohio State is going to win the conference: They simply do not lose games to lesser teams. Outside of Iowa, I think the Big Ten is full of teams this year that are mediocre to flat out bad. Wisconsin was mediocre this past week and got a loss as a result of it. I think the Ohio State-Iowa game will be this year's Big Ten championship game.
2. Iowa (6-0, 2-0) - The Hawkeyes have probably faced the toughest conference slate to date and it will continue with Wisconsin this weekend. A win there and the Hawkeyes will be a game at Ohio State away from an undefeated season. It hasn't always been the most aesthetic, but Iowa is turning into Ohio State-lite by simply finding ways to win games. I am starting to like this team more and more each week and if they beat Wisconsin I will rank them ahead of every one loss team in next week's blogpoll.
3. Penn State (5-1, 1-1) - You can't really learn anything from Penn State's win over Eastern Illinois this past week. The Nittany Lions did exactly what they should do against a 1-AA foe. The October 24th game at Michigan should be very interesting because of Penn State's historic troubles against the Wolverines. I still don't trust their ability in big games because of the recent gack at home against Iowa.
4. Wisconsin (5-1, 2-1) - I guess we found out this past weekend about Wisconsin. They still have some hope to claim at least a share of the conference title, but a win this week against Iowa is necessary. This team is the anti-Purdue of the league. They have found a way to win some close games they might have lost otherwise. They can actually hold on to a late lead and not spike themselves. What is it like?
5. Michigan State (3-3, 2-1) - There is a big gap between the four and five slots of this poll. Michigan State, by virtue of its defense when it comes to play, is the best team of the remaining seven. Beating Michigan was impressive after the heartbreaking losses. They also took care of business on the road against a potentially dangerous team in Illinois. With Western Michigan struggling and plenty of winnable games left on the schedule the Spartans will go bowling somewhere.
6. Michigan (4-2, 1-2) - Michigan essentially gets a bye this week against Delaware State, but the Wolverines are 0-1 all-time against 1-AA opponents. It is a good chance for them to regroup before Penn State comes to town. I admit I was originally wrong about this team. An eight win season is still a strong possibility, as is a win over Ohio State at the end of the year. This team is going to be just fine with time.
7. Minnesota (4-2, 2-1) - Once again, I don't see where Minnesota really played all that well Saturday. They have virtually no passing game at all outside of Eric Decker. That makes them too one-dimensional. Yes, they ran for 207 yards, but three of their five scoring drives were 30 yards or less. Combined with the blocked field goal returned for a touchdown, they had one true scoring drive against Purdue. Is that the mark of a good team when we handed them 28 points?
8. Northwestern (4-2, 1-1) - Northwestern has been brutal, but you can't argue four wins. If you take away all of Purdue's mistakes, they have played infinitely better than Northwestern, but the Wildcats have four wins and Purdue has one. Go figure. As long as Northwestern gets past Illinois and Indiana now they will play in a bowl game, which is not bad for their program at the moment. They are still Northwestern too, so expect one surprise win somewhere in there.
9. Indiana (3-3, 0-2) - The Indiana-Northwestern game in a few weeks may be the biggest one in determining which of the bottom four teams go bowling. I think everyone above Northwestern is safe, but the winner of the Indiana-Northwestern game will look to combine a win over putrid Illinois and Purdue to get their sixth win. Other than that, it would take a rash of upsets to get any of these four teams eligible. Indiana's performance against Virginia was an embarrassment to the Big Ten conference as a whole. We should be allowed to boot them out because of it.
10. Purdue (1-5, 0-2) - The sole reason I am keeping us above Illinois at this point is that we have a win over a 1-A team, while Illinois does not. We also appear to have an offense when we are not turning the ball over. Illinois does not. I know that the Big Ten Network is contracted to televise every Big Ten home game, but I am betting they wish they could farm out the Purdue-Illinois game next week to someone like North Korean State Television. It can't be any worse than watching Kim Jong Il propaganda.
11. Illinois (1-4, 0-3) - Illinois will now play Indiana and Purdue in consecutive weeks hoping to save the season. With two wins, they might save Ron Zook's job. If they lose both games, I think he is as good as gone. At least Purdue has been in games against good competition. Illinois hasn't even been in a game yet against anyone expect Illinois State. For the record, Illinois has passed for just three touchdowns this year. That is with the Big Ten's most experienced quarterback and one of the best receivers too.
Non-conference opponents update:
Toledo - The Rockets are now 3-3 with a last second win over Ball State and a 58-26 home loss to Western Michigan in the past two weeks. Toledo has yet to hold a team under 30 points, but they might still be a bowl team because they have a high-powered offense and they play in the MAC. They actually play Northern Illinois this week, and I will be really pissed if they beat the Huskies.
Oregon - Even with a backup quarterback making his first start on the road Oregon is looking better each week. They now get a week off before facing Washington and USC. I still cannot believe we outplayed Oregon on their home field, and they very well could finish 11-1 and be in the Rose Bowl if not better. This is one of the best teams in the country right now, and I bet Boise State loves that.
Northern Illinois - The Huskies were off last week, but have recently beaten Western Michigan 38-3. They don't have the best non-conference record out there, but they are 1-0 in conference play. Idaho is looking like a better team this year, making that loss not as a bad. It may not have been a fluke that they beat us.
Notre Dame - This is another team that is an anti-Purdue. I will give credit where it is due. They are finishing ways to win games when it looks like they won't. I think we need to warn the country that if they beat USC this week the hype will become unbearable. There are still people predicting a 10-2 finish and BCS bid even if they lose, but their luck in close games will not last forever. Just as ours has to eventually change, so will Notre Dame's.