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How do the teams in the Big Ten stack up after the 10th week of action?
By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)
Post-Week 10 Big Ten Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Michigan State (7-2, 4-1) – In a league where there is clearly no definitive No. 1 team, Michigan State used a Le'Veon Bell fourth-quarter touchdown run to beat lowly Minnesota 31-24 to take over the top spot in the Big Ten. The Spartans were smarting from last week's loss, and it took until 10:58 left in the fourth for MSU to put away the Gophers. Kirk Cousins threw for 296 yards and two scores, but the Spartans defense allowed uncharacteristically long (82-, 83- and 80-yard) scoring drives for Minnesota. The Spartans now control their own Legends Divison destiny with trips to Iowa and Northwestern sandwiched around a visit from Indiana. There is still plenty of work to do, but MSU got the help it needed to get to Indianapolis.
2. Wisconsin (7-2, 3-2) – This is going to be the season of what-ifs and could-have-beens for Big Red fans. This team looks like the most complete, most talented team in the league but could be on the outside looking in come championship Saturday. The Badgers put up 62 points and 605 yards of offense, including 364 yards rushing, in a blowout win over Purdue. Tailback Montee Ball scored his 22nd, 23rd and 24th touchdowns to bring him within two of the all-time single-season Big Ten record of 26 while rushing for a career-high 223 yards on 20 carries. Russell Wilson (15-of-20, 205 yards, 2 TD) was efficient again and is the nation's No. 1 passer with a 196.6 raing (which would be a new single-season NCAA record). Wisconsin needs help to reach Indy and faces road tests against Minnesota and Illinois before the home finale against Penn State.
3. Penn State (8-1, 5-0) – The Nittany Lions were on bye this week and it likely could not have come at a worse time. Atheltic Director Tim Curley and senior vice president for business and finance Gary Schultz have surrendered to police after charges of child sexual abuse were filed against former PSU assistant Jerry Sandusky. With a three-game finish against Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin, Penn State and its anemic offense cannot afford any distractions as they attempt to earn a berth in the inaugural Big Ten title game.
4. Nebraska (7-2, 3-2) – The Big Ten rollar coaster ride for Cornhuskers fans continued this weekend with a heartbreaking home loss to Northwestern 28-25. The inability of Nebraska to consistently run the football against a defense that had been allowing 32 points and 432 yards per game was the story. Rex Burkhead was held to 69 yards on 22 carries (3.1 ypc) and Taylor Martinez mustered only 53 yards on 12 carries (4.4). The defense, on the other hand, could not stop Northwestern backup quarterback Kain Colter, who accounted for three second-half touchdowns. The Huskers now need to win out against Penn State, Michigan and Iowa and hope for a Michigan State loss in order to reach the Big Ten title game.
5. Ohio State (6-3, 3-2) – Woody Hayes would be proud. Ohio State ran the football with authority and played timely defense in a closer-than-anticipated 34-20 win over Indiana. The Buckeyes had three players top the century mark for the first time since 1989 as Carlos Hyde (15 att., 105 yards, TD), Boom Herron (14 att., 141 yards, TD) and freshman quarterback Braxton Miller (14 att., 105 yards, 2 TD) each contributed in a big way. Miller's 81-yard TD run was the longest scoring jaunt by any FBS quarterback in 2011. Luke Fickell used a Tre Roberson interception with just over four minutes to go in the game to seal the victory for the Buckeyes. OSU visits Purdue, hosts Penn State and plays that team from up North in the wrap-up to the season.
6. Michigan (7-2, 3-2) – Denard Robinson had four chances to tie the game from the three-yard line and 16 seconds left on the clock. And Shoelace threw not one, two or three but four incompletions to lose 24-16 to the Hawkeyes in Iowa City. In a game of inches, Michigan was on the losing (yet, correct) end of two tough calls in the final minutes that took two touchdowns off the board. In the end, the Wolverines were held to roughly half of their average on the ground (127 yards), and Robinson threw 20 incompletions and one key interception. The dynamic quarterback has topped 63 yards rushing only once in his last five games — a stretch in which UM is 3-2. The Maize and Blue finish with Illinois, Nebraska and that team from down South — and need lots of help to land in the Big Ten title game.
7. Illinois (6-3, 2-3) – Ron Zook hopefully took some time during the bye week to refine his offense. The Illini ranked 13th nationally in rushing offense, were averaging 447.7 yards of total offense and 34.7 points per game after six weeks. Orange Crush was 6-0 then. Zooker's squad has averaged 312.3 yards per game and has scored 28 total points in the three games since (0-3). With Michigan and Wisconsin up next on the schedule, the offense will need to show marked improvement if Illinois expects to reach eight wins.
8. Iowa (6-3, 3-2) – The Hawkeyes defense was the story of the 24-16 win over Michigan this weekend. The Wolverines entered Saturday leading the Big Ten in rushing at over 250 yards per game. Iowa held Michigan to 127 yards on the ground, got some timely (and correct) officiating and stopped Denard Robinson on four straight pass attempts from the three as time expired. Marcus Coker was the star on offense as he scored twice and rolled up 132 yards on 29 carries. With Michigan State visiting Iowa City this weekend and a trip to Nebraska to end the season, the Hawks still technically control their own destiny in the Legends Division race.
9. Northwestern (4-5, 2-4) – No Dan Persa, no worries. The growth and maturation of Kain Colter were on full display in the Wildcats' 28-25 upset of Nebraska as 17-point underdogs on Saturday. Colter steadily moved his purple offense up and down the field, passing for 115 yards, rushing for 57 and accounting for three second-half touchdowns after Persa left in the third with a shoulder issue. Jeremy Ebert set a personal high with 147 yards, including a massive 81-yard touchdown early in the fourth to put Northwestern up by 11. The defense held the Huskers running game in check all night (122 yards, 3.4 ypc). With Rice and Minnesota up next (followed by the finale with Michigan State), Pat Fitzgerald has his sights set on his fourth straight bowl game.
10. Purdue (4-5, 2-3) – The upset win over Illinois, the hard-nosed tight loss to Penn State and the blowout win over Minnesota seem a distant memory after two postseason-destroying losses. Purdue got pummeled at the hands of Wisconsin 62-17 this Saturday and now has to upset either Ohio State or Iowa at home to get to a bowl game — assuming the Boilermakers can beat Indiana on the road in the season finale.
11. Minnesota (2-7, 1-4) – If nothing else, Jerry Kill's Golden Gophers have shown marked improvement from the early season losses to New Mexico State and North Dakota State. In the last two weeks, Minnesota has upset rival Iowa and pushed Michigan State to the brink before losing 31-24 this weekend. Paul Bunyon's Axe is on the line this weekend with Wisconsin coming to town before the Gophers finish with Northwestern and Illinois. If Minny can pull off one more upset, fans in Minneapolis might have something to be excited about in 2012.
12. Indiana (1-9, 0-6) – The Hoosiers were on the Ohio State 44-yard line, down by seven with less than five minutes to go against the mighty Buckeyes. But freshman Tre Roberson made a bigger mistake than his freshman OSU counterpart Braxton Miller when he threw his lone interception to Travis Howard over the middle to seal IU's fate. Still, the 34-20 road loss was arguably the best showing by Kevin Wilson's bunch all season. Indiana is on bye this week before facing Michigan State and Purdue to finish 2011.