1) Ohio State Buckeyes: The Ohio State Buckeyes need all the style points they can grab themselves to have even a prayer of sniffing the title game, and they certainly got them on Saturday night in a 63-14 obliteration of Penn State. Urban Meyer and his team sent a message to the nation that they can take care of business when they have to. Should it come down to it with some help in front of them in the rankings, it’ll be interesting to see if enough people took that message seriously.
2) Wisconsin Badgers: Wisconsin may very well be the hottest team in the country in this point, and definitely are in the Big Ten Conference. They were on a bye week this week, which hopefully doesn’t ruin any of the momentum they’ve gained lately. We’ll find out when they take a trip to Iowa on Saturday.
3) Michigan State Spartans: While the offense woke up a little bit this week, you can’t argue the power and effectiveness of this Spartan defense. They held Illinois to just three points this past week and improved to 7-1 on the year. They have themselves in a great position right now to head to Indianapolis for the second time in three years for a chance at the Big Ten title and a trip to Pasadena.
4) Iowa Hawkeyes: Get your Kirk Ferentz lifetime contract extension jokes ready because the coach has this team rolling at the moment. After a good showing, for the most part, against Ohio State in defeat, the Hawkeyes came back and defeated Northwestern. They have a shot to make a real statement this week if they can stop the red-hot Wisconsin Badgers.
5) Michigan Wolverines: The shaky Wolverines were off this past weekend, but will see this week if they can get back on track by beating the in-state rival Michigan State Spartans. But, with the way Devin Gardner has been playing lately, that’s easier said than done against a Spartan defense that’s going to be out for blood.
6) Minnesota Golden Gophers: Obviously riding the emotion of the absence of their head coach Jerry Kill, who is on a leave of absence, the Golden Gophers are 6-2 and were more than impressive on Saturday in defeating Nebraska 34-23. If they can come away from their game with Indiana this week with a win, this team has hopes for a Big Ten title.
7) Nebraska Cornhuskers: The heat on this program was turned up just a bit this past weekend with the loss to Minnesota. Even the return of Taylor Martinez wasn’t enough to get the job done, and now you have to think that Bo Pelini’s days in Lincoln are all but finished.
8) Penn State Nittany Lions: It’s been a roller coaster for the Lions in their last three outings. They were blown out by Indiana, upset Michigan at home, and then were blown off the field in all phases of the game by Ohio State on Saturday. Christian Hackenberg looked exactly like a true freshman on the big stage in Columbus, and that game showed that the Nittany Lions have a ways to go.
9) Northwestern Wildcats: What happened to that team that had Ohio State nearly on the ropes a few weeks ago? After starting 4-0, this team is now on a four-game losing streak. They’ll take on Nebraska this week, so something has to give for one of these programs.
10) Indiana Hoosiers: The Hoosiers were off this week, and that may have been something they needed. They now have two straight home games against Minnesota and Illinois as they search for bowl eligibility. They’re 3-4 right now, so they’ll need to take care of things in both of those contests.
11) Illinois Fighting Illini: That showing against Michigan State was rough, to say the least. Yes, Michigan State’s defense may very well be the best in the conference, but Illinois on offense is a lot better than the three-point effort they showed. But, they have a good chance to rebound this week and get back to .500 on the year against a physically and mentally beaten Penn State team.
12) Purdue Boilermakers: The Boilermakers were on a bye as they get ready to host Ohio State this weekend. Can they catch the Buckeyes napping and pull off one of the most shocking upsets of the year? Probably not, but a team with nothing to lose is always dangerous.