So I’m only in the third week of doing these rankings and it’s already getting super-depressing. While the current Top 3 remains unchanged from last week, Penn State has taken a JFK Jr.-style nose dive from #2 in Week 1 to sitting in the 8th position here in Week 3. I’ve also decided to put in parentheses each team’s ranking from last week, as to make it easier to keep track of whether a team is on the rise or decline.
1. Ohio State (1) – They went on the road and as expected, beat a lowly Minnesota team that is still trying to find an identity under new coach Tim Brewster. Now, the Buckeyes face their second major road test of the year at Purdue.
Just another day in the office for Ol’ Sweatervest
2. Wisconsin (2) – Once again, Wisky’s opponent gave them all they could handle and once again, the Badgers found a way to come through. These guys need to learn how to close out an opponent, otherwise it’s highly likely it will come back to bite them in the ass later down the road (See: 1999 PSU, 2001 Northwestern).
3. Michigan (3) – Yes, they were losing to Northwestern in the 4th quarter but Chad Henne did a nice job of rallying the troops on the road to keep Michigan undefeated in Big Ten play. Appalachian State really seems like a month ago now.
4. Michigan State (6) – Gave Wisconsin all it could handle before coming up just short. With the exception of Illinois, no other team in the Big Ten has improved as dramatically as these guys have. The key factor for Sparty’s turnaround this year has been the fact that Mark Dantonio actually stresses the value of playing solid defense. After finishing 88th in total defense during John L. Smith’s last hurrah, Mark Dantonio’s first year in East Lansing has produced the nation’s 25th best defense overall, including a dramatic improvement in the passing defense department (31st this year, as opposed to 97th last year). You also have to factor in an improved running game led by the dynamic duo of Jehuu Caulcrick and Javon Ringer. While the annual “Sparty collapse” is still very much a possibility, I think this team is far too focused and disciplined to allow such a collapse to occur. Look for MSU to end its 4-year bowl drought come December or perhaps even January if they can shock a couple teams.
Lost action clip of MSU’s “Dynamic Duo”: Jehuu Caulcrick and Javon Ringer
5. Purdue (7) – We’ll find out whether the “Fighting Joe Tillers” are for real this Saturday night when they host Ohio State in a battle of unbeatens.
6. Illinois (8) – Dangerous offense no doubt, especially in the option attack and Arrelious Benn is a constant scoring threat. Their defense was able to make some clutch plays against PSU last week. Granted, the Fightin’ Illini got a lot of help from a certain QB whose IQ matches the number on his jersey and from a coaching staff that has forgotten the concept of the “Goal Line Push.” We’ll see whether the Illini are for real this week, as they opened yesterday as a 2.5 point favorite against Wisconsin, who visits Champaign this weekend. I’ll repeat that: Illinois, a team that only a week ago was still looking for a marquee win under Ron Zook is now a 2.5 point favorite over the #5 ranked team in the nation. Anyone who’s been reading my blog for the past week though knows why this is such the case…
7. Indiana (9) – I never thought I’d see the day I would be ranking the Hoosiers ahead of us in football. However, they did something that we couldn’t do last week: score consistently on the road. I’m not sure I can mark this game down as a sure-fire win anymore. IU’s current crop of seniors were freshmen when we last played them in that “Goal-line stand” game, don’t think for a moment they haven’t forgot and that they won’t fight tooth and nail to become recognized as the first group of Indiana players to ever beat Penn State.
These are not your Uncle Lee Corso’s Hoosiers.
8. Penn State (4) – The tumble down the rabbit hole continues. We face a depleted, demoralized Iowa team at home in this weekend’s “Big Ten Cripple Fight Of The Week” which is hands-down our best bet at a Big Ten win.
9. Iowa (5) – Kirk Ferentz has become as popular on the Iowa Scout.com board as JoePa (See: Not very). Would beating PSU a sixth straight time begin to silence the nay-sayers in Iowa City?
10. Northwestern (11) – I’m moving them out of the bottom spot because they gave Michigan all they could handle last week. I hope the scoreboard operator at Ryan Field is doing finger exercises in preparation for an upcoming shootout with Minnesota on Oct. 13th.
11. Minnesota (10) – Their all-Yellow unis gave me eyesores. Just for that, I’m relegating them to the bottom of the heap.
Piss-yellow uniforms. A fitting color considering the Golden Gophers’ performance this season