Don't look now, but a strong performance by Penn State might just have the Nittany Lions playing the best football in the Big Ten right now. With shaky home wins by Ohio State and Michigan, a case could be made for Bill O'Brien's team, who went on the road this week and dominated Iowa.
|1||Ohio State||8-0 (4-0)||Leaders*||---||W vs. Purdue (29-22, OT)||@ Penn St.|
|2||#22 Michigan||5-2 (3-0)||Legends||---||W vs. Michigan St. (12-10)||@ Nebraska|
|3||Penn State||5-2 (3-0)||Leaders*||---||W @ Iowa (38-14)||vs. Ohio St.|
|4||Nebraska||5-2 (2-1)||Legends||+3||W @ Northwestern (29-28)||vs. Michigan|
|5||#25 Wisconsin||6-2 (3-1)||Leaders||---||W vs. Minnesota (38-13)||vs. Michigan St.|
|6||Northwestern||6-2 (2-2)||Legends||-2||L vs. Nebraska (29-28)||vs. Iowa|
|7||Iowa||4-3 (2-1)||Legends||-1||L vs. Penn St. (38-14)||@ Northwestern|
|8||Michigan State||4-4 (1-3)||Legends||---||L @ Michigan (12-10)||@ Wisconsin|
|9||Purdue||3-4 (0-3)||Leaders||+2||L @ Ohio St. (29-22, OT)||@ Minnesota|
|10||Minnesota||4-3 (0-3)||Legends||-1||L @ Wisconsin (38-14)||vs. Purdue|
|11||Indiana||2-5 (0-3)||Leaders||-1||L @ Navy (31-30)||@ Illinois|
|12||Illinois||2-5 (0-3)||Leaders||---||Idle||vs. Indiana|
At this point, it seems like Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State are pretty much even. Ohio State is still undefeated, but they've played a fairly easy schedule and have looked extremely vulnerable against two of the Big Ten's worst teams in consecutive weeks. Michigan hasn't lost a Big Ten game and could cement their frontrunner status with a win next week; even though the Wolverines lost two ugly looking games in the non-conference season (and as it turns out, those two teams are currently in the top 5 nationally), their win over Michigan State keeps them in the driver's seat for the Legends Division title. Penn State lost its first two games in brutal fashion -- at home to a MAC team (Ohio, who's actually pretty good) and on the road against an underachieving ACC squad because of four missed field goals. Since then, the Nittany Lions have played extremely well; they've won at home against a decent Northwestern team and against Iowa in Iowa City. Right now, those wins look like two of the better performances by any Big Ten team this year. There will be a little more clarity at the top after this week: Michigan travels to Nebraska and Penn State hosts Ohio State.
Nebraska's head-to-head home win over Wisconsin is the sole reason why they're ahead of the Badgers, but both teams have rebounded well from poor road performances; the Huskers went on the road and beat Northwestern and Wisconsin won two games convincingly over poor competition. Wisconsin will likely receive the Leaders Division bid to the Big Ten championship game by default with Penn State and Ohio State ineligible for it. Nebraska could put themselves in position for the other bid win a home win over Michigan this week, which would put them into a tie for first in the Legends. Northwestern is right along with them in that second tier, it's just that the Cats have failed to win a game over a good team thus far. The Cats have enough firepower to win some more games, but they're two games behind Michigan in the division standings with a trip to Ann Arbor upcoming.
At this point, Michigan State and Iowa are probably contending for bowl eligibility. The Spartans have more than enough talent to win two more games from here on out, even though their offensive coaching is questionable at best. Winning on the road against Wisconsin would be a huge turnaround after a brutal loss in Ann Arbor this weekend. Iowa also suffered a tough loss, and also suffer from poor offensive coaching, but they have Purdue and Indiana still left on the schedule. Michigan State and Iowa are incredibly similar teams (even though Michigan State is probably better, despite losing head-to-head) and both should make a bowl game, but hey, who knows in the Big Ten this year.
Purdue, Minnesota, Indiana and Illinois still haven't had one Big Ten win between them. Purdue and Minnesota have a relatively pivotal game this week -- the winner will likely have the inside track to barely getting to six wins and then getting beaten in Detroit by a MAC team in their bowl game. Indiana, Illinois, better luck next year.
Who is the best team in the Big Ten right now?
Michigan (120 votes)
Nebraska (5 votes)
Ohio State (21 votes)
Penn State (23 votes)
Wisconsin (5 votes)
Other (1 vote)
175 total votes