1. Ohio State Buckeyes: 7–1 (5–0 Big Ten)
An epic fourth-quarter comeback powered by a surging J.T. Barrett allowed the Buckeyes to dethrone Penn State atop the Big Ten. The difference between the top two teams in the conference might even be slimmer after the matchup, but the Buckeyes have earned this spot with a vicious defense and playmakers across the board.
Last Week: Win vs. No. 2 Penn State (39–38)
Up next: at Iowa
2. Penn State Nittany Lions: 7–1 (4–1)
This was a tough week for James Franklin and his Nittany Lions. Dropping a top-five showdown after leading by 11 points with five minutes left in the fourth quarter is devastating. This is still a big-time team with a big-time offense, as it put up a whopping 38 points on one of the best defensive units in the land.
Last Week: Loss at No. 6 Ohio State (39–38)
Up Next: at No. 24 Michigan State
3. Wisconsin Badgers: 8–0 (5–0)
If it feels like we are saying the same general story about the Badgers week in and week out, it’s because we are. Paul Chryst and his boys have looked inconsistent all season, yet their ho-hum performance against Illinois was their least inspiring to date. Injuries on offense are rattling that side of the ball, putting a talented defense on its heels each week.
Wisconsin needs to get things moving in a positive direction, as the biggest four-game finale in program history is on the horizon in Madison. Keep an eye on Alex Hornibrook and the offense down the stretch; they’ll need to put up more points in order to impress the College Football Playoff committee, even if they keep winning.
Last Week: Win at Illinois (24-10)
Up Next: at Indiana
4. Michigan Wolverines: 6-2 (3-2)
There’s a chance that Brandon Peters is the game-changer at quarterback that Michigan has been waiting for, yet odds are that he’s more of the same for the Maize ‘n’ Blue. The Wolverines will need more through the air if they want to finish the season on a high note. They hang on to the fourth spot this week—just barely.
Last Week: Win vs. Rutgers (35–14)
Up Next: vs. Minnesota
5. Northwestern Wildcats: 5–3 (3–2)
This list has been predicting a mid-season turnaround for the Wildcats for a few weeks now. It appears that is precisely what is taking place. This is a balanced team, with a stronger defense than it gets credit for. Also, Wisconsin fans will be rooting hard for the fighting Pat Fitzgerald’s the rest of the way; a ranked Northwestern would be beneficial to the Badgers’ strength of schedule.
Last Week: Win vs. No. 16 Michigan State (39–31)
Up Next: at Nebraska
6. Michigan State Spartans: 6–2 (4–1)
A loss to the Wildcats in Week 9 grounded the Spartans, and more importantly, reminded us that Michigan State still has work to do before it can be considered “back.”
Last Week: Loss at Northwestern (39–31)
Up Next: vs. No. 7 Penn State
7. Iowa Hawkeyes: 5–3 (2–3)
Is there a Big Ten team who plays up or down to its competition more than the Hawkeyes? A ruthless end-of-the-season schedule will test Iowa greatly.
Last Week: Win vs. Minnesota (17–10)
Up Next: vs. No. 6 Ohio State
8. Maryland Terrapins: 4–4 (2–3)
D.J. Durkin led his Terrapins past the Hoosiers in Week 9 with a balanced offensive attack, enough to place Maryland at the top of the bottom tier of the Big Ten.
Last Week: Win vs. Indiana (42–39)
Up Next: at Rutgers
9. Nebraska Cornhuskers: 4–4 (3–2)
This feels like the last gasp of Mike Riley in Lincoln, yet Nebraska’s talent level moves the Huskers up to the ninth spot.
Last Week: Win at Purdue (25-24)
Up Next: vs. Northwestern
10. Indiana Hoosiers: 3–5 (0–5)
The Hoosiers had a chance to move up on this list, but the disappointing yet close loss to Maryland, and inconsistency, drops them to No. 10.
Last Week: Loss at Maryland (42–39)
Up Next: vs. No. 9 Wisconsin
11. Purdue Boilermakers: 3–5 (1–4)
The Boilers had a real shot at defeating Nebraska in Week 9, which would have been a landmark victory, even factoring in Nebraska’s recent struggles. It was not to be, as the Boilers still have work to do.
Last Week: Loss vs. Nebraska (25–24)
Up Next: vs. Illinois
12. Minnesota Golden Gophers: 4–4 (1–4)
It’s clear that Minnesota has taken a big step back in P.J. Fleck’s initial season as head coach, and it largely has to do with the Gophers’ passing inefficiency—Minnesota is probably the worst passing team in the conference.
Last Week: Loss at Iowa (17–10)
Up Next: at Michigan
13. Rutgers Scarlet Knights: 3–5 (2–3)
Chris Ash and his Scarlet Knights have been a positive surprise this season in conference play, which tells you something about the state of the program.
Last Week: Loss at Michigan (35–14)
Up Next: vs. Maryland
14. Illinois Fighting Illini: 2–6 (0–5)
Coming off their best performance of the year, a double-digit loss, Illinois may have found something in a dual-quarterback attack. Illinois desperately needs a conference victory.
Last Week: Loss vs. No. 5 Wisconsin (24–10)
Up Next: at Purdue