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October 1, 2013

Big Ten Power Poll: Week 5





It's time to update the BadgerBlitz.com Big Ten Power Poll, where Jon McNamara, Jon Gorman and I will rank the Big Ten teams from 1 to 12 every week.

I complied the list in a traditional power poll style- a first place vote was good for 12 points, a second place one for 11, and so on.

1. Ohio State (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) - 36 points (3 1st place votes)
Weekly change: None
Last game: defeated Wisconsin 31-24

All hail Ohio State, Kings of the Big Ten and Protectors of the Realm. With their biggest test of the season thus far in the rear-view mirror, not much stands in Ohio State's way in their quest for a division title and an appearance in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Wisconsin Badgers haven't quite been eliminated from the hunt yet- the Buckeyes still need to take care of their own business against Northwestern this week.

2. Northwestern (4-0, 0-0) - 32 points
Weekly change: +1
Last game: BYE

Northwestern's biggest test of the season is here. They've taken care of their non-conference foes without a lot of trouble, except for a rough quarter or two against California. They'll host Ohio State this week at Ryan Field, with ESPN's College Gameday set to air from their campus for what is undoubtedly one of their biggest home games in their history. Again, we won't know for sure how good Northwestern is until late Saturday evening, but they're going to give the Buckeyes their best shot.

3. Wisconsin (3-2, 1-1) - 31 points
Weekly change: -1
Last game: lost to Ohio State 31-24

Personally I think the Badgers and Ohio State are the two best teams in the Big Ten, but McNamara and Gorman dropped them to third place in their ballots. It's hard to blame them: the Badgers came up just a little short against Ohio State on the road, and their road to a division title got a lot tougher in the process. They don't control their own destiny in the Big Ten anymore, but a good season is still salvageable in Gary Andersen's first year in Madison.

4. Michigan (4-0, 0-0) 27 points
Weekly change: None
Last game: BYE

The Wolverines didn't look very good in a close win over UConn, which just fired its head coach after an 0-4 start to the season. Hopefully for their sake they've ironed out some of their offensive issues during their bye week, but they'll welcome Minnesota to Ann Arbor this week. The Wolverines haven't lost to the Golden Gophers since 2005, and have won 22 of the last 23 meetings.

T-5. Michigan State (3-1, 0-0) - 21 points
Weekly change: N/A
Last game: BYE

We have a three-way tie for fifth place in this week's poll. The Spartans have the best defense of the three, but they're in for a long, tough game against Iowa this week. Both teams have had to grind out their wins so far, so whoever wins the trench war will win the game on Saturday. All Michigan State needs out of their offense is competence, and I think their defense is good enough to keep them in front.

T-5. Penn State (3-1, 0-0) - 21 points
Weekly change: +1
Last game: BYE

The Nittany Lions have played some solid defense up to this point, but they'll have an interesting test this weekend at Indiana. At the very least the Hoosiers can score, so my guess is that Christian Hackenberg doesn't have a whole lot of room for error this week. The Nittany Lions need to contain the Hoosiers, so we'll see if the young quarterback can take advantage of a usually soft Indiana defense.

T-5. Nebraska (3-1, 0-0) - 21 points
Weekly change: +2
Last game: BYE

The hot rumor is that Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez is still struggling with turf toe, and could miss this week's game against Illinois. That's a problem for the Huskers- who have big problems on defense and need to find a way to stop Illinois' suddenly potent offense. If Martinez misses the game, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Illini come away with a big upset this weekend in Lincoln.

8. Iowa (4-1, 1-0) - 15 points
Weekly change: +1
Last game: defeated Minnesota 23-7

Don't look now, but Iowa doesn't look so bad right now. I would hesitate to call them great, but they've bounced back after a tough season opening loss to a good Northern Illinois team. Iowa beat Minnesota by 16 points, but it was a much more dominating performance than that score suggests. They have an intriguing matchup with Michigan State this week, so the Hawkeyes could jump up a few spots with a win this weekend.

9. Illinois (3-1, 0-0) - 10 points
Weekly change: +1
Last game: defeated Miami (OH) 50-14

New Illinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit has really breathed new life into this offense, which bordered on dreadful for most of last season. Nathan Scheelhasse is thriving: he's already thrown for 1,162 yards through four games, and is completing 67.2 percent of his passes. We'll see what he can do against a good defense, but teams with poor ones need to watch out (Nebraska, in particular.)

10. Indiana (2-2, 0-0) - 9 points
Weekly change: +1
Last game: BYE

Indiana is back in action after their bye week, and they have a big task in front of them if they want to return to the postseason. They need four wins in the Big Ten season to earn a 6-6 record and a bowl berth, so this is really a make or break week for the Hoosiers. Penn State is coming to town, and my bet is that Indiana needs to win all of their Big Ten home games to keep their hopes alive.

11. Minnesota (4-0, 0-1) - 6 points
Weekly change: -3
Last game: lost to Iowa 23-7

The Gophers got Phillip Nelson back, but he struggled against a solid Iowa defense. Nelson completed just 12 of 24 passes against the Hawkeyes, throwing for 135 yards and one touchdown to go with two interceptions. And for a team that wants to run the ball, the Gophers had a horrid day: they picked up just 1.1 yards per rush. Yeah, you read that right. The Gophers need to get their house in order quickly.

12. Purdue (1-3, 0-1) - 3 points
Weekly change: None
Last game: lost to Northern Illinois 55-24

Purdue shouldn't feel too bad: Northern Illinois also beat Iowa this season, so at least their loss came against a quality opponent. But the schedule doesn't get easier from here. The Boilermakers get a bye week to regroup, and then they have to play Nebraska, Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa in successive weeks.

For more Wisconsin Badgers news, notes and discussion, follow John on Twitter.



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