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FBT's Big Ten Power Rankings: Week Three

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Kristofer Green

We are just two weeks into the 2009 Big Ten season, and already there have been plenty of surprises, plenty of suspense, and plenty of heartache.

In Ann Arbor, the Wolverine faithful are celebrating a huge win over the Irish. Time will tell if this is a turning point in the Rich Rodriguez era at Michigan.

But just a short drive west to East Lansing, there is a decidedly different feeling. Confidence has given way to doubt after a difficult loss, and Spartan fans are hoping this isn't a return to the days of old.

Fans in Bloomington are celebrating a 2-0 start when nothing was expected, while just a few hours east on Interstate 70, Buckeye fans are left wondering what could have been.

On the Big Ten's western boundary, Hawkeye fans saw the improvement in their team that they wanted to see from week one to week two. But on the conference's eastern boundary, the Penn State faithful, though still confident, are left wanting more after six so-so quarters of football against subpar competition.

Those Nittany Lions remain No. 1 in FBT's Big Ten Power Rankings, but their margin over No. 2 Ohio State has closed slightly.

It is becoming more and more evident that the Big Ten race is going to be an exciting one, and there are several teams that could challenge.

This week Big Ten teams will once again take on some marquee non-conference opponents in nationally televised games. Michigan State will travel to Notre Dame, while Minnesota welcomes No. 5 Cal and Iowa will host Arizona.

On to the rankings...


1. Penn State

TC:
No reason to move the Lions from the number one spot if they keep shutting out opponents in the first half.

KG: The Nittany Lions are only here by default. They really haven't proved anything yet and in all honesty have only looked unbeatable for two of the six quarters they have played this season. It will be interesting to see how the Nits perform when they actually play a team not ranked in the bottom 25.


2. Ohio State

TC:
While many fans in Columbus act like the sky is falling, losing a heartbreaker against the decade's most dominant team isn't reason to move the Bucks down this list...or throw in the towel on 2009.

KG: Buckeye fans are fed up with "Tresselball", but the Vest has been the most successful coach in the Big Ten this decade and will not (and should not) deviate from what has worked. Fans in Columbus will forget all about this loss once Terrelle Pryor and the offense starts clicking.
 

3. Michigan

TC:
Every contender for "Big Ten's third-best team" has disappointed in one of the first two weeks (Hawkeyes and Spartans, I'm looking at you) so Michigan gets the nod based on a big win over the Irish.

KG: The Wolverines should be able to take care of their next two opponents (Eastern Michigan and Indiana) and be 4-0 heading into a brutal four game stretch. Tate Forcier and company will travel to in-state rival Michigan State, Iowa and Illinois and face Penn State in the Big House. Once the Wolverines get through that stretch will will have a much better idea of how good this team really is.


4. Iowa

TC:
The good news is the Hawks are 2-0, and they're hoping to get Bryan Bulaga back sooner rather than later. And hey, for as bad as they looked against Northern Iowa, things got better against Iowa State. If Ferentz's crew only had to play in-state teams all year, they could be national champs.

KG: The Hawkeyes showed tremendous improvement from week one to week two, but still haven't faced an opponent that should have been able to challenge them. The next two weeks will shed some light on these Hawkeyes. This weekend they host Pac-10 foe Arizona and in two weeks Iowa will travel to Happy Valley for a rematch of last season's instant classic. Oh, and the Penn State faithful will be welcoming the Hawks into their infamous white-out on primetime national television.


5. Northwestern

TC:
Another of the "lucky to be 2-0" teams.  The Wildcats didn't have any trouble with Eastern Michigan in the first half, but seemed to forget the games last 60 minutes now.

KG: The Wildcats survived a ferocious comeback by Eastern Michigan last week and will need to find some playmakers on offense if they hope to compete against the Big Ten's best teams. Defensively the 'Cats are talented but must find some consistency.


6. Minnesota

TC:
Tough to sort out the middle of the conference this early in September, but the Gophers have probably beaten the best combination of opponents of all the 2-0 teams (BCS foe Syracuse and an Air Force squad that won its first game by 72 points).

KG: I still can't figure out these Gophers. With all the talent they have on offense you would think they could put up more points. The defense is to thank for both the Gophers win this season, but defense won't be enough when No. 5 Cal comes to town this weekend.


7. Wisconsin

TC:
The Badgers got down early to Fresno State, but rallied late to stay undefeated.  With how much flu's been going around, credit Bielema and company for handling adversity.

KG: Wisconsin is a tough, hard nosed team that is going to win ugly and they certainly have lived up to that billing after the first two weeks. Having seen the Badgers live last weekend I think this team has the ability to be a very good football team, but they must become more consistent on both sides of the ball in order to challenge the top teams in the conference.


8. Michigan State

TC:
The Spartans need to settle on a quarterback and beat Notre Dame.  If they do both of those things, they could jump back into the discussion of Big Ten contenders.

KG: I have been Mark Dantonio's biggest supporter since his arrival in East Lansing two seasons ago. For the first time since his arrival, I saw the Spartans take a step back last week. Silly mistakes, defensive breakdowns and costly penalties lost the game and Dantonio's Spartans looked eerily similar to John L. Smith's Spartans.


9. Purdue

TC:
I really want to put the Boilers higher, but I'm not buying into the idea that losing a close game at Oregon is a moral victory.  If Purdue really takes confidence out of Eugene, they'll prove it in the upcoming three-game homestand (NIU, Notre Dame, Northwestern), and that will be enough to get noticed.

KG: Purdue is the most shocking team to me so far this season. With the discovery of Ralph Bolden, Danny Hope has a player to build the offense around. If the defense can improve this team could be a dangerous opponent.


10. Illinois

TC:
No Juice Williams? No problem. The Illini got a stellar performance from backup quarterback Eddie McGee after Juice's injury and posted their first win of 2009 in convincing fashion.

KG: Eddie McGee is a veteran back-up for Ron Zook's squad so it comes as no surprise that he was able to handle FCS Southern Illinois after Juice Williams left the game early last Saturday. The Illini have to talent to quickly move back up this list, but they will have to earn it.


11. Indiana

TC: I thought they were the worst team in the Big Ten when the year started, and two close wins haven't changed my mind (yet).  What does it say about the conference that the Hoosiers are an underdog at a MAC team (Akron) this weekend anyway?

KG: It will be interesting to see if the Hoosiers can translate early successes against the FCS and the MAC into wins in the Big Ten. I'm betting no. Indiana is just to far behind the rest of the conference at this point to have any real success this season.

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2 Comments

Hawkeye Nerd said:

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Iowa = Best Secondary in the Big Ten. Power Rank that one. :)

I am still not drinking the Michigan koolaid, but I agree that Iowa and MSU haven't really impressed. Although, give Iowa credit as UNI did just slaughter a team 66-7 over the weekend.

Definitely curious to see how Minn does against Cal this weekend.

Kristofer Green said:

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I'm not quite sold on any Big Ten team yet. No one has been overly impressive thus far. I will say that I like the Hawkeyes chances at making a climb up these rankings as the season progresses.

Penn State is a team that I think is hiding their problems behind a weak schedule. Once the Nits have to face a team with a real defense their offensive line and running game problems will come back to hurt them. I like Iowa's chances of being the team that will expose the Lions problems. White-out or not, if Clark is running for his life the whole game how successful can he be?

Cal at Minnesota could be very interesting. Stopping Jahvid Best and getting that Gopher offense going will be key. Cal does not travel across the country well and hitting them hard early could go a long way for Minnesota.

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