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Big Ten Power Rankings: Iowa Has Eye on the Prize

Kristofer Green

In the first edition of the Big Ten Power Rankings, FBT forecasted a situation where five teams would battle to the end for the Big Ten crown.

Those five teams--Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan State--now all find themselves in position to do just that.

The Hawkeyes and Buckeyes control their own destiny and are marching toward a showdown on November 14 in the 'Shoe, but both teams must also face another member of this quintet first.

Ohio State must travel to Happy Valley to face the Nittany Lions and their brutal home crowd and Iowa faces Michigan State this week in a game that could put the Spartans in the driver's seat if it can pull of the upset.

Penn State must beat the Buckeyes at home and then root for the Buckeyes to beat the Hawkeyes in Columbus to get back in control, while the Badgers need help from Iowa and Ohio State.

The Big Ten title race is heating up, but the race for bowl contention is just as interesting.

Northwestern and Indiana are in must win situations heading into their showdown in Evanston this week. A loss for either team would be a serious blow to their bowl hopes.

Minnesota finds itself at 4-3 with games at Ohio State and Iowa, as well as a home date with Michigan State still remaining. Bowl eligibility will rely on wins against Illinois and South Dakota State.

Michigan is the wild-card. Sitting at 1-2 in the conference, the Wolverines aren't out of the title race just yet. If Tate Forcier and company can upset the Nittany Lions in Ann Arbor this weekend, Rich Rodriguez's squad will be right back in the mix.

On to the rankings...

1. Iowa Hawkeyes

Championship teams find a way to win every game, and that's what Iowa's looking like right now.  Shutting out the Badgers in the second half at Camp Randall shows a lot about this team.

KG: The Hawkeyes are winning with spectacular defense and an opportunistic offense that has any number of playmakers that could step up big. Iowa has its third straight test this week in East Lansing where a hungry, upset-minded group of Spartans await.

2. Penn State Nittany Lions

I'm not sure the Titans or Buccaneers would score on this defense either.  Impressive performance against the Gophers.

KG: Joe Paterno has to be pleased at how his team has progressed aftert he loss to Iowa, but the meat of the Penn State schedule is still in front of them.  Road trips to Ann Arbor and East Lansing will be no picnic and then there is the showdown with Ohio State in Happy Valley.

3. Ohio State Buckeyes

The sky's not falling yet, folks. Calm down and let Pryor mature.  The Buckeyes control their own destiny toward winning their fifth straight Big Ten title, but from the reaction in Ohio, you'd think they were 0-and-something.

KG: Jim Tressel cold be facing his toughest challenge yet as the head coach of the Buckeyes. Terrelle Pryor is having some major growing pains, his offense has gone from mediocre to bad, and fans are calling for back-up Joe Bauserman. The Buckeyes must get back on track the next two weeks in home games against Minnesota and New Mexico State before a brutal final stretch (at Penn State, Iowa, at Michigan).

4. Wisconsin Badgers

The Badgers have lost two in a row, but there's no shame in dropping tough defeats at Ohio Stadium and to an unbeaten at home.  The question is how Wisconsin responds to adversity.

KG: Wisconsin isn't out of it yet. With the toughest part of its schedule out of the way, there is a very real possibility that the Badgers could finish10-2 and finish in the top three. The only real test on the schedule is a home date with Michigan and if the Badgers stay focused, a January bowl game awaits.

5. Michigan State Spartans

They're a long way from that loss to Central Michigan. Sparty's put together a nice winning streak and could contend for the Big Ten title if they can knock off the unbeaten Hawkeyes Saturday night.  Remains to be seen if their rushing attack will survive long-term with Glenn Winston out; Larry Caper's been solid, but carrying the load is a lot to ask of a true freshman.

KG: Michigan State has followed up a three game losing streak with a three game winning streak and now find themselves sitting in a three way tie at second with Ohio State and Penn State. If the Spartans can upset the Hawkeyes on Saturday in Spartan Stadium, Mark Dantonio's squad will control its own destiny for at least a share of the Big Ten title.

6. Michigan Wolverines

RichRod's team has been better than people expected.  That's step one.  Step two is figuring out how to beat the Buckeyes, and they appear to have a shot later this year.

KG: The Wolverines looked brilliant last week in their "scrimmage" against Delaware State, but can Rich Rodriguez's squad look that good against the Nittany Lions on Saturday? In Michigan's two biggest conference games of the year (Michigan State and Iowa) the offense struggled against powerful, fast defenses. Joe Paterno's squad is as good (or better) than those two defensive teams and could make it a long day for Tate Forcier.

7. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Teams are finally figuring out how to slow down the Gophers...and even Eric Decker.  At 4-3, Minnesota's in decent shape for a bowl berth, but they need to find their offense again.

KG: The Gophers are living and dying on forcing turnovers. The offense has been very sluggish when having to sustain drives, but when the defense can force a turnover the Gophers take advantage. That could be good news for Gopher fans hoping to pull of an upset against the turnover prone Buckeye offense in Columbus.

8. Northwestern Wildcats

Wildcats shut out Michigan State in East Lansing for 30 minutes, but ultimately faltered.  Big game for Fitz against the Hoosiers this weekend in Evanston.

KG: The Wildcats will travel to Bloomington this week for an important conference game for both squads that will be overlooked by the majority of Big Ten fans. Pat Fitzgerald's squad needs a victory against the Hoosiers to keep their bowl hopes alive. With Penn State, Iowa, and Wisconsin still on the schedule, wins against Indiana and Illinois are musts.

9. Purdue Boilermakers

The Boilermakers showed what can happen when they don't beat themselves.  The question now is if it was a fluke or if they've finally kicked the turnover bug.  Still some winnable games down the stretch if they play well.

KG: Danny Hope has done something that more veteran Big Ten coaches Bret Bielema, Tim Brewster, Bill Lynch, Rich Rodriguez, and Mark Dantonio haven't... Beat the Buckeyes. Purdue's unlikely victory against Ohio State in West Lafayette last week proved the Boilermakers are a highly capable team that can get the job done when it plays to its abilities.

10. Indiana Hoosiers

Hard to find a lot of possible wins for this team (4-3 now) outside of at Northwestern and Purdue at home in the season finale.  If they want to go bowling, they need a win at Ryan Field.

KG: The Hoosiers are in must win mode. If Bill Lynch's squad hopes to make a return to post season play, it must at least get wins against comparable teams in Evanston against Northwestern and against rival Purdue.

11. Illinois Fighting Illini

It keeps getting worse for the Zooker in Champaign.  The funny thing is that the offense seems to move the ball exceptionally well in spurts.  Maybe it's time to go no-huddle the entire time? At least something to change up this underachieving unit...although it's probably too late now anyway.

KG: Down seven in the third, with the Illini driving in the redzone, Juice Williams ran keeper and lumbered toward the goal line only to have the ball ripped away and recovered by the Hoosiers. Ron Zook could do nothing but laugh. Though his hot seat is completely warranted, the Zooker is not completely to blame for the Illini's downward spiral. Zook is trying to get this team back on track, but the team has to make it happen.



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