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FBT Power Rankings: Ohio State and Iowa to Battle for the Big Ten

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Kristofer Green

The Big Ten Championship or at least the Rose Bowl participant will be decided when the Iowa Hawkeyes travel to Columbus to face the Ohio State Buckeyes.

An Ohio State win would secure the Buckeyes fifth straight Big Ten title and mark Jim Tressel's first trip to the Rose Bowl. If the Buckeye's win the following week in Ann Arbor, Ohio State will claim it's third outright Big Ten Championship in five years.

An Iowa win would give the Hawkeyes their first Rose Bowl game since Hayden Fry roamed the sidelines and a win over Minnestoa would give Iowa their first outright title since 1985.

Penn State and Wisconsin are still in contention to share the title, but the Rose Bowl dreams for those teams is lost.

The lobbying and jockeying for bowl position is starting to become common place and the Big Ten remains the only conference to have each of its member schools still mathematically in bowl consideration.

For Indiana, Michigan, Purdue, and Illinois the margin of error is very slim to non-existant. While Minnesota and Michigan State most certainly should have the opportuity to win the one they still need.

The Northwestern Wildcats, already bowl eligible, will try to strengthen their case and possible bowl location with two more winnable games.

On to Week 11 Power Rankings...
1. Ohio State Buckeyes

TC:
The Buckeyes made a statement with a resounding road victory in Happy Valley, and with the injury to Iowa's Ricky Stanzi, OSU has to be feeling confident about their chances at yet another Big Ten title and BCS bowl appearance.  Jim Tressel always points to November, and the Bucks seem to be peaking in the right month for a championship.

KG: Ohio State's complete domination of a Penn State team that many thought would knock the Buckeye's out the Big Ten title race mixed with Iowa's first loss and the loss of their comeback quarterback moves Jim Tressel's squad back into the top spot. The Buckeye Silver Bullet defense never looked better and defensive end Cameron Heyward made the Nittany Lion offensive front look like a bunch of middle schoolers.

The emergence of game changer Ray Small on kick returns, the Boom and Zoom running tandem, and a newly in command Terrelle Pryor give the Buckeye's the chance to play Tressel-ball. And Ohio State is never better than when they can play Tressel-ball.


2. Iowa Hawkeyes

TC: Four words: Sports Illustrated cover jinx. With Stanzi sidelined, the Hawkeyes couldn't pull off another patented fourth-quarter comeback and dropped their first game of the season.  Can backup quarterback James Vandenberg keep Iowa's title hopes alive in the Horseshoe?

KG: Corey Wootton's sack on Ricky Stanzi turned out to be much more devastating than a fumble recovery and TD for the Hawkeyes. In comes true freshman James Vandenberg who must find a way to overcome 105,000 jeering Buckeye fans in the 'Shoe. Not to mention the eleven warriors on defense who are jawing at the chance to make him look silly in Columbus.

But, the Iowa defense is at full strength and you better believe Pat Angerer, Adrian Clayborn, and Tyler Sash will be chomping at the bit and ready to make a statement against the "mighty" Buckeyes.


3. Wisconsin Badgers

TC:
The Badgers have taken care of business against everyone on their schedule except the league's top two teams.  Can Bret Bielema keep his squad focused as the struggling Michigan Wolverines come to town?

KG: The Badgers are an interesting bunch. Like the Nittany Lions, Bret Bielema's squad had two opportunities to get a statement win on the season... at Ohio State and the next week at home against the Hawkeyes. The Badgers didn't get the job done. Now, at 7-2 and lacking a true signature win, can the Badgers finish the season strong at 10-2 and put themselves in position to get their first BCS appearance?


4. Penn State Nittany Lions

TC:
The Nittany Lions have laid an egg in their biggest two home games of the season, and it appears that (as many predicted) their soft non-conference schedule didn't adequately prepare them for the rigors of Big Ten play. Penn State hosts Indiana this week, which could be a bit of a trap game (as the Hoosiers have played well in close road defeats at Michigan and Iowa).

KG: Darryl Clark never stood a chance. Tom Brady would have had a difficult time with the protection offered by the Nittany Lion offensive line. The line did allow only two sacks against Ohio State, but Clark was hurried or knocked down on probably 2/3 of his pass attempts as the Buckeye defense pinned their ears back and made life difficult all game long for the senior. The Nits can also thank some horrible return coverage and even worse punting for giving up over 100 yards of field position.


5. Northwestern Wildcats

TC:
The Wildcats became bowl-eligible in style, knocking off the previously undefeated Hawkeyes in Iowa City.  Mike Kafka and Dan Persa shared the quarterback duties in Northwestern's biggest win of the season, and they provided enough offense to stun the Kinnick faithful and end Iowa's perfect season.

KG: The win over the Hawkeyes is the biggest in Pat Fitzgerald's short career and could go down as one of the biggest in school history. Even more remarkable is that the Wildcats won on the road with a somewhat hobbled back-up quarterback getting the majority of the snaps.

Corey Wootton's sack of Ricky Stanzi and the subsequent touchdown turned what looked to be a blowout in the making into a game and the Northwestern defense played lights out for a three quarter shutout. Is this the same defense coach Fitgerald called "awful" after a close loss to Minnesota in September?


6. Michigan State Spartans

TC: Kirk Cousins and Ashton Leggett (who?) were a dynamic one-two offensive punch for MSU, as Cousins hit on 88% of his passes and Leggett (who?) rolled up four touchdowns.  Things get tougher for Michigan State at West Lafayette this weekend, as the Spartans try to become bowl-eligible at the expense of the resurgent Boilermakers.

KG: The Spartans offense was unstoppable in the first half against an overmatched Western Michigan squad. The emergence of running back Ashton Leggett could serve the Spartans well in their final two contests against Purdue and Penn State.


7. Purdue Boilermakers

TC:
The Boilers posted their first road victory in over two years and their first win at Ann Arbor in more than four decades.  While it seemed nearly impossible for Purdue to qualify for the postseason when Danny Hope's team sat at 1-5 with Ohio State coming to town, this surprising squad is only two wins away from the magic six-victory number.

KG: The Boilermakers have the uncanny ability to prove you wrong just when you think you have them figured out. They play Oregon and Notre Dame close but lose to Northern Illinois. They storm out to a huge lead against Northwestern then commit six turnovers in less than a quarter of action and blow it then they beat Ohio State by forcing six turnovers. They look less than awful in a shutout in Madison only to beat Michigan in the Big House a week later. Who knows which Purdue team shows up week after week, but if the good one shows up opposing teams should beware.


8. Minnesota Golden Gophers

TC:
It took an extra week, but the Eric Decker letdown seemed to hit the Gophers in a home loss to Illinois.  Now Minnesota catches a break on the schedule with South Dakota State coming to TCF Bank Stadium, a game the Gophers have to win.  Otherwise, Tim Brewster's team will need an upset victory in Iowa City in the regular-season finale to go bowling.

KG: The Gophers are another perfect example of how the middle of the Big Ten is just too close to call. Tim Brewster's squad beats the Spartans, but can't get past a suddenly tough Illinois squad. C'est la vie in the Big Ten.


9. Illinois Fighting Illini

TC:
After not topping 17 points once during a five-game losing streak, the Illini have snapped their skid with back-to-back 38- and 35-point performances.  Coach Ron Zook has to wonder where this offense was in the first two months of the season, but still, his team has definitely rallied around the vote of confidence Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther provided his coach.

KG: Ron Zook and his fighting Illini are finally showing some fight. Illinois has not been eliminated from bowl contention just yet, but in order to get to the six win threshold, the Illini must win out against some pretty difficult competition. This week they battle Northwestern for state bragging rights, then must travel to No. 5 Cincinnati, before finishing at home against Fresno State.


10. Michigan Wolverines

TC:
While teams like Purdue and Illinois are on the way up, Michigan is heading quickly the other direction.  After a 4-0 start, RichRod's team will miss the postseason if the Maize and Blue can't pull an upset over the Badgers or Buckeyes in the next two weekends.  Not good for job security, if you ask me...

KG: Wow! That 4-0 start is a distant memory in Ann Arbor as the Wolverine nation starts to realize the Rich Rodriguez has won exactly two Big Ten games in his two years at the helm. Now, sitting at 5-5 the Wolverines must win at Wisconsin or at home against Ohio State. Two more losses will keep Michigan home for Christmas for the second straight year.


11. Indiana Hoosiers

TC:
If there were a "moral victories" award for the 2009 Big Ten season, Bill Lynch's Hoosiers would be a shoo-in winner.  While Indiana is only 1-5 in the conference, they came within three points of road wins at Michigan and Northwestern, led Iowa in the fourth quarter at Kinnick, and most recently, fell three points short of upsetting the Badgers.  Of course, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades...

KG: The Hoosier's faint hopes of returning to post season plays looks to be in serious jeopardy now. With only two games to play (and needing two wins to become eligible), the Hoosiers may come up just short. But who would have thought that Indiana would have had even four wins against a schedule that included five ranked teams.

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