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Huskers fall, Illini continue rise on a quiet week in the Big Ten power rankings
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Huskers fall, Illini continue rise on a quiet week in the Big Ten power rankings

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1. OHIO STATE (8-0, 5-0)

Previous: 1. Last week: No game.

A quiet week in the Big Ten, especially for the top half of the league. The Buckeyes come off a bye week with Maryland on Saturday, followed by Rutgers, before they close with Penn State — a potential showdown of 10-0 teams — and Michigan.

2. PENN STATE (8-0, 5-0)

Previous: 2. Last week: No game.

The Nittany Lions come off a bye week and face a big challenge with a road trip to unbeaten Minnesota in a matchup of 8-0 teams. Can James Franklin’s team notch another impressive win?

3. MINNESOTA (8-0, 5-0)

Previous: 3. Last week: No game.

Here’s the opportunity for P.J. Fleck’s Golden Gophers. Penn State is coming to town and the unbeaten records of both teams are on the line. So, too, is control of the West Division for Minnesota. Win, and the Gophers further cement themselves as favorites. Lose, and the winner of Iowa/Wisconsin is still breathing down UM’s neck.

4. WISCONSIN (6-2, 3-2)

Previous: 4. Last week: No game.

The Badgers have dropped two straight and come off a bye week with what is essentially a Big Ten West elimination game at home against Iowa. UW’s running game hasn’t been as good as expected so far in league play and the Hawkeyes come to Madison sporting a fierce defense.

5. MICHIGAN (7-2, 4-2)

Previous: 5. Last week: W 38-7 at Maryland.

The Wolverines won their second straight game and were in control from the opening kickoff, literally, thanks to a return touchdown. Now Jim Harbaugh’s team has an off week before closing with Michigan State at home, surging Indiana on the road and Ohio State at home. Just how much noise can the Wolverines make?

6. IOWA (6-2, 3-2)

Previous: 6. Last week: No game.

The Hawkeyes, too, had a bye week and now prepare for a trip to Madison, Wisconsin, for a game between two teams that really need a win. While the Badgers have lost two straight, Iowa is coming off a pair of division wins against Purdue and Northwestern. Iowa is allowing just 9.4 points per Big Ten game. This one is going to be rugged.

7. INDIANA (7-2, 4-2)

Previous: 7. Last week: W 34-3 vs. Northwestern.

How about the Hoosiers? Indiana has won four straight and is not only bowl-eligible but now can set its sights even higher. The East Division is a long shot — IU lost 51-10 earlier in the year to Ohio State, meaning the Buckeyes would have to lose out — but the Hoosiers certainly can make more noise. It’s not going to be easy, though, because after a bye week, Tom Allen’s team travels to Penn State (Nov. 16) and then hosts Michigan before closing on the road at Purdue. Even an eight-win regular season would be a nice accomplishment.

8. ILLINOIS (5-4, 3-3)

Previous: 9. Last week: W 38-10 vs. Rutgers.

Speaking of winning streaks, Illinois has won three straight and is closing in on bowl eligibility itself. Lovie Smith’s team took care of business against Rutgers and now has a chance to go on the road and take on Michigan State. From there, Illinois has a bye week and then closes at Iowa and home against Northwestern. For a team that lost four straight earlier in the season — including home losses to Eastern Michigan and Nebraska in back-to-back weeks — the Illini have made a nice surge. Now, can they keep it going?

9. MICHIGAN STATE (4-4, 2-3)

Previous: 8. Last week: No game.

The Spartans come off a bye week and host Illinois. This is not the season Mark Dantonio and company envisioned, but the offense has continued to struggle. Now, MSU must win two out of four down the stretch in order to qualify for a bowl. After Illinois, the Spartans close at Michigan, at Rutgers and home against Maryland.

10. PURDUE (3-6, 2-4)

Previous: 11. Last week: W 31-27 vs. Nebraska.

The Boilermakers got a game-winning touchdown drive from third-string quarterback Aidan O’Connell and pulled off a home win against the Huskers after it looked early on like they might get blown out. With Jack Plummer out for the year with an ankle injury and Elijah Sindelar not returning soon from a broke collarbone, it’s going to be tough for Jeff Brohm’s team. But they showed fight on Saturday and got the job done. They’ve got a chance for another win this weekend at Northwestern before finishing with Wisconsin and Indiana.

11. NEBRASKA (4-5, 2-4)

Previous: 10. Last week: L 31-27 at Purdue.

The Huskers lost their third straight game despite winning the turnover battle, playing with a massive field-position advantage and despite twice taking the lead in the fourth quarter. NU had chances early and didn’t capitalize. Then the defense wilted late. Adrian Martinez struggled in his return from a left knee injury. Scott Frost’s team has its second bye week on tap and then closes home against Wisconsin, at Maryland and home against Iowa, needing two of three for bowl eligbility.

12. MARYLAND (3-6, 1-5)

Previous: 12. Last week: L 38-7 vs. Michigan.

The spiral downward continues for the Terps, who started the season as hot as anybody but have been bad for several weeks now. Mike Locksley’s team comes off a dispiriting loss against the Wolverines and next has to deal with Ohio State. Good luck.

13. NORTHWESTERN (1-7, 0-6)

Previous: 13. Last week: L 34-3 at Indiana.

On the subject of dispiriting seasons, Northwestern’s dismal fall continued with a blowout loss to the Hoosiers. One year after winning the West Division by three games, Pat Fitzgerald’s team hasn’t been able to log a single league victory so far. The Wildcats have three straight home games coming up with Purdue, UMass and Minnesota before closing the season at Illinois.

14. RUTGERS (2-7, 0-6)

Previous: 14. Last week: L 38-10 at Illinois.

The Scarlet Knights remained winless in the Big Ten with a blowout loss at Illinois and have a bye week up next. To avoid a winless league slate, Rutgers will have to beat one of Ohio State, Michigan State or Penn State.

— Parker Gabriel

Contact the writer at pgabriel@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.

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Sports writer

Parker joined the Journal Star as the University of Nebraska football beat writer in August 2017. He previously covered Montana State athletics for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2012.

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