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Rank em': Two-horse races unfolding atop both divisions in latest Big Ten power rankings
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Rank em': Two-horse races unfolding atop both divisions in latest Big Ten power rankings

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1. OHIO STATE (10-0, 7-0)

Previous: 1. Last week: W 56-21 at Rutgers.

So Ohio State didn’t put a historic beatdown on Rutgers. That’s about all that you can quibble with at this point. Justin Fields finished 15-of-19 for 305 yards and four TDs, and the Buckeyes cruised against a wholly overmatched opponent. Heisman Trophy contending defensive lineman Chase Young returns this week when OSU hosts Penn State. Massive game. The winner has control of the Big Ten East. OSU goes from Maryland and Rutgers to the Nittany Lions and Michigan to close the season, so the road should get tougher.

2. MINNESOTA (9-1, 6-1)

Previous: 2. Last week: L 23-19 at Iowa.

Oh, Minnesota. The Golden Gophers couldn’t continue their magical run and lost at Iowa on Saturday. UM nearly came back from down 20-0, but fell a little short. The Gophers rushed for just 63 yards, though Tanner Morgan threw for 368. Weird stuff happens at Kinnick Stadium, but Minnesota was so close to having a vise grip on the West Division. Now, P.J. Fleck’s team must take care of business at Northwestern and, if Wisconsin does the same against Purdue, the division will be on the line in Minneapolis on Nov. 30.

3. PENN STATE (9-1, 6-1)

Previous: 3. Last week: W 34-27 vs. Indiana.

The Nittany Lions survived a big shot from a really impressive Indiana group and now has the showdown of the year so far in the Big Ten on deck. PSU has a blemish, but can make up for it and more by beating Ohio State in Columbus this weekend. The Nittany Lions showed a balanced offense against IU and will need a whale of a performance in the Horseshoe. The top four in these rankings feature the two teams with the inside track to Indianapolis followed by the team in each division that still has a direct route, too.

4. WISCONSIN (8-2, 5-2)

Previous: 4. Last week: W 37-21 at Nebraska.

The Badgers took care of business even with a leaky run defense in Lincoln. Jonathan Taylor notched his 11th career 200-plus yard game — his third against the Huskers — and UW used a 24-0 run in the middle of the game to take control. Now Paul Chryst’s team has to beat Purdue at home in order to ensure it goes to Minneapolis with a chance to win the division Nov. 30. Considering Purdue's struggles, that shouldn’t be a problem, but this is a team that allowed nearly 500 yards to Nebraska and lost to Illinois last month.

5. MICHIGAN (8-2, 5-2)

Previous: 5. Last week: W 44-10 vs. Michigan State.

The Wolverines have won three straight since dropping a tight game to Penn State and they continue to hang around in the East. A division title remains an extreme long shot, but Jim Harbaugh’s team has blown out three straight opponents, including Notre Dame and the in-state rival Spartans. A trip to Indiana and a visit from OSU is a tough finish, though. 

6. INDIANA (7-3, 4-3)

Previous: 6. Last week: L 34-27 at Penn State.

The Hoosiers continue to impress even in a losing effort in State College. Tom Allen’s team took Penn State to the brink and got a big-time performance from No. 2 quarterback Peyton Ramsey. First-year offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer looks like one of the best hires in the country. With Michigan and a trip to Purdue left on the schedule, Indiana can put itself in position for a nice bowl destination with a strong finish.

7. IOWA (7-3, 4-3)

Previous: 8. Last week: W 23-19 vs. Minnesota.

The Hawkeyes are long shots to win the West, but they dealt Minnesota a critical blow and helped their own standing in one fell swoop with a home win last week. Senior quarterback Nate Stanley was efficient (14-of-23 for 173 and two scores) and Iowa got enough done on the ground (31 carries for 117 yards). That and winning the turnover battle allowed the Hawkeyes to survive despite getting outgained 431-290.

8. ILLINOIS (6-4, 4-3)

Previous: 7. Last week: No game.

The Illini had a week of rest and next take their four-game winning streak to Iowa City on Saturday. Then Lovie Smith’s team finishes at home against Northwestern.

9. PURDUE (4-6, 3-4)

Previous: 10. Last week: No game.

The Boilermakers come off a bye week needing to win out in order to qualify for a bowl. That will be a tall task, especially considering a trip to Wisconsin awaits this weekend.

10. MICHIGAN STATE (4-6, 2-5)

Previous: 9. Last week: L 44-10 at Michigan.

An ugly season at MSU got uglier with a blowout loss to in-state rival Michigan on Saturday. As Lansing State Journal columnist Graham Couch wrote this weekend, the only storyline in East Lansing is whether Mark Dantonio will return next fall. The Spartans have lost five straight but can still make a bowl game by finishing with wins over Rutgers and Maryland.

11. NEBRASKA (4-6, 2-5)

Previous: 11. Last week: L 37-21 vs. Wisconsin.

The Huskers figured out some things offensively but didn’t have enough to top the Badgers at home. Adrian Martinez largely returned to form, accounting for 309 yards and two touchdowns. NU needs to be better defensively if it’s going to win at Maryland and on Black Friday against Iowa and qualify for a bowl game. Getting freshman Wan’Dale Robinson back from injury would help, too.

12. MARYLAND (3-7, 1-6)

Previous: 12. Last week: No game.

The Terrapins come off a bye week to host Nebraska and then finish at Michigan State. Maryland has lost five straight.

13. NORTHWESTERN (2-8, 0-7)

Previous: 13. Last week: W 45-6 vs. UMass.

The Wildcats struggled early against UMass but got it rolling eventually and notched a lopsided win. It won’t be as easy the next two weeks as Pat Fitzgerald’s team looks for its first Big Ten win. The last two chances are against Minnesota this weekend and at Illinois to close the year.

14. RUTGERS (2-8, 0-7)

Previous: 14. Last week: L 56-21 vs. Ohio State.

The Scarlet Knights weren’t completely embarrassed by the Buckeyes. Rutgers has to beat Michigan State or Penn State to avoid a third 0-9 Big Ten campaign in the past four years. RU has lost 19 straight league games.

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

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Husker football reporter

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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