And then there were two.
The Big Ten watched one-third of its three-headed monster fall Saturday night leaving just one undefeated team in each division. But despite that loss, the conference saw six teams ranked in Tuesday night’s College Football Playoff rankings, more than any other conference.
It’s looking like the Big Ten might be the best conference in the country this season. Here’s a look at how the divisions stack up through Week 10.
|1. Ohio State (9-0, 5-0) – Even|
|Last Week: Beat Minnesota 28-14||This Week: Sat at Illinois (5-4, 2-3), 12pm, ABC|
Another week, another Ohio State victory. The defending champs remained undefeated without their starting quarterback Saturday, fending off a pesky Minnesota squad to improve to 9-0. Cardale Jones threw for 187 yards and a touchdown and Ezekiel Elliott rushed 26 times for 114 and a score to pace the offense. Minnesota controlled the pace and racked up more than 300 yards, but a late comeback effort ran out of gas in the 4th quarter. OSU held steady at No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings Tuesday after being jumped by Alabama, which lost to an unranked team at home but somehow hasn’t been penalized for it. If the Buckeyes knock off a pair of really good teams from the state of Michigan, they should vault right back up to No. 1
|2. Michigan (7-2, 4-1) – Up 2|
|Last Week: Beat Rutgers 49-16||This Week: Sat at Indiana (4-5, 0-5), 3:30pm, ABC|
Just one week after falling to a season-worst fourth in these rankings, Michigan is up into the No. 2 spot for just the second time. Michigan took care of business against Rutgers, cruising past the Scarlett Knights 49-16. The offensive outburst was paced by quarterback Jake Rudock, who threw for a season-best 337 yards More importantly, the Wolverines have new life in the Big Ten East race with a pair of tricky road games on the horizon. A shaky secondary faces a huge test Saturday in Indiana, which is bound to finish off one of these upset bids eventually. Michigan moved up three spots to No. 14 in the playoff rankings.
|3. Michigan State (8-1, 4-1) – Down 1|
|Last Week: Lost to Nebraska 38-39||This Week: Sat vs Maryland (2-7, 0-5), 12pm, ESPN2|
If you play with fire long enough, you’re bound to get burned. Michigan State flirted with defeat almost every week en route to an otherwise impressive 8-0 start, but it couldn’t hold onto a 12-point lead with under four minutes to play Saturday night and fell to Nebraska, 39-38. The Spartans underperformed against Rutgers, Purdue, even the directional schools, to an extent. And no, MSU didn’t lose to Nebraska because of an out-of-bounds call at the end of the game. Mark Dantonio’s team had no business cutting it so close against a team that lost to Purdue by double digits, so that defense has nobody to blame but itself. Luckily for the Spartans, they’re still ranked No. 13 in the playoff rankings with a cupcake at home to get back on track this weekend.
|4. Penn State (7-3, 4-2) – Down 1|
|Last Week: Lost to #21 NW 21-23||This Week: Bye (11/21 vs Michigan)|
The Nittany Lions were already a long shot to win the Big Ten East, but any remaining aspirations were officially put to rest Saturday afternoon. Penn State had a chance to pick up its first good win of the season in Evanston, but allowed a field goal with under 10 seconds left to surrender a one-point lead. Christian Hackenberg struggled, completing just 21 of 40 pass attempts for 205 yards and an interception. The defense was shaky, allowing nearly 400 yards, but Hackenberg has to be much better for this team to do some damage down the stretch.
|5. Indiana (4-5, 0-5) – Up 1|
|Last Week: Lost to #9 Iowa 27-35||This Week: Sat vs #14 Michigan (7-2, 4-1), 3:30pm, ABC|
Another week, another near Indiana upset. The Hoosiers hung around just long enough to give the undefeated Hawkeyes a scare in Bloomington, but ultimately fell eight points short of the win. They’ll get back at it Saturday as the hopeful Wolverines come to town.
|6. Rutgers (3-6, 1-5) – Down 1|
|Last Week: Lost to #17 Michigan 16-49||This Week: Sat vs Nebraska (4-6, 2-4), 3:30pm, BTN|
Rutgers players who ticked off Jim Harbaugh despite trailing by 19 points heading into halftime on Saturday have to be feeling pretty stupid now. Harbaugh went for a two-point conversion despite holding a 25-point lead in the 3rd quarter to send the Scarlett Knights back to the sideline with their tails between their legs.
|7. Maryland (2-7, 0-5) – Even|
|Last Week: Lost to Wisconsin 24-31||This Week: Sat at #13 MSU (8-1, 4-1), 12pm, ESPN2|
Hey, Maryland actually kept it pretty close Saturday against Wisconsin, falling by just a touchdown to the streaking Badgers. Unfortunately, this weekend brings a trip to East Lansing against an angry Michigan State squad.
|1. Iowa (9-0, 5-0) – Even|
|Last Week: Beat Indiana 35-27||This Week: Sat vs Minnesota (4-5, 1-4), 8pm, BTN|
Breathe easy, Iowa fans! The soon-to-be West champs got out of upset-happy Indianapolis with a slim victory and jumped up to No. 5 in the College Football Playoff rankings. That means this team is a lock for the playoff if it finishes the season with four more victories.
|2. Northwestern (7-2, 3-2) – Even|
|Last Week: Beat Penn State 23-21||This Week: Sat vs Purdue (2-7, 1-4), 12pm, BTN|
Pat Fitzgerald’s team added another excellent win to its resume Saturday, knocking off Penn State with a late field goal from a kicker who’d missed three times on the day. Now the Wildcats have cracked the top 20 of the College Football Playoff poll and have a chance to keep on rolling this weekend against a punchless Purdue team.
|3. Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1) – Even|
|Last Week: Beat Maryland 31-24||This Week: Bye (11/21 vs Northwestern)|
It took five straight wins over inferior Big Ten opponents, but Wisconsin is finally back in the rankings after sliding into the No. 25 spot on Tuesday night. Now the Badgers will take a much-needed bye week to prepare for a Northwestern team that’s playing as well as any team in the conference this month.
|4. Nebraska (4-6, 2-4) – Up 3|
|Last Week: Beat #7 MSU 39-38||This Week: Sat at Rutgers (3-6, 1-5), 3:30pm, BTN|
Saturday night’s game between Nebraska and Michigan State demonstrated why college football is such a strange sport. Nebraska did nothing but find ways to lose close games in its first nine games, while Michigan State always found a way to barely survive. But the tables turned this weekend when Tommy Armstrong led a four-play, 91-yard drive with under a minute left in the game to keep the distant bowl dreams alive for first-year Cornhusker Mike Riley.
|5. Illinois (5-4, 2-3) – Even
|Last Week: Beat Purdue 48-14||This Week: Sat vs #3 Ohio State (9-0, 5-0), 12pm, ABC|
Illinois continued to stay just above the lower-tier of Big Ten teams Saturday, hitting the road and smashing Purdue, 48-14. As specifics about former head coach Tim Beckman create a negative vibe around this Fighting Illini team, its got a chance to really shake things up this weekend in the battle for Illibuck with Ohio State.
|6. Minnesota (4-5, 1-4) – Down 2|
|Last Week: Lost to #3 OSU 14-28||This Week: Sat at #5 Iowa (9-0, 5-0), 8pm, BTN|
For the second straight week, Minnesota stayed within striking distance of a top 20 team deep into the 4th quarter but couldn’t quite pull off the upset. The Golden Gophers need two more wins to gain bowl eligibility, but unfortunately two of their last three games come against Iowa and Wisconsin.
|7. Purdue (2-7, 1-4) – Down 1|
|Last Week: Lost to Illinois 14-48||This Week: Sat at #18 NW (7-2, 3-2), 12pm, BTN|
The high point of Purdue’s season came last weekend when it crushed Nebraska by 10 points. After a 34-point home drubbing to Illinois, this is close to the lowest low.