This week's polls have been released. Here's how the Big Ten fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.
7/7. WisconsinI've said for the entire year that Wisconsin's closer to fourth or fifth in terms of talent and play quality, and there's nothing the Badgers have done to indicate that they're not one of the five best teams in the nation. Unfortunately, the Badgers have also played noooobody, especially compared to the six teams ranked above the Badgers, so I can't muster up any disapproval of Wisconsin sitting at seventh in both polls. Fortunately, the non-conference slate is over, and Wisconsin's playing a real opponent this week. Finally.
Hey, there's Wisconsin's conference opener right there, Nebraska! Nebraska's now only one spot behind Wisconsin, which if you've actually seen both teams play this year, is preposterous. The Huskers' trip to Madison is, I suspect, going to push both teams back toward where I think they both belong--mainly, Wisconsin at 5, and Nebraska at 15. So if Wisconsin wins by two scores, like I'm predicting, I don't think Nebraska falls very far in my rankings. That's what the 15th best team ought to do in a road game at the fifth best team, isn't it? Of course, in Win Go Up Lose Go Down Poll World, Nebraska's about to tumble, but that just seems like a correction that I don't need to make on my end. And yes, Sensitive Nebraska Fan, I am totally biased against your team now and forever, even while I still think the Huskers win the division title. Whatever you need to sleep at night.
Michigan as the third-highest ranked team in the Big Ten? Shows you what going 4-0 gets you, I suppose. This is higher than I have Michigan, although not by as much as before, and as long as Denard Robinson remains bulletproof things will continue to improve in Ann Arbor. It's just, jeez, that last half of the schedule might mean a 1-5 finish for the Maize and Blue. I'm letting it affect my voting habits for Michigan. I shouldn't yet. Punish the teams the losses they have and not the ones that loom, right? Right. So I suppose No. 19 is fine -- for now.
This ranking is about right. Illinois continues its unlikely unbeaten spree and will probably do so until at least October 15 when it hosts Ohio State. But honestly, that's going to be like a late-oughts Boise State 6-0: One tough opponent, and the rest a set of cupcakes that all but the worst BCS conference teams could go 5-0 against. And yet no matter how many qualifiers you attach to it, unbeaten is still unbeaten, and that puts Illinois on a higher level than 8 of their conference mates so far. Borderline Top 25 works for Illinois until the Ohio State game; that's when their conference season really kicks off.
NR/25. Michigan State
Sure, the Spartans slaughtered Central Michigan. I still don't trust that rushing attack after how well Notre Dame shut it down, and I won't trust it until MSU runs on a real defense. Sayyy, Michigan State goes to Ohio State this week! Show me something good, Sparty, and I'll be happy to return MSU to my Top 25 at once.
Also receiving votes: Michigan State (51 AP votes), Ohio State (15 AP votes, 61 coaches votes), Penn State (12 AP votes, 34 coaches votes), Northwestern (5 coaches votes) (what seriously oh god why)