Posted by Adam Jacobi
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.
Once again, Wisconsin is ranked fourth in the nation, and I'm not entirely sure the Badgers are ever going to move higher. The winner of Oklahoma-Oklahoma State will likely deserve a spot in the Top 3, and really, there's no stone-cold guarantee that the loser of LSU-Alabama will drop to 4th or lower if the game is close. Fortunately, Wisconsin's resume will get a much-needed boost in the coming weeks as the Big Ten slate kicks into high gear.
I continue to believe that Nebraska is playing with house money at this point, and Jared Crick's season-ending injury will probably hasten the Huskers' impending fall down the polls. At the same time, though, if they keep up this first-half pace and go 10-2 on the season, sure, this would be a fine ranking -- maybe even too low. Alas, however, there are no more Wyomings, Fresnos State or Chattanoogae on the schedule, only Big Ten opponents. So it'll be fun to see how Nebraska adapts to the grind of the conference slog.
15/13. Michigan State
Michigan State shouldn't get too comfortable here, because a home date with Wisconsin looms this Saturday, and there's probably going to be substantial movement one way or another afterward. At any rate, though, I think the Spartans proved that they belonged somewhere around here on Saturday with that convincing victory over the Wolverines. Also, it'll be nice to see the Badgers provided with an opponent who can keep the game within 31 points. MSU will stay within 31 of Wisconsin, right? Right???
I've been trying to tell you guys all year long that the second half of the season portended doom for Michigan. Heed my words! This is a good ranking for the Wolverines, though, and they'll have opportunities to earn their way higher in the polls (where basically everybody after No. 10 is eminently beatable). I'm at least going to back off on my fears that Michigan will go 1-5 down the stretch, MSU loss be damned; the Wolverines are good enough to beat Iowa at Kinnick, and I can't imagine that both Nebraska and Ohio State will be able to come to Ann Arbor and leave victors.
Still, though, if anyone was curious how to beat Michigan this year, MSU just put together a fantastic blueprint on how, and there'll be a lot of defensive coordinators watching that tape for the rest of the year.
No getting around it: that was a brutal loss for Illinois to take on Saturday. Everything that people hate about Ron Zook-coached teams came out, from the silly play-calling to the back-breaking errors to the fact that OSU literally ran over 90% of the time and Zook still wasn't putting 10 people in the box on every snap. 23rd best team? Sounds about right.
NR/22. Penn State
Okay, fine. Penn State is 6-1, so we should acknowledge that fact right alongside the eye-gouging badness of Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden. That defense is legit, and Silas Redd is starting to come into his own after a slow start to the year. The schedule from here on out is brutal, though, with Saturday's night date at Northwestern being the easiest of the bunch. So here's the lousy part for PSU: being that the Nittany Lions are currently 26th or 22nd (I choose 26th because to hell with the coaches poll), if they go 2-3 from here on out, they're not going to be anywhere near the Top 25. And yet, they'll have finally earned it. That's win-go-up, lose-go-down polling for you, State fans! Enjoy!
Also receiving votes: Penn State (130 AP votes), Everybody Else In The Conference (not one single vote, not even from the blasted coaches poll, and that is okay with me)