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.
9/10. Michigan State
Three weeks ago, Michigan State wasn't even ranked (and didn't deserve to be). Now, with a spree of wins over Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin, the Spartans have earned their way to the highest rank in the Big Ten and an inside track on the Legends Division title. If MSU had closed out the win on Saturday without any drama, I'd say this spot was too low; as it was, the finish was a little miraculous for voters' tastes, and this spot in the polls is just fine.
The shocking aspect of Wisconsin's loss to Michigan State was that without Montee Ball, this Badger offense is rather pedestrian. Obviously, you can't pin a blocked punt and blocked field goal on Russell Wilson or anybody else on the offense, but still: with Ball out, the Spartan defense didn't have to sell out to stop the run, and what ensued was a full abdication of the "best quarterback in the Big Ten" throne by Wilson, and a loss to show for it. As for the ranking, you hate to see a team that loses on a miracle drop very far, but at the same time, Wisconsin never led in the second half and never had the ball with a chance to win. This spot in the polls is just about right, and will continue to be so until the Badgers beat a highly regarded opponent.
Nebraska keeps hanging around here in the mid-teens, and as long as it keeps winning, that's fine. We're still looking for a signature win out of the Huskers, and a home game against Michigan State this week will be a perfect opportunity for the Huskers to prove they belong in the upper echelon of the polls. Win this one, and Nebraska's got a major leg up in the division title chase. Lose, and what's really the difference between Nebraska and some borderline Top 25 school? The name on the uniform? The conference affiliation? What? Because it certainly won't be anything on the field.
The Wolverines' loss to Michigan State in Week 7 actually looks quite a bit better now that MSU went out and dethroned Wisconsin the week after, but it still doesn't inspire much confidence in Michigan's ability to put up a ton of points on a very good defense. Still though, the rest of the polls are such a mess at this point that a one-loss Michigan squad ought to be a little higher than 17th in the land at this point.
21/19. Penn State
Don't look now, but Silas Redd is running roughshod on the Big Ten; in Penn State's 4-0 start to conference play, Redd is averaging 26 rushes, 141 yards, and a score per game. If he can keep up that kind of workhorse production against the back half of PSU's slate, it's going to make Matt McGloin's job a lot easier. That all said, it's rather Big East-ish to have a lone conference leader ranked around 20th in the nation, and it's generally a sign that the team's reign atop the conference is near an end. Still, this ranking is fair, and will be until the Nittany Lions dispatch a high-level opponent -- and no, Iowa certainly doesn't count.
Also receiving votes: Illinois (2 AP votes, 22 coaches votes), Iowa (14 coaches votes)