Big Ten Power Rankings: Midseason Edition

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On my way home from the “Banks Bowl” (nickname I give to the annual IllinoisMichigan State meeting, because the former is my undergrad, the latter my MBA school) on Saturday night I drove past the town of Climax, MI on I-94.

The miles immediately leading into Climax are exciting, but then when you’re past Climax, it’s all downhill.

By the way, wouldn’t it be HILARIOUS if there was a town called Refractory Period, MI bordering Climax?

I bring this up because MSU football has had a tendency to climax during the middle of the season these past couple decades. It seems like they start 5-0 and finish 7-5 every season. They’ve also been prone to tremendous let-downs. Beating undefeated Michigan and Ohio State teams in midseason (see 1998, 1999, 2001) then losing to Indiana and Purdue the following week.

Will this year be different? With a 7-0 record, the first since the national title year of 1966, and a #7 BCS ranking, it appears so. Will the excitement for Tom Izzo’s basketball team will be delayed a little?

kirk-cousins

By Paul M. Banks

1. Michigan State (7-0, 3-0) I hate to say “I told you so”…well actually, no I don’t, I say “I told you so” any chance I get, numerous times repeatedly. In the preseason, I predicted the Spartans to be the sleeper team of the Big Ten. I wrote in August:

“Part of the reason I’m so sold on State is the way their schedule plays out. Their first five games are at home, their first seven are in the state of Michigan, and the eighth is at Northwestern, where the crowd could very likely once again be 40-60% MSU fans. So that could be a de facto neutral site game. In other words, the whole first half of the season is perfect for the Spartans to get comfort and confidence; two of the most critical components for building a winner.”

I brought this point up during the exclusive I had with Cousins at Big Ten Media Day:

“Like you said, confidence can get going early if we’re sitting there with a 4-0, 5-0 kind of a record, and the confidence in our team, the belief in our team is only going to snowball. And that can only help us. So like you said, the schedule sets itself up well, and now we just need to go out and make big time plays, take care of things in crunch time and we can have a special season,” Cousins responded about the favorable scheduling.

State gets another schedule break in 1.) They don’t have to face Ohio State this season 2.) After Northwestern, the only tough game remaining is at #14 Iowa.

2. Iowa (5-1, 2-0) Call me crazy, but I think the team with the Big Ten team with the best chance of competing for a national title is actually Iowa. Of course, you’ll need a ton of losses and chaos from the teams above them, and who knows what the computer algorithms will have to spit out to make this happen, but seriously Iowa has the best defensive line in the nation, and arguably the best defense overall.

And big ass turkey legs at their tailgates.

3. Ohio State (6-1, 2-1) This really was supposed to be their year wasn’t it? Everything had lined up perfectly given the recruiting classes in place, and they had appropriate talent at every position, and it all looked like something that wouldn’t happen again for awhile. Sorry Buckeye nuts, but that’s the awful truth.

3. Wisconsin (6-1, 2-1) With their 31-18 win over No. 1 Ohio State, the Wisconsin Badgers (6-1) are the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl National Team of the Week for games of the weekend of Oct. 16

5. Michigan (5-2, 1-2) We knew Denard Robinson was going to slow down given 1.) his stats were impossibly high to actually persist 2.) He’s playing real defenses now. And that reminds me what the Wolverines should do for their Halloween costume- dress up like a college football team that has genuine defensive players on their roster.

6. Northwestern (5-1, 1-1) Following this week’s contest with Michigan State, Northwestern hits the road for back-to-back games at Indiana and Penn State. The Wildcats, who have won a Big Ten-best 10 road games dating the start of the 2008 season, have won five consecutive road games. Maybe they rise up on the road because they don’t have to think about the tiny home crowds. NU took an undefeated record and national ranking into a prime time contest on a night (from a weather standpoint) as perfect as can be. Yet the stadium was 1/3 empty, and about a quarter of the fans who did show were favoring Purdue.

7. Illinois (3-3, 1-2) That record is misleading, because their three losses have come to OSU, MSU and Missouri, three schools that are a combined 20-1 on the season.

QB Nathan Scheelhaase was asked if they can take any solace in that fact. “It doesn’t matter because we felt we could have put a one in the loss column for any of those teams, but they found a way to win and we didn’t. It’s frustrating, but you got to give credit, they’re good football teams, but we’re going to play good football teams.”

8. Penn State (3-3, 0-2) I’ m guessing this is it for JoePa? For real this time. I know his health is fine, but really the only reason he stuck around was to hit the 400 mark. After that, he has nothing left to do.

9. Purdue (4-2, 2-0) It’s a good thing the Big Ten has eight bowl tie-ins for the first time in conference history – the Rose Bowl Game/Bowl Championship Series (BCS) game, Capital One Bowl, Outback Bowl, Gator Bowl, Insight Bowl, Texas Bowl, Dallas Football Classic and Little Caesars Pizza Bowl because…

10. Indiana (4-2, 1-2)  …How ridiculous is this? 10/11 Big Ten teams should make a bowl this season. The Hoosiers are the worst of the bunch, and the best example of what happens when your schedule includes more cupcakes than Hostess.

11. Minnesota (1-6, 0-3) Which group of people in Minnesota are dumber? Those who believe in the espoused ideas of MN Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann or those who believe Tim Brewster should stay.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest webzine. He is also a regular contributor to the Chicago Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

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