Does a week pass by anymore without some huge Big Ten conference games? This week was packed again with upsets of Indiana, Michigan, and Minnesota and some thrillers like Tuesday's game between Michigan and Ohio State. The Big Ten is still wide open, but the race to the finish has started to clear out. With the current setup, it looks like the conference will come down to just 5 teams competing for the title. There were definitely some big changes this week. Here are the Week 15 Big Ten power rankings:
Can Branden Dawson move the Spartans into the driver's seat?
#1 - Indiana (9-2) - (No Change)
Yes, the Hoosiers were upset on the road by Illinois, but they still hold on to the top spot in this week's rankings. Not only did they demolish Ohio State on the road over the weekend, but they are still tied for 1st in the Big Ten after the week. The Hoosiers will likely remain at the #1 spot following next week with matchups against Nebraska and Purdue at home. This is a light week before Indiana gets 5 very tough games to close the Big Ten season including MSU, OSU, Minnesota, and Michigan.
#2 - Michigan (8-3) - (No Change)
After another up and down week for the Wolverines, they narrowly hold on to the 2nd spot in these rankings. The week started out well in an OT win over arch-rival Ohio State, but ended roughly for Michigan when they went down to Wisconsin on the road largely due to a buzzer beater at the end of regulation. It was a win that Michigan really should have gotten and if they had been able to stop a heave at the end of the game, they would probably be #1 right now both in the power rankings and in the AP and Coaches poll. Of course, that's all hypothetical. Michigan lost, but MSU didn't do quite enough over the last week to overtake them. Things should be sorted out with a showdown between the in-state rivals on Tuesday night.
#3 - Michigan State (9-2) - (No Change)
MSU has really been rolling lately. They won their last 3 games, 9 of their last 10, and 15 of their last 17 games. Along with this, the Spartans are tied for 1st in the Big Ten. They still have some very tough remaining games on the schedule, but for now, all eyes are on their Tuesday matchup with arch-rival Michigan. If MSU can get the win over Michigan, they will be in the driver's seat for a Big Ten title. Nothing is set, especially with Indiana, a rematch with Michigan, and Ohio State still on the schedule, but they would certainly be in good shape with a win.
#4 - Wisconsin (8-3) - (+1)
The Badgers may truly be one of the most difficult teams to read in the Big Ten this year. They have already lost to MSU, OSU, and Iowa, but they're also just 1 game out of the Big Ten lead and have already recorded wins over both Indiana and Michigan. Yes, it took a buzzer beater to beat Michigan at home, but the Badgers are in great shape at a run to the Big Ten championship. With no remaining games against Indiana or Michigan, they certainly have the easiest remaining schedule of any of the top teams in the conference right now. However, they face a challenging week on the road against Minnesota and with a home game against Ohio State. If they get through this week 1-1 or better, they are a serious Big Ten title contender.
#5 - Ohio State (7-4) - (-1)
The Buckeyes move down after a rough week. They lost to arch-rival Michigan on the road and were handled by Indiana at home. With these two losses, Ohio State is probably knocked out of the Big Ten title race. Technically, they're still in it and they still have games against Indiana, Wisconsin, and MSU, but they're going to need a lot of help and are going to have to beat some tough teams on the road. This is still a pretty good team, but they really needed to go at least 1-1 last week to stay in the hunt.
#6- Illinois (4-7) - (+4)
This could be an overreaction. In fact, it probably is an overreaction. However, when a team beats Indiana at home and Minnesota on the road in one week and all 4 of the teams above them lose at least 1 of their last 2 games, there is a pretty good argument for why they should be moved up this much. Illinois is inconsistent and relies too much on Paul and Richardson, but hey, if it works, don't fix it. After their last two wins, this team is probably going to the NCAA Tournament and deserves to be this high. They'll probably stay here too, with Purdue and Northwestern on the upcoming schedule.
#7 - Minnesota (5-6) - (-1)
Another inconsistent week for Minnesota. Losing on the road to MSU is nothing to be ashamed about, but the Golden Gophers should have been able to beat Illinois at home, especially after getting up big early. This team has Wisconsin at home and Iowa on the road this week. These could be critical games in a tourney run for Minnesota.
#8 - Iowa (4-7) - (No Change)
The Hawkeyes haven't been too bad lately, but they also haven't been that great. They very nearly beat Minnesota and Wisconsin on the road, but fell short. They beat Northwestern at home, but this is a team desperately in need of a marquee win. They get Minnesota at home this week, which may be their best chance for a quality win left on their schedule.
#9 - Purdue (5-6) - (-2)
The Boilermakers very narrowly hold on to the #9 spot this week. They are 1-3 in their last four games and are struggling to compete with the top teams. They have two tough challenges this week on the road against Illinois and Indiana. Seems likely they will be lower by next week.
#10 - Northwestern (4-7) - (-1)
This is another up and down team. In their last five games, they've beaten Minnesota and Purdue, lost to Iowa and Nebraska, and got blown out on the road against Michigan. This team is just looking for consistent play and perhaps an NIT Bid. They get Ohio State and Illinois this week.
#11 - Nebraska (3-8) - (No Change)
Nebraska has 3 conference wins. Something that's pretty impressive for this Cornhuskers squad. Sure, two of those wins came against Penn State, but that's still something, right? Right?!
#12 - Penn State (0-11) - (No Change)
The Nittany Lions go another week without a Big Ten win. It's starting to seem likely that they will finish the season winless in Big Ten play. Perhaps they can upset Iowa or beat Northwestern.