In the Big Ten, Michigan-Ohio State is the Big Game, the annual season-ender between the descendants of Bo and Woody.
So let’s just call this week’s meeting between Penn State and Ohio State the Bigger Game.
Because, for all that Penn State has accomplished in rising to No. 2 in the nation behind Alabama, it needs to win in Columbus—or face the likely prospect that the Buckeyes will be the Big Ten’s entry in the College Football Playoff. (Again.)
It doesn’t get any bigger than that.
And now. . .
YOUR TMG BIG TEN POWER RANKINGS
OK. I’m convinced. Nittany Lions, after showing some flaws while getting past Iowa and Northwestern, put it all together in dismantling Michigan 42-13. Winner, winner, chicken dinner.
1, Penn State (3 last week): No time to bask in the glow of resounding statement win over Wolverines before biggest crowd in Beaver Stadium history (110,823). This week’s trip to the Horseshoe will require an exclamation point.
2, Ohio State (1): Had a bye to rest up and get ready for Penn State. They probably didn’t sleep all that well Saturday night, though.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
3, Wisconsin (2): Unbeaten? Yes. Unloved because of their lackluster schedule? You bet. . . The moans will crescendo when Badgers go to Illinois this week. Considering that Wisconsin’s remaining five opponents are 4-16 in conference play, they’ll keep getting louder. And louder. And Michigan (2-2), which looks like the last remaining serious hurdle, comes to Madison.
4, Michigan State (4): L.J. Scott shakes off a seventh arrest for driving with a suspended license, saying, "It was just communications between me and the Secretary of State," and runs for 87 needed yards in Sparty’s 17-9 escape against Indiana. Scott will be ``affected,’’ the Spartans said. Affected how? Maybe he’ll have to write, ``I will not drive without a valid license,’’ 100 times on the whiteboard. Oh, and he now has a valid license.
5, Michigan (5): When Rutgers comes to the Big House this week, one team will be riding a two-game winning streak. The other has lost two of three, including a harrowing overtime win. Which is which? Think before you give your final answer.
6, Northwestern (9): Back on the horse, courtesy of wins at Maryland and good overtime sneak past Iowa. Toughest remaining opponent, Michigan State, comes to Evanston on Saturday. Then again, NU has no gimmes.
7, Indiana (8): With losses to Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State, the Hoosiers have case for best 0-4 conference team in the nation. After taking Wolverines and Spartans to the wire, could do some things the rest of the way. With four of five remaining opponents in their weight class, a bowl trip still a legitimate goal.
8, Iowa (6): Remember the Iowa that almost beat Penn State on Sept. 23, losing 21-19 to the Nittany Lions’ heroic final drive? Well, forget it. This Iowa scuffles, and will need to dig in if it wants to get to a bowl.
9, Rutgers (13): Credit where it’s due. Rutgers has won back-to-back Big Ten games for the first time, and never mind that this is its fourth year in the league. I like what Chris Ash is doing. Whether he can attract players to truly raise the bar is an open question. But Scarlet Knights are in good hands.
10, Purdue (7): If Jeff Brohm had asked me, I would’ve told him to get blown out at Wisconsin and bring his A Game to Piscataway. But give Rutgers credit. And remember that the retooling Boilermakers are going to blow the occasional gasket.
11, Nebraska (10): With only one ranked opponent (Penn State) remaining, Cornhuskers will have some opportunities to make case for Mike Riley. I wonder what Cornhusker Nation thinks about that.
12, Maryland (11): All of a sudden, bright spots seem to be disappearing. Next two opponents, Indiana and Rutgers, are playing well. Last three opponents? In the toughest division in the nation, forget about it.
13, Minnesota (12): It was only a seven-point margin against Illinois. But it still counts as P.J. Fleck’s first Big Ten win.
14, Illinois (14): Things are so messy at the University of East Central Illinois.[/membership]