Big Ten

Big Ten Power Rankings: Here comes Michigan

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Big Ten Power Rankings: Here comes Michigan

Jim Harbaugh has the Wolverines turning around in a hurry.

Michigan is 3-1 after shutting out BYU in dominating fashion, and that has the Wolverines looking like a real factor in the Big Ten East.

With Michigan on the rise, here's a look at this week's Big Ten Power Rankings:

1. Michigan State Spartans (4-0, 0-0)

Last week: 1

Sparty is still on top after what could’ve been the same kind of moment Ohio State had in Week 3. Michigan State led Central Michigan by just a touchdown late until a pair of Gerald Holmes scoring rushes made it a 20-point game. Those couple touchdowns were a big deal aesthetically, showing the Spartans’ offense is still more than capable as the banged-up Spartans’ defense — except, of course, Shilique Calhoun — continues to look a little shaky.

[MORE BIG TEN: Spartans improve to 4-0 with 20-point win vs. Central Michigan]

2. Ohio State Buckeyes (4-0, 0-0)

Last week: 2

Cardale Jones and the Buckeyes’ offense got back on track in a 38-12 win over Western Michigan. Jones threw for 288 yards and a couple of long touchdowns to ease the panic over an offense that was miserable just a week earlier. The defense continued to play well, scoring a touchdown for the third straight game. But all the attention is on the offense, which admittedly is far from perfect. Jones was plagued by underthrows, one resulting in yet another interception.

[MORE BIG TEN: Cardale Jones bounces back nicely in Buckeyes' win over Western Michigan]

3. Northwestern Wildcats (4-0, 0-0)

Last week: 3

The Northwestern defense, after suffocating performances against Stanford and Duke, allowed the biggest day of the season to … Ball State? Three Clayton Thorson turnovers didn’t help his defense out much, but Northwestern is still looking like the cream of the Big Ten West crop. Thorson, even with the turnovers, threw for three touchdown passes, and running back Justin Jackson had a career-high 184 rushing yards. Plus, that defense still looks stellar.

[MORE BIG TEN: Thorson throws three TDs as Northwestern stays perfect at 4-0]

4. Iowa Hawkeyes (4-0, 0-0)

Last week: 4

The best offense in the Big Ten through four weeks might belong to the Hawkeyes, as it was the most monstrous point-producing day yet for this new-look Iowa team. The Hawks rolled up 62 points on lowly North Texas, with Jordan Canzeri matching a school record with four touchdown runs. And C.J. Beathard continued his excellent start with 278 yards and a pair of touchdown pitches. A real test comes this week against Wisconsin, but Iowa is looking totally legit.

[MORE BIG TEN: Michigan into AP poll at No. 22, Northwestern up to No. 16]

5. Michigan Wolverines (3-1, 0-0)

Last week: 7

Speaking of legit, are the Wolverines a legitimate factor in the packed Big Ten East race following their 31-0 thumping of BYU? It would seem so. The defense remains terrific, one of the nation's best, shutting out the Cougars on Saturday while allowing just 105 total yards. And a talented stable of running backs is finally breaking out with the Michigan offensive line no longer a shambles. The Wolverines rank in the top five in the conference in rushing with more than 200 yards a game.

[MORE BIG TEN: Dominant on both sides, Michigan makes statement in crushing BYU]

6. Wisconsin Badgers (3-1, 0-0)

Last week: 6

Taiwan Deal and Dare Ogunbowale made the Corey Clement injury seem like not that big a deal (no pun intended) for at least one week, running all over Hawaii. But that was Hawaii, and we’ve yet to find out much about the Badgers thanks to a schedule that featured a loss to Alabama and blowout wins over Miami (Ohio), Troy and Hawaii. The conference-opener against Iowa ought to show us what the Badgers are really made of, which I’m assuming is a pretty talented defense.

[MORE BIG TEN: Behind Deal, Ogunbowale, Badgers' running game gets back on track in win over Hawaii]

7. Indiana Hoosiers (4-0, 0-0)

Last week: 9

Time for the undefeated Hoosiers to get some love, especially while it’s likely they’ll only remain undefeated for another five days. A tough conference-opening game against Ohio State awaits, which figures to bump Indiana from the ranks of the loss-less. That being said, it’s a terrific accomplishment for a program that hasn’t started 4-0 since 1990. And it means the Hoosiers are just two wins away from their first bowl trip since 2007 and second since 1993.

[MORE BIG TEN: Hoosiers beat Wake Forest for first 4-0 start since 1990]

8. Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-1, 0-0)

Last week: 5

One of the best defenses in the conference still has one of the least-successful offenses, but the Gophers at least found something on that side of the ball Saturday, enough to score a tight victory over Ohio. A final-minute touchdown was the game-winning play, as well as Shannon Brooks’ second rushing TD of the game. The Gophers haven’t exactly replaced David Cobb just yet, but they might be on to something with the rushing tandem of Rodney Smith and Brooks.

[MORE BIG TEN: Gophers survive another MAC foe, beat Ohio in final minute]

9. Penn State Nittany Lions (3-1, 1-0)

Last week: 8

Penn State’s win over San Diego State was the kind of game Penn State has been waiting for. It got a solid performance out of Christian Hackenberg, who threw for nearly 300 yards and pitched a trio of touchdown passes. Sequin Barkley was again great, if limited by an injury. And the defense was again stellar, even getting a touchdown thanks to Austin Johnson’s 71-yard fumble return. The Lions will gladly take those 37 points and look to be back on track after that disastrous Week 1 loss.

[MORE BIG TEN: All 323 pounds of Penn State's Austin Johnson go 71 yards on fumble-return TD]

10. Nebraska Cornhuskers (2-2, 0-0)

Last week: 10

Nebraska’s getting in the habit of not making things easy. Two losses have come by the thinnest of margins on the final plays of those games. And what could have been an easy win over Southern Miss became anything but as the Huskers had to sweat out a late Golden Eagles comeback. While Tommy Armstrong is doing a bang-up job leading the Nebraska offense, that defense cannot get it together, allowing four 300-yard passing days in four games, including 447 yards to Southern Miss.

[MORE BIG TEN: After beating Terps, Purdue, Bowling Green ribs Big Ten with celebratory T-shirt]

11. Illinois Fighting Illini (3-1, 0-0)

Last week: 11

A win is a win, but for Illinois fans and observers, they don’t get much less satisfying than what happened against Middle Tennessee State. The Illini needed a late 51-yard field goal to take a two-point lead before the Illini defense allowed MTSU to march right down the field, only for the Blue Raiders to miss a 43-yard field goal that would’ve cost Illinois the game. Yeesh. The Illini offense is out of sync right now. Thankfully the even more out of sync Nebraska pass defense visits Champaign this weekend.

[MORE BIG TEN: Illini narrowly avoid defeat against Middle Tennessee State]

12. Purdue Boilermakers (1-3, 0-0)

Last week: 13

It was yet another crushing loss for Purdue on Saturday against Bowling Green, a team that now has two Big Ten wins this season. David Blough was sensational in his first start, throwing for 340 yards and a pair of touchdowns. But a missed try at a go-ahead field goal was followed by a lightning-quick Bowling Green go-ahead touchdown drive to send the Boilers to their third loss. Blough’s performance, however, was as big a bright side as Purdue has had in a while.

[MORE BIG TEN:  David Blough impresses, but Purdue suffers crushing loss to Bowling Green]

13. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (2-2, 0-1)

Last week: 14

Congratulations, Rutgers, you beat Kansas. Hardly a resume-building win, but a team in as much turmoil as Rutgers will surely take it. The Knights have one game remaining in Kyle Flood’s three-game suspension, but it’s still uncertain when or if star wideout Leonte Carroo will return and now defensive lineman Darius Hamilton is done for the season. Up against Big Ten defenses, we’ll likely see more of what we saw the Knights do against Penn State — nothing — than what they did against lowly Kansas.

[MORE BIG TEN: Randy Edsall: Terps sticking with Caleb Rowe at quarterback]

14. Maryland Terrapins (2-2, 0-0)

Last week: 12

Maryland was crushed Saturday, 45-6, and it was as ugly as it sounds. The immediate fallout, other than showing that it’s going to be a long season in College Park, is at the quarterback position. In just his second game of this season as the starting QB, Caleb Rowe threw four interceptions and no touchdowns, getting yanked for Daxx Garman. This after Rowe replaced Perry Hills earlier in the season. Maryland’s sticking with Rowe against Michigan, but he’s got to start taking care of the ball.

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Weeks will separate a perfect 10-year anniversary where Northwestern will play at Wrigley Field for one of its regular season games in the upcoming years.

Back on Nov. 20, 2010, the Wildcats battled it out with Illinois, known as the “Wrigleyville Classic,” which saw the Illini take a 48-27 win.

Even though it’s still two years out, Northwestern still planned ahead and announced its opponent for its game at Wrigley Field on Nov. 7, 2020, against Big Ten rival Wisconsin.

“Obviously an exciting opportunity for our football program to come back to Wrigley Field, one of the Cathedrals of sporting venues in the world,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “When I announced it to our team, they were absolutely ecstatic.”

“The opportunity to play at Wrigley field is unique to us, being Chicago’s Big Ten team, and to have the chance to come down and play in an atmosphere like we did a few years back was a bowl game type atmosphere, and I look forward to this special opportunity.”

This game though will be a little different than it was back in 2010. Both the Wildcats and Illini played toward the west end zone due to a tight squeeze near the right field wall due to box seats that were added down the third base line.

Now, Northwestern and Wisconsin do not have to worry about that problem because the bullpens have since moved to the outfield.

Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney spoke at a news conference earlier on Tuesday at Wrigley.

“So excited to welcome back Northwestern to Wrigley Field to talk about football again,” Kenney said. “We had an incredible experience with them back in 2010."

Kenney also mentioned new seating is on a temporary platform that can all be removed and the dugout tops can be removed as well, and the field will expand west, to allow for a longer field.

With a sellout crowd in the last go around for the Wildcats, don’t be surprised for another sellout at the Friendly Confines.

See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings

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USA TODAY

See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings

With Week 12 in the books, here’s my top 25:

1. Oklahoma (10-1)

Still the team with the best resume in the country, no one can compete with OU’s wins over TCU, Ohio State and Oklahoma State, the latter two coming away from Norman. Baker Mayfield might not be a choir boy, but he’s the best player in the nation.

2. Miami (10-0)

You might think that being down 28-14 to Virginia in the second half was cringe-worthy, but the Canes made up for things by storming back with 30 unanswered points. Now they finally have to go away from South Florida for the first time since almost losing to North Carolina last month.

3. Alabama (11-0)

Tide gonna roll. But this Cupcake Weekend in the SEC has got to stop. While teams in other conferences are slugging it out against rivals, Bama gets to take a day off against Mercer? It’s just not fair. Also, Bama’s schedule is so soft, there’s no way it deserves to be the No. 1 team in the country.

4. Georgia (10-1)

The Dawgs should wrap an 11-1 regular season this weekend against Georgia Tech. But the SEC title game presents a kind of no-win scenario: undefeated Alabama or Auburn, who throttled Georgia earlier this month.

5. Wisconsin (11-0)

You didn’t need Wisconsin to do what it did to Iowa and Michigan to prove it had one of the best defenses in the country — but that sure didn’t help. Stockpiling national love with those two wins, a win in the Big Ten title game figures to make the Badgers a Playoff lock.

6. Clemson (10-1)

Why’d Kelly Bryant have to go and get hurt for that Syracuse game? The Tigers would be No. 1 and the undisputed best team in the country. Still, though, a win over Miami in the ACC title game ought to get the champs back into the Playoff.

7. Auburn (9-2)

Great job pounding Louisiana-Monroe, Tigers. You shall not escape the wrath over Cupcake Weekend in the SEC. That dumb game aside, Auburn and Alabama will meet in a titanic Iron Bowl this weekend with a trip to the SEC title game on the line — and perhaps a Playoff spot, as well.

8. Ohio State (9-2)

Not that pummeling Illinois is any big deal, but the Buckeyes are still alive in this thing and look like a team capable of making some Playoff noise. First, Ohio State has to win The Game and then the Big Ten title game to knock out undefeated Wisconsin.

9. Notre Dame (9-2)

Out of the Playoff chase thanks to that loss at Miami, Notre Dame squeaked by Navy this past weekend. Hope a New Year’s Six bowl game is enough for the Irish. We know it’s not enough for those ND fans. So maybe join a conference? Just saying.

10. TCU (9-2)

The Frogs can still make their mark on the Playoff race, even if they can’t get in themselves. The Big 12 title game will almost surely be TCU’s attempt at revenge on Oklahoma. Unfortunately, if revenge does come, it will probably cannibalize the conference’s Playoff hopes, too.

11. Penn State (9-2)

Why Penn State gave up 44 points to Nebraska, I do not know. What I do know is that probably no one cared because Penn State is going to go down as the most inconsequential 10-2 team of all-time. Such a bummer considering the preseason expectations for both the team and Saquon Barkley.

12. USC (10-2)

Yeah, I guess there’s still a way for USC to make the Playoff, but it’s hard to imagine that madness unfolding, even in the oft-mad college football. The Trojans get the winner of the Apple Cup in the Pac-12 title game.

13. UCF (10-0)

Finally we get our much-anticipated UCF-USF showdown this weekend. Make it count, Knights. This is probably gonna be Scott Frost’s last regular-season game in Orlando.

14. Washington (9-2)

It’s hard to say who has the edge in the Apple Cup, but certainly the stakes are high, with the winner going off to play USC in the Pac-12 title game. Can either team make the Playoff? Well, probably not, no.

15. Washington State (9-2)

Is this it for Mike Leach on The Palouse? He could be a hot candidate this offseason and leave for perceived greener pastures. Winning the Apple Cup would go a long way toward making that happen.

16. Mississippi State (8-3)

A win in the Egg Bowl means a 9-3 regular season for the Bulldogs with their three losses coming against three top-10 teams.

17. Oklahoma State (8-3)

Poor Okie State has been so good all year and had two losses to the two best teams in its conference, and then it went and lost to K-State for some ridiculous reason. The Mullet deserved better in 2017.

18. Northwestern (8-3)

The Cats are the fourth-best team in the Big Ten, simple as that, with wins over Michigan State and Iowa and conference losses to Wisconsin and Penn State. As commendable an effort as you’ll find in a highly competitive league. Plus, Fitz’s team is on a six-game win streak that could end up extending to eight.

19. Stanford (8-3)

Already with a win over Washington, Stanford could close the regular season with two wins over top-10 teams in its final three games. Also Bryce Love is back in the groove after back-to-back 100-yard games.

20. Memphis (9-1)

The Tigers have lost just one game all season, to the best Group of Five team out there. Heck of a season by Memphis.

21. Michigan State (8-3)

A 17-7 win over Maryland couldn't have been the most exciting way for anyone to spend their weekend. Sparty's had a mighty fine season, though, considering how badly things went in 2016.

22. LSU (8-3)

The SEC has seemingly gotten increasingly better as the year has progressed, with LSU and Mississippi State making for a solid-enough middle tier. But remember when LSU lost to Troy? That wasn’t good.

23. South Florida (9-1)

If not for that loss to Houston, USF’s showdown with UCF this weekend would be for Group of Five supremacy. Even without that, though, this should be a highly entertaining affair.

24. Virginia Tech (8-3)

The Hokies have a chance to salvage their tumble at the close of the season with a win at Virginia. But given how well the Cavs played at Miami this past weekend, a VT win is no sure thing.

25. Iowa State (7-4)

I understand the math and all, but can't the Big 12 just suspend its rules and send Iowa State to the title game? We all want to see the OU-ISU rematch. Why are you preventing us from being happy, Big 12?