Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 13

Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 13
November 24, 2013, 11:45 pm
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Vinnie Duber

The Big Ten title game is set.

Ohio State and Michigan State will clash in Indianapolis to determine which team will take home the conference championship, with one more week to tune up beforehand.

There was both excitement and disappointment in Week 13. Illinois snapped a two-year-plus conference losing streak and Wisconsin continued to flex its muscles, while Northwestern and Purdue were sent to a do-or-die situation to determine whether they'll end up winless in Big Ten play.

Though all bowl eligibilities in the conference have been determined, there'll still be plenty to play for in the regular season's final week. But first, how do the Big Ten teams stack up? Find out in this week's power rankings.

1. Ohio State Buckeyes (Last week: 1)

It's finally official: The Buckeyes are going to Indy. Yeah, we could have guessed that for quite a while now, but a 42-14 clock-cleaning of Indiana on Saturday sealed the deal. Ohio State continues to look like one of the nation's finest on offense, racking up 471 total yards Saturday. Quarterback Braxton Miller accounted for 304 total yards and four total touchdowns, while running back Carlos Hyde rushed for 117 yards and a pair of his own scores. The Buckeye duo is looking like a pair of the best offensive players in all of college football, and they'd likely be garnering much more national-award attention if not for a handful of missed games early in the season. Hyde is averaging more than 156 yards per game in his last six games, accounting for 13 rushing touchdowns in that span. Yes, Ohio State is likely going to need some assistance if it's going to reach the national title game, but they can take comfort in the fact that another contender dropped this week when previously undefeated Baylor lost, making the No. 3 spot safely the Buckeyes'.

2. Michigan State Spartans (LW: 2)

While it took a little while for the Spartans to get going Saturday in Evanston, their date with Northwestern ended in a typical dominant performance. Michigan State went on to win, 30-6, with the nation's No. 1 defense keeping another opponent out of the end zone. Michigan State knocked No. 1 quarterback Kain Colter out of the game early and then picked off No. 2 quarterback Trevor Siemian three times. And — stop me if you've heard this one before — it was a huge day on the ground for running back Jeremy Langford, who rushed for his sixth consecutive 100-plus-yard day. This time, he went for 150 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground. He's been a gigantic part of the Spartans' offensive rebirth in Big Ten play, scoring 12 total times over that six-game stretch. Michigan State is officially heading to Indy with the win, and the matchup with Ohio State should be a great one, with the Spartans' terrific defense going up against the Buckeyes' potent offense. If Michigan State can pull off the upset? Hello, Pasadena.

[MORE: Big Ten BCS hopefuls all in top 15 as season winds down]

3. Wisconsin Badgers (LW: 3)

It's starting to get difficult to determine how much more impressive the Badgers can look. A week after smothering the explosive Indiana offense, Wisconsin held streaking Minnesota to just seven points, and that touchdown was scored by the Gopher defense. It was an unsurprisingly strong day on the ground for the Wisconsin run game, as James White led the way with 125 yards and a touchdown. So what does the future hold for the Badgers, who won't be playing in the conference championship game? Well, a win over a ranked team finally gave them a little boost in the BCS standings, certainly one high enough to get them eligible for BCS inclusion. If Ohio State stomps on Michigan State in the Big Ten title game, the Badgers' seven-point loss in Columbus looks all the better, and it would put them in a very solid position for a trip to a BCS game. It would hardly be guaranteed, of course, but the Big Ten can send up to two teams and Wisconsin — one of a shrinking number of two-loss teams — would figure to be right in the mix.

4. Minnesota Golden Gophers (LW: 4)

The magic had to run out eventually, right? Though a four-game winning streak was unexpected and a whole lot of fun in the Twin Cities, two final games against Wisconsin and Michigan State figured to dampen the mood. That's exactly what happened against the Badgers on Saturday, as the Gophers couldn't do much against a stout defense in a 20-7 loss. The Minnesota offense could muster only 185 yards against a seemingly immovable Wisconsin defense, stopping the streak and keeping the Gophers' hands off Paul Bunyan's Axe for at least another season. David Cobb — who turned in at least 100 rush yards in each game during Minnesota's streak — finished with just 68 on 17 carries Saturday. And the only Gopher touchdown came courtesy of a pick-six from the defense. Though the Badgers didn't pour on the points like they have in weeks past, it was still a game that could potentially have been described as "all Wisconsin." The Gophers, eliminated from a shot at the Big Ten title before their bout with the Badgers even began, will now wait to see which bowl game they'll play in. And judging by this magical year, it'll be a pretty good one.

[RELATED: Illini get past Purdue, snap 20-game Big Ten losing streak]

5. Nebraska Cornhuskers (LW: 6)

As far as Big Ten teams go, Nebraska's season hasn't gone too terrible. Of course, that sentence right there tells you an awful lot about the top-heaviness of the conference this year. But Nebraska has just three losses, two in Big Ten play, and kept things that way with a 23-20 overtime win in Happy Valley on Saturday. A continually poor Husker defense again allowed big offensive days for Penn State playmakers Christian Hackenberg and Zach Zwinak, but the Nebraska offense matched those outputs. Quarterback Ron Kellogg III threw for 191 yards and a touchdown, and running back Ameer Abdullah rushed for 147 yards. As has been mentioned plenty of times prior, out-of-contention victories mean very little to the Husker faithful, but while some teams fall on their faces and post winless conference seasons, Nebraska is having a fine year and will go to a fine bowl game.

6. Iowa Hawkeyes (LW: 7)

Lost in Minnesota's improbable run this year has been Iowa, a team expected to do very little by very many. After going down 21-7 at the half Saturday, the Hawkeyes barnstormed back to a 24-21 win over Michigan. Give a ton of credit to the Iowa defense, which pitched a second-half shutout, as well as the offense for getting the job done to pull off the Hawkeyes' seventh win of the year. Looking at the final numbers, it's actually somewhat surprising Iowa ever trailed in this one, as the Hawkeyes out-gained the Wolverines, 407-158. That's a pretty shocking number in a game decided by three points. Iowa got a bounce-back game from running back Mark Weisman, who had gone missing through the middle of the season following a strong start. Saturday he rushed for 88 yards and a touchdown, the game-tying score. The Hawkeyes have a winnable game vs. Nebraska left on the docket to try and reach eight wins, which would be quite the accomplishment this season.

[MORE: Northwestern won't reach bowl game after loss to Spartans]

7. Penn State Nittany Lions (LW: 5)

Penn State's mediocrity never seems to cease this season. The Lions had put together a pretty nice campaign at home, at least, entering Saturday's game, but when yet another overtime contest graced the grounds of Happy Valley, this time it didn't go the home team's way. Penn State fell, 23-20, in OT to Nebraska, falling to 6-5 overall and 3-4 on the year. After the big debut from Bill O'Brien last season, the Lions have been simply "meh" in 2013, and a season-finale trip to Camp Randall Stadium figures to land them squarely at .500 to end the campaign. Thanks to those sanctions, the Lions won't be going bowling, even though they've won the requisite six games. That makes an upset in Madison the last chance to salvage something from this not-so exciting season.

8. Michigan Wolverines (LW: 8)

Remember when Michigan poured on the points vs. Notre Dame, looking like an offensive juggernaut in the process? Don't be surprised if you're all alone in that category. That once-prolific unit has been rendered nearly ineffective ever since, and Saturday's 23-20 loss at Iowa was the latest low point for a reeling bunch of Wolverines. Devin Gardner threw for 98 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but the supposedly dual-threat quarterback ran for only 12 yards (at least it wasn't a negative total). Michigan as a team rushed for only 60, part of an embarrassing 158-yard offensive day. Meanwhile, the Michigan defense allowed 407 yards to the Hawkeyes. It's somewhwat surprising the Wolverines were in this one till the end, as Iowa didn't take the lead until around the six-minute mark. It would appear the Wolverines are heading for a 7-5 campaign, unacceptably miserable by Ann Arbor standards, as a win in the season finale vs. undefeated Ohio State doesn't figure to be all that realistic.

[MORE NCAA: Northern Illinois jumps Fresno State, up two spots in BCS]

9. Indiana Hoosiers (LW: 10)

The good news for the Hoosiers against Ohio State? They found their offensive mojo, which they lost a week prior vs. Wisconsin. While the Badgers defense limited the Hoosier offense, a normally prolific group, to just three points and by far the unit's worst day of the season, things turned back around vs. the Buckeyes. Indiana racked up 442 offensive yards, including 320 through the air. Nate Sudfeld accounted for 224 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns. The bad news, though, for the Hoosiers was that they were again trounced in another losing effort. Ohio State sent them away from the Horseshoe with a 42-14 loss. In typical Indiana defensive fashion, the opposing offense had an even better day than the Hoosiers', with the Buckeyes going for 471 total yards, including 311 on the ground. And, unlike the Hoosiers, the Buckeyes found the end zone. A lot. The loss officially knocked the Hoosiers out of bowl eligibility, meaning it'll be another year without a postseason in Bloomington.

10. Illinois Fighting Illini (LW: 11)

The Purdue bump can work wonders. Despite playing another pretty crummy game themselves, the Illini finally got the monkey off their back with a 20-16 win over Purdue on Saturday. It didn't look good when Purdue started successfully rushing the football, a mighty rare sight in 2013. Boilermaker running back Akeem Hunt broke off a 62-yard touchdown run a minute and a half into the game. But, in the end, all that mattered was that the Illini were in the Big Ten win column, something they hadn't experienced in more than two years. It was Tim Beckman's first conference win as Illini head coach, and it might not have come at a better time, as professional sports talkers have wondered just how warm Beckman's seat is getting. A once-promising 3-1 campaign cannot be salvaged from the fourth win coming in the season's penultimate week, though a dismal Illini team — and a not-so-dismal senior quarterback in Nathan Scheelhaase — has a chance to go out with back-to-back wins when it takes on winless Northwestern this week.

[LAST WEEK: Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 12]

11. Northwestern Wildcats (LW: 9)

The Cats didn't need to find a crazy way to lose against Michigan State, as the normal way did the same job. Though it's lost in ridiculous fashions week after week this season, Northwestern was soundly beaten Saturday, falling, 30-6, to a Michigan State team boasting the nation's No. 1 defense. Though it could be argued that the Cats had the upper hand through one quarter in Evanston, things were pretty much decided when No. 1 quarterback Kain Colter was knocked out of the game in the first half. No. 2 quarterback Trevor Siemian was then intercepted three times as the game went on, and the Spartans were in control. Again, the Wildcats couldn't find the end zone, and their tendency to stall out in the red zone made another appearance. The loss officially knocked Northwestern, a team that started the season 4-0, out of bowl eligibility, an unthinkable scenario in the early third of the campaign. And things could get even worse if the Cats can't top rival Illinois this week, a team with the same record as them. But the Illini, remarkably, have one thing Northwestern doesn't this season: a Big Ten victory.

12. Purdue Boilermakers (LW: 12)

In its final two matchups, it appeared Purdue would finally get a chance to breathe against some of the conference's weakest defenses. Though the Boilermakers have been able to do next to nothing in the offensive department, perhaps dates with Illinois and Indiana could change that. Well, one down, and not so much. Sure, the Boilermakers did some small things of note vs. the Illini. Akeem Hunt picked up a 62-yard touchdown run within the game's first two minutes, nearly matching the team's rushing average in one play. Purdue couldn't even double that number, though, over the remaining 58 1/2 minutes of football. Danny Etling threw for just 163 yards, a touchdown and an interception. The bright side is that Indiana's defense is worse, though a juggernaut Hoosier offense in the season-closing battle for the Old Oaken Bucket could spell doom and a winless conference campaign for the Boilermakers.

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