Thanks to a lengthy weather delay in East Lansing, chaos descended on the top of the Big Ten East's Division in unison this weekend.
Four teams now have at least a glimmer of hope to land in Indianapolis from that group as we head down the homestretch. Meanwhile, Wisconsin continues its steady march toward another crown out West. The Big Ten might have hurt its standing in the College Football Playoff conversation, but these next few weeks are looking pretty interesting for the top third of our power rankings.
1. Wisconsin (Last week: 3): There is something to be said -- and by that we mean a whole lot to be said -- about being consistent enough to fend off the weirdness that attacks college football each week. The Badgers have won nine straight games. With the possible exception of a late scare from Purdue, they have won all of them comfortably. Knock Wisconsin's schedule if you'd like, but in a land prone to uneven waves of excitement, the steady, boring man is king.
2. Ohio State (1): The Buckeyes drop only one spot after imploding at Iowa. The College Football Playoff hopes may be dead, but Ohio State is still very much in control of its path to a Big Ten championship. The talent to get there and win is obvious on this team, but the Buckeyes aren't immune to laying an egg in a tough environment.
3. Michigan State (6): Brian Lewerke may be the hottest quarterback in the country right now. He's thrown for 845 yards in his past two outings, including 400 in rainy weather Saturday against a once-formidable Penn State defense. The Spartans have their groove back as they head to Columbus this week with a chance to take control of one of the toughest divisions in the sport.
4. Penn State (2): The Nittany Lions are through the toughest part of their schedule, but not without a significant amount of damage. Saquon Barkley looked human against tough defenses at Ohio State and Michigan State in the past two weeks. A secondary that was recently among the nation's best in the stat column has been roasted in the past two weeks. A 10-win season is still attainable for Penn State, but hoisting trophies looks like a long shot at best this year.
5. Michigan (4): The running game shined this weekend at the Big House while quarterback Brandon Peters made his starting debut. The Wolverines ran for 371 yards and showed they can overpower most teams when they commit to the run. Top-10 opponents Wisconsin and Ohio State remain, but those give Jim Harbaugh's crew a chance to jump right back in the mix if things break the right way.
6. Iowa (7): Kinnick Stadium is dark and full of terrors. The giant slayers in Iowa City have only one loss at home this season -- a two-pointer against Penn State. Quarterback Nathan Stanley, fresh off a five-touchdown performance against Ohio State, is quietly putting together a heck of a season for a Hawkeyes team that has a chance to take down another Playoff contender if it can bring its current mojo on the road to Wisconsin this week.
7. Northwestern (5): The Cardiac Cats have played in overtime in each of the past three weeks and won all three games. Northwestern has won four straight overall and has once again made serious improvements from September until November. A manageable slate ahead should put the team in position for a good bowl spot in December.
8. Indiana (11): The Hoosiers move upward this week despite their fourth straight loss. They've been competitive in at least some part of all four of those games but are still searching for their first Big Ten win this year. The defense and the passing game have been promising through much of the year. The league's worst rushing attack (113.6 yards per game) needs to improve if Indiana is going to beat anyone in the East.
9. Minnesota (10): The Gophers have made two trips to the end zone in the past two weeks -- both losses -- while looking physically overpowered on defense. P.J. Fleck now has to win two of three against Nebraska, Northwestern and Wisconsin to avoid missing a bowl in his first season.
10. Nebraska (9): Did you hear that Scott Frost's UCF team put up 615 yards of offense to keep its undefeated record alive this weekend? It seems inevitable that 4-5 Nebraska will be shopping for new coaches this offseason. On the bright side, there will be good options available for the Cornhuskers.
11. Rutgers (13): The Scarlet Knights may not be rewarded with a bowl trip this season, but they've made great strides in coach Chris Ash's second season. Historic blowouts have given way to a 3-3 conference record and a roster that is starting to believe it can compete in conference games.
12. Purdue (12): David Blough is most likely done for the season after leaving Saturday's win over Illinois with a leg injury. That should make it difficult for the Boilermakers to end the season on the same high note on which the year began. Coach Jeff Brohm said it would take time to turn things around in West Lafayette, and that's proving to be correct.
13. Maryland (8): It's hard to know what to make of Maryland this year. The injury-plagued Terps are 4-5 and staring down a stretch of three of the league's best teams. They've jumped around our power rankings all season and may have reached a nadir this week after losing to Rutgers on the road.
14. Illinois (14): The Illini remain outclassed in the trenches against all conference competition this year. They suffered their seventh consecutive loss this weekend and look to be comfortably situated at the bottom of the Big Ten for the foreseeable future.