Big Ten power rankings: Week 15

Only one Big Ten team took the field during the weekend, and there's only one change in the final regular-season power rankings.


1. Wisconsin (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten): Life is good in Madtown as Wisconsin celebrates its first trip to Pasadena in 11 years. The only bad news is the red-hot Badgers must wait until Jan. 1 to play their next game. TCU's defense is the best unit Wisconsin has faced since Oct. 16 against Ohio State, although we know how that one turned out for the Badgers.

2. Ohio State (11-1, 7-1): After another perfect November, the Buckeyes try to end their troublesome slide against the SEC in bowl games as they head to New Orleans to take on Arkansas. The defense has its hands full with Ryan Mallett. Ohio State hopes quarterback Terrelle Pryor can be as good in the Allstate Sugar Bowl as he was in the Rose Bowl in January.

3. Michigan State (11-1, 7-1): Make no mistake: The Spartans got snubbed from the BCS. But the best way they can respond is to beat defending national champion Alabama in the Capital One Bowl. Mark Dantonio is 0-3 in bowls as Spartans coach, so his team can record another milestone in a season filled with them.

4. Penn State (7-5, 4-4): The Nittany Lions are the "hottest" Big Ten squad among the second-tier group, although that isn't saying much. Still, a young Penn State squad has a chance to make some strides before taking on a very beatable Florida team in the Outback Bowl. If Matt McGloin, Evan Royster and Silas Redd get it going against Florida, Penn State should prevail.

5. Iowa (7-5, 4-4): It's time for Iowa to flush a poor finish to the regular season and focus on what it does very well -- win bowl games. The Hawkeyes head back to the state of Arizona, where they lost Sept. 18, to take on Missouri in the Insight Bowl. Quarterback Ricky Stanzi tries to get his mojo back against a Missouri defense that ranks sixth nationally in points allowed (15.2 ppg).

6. Michigan (7-5, 3-5): The bowl game looms large for coach Rich Rodriguez and the Wolverines, who can end an up-and-down season on a good note. Michigan needs its much maligned defense to improve in bowl practice before facing another spread offense in Mississippi State. Denard Robinson and many of his teammates return to their home state on Jan. 1.

7. Illinois (6-6, 4-4): Just when it looked like Illinois would turn the corner, the Illini came out flat against Fresno State and never got out of a 16-point hole. Illinois has enough talent on both defense and offense to beat Baylor in the Texas Bowl, but Ron Zook's squad needs to avoid the inconsistency we saw down the stretch in the regular season.

8. Northwestern (7-5, 3-5): Life without star quarterback Dan Persa hasn't been too much fun for Northwestern, but a month's worth of bowl practices should help. The Wildcats aim for their first postseason victory since the 1949 Rose Bowl as they head to the TicketCity Bowl. The defense really needs to pick up its play against a potent Texas Tech passing offense.

9. Minnesota (3-9, 2-6): The Gophers found their new coach in Jerry Kill from Northern Illinois, and the real rebuilding process can finally begin. There are some good pieces in Minneapolis, namely quarterback/receiver MarQueis Gray, but the Gophers need their young defenders to make significant strides during the offseason.

10. Indiana (5-7, 1-7): A new coach also is on the way in Bloomington, as Indiana has to find a way to get over the hump in what should be an even tougher Big Ten. Losing star quarterback Ben Chappell will sting, but Indiana boasts some talent at the offensive skill positions. The defense remains a mess.

11. Purdue (4-8, 2-6): The Boilers kept playing hard despite a rash of injuries, but they made too many major mistakes for the second consecutive season under coach Danny Hope. While Hope's squad will get several key players back in 2011, it needs to avoid the breakdowns that surfaced too often this season.