It's shuffling time once again in the power rankings as two ranked Big Ten teams (Michigan State and Ohio State) suffered humbling losses Saturday. Wisconsin continues to look dominant, although the competition level will increase substantially in October. Nebraska is at the top as well, but surprisingly because of its offense more than its defense.
Illinois and Michigan State are rising, while the bottom half of the league remains more or less intact.
Let's get to it.
1. Wisconsin (3-0): The Badgers look like they can do some special things this season, as quarterback Russell Wilson is exceeding all expectations in the first three games. Northern Illinois could be a solid team, but Wisconsin totally outclassed the Huskies at Soldier Field. We'll learn a lot more about Bret Bielema's squad in October, but the early returns are good.
2. Nebraska (3-0): It's not the winning formula many of us envisioned for the Huskers, but they're finding a way to get things done. Nebraska ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring offense (44.3 ppg) and third in total offense (422 ypg). The Huskers have delivered strong second-half performances on offense the past two weeks. The defense, meanwhile, needs to tighten up significantly before the Oct. 1 trip to Wisconsin.
3. Illinois (3-0): Surprised to see the Illini here? They deserve it after a gutsy performance against Arizona State fueled by a pressuring defense. The schedule sets up extremely well for Ron Zook's crew, and if young defenders like linebacker Jonathan Brown continue to make strides, Illinois will be a contender in the Leaders Division.
4. Michigan (3-0): The 2011 Wolverines look a lot like previous versions, and time will tell if their formula for success will work against better Big Ten teams. The good news is the schedule sets up well for Michigan, which could be 6-0 when it visits in-state rival Michigan State on Oct. 15. Quarterback Denard Robinson remains extremely dangerous as a runner, but he'll have to make strides as a passer in league play.
5. Michigan State (2-1): Perhaps Michigan State caught Notre Dame at the wrong time, as the Fighting Irish shouldn't have started 0-2. On the flip side, a 31-13 loss exposed Michigan State's weakness along the offensive line. If the Spartans can't run the ball on the road, it'll be a long season. The encouraging thing is Michigan State only allowed 275 and boasts some nice pieces on defense.
6. Ohio State (2-1): Holy Buckeye, this isn't good. Week 6 can't come soon enough for Luke Fickell's squad, which needs any reinforcements it can get for an anemic offense that completed just four passes for 35 yards in Saturday night's loss to Miami. Ohio State's offensive staff needs some answers before a tough opening stretch to begin Big Ten play (Michigan State, Nebraska, Illinois).
7. Penn State (2-1): The defense can carry this team at times, perhaps even to several Big Ten wins this fall. Penn State received huge performances from LB Michael Mauti, DE Sean Stanley and others against Temple. But the offensive struggles remain and it's hard to know where Penn State should go at the quarterback position as both Matthew McGloin and Rob Bolden have had their ups and downs.
8. Iowa (2-1): If Iowa ends up winning eight to 10 games, it will point to the comeback against Pitt as the turning point. QB James Vandenberg certainly grew up a bit in the fourth quarter. But Pitt has a penchant for falling apart, and Iowa still has a lot to address in the next two weeks. The receiver position could be a strength for the Hawkeyes as Keenan Davis looked very impressive Saturday.
9. Northwestern (2-1): The wait for Dan Persa likely is nearing an end, but Northwestern couldn't avoid a very humbling loss along the way. Northwestern's defense couldn't slow down Army, but the Wildcats would have won the game with greater consistency in the passing game. Persa's return should provide a confidence boost, but Northwestern remains too reliant on its quarterback play.
10. Purdue (2-1): After sweating out the first two games, the Boilers got a breather against FCS Southeast Missouri State and flexed their muscles on offense. Quarterbacks Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve combined to complete 21 of 25 pass attempts, and Akeem Shavers rushed for two touchdowns while the defense posted its first shutout since 2004. Purdue now has an open week before hosting Notre Dame.
11. Minnesota (1-2): MarQueis Gray had a historic day at quarterback as Minnesota gave Jerry Kill his first win as its coach. The Gophers also got a boost on special teams with a punt block returned for a touchdown. Pass defense remains a significant concern as Minnesota is surrendering more than 300 yards per game through the air.
12. Indiana (1-2): Like Minnesota, Indiana also got in the victories column for the first time Saturday. And like the Gophers, the Hoosiers received a big performance from a quarterback as sophomore Ed Wright-Baker completed 21 of 27 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns. D'Angelo Roberts sparked the rushing attack 102 yards and a touchdown. Indiana now must show it can win on the road as it visits North Texas.