The season's decisive month is upon us, and everyone wants to handicap a crowded Big Ten title race. All six primary title contenders -- Penn State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan State and Michigan -- have looked good at times this season and not so good at others.
But which squad is the Big Ten's hottest team entering the November slate of games? You can make good cases for three contenders: Penn State, Nebraska and Ohio State.
The case for Penn State: No Big Ten team is on a longer win streak than Penn State, which has claimed seven consecutive contests since falling Sept. 10 against Alabama. The Lions are the only Big Ten team without a loss in league play and hold a 2.5-game lead in the Leaders division. The defense has grown stronger as the season as progressed, even without several key players, as stars like linebacker Gerald Hodges and defensive tackle Devon Still have emerged. While Penn State's pass game remains spotty, workhorse running back Silas Redd has solidified the rushing attack after a tremendous performance in October.
The case for Nebraska: The Huskers have looked like a different team since mounting the biggest comeback in school history Oct. 8 against Ohio State. The defense finally is looking like the unit most of us thought it would be, as Nebraska held Michigan State to just three points -- the Spartans' lowest point total in eight years -- in Saturday's win at Memorial Stadium. Despite losing star defensive tackle Jared Crick, the Huskers are receiving outstanding performances from Lavonte David, Alfonzo Dennard and others. An up-tempo offense continues to get stronger as games go along, and I-back Rex Burkhead has emerged as one of the Big Ten's most consistent and effective offensive players.
The case for Ohio State: Although the Buckeyes have the shortest win streak in the group, they have two very good wins against Illinois (road) and Wisconsin (home). Senior running back Dan Herron has energized the rushing attack since his return from suspension, racking up 274 yards on the ground in the past two games. Freshman quarterback Braxton Miller is building confidence as a playmaker, and his poise under pressure against Wisconsin could mean huge things down the road. Perhaps most important, Ohio State's defense is starting to punish opponents again, particularly up front as John Simon leads a ferocious line. With all these factors and Ohio State's track record in November, the Buckeyes are the Big Ten's most dangerous team.
Now it's your turn. Vote on who you believe is the Big Ten's hottest team.