Big Ten power rankings

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The top three are obvious at this point. After that, it's anybody's guess. Here's mine.

1. Penn State (9-1, 5-1 Big Ten) -- Despite the stumble in Iowa City, the Lions remain on top because of what they had done until Saturday night. Penn State remains the league's most balanced team, and if quarterback Daryll Clark regains his rhythm, the Lions will be very tough to beat again. They still control their own destiny when it comes to the Big Ten's BCS tiebreaker.

2. Ohio State (8-2, 5-1) -- It took 10 weeks, but Ohio State might finally be coming together on both sides of the ball. The defense has really been solid most of the season, but the offense finally showed balance in a 45-10 win at Northwestern. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor stretched the field and got multiple receivers involved, and Chris "Beanie" Wells wore down the Northwestern defense. A league title and a BCS bowl berth remain possibilities.

3. Michigan State (9-2, 6-1) -- Mark Dantonio's team keeps plodding along, improving to 9-2 with a workmanlike win against Purdue. Linebacker Greg Jones headlined one of the league's steadiest defenses, and running back Javon Ringer eclipsed 100 rushing yards for the seventh time this season. The Spartans are a sure bet for a New Year's Day bowl, if not something more.

4. Iowa (6-4, 3-3) -- The biggest win in recent team history pushes the Hawkeyes up the rankings, though the lack of consistency among other Big Ten squads certainly helps. Iowa finally won a close game after so many near misses and can finish the season with seven or eight victories, validating a turnaround after a miserable offseason.

5. Northwestern (7-3, 3-3) -- Fortunately for the Wildcats, they don't have to see Ohio State again until 2011. Northwestern always looks outclassed against the Buckeyes, and Saturday's game was no exception. Despite an improved defense, Northwestern couldn't get off the field or generate much offense against James Laurinaitis and Co. Still, the Wildcats are in good shape for a solid bowl.

6. Minnesota (7-3, 3-3) -- Anxiety is high in the Twin Cities after back-to-back home losses, the second in rather pathetic fashion against Michigan. Minnesota's offense hasn't scored a touchdown in nearly seven quarters, and things could get worse if star wideout Eric Decker misses more time with an ankle injury. The Gophers need to bear down and show that the late-season collapses of the past won't happen this year.

7. Wisconsin (5-5, 2-5) -- The Badgers finally had some fun Saturday at the expense of a banged-up Indiana team. But the team's confidence level definitely seems higher with Dustin Sherer under center. The run game has cranked up the last two weeks, and there could be more big numbers against a Minnesota defense that struggles to stop the run. Another win secures bowl eligibility.

8. Illinois (5-5, 3-3) -- Saturday sure seemed like the time for the win-one, lose-one pattern to end, but this underachieving Illinois team surprised us yet again and crumbled against Western Michigan. Now the Illini are on the verge of going from the Rose Bowl to no bowl. Then again, they've played Ohio State tough the last two years, winning last November in Columbus, and are capable of an upset this week.

9. Michigan (3-7, 2-4) -- Not only did Michigan prevent the possibility of a 10-loss season; it looked pretty darn impressive Saturday at Minnesota. A defense that was supposed to carry the team all season showed up in force after a month-long layoff, and the offense moved the ball well. Rich Rodriguez will get this turned around soon enough, and Michigan could build some momentum this week against Northwestern.

10. Purdue (3-7, 1-5) -- Joe Tiller won't be going bowling in his final season at Purdue, and he has his offense to blame. The Boilers didn't score until the final minute at Michigan State and mustered fewer than 10 points for the fourth time this season. Purdue needs to beat both Iowa and Indiana to avoid the lowest wins total in Tiller's tenure.

11. Indiana (3-7, 1-5) -- You have to feel for head coach Bill Lynch. Injuries have decimated his roster, he was down to his fourth-string quarterback against Wisconsin and students held up a "Fire Bill Lynch" sign in the stands. It's not fun right now for anyone around that football program. The good news is only two games remain.