What we learned in the Big Ten: Week 7

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Five lessons from the week that was in the Big Ten.

1. Iowa is the team to beat -- The Hawkeyes are well-positioned on the path to Pasadena after another come-from-behind victory on the road. There might not be a more resilient team in the country than Iowa, which has overcome deficits in six of its seven victories and twice rallied from down 10-0 in a hostile Big Ten stadium. Ohio State's stumble puts Iowa in the driver's seat as the only Big Ten team not to drop a conference game (or any game, for that matter). The Hawkeyes are halfway through one of the nation's toughest conference road schedules and they seem to be getting stronger on offense as quarterback Ricky Stanzi sizzled after halftime against Wisconsin. Iowa deserves national recognition and a top 10 ranking.

2. Ohio State isn't the team to beat -- This is certainly qualifies as a lesson, considering how Ohio State has dominated the Big Ten this decade. After winning or sharing the last four Big Ten titles, the Buckeyes find themselves on shaky footing at 5-2. The Purdue loss encapsulated problems that have plagued Ohio State throughout the season and for much of 2008. Jim Tressel's offense still lacks any identity, and sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor isn't developing as quickly as many had expected. Pryor endured his roughest outing as a Buckeye, committing four turnovers against the Boilers. Big plays are nice, but an offense needs to have a more reliable calling card.

3. Michigan State back on track -- These aren't your same old Spartans, as Mark Dantonio's team has won three straight Big Ten games. October used to be the month where things fell apart in East Lansing, but Michigan State is 3-0 since a sour September and making strides on defense every week. Linebackers Greg Jones and Eric Gordon continued their fabulous play against Northwestern, and cornerback Chris L. Rucker forced a key turnover for the second time in three weeks. The Spartans are back in the Big Ten title mix, and next week's night game against Iowa will feature arguably the league's two hottest teams.

4. Hope in the Hoosier State -- As in, Danny Hope, who coached to Purdue to its biggest victory in recent memory against Ohio State. The Boilermakers entered Saturday having dropped 19 consecutive games against ranked opponents, a streak that dropped Purdue from the Big Ten's elite to the league's bottom half. Purdue might not reach a bowl game this season, but it showed that Hope's message is hitting the mark despite so many tough losses. There's also hope in Bloomington as Indiana snapped a three-game slide and restored its postseason hopes by beating Illinois. Quarterback Ben Chappell set career highs in both passing yards (333) and touchdowns (3) for the Hoosiers.

5. Clock ticking for Zook, Illini -- Illinois has gone from Rose Bowl participant and recruiting powerhouse to Big Ten cellar-dweller in just a year and a half. Head coach Ron Zook is baffled by the rapid regression, and he understands time has started to run out. Two more losses will eliminate Illinois from postseason contention for the second straight year, and it could signal the end for Zook in Champaign. The talent on the field simply hasn't materialized, and Zook hinted at more changes after the loss to Indiana.