1. Ohio State (10-1, 7-0); last week: 1
Jalin Marshall bailed out Ohio State with a standout performance in the Buckeyes’ 42-27 win over Indiana last week.
Marshall returned a punt for a touchdown to give OSU a 21-20 lead in the final minutes of the third quarter. He then hauled in three straight touchdowns in the fourth quarter to push the advantage to 42-20.
It was Ohio State’s ninth straight win and clinched the conference’s East Division and a spot in the Big Ten championship game.
Ohio State also remains in the mix to represent the Big Ten in the College Football Playoff.
The Buckeyes will need to beat Michigan in the regular season finale this week, and they’ll need to win the Big Ten title to have a shot at playing in the first College Football Playoff.
2. Wisconsin (9-2, 6-1); last week: 2
Wisconsin and Minnesota will meet with a spot in the Big Ten championship game against on the line.
The Badgers sit in first place in the West Division, while Minnesota is in second place. Wisconsin has won 10 straight over the Gophers and boasts the nation’s best running back going into Saturday’s game.
Melvin Gordon followed up his record day with 200 rushing yards and two touchdowns to lead Wisconsin past Iowa 26-24. Gordon now has 2,109 yards, tying the Big Ten single-season record set by Ron Dayne in 1996. Gordon reached the 2,000-yard mark on 241 carries, making him the fastest to do so in NCAA history.
Gordon’s FBS record of 408 rushing yards in a game lasted just one week. Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine ran for 427 yards in a 44-27 win over Kansas.
3. Michigan State (9-2, 6-1); last week: 3
Michigan State will finish another memorable campaign when it visits Penn State on Saturday.
The Spartans have been among the nation’s top teams all season and suffered their only losses to two of the best in Oregon and Ohio State.
They rolled over Rutgers 45-3 last week and enter the finale averaging 43.9 points per game — good for second in the Big Ten. Michigan State also leads the conference with 514.5 yards per game.
The explosive offense is backed by a solid defense that is limiting opponents to 20.8 points and 299 yards per game.
4. Minnesota (8-3, 5-2); last week: 5
Minnesota overcame a 14-point halftime deficit to beat Nebraska 28-24 last week.
The upset kept the Gophers’ hopes to play for a conference title alive. The West Division representative will be decided when Minnesota plays Wisconsin.
Quarterback Mitch Leidner led the rushing attack against the Cornhuskers, picking up 111 yards and scoring two touchdowns on 22 carries. He scored the go-ahead touchdown with 3:25 to go in the fourth quarter.
Running back David Cobb added 80 yards and a score.
This game could come down to which team can slow down its opponent’s rushing attack. Wisconsin is second in the Big Ten in rushing defense (97.1 ypg), while Minnesota is sixth (154.6)
5. Nebraska (8-3, 4-3); last week: 4
Two weeks ago, Nebraska had its sights set on the Big Ten championship game.
The Cornhuskers then lost to Wisconsin and Minnesota in consecutive weeks. Suddenly, they’re just looking to end the regular season on a high note against Iowa on Friday before heading to a bowl game.
Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah has continued his standout season, rushing for 1,417 yards and scoring 20 total touchdowns.
6. Maryland (7-4, 4-3); last week: 7
Maryland has earned wins over the mediocre and the bottomfeeders in the Big Ten. They handled Indiana, Iowa, Penn State and Michigan.
In a weak Big Ten, that’s enough to claim a spot in the top half of the power rankings.
The Terrapins finish the year with Rutgers at home on Saturday.
7. Iowa (7-4, 4-3); last week: 6
Iowa’s rollercoaster Big Ten season continued with a 26-24 loss to Wisconsin last week.
The Hawkeyes haven’t secured back-to-back wins since beating Purdue (Sept. 27) and Indiana (Oct. 11). Through the inconsistent run, the Hawkeyes are 4-3 in conference play.
Iowa hosts Nebraska on Friday to finish the regular season.
8. Northwestern (5-6, 3-4); Last week: 10
Northwestern is the best of the middle of the pack in the Big Ten.
The Wildcats own strong wins over Wisconsin and Notre Dame and dominated Penn State in a victory in September. That resume is stronger than the remainder of the league’s bottom half.
After throttling Purdue 38-14, Northwestern gets Illinois in a game with bowl eligibility on the line for both teams.
Freshman running back Justin Jackson rushed for 147 yards in the win over the Boilermakers to break the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Jackson also rushed for 149 yards and a score in the 43-40 overtime win over Notre Dame the previous week.
9. Michigan (5-6, 3-4); Last week: 8
Michigan edged Northwestern 10-9 three weeks ago.
That is arguably the Wolverines’ best win in a forgettable season. Michigan’s other conference wins came against Penn State and a hapless Indiana team.
Michigan finishes the regular season against Ohio State this week.
10. Illinois (5-6, 2-5); Last week: 12
Somehow, Illinois could become bowl eligible with a win over Northwestern on Saturday.
The Fighting Illini had lost five of its last six games and appeared headed for a third straight losing season going into Saturday. But Illinois beat Penn State to set up a chance to finish the regular season 6-6.
The Illini go on the road to face the Wildcats.
11. Penn State (6-5, 2-5); Last week: 9
Penn State may have a winning record, but it’s come against a soft schedule.
The Nittany Lions’ best win was probably its 26-24 victory over Central Florida (currently 7-3). That was all the way back in the season opener in August.
Christian Hackenberg threw for a program-record 454 yards that day.
The Nittany Lions’ 16-14 loss to Illinois on Saturday was a brutal setback. Illinois had been 2-20 under Tim Beckman in conference play going into the game.
Hackenberg threw for a career-low 93 yards.
Penn State’s other five wins came over: Akron (5-6), Rutgers (6-5), UMass (3-8), Indiana (3-8) and Temple (5-5).
The Nittany Lions host Michigan State to close out the regular season on Saturday.
12. Rutgers (6-5, 2-5); Last week: 11
Rutgers falls after getting blasted 45-3 by Michigan State.
After starting the year 5-1 against a weak schedule, the Scarlet Knights have been hammered by the conference’s best teams. They’ve lost four of their last five games — with losses to Ohio State (56-17), Nebraska (42-24), Wisconsin (37-0) and Michigan State (45-3).
The lone win during that stretch was over Indiana.
Rutgers ranks 11th in the Big Ten in scoring offense (24.2 points per game) and scoring defense (30.3 points per game).
The Scarlet Knights travel to Maryland on Saturday.
13. Purdue (3-8, 1-6); Last week: 13
The Old Oaken Bucket game will decide the worst team in the Big Ten in 2014.
Purdue and Indiana sit in the basement of the conference standings, with the Boilermakers in last place in the West Division and the Hoosiers in last place in the East Division.
Indiana hosts the Boilermakers at noon.
14. Indiana (3-8, 0-7); Last week: 14
Indiana has lost six straight.
The lone bright spot through the struggles has been running back Tevin Coleman. His 90-yard touchdown run even gave the Hoosiers a 20-14 lead midway through the third quarter of their 42-27 loss to Ohio State last week.
He finished with 228 yards and set the Indiana single-season record with 1,906 yards rushing. Vaughn Dunbar set the previous mark with 1,805 yards in 1991.
Coleman, the nation’s second-leading rusher, will try to carry the Hoosiers to their first Big Ten win of the year on Saturday.