1. WISCONSIN BADGERS (13-3, 2-1)
Any notion that the Badgers were going to run away from the field were dispelled with the Boilermakers’ convincing victory, but Wisconsin still split its road trip in the state of Indiana, which is all anyone could expect. Home games against Ohio State and Michigan are next.
2. PURDUE BOILERMAKERS (14-3, 3-1)
The Boilermakers certainly made a case for their placement atop the conference with the win over Wisconsin, but I need more than a squeaker at Ohio State and a dominant home performance to be convinced. Let’s see some consistency, starting Thursday night at Iowa.
3. MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS (15-2, 3-1)
The Gophers backed up their win at Purdue by grinding out another road victory at Northwestern, then avoided a letdown at home against Ohio State. Whether this youthful Minnesota team can keep it up, I don’t know, but they’ve certainly earned their top-25 ranking.
4. MARYLAND TERRAPINS (14-2, 2-1)
The Terrapins get the benefit of the doubt by posting a road win at Michigan in a nice bounce back from blowing a 13-point lead at home against Nebraska in the second half. Maryland’s staying power will get a test now as Indiana visits, followed by road trips to Illinois and Iowa.
5. MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS (11-6, 3-1)
Freshman star Miles Bridges is back, but that doesn’t mean all the Spartans’ ills are cured, as Saturday’s loss to Penn State at The Palestra proved. Michigan State still looks like a team that will be better later than sooner, but sooner brings Minnesota to East Lansing, then two more road trips.
6. INDIANA HOOSIERS (11-5, 1-2)
Losing to Wisconsin, even at home, comes as no shock, especially for Hoosier fans. Indiana did finally rise to the occasion in Saturday’s 16-point win over Illinois, even if the second half wasn’t entirely a thing of beauty. A road trip to Maryland should be a better measuring stick.
7. NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS (13-4, 2-2)
The Wildcats righted the ship after back-to-back losses to Michigan State and Minnesota in the most impressive way possible — winning on the road against a Nebraska team as hot as any in the league. A trip to Rutgers is critical to maintaining momentum, followed by hosting Iowa.
8. NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS (9-7, 3-1)
A four-game winning streak went by the wayside against Northwestern, but the Cornhuskers have no time to reminisce with a trip to Michigan looming before hosting Ohio State. We’ll soon learn whether that hot streak was an aberration or a tone-setter for Nebraska.
9. IOWA HAWKEYES (10-7, 2-2)
Finding any sort of rhythm remains elusive for the Hawkeyes, who have so far been winners at home and losers on the road. Both will be tested when Iowa hosts Purdue and visits Northwestern this week, with the postseason trajectory likely to be determined.
10. MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (11-5, 1-2)
A home loss to Maryland was a hammer-to-the-thumb sort of moment for a Wolverines squad with aspirations higher than the level of play to this point. Michigan will get a chance to regain their footing at Illinois before hosting Nebraska.
11. PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS (10-7, 2-2)
Maybe the Nittany Lions should play at The Palestra more often after Saturday’s win over Michigan State, their signature moment of the season so far. Penn State now has something tangible for its young players to build on as Minnesota heads to Happy Valley.
12. ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI (11-5, 1-2)
The Illini are who we thought they were, and that doesn’t really bode well for the future of this season or coach John Groce. Home games this week against Michigan and Maryland will provide a couple opportunities for Illinois to turn the corner or be buried alive.
13. OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (10-6, 0-3)
For the first time in Thad Matta’s 13 seasons as coach, the Buckeyes are 0-3 in the conference after losses to Purdue and at Minnesota last week. Visiting Wisconsin and hosting Michigan State certainly don’t paint a brighter picture going forward.
14. RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS (11-6, 0-4)
Death, taxes and a win over the Scarlet Knights still stand as a sure thing in Big Ten country, even if Rutgers is notably improved. Sooner or later, the Knights will pick off one of their lower-tier brethren, but hosting Northwestern and visiting Indiana makes this unlikely to be the week.