This was one of the most interesting weeks in Big Ten play. There were upsets (Nebraska at MSU), there were great road victories (Wisconsin at Michigan), and intense rivalry games (Michigan at Ohio State). When all was said and done, the top few spots stayed the same, but things got much closer. This is going to be one crazy close to conference play this season. Here are the BTP Power Rankings:
Week 16 Power Rankings
#1 - Michigan State (Average - 1.5)
For the 3rd week in a row, the Spartans maintain the top spot in the BTP Power Rankings. This has been a rare feat this season, so it deserves some recoginition. MSU split last week with Northwestern and Nebraska with both games at home. The Spartans would have dropped most weeks with those results, but they had a sizable lead coming into this week. They did drop in their score, but were able to hold on. They get Purdue and Michigan this week.
#2 - Michigan (Average - 1.7)
The Wolverines stay at #2 once again. Michigan closed on MSU this week, but they also split with games against Ohio State and Wisconsin. Michigan now has all of their "major" road games out of the way and are in great position if they can pull off the win over MSU on Sunday. The game will be for 1st place in the Big Ten and almost assuredly for 1st place in these rankings next week.
#3 - Wisconsin (Average - 3.0)
Somebody else finally snagged the #3 spot as Wisconsin swept Minnesota and Michigan last week and extended their winning streak to 4 games. They are only 2 games out of the conference lead and are in position to make a major run with a game against Iowa this week.
#4 - Iowa (Average - 3.9)
The Hawkeyes slipped a spot this week to #4 even though they won their sole game (Penn State) last week. The drop likely had more to do with Wisconsin's solid play than anything else, but with games against Indiana (UPDATE: postponed) and Wisconsin this week, Iowa can make a serious run for much higher on this sheet. They are only 1.5 games out of 1st place.
#5 - Ohio State (Average - 5)
The Buckeyes slid a spot this week after splitting against Michigan and Illinois last week. OSU is probably too far out to make a serious run at the title, but they could position themselves well in terms of seeding for March. They get Northwestern and Minnesota this week.
#6 - Nebraska (Average - 6.4)
Perhaps the highlight of the week was Nebraska going on the road and beating Michigan State. It's hard to argue anybody is hotter in the Big Ten right now and with a few more wins, perhaps Nebraska can even make a serious run at an NCAA Tournament bid. They get Penn State and Purdue this week.
#7 - Minnesota (Average - 6.8)
Once again, Minnesota stayed solid at #7 this week. Minnesota is still flirting with the bubble in the NCAA Tournament, but splitting with Wisconsin and Northwestern on the road was pretty big last week. They get Illinois and Ohio State this week.
#8 - Northwestern (Average - 8.2)
The Wildcats also did not move this week after losing against Michigan State and Minnesota this week. Northwestern is now on a 3 game ski, but they certainly have shown improved play. The big thing they need to do is pick up a few more wins to secure an NIT bid. They get Ohio State and Indiana this week.
#9 - Purdue (Average - 8.8)
Purdue perhaps saved their season last Saturday by running Indiana out of their building. Beating an arch-rival can do a lot for a team and the Boilermakers might be set to make a run. They get Michigan State and Nebraska this week.
#10 - Indiana (Average - 10.1)
The Hoosiers had one of their worst weeks in recent memory after losing to both Penn State and Purdue. Indiana continues to fall and dropped 4 spots this week. They have games against Iowa (UPDATE: postponed) and Northwestern this week to try and salvage their season.
#11 - Penn State (Average - 10.9)
The Nittany Lions picked up a huge win over Indiana this week and moved up a spot in the power rankings. They get Nebraska this week.
#12 - Illinois (Average - 11.9)
The Illini dropped back to dead last in the conference after losing both their games last week. They are now on a 2 game skid and have lost 10 of their last 11 games. This is a team struggling to do anything right now. They get Minnesota on the road this week.
It seems like it's been awhile since we had a shakeup at the top, but it is certainly coming this week with not only MSU and Michigan facing off, but also with Wisconsin and Iowa facing off. One could probably make an argument that Michigan splitting with OSU (away) and Wisconsin (home) is more impressive than MSU splitting with Northwestern (home) and Nebraska (home), but ultimately, both teams went 1-1 and if people are still under the belief that Nebraska is the Nebraska of old, they need to watch the Cornhuskers play. Plus, there is clearly going to be separation this week, so the debate is kind of useless at this point.
Below that, it's interesting to see Wisconsin's surge. Beating Minnesota and Michigan in the same week is no easy task, especially winning in Ann Arbor, but it's hard to argue Iowa has done anything to deserve the drop. They won their last two games including a game against Michigan as well. Of course, this is a similar discussion as the one above where we know the teams will play each other this week.
There isn't much that sticks out in positions 5-8. One could probably make an argument that Nebraska should be above OSU, but considering the play that both teams have displayed recently, it's pretty easy to make an argument for either team. The rise of Nebraska may be the most noteworthy thing for the Big Ten for the rest of the season. They are the conference's best hope at getting a 7th bid.
Seeing Purdue slide up was also nice. Beating Indiana is a huge win for that program and should go a long way toward changing the tone for the team. Beyond that, seeing Indiana drop was not really a major surprise. In the power rankings last week, I said that Indiana was overrated. Frankly, the only reason they were at #6 was because they are named Indiana. The Hoosiers have been an up and down team all season and until they show some consistency, they don't deserve to move up. Finally, no surprise to see Penn State move up. That 12th spot will likely remain a revolving door.