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Big Ten rankings: Michigan State, Ohio State showdown coming

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Michigan State and Ohio State still appear to be on a collision course for their Nov. 8 showdown in East Lansing; they also appear to be the two best teams in the league. Minnesota currently leads a muddled West Division race, and things seem unlikely to get settled in that division until the last Saturday of the regular season.

1. Michigan State (6-1, 3-0 in Big Ten)

Up next: vs. Michigan, Saturday, Oct. 25
The skinny: The Michigan-Michigan State rivalry has turned -- sort of like when your friend's little brother all of a sudden undergoes a growth spurt and starts kicking your friend's ... well, you know.

2. Ohio State (5-1, 2-0)

Up next: at Penn State, Saturday, Oct. 25
The skinny: Ohio State has rolled up at least 50 points and at least 500 yards of offense in each of the past four games; that's the first time that has happened in school history.

3. Nebraska (6-1, 2-1)

Up next: vs. Rutgers, Saturday, Oct. 25
The skinny: A mini-history lesson: This will be the first meeting between Nebraska and Rutgers since Nov. 2, 1920, the day Warren G. Harding was elected president over James Cox in one of the most lopsided elections ever. (Yes, the game was played on a Tuesday, at the Polo Grounds in New York.) And we're bringing up "lopsided" results because Saturday's game could be the same.

4. Minnesota (6-1, 3-0)

Up next: at Illinois, Saturday, Oct. 25
The skinny: All hail Jerry Kill. The Golden Gophers are the only team in the West Division without a league loss.

5. Maryland (5-2, 2-1)

Up next: at Wisconsin, Saturday, Oct. 25
The skinny: The Terps' run defense has been bad. And that is not good when Melvin Gordon is standing on the other sideline.

6. Iowa (5-2, 2-1)

Up next: vs. Northwestern, Saturday, Nov. 1
The skinny: Iowa's success under Kirk Ferentz generally is predicated on running the ball effectively and also stopping the run. The Hawkeyes are underachieving in both facets this season.

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7. Wisconsin (4-2, 1-1)

Up next: vs. Maryland, Saturday, Oct. 25
The skinny: We're thinking the pregame offensive meeting each week is something along the lines of, "Guys, we'll be handing off to Melvin on about 90 percent of the plays. On the other 10 percent, we're going to give him some rest and see if the quarterbacks can complete a pass."

8. Northwestern (3-4, 2-2)

Up next: at Iowa, Saturday, Nov. 1
The skinny: Three weeks ago, Northwestern was 2-0 and tied atop the West Division standings. Now, two losses later, the Wildcats again are wondering if they can become bowl eligible.

9. Rutgers (5-2, 1-2)

Up next: at Nebraska, Saturday, Oct. 25
The skinny: The Scarlet Knights were manhandled last week by Ohio State, and their "Welcome to the Big Ten!" tour continues with what likely will be a manhandling by the Huskers this week.

10. Penn State (4-2, 1-2)

Up next: vs. Ohio State, Saturday, Oct. 25
The skinny: Thinking about Nittany Lions QB Christian Hackenberg and his offense going against the Buckeyes on Saturday is akin to thinking of a bullfighter heading into a ring against, oh, about two dozen bulls -- and with no cape or sword.

11. Michigan (3-4, 1-2)

Up next: at Michigan State, Saturday, Oct. 25
The skinny: It could get ugly Saturday. At least Michigan faithful can say to themselves, "Even when we lose, we still will own a 68-34-5 advantage in the all-time series." And, yes, we used "when" and not "if."

12. Purdue (3-5, 1-3)

Up next: at Nebraska, Saturday, Nov. 1
The skinny: QB Austin Appleby has provided a big spark for the offense, and the Boilermakers put a big scare in Minnesota last week. Their next two games (Nebraska and Wisconsin) are against West Division title contenders, and they'll be looking to play spoiler.

13. Illinois (3-4, 0-3)

Up next: vs. Minnesota, Saturday, Oct. 25
The skinny: The run defense is rancid, and QB Wes Lunt remains injured. That's not a good combination.

14. Indiana (3-4, 0-3)

Up next: at Michigan, Saturday, Nov. 1
The skinny: Because of season-ending injuries, the Hoosiers are down to their third-string quarterback -- a true freshman who was expected to redshirt. As good as TB Tevin Coleman is -- and the guy is a big-play machine -- IU is going to have trouble offensively the rest of the way. And the defense already was bad.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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