Big Ten nails down five teams ranked in Top 25 polls after weekend’s games

Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State are representatives in the AP Top 25. Michigan State, Purdue sneaked into the USA Today Poll.

Brian Deutsch

When the newest national rankings were released earlier this week, the Big Ten found itself in a position it hadn’t been in for nearly two years.

Not since the final rankings of the 2005 season had the conference claimed five teams in the Top 25 rankings.

No. 8 Ohio State, No. 9 Wisconsin and No. 21 Penn State remain the conference’s representatives in the Associated Press Top 25, while Purdue and Michigan State both crept into the USA Today polls.

“There’s always going to be a Top 10 team in the Big Ten, one or two or three,” Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said. “If you want to play at that level, you have to compete to that level.”

Four of the five teams remain undefeated while Penn State dropped a close game to once fifth-ranked Michigan last weekend.

Iowa, Illinois and Michigan also received votes in the polls giving the conference eight different schools that were honored – the second most among conferences behind the SEC with nine.

Notre ‘Done’

Off to the worst start in school history at 0-4, Notre Dame has been dominated by the Big Ten this season.

Three of the Irish’s losses have come against the conference with a road game against Purdue on the horizon.

“Well, the problem is for four weeks, you’ve been playing against teams that were running, setting up play action pass. Now you’ve got a team that throws to set up the run Ö so I think the first thing you’ve got to do is try to figure out, pick your poison,” Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said. “So this is definitely a pick-your-poison type of team because they have so many weapons.”

A loss against the Boilermakers would all but cripple Notre Dame and give the Big Ten a sweep over the Independent Irish, who many think should join the conference.

It would also drop them to 0-5 with games against No. 12 Boston College and No. 1 USC still to come later in the season and put them in danger of missing their first bowl game under the guidance of Weis.

With three straight losses to Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State, Notre Dame has been outscored 100-24 so far this season against Big Ten teams and offensive power-house Purdue will try to expand that number this Saturday.

The Irish also lost their season opener to Georgia Tech by a score of 33-3.

Hart rushes to record

Rushing for 153 yards in the win over Penn State was more than enough for Michigan senior running back Mike Hart, who now ranks tenth in career yards for a Big Ten running back.

Hart is only 59 yards behind Jamie Morris in ninth while Anthony Thomas’ 4,472 yards ranks eighth.

Both Morris and Thomas are former Wolverines, meaning Hart needs only 138 yards this weekend against Northwestern to become Michigan’s all-time rushing leader.

When asked if Hart was carrying too much of the Wolverines’ offensive load, coach Lloyd Carr expressed confidence in his running back.

“If I have any worries, I tell them to my pillow,” Carr said. “Mike Hart told us last week that he wanted to carry the ball 50 times. He’s proven beyond any question that he’s durable, that he’s tough.”

While Hart was unavailable for comment, his offensive linemen are thrilled that he is close to breaking the school record.

“Mike’s a great leader, and all he cares about is going out there and working his butt off every time,” sophomore center Justin Boren said. “He’s one heck of a worker, and he’s never going to give up. It’s a pleasure blocking for a guy like him.”