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Kirk Ferentz knows the offense needs to score more points after back-to-back losses by scores of 10-3 and 17-12. Chad Leistikow, Hawk Central

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The Big Ten features a team, Ohio State, with one of the most prolific offenses in college football.

The conference is also home to Wisconsin, which has the sport’s most formidable defense.

The Buckeyes and Badgers appear to be on a collision course for the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis.

But Penn State lurks in the Detroit Free Press’ latest set of rankings. Whether the Nittany Lions can stay there will be determined by how they perform Saturday, when Michigan visits Happy Valley in a game that has major implications as the pecking order becomes clearer each week.

Check out the latest rankings here:

1.  Ohio State (6-0)

Last week: 1. The Buckeyes didn’t do anything last weekend because they had a bye. But they didn’t need to for them to keep their spot at the top of these rankings. They already shown they are championship contenders while scoring 49 points per game. And there is little chance they will be challenged Friday by Northwestern, a team that has scored eight touchdowns all season, tied for the fewest in the FBS.

Next up: at Northwestern, 7:30 p.m. CST, Friday, FS1

More: Iowa losing grip on spot in top 25 after second straight loss

2. Wisconsin (6-0)

Last week: 2. As they have cobbled together an unblemished record, the Badgers have run roughshod over Michigan teams. In a pair of routs, they  outscored the Wolverines and Spartans by a combined 59 points. Wisconsin’s defense is on its way to becoming a historic unit. The 29 points it has conceded this season is the fewest a Big Ten team has allowed through six games since 1973.

Next up: at Illinois, 11 a.m., BTN

3. Penn State (6-0)

Last week: 3. The Nittany Lions have proven they can dominate weaker competition and also outlast their tougher foes. They faced a difficult test at Iowa last weekend, and while they didn’t win in convincing fashion, they did demonstrate an ability to hang tough in a hostile environment. A game this weekend against a resurgent Michigan team should not faze them.  

Next up: vs. Michigan, 6:30 p.m. Saturday, ABC

4. Michigan (5-1)

Last week: 4. Which Michigan team will show up Saturday against Penn State? The one that trampled Illinois as it built a 28-0 lead, or the one that looked shockingly vulnerable when the Illini answered with 25 straight points to turn what should have been an easy victory into a hard-fought win? The Wolverines have been wracked by inconsistency all season; they can’t afford to have that bipolarity resurface against the Nittany Lions.  

Next up: at Penn State, 6:30 p.m. Saturday, ABC

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5. Iowa (4-2)

Last week: 5. The Hawkeyes are good, but they aren’t great. Their true character was revealed in a span of eight days during losses to Michigan and Penn State. As Iowa discovered, scoring one touchdown in eight quarters isn’t a recipe for success when competing with the league’s top teams. It’s a shame, really. The defense has been championship quality.

Next up: vs. Purdue, 11 a.m. Saturday, ESPN2

6. Minnesota (6-0)

Last week: 7. In the battle between media-hyped coaches, Minnesota's P.J. Fleck prevailed over Nebraska's Scott Frost on Saturday. In the process, Fleck has everyone believing the Golden Gophers are for real. And why not? They climbed to No. 20 in the coaches poll and have won eight straight dating to last season. There is reason to start buying the idea that Fleck's boat-rowing crew may be what their record says they are.

Next up: at Rutgers, 2:30 p.m. Saturday, BTN

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7. Michigan State (4-3)

Last week: 6. Since their one appearance in the College Football Playoff in 2015, the Spartans have gone 24-21 and retreated to the middle of the conference pack. The salad days of the Mark Dantonio era seem long gone and was only reaffirmed Saturday during the 38-0 loss to Wisconsin.

Next up: Bye

What we learned about MSU from its debacle in Wisconsin

8. Indiana (4-2)

Last week: 8. A favorable stretch in the Hoosiers' schedule continues with a game at Maryland, a team that has spiraled after a hot start. Last weekend, they quickly took care of Rutgers in a 35-0 rout, scoring their first touchdown 10 seconds into the game. In the process, they continued to show they can handle weak competition, a useful skill considering the lousy opponents they have in the coming weeks.

Next up: at Maryland, 2:30 p.m. Saturday, BTN

9. Nebraska (4-3)

Last week: 9. The Cornhuskers don't play this weekend, which is good for them and even better for the rest of America. This team has played some ugly football the past three weeks. It was demolished by Ohio State on national television last month, barely squeaked by a lousy Northwestern squad the following week and was pummeled by Minnesota on Saturday. The horror show, however, resumes Oct. 26 against Indiana.

Next up: Bye

10. Purdue (2-4)

Last week: 12. Three consecutive losses. A spate of bad luck that included injuries to its starting quarterback and top receiver. The collapse of its offensive line. Things were getting desperate in West Lafayette. Then Maryland showed up and the Boilermakers emerged from the abyss. Backup Jack Plummer torched the Terrapins and Purdue plugged the holes in its porous defense to earn its second win and climb two spots in these rankings.  

Next up: at Iowa, 11 a.m. Saturday, ESPN2

11. Maryland (3-3)

Last week: 10. The Terrapins are the Big Ten’s box-of-chocolates team. You never know what you’re going to get. The same team that hung 63 on Syracuse was shut out by Penn State in a 59-point loss and suffered a 26-point defeat to Purdue. Even the Vegas oddsmakers have no idea what to make of them. The Terrapins have lost two of the four games they were favored to win.

Next up: vs. Indiana, 2:30 p.m. Saturday, BTN

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12. Northwestern (1-4)

Last week: 11. Pat Fitzgerald spent the last week searching for his offense, which is somewhere between the bed of Lake Michigan and the bottom of the FBS rankings. The Wildcats have scored 72 points this season. Only Rutgers has scored fewer. These are tough times in Evanston, and they won’t get any easier this week with a game against Ohio State.

Next up: vs. Ohio State, 7:30 p.m. Friday, FS1

13. Illinois (2-4)

Last week: 13. For just a moment, Illinois appeared on the verge of a shocking upset over Michigan. Then order was restored and reality set in for the plucky Illini, who eventually fell by 17 points and ensured Lovie Smith’s record dropped to 11-31 during his tenure in Champaign. He really could have used that miracle.

Next up: vs. Wisconsin, 11 a.m. Saturday, BTN

14. Rutgers (1-5)

Last week: 14. The Scarlet Knights are trapped in the Big Ten basement. It’s a cold, dark, miserable place where they have been left to think about how they have been outscored 165-7 in conference play and forced to reflect on a league losing streak that has climbed to 16 games. No team wants to be in this depressing place.

Next up: vs. Minnesota, 2:30 p.m. Saturday, BTN

Contact Rainer Sabin at rsabin@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @RainerSabin. Read more on the Michigan Wolverines, Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Big Ten newsletter

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