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Big Ten power rankings: The Big Ten title game is set

The undefeated No. 4 Iowa Hawkeyes will take on the No. 5 Michigan State Spartans for the Big Ten title and a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Big Ten

I took a different approach with this week's Big Ten power rankings now that the regular season is over. No other conference has six teams in the AP Top 25. The Big Ten is an elite conference in college football, and two of the best in the country will square off in Indianapolis for the Big Ten title and a spot in the College Football Playoff.

1) #5 Michigan State (11-1, 7-1)

I am putting the Spartans ahead of the undefeated Hawkeyes for one reason, strength of schedule. Iowa doesn't control who they played but the Spartans beat Oregon, Ohio State and Michigan. Two of those three were on the road. Connor Cook is one of the best quarterbacks in the country and it appears that Michigan State is trending upwards. I think Michigan State will win the Big Ten title.

For those of you that are counting, Mark Dantonio has now won 11 or more games in five of his last six seasons in East Lansing.

2) #4 Iowa (12-0, 8-0)

This has been a historic season for the Hawkeye faithful. Iowa has never been 12-0. They have taken on all comers and won. Now they face their biggest test of the year in the experienced Michigan State Spartans. Can Iowa match Michigan State's physicality and force the Spartans to turn the ball over?

If they do that, they have a good shot to win the Big Ten title.

3) #6 Ohio State (11-1, 7-1)

Ohio State made a statement after losing their spot in the College Football Playoff and atop the Big Ten East when they lost to Michigan State. They will be playing in a New Year's Day Bowl and will have the chance to go for just another ordinary 12-win season under Urban Meyer.

4) #19 Michigan (9-3, 6-2)

42-13. That was the score of the beatdown that Ohio State handed to Michigan in "The Game" in the Big House last week. It was Michigan's biggest margin of defeat in "The Game" in the Big House in decades.

The Wolverines get the nod ahead of the Wildcats since they crushed them head-to-head.

5) #13 Northwestern (10-2, 6-2)

Northwestern won an UGLY game against Wisconsin and then beat Illinois to secure their fourth-ever 10-win season. Congratulations are in order to Coach Fitzgerald and the Wildcats.

6) #25 Wisconsin (9-3, 6-2)

Think about this for a moment. Wisconsin's two Big Ten losses came against Iowa by four points and Northwestern by six points. Two losses to two top-15 teams by a total of 10 points. Outside of their loss to Alabama, Wisconsin would have had a fantastic season (and would be playing for a Big Ten title and a possible spot in the College Football Playoff) if they had been able to win those two games.

7) Penn State (7-5, 4-4)

Penn State beat Maryland, Indiana, Illinois and Rutgers. See a pattern? The Nittany Lions didn't win a single Big Ten game against a team with a winning record. Penn State might improve next year but they will be losing some key pieces on both sides of the ball.

8) Indiana (6-6, 2-6)

When was the last time that Indiana was bowl-eligible? If you guessed 2007, you'd be right! BTN's Tom Dienhart went further and wrote that this will only be Indiana's second bowl game since 1993.

9) Nebraska (5-7, 3-5)

It was heartbreak city for the Cornhuskers through the first nine games. There was a lot of pain. The BYU Hail Mary. The almost-comeback against Miami. The fourth quarter meltdowns against Illinois and Northwestern. The loss to Purdue. They all hurt. Somehow, Nebraska is reportedly going to a bowl game. It's wrong but it's happening.

10) Minnesota (5-7, 2-6)

The Golden Gophers have had quite an emotional roller-coaster of a season. They also had to face Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa in a row on their schedule. That's not easy for any team to do.

I wonder how their season might have gone if they had pulled out that win against TCU in the opener and just kicked the field goal against Michigan to send the game to overtime. Their head-to-head win over Illinois gives them the No. 10 spot.

11) Illinois (5-7, 2-6)

Bill Cubit made the best out of a bad situation and was rewarded with the full-time coaching job.

12) Rutgers (4-8, 1-7)

The Scarlet Knights went through a lot of adversity this season and much of it was their own doing.

Now they will have to start over with a new AD and a new football coach.

13) Maryland (3-9, 1-7)

The Terps had a very poor season. Randy Edsall was fired mid-season, but Maryland's head coaching job remains one of the more attractive openings in the country, especially now that USC and Virginia Tech have filled their vacancies. If the Terps can get a big name like Mark Richt and secure the high-profile recruits like Haskins, this team could become fun to watch pretty quickly.

14) Purdue (2-10, 1-7)

Their two wins came against Indiana State and Nebraska. Darrell Hazell reportedly will return but Purdue fired both of his coordinators. If Hazell can't win or show tangible improvement next season, Purdue will be able to cut their losses and find a qualified replacement in a far less congested coaching market.