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No doubt, Ohio State belongs in the conversation that says, ``Georgia. Alabama. The Buckeyes. And the rest of the college football world.’’

But Ohio State's biggest challenges are yet to come. Like Notre Dame, the Buckeyes' latest victim, Wisconsin, has a better reputation than a 2022 team.

This is the time of year when many experts and fans assume the best and the brightest will run the table. The thing is, the unbeaten tightrope has a way of getting more slippery as the season goes on.

Don’t know about you, but I’m thinking Ohio State’s Oct. 29 trip to Penn State and its Nov. 26 meeting with Michigan still look interesting.

Then again, I think Alabama's trip to Arkansas this week ought to be entertaining. I'm kinda thinking Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky could keep their meetings with Georgia interesting, especially if the Dawgs encounter a little adversity. Which every college football team encounters at some point.

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No truth to reports that the Big Ten West will be renamed ``the Floyd of Rosedale Division.’’

But if current patterns hold up, the battle for the famous bronze pig will decide who is served up for the East champion to feast on in the Big Ten championship game.

Minnesota’s Gophers gobbled up Michigan State 34-7 in East Lansing, losing their shutout in the final minute. That last part—about defense—is especially notable. It figured that P.J. Fleck, who brought back O.C. Kirk Ciarrocca after a two-year absence, would have a potent offense. If the Gophers also are going to dig in when opponents have the ball. . . this could be a breakthrough year.

Iowa’s offense, which has been ridiculed for countless good reasons, acquitted itself well at previously-unbeaten Rutgers 27-10. Do not believe speculation that the Hawkeyes, the other favorite in the Floyd of Rosedale bracket, had been using Rutgers’ playbook from that historic first college football game against Princeton.

Many will see the rise of Minnesota and the continued success of offensively-challenged Iowa as further confirmation that the Big Ten West is the opposite of. . . up.

I do not disagree.

Wisconsin delivered on widespread expectations that it would have no luck in the Horseshoe.

And it’s a good thing that Northwestern-educated Pat Fitzgerald has a good perspective on what’s important. The Wildcats, who have now lost to Duke, Southern Illinois and Miami of Ohio at home the last three weeks, are looking like they’ll have a rough ride in the West this fall. Very nice, though, that Northwestern is giving back to the little people in college football.

GAMES OF THE WEAK

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Despite its well deserved lack of respect, the Big Ten West has an interesting set of matchups this week.

@ Purdue, which once was considered a dark horse contender, travels to Minnesota, which has stepped up in that role. Purdue is 2-2, and Jeff Brohm must cringe when he thinks of how the Boilermakers muffed their opportunities to be 4-0.

Wrenching losses to Penn State and at Syracuse were punctuated by Purdue’s dubious mistakes. Actually, dumb mistakes. Correct those, though, and Purdue could pull off some shockers. The Boilers actually have a very good history of doing that under Brohm.

On the other hand, the Gophers are the team to beat in the Big Ten West until proven otherwise.

@ I may be wrong. I often am. But I wonder if an improving Illinois can add to Wisconsin’s misery in Camp Randall on Saturday.

My Badger friends are understandably restless after Wisconsin, which already had suffered a sleepy 17-14 loss to Washington State, was steamrolled at Ohio State 52-21.

Wisconsin people tend to take beating Illinois for granted—for good reason. Wisconsin has won 11 of the last 12 meetings. The Illini have beaten the Badgers exactly four times in the 30 years since Barry Alvarez turned Wisconsin into a consistent winner.

So here’s the question: How will Badger Nation react if the Illini pull off a rare victory on Saturday? Even worse, Illinois is now coached by former Badger rising star Bret Bielema.

I understand why some patient scribes who cover Wisconsin are pointing to Paul Chryst’s overall record, which is admirable. The thing is, the Badgers seem headed for a third straight under-achieving season.

That’s a bad trend. I’m not saying Chryst needs to be fired. But something is broken. And it needs to be fixed.

@ What’s going to happen when Iowa plays host to Michigan? Can the flawed Hawkeyes bring the high-flying Wolverines down to their level? Or are the Harbaughs going to trigger a whole new round of Iowa jokes?

Put me in the Maize-and-Blue corner on this one.

Iowa may find a way to hang around. But that’s as far as it will go.

If that does happen, there will be more clucking about whether Michigan is really and truly in Ohio State's weight class. The Wolverines had their hands full with Maryland before prevailing 34-27. So yeah, they have things to work on. On the other hand, the Terps are looking pretty good.

I just think it’s interesting that when Alabama sneaks past Texas 20-19, it’s viewed as a great learning moment. But when Michigan is involved in a tight game, questions are raised about whether the Wolverines are worthy of their No. 4 ranking.

That said, Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide have earned the right to survive and advance without fingers being pointed. Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines have not.