• Northwestern’s stunning collapse this season includes one ray of hope for next year. The Wildcats are confident senior running back Venric Mark will get a medical redshirt after missing the first four games because of a hamstring injury and then breaking his ankle on Oct. 12 against Wisconsin.
Mark rushed for 1,366 yards last year but had just 97 yards this year.
• The Gophers strengthened next year’s nonconference schedule when they added TCU, but the Horned Frogs are a mere 3-6 this year. Minnesota still will have the toughest two interdivision games of any team in the Big Ten West, drawing Ohio State and Michigan. But the Gophers also will get a three-game stretch in October against Northwestern, Purdue and Illinois — three teams that are a combined 0-15 this year in the Big Ten.
Big Ten power poll
1. Ohio State (9-0, 5-0): The Buckeyes rank fifth nationally in scoring offense and eighth in scoring defense.
2. Wisconsin (7-2, 4-1): Team stayed focused after Arizona State loss, but bad officiating call hovers over everything.
3. Michigan State (8-1, 5-0): Spartans don’t play Ohio State or Wisconsin this year, making path to division title easier.
4. Gophers (8-2, 4-2): Rank sixth in Big Ten in scoring offense (30.7 points per game) and scoring defense (23.4)
5. Nebraska (7-2, 4-1): The Cornhuskers haven’t folded, even if a foot injury likely ended the Taylor Martinez era.
6. Iowa (6-4, 3-3): The Hawkeyes’ three Big Ten losses were to the top three teams in this power poll.
7. Michigan (6-3, 2-3): Brady Hoke looked beaten down after back-to-back losses to Michigan State and Nebraska.
8. Penn State (5-4, 2-3): The Nittany Lions need another spark and should find one Saturday when Purdue visits.
9. Indiana (4-5, 2-3): The Hoosiers will miss running back Tevin Coleman (ankle injury) at Wisconsin on Saturday.
10. Northwestern (4-5, 0-5): It’s surprising to think that the Wildcats haven’t won since defeating Maine on Sept. 21.
11. Illinois (3-6, 0-5): Indiana loss left fans restless about coach Tim Beckman again, and here comes Ohio State.
12. Purdue (1-8, 0-5): Schedule gets easier (Penn State, Illinois, then Indiana) and Boilermakers need it.