Big Ten action highlights college football weekend

Updated: October 16, 2003, 3:31 PM ET

JERSEY CITY, New Jersey - Ohio State linebacker Robert Reynolds may have put a choke hold on Jim Sorgi, but the Buckeyes still lost their grip in the Big Ten Conference race.

The defending national champions fell back into the pack last weekend - not just in the national championship race, but also in the Big Ten standings - after a 17-10 loss to Wisconsin.

The result left seven Big Ten teams with no more than one conference loss, and all seven are in the national rankings. Six of those teams will pair off this weekend in a tripleheader that will put the conference race into clearer focus.

This weekend's only matchup between top 10 teams is in Columbus, where No. 8 Ohio State (5-1) tries to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time in almost three years when it hosts No. 9 Iowa (5-1).

The Buckeyes saw their 19-game winning streak snapped last week when Badgers backup Matt Schabert tossed a late 79-yard TD to pass to Lee Evans.

Schabert was in the game only because Reynolds grabbed Sorgi by the neck following a third-quarter tackle, forcing the Badgers' quarterback out of the game.

Ohio State has not lost back-to-back games since losing to Michigan and South Carolina to finish the 2000 season. John Cooper was fired after that season and was replaced by Jim Tressel.

"When you go into a tough environment against a very good football team, it's very important to make sure we have poise and patience," Tressel said. "And I don't know if we collectively - and I'm not referring to Rob's situation solely - I'm not sure we had that degree of poise and patience in an environment such as that, that gave us a chance to win the game."

The Buckeyes will be back in the more comfortable environment of Ohio Stadium but will be without Reynolds, who was suspended for one game for his actions at Wisconsin. Iowa is coming off a bye week following a 30-27 home triumph over Michigan on October 4.

The teams did not meet last season, when both went 8-0 in Big Ten play. Undefeated Ohio State advanced to the Fiesta Bowl and upset Miami, while Iowa - whose only regular-season loss was to Iowa State - was routed by Southern California in the Orange Bowl.

Sorgi is healthy enough to start this week for No. 12 Wisconsin (6-1), which will host No. 15 Purdue (5-1) in a battle of two of the three teams yet to lose in conference play. Michigan State and Wisconsin are 3-0 and Purdue is 2-0.

Wisconsin is trying to defeat top-15 opponents in consecutive weeks for the first time since victories over Rice and Purdue in 1954.

Purdue completed a sweep of a four-game homestand with a 28-14 victory Penn State last week.

The Boilermakers may be without running back Jerrod Void, who suffered a sprained ankle on the first play last week and did not return. Brandon Jones stepped in for Void and rushed for 149 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries.

No. 18 Michigan State (6-1) begins a difficult stretch Saturday when it visits 19th-ranked Minnesota (6-1) in another key Big Ten affair.

The Spartans have won four in a row since squandering a 12-point lead in the final 69 seconds against Louisiana Tech and are off to their best start since 1999. But their next four game are all against ranked opponents - Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin.

"We are playing good football right now, and we just want to keep that going," Michigan State quarterback Jeff Smoker said. "Honestly, I wasn't sure where we would be at this point of the season, but I can't say I'm really happy with where we are. We can do something special here."

Minnesota is in a similar position as Michigan State, trying to prove it is a legitimate contender in the Big Ten. But the Golden Gophers suffered a devastating loss to Michigan last week, squandering a 21-point lead and surrendering 31 fourth-quarter points in a 38-35 setback.

No. 17 Michigan (5-2), the seventh ranked team in the Big Ten, will host Illinois on Saturday. Illinois quarterback Jon Beutjer will miss the game with persistent back pain and will be replaced by either Dustin Ward or freshman Chris Pazan.

Top-ranked Oklahoma (6-0), which rolled to a 65-13 win over Texas last week, will host Missouri on Saturday. The Sooners gained 552 yards and forced six turnovers against the Longhorns and have scored more than 50 points in four straight games for the first time in school history.

With Ohio State losing to Wisconsin, the Sooners' eight-game winning streak is tied with No. 13 Texas Christian (6-0) for the longest in the country.

"It's pretty remarkable to see them play," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "As you watch this team against a great Texas team, to see what happened in that game is pretty staggering. They have players playing at a high level at absolutely every position offensively and defensively."

TCU hosts Alabama-Birmingham this week.

The other remaining unbeaten teams are No. 3 Virginia Tech (6-0), which is idle this week, and No. 16 Northern Illinois (6-0), which hosts Western Michigan.

Missouri surprised Nebraska, 41-24, last week and the 14th-ranked Cornhuskers (5-1) will try to bounce back when they host Texas A&M.

Like Oklahoma, second-ranked Miami won a huge game last week. The Hurricanes (6-0) defeated Florida State, 22-14, and should have no trouble this week against Temple, a school they have defeated 11 straight times.

No. 4 Southern California (5-1), which vaulted five spots in the latest poll, will visit Notre Dame and face a Fighting Irish team seeking revenge. The Trojans humiliated the Fighting Irish in 2002, using riding four touchdown passes by Carson Palmer to coast to a 44-13 victory at Los Angeles Coliseum.

Saturday's fourth game between ranked teams has No. 23 Texas Tech (5-1) visiting No. 24 Oklahoma State (5-1).

Oklahoma State will try to contain the Red Raiders' B.J. Symons, who already has thrown for an NCAA-leading 2,954 yards while completing 222-of-330 passes for 27 touchdowns.

In other games, No. 5 Georgia (5-1) visits Vanderbilt, No. 6 Washington State (5-1) plays at Stanford, No. 7 Florida State (5-1) heads to Virginia, No. 10 Louisiana State (5-1) travels to South Carolina and No. 11 Arkansas (4-1) hosts Florida.

Also, No. 20 Texas (4-2) is on the road at Iowa State, while No. 21 Oregon State (5-1) hosts Washington and No. 25 Auburn entertains Mississippi State.

No. 22 Tennessee (4-2) if off this week.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index