By RUSTY MILLER
AP Sports Writer
The guy in charge of Ohio State's program recognizes the nation is looking down on his squad because of the way it has played in recent marquee games.
The Buckeyes were beaten by Florida 41-14 and by LSU 38-24 in the last two Bowl Championship Series title games. Last Saturday night, the fifth-ranked Buckeyes played at No. 1 Southern California and were steamrolled 35-3.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel was asked during his news conference this week about the national perception of the Big Ten, and how poorly his team has played in those three high-visibility games.
"Well, I don't think you can refute the fact that in what has been considered big games, two national championship games and a big September game in 2008, we have not been successful," Tressel said in the understatement of the young season.
He said he was aware that Buckeyes fans think their team has been outplayed, outcoached and outexecuted.
"They're not happy unless we're the best," he said. "That's the way it should be. ... This is what your legacy is."
Incidentally, the Buckeyes scored the first seven points against Florida (on Ted Ginn Jr.'s return of the opening kickoff), the first 10 against LSU and were up 3-0 against USC. The rest of the way, they were outscored 114-21.
Even though the Buckeyes dropped eight spots in the AP Top 25 after what one writer called the "cremation in the Coliseum," other Big Ten teams are getting some love from the voters.
Wisconsin climbed two spots to No. 8 with its win at No. 21 Fresno State, Penn State moved up one run to No. 16 by pounding Syracuse, and Illinois went from No. 24 to No. 22 with a narrow win over Louisiana-Lafayette. On top of that, Iowa, Minnesota and Northwestern all got votes.
HEADS UP, BRET:
Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema is very particular about where he stands to watch his Badgers, in part because of the leg injuries suffered last week by Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis and Penn State's Joe Paterno two years ago in Madison.
"Very seldom will I turn and walk," Bielema said. "On defense, I always try to stay ahead of the play. On offense, I usually stay behind the play. And that's just where I like to be. I'm usually away from where everybody else is."
Still, Bielema, a former defensive lineman at Iowa, doesn't hesitate to throw his weight around, if needed, including a lick he laid on one of his own players last season, kick returner David Gilreath.
"David got hit on a kickoff return and I was about 10 yards away," Bielema recalled. "He went flying through the air, and I just kind of shouldered him and knocked him down. You have to be ready for it."
JUST FOR KICKS:
Penn State kicker Kevin Kelly is just 12 shy of breaking the Big Ten record for career field goals set by Ohio State's Mike Nugent, who had 72 from 2001-04.
For Kelly, it's the product of a ton of opportunities during his four years -- not that he was aware that he was approaching the mark.
"Not at all, that's the first time I've heard of it," Kelly said this week. "That's pretty cool."
OL' BALL (STATE) COACH:
Forgive Indiana coach Bill Lynch if this week isn't quite as enjoyable as others: He's getting ready to play Ball State again.
Lynch spent eight seasons as the face of Ball State's program. The annual rivalry has become a muddle of emotions. He raised his family in Muncie, Ind., and even had two sons that played for the Cardinals.
But at least this week's game won't tug on him as much as the 2006 season when Indiana became the first Big Ten school to visit Muncie. Back then, Lynch was the Hoosiers offensive coordinator, his son, Billy, was Indiana's receivers coach and his son, Joey, was the Cardinals' QB.
"It's always tough," he said. "You start with (Ball State coach) Brady (Hoke), who's a very good friend. I had two sons that played there and we raised a family, basically, there. We have grandkids there and they're all Ball State fans, so it's hard."
D-LINE AT NW:
Northwestern's defensive line was constantly in the backfield during Saturday's 33-7 win over Southern Illinois. The Wildcats totaled 12 tackles for loss, including six sacks. It was the team's highest sack total since seven against Michigan State in 2001.
"It's tremendous," safety Brendan Smith said. "After the first couple drives they had in the second half, it seemed like they couldn't even get the ball off."
There won't be a player in the Notre Dame-Michigan State game who knows what it's like to win a home game in the series when the storied rivalry resumes for a 72nd time Saturday in Spartan Stadium.
Since 2001, the visitors have taken home the Megaphone Trophy. The Spartans have won the last six times they've gone to South Bend. The Irish lead the all-time series 44-26-1 and have only lost to USC (32) more than they've lost to Michigan State.
Saturday's schedule: Iowa at Pittsburgh, Florida Atlantic at Minnesota, Ohio at Northwestern, Troy at Ohio State, Temple at Penn State, Central Michigan at Purdue. ... Players of the week: MSU RB Javon Ringer, Wisconsin LB DeAndre Levy, Iowa PR Andy Brodell. ... Iowa leads the nation in points allowed (just 2.7 per game) and has not given up a touchdown in three wins.
AP Sports Writers Larry Lage, Luke Meredith, Colin Fly, Dave Campbell, Rick Gano and Michael Marot, and Associated Press Writers David Mercer and Genaro Armas contributed to this report.