How has Ohio State managed to stay unbeaten after breaking in seven new starters on offense? Most of the credit belongs to a talented defense led by linebacker James Laurinaitis.
Laurinaitis is the best player on a defense that ranks among the best in the nation. His 14-tackle performance Saturday in a 30-7 victory over Minnesota helped Laurinaitis move atop the linebacker chart on the Rivals.com Power Rankings, which measure the top players and coaches at each position.
Ohio State ranks second in the nation in total defense, third in scoring defense and fourth in rush defense and pass-efficiency defense. The Buckeyes are allowing just 7.2 points per game and haven't yielded more than 14 points in a game all season.
Laurinaitis has a team-high 43 tackles and shares the team lead with three sacks. Those numbers helped Laurinaitis displace Penn State's Dan Connor as our No. 1 linebacker.
He wasn't the only Big Ten player to move atop the power rankings this week.
Wisconsin's Travis Beckum regained his status as the No. 1 tight end after catching 10 passes for 132 yards and scoring a touchdown for the third consecutive week in a 37-34 triumph over Michigan State. Beckum moved ahead of Missouri's Martin Rucker, whose team didn't play Saturday.
USC's Pete Carroll replaced Florida's Urban Meyer as the top coach in the wake of the Gators' 20-17 loss to Auburn, and Kentucky's Joker Phillips moved ahead of Oklahoma's Kevin Wilson as the No. 1 offensive coordinator following the Sooners' 27-24 loss to Colorado.
The rating of a player and coach can fluctuate each week during the season depending on how they fared the previous week, but the power rankings measure overall career performances as well as their most recent results. By the end of the season, our power rankings should provide an accurate indicator of which players and coaches were the best at their respective positions.
• Rivals.com Power Rankings by Position: QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | LB | DB | ST | Coaches:Head Coach | Off. Coordinator | Def. Coordinator