Best & Worst of the Big Ten
Week Two of the Big Ten was mostly a bad affair. One of the worst weeks in recent Big Ten football history, in fact. Week three was better, but an enema would have been an improvement over last week.
BEST OF THE BIG TEN
Northwestern: Give it up for the Cats. 3-0 to start the season, all three wins coming against teams from BCS conferences. OK, Syracuse is brutal and Boston College is going to struggle in the ACC. But Vanderbilt isn’t too shabby and gave South Carolina all it wanted in the season opener. Northwestern has found some mojo in its running game this year, something they did not do one year ago. The Cats are using two quarterbacks in Trevor Siemien and Kain Colter, both bringing different skill sets to the field. Their 22-13 win against Boston College this week was not pretty (five field goals and one touchdown) but their defense allowed just 25 yards rushing and there’s only two other Big Ten teams that can say they are 3-0; Ohio State and Minnesota.
Illinois: They beat Charleston Southern 44-0, which is what Big Ten teams are supposed to do to Charleston Souther. They did it without Nathan Scheelhaase, who missed the game due to injury. Enter quarterback Reilly O’Toole, my new favorite name in the Big Ten. He was 26 of 31 for 333 yards and five touchdowns to just one interception. He has a painstaking long release, but he was effective this week.
Purdue: The Boilermakers are starting to look like the Boilermakers of old during the heart of the Cowboy Joe Tiller era. 576 yards of total offense in a 54-16 rout of Eastern Michigan. 392 of those yards came on the ground, but they allowed 169 on the ground. I like them more each week.
Michigan: 63-13 winners against Massachusetts, 585 to 289 in total yards. That was domination.
That’s about it. Yes, Ohio State beat a Pac 12 team 35-28 at The Shoe, but it was Cal and they are the fifth or sixth best team in the Pac 12, at best. You could argue they outplayed Ohio State in this game but the Buckeyes came up when they needed to and Cal missed three field goals and had a touchdown called back on a penalty. Nebraska rolled an FCS scrub, Penn State spanked a bad Navy team, Iowa beat FCS Northern Iowa by 11. Minnesota barely gets past Western Michigan and loses QB MarQueis Gray in the process. Nothing really jumps out that is ‘best worthy’. But ‘worst worthy’? Yes.
WORST OF THE BIG TEN
Michigan State: The Big Ten’s last hope for national prestige was embarrassed at home against Notre Dame in a 20-3 loss. Just 237 total yards, only 50 on the ground. In the late summer, I expected more from their offense, even with the loss of Kirk Cousins and all of their wide receivers. Perhaps that was the problem; I didn’t listen to my gut. Back in the spring, when I saw the likes of Phil Steele fawning over Michigan State and picking them to the Sugar Bowl, I thought they were crazy. Losing Cousins and the top four receivers and people were picking them 10-2? Their defense is still good, but their offense has been bad in the two games they’ve played against teams with a pulse; Boise State and Notre Dame.
Wisconsin: They beat Utah State 16-14 because Utah State missed a 37 yard field goal with :11 seconds left. The field goal attempt was about 10 yards longer than it should have been as the Badgers received a gift offensive pass interference call. The Badgers did gain 156 yards on the ground but averaged just 3.5 yards per carry after 3.6 yards per carry against Northern Iowa in their 26-21 season opening win. We all know about last week’s disaster at Oregon State. Wisconsin is 2-1, but it’s a very, very ugly 2-1.
Indiana: Oh, Indiana. You score a go ahead touchdown with under a minute remaining after battling back from a 38-25 deficit with just over four minutes to play. Then you give up 44 yards in 49 seconds which allows Ball State to kick a game winning 42-yard field goal as time expired. This after quarterback Cameron Coffman left the game for yet unknown reasons and did not return and one week after the Hoosiers lost quarterback Tre Roberson for the season with a leg injury. That’s three-straight wins for Ball State against Indiana. And oh by the way; the Hoosiers put up more than 550 yards in the loss, but they also gave up over 200 on the ground to Ball State.
WEEK THREE POWER RANKINGS (with bowl slotting)
1. Ohio State: Still here, but by default (not bowl eligible)
2. Nebraska: No Burkhead, no problems this week (Rose Bowl)
3. Michigan: Because they can score and Michigan State can’t (Cap One Bowl)
4. Michigan State: Still has a defense that is good enough to win the league (Outback Bowl)
5. Purdue: They’ve typically disappointed me once I buy in (Gator Bowl)
6. Northwestern: A bit of a glass ceiling for them here in the six spot (Ticket City)
7. Iowa: Defense has not allowed a point in the fourth quarter yet this season (Car Care)
8. Wisconsin: Monte Ball probably wishes he turned pro right about now (Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl)
9. Illinois: Reilly O’Toole (Little Caesar’s)
10. Penn State: Offense looked good against a bad Navy team
11. Minnesota: Gray is not a great thrower, but they are better with him than without (at large possibility)
12. Indiana: You can’t lose when you put up more than 550 yards…unless you’re Indiana