Redemption week warms the hearts of Big Ten fans everywhere as teams’ gear up for conference play. After taking a shellacking the last two weeks on the field and in the media, the Big Ten responded in a big way. Now that non-conference play is behind us, how is the Big Ten looking?
Bona Fide Contenders:
Michigan State: The mighty Spartans put up 73 points on Saturday. Yes, it was only Eastern Michigan, but it simply shows the days of MSU not being able to score in a big way are behind them. Michigan State is a true power with great defense, a quarterback that is flourishing.
This tier only belongs to teams that have a chance to contend with Michigan State for the Big Ten Championship.
Nebraska: The Cornhuskers are coming off a great win against the Miami Hurricanes and are undefeated as they enter conference play. Their sophomore quarterback, Tommy Armstrong, is 11-1 as a starter and has beaten some talented teams. He has valuable road experience and he will have to play like it to win the Big Ten West title. Good defense and a great running game behind Heisman contender, Ameer Abdullah, has been the recipe of success.
Wisconsin: With a pretty smooth conference slate the Badgers are in good position to make a run at the title, already showing they are a top team in the conference. They had a set back against LSU, but it was early in the season and were up at half.
Ohio State: Coming off the bye week, Ohio State will look to still make a strong splash in conference play. Their young offensive line and freshman quarterback, J.T. Barrett, will get better week-by-week. This Buckeye team is hungry and is still being led by two-time National Champion head coach, Urban Meyer.
Dark Horse Contenders:
Penn State: Who picked the Nittany Lions to win the Big Ten in the preseason? No one, they were ineligible. With a 4-0 start and their postseason ban dropped they have an outside chance of making a run. There are definitely weaknesses to this team and they will feel their lack of scholarships as the season goes on, but they seem to keep finding ways to win. This team has heart and a gunslinger quarterback in Christian Hackenberg.
Iowa: No one in their right mind would have Iowa as any type of contender after the first three weeks of the season. This just shows you how big a difference one week can make. The Hawkeyes are notorious slow starters, but beat a good Pittsburgh team on the road last week. They have the easiest road to the championship game out of the Big Ten West. Wisconsin and Nebraska come to town the last two weeks of the season. Head coach Kirk Ferentz will make sure this team gets better as they go and it won’t be easy for the Badgers and Huskers to walk into Kinnick Stadium and leave with a win.
Maryland: The Terrapins have played good football, except for a first quarter against West Virginia. They really should be 4-0, but they blew that game at home. Maryland is good enough to upset some contenders in the Big Ten, but not enough to contend themselves.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights might be the most pleasant surprise in the Big Ten at this point in the season. Sadly, they lost their best play to a torn ACL. Without Paul James the wheels could come off for Rutgers. Their entire offense ran through him and he helped keep the defense off the field. Sorry, Rutgers fans, but your first season in the Big Ten is going to be brutal.
Indiana: Lose to Bowling Green one week and go on the road to beat a ranked SEC team the next? Why not? Head Coach Kevin Wilson got a big win that his program desperately needed. Their bowl chances were written off by most last week, but they have to be revitalized after a very unlikely win. Indiana over Missouri - who picked that one?
Michigan: Below Indiana? You bet. While they have shown an ability to lose to a bad team, they have not shown any signs that they could beat a ranked team on the road. Missouri is not a great team this season, but a better team than anyone Michigan will beat this season. The Wolverines are sinking fast.
Contend? That’s hilarious:
Minnesota: The Golden Gophers still have a decent defense and a decent running game, which gives them a decent chance at beating a decent team or two. Anything beyond that is very hard to image for Minnesota. They played San Jose State and went 1-7 passing for 7-yards. When people think boring, bad Big Ten, Minnesota is what comes into their mind.
Illinois: The Fighting Illini buzz after getting quarterback Wes Lunt has all died off significantly, if not completely. Yes, they are 3-1, but they got dominated by the one good team they played and haven’t even shown an ability to overwhelm the Texas State’s of the world. Illinois is going to get a rude awakening when they open conference play in Lincoln, for homecoming… under the lights.
Purdue: The Boilermakers might be better than the Wildcats. Thankfully, this will be settled on November 22nd. The entire nation eagerly waits.
*** Edited and posted by Josh Harvey ***