Michigan State: They proved last weekend they were the cream of the crop. They welcomes the only undefeated team into their home and sent them away with a loss. The Spartans showed the strength of their offense and exploited Nebraska’s defense for a lot of big plays.
Bona Fide Contenders
Nebraska: The Huskers started really slow against the Spartans, but in the end they only lost by five points on the road against a top 10 team. The Huskers fully expect to see Michigan State again in the Big Ten Championship. Nebraska is clearly the strength of the west and an appearance in the championship game is to be expected.
Ohio State: Under head coach Urban Meyer the Buckeyes are getting better and better every week. The offense seems to be picking up a lot of steam behind freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett. They play at East Lansing later in the season and that game will likely determine the East division.
Second Tier Contenders
Iowa: It hasn’t been an impressive 4-1 start for black and gold. With that said, they are good along the line, they will continue to get better, and they have a very generous schedule. Don’t count out head coach Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes.
Northwestern: They sure started the season as bad as you can imagine. In the last two weeks though they went on the road to beat Penn State and just beat Wisconsin at home. It is the second most impressive start to Big Ten play outside of Michigan State. The entire country went from mocking the Wildcats to having to respect their run at the West.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions got a much needed bye week last weekend and look ahead to a Michigan. No matter what happens, things are looking a lot better for Penn State under their new head coach. If they want to make a serious run at the Big Ten this season they have to be able to beat a talented, yet terrible Michigan team.
Wisconsin: The Badgers were most experts picks to win the Big Ten west this season. While there is still a chance they took a huge blow when they lost at Northwestern last weekend. There are a lot of red flags for this Wisconsin team.
Dark Horse Contenders
Rutgers: No one predicted the Scarlet Knghts to be sitting at 5-1 at this point, but here they stand and they can do no other. This is a resilient team that is playing well. The problem for them is that their next two games are at Ohio State and at Nebraska. If an opportunity is going to be seized in their first year in the Big Ten they have to win one of those next two games, which is a tall order.
Maryland: The Terrapins got a hearty Big Ten welcome last weekend as they got smoked by Ohio State 52-24. Can they redeem themselves as they welcome Iowa to their house this weekend? This is a fascinating matchup and you can be sure the entire Big Ten West is pulling for Maryland to send Iowa home with their first conference loss.
Minnesota: If you missed it, the Golden Gophers lone loss was to TCU who just beat Oklahoma. The overall resume of Minnesota doesn’t look so bad anymore and they welcome Northwestern to town this weekend. This matchup is a must win for these two teams. There is no way the loser of this game goes on to compete for the Big Ten west.
Indiana: The Hoosiers are not a terrible team, but there is no way they can compete for the Big Ten after a loss to Maryland. When they can’t beat Maryland there is no way they will compete with Ohio State and Michigan State for the East division. Head coach Kevin Wilson simply can’t get his team to show up every week.
Contend? That’s hilarious.
Purdue: Moving on up! Most people that the Boilermakers would be the season long bottom dwellers of the Big Ten. They went on the road to beat Illinois by 11 last week and they get to watch Michigan get most of the bad press in the conference.
Michigan: The Wolverines are in a lot of trouble. They have started 0-2 in conference play and most of their tough games are ahead of them. The entire team and coaching staff is underperforming and that is why the entire country is hearing about head coach Brady Hoke being on his way out. For being in year four of the Hoke era, there is no excuse for being this bad.
Illinois: The Fighting Illini simply don’t have much fight in them. They have battles some tough injuries, but pretending that is their deepest issue is silly. Illinois is simply a bad team and head coach Tim Beckman better figure things out fast or he might get axed before Brady Hoke.
*** Posted by Josh Harvey ***