Michigan State: In the words of Apollos Hester, “Sometimes you start slow, but you got to finish fast.” The Spartans fell behind early to Indiana, trailing by three with five minutes left to go in the first half. 35 minutes of football later and Michigan State had put up 42 unanswered points. Head coach Mark Dantonio had to be please with how his team finished, winning 56-17.
Ohio State: The Cornhuskers have held the second spot for several weeks, but the Buckeyes are rolling right now and look like a legitimate top 10 team. Everyone expected Ohio State to improve, but few saw it happening this fast. The Buckeyes are playing at a very high level behind freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett.
Nebraska: The Huskers started slow against a much-improved Northwestern team, trailing at the half. In the second half, Nebraska showed their strength by scoring 24 unanswered points and holding the Wildcats to a mere 28 total yards of offense. The first three games had a one-point difference between these two teams, but Nebraska won this week 38-17.
Second Tier Contenders
Minnesota: The Golden Gophers broke through in the rankings this week showing up at #24 in the coaches poll. Who predicted that after 7 games? Minnesota is 6-1, only losing to TCU, currently ranked in the top 10. Head coach Jerry Kill has brought this program a long way. This week they get to play Illinois. If they don’t get caught looking ahead they will be 7-1 as they head into their final four games, the toughest part of their schedule.
Maryland: The Terrapins held their ground and beat an improving Iowa team at home. Their next four weeks are at Wisconsin, at Penn State, and Michigan State. If they can manage to win at least one of those they will be looking at a respectable eight win season for their inaugural trek through the Big Ten.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes took a blow this week with the loss to Maryland, but they are still in control of their own destiny. They get a bye week before they play Northwestern and Minnesota. If they win those two games they will be back in the drivers seat in the Big Ten West as they get both Wisconsin and Nebraska at home for their last two games.
Wisconsin: Many people have the Badgers much higher than seventh in the Big Ten. They started the season in the top 15, but are now unranked with a 4-2 record. Wisconsin has only beaten Western Illinois, Bowling Green, South Florida, and Illinois. The lost to both LSU and Northwestern. Impressed? Didn’t think so.
Northwestern: The Wildcats were really showing signs of life after wins against Penn State and Wisconsin. In the last two weeks they lost a close one to Minnesota and got blown out at home against Nebraska. They are sitting at 3-4, but have three very winnable games left on their schedule. Northwestern ought to find themselves bowling, despite their disastrous start to the season.
Penn State: No team needed a bye week more than the Nittany Lions. After starting 4-0, Penn State dropped their last two to Northwestern and Michigan. Both of those games were very disappointing losses as they have the pieces to be 6-0. A few bad clock management issues, the depleted offensive line, and their thin defense bit them. Coming off their bye, will we see the 4-0 or the 0-2 Lions as they host Ohio State this weekend?
Rutgers: The Scarley Knights got off to a great start this year, but they are down their best player and the Buckeyes gave them the official “welcome to the Big Ten” butt kicking last weekend. It isn’t going to get easier as they travel to Lincoln, Nebraska to take on the Huskers this week. After that? Wisconsin. You aren’t in the Big East anymore, Rutgers.
Contend? That’s hilarious
Indiana: The Hoosiers had quite a bit to be optimistic about, before losing quarterback Nate Sudfeld for the season. They have one of the best running backs in the nation, Tevin Coleman, but won’t be able to break their bowl drought without a passing game and underwhelming defense. Indiana fans ought to fill their stadium just want Coleman.
Purdue: Head coach Darrell Hazell really should be pleased with both effort and performance of his team. The Boilermakers aren’t winning, but they have far out achieved expectations the last three weeks. They beat Illinois, scored 31 on Michigan State, and only lost by one point from a 52-yards field goal against Minnesota. For the first time in awhile, the trajectory is looking good. Can they keep it up?
Michigan: The Wolverines stopped the bleeding two weeks ago with a win against Penn State. Coming off a bye week they face off against in state rival, Michigan State. The problem is it looks like Michigan needs a couple years before they can compete with what used to be “little brother.” The season of terror for Michigan will continue this weekend.
Illinois: Head coach Tim Beckman is in his third year with the Fighting Illini and unless he can pull off a few remarkable upsets it will be his last. The team simply hasn’t improved and the trajectory doesn’t look good at all.
*** Posted by Josh Harvey ***