Apparently, guys are going to be mugging/jumping/beating up on Montee Ball all season long....
For 5 B1G teams so far this season, college football has tasted very delicious indeed (although Indiana has a nasty "QB with a broken leg" aftertaste in their mouth after dispatching UMass).
For the rest -- you've been feasting on bitter tears. In some cases (like Montee Ball's Heisman campaign), it's a funeral feast.
Week 2 made me very hungry.....for more wins, for more tailgates (our menu from Saturday's Southern-themed Northwestern-Vandy tailgate is listed below as courses, as Hilary can attest), for Michigan State to run the damn table and win the BCS championship while Northwestern goes 11-1 and secures a Rose Bowl berth and victory over Stanford.....frankly, it made me hungry for some Potluck.
So follow me below as the OTE writers (with new writer MNWildcat, who did a fantastic job with the All-Time Worst B1G Team Ever Challenge) tackle ugly women (Graham's specialty), the futility and uselessness of preseason and early-season polls (again, Graham is very knowledgeable about
working a poll), revising pre-season predictions, and why exactly the B1G is the only conference anyone ever looks at to challenge the SEC.....
Graham: "Nebraska's defense was as ugly against UCLA as the girl who I went on a date with once who was so hideous, I faked appendicitis during appetizers to get out of the date, only I really did have appendicitis, and when I came out of surgery her hideous face was looking down on me from above my bed and I immediately slipped into a coma."
1. Devilled Eggs and Chips and Salsa: That was a whole lotta ugly out there on Saturday, B1Gers. 0-3 vs the Pac10? Five missed FGs? Tre Roberson's gruesome broken leg (seriously the most depressing news of the whole weekend -- get well soon, Tre)? No touchdowns Iowa? Barely squeaking by a service academy, Michigan? (Yes, that is entirely hypocritical of me, since Northwestern lost to Army last year...but I digress). A Miss America pageant, it was not. So give me the ugliest team/unit/player out there in the B1G, and whether you think they can get an "Extreme Makeover: Competent Football Edition" transformation this season.
Ted Glover: I'm going with the Iowa offense, followed closely by the Nebraska defense. At least the Husker defense was okay in week one before they got shredded out on the coast, but the Iowa offense has been putrid. Just as an example, Michigan scored more TD's against Alabama than the Iowa offense has scored all season. Ken O'Keefe was not well liked in Iowa, but if I'm a Hawkeye fan, I'd take him over the Greg Davis Screen Pass Extravaganza. It's been the most unimaginative play calling I've seen in years, and at Iowa, that's really saying something. Seriously, about halfway into the second quarter of the Iowa State game, I was predicting what Iowa would do when they broke the huddle. I am a moron, so if I can figure this out, don't you think smart men who scheme against offenses for a living will make things any better for James Vandenberg?
Brian Gillis: Ugliest team in the Big Ten so far? Wisconsin. They're getting a lot of heat for losing to an expected-to-be-sorry Oregon State team, but they're not the first favorite to fall in Corvallis. But couple that loss (and offensive no-show) with their weak showing against Northern Iowa in Madison in week one and they win the "Lloyd Carr Most Disappointing Start" award. Honorable mention for ugliness goes to Michigan, not so much for their drubbing at the hands of Alabama, but for the highlighter-inspired road uniforms they wore in Dallas.
MNWildcat: My kneejerk reaction to this question was Sam Ficken; seriously, he kicks field goals about as well as the kickers on What-If Sports. After thinking a little while longer, I'd want to include the Iowa offense as well, for scoring a whopping 24 points on the season against Northern Illinois and Iowa State. Seriously. Two (well, OK, technically one, but really two) home games, and you put up 18 and 6. Brilliant. Can you fix Iowa's offense? Yeah. Ban the bubble screen in Iowa, mix in a little more horizontal passing, and shore up some of Vandenberg's flaws, and you'll be passable in the B1G with that defense. Can you fix Penn State's kicker? Umm... Next question.
Jesse Collins: I'll go self-loathing on you and submit Nebraska's entire defense. When you basically give up more yards than any Cosgrove defense did, and your normally tight-lipped coach basically puts all his cards on the table and says everything but we suck, it's been a bad week. Adding insult to injury, we also had a former 4* Sophomore decide not playing 100% of the time was lame and he will not be with the program any longer. As for transformations? Probably not. I doubt that they will get gashed again quite as bad as they did last week and I have hope in Pelini just letting the athletic freshmen we have waiting in the wings run free, but this is going to be a long year in Lincoln.
Jonathan Franz: Although Penn State's special teams, Michigan's defensive front, Iowa's offense, and Illinois' passing attack are all about as solid as Neptune's revenge, the ugliest unit in my book is Wisconsin's O-Line. You've got not one, but two Heisman caliber running backs, and two veterans from a behemoth of a line that outweighed the Green Bay Packers and led the Badgers to 11th in the country rushing in 2011 and this, this is how you perform? 106th nationally in rushing yards after two games. Wisconsin? The Leader's Division favorites? No wonder Mike Markuson is out of a job just two weeks into the season.
Mike Jones: While I'd like to go on a rant about how terrible Iowa's offense is, they're not the worst offensive team in the Big Ten. Instead, that honor goes to Wisconsin. They're averaging 207 YPG, 3.2 YPP, 1.5 YPC and 4.5 YPP. Not even Iowa is that bad. Iowa just doesn't score touchdowns. Do I think they can turn it around? They've got the talent in the backfield and at the skill positions. The question is: do they have the coaches? Plenty of people around these parts are expecting Wisconsin to implode this season and for Biels to completely unravel. Who will he fire then?
JDMill: Has to be Wisconsin. è delizioso schadenfreude!!! You begin the season by nearly getting knocked off by a directionally name school from... Iowa, and then you go to play one of the poorest Pac12 teams in all the land and come just 90 seconds from not even scoring a damn point. I do think that the BADgers will begin to play better as this season goes on, but the lightning that they caught in a bottle last season with Russel Wilson ain't showin' up in the Midwest this season.
Hilary Lee: The Wisconsin O-Line. Montee Ball was held to under 40 yards rushing in the game against Oregon State. A Heisman candidate (allegedly) UNDER 40 YARDS. And it's not like the Badger offensive line was excelling at pass rush protection all day in favor of being shitty at opening holes for the backfield. It's made even worse by the fact that the offensive line is traditionally a unit that excels at Wisconsin. We're supposed to be all about our big, plodding run game. And the Badgers were getting outclassed by guys that they had 50-60 lbs on. Ugh. Can they turn it around? I sincerely hope so. Otherwise Bielema's latest exercise in douchiness in the firing of the offensive line coach after two games will have been for nought.
Graham Filler: Gotta go with my home state Wolverines and their men in the trenches. The O-Line can't move anyone in the power run game and the D-Line can't stop anyone. Was the attrition just too much for them to overcome? Will they improve as the season goes on? Were the first two games (against an NFL run attack and a novelty attack) anomalies?
The absurdity of preseason polls in one picture: The preseason #10 team in the country was being coached by this man.
2. Collared Greens and Cheesy Grits: Wisconsin and Nebraska plummeted out of the polls, Michigan State only moves up because Arkansas got John-El'd, and meanwhile Northwestern has beaten 2 decent BCS conference opponents (Vandy took top-10 South Carolina to the wire, while Syracuse played pretty great for 3 quarters vs. top-5 USC) and doesn't crack the rankings. Yes, I'm bitter. Just how useless are early season polls? Are they like a 6th toe useless, an appendix useless, or nipples on a man useless? Should we have polls before week 5 at all? And don't they stand a substantial risk of harming a team based solely on pre-season biases based on past year(s)' teams?
Ted Glover: Pre-season polls are terrible. Never have liked them, never will. I'm going with appendix useless, because when an appendix bursts, it can cause a lot of damage. Almost as much as pre-season perception based on rankings.
Brian Gillis: No, there shouldn't be any polls the first few weeks of the season. But that's working under the pretense that polls exist to accurately rank teams and not to provide something to talk and write about or fill airtime with. What would the worldwide leader do without preseason polls? There's only so much fantasy football news they can air.
MNWildcat: No. We should not. I remember too many Minnesota teams (OK, like 3 Minnesota teams) growing up who would beat Toledo at the ‘Dome by like 50, go 4-0 on delicious, delicious cupcakes, get ranked like #20, and then disappoint miserably while collapsing during Big Ten play. Also, Northwestern could be ranked in the post-Week 3 poll if they win. Those polls, therefore, are useless. They're useless like bottles of water in my tailgate cooler-medically it'd be good to sober up, but I'll be damned if that wouldn't just take up the space of another beer.
BabaOReally:The Preseason Polls are terrible. The worst thing about them is how they affect the Top 25 for the first few weeks. At the end of the year, if a top ten team loses to a bad team, they move down ten spots or so. That is reasonable. At the beginning of the year, if a top ten team loses to a bad team, they should fall all of the way out of the poll, but some voters will only drop then ten spots or so. The difference is that at the end of the year, the top ten team has won games and shown that their high ranking was legitimate. In Week 2, no one has played enough to be sure who the top teams should be. If a team is actually good, and loses one they shouldn't early in the year, they will rise back up the rankings after they beat good teams. We shouldn't keep them in the rankings just because we think that they will. The rankings should be based on games that have actually happened.
I say the polls should start at Week 6, when most teams have played their non-con and have had at least one conference game.
Mike Jones: Northwestern should be ranked because they beat two awful BCS teams? Good job, good effort, Wildcats. No, polls are useless. They're part of the old guard that looks to change when the BCS dies in a couple of years. Soon, we'll get them phased out too.
JDMill: Preseason and early season polls are more worthless than an legless man in an ass-kicking contest. Let's just say for a moment that we could get the polls to cease and desist on putting out rankings until after week 2... even that would be an improvement. If that were the case, based on performance in weeks 1 & 2 only: zero chance Northwestern doesn't crack the top 25; zero chance Michigan DOES crack the top 25; and probably unlikely that USC is ranked #2 in the country, although they'd probably still be top 5.
Graham: "Michigan State is like going out on a date with the last girl on earth and it being your little sister. Procreating with her is the only chance for all civilization (MSU is the conference's only legitimate BCS title contender), so you're really hoping you score with her (MSU runs the table)....but she's your little sister and that's gross (MSU is Michigan's little brother)."
3. Fried Chicken, Biscuits and Gravy, and Ham with Redeye Gravy: Michigan State, Ohio State, Indiana, Minnesota, and Northwestern remain undefeated, and these fanbases rightfully have a lot to be proud of. Michigan State has arguably the most impressive victory of any B1G team in its victory of Boise State. Ohio State appears rejuvenated under Urban Meyer with Braxton Miller putting on a September Heisman campaign that would make Denard Robinson jealous. Indiana has already surpassed its win total of last season and looked to be at least a challenge in conference play (until Roberson broke his leg). Minnesota slammed an FCS team the way a B1G team should, and looks like it's made strides on defense. And Northwestern continues its Cardiac Cats ways, has 2 viable QBs who seem to blend harmoniously, and beat 2 respectable BCS conference opponents. Based on these early returns, are you willing to revise your predictions for any of these undefeated teams upwards? Who has caught your eye has particularly impressive or suprising? And is there an Achilles heel (sorry Dan Persa) for any of these teams that they should seriously be worried about?
Ted Glover: I'm withholding judgement on Minnesota, Indiana, and Northwestern for now. I'll give Northwestern a little more credit than other folks are giving them, though, and I agree that they should be in the top 25. I think Minnesota is better, and you could talk me into them being better than several B1G teams right now, but I'm still not sold on their defense. Indiana is (well, was) better, but Tre Roberson's injury really, REALLY hurts them. He was my favorite non-OSU player, and I was really looking forward to watching him develop this year. As for Sparty and OSU, MSU has legitimately impressed me through two weeks. The Buckeyes look really good so far, but haven't really played a complete game. We'll see what happens when conference play starts.
Brian Gillis: My two favorite teams, Michigan State and Ohio State, are staking their claim to be the class of the conference, but I figured they would be good. My revisions would be to downgrade Michigan and Wisconsin. It's still early, and no one expected Michigan to beat ‘Bama, but I don't think I was alone in expecting at least a somewhat competitive game. Michigan had a lot of questions entering the season, and they appear to have been answered - negatively. It was clear going in to this season that Michigan wouldn't be a legitimate contender for a couple of years, but the question now becomes, will this season be a throwaway? And Wisconsin ... I don't know where to begin.
MNWildcat: I wouldn't add a win to my projections for MSU, OSU, Indiana, or Minnesota. Indiana barely got by Indiana State, Minnesota will probably lose to Syracuse, I took MSU over Boise State, and OSU should be 2-0 right now. Add a win to NU and make them a cautious 7-5, because I had them going 3-1 in non-con, which is nowhere near done yet; however, I think they should scrape past BC by a score and a half or so.
That brings me to being impressed by anyone: Purdue, and only because they put up a hell of a fight at Notre Dame. Of the undefeateds, no one is blowing me away, and Northwestern could easily be 0-2 right now instead of 2-0. Otherwise, Indiana needs to beat a real FBS team, NU needs to go 4-0 like they should, Minnesota needs to go 4-0, and the rest need to start putting up in B1G play. Save for Michigan State. Beat those Domers by a convincing couple scores, and I'll be impressed.
Jesse Collins: I hate to say it, but I still stand by where I generally ranked everyone preseason. That's probably stubbornness, but two games against teams you barely scheme for or understand mean a whole lot less than the conference play. We knew MSU/OSU would be good and they have been with the caveats of being young in their systems or having young players in the system. As for the Minnesota, Indiana, Northwestern triumvirate... Well, I think each will come crashing back to earth soon enough. I had Northwestern rated decently, so they haven't been a complete surprise, but I still think they need to learn to put teams away early. This comeback stuff because of breakdowns just won't cut it against better competition. I mean, no offense to Northwestern, but this whole, "respected BCS teams" is like saying a win over Kansas is respectable. Until Syracuse or Vandy beat somebody else, they are still the Northwestern of their respective conferences: Good enough to be a member, not good enough to really tip the scales of respect. (I have no doubt that Northwestern could rock Nebraska's defense right now by the way... That pretty much sums up where I think Nebraska stands if that is any consolation).
Jonathan Franz: You want me to say Northwestern, so fine, Northwestern. I picked them preseason to go 8-4 with losses to Penn State, Nebraska, Michigan, and Michigan State. If those games are played today, the Cardiac Cats only lose two of them, and have a legitimate shot of finishing with double digit wins. The bad news for the nerds is, the remaining games on their schedule are spread out over the next three months, and that's plenty of time for teams to get their houses in order. Still, I still think Pat Fitzgerald wins one of the above mentioned games, for an above expectations finish of 9-3. It won't get them to Indianapolis, and it won't get them a bowl win (remember, with Ohio State and Penn State out this year, everyone in the B1G is going to be playing up, and it won't be pretty), but it's also nothing to shake a stick at.
Mike Jones: Michigan State and Ohio State are both great football teams. Michigan State has actually proved it against solid competition and will solidify themselves if they beat the Domers this weekend. Also, just because Indiana, Minnesota and Northwestern have beaten up on measly competition doesn't mean we should be falling all over them. Every team that lost last week fell to a rival, a ranked team or went down in a hostile environment. Well...every team except for Penn State. They're just awful. However, I'd say Minnesota has impressed me so far. Now watch them lose to Western Michigan.
JDMill: I don't think anything that has happened in the first two weeks of the season changes my outlook... for the teams that are currently undefeated. MSU is still our rep in Pasadena. Ohio State still finishes with 8-10 wins. Indiana still ends up being the worst team in the conference. Minnesota gets to 6 wins and goes bowling. And Northwestern, despite the very strong start, tops out at 7 wins.
Hilary Lee: If not for Roberson's injury, I would have revised my Hoosiers prediction upward. I'm still not ready to get more positive on the 'Cats, or go all in on Michigan State. I want to see Andrew Maxwell after a few more games (and a few more hits). They still have a great defense, and Le'Veon Bell does look seriously scary, but Maxwell? We shall see... As far as Northwestern goes, it's great to see them win games that they would have lost last season, but I'm still not sure the magic will last. Let's get into the conference schedule before we get all excited.
Graham Filler: I think I will hold my predictions going forward, except Ohio State just might go undefeated.
Seriously, look at their schedule. The game against MSU in EL is their biggest test now. And I don't understand talk about how enthusiasm for OSU football is dampened by the probation. You've got a loaded team on your hands with a lightning in a bottle QB and a killer D. That's exciting, anyway you look at it.
B-1-G! B-1-G! B-1-G! (And if that's not evidence of how stupid ESSSS EEEEE SEEEE chants are, nothing is)
4. Cherry Crisp: My big pet peeve in college football currently is how the B1G gets propped up as the only viable competition for the SEC, so that everyone piles on during weekends like last Saturday when the B1G struggles. I get it, the B1G is important and powerful....but there are, by my count, 4 other major conferences (Pac12, Big 12, ACC, and Big East....okay, maybe just 3 other major conferences) out there that also should be "competing" against the B1G. (Oh, side note: the B1G went 1-0 vs. the SEC last weekend. HOLLA!) Why does the B1G get saddled with being the only competition to the SEC? In your response, feel free to point out the foibles, weaknesses, and outright embarassing performances of those other 4 conferences, repeatedly.
Ted Glover: I'm about done with all this 'conference pride' crap. OTE has reminded how much fun it is to take jabs at teams within your conference while not giving two hoots in Hell about anyone else. Michigan sucks! Also, John L. Smith and Tim Brewster are now in the SEC. It's going to be okay after all.
Brian Gillis: Personally, I'm glad the Big Ten is saddled with the comparison to the SEC. Sure, we don't come out looking very good, but at least we're still relevant enough to warrant the discussion. A few more weeks like last week and we may be part of the question of, which is the superior conference, the Big Ten or the MAC?
MNWildcat: See what Jesse said. That was brilliant. And then tell the SEC to come play a game in Ann Arbor, Evanston, or Madison in mid-November and see how they do.
BabaOReally: I'm just going to leave this here.....
Jesse Collins: Obviously I went off on this yesterday, and everybody does kind of suck in one way or another. If Ohio State was not on probation, I don't think we are having the same discussions about the Big Ten being awful that we are now. Regardless of what happened on Saturday, at least we'd have two to three teams still in play for BCS bids. Instead, we have one and a half and people are all like, "Hey Big Ten, your logo sucks like your teams." (Nobody really said this) In all actuality, I think the new paradigm is that somehow the Big XII and Pac XII will be the kryptonite to the SEC eventually. Who cares either way? All I know is that I am totally rooting for all out war within the Big Ten this year. If we're all going down, let us all go down in beautiful fiery flames (reference totally intentional).
Mike Jones: It's because we have the most money. Regardless of what happens on the football field we'll always be the wealthiest conference and I think that pisses everyone else off. I KNOW it pisses ESPN off. Thus, we're always going to be blasted when we're "less than spectacular" on Saturday's. It's almost as if everyone else is saying "You're awful why are you so rich again?" Well, I'm sorry that you only have 2 teams that are relevant Mr. Pac-12. I'm sorry that Texas is everyone's bitch Mr. Big-12. I'm sorry blatant oversigning has given you all of your national titles Mr. SEC. I'm sorry you're the ACC Mr. ACC. I'm sorry that no one knows who you are Mr. Big East. I guess when you're the rich kid on the block everyone wants to pay attention to you. And until someone matches our pocketbook I don't see that changing.
JDMill: Just like I enjoy the schadenfreude when Wisconsin and Iowa falter, and just like everybody who isn't Notre Dame enjoys the schadenfreude when Notre Dame falters... the rest of the B1G world enjoys the schadenfreude when the B1G falters. And I hate to say it, but the B1G gets saddled with these expectations as the only conference that can compete with the SEC because that's the way we want it. Members of the B1G, fans of the B1G, we all talk about tradition, about integrity, about tough nosed football, but when it comes to the actual game on the field, we've fallen short of the SEC the past decade... and it eats us up. We hate it. We are continually in that position because we have put ourselves there. No matter how good the SEC is, or any other conference for that matter, they don't have our history, they don't have our regional identity, they don't have our academic excellence, and they don't have our "this is who we are, F*** YOU" attitude.
I've said it before, but conference expansion was the perfect microcosm of who the B1G is. First, we're going to send everyone into a tizzy while we say we are going to expand. Then we're going to add just one school, a school like Nebraska that fits our personality and our culture perfectly, and then we're going to let the rest of the conferences scramble in our wake. While they move toward becoming so-called "super conferences," we'll be just fine.
Hilary Lee: We get it because we put ourselves in this position. The Big 12 used to be a viable contender, but Texas has been a shadow of its former self the last few years. Oklahoma State has stepped up, but everyone seems to be waiting for the other shoe to drop there. And Oklahoma itself still isn't quite where it needs to be. While neither TAMU nor Mizzou was national championship material, it didn't help that they jumped ship for the SEC. As to the Pac-12, USC is only recently back on the map, and Oregon and Stanford lost big playmakers (though it doesn't really look like Oregon suffered all that much). Out west, Oregon and Stanford are like Wisconsin and MSU in the B1G. New to the perennial league champion position, but not quite enough success to be thought of in the same was as the heavyweight(s) of the conference (USC or OSU and Michigan). Thing us, unlike that other conference, we also have Nebraska and PSU (okay not this year but in other years they were good) and Iowa. So, we're deeper than the Pac-12 or Big 12.
Plus you know, the media loves the juxtaposition of "fast" teams out of the South vs. the traditional physical football out of the North. Or something.
Graham Filler: "When much is given, much is expected"
It's the B1G, man. We trend set, all the while being the most stable conference and holding tight to tradition. We're expected to put monster squads on the field. We SHOULD hold the "SEC Competition" mantle, even if our results haven't been up to the task, because that constant pressure will eventually push us to succeed wildly.