Week 2 of the Big Ten season saw several pre-conceived notions of the Big Ten and her teams fall by the wayside, and a couple at the top and bottom stayed the same. Let's look at what we thought was the truth, and what was changed on Saturday.
Old Line of Thinking: Great team that was exposed by Illinois as a beatable team.
New Line of Thinking: #1 Team in the country that has a pretty good offense and a great defense.
Terrelle Pryor and the offense bounced back in a big way from a poor Illinois game, and put up numbers that have been consistent from earlier games this year. But after Illinois drilled Penn State on the road, maybe the Illinois game was a better win than originally thought. The Silver Bullets defense throttled what is one of the best offenses in the Big Ten, and Ohio State is poised to take over the number 1 ranking in the country after Alabama lost at South Carolina. Are they beatable? Sure, anything can happen, but they look a lot better this week than they did last week.
New Line of Thinking: Still a work in progress.
There were a lot of folks that thought Michigan would meet their
Waterloo Thermopylae (Thermopylae, Spartans...see what I did there?) when they clashed with a defense that was as fast and athletic as the offense, and they were right. Denard Robinson looked like the 2009 version, making some terrible decisions and even more terrible throws, and looked confused and erratic almost all day long. But give a lot of credit to Michigan State for playing an outstanding game on both sides of the ball.
Old Line of Thinking: Michigan State Will Find a Way To Lose a Big Game.
New Line of Thinking: This is not John L. Smith's Spartans.
Michigan State would find a way to lose a game like this, because that's what Michigan State
does used to do. Come on, when they were up 31-10, then Michigan scored a TD, and then got a stop and it looked like momentum was starting to change, a big part of you went 'uh-oh, here we go'. Yeah, not so much, Michigan State got a turnover, went down and got a field goal, and then ran the ball down Michigan's throat and ran out the clock. Michigan State is building a special season, one that could very well end in a BCS game. Look at their schedule and tell me, other than Iowa, which game will Michigan State NOT be favored to win? I don't see it. They have Illinois at home, Northwestern doesn't have a defense, or an offense as good as Michigan's, and Minnesota, Purdue, and Penn State are gimmes at this point.
Old Line of Thinking: They were the second worst team in the Big Ten, and Ron Zook was a Dead Man Walking.
New Line of Thinking: This is a team that can go to a bowl game.
Last week Illinois played Ohio State until the end before losing late. Saturday, they marched in to Happy Valley like they owned the place and kicked Penn STate up and down the field. Illinois ran for 180 yards while holding Penn State to a paltry 48 yards in handing JoePa only his sixth Homecoming loss since he became the Nittany Lion coach in 1914. With two impressive outings to open the Big Ten campaign, I can see them being a favorite in at least three games (Purdue, Minnesota, Fresno State) and have a decent chance to beat Northwestern and Michigan. An 8 win season not only saves the Zooker, but gets him into the conversation for Big Ten Coach of the Year.
Old Line of Thinking: Yeah, they have a freshman QB, but it's still a pretty good defense and this is the fourth best team in the conference.
New Line of Thinking: Yeah, they have a freshman QB, and their defense can't stop good offenses enough to get them to fourth place.
After two poor performances to open Big Ten play, I'm struggling to find six wins and a bowl for the Nittany Lions. They'll beat Minnesota, that's four wins. As inconsistent as their offense and defense has been, I don't see them beating Michigan, Northwestern, or Ohio State. So if they lose those three games, they need to beat Indiana and Michigan State to become bowl eligible.
Are there other teams that had a paradigm shift Saturday? Maybe a slight movement, but not a complete shift. Minnesota is still terrible, Purdue is still plucky, Northwestern was bound to come down to earth eventually, but they're still a good team, and Indiana is still a fringe bowl team with a good offense and bad defense. Iowa and Wisconsin are still good teams that can't be discounted for the conference title, but those questions will be answered in the weeks to come.
It's getting interesting in the Big Ten, and every season there's a surprise hit and a surprise disappointment. And this year looks like it won't be any different.