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State of the Race, Week 8: West Division

Like yesterday's update, except opposite

Goldy knows who's on top of the division.
Goldy knows who's on top of the division.

If you missed or forgot about the Leaders Legends Leaders East division race update, you can find it here.


Currently Actually In The Lead: Minnesota

Despite being anchored by a passing attack that has managed only 6 TDs through the air (and as many INTs), Minnesota has rolled with a robust rushing attack, solid defense, and gamebreaking special teams play to blast out to a 3-0 start in conference play. That David Cobb is probably only the 4th best tailback in the conference is solely a function of that position's depth throughout the league, as he's already broken 1,000 yards rushing seven games into the season. Their only loss, to TCU, looks much better now than it did when it happened, and they have one more game in which they are the clear favorite before the schedule solidifies like the November earth.

Up Next: Minnesota @ Illinois

Right Behind Them: Nebraska

Had Big Red pulled off the comeback in East Lansing, we'd probably be angrily asking why they'd still be ranked behind Auburn and Alabama instead of getting more serious CFP consideration. As it is, though, Nebraska can still state a plausible claim if they run the table, having made the margin against MSU respectable. Although they're a game behind Minnesota for the time being, the fact that all the Quadrangle of Hate games will happen in November means the West race is far from over. They've looked like the best team in the division for most of the year, but to lock up a trip to Indy, Nebraska must first travel to Camp Randall and Kinnick Stadium. Still, the next two weeks are probable wins for the Huskers.

Up Next: Rutgers @ Nebraska

Cozy at Home: Iowa

I'll admit this team hasn't consistently shown the level of play I thought they would before the season started, but they retain one enormous advantage in the West race: their schedule. Assuming they can slip past Wizgerald's minions this week, their stretch schedule at least brings Nebraska and Wisconsin to Iowa City; the Battle for Floyd will also have conference title implications for the first time in years. The Hawkeye defensive line in particular has been strong, but the offensive philosophy continues to be confusing at best. 

Up Next: Bye

Still Got Gordon: Wisconsin

Outside of a romp over Bowling Green, the Badgers are another West team that hasn't been overly impressive to this point, needing a sustained effort to put away lowly Illinois. Their struggles with throwing the ball might make you think the clock's been turned back a century for their game with Minnesota. Despite the complete lack of an aerial threat, though, the offensive line and running game remain as potent as ever. The front seven on defense has some talent, but its depth has been exposed at times by injuries. The Badgers throw down with both conference newbies before settling into Quadrangle play.

Up Next: Maryland @ Wisconsin

They Looked Good For A Minute There: Northwestern

 Seven games in, it's hard to know what to make of the 3-4 Wildcats. At times, their offense is fairly effective on the back of true freshman Justin Jackson; at other times, Trevor Siemian looks like a drunk man doing a CJ Bacher impression. They can give up piles of yards to Wisconsin, yet somehow stumble into a win, and then look like the better team against Nebraska for a half before completely folding the tent. And, in a way, that's mostly what we've always known them to be: bafflingly inconsistent. They face an uphill battle for the title, but mark it down: they're still going to ruin someone's season.

Up Next: Bye

Better But Still A Year Away: Purdue

Hey, at least they're not at the bottom of another list, right? The Boilers have secured their first conference win since 2012 and given MSU and Minnesota more than either wanted. They're still short on playmakers, but the progress they've made seems to indicate Darell Hazell is a keeper. With Austin Appleby under center, the offense has rediscovered some potency, though the defense has a long, long way to go yet.

Up Next: Bye

Fire Up The Coaching Search: Illinois

At this point, that's about all Illinois has going for it- the intrigue and excitement of another coaching search. Except, you know, this year's candidate pool is pretty shallow and whoever agrees to do the job will be inheriting a roster with perhaps a dozen players anyone else in the B1G would take. The run defense has made Indiana look good at times, the offensive line has been atrocious despite having lots of experience, and as a direct result, one of the few cornerstone players on this team, Wes Lunt, is out for weeks yet. Oh, and Tim Beckman threw Aaron Bailey's redshirt overboard halfway through the season in a flailing attempt to save his ship. Hrm. Normally I look for some kind of optimistic angle on the cellar dwellers, but this one is tough.

Up Next: Illinois vs. Minnesota