As I woke up on Saturday morning, a certain freedom washed over me. For the first time since football season had started, I would not worry and fret about whether or not Nebraska would look ridiculous and instead focused on where I would get a pancake - the answer was the Monument Cafe in Georgetown, TX and that answer was a good one. For all of the reasons that a NCAA game, especially a Power 5 game in the heartland, should not be played on a Friday evening in September, I was fairly certain that my gains in happiness at least gave me pause on my vitriol towards the Big Ten offices.
Of course, a free Saturday also meant spending more time looking around the conference, and sometime around Wisconsin-Northwestern being far closer than it should be and Iowa not knowing how to run a 4:00, 2:00, or really any minute offense, it occurred to me that the Big Ten West might actually be the Big XII North. I know, I know, it’s far too easy a comparison, but as I mentioned to the OTE writing team, this comparison has far too much working for it for comfort.
For example, if we were to look at the last year that the Big XII North existed - 2010 - you had two ranked teams in the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Missouri Tigers, a semi-competent Kansas State Wildcats team that , a fairly pedestrian Iowa State Cyclones team that somehow beat the Texas Longhorns, a bad Colorado Buffaloes team that would fire Dan Hawkins, and a burning crater that was Mark Mangino’s Kansas Jayhawks. The division finished a whopping 40-36, and propelled Nebraska to the Big Ten with positive vibes because they had one something... kinda.
Needless to say, it was a bad division, made somewhat palatable by Nebraska and Missouri. And, while you could argue that both Nebraska and Missouri were punching above their class, you would also have to point out that both were severely flawed - mainly Nebraska on offense and Missouri on, well, being Missouri.
This brings me back to the initial point - and yes, we’ll get to the games in a moment. The Big Ten West is probably worse than that division was, and there really isn’t a lot more that can be said that will change my mind. Consider the following:
- A couple of weeks into the B1G conference schedule, the Big Ten West is already .333 overall. The division is 1-4 against the Big Ten East, with that one win being against the mighty giant that is Rutgers football.
- There is only one team - deservedly so - ranked in the Top 25 from the Big Ten West.
- Which probably brings up the fact that Wisconsin is far from unstoppable and looked more than capable of losing games this season.
I stand by my earlier sentiments that you probably have Wisconsin winning a bunch of games, and then literally everybody else wondering if they can sneak into the Conference Championship Game so long as they beat Wisconsin. All of this is to say that at least the end of the Big XII North looked good sometimes. This division is awful, and I would say they are the worst thing in football, but have you seen the SEC East? Yikes Tennessee. On to the games.
The “So this is what happens when you lose a game to a hurricane” Tier
7. Charleston Southern Buccaneers at Indiana Hoosiers
There are almost 300 tickets for this game for under $10 on Vivid Seats currently. That’s a considerably lower demand than one might imagine, but also it is exactly what you would expect. Indiana needed a new opponent, Charleston Southern gets a small payout, and we all ignore the existence of this game. Sounds good, right?
The “Talk yourself into this game at your own risk” Tier
I am really happy for Max Bortenschlager. He looked fantastic against Minnesota, or at least, he looked serviceable. Also, Ohio State murdered Rutgers in a game that showcased what Urban Meyer’s Blue Chip All-Stars can do to overmatched teams. I was happy to see that the Terps have not given up despite being on their seventeenth QB, but this one is probably not going to be a fun game to watch, unless you somehow believe that Ohio State is terrible. That is a dumb opinion.
The “Illinois plays in this game” Tier
I definitely believed that Nebraska was as awful as Illinois going into that Friday night game. What I found out is that this is not true, and while I would rather watch a potential rock fight between Iowa and Illinois - one in which Kirk and Brian get into a family skirmish on the sideline that has to be quelled by any other number of totally qualified Ferentzii who happen to be employed by the University - I sadly believe that Iowa is going to destroy this Illinois team.
The “I know I’m going to be wrong about this game on Sunday” Tier
After being predictably right in my assessment of Northwestern-Wisconsin last week, I hate to admit that I don’t see a repeat performance. While Indiana sold out to stop Saquon Barkley, Penn State was lighting up the board with almost everybody else. Count me in the scores of people who believe Northwestern is slightly better than their record indicates, but I just don’t see this one being close.
The “I guess the Big Ten West goes through Wisconsin and Purdue” Tier
3. Wisconsin Badgers at Nebraska Cornhuskers
Wisconsin is an early 13.5 point favorite in this one, and for good reason. Tanner Lee is still throwing off his back foot an awful lot, and that offensive line is sketchy. Add to the fact that Nebraska’s newfound defense was against the juggernauts of Northern Illinois, Rutgers, and Illinois, and well... this line is justified. Nonetheless, if you squint really hard - okay, not that hard - you see a Wisconsin team that isn’t exactly a juggernaut themselves. I don’t think Nebraska wins this and it might get ugly, but Riley’s teams have acquitted themselves nicely at home. Let’s just split the difference and hope for a good game.
Purdue is suddenly a fun team to watch, and Minnesota has to play a team commemorating both the anniversary of Joe Tiller’s first team at Purdue, as well as the career and life of the late, great coach. I’m thinking the Boilermakers are going to make this one special, and while I think this is definitely a talent edge to Minnesota, I think Brohm and company will have some tricks. Maybe LSU’s next coach isn’t PJ after all...
The “Rivalry Games are Always Fun” Tier