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The Best Big Ten Games this Week: Week 5

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Where ‘Best’ is an extremely slippery term.

Bowling Green v Northwestern Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

There was a moment on Saturday, as Saquon Barkley was running like a young Barry Sanders, that I thought to myself, “You know what, Big Ten football can be beautiful.” The walkoff TD catch by Juwan Johnson saved - for at least the moment - Penn State’s season and all was well in the world. Then I remembered that I voluntarily watched Nebraska and Rutgers, and I realized that football is strange, generally cruel, and that my takeaway is that at least I’m not a Vanderbilt fan (or Rebels fan, but like, I’m not so sure that’s a real thing).

That in mind, I promised to write a weekly column ranking the upcoming games, and while I would like to tell you about my love of Smoked Almonds - they really are the best almond - it’s time to look forward to the first week of #AllB1GEverything. Let me tell you, it’s uh, it’s not so great.

The “Seriously, people are selling tickets for $9 to this game Tier

6. Nebraska Cornhuskers at Illinois Fighting Illini

At a fundamental basis, I understand that I am probably biased against my own team right now. Perhaps it is Tanner Lee’s penchant to throw touchdowns to the other team, or maybe it’s the fact that this offense is the most annoying to watch since 2009. Either way, this game is literally going for $9 on StubHub right now and the Big Ten’s Friday night idea looks stupid as hell.

I will note that Illinois will field a football team that will do football-like things, but honestly, I have not watched much of this team and expect this to be oh so very similar to the Rutgers game last week. That is, this is going to be stupid.

The “Whatever game Rutgers happens to be playing” Tier

5. Ohio State Buckeyes at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Not to pile on, but Rutgers is still very bad at football. A somewhat competent defense was undone by its own inability to get Nebraska off the field - even though you knew they were running because did I mention Tanner Lee was throwing to the other team a lot - and the offense was only successful when making Butt-gers catches (look, the jokes write themselves). Really, what I’m trying to say is that what Ohio State did to UNLV is probably not happening against Rutgers, but it will not be close and there will be a lot of sad stories about how Rutgers has not won a conference game since a long time ago.

The “These are games that will be played this weekend” Tier

4. Maryland Terrapins at Minnesota Golden Gophers

If I told you that your offense would be down to its third string Quarterback on the fifth week of the season, you would probably say the season is looking like its in bad shape. For Maryland fans, this is their current reality, and that Texas win is going to be the best thing that happened all year. This is all fine and good for me because I get to point out to all of the Texans around me that you did - in fact - lose to Maryland who is now 3-9. I am sure there are storylines surrounding boats and those who row them, but I know very little about the Golden Gophers beyond their coach and I’m sure that they won’t find a way to make this game closer than it should be (LOL, we all know that’s not true).

3. Indiana Hoosiers at Penn State Nittany Lions

Indiana murdered Georgia State and Penn State snuck past Iowa. That obviously means that #ChaosTeam goes into Happy Valley and steals a win, right? Well, here’s the thing. So long as Penn State has a Saquon Barkley in the backfield, I’m going to go ahead and give them the benefit of the doubt. On that note, our very own Candystripes pointed out to our Slack group that Indiana’s record for touchdowns on punt returns is two, and I am still trying to process what exactly that means. Still J-Shun Harris should be dealt with extremely carefully.

The “This is probably worth watching, but that could be recency bias” Tier

2. Iowa Hawkeyes at Michigan State Spartans

I generally abhor saying nice things about Iowa - due to my knowledge of the state being directly tied to Council Bluffs - but I would be remiss to say that the Hawkeyes played about as awesome a game as could be expected against the Penn State Saquon Barkleys. Michigan State, on the other hand, did not look so good against the Domers and that sets up a really interesting matchup because Iowa should destroy Michigan State in East Lansing.

Here’s the problem with that, I just don’t think Iowa is built like that. I’m looking for a pretty competitive game and while I think Iowa pulls away late, this one could be entertaining for much of this one. Or, Iowa murders Michigan State and at least I pretend like the Big Ten West is superior to the East for a week.

The “Oh, so I guess this is the best game of the week” Tier

1. Northwestern Wildcats at Wisconsin Badgers

Somewhere around 5:00 PM GTZ, every non-Nebraska/Illinois Big Ten West fan thought to themselves, “I... I think we are going to win the division.” I still find myself trying to do mental gymnastics to believe it myself, but probably because the division champion could very well go into thing 5-4 because this is not a great group of football teams right now. As always, it would be a very good thing if either team walks aways with a win, and I am part of the “Wisconsin is an okay football team” bandwagon so who knows. Sadly, that is about all I can muster up here and doesn’t that just sum up this week in Big Ten Football.