This is the time of the week to judge which teams will overperform, meet, or underperform expectations. Who gets to set and judge these expectations? I do. I am an investment committee of one (though I may deign to consider the opinions of others). Truth is not truth until and unless I say it is.
A look at the box score can tell you how a stock price is dancing around its moving average, but the aim here is to evaluate recent performance to estimate future return. I am trying to tell you what the future will hold. Who is the best bet for your fandom investment? This is how I, the autocrat of this feature, view each team’s performance and potential.
There were seven conference games this week. A lot of teams that do not like each other faced off in an eventful weekend. Weasels were on parade in Ann Arbor, and the musky miasma will be with us for a while. The Wildcats accepted victory from the Huskers in “the battle for NU.” There was State on State crime in Happy Valley, while Maryland and Ohio State sleepwalked to victory. Things are getting interesting and the stretch run is heating up.
Michigan Wolverines - (Defeated Wisconsin, 38-13) The Wolverines proved to be the leading weasels of the conference, as if there were any doubt. Wisconsin does not often lose a regular season game by 25 points, and Michigan definitely dominated the action. The Fightin’ Harbaughs might be the real deal. Next up: @Michigan State.
Iowa Hawkeyes - (Defeated Indiana, 42-16) The Hawkeyes’ Nate Stanley threw for 320 yards and six touchdowns (five to TE’s) in a convincing win over Indiana. The defense limited the Hoosiers to 67 rushing yards. Maryland is a potential trap game this coming weekend, with Penn State on the slate next week. Things are starting to line up nicely for Iowa. Next up: Maryland.
Michigan State Spartans - (Defeated Penn State, 21-17) Sometimes an injured animal, when cornered, wins. That is what happened in Happy Valley. Coming off a shocking home loss to Northwestern, the Spartans clawed, and ran, and threw, and ran some more until they overcame Penn State. The Dantonio blueprint worked on the road. They have as good a chance as anyone against the Wolverines. Next up: Michigan.
Purdue Boilermakers - (Defeated Illinois, 46-7) A good measure of a team’s maturity is how they handle a bye week. I was pleasantly surprised to see Purdue put a good game together in its domination of Illinois. Purdue is moving in the right direction. They might make things interesting this weekend. Tora! Tora! Tora! (One can dream.) Next up: Ohio State.
Northwestern Wildcats - (Defeated Nebraska, 34-31) The Wildcats seized the opportunities that Nebraska gave them on Saturday, and that is to be commended. Northwestern cannot run the ball, and they allowed 231 rushing yards to the Huskers. Nonetheless, Northwestern leads the West with a 3-1 conference record. They will soon be 4-1. Next up: @Rutgers.
Ohio State Buckeyes - (Defeated Minnesota, 30-14) The Buckeyes played a truly uninspired game against Minnesota, and reportedly there were a lot of empty seats. OSU did not run the ball well, and the Game Thread was a forum for fan frustration over the defense. Ohio State still won by two touchdowns, and did not trail after the second quarter. Next up: @Purdue.
Minnesota Golden Gophers - (Lost to Ohio State, 30-14) Minny managed to make life uncomfortable for Ohio State, limiting the Buckeyes to 92 rushing yards. Minnesota also put together two long scoring drives in the first half. The Gophers played their best game of the year, and the same can be said of their upcoming opponent - Nebraska. It will be an interesting contest between two young coaches in Lincoln. Anticipate plenty of turnovers. Next up: @Nebraska.
Maryland Terrapins - (Defeated Rutgers, 34-7) The Terps disposed of Rutgers, which is the appropriate thing to do if one ever encounters Rutgers. This coming game against Iowa will be a measuring stick for Maryland - how will they fare against the physical Hawkeyes? Iowa might be thinking about Penn State, and Ferentz is due for a head-scratching loss. Next up: @Iowa
Indiana Hoosiers - (Lost to Iowa, 42-16) Indiana was lit up by the air raid attack of the Iowa Hawkeyes. The team is not getting any better. The Hoosiers need to find two more wins for bowl eligibility. What if this is as good as they get? Next up: Penn State.
Nebraska Cornhuskers - (Lost to Northwestern, 34-31) Nebby stole defeat from the jaws of victory this weekend. Nebraska politely declined multiple opportunities to put the Wildcats away, while continuing to commit stupid penalties. The Huskers need to learn how to win again, and they will - after they have exhausted all other possibilities. There is long-term hope, but expect the least of Nebraska until they prove otherwise. Next up: Minnesota.
Illinois Fighting Illini - (Lost to Purdue, 46-7) I thought Illinois had a chance this week. I was wrong. The Illini might have better luck in pillow fights against Nebraska or Minnesota, which are both ahead on the schedule. Maybe they have a chance against Maryland, but probably not. Next up: @Wisconsin.
Penn State Nittany Lions - (Lost to Michigan State, 21-17) The Nittany Lions looked lethargic for much of the contest versus the Spartans. If that is they best they can do on homecoming after a bye week - against an MSU team that was laboring - what will happen when they face Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan in successive weeks? Next up: @Indiana.
Wisconsin Badgers - (Lost to Michigan, 38-13) It turns out that the badger is a second-rate weasel. The ball don’t lie. One thing was striking about watching Saturday night’s game - Wisconsin looked vulnerable, even fragile at times. The passing game was ineffective and the cheeseheads got bullied in the trenches. They got out-Wisconsined. Future opponents can sense blood in the water. Next up: Illinois.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights - (Lost to Maryland, 34-7) Maryland stomped the Knights without playing that well, while playing reserves for a great deal of the second half. Rutgers remains the worst team in the conference. Next up: Northwestern.
Feel free to laud my grace, charm, and judgment in the comments.