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 in a very eventful weekend. Nebraska got off the schneid, and hate deepened in the Mitten. The ‘Cats floundered to a win near the swamps of Jersey, Iowa and Wisconsin throttled over-matched foes, and there was a harboring for the ages. In short, it was the type of football weekend that we spend entire off-seasons dreaming about.
Purdue Boilermakers - (Defeated Ohio State, 49-20) Tora! Tora! Tora! It was a magnificent win for Brohm’s crew in West Lafayette. Rondale Moore continued his phenomenal freshman season with 170 receiving yards and two scores, D.J. Knox ran for 128 yards and three touchdowns, and David Blough threw for 378 with 3 TDs. People will be talking about this game for years. Well done, Boilers. Well done. Next up: @Michigan State.
Michigan Wolverines - (Defeated Michigan State, 21-7) The Wolverines totally dominated the Spartans. MSU was held to eleven first downs and went 0-12 in third down conversions. MIchigan’s level of defensive play is what is required to win a championship. Can the offense reach that level when needed? I could really do without all the sibling rivalry garbage, though. Next up: Idle (Penn State, 11/3).
Nebraska Cornhuskers - (Defeated Minnesota, 53-28) After 357 days without a gridiron win, the long statewide nightmare is over. Nebraska amassed 659 yards of total offense against Minnesota. Three rushers - Adrian Martinez, Devine Ozigbo, and Maurice Washington - topped the century mark. Winning was cathartic, now we will see how the Huskers handle a taste of prosperity. A cupcake awaits, then a tough trip to Columbus follows. Next up: Bethune-Cookman.
Penn State Nittany Lions - (Defeated Indiana, 33-28) The Nittany Lions managed to hold off a pesky Indiana team. This team is not where it needs to be if it wants to contend for much longer. Coach Franklin had better pull the team together before this season gets away from him. I expect I will be downgrading the Nits next week. Next up: Iowa.
Wisconsin Badgers - (Defeated Illinois, 49-20) The Badgers did what they traditionally do - physically manhandle lesser opponents. The rushing attack netted 357 yards against the Illini, which sounds about right. It will be an interesting game in Evanston. Next up: @Northwestern.
Iowa Hawkeyes - (Defeated Maryland, 23-0) So much for the Nate Stanley flying circus, the Hawkeyes only threw for 86 yards against Maryland. Nonetheless, ball control and an excellent defensive effort spearheaded an Iowa win - Maryland was limited to 19:05 in time of possession. Penn State looks ripe for the picking. Next up: @Penn State.
Indiana Hoosiers - (Lost to Penn State, 33-28) It must be hell being a Hoosier football fan. Time and time again they find themselves in close games...that they invariably lose. I do not know what to tell you...someday it will change? Friday would be a good start. Next up: @Minnesota (Friday, 10/26).
Illinois Fighting Illini - (Lost to Wisconsin, 49-20) Illinois continues to be horrid. I do not see how I can downgrade the Illini in good conscience - they are as bad as we have come to expect. There does not seem to be much hope for better things ahead. Next up: @Maryland.
Minnesota Golden Gophers - (Lost to Nebraska, 53-28) The Gophers out-Huskered Nebraska in finding ways to sabotage themselves. In the first half, ten points were taken off the board due to penalties. Credit is due for narrowing a 28 point deficit to 22, but the Gophers eventually got blown out by a winless team. A chance to right the ship presents itself on Friday. Best wishes for a quick and full recovery to Zack Annexstad, who suffered internal injuries in the first half (he was able to fly back with the team). Next up: Indiana (Friday, 10/26).
Michigan State Spartans - (Lost to Michigan, 21-7) There was an abundance of Michigander on Michigander drama on Saturday. I understand that the Spartans are decimated by injuries, but any team that cannot muster a hundred yards of offense is looking at a dim future. The loss of Felton Davis III is like salt in the wound, he has been such a joy to watch play. Brohm’s squad will test MSU, and they might even pulverize them. Next up: Purdue.
Northwestern Wildcats - (Defeated Rutgers, 18-15) The ‘Cats merit a rare post-win downgrade. The offense averaged 4.4 per pass and 2.7 per rush...against Rutgers. The Fighting Fitzes only managed to rack up the winning score halfway through the fourth quarter. Be better than that, Northwestern. Next up: Wisconsin.
Maryland Terrapins - (Lost to Iowa, 23-0) The Terps simply are not equipped to run on strong Big Ten defenses, and they cannot throw on anyone. Maryland was limited to seven first downs and 115 total yards. The defense did competent work in limiting Iowa to just over 300 yards. The shutout brings a downgrade. I am really pleased that I did not have to watch that game, offensive explosion that it was. Next up: Illinois.
Ohio State Buckeyes - (Lost to Purdue, 49-20) For a team as talented as the Buckeyes, it does not matter that they sleep on opponents...until it does. It mattered on Saturday. The transition to a more pass-oriented offense might not be the best solution for Big Ten football. Dwayne Haskins went 45-73(!) for 473 yards and OSU still lost. Urban Meyer looked downright stricken at points during the fourth quarter. Credit to Purdue, they kicked Ohio State’s tail, and that was no fluke. Next up: Idle (Nebraska, 11/3).
Rutgers Scarlet Knights - (Lost to Northwestern, 18-15) Rutgers lost. Again. At least the score was close this time. Next up: Idle (@Wisconsin, 11/3).
Feel free to laud my grace, charm, and judgment in the comments.