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 four conference games and a lightning storm clean up in the conference this weekend. Nebraska got what it paid for, a comfortable win. The ‘Cats, after nearly floundering away a win at Rutgers, decisively defeated Wisconsin and have the catbird seat in the West going down the stretch. Indiana and Iowa broke their fans’ hearts. Sparty got back on the winning side of the ledger. Purdue still has some things to learn about handling success. Illinois...oh, Illinois. Michigan and Ohio State were idle. The West is a mess.
Minnesota Golden Gophers - (Defeated Indiana, 38-31) Minnesota allowed a big Hoosier comeback at home, yet found the magic to win with a long touchdown pass. Minnesota is not exactly good (blown out by Nebraska) but they managed to steer back on the course toward bowl eligibility. Peej will likely boat race the Illini this Saturday. Next up: @Illinois.
Northwestern Wildcats - (Defeated Wisconsin, 31-17) The Wildcats lead the B1G West, let that sink in. If Northwestern can find a way to beat Iowa in two weeks, the division is likely theirs. This could be the year. Seriously. In the interim, please ask Fitz to put on his wizard hat and win this weekend. Next up: Notre Dame.
Penn State Nittany Lions - (Defeated Iowa, 30-24) Penn State managed to pull this one out against Iowa. The Nits are a hold for now. Should they perform well against Michigan and Wisconsin, they will deservedly move up. Next up: @Michigan.
Michigan State Spartans - (Defeated Purdue, 23-13) This MSU team is a mystery. Performances yo-yo from week to week. A good solid home win against a rising Purdue squad shows that the Spartans still know how to get it done. If they follow form, this will lead to a disappointing performance against the Terrapins. I do not see enough consistency (or health, for that matter) to upgrade Sparty. Even Nebraska could give them trouble down the road. Next up: @Maryland.
Nebraska Cornhuskers - (Defeated Bethune-Cookman, 45-9) Nebraska got a win without any major injuries. Backups got some playing time. Bethune-Cookman got a fat check, and got out alive. This was a win-win that did not mean much in the grand scheme of things. Next up: @Ohio State.
Purdue Boilermakers - (Lost to Michigan State, 23-13) It was tempting to downgrade Purdue, but the fact is this performance was not a surprise. A young team establishes a ceiling of being able to beat anyone, yet displays an inability to capitalize on prosperity. Purdue remains dangerous, yet wildly inconsistent...and immature, but that is (slowly) changing. Next up: Iowa.
Maryland Terrapins - (Defeated Illinois, 63-33) The Terps are not a great team, but they are a pretty good team. Good teams stomp teams like Illinois, and that is exactly what Maryland did. Show us something against the Spartans, like some proficient defense, and Maryland will get an upgrade. Next up: Michigan State.
Ohio State Buckeyes - (Idle) The Buckeyes will have two weeks to practice up and focus their frustrations on the Huskers. I do not think it will be pretty. Next up: Nebraska.
Michigan Wolverines - (Idle) The path to the title is clear - beat Penn State and win the game against Ohio State on Thanksgiving weekend. Both of these are more than possible, they are looking likely. Next up: Penn State.
Wisconsin Badgers - (Lost to Northwestern, 31-17) The Badgers, who destroyed Nebraska, got throttled by a team that nearly (and probably should have) lost to Nebraska. It seems that Wiscy saves all of its bad performances for the ‘Cats. With the quarterback out, the nation’s leading rusher coughed up two fumbles that led to scores. Has anyone started a Hornibrook fan club yet? Next up: Rutgers.
Iowa Hawkeyes - (Lost to Penn State, 30-24) This game had everything. There were two safeties, a defensive tackle catching a touchdown pass from a punter, and crushing Iowa despair. Nate Stanley’s flying circus giveth, and Nate Stanley’s flying circus taketh away. A botched audible on the goal line is a lousy way to lose, and the loss made the path to Indianapolis tougher for the Hawks. Iowa’s most hated rival awaits. Next up: @Purdue.
Indiana Hoosiers - (Lost to Minnesota, 38-31) Oh Hoosiers, I am so sorry. As the deficit ballooned, I assumed Indiana would score a couple of garbage touchdowns to make it look close. Then, they actually tied the game. Indiana immediately surrendered a long TD pass. I don’t see how Hoosier fans do it. Next up: Idle (Maryland 11/10).
Illinois Fighting Illini - (Lost to Maryland, 63-33) This column is about rating teams against expectations. We have come to expect Illinois to be horrible. How can one downgrade a horrible team that plays horribly? Looking at a stat line that says the Illini allowed 281 passing yards to Maryland. That’s how. Next up: Minnesota.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights - (Idle) Rutgers did not lose this week. As sure as the sun sets in the west, they will lose again on Saturday. Next up: @Wisconsin.
Feel free to laud my grace, charm, and judgment in the comments.