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.
Some nomenclature has led to misunderstanding in this series, so I will try to clear that up. 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 Delany Dollar? Accordingly, I have replaced “Stock Up” with “Buy.” Instead of “Stock Holding” you will see “Hold.” Rather than “Stock Down,” there is “Sell.” The Buy/Hold/Sell construct will better communicate how I, the autocrat of this feature, view each team’s performance and potential.
There were six conference games this week. As further evidence that 2018 is a ridiculous year, the B1G is now where fans can go when they are looking for offense. The lowest combined point total was 48 points (in a game with 702 combined passing yards, mind you). Fitz continued to mesmerize Dantonio, and there was a slow-motion murder in Madison. Iowa retained a cherished piece of livestock statuary - a pig, of course. There was much rejoicing. Poetically, there was also a race to the bottom in Piscataway.
Illinois Fighting Illini - (Defeated Rutgers, 38-17) The Illini have completed the Sisyphean task of winning a B1G conference game. Illinois was clearly the better team in Piscataway, and there is hope for at least one or two more conference wins. The contest against Purdue might be competitive. A hearty congratulations to all the fans (Thump and a couple other dudes) who stuck it out for the payoff. Next up: Purdue.
Northwestern Wildcats - (Defeated Michigan State, 29-19) The purple people defeated a ranked team on the road by double digits. What is most amazing is that they did this with a rushing total of eight (that’s right, 8) yards. The defense has been strong, with the Wildcats currently holding a 2-1 conference record. Will the lack of a run game bite them this week? Not likely, but it is possible. Next up: Nebraska.
Ohio State Buckeyes - (Defeated Indiana, 49-26) Ohio State just has better players than Indiana. The defense does not seem to be living up to the high standards of Buckeye fans, but this team is clearly the class of the conference. Dwayne Haskins is the real deal, passing for 455 yards and 6 touchdowns. Next up: Minnesota.
Indiana Hoosiers - (Lost to Ohio State, 49-26) Indiana is a solid member of the mushy middle. They are respectable, but do not have the firepower to make a move against the top half of the conference. I think I say this every week. A game effort in Columbus, but when will Hoosier fans see a payoff? Next up: Iowa.
Iowa Hawkeyes - (Defeated Minnesota, 48-31) The Hawkeyes really love that pig, to an almost disconcerting degree. Iowa defeated Minnesota on the basis of winning the turnover battle and a surprisingly effective pass game. The most surprising stat of this game? There were only 192 combined rushing yards. Next up: @Indiana.
Michigan Wolverines - (Defeated Maryland, 42-21) Maryland is trying to be a running team. Michigan is just much better at that. Michigan has a chance for an upgrade next week with the big clash with the Badgers. Next up: Wisconsin.
Maryland Terrapins - (Lost to Michigan, 42-21) In last week’s edition, I said that this game would be a toughness litmus test for Maryland. It was, and they are not on Michigan’s level. The Terps are still a possible bowl team, and they will get one step closer to that goal this week. Next up: Rutgers.
Wisconsin Badgers - (Defeated Nebraska, 41-24) The Badger game plan was to grind Nebraska into corn dust, and they succeeded. The first half was a model of ball control and power running. The secondary is vulnerable to big passing plays, especially with a targeting suspension and an injury to D’Cota Dixon looming this week. Next up: @Michigan.
Purdue Boilermakers - (Idle) A good measure of a team’s maturity is how it handles a bye week. Illinois is coming off a big win, and the Boilers are not good enough to be complacent. Next up: @Illinois.
Penn State Nittany Lions - (Idle) Michigan State is now a wounded animal, and Penn State will corner them in Beaver Stadium this coming weekend. I do not know what will happen. Buckle up. Next up: Michigan State.
Michigan State Spartans - (Lost to Northwestern, 29-19) Injuries in the offensive line have hamstrung the Spartan offense, which recorded only 96 rushing yards against the ‘Cats. The natives are getting restless, and a tough road test awaits. Next up: @Penn State.
Minnesota Golden Gophers - (Lost to Iowa, 48-31) Minnesota has allowed more than 40 points to both its B1G opponents, with the Buckeyes next on the slate. Freshman quarterback Zack Annexstad has a bad habit of lobbing lollipops into the secondary. Next up: @Ohio State.
Nebraska Cornhuskers - (Lost to Wisconsin, 41-24) This score looks almost respectable - it wasn’t. Nebraska ran seven plays and controlled the ball for 2:41 in the first quarter, while the defense was pushed around all night. Nebraska’s offense occasionally flashes, and JD Spielman set a single game receiving record with 209 yards. The fact remains that the special teams are lousy and the defense has allowed more than 40 points to all three B1G opponents. Not good. Next up: @Northwestern.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights - (Lost to Illinois, 38-17) The Scarlet Knights were soundly beaten by the Illini at home. With little prospect for improvement on the horizon, Rutgers is definitely the worst team in the conference. Next up: @Maryland.
Feel free to laud my grace, charm, and judgment in the comments.