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.
This was a lousy week of football, and I almost resent chronicling it. I have grown genuinely sick of every team in this conference, and all I see are defects and disappointment. This season is a summation of mediocrity and unmet expectations (Northwestern won its division) - except for Michigan, and I think they would get crushed in the CFP. Judging by the anguish and self-flagellation in game threads and comment sections, you might agree. Or is this just what a season of “Stock Report” does to a man?
There were seven conference games this week, and several were played in wintry conditions. Even taking the weather into account, not much great (or even good) football was played. Maryland and Indiana gave valiant efforts that, of course, fell short as Michigan and OSU looked forward to “The Game.” All sorts of offensive derpitude was on display in the snow globe that was Lincoln’s Memorial Stadium. Illinois embraced the spirit of giving. Wisconsin wanted to lose the least. I don’t even want to revisit the “highlights” of Northwestern/Minnesota or Penn State/Rutgers, as the games were so uninspired.
Hey, at least that weekend is behind us. Rivalry Week is here. Something impressive is bound to happen.
Iowa Hawkeyes - (Defeated Illinois, 63-0) This is the team that came closest to being a “Buy.” Captain Kirk handed the Illini the worst loss in program history. Did this game tell us anything new about Iowa? Or, did it simply confirm what we already knew about Illinois? The Hawkeyes have hit their stride going into Black Friday, and should feel confident going into the clash with Nebby. Next up: Nebraska (Friday, 11/23).
Michigan Wolverines - (Defeated Indiana, 31-20) This game was plagued by extracurricular violence and a general chippiness. The Hoosiers forced the Wolverines to kick six field goals. It appears Harbaugh’s crew might have been looking ahead, but they had a stronger performance than Ohio State. Congratulations on being the cleaner dirty shirt. Next up: @Ohio State.
Purdue Boilermakers - (Lost to Wisconsin, 47-44 3OT) With another season of development under its belt, Purdue would have found a way to win this game. But, the game was played in the “here and now,” and Brohm might be about to “up and leave.” Next up: @Indiana.
Minnesota Golden Gophers - (Lost to Northwestern, 24-14) The Fightin’ Fitzes feasted on a freshman. Tanner Morgan threw two interceptions, lost a fumble, and was sacked four times. That’ll get you beat nearly every time. Next up: @Wisconsin.
Nebraska Cornhuskers - (Defeated Michigan State, 9-6) A resistible force met a movable object when the Spartan offense lined up on Saturday. The two teams combined for less than a 40% completion percentage, with all sorts of fumbles, muffs, and drops along the way. Nebraska won on the strength of its special teams and defense. Strange days, indeed. Next up: @Iowa (Friday, 11/23).
Northwestern Wildcats - (Defeated Minnesota, 24-14) West champion Northwestern dispatched division cellar dweller Minnesota by double digits on the road, in lousy weather. That is what they should have done. The ‘Cats are purring with delight, which is gross. Next up: Illinois.
Maryland Terrapins - (Lost to Ohio State, 52-51 OT) Piggy NO! So close. Anthony McFarland played an outstanding game. An apparently vulnerable Penn State squad offers one more opportunity for a sixth win. Next up: @Penn State.
Indiana Hoosiers - (Lost to Michigan, 31-20) Close, but no cigar. This, I am learning, is a recurring theme in Hoosier football. A home game for the Old Oaken Bucket is also a contest for bowl eligibility. I will go ahead and predict sadness. Next up: Purdue.
Wisconsin Badgers - (Defeated Purdue, 47-44 3OT) Wisconsin totaled 545 yards, and Jonathan Taylor ran for 321 of that. The Badgers had a 300 yard rusher, against Purdue, and only won by three points. This is not a typical Badger defense. This is not a vintage Wiscy team. Do they appreciate Alex Hornibrook yet? Next up: Minnesota.
Illinois Fighting Illini - (Lost to Iowa, 63-0) The worst loss in school history rates a downgrade. Even reading the box score is horrifying. I mean, Iowa scored 63 points and only needed 400 yards to do it. Santa Lovie started handing out gifts before Thanksgiving - four turnovers, a special teams touchdown, and a defensive touchdown. Yikes. Next up: @Northwestern.
Ohio State Buckeyes - (Defeated Maryland, 52-51 OT) OSU gets a downgrade after a win in a game they coulda/shoulda lost - barring an errant Piggy conversion pass. Again, Dwayne Haskins threw for over 400 yards, and again the Buckeyes squeaked by a team with inferior talent. If Schiano’s defense cannot stifle the Maryland running game, how can anyone expect it to slow the Wolverines? Next up: Michigan.
Penn State Nittany Lions - (Defeated Rutgers, 20-7) Here is another post-win downgrade. It is difficult to get excited to play Rutgers, we’ve all been there. But the Knights out-possessed and out-rushed the Lions. Be better than this, Nits, or the Terps will make you pay. Next up: Maryland.
Michigan State Spartans - (Lost to Nebraska, 9-6) The good news is that the Spartans did not allow a touchdown to Nebraska. The damning thing is that MSU was unable to score a touchdown against Nebraska. Congratulations, you made the Blackshirts look good, and that has not been easy to do lately. Next up: Rutgers.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights - (Lost to Penn State, 20-7) Rutgers lost. Again. At least Penn State should be embarrassed. That is something. Maybe? Next up: @Michigan State.
Feel free to laud my grace, charm, and judgment in the comments. Start lauding, you are running out of chances!