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 six conference games and a non-conference abomination this week. Northwestern missed a chance to earn good will by losing to the Irish at home. The Buckeyes look like shadows of their former selves. Iowa lost to its most hated rival at the gun, and Purdue harbored for the second time in three weeks. Penn State got trounced, and Michigan seems to be the class of the conference. There seem to be a lot of beat up and emotionally exhausted teams, with a lot of fatalistic fans.
Michigan Wolverines - (Defeated Penn State, 42-7) Michigan destroyed the Nittany Lions. The defense is spectacular, and the rent-a-quarterback strategy seems to be paying off for them. Go to Piscataway, get the win, and do not get anyone hurt. Everyone else in the B1G East looks to be several steps behind Harbaugh’s crew. Next up: @Rutgers.
Purdue Boilermakers - (Defeated Iowa, 38-36) It was an up week for Purdue. Ferentz did everything he could to keep Rondale Moore from beating him, but Brohm exploited Iowa’s young corners and had enough other skill players to make it work. I have no idea how this young team will handle a trip to the Twin Cities. Next up: @Minnesota.
Illinois Fighting Illini - (Defeated Minnesota. 55-31) The rumors of Illinois’ de-listing were premature. The Illini blew out a B1G team not named Rutgers, so any listing changes are indefinitely postponed and an upgrade is appropriate - they are no longer the worst team in the division. If there is a good year to get Nebraska, this is it. Northwestern can collapse at any time. Who knows? There might be another win on the schedule (but probably not). Next up: @Nebraska.
Northwestern Wildcats - (Lost to Notre Dame, 31-21) Strange things are afoot in the Big Ten. Northwestern might win the West while going winless in non-conference play. They might win a B1G division despite not having a running game. Is the apocalypse nigh? The Wildcats did not have enough to beat the Domers at home. You had one job, and you screwed it up for everyone. Own it. Do not blame it on your butlers. The loss has no impact on the conference race. Next up: @Iowa.
Ohio State Buckeyes - (Defeated Nebraska, 36-31) I was tempted to downgrade this team, but I will wait for this week’s earnings report against the Spartans. When one looks at Urban Meyer, one sees a “Buckeye in Winter.” A road loss to Purdue seemed like the beginning of the end, and getting pushed by a two-win team at home - after a bye - does not inspire confidence in a turnaround. This is not the Ohio State, nor the head coach, that we have come to expect. There were audible boos as the home team left the field at halftime. Next up: @Michigan State.
Michigan State Spartans - (Defeated Maryland, 24-3) On the plus side, the Spartan defense completely shut down the one-dimensional Maryland offense. On the minus side, MSU only managed to pass for 87 yards on the Terp defense (it was windy, we know). Injuries continue to hold back the Spartans. Defeating the Buckeyes would lead to an upgrade. Who wants to lose this next game the least? Next up: Ohio State.
Nebraska Cornhuskers - (Lost to Ohio State, 36-31) The Cornhuskers were not completely outclassed by the Buckeyes, which is a welcome change in Huskerdom. The future looks brighter than it did a month ago, but special teams and youthful mistakes continue to plague Frost’s squad. Next up: Illinois.
Wisconsin Badgers - (Defeated Rutgers, 31-17) It is very difficult to get up to play Rutgers. Wisconsin sleepwalked to a win, nonetheless. The health of Alex Hornibrook is a concern - he suffered another concussion. This is not a vintage Badger team, but Michigan might have softened up the Lions for them. Next up: @Penn State.
Indiana Hoosiers - (Idle) The Hoosiers have a chance to foil the Terps’ last good chance at a sixth win. I suspect we know how this will go...Maryland will end up going bowling. Next up: Maryland.
Minnesota Golden Gophers - (Lost to Illinois, 55-31) Blech. The Fightin’ Flecks got boat raced by the Illini. The Gophers allowed 646 yards to Lovie Smith’s offensive juggernaut. Doesn’t this team have any respect for themselves? At least they fired the defensive coordinator. The Gophers are clearly the worst team in the weaker division. Next up: Purdue.
Penn State Nittany Lions - (Lost to Michigan, 42-7) I anticipated downgrading this team last week, and I was right. The Nits collapsed like a wet taco. Holy cow, they got creamed. Wisconsin will try to use the same physical style in Happy Valley this week, and it might well succeed. Next up: Wisconsin.
Iowa Hawkeyes - (Lost to Purdue, 38-36) Purdue Harbor claims its second victim this season. This is the second straight close loss for the Hawkeyes, and they face the division leaders next. Brohm’s team is improved, but good teams do not lose to recent editions of the Boilers in consecutive years. What does Iowa have left to play for? Next up: Northwestern.
Maryland Terrapins - (Lost to Michigan State, 24-3) Maryland had all sorts of turmoil last week, and that manifested into an anemic performance. MSU has a good defense, sure, but a potential bowl team should be able to gain more than 100 yards against a three-loss team. The Terps can secure bowl eligibility with a win this week, which would be a considerable accomplishment under these turbulent circumstances. Next up: @Indiana.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights - (Lost to Wisconsin, 31-17) Get ready for a bunch of sad Chris Ash images this weekend. Next up: Michigan.
Feel free to laud my grace, charm, and judgment in the comments.