First and foremost, let’s all keep coach Jerry Kill in our thoughts and prayers as he recovers from a seizure suffered moments before halftime of the Gophers 29-12 victory over Western Illinois. Coach Kill is a fighter and one of the toughest human beings on the planet. I have no doubt he will make a speedy recovery.
CBS Sports’ Gregg Doyel does fantastic work and he wrote a great piece on Coach Kill following his latest seizure. Doyel respectfully pointed out all the wonderful things about Kill and how complicated his condition really is. He wasn’t afraid to ask the question on everybody’s mind either.
As for the Big Ten, it was a wild ride on Saturday. Penn State looked human under Bill O’Brien, losing to Central Florida at home. Purdue scared the heck out of Notre Dame, and Wisconsin doesn’t know how to spike the ball with no timeouts left. Let’s get to it, shall we?
1. Ohio State: Kenny Guiton is a markedly better passer than Braxton Miller. Sure Miller is a better athlete, but I wonder if Guiton’s leadership and passing may make the Buckeyes even better. I’m not calling for Miller to be benched once he’s healthy. He’s far too good of an athlete to keep on the bench, but perhaps Guiton should split time with Miller. Or maybe make Guiton the starting quarterback and sprinkle in Miller to keep defenses off balance. Just a thought. A thought that will probably enrage Buckeye fans.
2. Michigan: I laughed at people that thought Michigan was the best team in the Big Ten because they beat Notre Dame. The Irish are a shadow of last year’s team. To top it off, the Wolverines needed a goal line stand to beat the Akron Zips.
3. Northwestern: Even when the Wildcats are good, I have a tough time taking them seriously. Why is that? Is it because they’re a small school? Because they have rigid academics? Because they need other teams’ fans to fill up their stadium? I think all of those things. However, Pat Fitzgerald may have his best team ever this year.
4. Michigan State: Sparty put up 547 yards of offense and no, that is not a misprint. Granted it was against Youngstown State, but any progress you see from this offense is encouraging. If MSU can just be mediocre defensively, they can win 10 games.
5. Wisconsin: Did you hear that sound outside your window this morning? Those were Badger tears. Not only is Joel Stave a below average quarterback, but apparently he doesn’t know how to spike the ball with no timeouts left. Stave did take a knee, but by taking a knee the clock keeps running! He needed to hurry his team up to the line but instead he stood there begging the refs that his knee was down instead of hustling his team to the line so they could spike it and get the field goal off. As far as the game was concerned, two things stood out to me: a) Melvin Gordon may be the most physically gifted running back Wisconsin has ever had and b) the Badgers are big and slow defensively.
6. Nebraska: Not so sure I should be putting the Huskers this high but I like their offense and their schedule. The Huskers were outscored 38-0 down the stretch. The way Nebraska is playing defense must be driving their fans nuts. It simply wasn’t Nebraska football. What’s also strange is that Bo Pelini is a defensive coach. Is it a talent issue or a coaching issue? Texas has a coaching issue, but for Nebraska, I’m not so sure. I tend to think it’s more of a talent issue on the defensive side of the ball in Lincoln.
7. Penn State: Is this the beginning of the end for Penn State? We all knew the sanctions were eventually going to catch up with the Nittany Lions. I think Penn State is going to struggle to win six games this year. The Penn State defense hasn’t been very good and if you remember last year, a veteran defense led the way to eight wins. This Penn State team has a young defense and a true freshman quarterback and Bill O’Brien can only do so much. Does O’Brien have wandering eyes this off-season?
8. Minnesota: Jerry Kill had a seizure and the Gophers were up by only a point to an FCS team at halftime. Things were bad in Minneapolis. Then the Gophers found a little inner strength and exerted their will by pounding the rock and wearing down the Leathernecks to a 29-12 victory. Sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson went down with a hamstring injury in the first half and gave way to redshirt freshman Mitch Leidner, who like Nelson, relied more on his legs than his arm. The Gophers need to solve the passing game before Big Ten season as they can’t afford to be one-dimensional.
9. Indiana: Indiana showcased a “bend, but not break” defense surrendering 409 yards to Bowling Green. Despite the yardage, the Hoosiers didn’t give up an offensive touchdown, which is major progress. The Hoosiers’ Nate Sudfield may be the best passing quarterback in the conference. He has thrown for 917 yards and 10 touchdowns with only two interceptions so far this year.
10. Illinois: It was a valiant effort by the Illini against Washington, clawing to within a touchdown with less than nine minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Eventually the better team won. However, if you’re an Illinois fan, you have to had been encouraged with the play of your team early on.
11. Iowa: This game was as ugly as the Cy-Hawk trophy itself. Fullback Mark Weisman continues to be the Hawkeyes’ best offensive weapon.
12. Purdue: Awww look at cute little Purdue fighting and scrapping against Notre Dame. Adorable! Facebook likes.