Sep 21, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner (7) drops back for a pass during pre game before a game against the San Jose State Spartans at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
We come off a week for the Big Ten without many compelling matchups. The classic soft week before things jump off and get going around the Leaders and Legends Divisions. With that in mind, here are some things that stood out to me after week four:
– Ohio State looks like a well oiled machine.
– Indiana still stinks.
– Michigan State still doesn’t have a quarterback.
– Minnesota’s Mitch Leidner looks like a cross between Tim Tebow and Collin Klein.
– Outside of the Indiana and Michigan schools, the Big Ten looked really impressive.
– Ohio State and Minnesota may have quarterback controversies.
As we get deeper into conference play, I think all Big Ten fans are anxious to see how their respective teams stack up against conference opponents. Here is a look at my power rankings heading into the full conference schedule.
1. Ohio State: This is a no-brainer in my opinion. After Michigan’s close calls against below average teams like Akron and Connecticut, it’s clearer than ever. Kenny Guiton may be playing himself into the Heisman race. Urban Meyer can’t bench him now, can he? We shall see…
2. Northwestern: Pat Fitzgerald scheduled cupcake Maine and dished out $300,000-plus in the process. The Wildcats played their least impressive game to date, winning “just” 35-21 over the Black Bears. Paul Kariya wasn’t running onto the field to save the day for Maine. Did you know that Kariya registered 100 points in just 39 games for Maine in the 1992-93 season and won the Heisman Tro…? Oh wait, wrong sport.
3. Michigan: I know the Wolverines have barely beaten two pretty bad teams the last two weeks, but the bottom line is the Wolverines are still unbeaten and have the second best roster in the conference. Quarterback Devin Gardner, who got off to a hot start, has cooled off substantially and that will need to be corrected ASAP now that the Big Ten schedule has begun.
4. Wisconsin: The Badgers have beaten absolutely no one. They have wins over Massachusetts, Tennessee Tech, and the worst team in the Big Ten – my team down at No. 12, the Purdue Boilermakers. We know this about the Badgers, they can run the ball as well as anyone in the country. Despite new leadership under head coach Gary Andersen, the Badgers look eerily similar to the Wisconsin teams of the last 20 years. I think we can all agree that this is the recipe for success in Madison — giant offensive lines, good running backs, and opportunistic defenses.
5. Nebraska: At one point in the second quarter, the Cornhuskers were losing to the South Dakota State Jackrabbits 17-14. That deficit didn’t last long as the Huskers ended up rolling SDSU 59-20. It was a week that head coach Bo Pelini would like to forget. The week started off with Pelini telling Huskers legend Tommy Frazier to get lost and ended with a released recording of him telling fans to bleep-off after a game against Ohio State two years ago. Nebraska was once again poor defensively and surrendered 465 yards to the FCS level Jackrabbits. I was on record earlier saying that the Huskers were going to win 10 or 11 games this year. Boy did I whiff on that prediction. You know what they say, you can’t spell Pelini without four L’s. I think they are right.
6. Penn State: My prediction on the Nittany Lions may have been wrong. This looks to be a team that will improve as the season progresses. Thanks to outstanding coaching and an impressive young quarterback in Christian Hackenberg. They are thin at certain positions and are iffy defensively, but I think the O’Brien to Hackenberg marriage is going to work out beautifully.
7. Minnesota: The Gophers put forth their most dominant performance to date, running over the San Jose State Spartans. Minnesota rushed for 353 yards, with 151 of those by quarterback Mitch Leidner on top of his four touchdowns. Tailback David Cobb chipped in with 125 yards and two scores himself. Good second half adjustments by defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys held San Jose State quarterback David Fales to 145 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions after halftime. Fales lit up the Gopher secondary for 294 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.
8. Michigan State: The Spartans hung with an average Notre Dame team. It looked like these teams were trying to out mediocre one another. The Spartans do have a great defense, but they are on the field so much, because of how bad their offense is. I think they may wear down in some games and give up points. In other words, I can see a lot of outcomes being similar to the Fighting Irish defeat, with the Spartans losing a lot of 17-13 type games.
9. Iowa: The Hawkeyes scored two defensive touchdowns and two special teams touchdowns in their win versus Western Michigan. Junior return man Kevonte Martin-Manley returned punts of 83 yards and 63 yard for touchdowns in a 59 second span. Next up, the Hawkeyes battle the Gophers for Floyd of Rosedale. The Hawkeyes are playing better than anticipated and next week’s game against the Minnesota should be a good one.
10. Illinois: The Fighting Illini, who I have sitting at No. 10 in the power rankings, may be the most improved team in the Big Ten. Illinois is coming off a bye week and play Miami (Ohio) in Champaign this Saturday. They open up their Big Ten schedule against Nebraska on the road on Oct. 5.
11. Indiana: The Hoosiers defense still stinks. They can chuck the ball around a bit, but they can’t play a lick of defense. It’s essentially the same IU team we have seen for the last two decades. After finishing with a 2-2 non-conference record over four winnable games, they are going to need to find a way to go .500 in the conference to reach a bowl game. That is going to be extremely difficult for a team that can’t stop anyone.
12. Purdue: The Boilermakers are an easy team to root for. They have a likable head coach and pose little threat against Big Ten competition. It’s too bad the Boilermakers aren’t on the Gophers schedule, because if they were, Minnesota would be just one win from bowl eligibility.