At the beginning of the season we gave a quarterly review of the performance of each Big Ten team and graded them based on how they did compared to pre-season expectations. As the season progressed, so did the quarterly reviews. About a month ago, we gave our third quarter review. Now, with the regular season over, we conclude the series with our season in review. Each school’s grade is based on its overall / conference record, and how the team improved or declined throughout the season based on their expectations.
Urban Meyer did a heck of a job in his first season as the Buckeyes head coach. Despite a few close calls against Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin and Michigan, 12-0 Ohio State escaped the season unscathed with the possibility of an Associated Press National Title; despite being on probation.
Pat Fitzgerald continues to improve the rising Wildcats! However, although 9-3 looks impressive, which it is, Northwestern could have been 12-0 in the regular season if they had not given up fourth quarter leads in all three of their losses. Nonetheless, the Wildcats are on to their fifth straight bowl! Fitz is doing a great job of helping transform NU into a Big Ten force. Coach of the Year, Bill O’Brien, did everything he could, and more, to keep a competitive team on the field at Penn State. An 8-4 record gives the Nittany Lions a lot to build on in the future.
Michigan had a fine season…more was expected of them after an 11-2 record last season…but losses to Alabama, Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Ohio State to account for their 8-4 record are explainable. Especially considering Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Alabama have only one loss between the three of them. Nebraska had a very nice season that would have given them a B+ grade if they would have been able to make the trip to Indy for the conference championship game. But losing to a 7-5 team 70-31 in the conference championship game is an embarrassment! Wisconsin had a pretty ugly season, but they did what was required to get to the championship game and dominated once they were there. Good enough for a C.
Not much was expected of either of these two this season. They were expected to have fair records and to have a shot at a bowl game, and that is where they both are. If Purdue and Minnesota can beat Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, respectively, in their bowl games, it’ll be a fine season for both schools!
Much more was expected out of the Spartans this season. Therefore, even with a 6-6 record and a bowl berth, Michigan State receives a D. They had a number of close games that could have gone either way…but the inability of the Spartans to finish off their opponents earned them 6-6 and not better.
The grades for these teams are explained simply. Iowa had an awful season that ended with a six game losing streak. A 4-8 record should have been 8-4. Nothing was expected out of Indiana and Illinois, and they lived up to their expectations. It was another tough season for the Hoosiers and Illini.