Earlier in 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. About a month ago, we gave our mid-season review. Now, three-quarters of the season is over, and each school’s grade is based on its overall/ conference record, and how the team has improved or declined since the first half of the season.
Ohio State: Still undefeated; what else is there to say? Ohio State may have had an overtime scare against Purdue and let Indiana score 49 against them, but they came away with W’s, and that’s what matters. This week is a bye for the Buckeyes before they close out their season traveling to Wisconsin and then hosting Michigan. Those are two tough teams playing for a championship game appearance. Let’s see how the Buckeyes can close it out.
Nebraska finds themselves atop the Legends division after victories over Northwestern, Michigan, and Michigan State. Their wins may not have looked pretty at times, and the Huskers certainly show weaknesses at times, but they came away with wins over the teams they had to beat. Now, they control their own destiny on the way to Indianapolis. Penn State has been impressive since their 0-2 start. After what this team has been though, 6-3 overall and 4-1 in the conference is great. With their only conference loss coming to Ohio State, Penn State is in great position to build their program for the future. They also have a chance to play “spoiler” against Nebraska this Saturday.
Northwestern could be 9-0 by now, easily. Twice in the past four weeks, they let fourth-quarter leads (against Penn State and Nebraska) slip away. They have looked very impressive for most of the season, but they lack the ability to play all four quarters of a game. They’ll need to play all four quarters if they want to beat Michigan this Saturday. Michigan has played well this season, with only one conference loss to Nebraska after Denard Robinson went down. However, they needed to beat Nebraska and they didn’t. They blew their chance at controlling their own destiny by losing to the Huskers. That causes them to lose a lot of ground for me.
Because Wisconsin hasn’t sealed the Leaders division, which they should have done long ago, the Hoosiers find themselves in the hunt for a trip to Indianapolis. Give Indiana credit, though! Two straight wins against Illinois and Iowa give them the chance to control their destiny if they continue to win the games they need to. Wisconsin is up for the Hoosiers this weekend. Obviously, this will be the most important game of their season! Can the Hoosiers take control of this rare opportunity, or will they blow it and miss their chance?
Wisconsin has the least impressive 6-3 record I think I have ever seen. Because they have not been able to take control of a division that had been handed to them on a platter, Indiana, of all teams, is still a threat to take the division. A motivated Indiana team is next, with Ohio State and Penn State after that. It’ll be a tough three weeks for Bucky. Let’s see if they can earn their spot.
Iowa’s three straight losses have taken them out of the hunt for the Legends division. Michigan State’s three losses out of their last four games have done the same for them. It appeared that both teams had the ability to make division championship runs this season, but they haven’t played quality football, plain and simple. They may get into a little bowl game with a winning record, but that’s it! For both teams, this season could have been much more.
Purdue is the most disappointing in this group because they really seemed to be the one team capable of challenging the Badgers in the Leaders division. They don’t even have a conference win! Illinois is also 0-5 in conference play. But Illinois was not expected to do much this season anyway. Minnesota started out with a nice 4-0 record, but has taken a hard fall in conference play. A 5-4 overall record is nice for the Gophers at this point in the season, but their inability to compete in the conference is a failure for Minnesota.