Last week I told Spartan fans it could always be worse. Then they gave up 54 points to Northwestern. See? It can always be worse! Unless you’re talking about the poor Badger’s ridiculous schedule. They probably couldn’t have had a more difficult path. But as Michigan State enters dangerously close to John L. Smith territory, I’d like to urge fans of all teams to look on the brighter side of things. There is almost always a way things could be worse. Even for you, Rutgers.
The Big Ten has 4 teams ranked in the AP top ten for the second week in a row after accomplishing the feat for the first time since 1960. We certainly don’t have to look back very far to remember a much lesser Big Ten and with multiple legitimate playoff contenders, there’s plenty of reason to celebrate.
With that in mind, I’m going to take the glass half full approach this week if it kills me, though it may make some entries brief. Like always, individual rankings can be found in the graphic at the bottom of the page. Enjoy.
(Indicates 1st place votes) [Avg Rank]
1. Ohio State (6) [1.3] Record: 6-0 (3-0) Previous Rank: 1
For the Buckeyes, the party starts when the rain stops. J.T. Barrett and co overcame a ten point deficit at Camp Randall to force overtime and eventually scrape out a win against the Badgers. It was no coincidence that their run came when conditions cleared up. Things should be much easier against Penn State next week.
2. Michigan (2) [1.8] Record: 6-0 (3-0) Previous Rank: 2
A week off comes at a nice time, halfway through the schedule, giving Michigan a chance to rest up and heal while the coaching staff hits the recruiting trail. That’s a scary thought for the rest of the Big Ten. After watching the Buckeyes struggle thoroughly against Wisconsin, Michigan should feel confident about their visit to Columbus. To be blunt, that game is likely the only speed bump remaining on the Wolverines schedule.
3. Nebraska [3.6] Record: 6-0 (3-0) Previous Rank: 4
Terrell Newby had another productive day in the backfield to lead the Cornhuskers in a back and forth win against Indiana. That tough road win was rewarded with a bump in the AP Poll to number 8, the highest Nebraska has been ranked since 2011. Deep breath. Ahhhh, smells like corn.
4. Wisconsin [3.6] Record: 4-2 (1-2) Previous Rank: 3
They had Ohio State on the ropes. Corey Clement is a man’s man and he helped the Badgers move the ball all over the Buckeyes much lauded defense to the tune of 450 total yards. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough in the end and after two brutal games, Wisconsin finds themselves with losses to two of the best teams in the country by a score each. The Badgers have proved they can compete with anybody and still have a very real chance to win the Big Ten West and earn a spot in Indy. They will likely need to win out and the next two games come against their Big Ten West competitors Iowa and Nebraska. These are statement games with no margin for error.
5. Iowa [5.1] Record: 5-2 (3-1) Previous Rank: T5
Iowa looked much improved while jumping out to a 35-7 halftime lead over Purdue. For the sake of positivity, we’ll pretend Purdue has a pulse and didn’t score a bunch of points late in the game. Desmond King added a pick-six for good measure in case anybody has forgotten about the reigning Jim Thorpe Award winner. An upcoming game against Wisconsin is season defining for both teams with the loser all but out of the Big Ten West race.
6. Indiana [6.6] Record: 3-3 (1-2) Previous Rank: T5
It’s a shame tough, close losses to good teams don’t count as partial wins. Devine Redding averaged over five yards a carry but the Hoosiers couldn’t find the end zone enough to beat those pesky Cornhuskers. A visit to take on the up and down Wildcats looms before the likes of Maryland and Rutgers.
7. Penn State [7.1] Record: 4-2 (2-1) Previous Rank: 7
Can a timely bye week be enough to shock the world in The Shoe? I’m not allowed to answer this week but use your imagination! Glass half full, glass half full, glass half full, glass half full.
8. Minnesota [8.4] Record: 4-2 (1-2) Previous Rank: 9
TRACY CLAEYS HEARD ME! Ok, probably not but without Mitch Leidner, he was forced to do that thing I’ve been screaming about. They ran the ball! A lot! And good things followed with Rodney Smith running all over the Terrapins. The defense did the rest and OH MY GOD WE MIGHT HAVE FOUND A FORMULA FOR WINNING. Please don’t forget where your bread is buttered when Leidner comes back.
9. Northwestern [8.5] Record: 3-3 (2-1) Previous Rank: 11
The Wildcats had another ho-hum weekend casually dropping 54 points on Michigan State. Wait. 54 POINTS?! Northwestern walked into East Lansing and lit up the scoreboard like it’s 2011, the last time they dared rip off so many points. Mark Dantonio had never given up that many points in his career and it’s been 13 years since the Spartans allowed so many points. They’re going to have nightmares about Justin Jackson and Austin Carr whom they had no answers for. Northwestern has officially revived their season while driving the final stake through the Spartans.
10. Maryland [9.6] Record: 4-2 (1-2) Previous Rank: 8
Hills didn’t play and Tyrrell Pigrome didn’t fare so well but all is not lost. You’re not Rutgers. You have a fresh new coach. There’s still a path to bowl eligibility. Oh, and the Terrapins welcome the corpse of Michigan State. It’s like a zombie 300.
11. Michigan State [10.6] Record: 2-4 (0-3) Previous Rank: 10
Glass half full, glass half full Mama once told me if you don’t have something nice to say… Glass half full, glass half full Hey, even thought it might momentarily feel like it, John L. Smith is NOT coaching the Spartans. As long as Mark Dantonio is at the helm, there is hope for the future. The future, of course, is next season and beyond but at least fans are still coming out in mass to support the team.
12. Purdue [12.5] Record: 3-3 (1-2) Previous Rank: 12
David Blough threw five (5!) touchdowns. So what if they came after trailing by 28 points. Five touchdowns!!! Which led to? Purdue reaching their boiling point with Darrell Hazell after a 9-33 record as head coach! WHOOOOO FOR NEW COACHING STAFF EXCITEMENT!
13. Illinois [12.8] Record: 2-4 (1-2) Previous Rank: 13
Lovie Smith got his first conference win and the Illini get a free trip to the gorgeous Big House as a reward. To be honest, I’m not sure how things could get any better.
14. Rutgers [13.8] Record: 2-5 (0-4) Previous Rank: 14
Rutgers avoided a third straight shutout and hasn’t been booted from the Big Ten yet! That’s as much a reason to party as any.