As a lifelong fan of a Big Ten football program, I've developed a pretty thick skin for the slings and arrows hurled at my team and conference from other fans. When your league's most exciting games of the week are Minnesota hanging on to beat Northwestern (albeit thanks to a pretty sweet 100-yard kick return) and Michigan State staving off a valiant Purdue comeback attempt (that's one nice thing, Purdue. I've got a few more coming) I can totally understand how outsiders are underwhelmed.
But our lot in life is not to be underwhelmed by the Big Ten. Our lot in life is to watch multiple 11 a.m. games and drink beer before the sun comes up. Our lot in life is to have "Punt Lyfe" tattooed across our knuckles and mustard stains on our favorite hoodies. This is the Big Ten; 3 yards and a cloud of dust was invented here! Love it or leave it, y'all! Anyways, on to this past weekend's crappy slate of games.
Big Ten East
S&P+ rank: 77th overall, 51st offense, 92nd defense
Biggest strength: I've mentioned his name multiple times in this space, but Tevin Coleman deserves so much better than this Indiana team. If that dude were on a team with a pulse, he would be a Heisman contender. Fifteen carries, 219 yards, three touchdowns. Poor bastard. As I was writing this, Coleman won Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week.
There it is. Tevin Coleman named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week. #iufb— Mike Miller (@MikeMillerHT) October 13, 2014
Biggest weakness: Where to begin? Oh, maybe at the beginning! Indiana gave up 28 points in the first quarter to Orego... no that's not right, to Bayl... no, not them either. Who the hell... oh my God. Indiana gave up 28 points in one quarter to Iowa?!?!?! Just shut it down, Hoosiers. They were also 3-of-15 on third down, had nine penalties for 110 yards, threw three picks and lost their starting quarterback, Nate Sudfeld, to a separated shoulder. EVEN MOAR BREAKING INDIANA NEWS AS I WRITE THIS:
Remaining schedule: Returns home to face Michigan State. This game could be a problem for the Hoosiers.
S&P+ rank: 58th overall, 82nd offense, 43rd defense
Biggest strength: Participated in fun, team-building bye week activities... I'm assuming. I just hope nothing terrible happens to Stefon Diggs during the trust fall! /removes arms from chain that is set to catch him //forgets other guys in chain are offensive linemen and didn't need my help.
Biggest weakness: This is by no means a weakness, I just wanted to include it somewhere. The coverage of non-revenue sports over at Testudo Times is excellent. Leading up to a bye week in football, they had multiple articles about the Maryland soccer teams, the volleyball team and the field hockey team.
Remaining schedule: Faces offensive juggernaut Iowa this weekend in what will probably be a 6-3 punt-a-palooza.
S&P+ rank: 36th overall, 48th offense, 23rd defense
Biggest strength: HOLY CRAP THEY WON A GAME! MICHIGAN WON A GAME! THEY'RE BACK! SIGN BRADY HOKE TO A 10-YEAR EXTENSION! ALL IS RIGHT WITH THE WORLD!
Biggest weakness: The Wolverines barely won and are still really crappy. I went over to Maize n Brew to see what their thoughts were on the not at all dominating or in any way convincing that things might be turning around victory, and hoo boy was I... well, I'll just pull some quotes.
The Wolverines boast one of the more talented rosters in the country, and it was only a question of when that talent would walk out prepared to do what it takes. Tonight, they were prepared.
Champions are born from fire. And Michigan fields champions.
OMG puke city! A Michigan Man is born from parents that don't speak to one another after conception.
Remaining schedule: Wait a second! Penn State wasn't even offside on that onside kick! This game was malarkey.
Ugh. Whatever, Michigan. Enjoy your "win."
S&P+ rank: 10th overall, 11th offense, 11th defense (whoa)
Biggest strength: Still probably the prohibitive favorite to win the conference, maybe. Tony Lippett caught seven balls for 138 yards and a touchdown. Had more fans stay for the whole game on the road than at home.
Biggest weakness: Really let Purdue hang around for a long time. Like, so long that Purdue was driving for a game-tying touchdown with under two minutes to go in the game. Also (*puts on REPORTER HAT*), according to The Only Colors, MSU has been outscored in the fourth quarter 47-7 against teams from the Power 5 conferences. Never one to just take what a Michigan State fan tells me at face value, I checked the box scores and goodness gracious, the only points the Spartans have scored in the fourth quarter quarter against a Power 5 school is the pick-six they got against Purdue to seal the victory. I get it, Sparty. Sixty minutes is a long time to pay attention to one thing. I've never seen a full episode of 60 Minutes, for instance.
Remaining schedule: Continuing its Tour de Indiana with a stop in Bloomington. I'd be pretty excited if this were a basketball game from three years ago.
S&P+ rank: 17th overall, 8th offense, 33rd defense
Biggest strength: Moved up two spots in the polls despite not playing. Just SEC bias all over the place, smdh.
Biggest weakness: Unlike Maryland, Ohio State spent its bye week participating in Woodbury Arenaesque fights against zombies at midfield of the Shoe at midnight. They only lost a few walk-ons, so nothing that should hinder the team moving forward.
Remaining schedule: 5-1 Rutgers comes to town and Gary Nova has some pent-up interceptions he's just waiting to unleash coming off the bye.
S&P+ rank: 27th overall, 60th offense, 13th defense
Biggest strength: Christian Hackenberg will probably still get drafted pretty high when he declares for the draft? Uniforms always look sharp, especially during a night game. Uhhhh, limited Michigan to 64 rushing yards as a team?
Biggest weakness: Didn't beat Michigan. The same Michigan that lost to just about everyone else it played. The same Michigan that didn't have a quarterback playing with four fully operational limbs for some of the game. The same Michigan that only had 256 yards of total offense! Penn State only had 214, so woof to that as well. The Nittany Lions also had a really, really bad fake punt:
Remaining schedule: The folks Black Shoe Diaries are openly wondering if PSU wins another game this year. I mean, it still gets to play Illinois, so let's pump the brakes here, guys. But, uh, there aren't too many other games on the remaining schedule that I'd mark in the win column right now.
S&P+ rank: 41st overall, 33rd offense, 58th defense
Biggest strength: Rutgers' bye-week activity was making plans to move out of New Jersey as soon as college is over. It does take at least a week to get this done; New Jersey makes it very difficult to leave. Don't go there.
Biggest weakness: LOL. Their second-leading receiver has 13 catches this year. /checks to make sure Wisconsin's has more //sees Sam Arneson has 14 HA! RUTGERS STINKS!
Remaining schedule: This is the Scarlet Knights "Welcome to the Big Ten" moment. Back-to-back road games against Ohio State and Nebraska. I hate all three of these teams, but Rutgers the least, so godspeed, Rutgers. Don't lose by more than 30.
Big Ten West
S&P+ rank: 79th overall, 63rd offense, 85th defense
Biggest strength: Putting in a new quarterback too late. Seriously, if you're going to burn Aaron Bailey's redshirt, why not do it at the beginning of the game? You know Reilly O'Toole stinks. Who cares? The Illini are in disarray.
Biggest weakness: Obeying the law.
#Illini asst. coach Ryan Cubit arrested early Sunday morning on DUI charge. Cubit serves as director of student-athlete development— Shannon Ryan (@sryantribune) October 12, 2014
And rushing defense. That is a big weakness, too.
Remaining schedule: Does it really matter? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
S&P+ rank: 61st overall, 94th offense, 36th defense
Biggest strength: Is... is it offense? It can't be offense. I won't let it be offense! IOWA'S BIGGEST STRENGTH IS ITS DEFENSE AND WILL BE FOREVERMORE! Especially since one of their first-quarter touchdowns was a pick-six.
Biggest weakness: The Hawkeyes somehow scored 45 points and didn't have a 100-yard rusher or receiver. Iowa also ain't played nobody, Pawl. Seriously, though, look at their schedule. Their leading rusher is averaging 3.4 yards per carry. I don't know, maybe I'm just grasping at straws here.
Remaining schedule: If Iowa goes on the road and beats Maryland this week, I'll be impressed. And isn't that what every Big Ten team is looking for? My approval?
S&P+ rank: 37th overall, 64th offense, 18th defense
Biggest strength: Winning without needing a quarterback. The only major passing statistical categories in which Mitch Leidner is in the top 10 (in a supposed 10-team conference) are yards per attempt and interceptions. And yet here's Minnesota sitting at 5-1. Gopher fans are particularly proud of their team so far. I can't wait for them to finish 7-5.
Biggest weakness: Well, it probably has to be the passing game, but Leidner doesn't do much to hurt the Gophers through the air and can also run the ball effectively. Sixty percent of his interceptions came against TCU and it turns out the Horned Frogs are pretty good. He's the vanilla version of what Wisconsin thought Tanner McEvoy would be.
Remaining schedule: What am I talking about? Northwestern had more total yards, more passing yards, more rushing yards (and more yards per rush) and more time of possession (which still matters in the plodding Big Ten). I think Minnesota got lucky that Northwestern's special teams are terrible. Oh, the Gophers play Purdue and Illinois next.
S&P+ rank: 24th overall, 31st offense, 28th defense
Biggest strength: Nebraska had the week off to lick its wounds from the Michigan State game and I'm assuming go back to the farm and lift hundreds of pounds of corn over their head.
Biggest weakness: Don't have any pro teams to occupy them during their bye weeks. If you are a Nebraska football fan, what did you do this weekend? Go outside? Ugh, that sounds terrible.
Remaining schedule: Get a road trip to Northwestern this week. I forgot to mention this last week amongst the things I hated about Northwestern, so I'll put it here. In between the third and fourth quarters, the PA system blares this song:
And everyone does! Everyone puts their hands up in the air! /hears long horn blast //instinctively starts jumping.
S&P+ rank: 57th overall, 91st offense, 31st defense
Biggest strength: Coming off a huge win against Wisconsin, Northwestern looked to double its bubble and beat Wisconsin West and couldn't. Usually you only get double bubble during Happy Hour on weekDAYS, idiots. Justin Jackson rushed for over 100 yards and Trevor Siemian sure did throw the ball a lot!
Biggest weakness: Special teams. And "one plays." If only 10-to-15 things had gone completely, oppositely different, than Northwestern would have won. OK, Pat Fitzgerald. Whatever you say. But, yeah, you probably should have beaten Minnesota.
Remaining schedule: Nebraska comes calling in what I'm sure will look like a Huskers home game. I hope the Bluestone is ready. They were very friendly there.
S&P+ rank: 66th overall, 66th offense, 67th defense (whoa, two teams with nearly the same rank for each category!)
Biggest strength: And now to the part of this post I was dreading the most. I will say some nice things about Purdue. The Boilermakers played valiantly against Michigan State. They followed the Spartan ethos of "you either come back with your shield or on it." Akeem Hunt had three touchdowns and Danny Anthrop had nine catches for 133 yards. Their kicker made all five of his attempts (four extra points and one field goal).
Biggest weakness: Phew, now that that's over with, Purdue still lost. Darrell Hazell is 1-10 in conference and 4-15 overall at the helm. The Boilermakers were also 2-of-12 on third downs. Gross.
Remaining schedule: Not to sound overly pessimistic, but I don't see another win on Purdue's schedule. HOWEVAH (one more nice thing), if the Boilermakers keep improving, it wouldn't shock me if they beat someone before the year is up. Looking at you, Indiana.
S&P+ rank: 25th overall, 35th offense, 27th defense
Biggest strength: Melvin Gordon. Hitting golf balls from the top of the stadium towards midfield.
Michael Caputo is pretty good, too.
Biggest weakness: Just about everything else. Look, I know we won this week. But this team is not a team that is built to succeed the rest of the way. Everything needs to be reevaluated... except for how many times Gordon gets the ball... wait, that too. Give it to him more. There is talent on this team and a few key players are returning from injury soon. I just hope the coaches can figure it all out in time.
Remaining schedule: The Eagles and the Badgers are on a bye this week. Seriously, people of Nebraska, tell me what to do this weekend!