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Opponent Watch: LET'S MAKE THIS FAST

In honor of Bowling Green, I'll give you the tl;dr up front -- Falcons: Decent. Everything else ever: Just the worst.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

[ED: I did this before. I'm doing it again. You'll catch on.]


Just awful for a four-quarter stretch across two games. Pretty all right otherwise. Who knew a Week 3 bye would have come right on time?


Bowling Green (2-1, 0-0 MAC), Sept. 20

Last week: Beat Indiana, 45-42

What happened: They won a screamer against a team designed to win screamers. They ran 113 goddang plays on offense. Quarterback's arm didn't fall off after 73 passing attempts.

Why you should be afraid: Quarterback's arm didn't fall off. And by empirical measure, James Knapke appears perfectly capable of running Dino Babers' frantic offense. Knapke isn't the playmaker that Matt Johnson might have been, but that's a far cry from saying he isn't dangerous. The Falcons have plenty of other guys who can handle whirly-gigging in open space just fine.

Why you shouldn't be afraid: Quarterback's arm may be about to fall off. I mean, for goodness sake, the guy threw 22 passes in the fourth quarter alone against the Hoosiers. Sure, he was fine then, but Bowling Green should maybe look into getting a closer if it wants to keep him on that sort of pitch count.

Also: Disinterest in defense, is a MAC team.

Hubris: Bowling Green out-Indiana'd Indiana, and that's impressive. Indiana has also scored a total of 44 points against Wisconsin over its last four meetings. WISCONSIN BY A LOT.

South Florida (1-2, 0-0 I seriously forget which conference), Sept. 27

Last week: Lost to NC State, 49-17

What happened: Behold:


I have no clue how ESPN's QBR works, but methinks the small sample size is throwing it off. I just really want Mike White to know he isn't the horriblest passer, even if it's little comfort to know that the lower rung is his teammate. (Not seen in box score: 75 of White's 82 yards came on ONE PLAY.)

What Quinton Flowers can do, however, is run, and that was about the only bright spot for the Bulls on an awful day. Flowers had six carries for 32 yards as the change-of-pace quarterback, complementing Marlon Mack' 51 yards on 12 carries.

Why you should be afraid: USF has posted a winning record within the last five seasons. And it, um, played Maryland sort of tight earlier this season.

Why you shouldn't be afraid: The team blogger has to make an argument that the game wasn't the worst in program history.


@ Northwestern (0-2, 0-0 B1G), Oct. 4

Last week: Tie with BYE

Two weeks ago: Lost to Northern Illinois, 23-15

What happened: The Big Ten put on a grand fireworks show of shit. In this analogy, Northwestern was the gold streamer that flew straight up and popped and made everyone say, "Oh, huh, look at that." The loss would have been pretty spectacular on its own, but pretty tame in context. At this point, this is just what Northwestern does.

Why you should be afraid: Trevor Siemian shouldn't be too high on the Wildcats' list of problems. At least he's been consistently non-awful so far.

Why you shouldn't be afraid: Pretty much because of everything else.

Hubris: Northwestern has fallen back to the point where it will have "pulled a Northwestern" if it beats Wisconsin, because it is no longer capable of beating anyone without it being considered remarkable. WISCONSIN BY A LOT BUT PROBABLY NOT AS MUCH YOU HOPE.

Illinois (2-1, 0-0 B1G), Oct. 11

Last week: Lost 44-19 at Washington

What happened: Didn't play a directional and/or FCS school.

Why you should be afraid: How the hell long is Reilly O'Toole going to just kind of hover around the program and play 10 snaps a game? That's not a thing to be afraid of. It's just weird.

Geronimo Allison caught six passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns against the Huskies, is named Geronimo Allison.

Why you shouldn't be afraid: Are they all going to be like this? *looks down schedule*



Maryland (2-1, 0-0 B1G), Oct. 25

Last week: Lost to West Virginia, 40-37

What happened: Okay, we can work with this.

Maryland made a valiant comeback attempt against West Virginia. Down 22 points in the second quarter, the Terrapins scored three straight touchdowns to pull within one, then tied the game in the fourth after the Mountaineers had re-opened a 10-point lead.

Sure, West Virginia shot itself in the foot with four turnovers, three of them fumbles. But Maryland proved it had the talent to take advantage of the opportunities. Stefon Diggs had a huge game with 127 yards and a touchdown on just five catches. C.J. Brown is an erratic passer, but he also had 161 yards on the ground.

West Virginia seems to be a good team, so don't sneeze at a three-point loss.

Why you should be afraid: The aforementioned Brown and Diggs. Wisconsin may be equipped to handle Brown's legs, but a lack of athleticism in the secondary will be exposed quickly by the wideout. You know that penchant for giving up deep passes? That's probably going to happen once or twice.

Why you shouldn't be afraid: The Terrapins were out-gained by more than 200 yards of offense. Special teams and turnovers made the game against West Virginia closer than it probably ought to have been. Maryland has a pulse, but it's not a strong one.


@ Rutgers (2-1, 0-1 B1G), Nov. 1

Last week: Lost to Penn State, 13-10

What happened: Pretty much the bizarro WVU-Maryland game. Special teams came through once against the for the new Big Ten team, though for Rutgers it was two blocked kicks in the first half, the first of which set up the team's only touchdown.

The defense then did an excellent job gobbling up Christian Hackenberg and the Nittany Lions' offense. Unfortunately, Rutgers' offense was excruciatingly bad. It managed just 192 total yards on the day, 70 of which came after halftime.

Why you should be afraid: This game could be excruciating, frustrating and close enough to hinge on a single busted play.

Why you shouldn't: The complexion of the Penn State game would have changed if the Nittany Lions had a feasible running back. Melvin Gordon is way, way, way better than that.


@ Purdue (1-2, 0-0 B1G), Nov. 8

Last week: Lost to Notre Dame, 30-14

What happened: Purdue wasn't awful. The score looks lopsided, but it was a one-score game until late in the third quarter. Purdue even led briefly in the second! Then the Boilermakers got Golson'd, but NOT worse than Michigan took it. Overall, I'd say it was a positive. This is seriously something this dumb conference can hang its hat on.

Why you should be afraid: They have some wind in their sails.

Why you shouldn't be afraid: Wisconsin doesn't play Purdue for nearly two months, and by then the Boilermakers ought to be good-and-demoralized coming off off a three-game stretch that starts with Michigan State at home, followed by road games against Minnesota and Nebraska.

Hubris: WISCONSIN BY A CRAPLO--actually, the Badgers haven't smacked down the Boilermakers too harshly the last two seasons. WISCONSIN BY A HEALTHY NON-GLUTTONOUS MARGIN.

Nebraska (3-0, 0-0 B1G), Nov. 15

Last week: Beat Fresno State, 55-19

What happened: Pretty much your standard beatdown is what happened. Which is too bad, because I really thought Fresno State might make for some fun late-night delirium. Clearly Nebraska has a long way to go before it can truly be considered B1G.

Why you should be afraid: Lots of good reasons. Let's start with this one: Ameer Abdullah is a wizard. Just take my word for it and, no. don't ask him to prove it.

Why you shouldn't be afraid: That GIF linked above was the game-winning play in a tie ball game against McNeese State, which plays in the FCS. Yes, this Nebraska team is maddeningly inconsistent, which somehow translates to 9-4 seasons on the regular.

Hubris: This game should decide who goes to the Big Ten Championship Game. It should be fun. There should be a lot of hype going into it. Wisconsin will probably win by 90. WISCONSIN BY 90.

@ Iowa (2-1, 0-0 B1G), Nov. 22

Last week: Lost to Iowa State, 20-17

What happened: BHGP:

Iowa has three kickers and two punters on the team, three of which are on scholarship.  The punters were fine today.  The kickers have been so bad that Iowa wouldn't even allow them to kick a field goal in the first half. When Iowa needed a field goal to tie in the fourth quarter, BOTH KICKERS RAN ONTO THE FIELD.  You are reading this correctly: Iowa momentarily sent out two kickers to kick a field goal like it was a 35-yard free kick in the fucking Premier League.

Why you should be afraid: BHGP:

This marks the 12th time that Iowa has lost as a double-digit favorite since 2006, the most such losses of any team in the Big Ten over that time by a factor of ten (when Hlas last punched the numbers in 2011, no other Big Ten team had lost more than three in that way).  Iowa is 9-15 in games decided by seven points or fewer since 2010, which is awesome given that our entire philosophy is to play every game to within ten points.

Why you shouldn't be afraid: BHGP:

And I think, after two games that Iowa should have lost and one that it did lose, where none of the things that have cost this program games in the last five years have been fixed AT ALL, we can make the call: This third act sucks.  We don't fix anything.  We don't even see the problem with anything.  We just score 14 and try to hold on for dear life, because that's just what we do now.  It's the 2009 Minnesota game, ad infinitum.



Minnesota (2-1, 0-0 B1G), Nov. 29

Last week: Lost to TCU, 30-7

What happened: I don't know, man. They lost. I'm getting pretty sick of writing about bad football teams, tbh.

Why you should be afraid: I mean, there was seriously nothing positive to take away for the Gophers. They committed five turnovers, three of them by Mitch Leidner, who I guess is now hurt, so there's a quarterback battle rearing its head in Week 4 just when a team ought to be jelling. Minnesota's run game was bad. The defense was bad. Coaching, not good. It's just -- whatever, man.

Why you shouldn't--wait, I think you already did this part: It's all too much. I'm all for schadenfreude at the expense of our rivals, but this game is less fun when everyone is terrible. I do care that the Big Ten is bad, because to an extent it makes watching Wisconsin play less fun.

I'm sorry, is there any way I can help?: WE GOT THE AXE! WE GOT THE AXE! WE GOT THE AXE!