Monday, September 28, 2009

Big Ten thoughts

Saturday was quite a day in the Big Ten, things didn't go according to script. Here's how I see the conference shaping up after three weeks of non-conference play and the opening week of conference games.

1. Iowa. Be honest: would you trade our program for theirs right now? Watching Iowa Saturday night reminded me of some of our best Wisconsin teams: a really tough defense and special teams doing just enough for a conservative offense. Their defense is just so good, but I think their offense is going to cost them a game or two in the Big Ten.

2. Ohio State. They looked really good too, but like Iowa their offense leaves a lot to be desired.

3. Penn State. I thought they'd beat Iowa fairly easily, but their lack of playmakers and a mediocre offensive line were exposed.

4 (tie). Minnesota and Wisconsin. Both of them obviously have holes and questions, but their play thus far has been underrated. Both have added a dimension to their offense (running game for UM, passing for UW) that makes them much more balanced and difficult to defend, but their defenses will keep them from winning the conference.

6. Michigan. They're obviously better, but all the breathless praise about how "they're back!!!" is a testament to their brand name as much as anything. Who have they beaten? Two MAC schools, Indiana by a hair at home, and a Notre Dame team that barely beat Purdue. Anyone else with that resume wouldn't be ranked.

7. Michigan State. Still think they're a bowl team with their passing game, and they have some talent in the defensive front seven. But they're playing like the old State, the one that Mark Dantonio supposedly exorcised.

8. Purdue. Better than I thought.

9. Northwestern. Not as good as I thought.

10. Illinois. Just keeps looking more and more like a typical Ron Zook product -- long on talent, short on wins.

11. Indiana. So badly wanted them to beat Michigan.

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