Let’s play a little word association.
When I mention a football team from the Big Ten Conference, what comes to mind?
The league schedule is beginning to ramp up this weekend, and we’re still looking for trends and traits.
Ohio State remains the frontrunner. Purdue continues to be a punching bag. But everything in between is up for grabs.
So, if you’re among the Iowa fans heading north for Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. game at Minnesota, here’s something to help pass the time (and a PHOTO GALLERY featuring each team):
Ohio State (4-0) – Beacon
The Buckeyes were the last Big Ten team to win a Bowl Championship Series title, in 2002. And they’re the only ones likely to earn a spot among the elite this fall. Braxton Miller, a Heisman Trophy candidate before the season, missed two games with a knee injury. Some wonder if Kenny Guiton deserves to keep the starting quarterback job.
Wisconsin (3-1, 1-0) – Bamboozled
The Badgers were the first team in 2013 to record a Big Ten win with last week’s 41-10 rout of Purdue. That probably did little to ease the sting of a controversial 32-30 loss at Arizona State on Sept. 14. The real pain may come Saturday at Ohio State or Oct. 12 against Northwestern. Schedule makers didn’t do the three-time defending Big Ten champs any favors.
Penn State (3-1) – Resilient
Second-year coach Bill O’Brien took over a Nittany Lions program torpedoed by scandal and weighted by NCAA sanctions. He’s posted an 11-5 record and received some good news this week when the NCAA announced it would gradually lift scholarship limits.
Illinois (2-1) – Teetering
The Illini defense is allowing 492.7 yards per game (ranking them 113th nationally) and 28.3 points (tied for 79th). What are those numbers going to look like when Illinois visits Nebraska (43.2 points per game) Oct. 5 and hosts Wisconsin (41.0) on Oct. 19?
Indiana (2-2) – Erratic
Win one week, lose the next. The Hoosiers have established a pattern of inconsistency, and it’ll likely continue through November.
Purdue (1-3, 0-1) – Beleaguered
The Boilermakers can’t catch a break. Purdue’s opponents have committed just nine penalties (the lowest among Big Ten schools) and converted 13 of 15 red-zone chances, including 10 touchdowns.
Michigan (4-0) – Disappointing
The Wolverines are unbeaten, but unimpressive. They barely escaped Akron (1-11 the past three seasons) and Connecticut (winless in three games this year), causing much consternation among the maize and blue faithful.
Minnesota (4-0) – Unbalanced
The Gophers have scored 16 touchdowns on the ground and just one through the air. Only seven teams nationally have attempted fewer passes (62), and only three schools have rushed for more yards (1,129). Freshman quarterback Mitch Leidner made his starting debut a week ago against San Jose State and ran for four touchdowns. He completed five of 12 passes.
Northwestern (4-0) – Prescient
Not only is the two-quarterback system working, but senior passer Kain Colter drew national attention when he wrote “APU” on his wristband, a sign of support for the All Players United movement. Colter told reports this summer he believes players should receive some sort of stipend and voiced his approval of Ed O’Bannon’s lawsuit against the NCAA.
Iowa (3-1) – Evolving
With all the talk of a no-huddle offense, people tend to overlook the Hawkeyes’ old-school results. They rank fifth nationally with an average possession time of 35 minutes, 48 seconds. Opposing offenses are averaging 24:12.
Michigan State (3-1) – Conflicted
A month into the season, and the Spartans still don’t have a clear cut starter at quarterback. Connor Cook was pulled in the final minutes of a 17-13 loss to Notre Dame. At last count, four contenders were vying for snaps. They have an off week to sort things out before an Oct. 5 visit to Iowa.
Nebraska (3-1) – Dysfunctional
Even before coach Bo Pelini was caught on tape, you could sense a rift with the fan base. Everyone is saying the right things, now, but it’s hard to find true harmony when the defense is allowing 179.5 rushing yards per game (putting Nebraska 10th in the conference).
Andrew Logue covers Hawkeye football and sports media for the Register. Follow him on Twitter: @AndrewMLogue.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football