Monday, September 17, 2012

Big Ten Football Power Rankings - Week 3

Another week, another round of non-conference games that give us a momentary glimpse at how good (or bad) the Big Ten is this year.  After last week's suckfest, it's good that the majority of conference teams won their match-ups, but our previously top-ranked team had to let the conference down by losing badly at home against Notre Dame.  At least you, dear readers, won't have to put up with another top photo featuring a crazy Michigan State fan (especially if you're reading the blog on mobile).  These power rankings would be a lot of easier if the "cream of the crop" would stop getting creamed (see what I did there), but it sure should be a wild conference season since every game appears to be a toss-up of mediocrity.

On to the rankings!  Twelve teams enter, twelve teams leave (in reverse order of ineptitude):

1.   Northwestern (3-0) [Last week's rank: 3]: Ho hum, another week, another win by Northwestern against a BCS opponent.  What is happening? Seriously, what a great start for the Wildcats!  I bet no one, their players included, thought they may be the best team in the conference this season.  The passing game is efficient (with a two-headed monster that works, due to the different styles of play), and the running game put up almost 300 yards!  Boston College isn't a great team this year, but they aren't horrible either.  Put me on record now - Northwestern is going to start the year at least 7-0, with three Big Ten wins (Indiana, at Penn State, and at Minnesota) off the bat.

This guy scares me

2.   Nebraska (2-1) [4]:  Nebraska won an easy game against Arkansas State, but things got a little scary off the field when head coach Bo Pelini left with a medical issue, but he should be fine.  The only concerning thing on the field were the four turnovers for the Huskers, two which were on back-to-back series when Taylor Martinez was sacked.  Those two turnovers resulted in ten points for the Red Wolves.  Martinez better get some protection (and a tighter grip on the ball), or things could get ugly against bigger, stronger defensive lines.  Still, Nebraska moves up two spots thanks to other teams faltering.

An oldie but a goodie
3.   Ohio State (3-0) [2]: Ohio State should have lost at home to Cal, and they were out-rushed, out-passed, and if not for a trio of missed field goals, they would have been beaten.  But they won, and that's what counts, so it's hard to knock them down even further in the rankings when other teams haven't been as impressive so far.  Braxton Miller continues to be spectacular, throwing four touchdowns and rushing for another.  Can anyone fully stop him?  Maybe only Carl Monday.

4.   Michigan State (2-1) [1]: The Spartans lost at home to Notre Dame in a game where they didn't put up nearly the fight that Purdue did.  The offense was pretty bad (specifically the passing game, as Maxwell only hit on 50% of his attempts), and the much ballyhooed defense wasn't as good as Notre Dame's.  Another week with egg on the face of the Big Ten as the media darlings in our league continue to be unimpressive.  MSU has at least played some tough competition (beating Boise State), which is the only reason they didn't fall further in the rankings, but the bad home loss (when Nebraska lost to a ranked team on the road) is the reason they are this low.

5.   Purdue (2-1) [5]: Purdue blew out an over-matched opponent, showed a dominant running game, and kept up the strong season by the defense.  If Caleb TerBush can get on track, there's a lot of potential for the Boilermakers, but he needs to look better than he did against Eastern Michigan.  Purdue hasn't beaten anyone good, so they can't leapfrog MSU and their quality win against Boise State, despite playing far better against a common opponent in the Irish.

6.   Michigan (2-1) [6]: Michigan finally beat a team by a respectable margin, putting up 63 points on UMass for a 50-point win.  We mentioned how bad UMass was when Indiana crushed them last week, so this really doesn't tell us much about the Wolverines.  Denard Robinson continued to do it all for the offense, although Fitzgerald Toussaint finally had a nice return to relevance with 85 yards rushing.  Seriously, scheduling UMass this year is like scheduling a game against a junior high team.

7.   Minnesota (3-0) [7]: Minnesota continues to show me why, despite being 3-0, I can't move them up higher in the rankings.  The Gophers barely  beat a bad Western Michigan team (who Illinois easily handled in Week 1) 28-23.  MarQueis Gray hurt his ankle early in the game and will miss 2-4 weeks.  Maybe that's a blessing in disguise for Minnesota, as sophomore backup Max Shortell threw a pretty decent game.  But maybe that's just because his opponent stunk.  Maybe they can beat Syracuse next week, and maybe they'll steal a couple games during conference play (unfortunately for them, they don't get to play Indiana or Penn State), but I'm guessing that's the only way they see six wins this season.  More likely it'll be another year with a nice start by the Gophers against inferior opponents, only to be knocked back down a peg by the more talented Big Ten teams.

8.   Illinois (2-1) [8]: Illinois shutout, CSU...let's see, that stands for Charleston Southern.  Yeh, whoever they are.  Obviously I didn't watch a second of this game, and only would have if Illinois wasn't doing what it should in demolishing a team that loses by 35 points to other FCS teams.  Scheelhaase didn't play, and they won't likely need him to win next week, but we'll see if he can return for their Big Ten opener against Penn State.  That would be a horrible game to lose given how poor the Nittany Lions look this year.

9.   Wisconsin (2-1) [9]: Now, Utah State is not a bad team, but when Wisconsin has to come from behind  at home to beat them by two measly points, will you all finally agree with me that the Badgers are not a good football team and the most disappointing story of the conference so far? Utah State should have won on a last second field goal, but it was missed (and taken from fifteen yards too deep, due to a very questionable offensive pass interference call), and the Badgers save face.  The Leaders division is more wide open than ever (yeh, so what if it's only been around one other season!).

10.  Iowa (2-1) [10]: Iowa beat Northern Iowa 27-16, proving they are at least better than one other team in their state. Vandenberg was a little better but still didn't throw a touchdown pass.  Iowa was only up four at halftime, and I still think this is one of the worst Hawkeye teams I've seen in the last decade.
11.  Indiana (2-1) [11]: The Hoosiers lost to Ball State for the third time in four years, two of those coming at home (and the third at a "neutral" Lucas Oil Stadium where IU was clearly the team with the largest contingent).  I guess we'll be replacing Indiana with Ball State for all future Big Ten football seasons. Seriously though, this was fun to watch as Ball State blew a big lead, but with only 49 seconds left, the Cardinals were able to complete four passes, including an amazing diving catch, to get in field goal range.  Kicker Steven Schott nailed a 42 yard field goal for the upset (really, I don't think we can call it that).  Quarterback Cameron Coffman left with a knee injury, and freshman Nate Sudfeld looked good replacing him, however Tre Roberson they are not, as Ball State has a pitiful defense.  Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, their defense is even worse.

Still pathetic, even when they win
12.  Penn State (1-2) [12]: Penn State finally gets a win, beating Navy at home 34-7.  They were practically gifted the game by Navy's four turnovers, but quarterback Matt McGloin passed for four scores albeit not too efficiently.  Navy is simply bad and not the tough-nosed team of years past.

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