League play got underway this weekend with a blow-out, a shoot-out, a road surprise, a home surprise and a night-time grinder. One team - Michigan State - played out of conference and handed the Fighting Irish their tarnished hats. It was a weekend with some brow raising games for sure and one of many to be played over the next two months.
Four teams remain unbeaten overall, and five teams are ranked in the latest Coaches Poll with a few knocking on the door. The race will only get wilder as we go, starting with this weekend, when two of the unbeatens do battle in Madison. Right now, the Big Ten has eight or nine teams with legitimate bowl aspirations, with two looking like the fodder for the rest...
- Wisconsin - The Badgers had to fight for every yard and point they got Saturday night against Iowa, but rode the home crowd to a victory - their national best 14th straight. It wasn't pretty, but Big Ten football is supposed to be ugly!
- Purdue - It wasn't all that pretty and the defense proved why there are still doubters but it was a conference opening road win for the Boilermakers who played nearly flawless offensive football in the second half to pull away for a 14 point win. This week, Purdue gets a break when rival Notre Dame comes to town...
- Penn State - Make it NINE in a row. Penn State has not won against Michigan since 1996 and will have to wait another year for a shot. The Nittany Lions were very disappointing on offense while the defense played good enough to win. Maybe there is something to a tougher test in the opening three games?
- Ohio State - Yawn. The Buckeyes killed the Wildcats in a game that was almost over before it started (28-0 after one quarter) and appear at this point to be the team to beat in the Big Ten.
- Northwestern - How quickly a nice 2-0 start flushes down the toilet. A week after the abysmal loss to Duke, the Wildcats were steamrolled early and often en route to a crushing defeat. The reward? A resurgent Michigan squad in Evanston this weekend.
- Minnesota - Golden Gophers fans are gonna need to be patient because there appears to be nothing but rebuilding going on this year. The offense can rack up yards in droves, but is mistake prone. The defense? I've seen D2 squads put up a better effort.
- Michigan State - Here we go again, right? State is no stranger to 4-0. The Spartans were 4-0 in 2005, went 5-0 only to lose seven straight to end the season. That was with a coach who didn't believe in defense or playing to win. Mark Dantonio is building something that Spartans fans have to be proud of and it sets up a nice little game in Mad Town this weekend...
- Michigan - Just when you had them pegged as dead, the Wolverines jump up and bite a highly ranked team. The defense has had a total turn around in the past few games and proves something many have been arguing for a while now - the best way to beat them is with a flashy, mobile quarterback and an offense that spreads the field. That isn't ND or PSU. Will they lose again this season?
- Iowa - The Hawkeyes are hurting at 2-2 but are a better team than the record indicates. That defense will win the black and gold a game or two this season, and almost did against rival Wisconsin. The trouble is the offense. It just isn't that good right now.
- Indiana - Saturday was a prime opportunity to get-r-done at home and get within two victories of bowl eligibility. However, the defense was exposed while the offense sputtered. It might be another close but no cigar campaign in Bloomington this fall.
- Illinois - I was impressed with the way the Illini fought back after IU seemed to take the momentum late in the first half. This team has play-makers on both sides of the ball and will escape the basement for the first time in a while this year.
Players of the Week:
Offense - Rashard Mendenhall, RB - ILL - 214 yards on the ground and 2 TDs.
Defense - E.J. Edds, LB - Iowa - 7 tackles, 1 INT and 1 Forced Fumble
Special Teams - Ken DeBauche, P - WIS - 47.6 YPK in a field position battle vs. Iowa
Only one person went unscathed and that man rose from the basement to take a share of the overall lead. Purdue fan Dan Meyer was perfect for the week and gets the honor this week. Dan, send me your picks by Thursday.
Indiana at Iowa
Penn State at Illinois
Notre Dame at Purdue
Michigan at Northwestern
Michigan State at Wisconsin (Tiebreaker)
Ohio State at Minnesota