By: Brian Chapman
Week 6 of the college football season is around the corner, and I certainly don't feel so great about my Nittany Lions after their 23 point blowout loss at home to Northwestern. As far as the local teams are concerned, Michigan embarrassed themselves on and off the field this past week while the Spartans are still waiting to play their first conference game.
Fortunately for Big Ten fans, Michigan State's conference opener is must-see TV as they host Nebraska in a rare ranked vs. ranked Big Ten game.
So where do Michigan State, Michigan, Nebraska and everyone else stand as we head into October football?
1. Michigan State (3-1, 0-0, last week No. 1) - There is no drama in East Lansing these days. The only question recently has been; by how many points will the Spartans beat the spread? Mark Dantonio recently said his offense has never come out of the gates like this before. If they can continue to perform like this, starting with Nebraska this weekend, they may have a shot to reenter the College Football Playoff discussion.
2. Wisconsin (3-1, 0-0, last week No. 2) - Considering this was a home game, it certainly wasn't the prettiest performance by the Badgers. A 27-10 win over South Florida is nothing to brag about. However, when you control the ball for over 40 minutes, you don't make a lot of mistakes and Melvin Gordon continues to look like a Heisman candidate, you'll take the W in cheese country.
3. Nebraska (5-0, 0-0, last week No. 4) - Could it be that Bo Pelini's boys are finally shaking off their Jekyll and Hyde ways? They scored 24 points in the 2nd quarter of a thrashing of the Fighting Illini which is what a great team is supposed to do to Illinois. We'll find out just how great they are this Saturday in East Lansing where they could squeak by with a win or they could lose by five touchdowns.
4. Ohio State (3-1, 0-0, last week No. 3) - The Deep South Buckeyes knocked off Cincy at home by 22 points, but they still have major issues in the secondary. Gunner Kiel threw four touchdowns and zero interceptions while racking up over 350 yards through the air. This was also a one possession game late in the 3rd quarter. They'll fare better in Big Ten play, but this was not an impressive month of September in Columbus.
5. Maryland (4-1, 1-0, last week No. 6) - The Terps still haven't faced any great teams to start the season, but when that's the case, you probably should start off 4-1 and that's exactly what they did. Losing a play-making defensive end for the season won't help, but when you're averaging over 36 points per game with three road victories, Maryland certainly has the attention of the rest of the conference.
6. Penn State (4-1, 1-1, last week No. 5) - So much for that surprisingly good defense. The Nittany Lions just gave up 29 ponts at home to Northwestern. So much for all the hype surrounding Christian Hackenberg. He was inaccurate again and led his team to 6 points at home against Northwestern. They'll be better than this in Ann Arbor on October 11 following their bye week and they will have no trouble making a bowl game, but they're not going to look pretty, win or lose, as long as the offensive line can't protect and they're play playing with fewer scholarships than the rest of the conference. By the way, I feel like I should drop them down to the bottom half, but have you seen the rest of the Big Ten? If not, keep reading.
7. Rutgers (4-1, 0-1, last week No. 10) - Tulane is a terrible football team and Rutgers treated Tulane like a Big Ten team should treat Tulane: to a 31-6 blowout. The Scarlet Knights have already lost one conference game at home to a so-so squad from Happy Valley. This weekend they bring in a poor team in turmoil from Ann Arbor. If they're any good, they'll win by at least a touchdown, but Rutgers is not good enough to deserve the benefit of the doubt.
8. Minnesota (4-1, 1-0, last week No. 11) - Last week I said, "Until they develop a passing game, I can't see them winning games besides those against the other western division bottom feeders." So that means they either beat Michigan because they developed a passing game or because they played a western division bottom feeder. Maybe I should have omitted the words "western division" because I still don't trust their passing game. Plus, their defense beat a quarterback who had no business starting for a Big Ten team. They'll probably make a bowl game, but this is still a bad football team.
9. Indiana (2-2, 0-1, last week No. 7) - I said last week that I had a strong feeling that Indiana would drop from the top half, but I had to stick them at No. 7 for beating the defending SEC East champs on the road. Well it only took one week as the Hoosiers looked a lot more Hoosier-like in their 37-15 loss at home to the Terps. At this point I don't know what to expect out of Indiana. If you can't stay within 20 at home that's a problem, but how many Big Ten teams can do what they did against Mizzou?
10. Iowa (4-1, 1-0, last week No. 8) - Iowa may be a 4-1 team right now, but they're nothing to fear. That's all you can say about a team that falls behind 10-0 to Purdue. This team hasn't played any strong competition and hasn't scored more than 31 points in a game this season. As the Hawkeyes go deeper in to Big Ten play the offense should become more and more of a liability. Despite needing just two more wins to make a bowl game, they are no lock to play a 13th game.
11. Michigan (2-3, 0-1, last week No. 9) - Can't pass, can't run, can't cover, can't pick a QB, can't catch, can't block, can't tackle, can't coach, can't defend home turf, and oh by the way, there's all of that Shane Morris drama. With games against MSU and OSU as guaranteed losses, the Wolverines have to win four of the other five games on their schedule to make a bowl game. It's possible, but not likely because right now they are not a top 10 team in the Big Ten.
12. Northwestern (2-2, 1-0, last week No. 14) - After a rugged start to the season Pat Fitzgerald got angry and vowed to turn the season around. I didn't believe it until I saw them thrash the Nittany Lions on Saturday in Happy Valley. It will still be a struggle for them to make a bowl game, but they've certainly opened my eyes a little bit.
13. Illinois (3-2, 0-1, last week No. 12) - They've beaten the likes of Youngstown State, Western Kentucky and Texas State. Washington and Nebraska lit the Illini up. Illinois will beat Purdue this Saturday and most likely lose out. Nothing to see here.
14. Purdue (2-3, 0-1, last week No. 13) -The Boilermakers already had a loss to a MAC school on their resume. Now they've added a 156 yard offensive performance at home against Iowa. Worst team in the Big Ten.
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