1. Michigan State struggled with another B1G bottom feeder. Just how overrated are they at No. 7 in the AP poll?
Very, very overrated.
I think Michigan State should be ranked, but not anywhere in the Top 20. Here's a blind resume test between two undefeated teams to prove my point...
Resume A: One road win against a MAC school by 13 points. One home win against a MAC school by 20 points. Two wins against B1G bottom feeders by a combined 10 points. One three-point home win against a three-win team Power 5 team. One 14-point home win against a non-Power 5 team. None of this team's opponents are currently ranked.
Resume B: One road win against a MAC school by 14 points. One home win against a MAC school by 31 points. One road win against a two-win Power 5 school. One home win against a two-win Power 5 team. One 30-point win against a Sun Belt team. None of this team's opponents are currently ranked.
So is Resume A or Resume B stronger?
I'd say they're pretty close, but if I had to give an edge to either resume it would be Resume B. Resume A, as you may have guessed, belongs to the Michigan State Spartans. Resume B belongs to the Toledo Rockets. Michigan State is No. 7, Toledo is No. 22.
Is Michigan State overrated at No. 7 or is Toledo underrated at No. 22? I'm going with the former.
2. Michigan just notched its third shutout in a row. Can the Wolverines ride this defense all the way to the College Football Playoff?
Yes, they can, but I don't think they will.
I don't think they will because I believe they will lose to an undefeated Ohio State in the final game of the season. Michigan will not go to the Playoff if they have two losses and don't even participate in the B1G Championship Game. I believe the Wolverines can ride their defense all the way to the College Football Playoff because it's just that dominant.
At halftime of the Michigan-Northwestern game, Michigan had shutout opponents for five consecutive halves. The last team to do that was the 2012 Alabama Crimson Tide. They won the BCS Championship that year. Then Michigan shutout Northwestern for another 30 minutes to complete their third straight shutout.
When you assess the three offenses that Michigan has shutout this season, you won't find any juggernauts. Neither BYU, Maryland nor Northwestern is in the top 39 nationally in total yardage, but how important is that really? These teams are scoring zero points. Most great defenses would still allow between six and 10 points per game even against weak non-Power 5 offenses.
Moving forward, Michigan plays a similarly accomplished offense this weekend against Michigan State as the Spartans rank just 48th in the country in total offense. Beyond the Spartan game, the only offenses left on Michigan's schedule that are currently rated in the top 50 belong to Ohio State at No. 18 and Indiana at No. 19.
Indiana's success should be taken with a grain of salt as they racked up tons of yardage and points against frosting laden non-conference cupcakes, then put up just seven points and 234 total yards against Penn State last weekend. With only one defensive test left on the schedule at the moment, I trust Jourdan Lewis, Channing Stribling and Jabrill Peppers to be able to lock down receivers and force takeaways.
I trust Chris Wormley, Willie Henry and Maurice Hurst to disrupt the running game and get after the quarterback. I trust Michigan's sure-tackling linebackers to prevent highlight reel plays. I trust Jim Harbaugh to employ the correct defensive schemes to keep opponents' point totals low and give the offense more than just a chance to win the game.
The defense is good enough to lead the team to a B1G Championship, I just don't know if the offense will be when they face Ohio State and I don't trust Jake Rudock to lead a second half comeback if the Wolverines are trailing. However, as long as the defense is shutting the opponent out, Rudock won't have to worry about that predicament.
3. Will the de facto B1G West Championship Game be played this Saturday in Evanston, Illinois?
The game between Iowa (6-0, 2-0) and Northwestern (5-1, 1-1) should be a low-scoring, competitive matchup between two good teams, but no, this will not be the de facto B1G Championship Game.
If Northwestern wins, then everyone in the B1G West will have at least one loss and there could be up to five teams still in the mix for a trip to Indianapolis with Wisconsin, Minnesota and even Illinois joining Northwestern and Iowa. Though this is not the de facto B1G Championship Game, I have to imagine that every other team out west will be pulling for Northwestern because of the implications if Iowa wins.
If the Hawkeyes win, they will have already played and beaten their top two competitors in the division (Wisconsin and Northwestern) in the first two weeks of conference play. With no challenging crossover games, Iowa finishes their season vs. Maryland, at Indiana, vs. Minnesota, vs. Purdue and at Nebraska.
If you're 7-0 and your most challenging game down the stretch is either at Indiana or home against Minnesota, the expectation is to win the B1G West. Even if the Hawkeyes lose one of those five games, they will still need to lose once more because the Wildcats will already have two losses in this scenario (including one to Iowa) and they'll hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Wisconsin… One more thing on the Hawkeyes.
If they beat Northwestern to advance to 7-0, they'll be favored to run the table and finish 12-0 heading into the B1G Championship Game. In that game, it's possible that we could see an undefeated Iowa face an undefeated Ohio State, undefeated Michigan State or one-loss Michigan. Based on the way these four teams are playing, Iowa would most likely be an underdog against any of the three contenders in the East, even currently uninspiring Michigan State and one-loss Michigan.
Would Iowa even be ranked in the Top 5 before the game in any of those scenarios? If they continue playing solid, but not dominant football as they have through the first six games, this undefeated Hawkeyes should be in the Top 10, but not the Top 5.
4. Who are the best players in the conference that people aren't talking about enough?
Iowa RB Jordan Canzeri, Penn State DE Carl Nassib and Ohio State WR/RB/QB Braxton Miller.
The longer the Hawkeyes stays undefeated, the harder it will be to ignore Canzeri, but those who have watched him play know that he can run. In six games this year, he has 697 yards, is averaging 5.3 yards per carry and has nine touchdowns. He's also a workhorse.
The week after rushing 26 times for 125 yards against Wisconsin, Canzeri rushed it 43 times for 256 yards against Illinois. He does so by quickly recognizing a hole and hitting it without dancing around. I was also impressed with his touchdown reception against Illinois last week.
He made sure to make the catch, patiently waited for his blockers while helping to set them up with his footwork, then cut to the right and sprinted into the end zone. After Ezekiel Elliott, Canzeri is probably the best running back in the conference.
Nassib literally came out of nowhere. Despite all of the linemen that Penn State has sent to the NFL in recent years, Nassib has risen from a walk-on to starter this year and now leads the country with ten sacks in just six games.
It helps that defensive tackles Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson command so much attention inside, but Nassib is doing the most with his opportunity and forcing teams to reconsider who should be double teamed. The powerful Zettel or the quicker and more elusive Nassib with hands so good that he already has an interception.
It's strange that Braxton Miller is on this list, but when Cardale Jones and JT Barrett are taking snaps, Ezekiel Elliott is toting the rock and Miller is no longer the starting quarterback, it's easy for the former B1G Offensive Player of the Year to be forgotten.
But look at what he's done this year -- 13 catches for 194 yards, 25 rushes for 161 yards and three touchdowns. And no one can overlook this highlight.
Unlike the other two seniors on this list, he's only been playing this H-Back/hybrid position for six games. He's already been very effective, I expect him to continue to get better and he's one of the major weapons that has me believing when all is said and done Ohio State will (unfortunately) win another College Football Playoff championship this year.
5. Who will win this week's B1G games?
Northwestern over Iowa
Wisconsin over Purdue
Indiana over Rutgers
Michigan over Michigan State
Minnesota over Nebraska
Ohio State over Penn State
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