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Big Ten Week In Review

Each conference has their power tier teams, a middle tier, and then.. the rest. The Big Ten is no different. We’ll go tier by tier and see if any teams have shifted each week. Coming into this season, that tiered system went as follows:

Tier 1: Ohia State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Iowa

Tier 2: Michigan, Indiana, Michigan State, Northwestern

Tier 3: Minnesota, Rutgers, Maryland, Illinois, Nebraska, Purdue

Tier 1

Ohia State

If there’s one glaring difference between this team and last year’s team, it’s the QB. The defense didn’t look great, either, but the QB looked very hit or miss. I don’t think he’s going to magically become THE GUY this year, so I expect at least 1 or 2 losses from the Buckeyes. Their defensive line is not nearly what it was a year ago, and even that wasn’t enough for the top teams. They’ll be fine for most of the Big Ten, though. This is the year for someone to make a move in the East.

Tier movement: none

Penn State

For some reason PSU decided to ride on Sean Clifford at QB again. It’s bizarre to me that they made that choice considering how disgustingly mediocre he is. Wisconsin plays good defense, but they have weaknesses that can be exploited. Clifford was not great at exploiting them. He missed quite a few wide open WRs deep that would’ve been sure touchdowns. On the defensive side of the ball, they play a bend-don’t-break that works well against teams like Wisconsin that are entirely one-dimensional, but I don’t think they can continue that style against better teams. My gut says they drop 3 games this year.

Tier movement: none

Wisconsin

Wisconsin is exactly what you think they are. They run the ball, they play good defense, and they suck at throwing. It’s no different this year, although I think there are huge weaknesses in their defense if you can throw the ball. It’s not worth trying to run inside the tackles, but outside seemed to work fine. They don’t have great team speed, even with transfers. Their game against Iowa is going to be huge.

Tier movement: none

Iowa

Somehow Indiana was ranked above Iowa in the preseason polls. I know they have to hype matches but that one didn’t make much sense. Iowa proved it was silly by completely dismantling Indiana. They have 3 games that are really tough on paper still to go: @ISU, PSU, and @Wisconsin. Luckily for Iowa, only 2 of those 3 are in the Big Ten. They need to beat Sconnie though for a chance at the West.

Tier movement: none


Tier 2

Michigan

Michigan is on the borderline of Tier 1. They have most of the athletes to be there, but their coaching has been spotty with Harbaugh. The game against Washington was supposed to be a great test of the Wolverines, but since Washington just dropped their opener to FCS opponent Montana, it’s looking like it should be a dud. Michigan has a pretty tough schedule this year and I’m not sure they escape with less than 4 losses. The offense looks improved, but it will be interesting to see how the defense shakes out against better competition.

Tier movement: none

Indiana

The fighting 🌵. It’s not a huge surprise that Iowa beat them like a surly dog, but they were so highly ranked and riding high on that preseason buzz. They get a rebound next week against FCS Idaho, but then they’re thrown right back into it against Cinci. I see 7, maybe 8 losses on their schedule and a nice drop to Tier 3 in their future.

Tier movement: none

Michigan State

I wasn’t expecting MSU to come out on fire, but they sure did. Their defense largely shut down Northwestern (although it’s not as though they’re known for being an offensive powerhouse to begin with..). Their offense looked more like mid-2010s Sparty and not the recent one-dimensional trash fire they have been trotting out. They have an interesting game coming up in a couple weeks against Miami that I’m really psyched to see. They have Tier 1 potential if they can upset some teams.

Tier movement: none

Northwestern

The usually stout defense got gashed, to put it lightly. Northwestern couldn’t really stop anything MSU was doing and, on the other side, couldn’t really do anything on offense. Fortunately they don’t play anyone really until Rutgers in mid-October. They can go into that game with only 1 loss and maybe some undeserved hype before the Wood Choppin’ Schianomen kneecap them and bring them back down to earth.

Tier movement: none


Tier 3

Minnesota

There were some high hopes for the PJ Fleck redemption tour. They played poorly last year and wound up with a 3-4 record after having that nice 11-2 season in 2019. So which is the real PJ Fleck Gopher team? It’s looking like 6-6 than 10-2, I’ll say that much.

Tier movement: none

Rutgers

Rutgers was one of those teams you didn’t really want to have to play last year because they were sneaky-dangerous. They’re really well-coached and they’re starting to recruit better under Schiano. I genuinely think they can be a 7 or 8 win team this year, even with how good the East seems to be at the moment. This is a good year to sneak in for the East title if they can manage it. But probably not. At the very least some potential for Tier 2.

Tier movement: none

Maryland

Technically, Maryland beat West Virginia. But they also looked sketchy and were really helped by some terrible WVU turnovers. I don’t really believe in the Terps, but they have a chance to go 4-0 before facing Iowa and likely getting thumped. The back half of their schedule is loaded and likely to crush some Terp fans’ spirits.

Tier movement: none

Illinois

Nothing says Illinois football like overachieving in the opening game and blowing it in game 2. UTSA is not a joke, but they shouldn’t be winning games @Illinois. It’s looking like the Illini will drop the next 2 games before facing Purdue. That could be a make or break game for the season. The Nebraska win could very well be the only one they get.

Tier movement: none

Nebraska

Good bounce back game, right?! It’s Fordham, so this was expected. Nebraska really needs to figure out what they want to be and do it quickly. They have another tune-up game here against Buffalo next week before going to Norman to take on the Sooners. I don’t foresee bright things in their future. The back half of their schedule is going to be incredibly difficult.

Tier movement: none

Purdue

Purdue is going to be 2-0 going into their game against Notre Dame. The odds of them winning that are slim to none, but they follow it up with 2 winnable games before they start getting a few tough ones. They could wind up with as few as 4 losses this year, which would bump them firmly into Tier 2.

Tier movement: none