It’s the sixth week of the season and after the next week or so we should have a clearer picture of the conference as things start to settle down. So far it’s safe to say that Ohio State and Michigan have been the class of the Big Ten, while Nebraska has been a pleasant surprise. On the flip side, it’s been a rough go for Iowa and Michigan State and both teams could be in even more trouble as their Saturday games this weekend won’t be any easier.
Several Big Ten teams look to bounce back this afternoon
Kirk Ferentz has a nasty habit at Iowa. The long time coach tends to underwhelm the fan base before piecing together a highly impressive run that nets him a huge contract extension and a massive buyout. Then after his guaranteed money more or less locks him into his job for the considerable future, Ferentz falls back down to painful mediocrity. So what has he done since netting a huge extension early in the season? Lost to a FCS school, beat lowly Rutgers 14-7 and lost at home to Northwestern. Ouch.
Now the Hawkeyes face a Minnesota team that has also underwhelmed so far this season. At one point some people claimed Minnesota was a sleeper pick for the west division, but they played unexpired and didn’t impress much during the non-conference slate. With a chance to remedy this by knocking off Penn State on the road last weekend, they promptly blew a late lead and lost in overtime. The schedule is still manageable the next few weeks with Maryland, Rutgers, Illinois and Purdue on deck, but with Nebraska and Wisconsin on the road in late November, Minnesota needs to win games like this if they want to try to make a push in the west. They’ll also need more from Mitch Leidner, who has only thrown five touchdowns in four games while the Gophers have averaged a pedestrian 211.5 passing yards per game.
Speaking of teams in need of a win, Michigan State could definitely use one. Fun fact, since 2010 the Spartans have only lost more than one conference game in the regular season one time (2012). In 2016 they’ve already lost twice. With Michigan, Ohio State and even Penn State to close the season, the Spartans are in plenty of trouble and the chance to represent the east in the Big Ten title game seems off the table with the way the Buckeyes and Wolverines have played. Things don’t get any easier for a team that got blown out by Wisconsin and lost at Indiana last week, either, with a game against a pretty good Brigham Young team on deck this afternoon.
It’s not make or break for Mark Dantonio’s squad, but a loss means that a so-so 7 or 8 win season seems like the potential ceiling for the Spartans. If the Spartans can get back on track today, they could still end up at 5-2 heading into a home showdown against Michigan. If Sparty can beat the Wolverines it’d be safe to assume that they’d be a favorite in every remaining game besides a home game against Ohio State in the second to last week of the season.
Rutgers difficult schedule continues
Rutgers has struggled both on the court and the football field, with their recent struggles last fall resulting in a new hire in Chris Ash. Things haven’t exactly gone smoothly so far for the Scarlet Knights and that looks to continue once again later on tonight. Rutgers is the only team currently in the nation to play three top five teams, opening against Washington (now ranked 5th), traveling to Ohio State (2nd) and now hosting the 4th ranked Michigan Wolverines. To further complicate things, they also got an Iowa team that was expected to better then they have so far.
While Rutgers could be set for another blowout loss (they lost to Washington and Ohio State by a combined score of 13-106), things should become a bit more manageable in the near future. While the schedule started off harshly, coming up next are home games versus Illinois and Indiana, with a road trip to Minnesota in between. Of course things pick back up to close, as they’ll face Michigan State, Penn State and Maryland over the last three weeks, two of which are on the road.
|12:00||ESPN2||Iowa at Minnesota||Iowa 24 Minnesota 20|
|BTN||Maryland at Penn State||Penn State 27 Maryland 24|
|03:30||BTN||Purdue at Illinois||Illinois 31 Purdue 20|
|ABC or ESPN2||BYU at Michigan State||Michigan State 24 BYU 20|
|ESPN||Indiana at Ohio State||Ohio State 52 Indiana 17|
|07:00||ESPN2||Michigan at Rutgers||Michigan 38 Rutgers 13|
Last Week’s Predictions: 5-2
Current Record: 36-12