Buy or Sell?
It’s easy to tell who the contenders are. It’s even easier to tell who the non-contenders are.
By the midway point of the season, we should know that much. You can tell that Purdue won’t be competing for a division title while you can make a safe assumption Ohio State will.
But what about those 4-2 teams? Will the reality of a tough B1G schedule catch up to them or will they turn on the afterburners and cruise? Maybe they stay in the middle of the pack and have a roller coaster ride to seven wins.
But for this situation, let’s look at 4-2 teams like stocks. Who’s worth buying right now and who’s worth selling for the rest of 2015?
To be clear, Illinois has surpassed expectations already this year. With the exception of the North Carolina game, Bill Cubit’s team showed up ready to go every week. Last year’s group couldn’t say that. Still, the schedule is not favorable for the Illini moving forward. Crossover tilts at Penn State and against Ohio State aren’t ideal for an offense that’s still struggling to consistently string touchdown drives together. The loss of Josh Ferguson is a big one that will be felt even more against the conference’s better defenses. Illinois could easily wind up with six wins, but anything beyond that at this point would be gravy.
This is making a grand assumption. I’m assuming Jordan Howard and Nate Sudfeld are able to return to form. If they do, the Hoosiers could handle Rutgers, Maryland and Purdue at full strength. It’s hard to look at the defensive miscues the Hoosiers had at Penn State and say this group is capable of a seven-win season. I don’t believe it’ll ever be a lockdown unit that holds teams under 20 points. But I do know that Howard and Sudfeld were leading one of the conference’s top 1-2 punches before they went down. The defense needs them back, too. They got the IU defense off the field, which is what plagued it on Saturday. Without them, though, this team could have a similar slide like last year.
The toughest schedule in the B1G isn’t going to be very forgiving to the Gophers in the second half of 2015. After this weekend’s game against Nebraska, Minnesota gets Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa in a three-week stretch. What do all of those defenses do well? Take away the run. The Gophers looked awfully good against Purdue because the Boilers can’t tackle anybody at the second level. If and when Minnesota falls behind against better teams, Mitch Leidner is going to be in pass-only situations. That’s a scary thought against pass rushers like Joey Bosa and Carl Nassib.
Purdue, Illinois, Rutgers and Maryland. Those are the Badgers’ next four opponents. Depleted offense or not, they should win all of those games and be in position to pursue another B1G West crown. As I said before, the Badgers are at the same point they were at last year. They’re down to their third-best tailback, but this defense is capable of winning games even if the offense isn’t clicking. Joe Schobert is having an All-American season anchoring the Badger defense and providing a game-changing element the Badgers haven’t had in recent memory. I’m buying the Badgers with or without Corey Clement to battle Iowa and Northwestern for the West crown.