Fantasy or Reality: B1G Edition
Two games have been played, which means we can draw conclusions based on everything we’ve seen so far.
Well, maybe not.
Here are 10 reactions that might’ve surfaced after Saturday. Were they fantasy or reality?
Michigan State is a national title contender
Reality — I thought the Spartans were a national title contender coming into the season, but the nation might not have realized how good the defensive line was before Saturday. Even if Michigan State’s lone loss ends up being in Columbus, it will still have a shot at the final College Football Playoff spot.
Saquon Barkley is Penn State’s only offensive hope
Fantasy — Don’t get me wrong. The true freshman had a major breakout game albeit against a mid-major. But Akeel Lynch is too talented not to still be involved in the offense and Christian Hackenberg is going to lead the Lions to victories this year. If Penn State is pinning its survival on a true freshman tailback, the Big Ten is going to be another struggle.
C.J. Beathard is the Big Ten’s newest star
Reality — I feel like every sentence I write about Beathard is followed by the word ‘confidence.’ He only has four career starts and I realize Iowa State isn’t Wisconsin, but Beathard has looked like the guy Kirk Ferentz risked his job to start. If Captain Kirk is all in on Beathard, then so am I.
Rutgers is a complete mess
Reality — I hate to kick a team while it’s down because there have been some positives. Chris Laviano has the best quarterback rating of any Big Ten quarterback and Janarion Grant has been the best special teams player in the country. But the program has had seven arrests in the last three weeks and Kyle Flood’s pending investigation could warrant even more punishment. And it’s only Week 3!
Terrell Newby is Ameer Abdullah 2.0
Fantasy — I joked on Saturday that Nebraska didn’t need Abdullah with Newby rolling like he was. Newby is talented, but let’s wait for him to have consistent success against Power Five teams before we even start that conversation.
Northwestern is a legitimate West contender
Reality — The Eastern Illinois game didn’t make that reality. The dominance the Cats showed against No. 21 Stanford did. Pat Fitzgerald has his team believing it can shut down anyone. Without a clear top-10 team in the West, the Cats are certainly one of the favorites.
Michigan is back
Fantasy — Not to burst Michigan fans’ bubbles, but Oregon State’s are few and far between in the Big Ten West. The Wolverines did what they should do to a true freshman quarterback and the ground game showed promise. Still, I’ll wait until the Wolverines are competing for an East crown to say that they’re back.
Darrell Hazell’s plan is working
Reality — Purdue fans want to see Big Ten results. I get it. But non-conference progress had to happen before that was a possibility. The sample size is small, but the largest win of the Hazell era showed that the Boilers have the talent to look like a Big Ten team. Virginia Tech will be a great barometer for this improving group.
Wisconsin doesn’t need to rely on Corey Clement with improved pass game
Fantasy — I don’t know how many of you — if any — thought this, but I thought it was important to squash this notion. Joel Stave’s improvement can carry the Badger offense through non-conference play. In order to win another West title, however, Wisconsin needs to let Clement’s groin injury heal so that he can be at 100 percent for conference play.
Ohio State’s offense is in trouble
Fantasy — To quote Cardale Jones, the Buckeye offense isn’t where we thought it was. That means the Buckeyes can’t just show up and expect to flip the switch. I’m not saying they were unprepared for Hawaii, but playing on a short week after the opener, it’s understandable that the Buckeyes weren’t clicking on all cylinders. Need not worry, Ohio State fans. When they’re on full rest and Meyer puts in the full playbook — he didn’t want to expose his quarterbacks on designed runs — the Buckeyes are still the nation’s most dangerous group.