The global pandemic forced everyone to marshal their defensive resources to hand-washing, mask-wearing, and social distancing. Nothing remained for coordinators charged with stopping the opposition from scoring. Prevent the spread of the pandemic. What about the spread of the Spread?

Missed tackles, over-pursuit, and frantic pointing pre-snap marked the first week of the 2020 season for the Big Ten. Motion enough players from left to right and defenses are covering skill positions on the sidelines. Week 1 belonged to the offenses, so now seems an ideal time to reassess where every team in the conference will finish. 

Illinois 1-7

Initial enthusiasm and effort from a staunch defensive line masked a leaky secondary all out of Flex Tape and the ability to cover Wisconsin tight end Jake Ferguson. Illinois has parts but they seem to operate independent of one another. Subsisting on turnovers is an iffy business and one that fails to yield long-term returns. 

Indiana 5-3

Looks like we made it. Fair to say the win against Penn State has Indiana and the Hoosiers faithful all about that WAP, that’s Whop (Philyor) and (Michael) Penix. Maybe crowds were too much of a nuisance and unnecessary distraction for the football devotees in Bloomington. Ah, Indiana. Football State. Nothing like throwing the pigskin against the barn on those cool March nights. Someone tell Antwaan Randle El he can up-charge for any autograph signings in Bloomington for the remainder of the season. 

Iowa 5-3

The Hawkeyes had no difficulty moving the ball against Purdue but there’s too much reloading necessary for any sort of Kirk Ferentz Special where they spoil another team’s season and in turn make that team look like some sort of spilled soup of incompetency.

Maryland 0-8

You’ll always have Texas, twice. You used to have Matt Canada, but don’t. 

Michigan 6-2

Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines operate more effectively when people have things to talk about besides Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines. Joe Milton brings a steadiness and fluidity to the quarterback position unseen since the start of Harbaugh’s tenure in Ann Arbor. 

Michigan State 1-7

Searching for a fast-forward button for the Spartans’ season but the machine’s features won’t allow me to skip any of the 7 turnovers in the loss to Rutgers. I will not pay for Sparty Plus. 

Minnesota 5-3

Short its most prominent players in the feet unit (kicker, punter) along with a collection of other starters, Minnesota challenged Michigan at each turn. The backup oarsmen showed their inefficiencies but the results are short-term. 

Nebraska 3-5

The Huskers defensive effort up front and in the run game justifies the program’s cuff-tugging in the off-season to get the Big Ten to return to play. Exuberance is great for blood drives and car washes, but Nebraska is not talented enough to endure the sort of penalties committed on both sides of the ball and sniff an even record this season. 

Northwestern 4-4

Insufficient data available after bye week — i.e. Maryland.

Ohio State 8-0

That Ohio State did not win every possible positional battle against Nebraska is not enough for a pause or a blip. To confirm: no blips or pauses. The Buckeyes remain the class of the conference. With each masterful effort behind center, Justin Fields forces the Georgia faithful into the sort of longing that permeates federal prisons. 

Penn State 6-2

There’s more to Penn State on offense than touchdown passes to Pat Freiermuth and Sean Clifford’s elusive escape from the pocket. If there’s not, expect that number on the right of the hyphen to increase. 

Purdue 3-5

A wonderful win to start the season against Iowa, but I need to see a serviceable Purdue defense three weeks in a row, okay 2.5 times in a row since it’s an abbreviated season.

Rutgers 3-5

We’re all over the moon and headed to Satriale’s for a post-game capicola, but let’s reassess when we find out if anyone told Michigan State the season started Saturday. Regardless, new offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson’s use of motion and safe throws set a great tempo to at least power-wash some of the program’s filth amassed the last decade. 

Wisconsin 6-2

Part of Wisconsin’s agreement as a land grant institution is to discover abnormally large offensive linemen from obscure parts of the state like Muskrat Pelvis and Beaver Ridge, both fictional places but ones you needed to think about for just a second. These massive bodies run-block with unhinged glee and to great success, but the emergence of Graham Mertz in the win against Illinois should at least challenge the conformity of between-the-tackles rushing and screen passes.