Predicting every B1G team's record after Week 6
Seeds planted under duress yield misshapen and rotten fruit. A wise farmer once told me that amid my repeated questions about who the cheese stands with. Regardless, didn’t we know we’d end up at a level of ugliness and instability matched only by revealed paternity tests on daytime television?
There’s not much to say except some combination of “yeesh,” “jeez,” “yikes” and “ah brother.” A week without Ohio State and Wisconsin deprived us from watching two of the top three teams in conference and the approaching certainty the Big Ten Championship would pit the two teams most blessed with a combination of luck, vigilance, and good stretches of football against one another. We’re not on a ride as much as we’ve been engaged in one dizzy bat race for the better part of the season and now the margin for error is non-existent. Find the nearest Wallenda and hope they have the upper body strength to support you post-Thanksgiving on the tightrope through the middle of December.
Here’s how the B1G might settle out:
Illinois ends the season with the sort of stiff divisional competition neither diluted by passing efficiency or offensive ingenuity. Think of it as the grain alcohol of the conference. With Iowa and Northwestern left on the schedule, the Illini can fine-tune their rushing attack going into next season against two of the better rush defenses in conference.
There’s something gratifying about Indiana’s win over Maryland that came in the form of a little bit of ugliness. Before quarterback Michael Penix Jr. left the game with an injury near the end of the third quarter, the Hoosiers dedicated themselves to running the football to reveal the sort of balance they believe they’ll need to beat Wisconsin next week. In the year of college football’s existential crisis, let’s max out completions from Penix to Whop Philyor and say to hell with the rest of it.
The Hawkeyes can survive anemic numbers on third down conversions against teams like Nebraska and Illinois, doing just enough to simply exist and succeed. Everything about the win against Nebraska screams pedestrian on the outside, but there are new wrinkles to the Iowa experience, like Kirk Ferentz’s excessive use of timeouts in the win against Minnesota and his assessment of the sport’s regression after the win against Nebraska. These aren’t your old Iowa khakis, there’s elastic in the waistband now!
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We expected a little regression against one of the best defenses in the conference and the high-flying spectacular aerial show put on by Taulia Tagovailoa when we last saw him and the Terps on Nov. 7. Expectations fulfilled, though a gap of two weeks is unfavorable for any team and expect an uptick in offensive production against Michigan next week.
In no context, no conference, no country, and no world are Rutgers and Minnesota lumped into a singular grouping as a sense of accomplishment for a third party.
Michigan State 2-5
Outside of two completed Rubik’s Cubes and the “Moana” soundtrack, Mark Dantonio left Mel Tucker the crib notes on how to make the most people unhappy when the greater good of the conference comes into play. The win against Northwestern was the sort of win that would make Dantonio smile complete with the Spartans having 21 offensive snaps on third down, six punts, and four field goal attempts.
Receiver Rashod Bateman opted out of the rest of the season shortly before Thanksgiving to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft. Gophers fans should probably shift their focus to the NFL as well.
The Huskers acquitted themselves from last week’s disaster against Illinois with a close loss to Iowa. Yes, this is where we stand, a once proud program that gained national prominence in another conference and ankle-bit the decision-makers in its current conference to return to play gets credit by way of a loss.
We were headed here, weren’t we? The Rece Davis sidebar, the horrific offensive third quarter against Wisconsin, the nature of 2020, it all trended toward a loss, a rather unsuspected loss for the Wildcats. No worries, onward to Minnesota and Illinois. One loss is enough to give the media types from Northwestern enough “What if” ammo for the next 20 years.
Ohio State 6-0
There is a national surge in angina for any homeowners with a Brutus Buckeye yard flag on their property. Depending on Michigan State and Michigan to do anything besides give up explosive plays is tempting fate.
Penn State 3-5
A three-game winning streak to end the season? Darn likely with Rutgers and Michigan State left on the schedule. Really, who wants to go to Branson, Missouri, for the Sequined Cowboy Hat Bowl anyways?
A loss at home to Rutgers, even an improved Rutgers, robs me of any sort of graduated thought on the Boilermakers.
Reap some value from the 2020 Scarlet Knights: Two wins in conference, one of the few teams with a chance to play eight total games, offensive creativity from coordinator Sean Gleeson, the program’s most Big Ten wins since 2017, and Greg Schiano dropping the acronym monster on Saturday’s broadcast of Rutgers as a F.A.M.I.L.Y “Forget about me, I love you.” Somewhere, presumably Minneapolis, PJ Fleck breaks a legal pad over his knee.
We’re hopeful to get Wisconsin to 5 total games played. The Badgers have a barnstorming vibe to them and it grows more prevalent with each cancellation. If the Eau Claire fire department is at full strength, the Kenosha Kickers are off for the week, and the Racine IBEW are in the midst of a strike, the Badgers should be able to finish the season with enough players. Watch for Graham Mertz’s development the rest of the way.
If that previous sentence reads as dismissive, you’re right. I have nothing else to tell you. Your team will finish the season with a regular season of at most five games. The cheeriest of motivational speakers will be slump-shouldered and itching to stress-eat after one look at the schedule and results.