State of every B1G fan base entering Week 1
Remember the “How are you feeling chart?” It’s a Rorschach Test for the unimaginative.
So, how are you feeling?
No really, how are you feeling?
Cool Gary Cooper routine. That stoicism must be a big hit at the roller rink.
Reflection and introspection are for coastal elites. Luckily Ms. Cleo slid me a heap of tuition waivers before the courts seized her assets.
Here’s how each of you generally feels as Illinois and Wisconsin open the Big Ten season Friday night to kick off the Big Ten’s 2020 season.
Illinois: Back to working doubles after a weekend getaway
The Fighting Illini benefitted from a remarkable turnover margin for the first part of last season, only to backslide on a 3-game losing streak to end the year when the team’s margin plummeted to -1.3. A plus turnover differential sustains a team for parts of seasons, but Illinois seems destined for regression based on its over-reliance on fumbles and interceptions to win games in 2019.
Indiana: On call night of Super Bowl
Indiana can have fun this year, but will they have real fun, the sort of fun that lives in group text lore? The Hoosiers return a good number of starters on both sides of the ball and will have opportunities to knock off conference heavies Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan.
Iowa: Refuses to try the daily specials
Iowa fans are content with the steadiness of the program, though the loss of quarterback Nate Stanley and key pieces on each level of the defense will challenge the team’s consistency with games against Penn State, Minnesota and Wisconsin on the road. Same type of characters, same devotion to line play. Throw in an upset on the road and Iowa will have the patty melt, no extra cheese or onions.
Maryland: Waiting on that harvest
Much was made about Mike Locksley’s ties to the DMV and the fruits it would bear in recruiting. Look at all those papayas! Unfortunately, after a win against Syracuse last season the produce stand ceased operations immediately since Locksley didn’t bring enough rat poison from Tuscaloosa. Thankfully, he recruits well enough for Maryland to not embarrass itself in perpetuity, but the 2020 season seems way too soon to feast.
Michigan: Nothing really matters
Michigan as a fan base wants to avoid public castigation for the Wolverines’ generational efforts against Ohio State. Try as they might, “The Game” defines them much more than it does Ohio State and any sort of success is mitigated by the looming question of, “Can we cover that number?”
Michigan State: Holding indeterminably
Consider it purgatory in inclement weather. No team felt the blow of canceled spring practice more than Michigan State. Mark Dantonio resigned in February, which gave new head coach Mel Tucker limited time to find the emergency brakes on the motorized mausoleum of the last few seasons.
Minnesota: Maybe there’s more medical stuff to sort out
Minnesota is not worried about the season. Sure the Golden Gophers had a few players opt out, but the wonderment and excellence of last year, which included a bowl win over Auburn, will be hard to duplicate. Minnesota is a better program than it was a year ago, but for a long-dormant operation to turn into a fire-breathing fan base high on face paint and outsized expectations seems unlikely. To quote John Prine, “Everything is cool, everything’s okay.”
Nebraska: Too much coffee, not enough eggs
In his first official act of rubbing one’s nose in it, Commissioner Kevin Warren rewarded Nebraska’s public outcry for football with a road game against Ohio State to open the season followed by games vs. Wisconsin and Penn State in 2 of the next 3. Nebraska wanted the buffet so badly the conference is making them eat the food under each dimmed heating lamp. Now is the time for those recruiting rankings to pay dividends.
Northwestern: Survive the bar fight, go to work the next day
Rest easy in the defense’s efficiency. Offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian arrives after a year at Boston College in the same role where the Eagles led the ACC in rushing. That stat on its own gave Pat Fitzgerald the sort of football euphoria matched only by candlelight conversations with Mike Vrabel and the less animated Pelini brother.
Ohio State: Yearning for hate
Ohio State grew a little fonder of Ryan Day each time he spoke up in the offseason about the cloudy future of Big Ten football. With each biting comment signaling a devotion to return, Buckeyes fans saw the same feistiness that attracted them to Urban Meyer. No worries in Columbus. With each F-bomb hurled at a player or the program in general, Ohio State further entrenches itself as the class of the conference.
Penn State: Ready for the adult table with no talking points prepared
The Nittany Lions continue to win nearly every step of the way. James Franklin recruits well. Wins pile up at a quick clip. Then life happens. Chase Young happened. The 3-hour rain delay against Michigan State happened. A road game against Minnesota happened. Just when the Nittany Lions are prepared to talk about the health benefits of kale, someone at the table brings up supply-side economics.
Purdue: Last-minute spring break plans
Rondale Moore is back at wide receiver to pair with David Bell in the most tantalizing pass-catching duo in the conference. Forget opt-outs, to hell with injuries, the two are exciting enough to sustain enthusiasm for the program regardless of who plays quarterback.
Rutgers: Park-facing room in the halfway house
Rutgers lingered at rock bottom entering the 2019 season. By the time news broke that Greg Schiano entered into negotiations to return as head coach, a glimmer of light shone through the debris of Big Ten losses. There’s hope, if only for the bounty of legitimacy Rutgers reaped from the NCAA Transfer Portal and financial assurances the university made Schiano to turn the Scarlet Knights into an honest to competent football team.
Wisconsin: Willing to drive automatic
The old reliable clunker of the Wisconsin quarterback position, outside of the dealer’s loaner of Russell Wilson, relies on safe throws, calmness in the pocket, and unremarkable statistics. Enter Graham Mertz. The injury to starter Jack Coan gives Mertz a chance to justify his position as the highest quarterback recruit to sign with the Badgers.