Week 4 B1G Grades
Grades are a combination of expectations and perspective. Both have to be taken into consideration to properly evaluate performance.
I feel the need to say this because of Michigan State. While everyone is patting the Spartans on the back for moving on to the short list of national title contenders, there’s a stat I just can’t shake before jumping on board.
They haven’t covered the spread once.
You could make the argument that Michigan State hasn’t played a complete game yet. They were only up by a touchdown in the fourth quarter to a MAC school. The win was never in doubt, but for evaluation purposes, it’s a bit concerning.
Non-conference play is the time when top-five teams are supposed to be pummeling mid-majors, and that didn’t happen for MSU. A big part of that is injuries. Another is a second-half tendency for the Spartans to take their foot off the gas.
So how do you evaluate a team that keeps rising when they keep churning out subpar performances by their own high standards? If Michigan State can run the table and get to that Ohio State showdown unbeaten, that’ll do all the talking we’ll need.
In the mean time, it’s increasingly difficult to evaluate a team like Michigan State on a game-by-game basis. But I’ll give it a shot, along with the rest of the B1G.
Credit Illinois for getting a clutch late drive to set up a long game-winning field goal from Taylor Zalewski. Do not credit Illinois for letting two Middle Tennessee State receivers run wild at Memorial Stadium.
That would’ve been an easy game for IU to let its guard down. The Hoosiers were playing a struggling ACC team and Ohio State was around the corner. Instead, the IU defense made key plays down the stretch to secure its first 4-0 start since 1990.
Maybe the best offensive performance any B1G team has put together all season came in Iowa City on Saturday. C.J. Beathard was basically perfect and Jordan Canzeri tied a school-record four touchdowns. North Texas or not, 62 points is impressive.
Where do I start? How about the six turnovers? Or maybe the 38-0 halftime deficit? Perhaps the 601 yards of offense allowed? Take your pick. Any way you draw it up, that was a stinker.
Well, that escalated quickly. Michigan’s complete destruction of BYU was so impressive that it jumped into the Associated Press poll after it didn’t receive a single vote the week before. It’s safe to say the Wolverines are ahead of schedule on the Jim Harbaugh rebuilding plan.
Michigan State: C
As I said before, this is tough to evaluate. On one hand, Central Michigan was as big play away from tying the No. 2 team in the country. On the other hand, the Spartans didn’t turn the ball over once and never surrendered the lead. I’ll split the difference and move on.
For the second straight week, the Gophers beat a MAC school by three points at home. True freshman Shannon Brooks bailed out an offense that continued to struggle to sustain scoring drives. Injuries aside, the Gophers should’ve been able to lock this one up well before the final minute of regulation.
Speaking of a team struggling to distance itself from a mid-major, Nebraska fit that bill. The Huskers lack of defensive depth showed in the fourth quarter, and if not for another big day from the Tommy Armstrong-Jordan Westerkamp combination, the sky could’ve been falling in Lincoln.
Nobody could stay on the field for the Wildcats. As a result, Ball State had a chance down the stretch to pull off the stunner. But Justin Jackson thrived again and Clayton Thorson had the best game of his young career to keep the Wildcats undefeated.
Ohio State: B
Everybody was going to base Ohio State’s performance on the offense’s productivity. It definitely looked better, but the Buckeyes left points on the board. As long as you’re winning by 26, that’s not the worst problem to have.
Penn State: B+
The Lions would’ve earned themselves an ‘A’ had some major special teams issues not surfaced. Christian Hackenberg finally looked like the guy we saw emerge as a freshman and the defensive line got after it. Hopefully the Lions can get their banged up running backs healthy for Saturday.
After how poorly Purdue’s defense looked in the second half against Virginia Tech, I expected the nation’s leading passer to dice up the Boilers. Matt Johnson threw for 402 yards, but he’s done that to everyone, including Tennessee. More impressive was the fact that freshman quarterback David Blough threw for 340 yards of his own in his first career start.
I mean, somebody had to win. Chris Laviano was inconsistent, but Josh Hicks and Robert Martin did more than enough to carry the depleted Scarlet Knights offense to a much-needed home victory against Kansas.
At full strength, the Badgers are a pretty stout group defensively. Joe Schobert provided the muscle again for a unit that only surrendered 255 yards of offense. Couple that with a breakout game from Taiwan Deal and the Badgers have to be feeling confident going into B1G play.