Big Ten Midseason Report
WNUR’s Jason Dorow (@jasondorow) looks at every team in the Big Ten’s performance on the gridiron so far this season and makes his postseason predictions.
The Legends Division
Michigan State (7-1 overall, 4-0 in conference): The Spartan defense, ranked 3rd in the nation in points against, has carried Michigan State to a 4-0 Big Ten start. They will be tested in the coming weeks, with matchups against Michigan, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Minnesota. It may be difficult for Sparty to stay atop the division.
Michigan (6-1, 2-1): One word can describe Michigan’s first half of the season: inconsistent. The Wolverines defeated Notre Dame and blew out Minnesota. However, they barely snuck by the likes of Akron and UConn, and then lost to Penn State in four overtimes. There is plenty of talent in the Wolverine offense, 8th in the nation in points scored, but questions abound in Ann Arbor over which Michigan team will show up in the second half.
Nebraska (5-2, 2-1): Like Michigan, Nebraska has plenty of talent on offense, led by senior quarterback Taylor Martinez and junior running back Ameer Abdullah. Head coach Bo Pelini’s job could be in jeopardy if the Cornhuskers don’t rebound from last week’s loss to Minnesota and make a run at the Legends division title.
Minnesota (6-2, 2-2): Very few would have predicted that the lowly Gophers would be bowl eligible before Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Northwestern. Sure enough, Minnesota is 6-2 and in the hunt in the Legends division. With Head Coach Jerry Kill taking time off to treat his epilepsy, defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys has taken the helm and will likely head the Gophers in the second half.
Iowa (5-3, 2-2): The Hawkeyes have quietly gotten off to a good start in the Big Ten. The two-headed rushing monster of Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock led Iowa to victories against Minnesota and Northwestern and put up a fight against Ohio State. They have a tough schedule left, but Iowa should definitely see a bowl game this year.
Northwestern (4-4, 0-4): Injuries have hampered the Wildcats throughout the season, as quarterback Kain Colter, running back Venric Mark, and defensive tackle Sean McEvilly have all missed significant time. After starting on a 4 game winning streak, NU lost 4 straight in Big Ten play. Their stars have just returned to the lineup, and will try to help NU win their way into a bowl game.
The Leaders Division
Ohio State (8-0, 4-0): Now riding a 20 game win streak, the Buckeyes are expected to cruise into the Big Ten title game. They will likely need some help from around the country, but sights in Columbus are set on the national championship.
Wisconsin (5-2, 3-1): Heisman hopeful Melvin Gordon has carried Wisconsin to a strong Big Ten start. The sophomore running back has eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark in just seven games. But the loss to Ohio State will come back to bite the Badgers, as they will likely be left out of the Big Ten championship game.
Penn State (4-3, 1-2): Head coach Bill O’Brien has the Nittany Lions on the rise. PSU is still ineligible for postseason play, but their future looks bright. The connection between freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg and junior wide receiver Allen Robinson has carried the PSU offense, and Happy Valley could be looking at a six or seven win season.
Indiana (3-4, 1-2): The Hoosiers have relied on simply trying to outscore opponents this year. Indiana ranks 8th nationally in points for and 113th in points against. Sophomore quarterback Nate Sudfeld will try to guide the high-powered Hoosier offense to the postseason.
Illinois (3-4, 0-3): Senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has been one of the few bright spots for the Illini this year, passing for 1,649 yards and 12 touchdowns. Illinois will be fighting with Indiana and Northwestern for a bowl berth.
Purdue (1-6, 0-3): Little has gone the way for Purdue this year, their lone win coming against Indiana State. The Boilermakers will have a long month of November against Big Ten opposition.
Second Half Predictions
Legends Division Champion: Nebraska
Leaders Division Champion: Ohio State
Big Ten Champion: Ohio State
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl: Northwestern
Heart of Dallas Bowl: Iowa
Texas Bowl: Minnesota
Gator Bowl: Michigan
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Michigan State
Outback Bowl: Nebraska
Capital One Bowl: Wisconsin
Rose Bowl: Ohio State