The period from National Signing Day through the preseason may as well be the season of optimism in college football.
After two weeks of the season, no doubt Big Ten fans would like to revisit those happier times of late August.
The Big Ten’s hopes for a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff are faint after a disastrous second week of the season. We’ve already detailed those reasons.
The question now is what’s next and what’s the payoff. Perhaps there’s a slim chance a Big Ten team finds its way back into contention, but either way, the old carrot of the Rose Bowl, this year a Playoff semifinal, is gone.
The Big Ten title is still out there, and few teams look ready to claim it. Here’s what we learned out of the Big Ten after a dismal Week 3:
Few Big Ten teams will be able to challenge Michigan State like Oregon did
It’s been said several times since Michigan State lost 46-27 to Oregon: The Spartans still feel like the Big Ten favorite. Part of that is the lackluster showing by most of the powers in the league. But there are also few reasons to think the Big Ten will be able to threaten the Michigan State defense the way Oregon did, especially as the Spartans have a bye week, Eastern Michigan and Wyoming to adjust. The Spartans had their breakdowns in the secondary, and Shilique Calhoun was quiet Saturday. Nebraska and Indiana may be the only major tests of the Michigan State defense between now and November, especially if Michigan and Ohio State remain as dysfunctional as they were this week.
Listen to the Week 2 recap podcast:
The problem at Ohio State isn’t the redshirt freshman backup QB
J.T. Barrett’s final line is dismal. He finished 9-of-29 for 219 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions in the loss to Virginia Tech. He accounted for 289 yards of Ohio State’s 327 yards and 53 of the Buckeyes’ 69 plays. That’s way too much for a player in his situation. The receivers were dismal against Virginia Tech’s secondary, allowing the Hokies to crowd the box. That contributed to seven sacks and 53 yards on 15 carries for Ohio State tailbacks.
Michigan’s offense is moving backward
The Wolverines had their most futile offensive day of the Brady Hoke era, which is saying something considering last year’s issues. Michigan never advanced further than Notre Dame’s 29-yard line and never got into field goal range after the second possession of the game. The line still looks like the weak link, but Devin Gardner hasn’t helped the cause with three picks.
Where’s the offense in this league?
Sensing a theme here? Ohio State and Michigan aren’t aberrations. Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon (2.2 yards per carry against Western Illinois) continues to struggle with a hip injury. Iowa’s run game is mystifyingly stagnant. Northwestern has scored one first-half touchdown in two games. Maryland’s passing game is limping along against James Madison and USF despite two stud receivers. Turnovers and a limited run game hindered Penn State against Akron. Give credit to teams like Minnesota and Illinois, who at least have an established identity on offense thanks to running back David Cobb and quarterback Wes Lunt, respectively.
It’s too early for panic at Nebraska
Nebraska escaped with a win thanks to Ameer Abdullah’s 58-yard catch. Other Big Ten teams would only like to be so lucky. Receivers Kenny Bell and Jamal Turner both left the game with injuries and defensive end Randy Gregory sat out the entire game. Now, even a shorthanded Nebraska shouldn’t need late-game heroics to beat McNeese State, but a road trip to Fresno State should give the Huskers a good chance to rebound.
Big Ten Week 3 Power Rankings
L, Oregon 46-27
W, Akron 21-3
W, McNeese State 31-24
at Fresno State
W, Ball State 17-13
W, Western Ill. 37-3
L, Virginia Tech 35-21
L, Notre Dame 31-0
W, Middle Tenn. 35-24
W, Howard 38-25
W, USF 24-17
at Bowling Green
W, Western Ky. 42-34
L, Northern Ill. 23-15
L, Central Mich. 38-17
at Notre Dame