I’ll try to do this every week, taking a look at upcoming games, the conference race, national implications, etc.
Big Ten Standings
TEAM CONF OVERALL
Maryland 2-0 13-1
Indiana 2-0 12-3
Michigan 2-0 12-3
Iowa 2-0 11-3
Ohio State 2-0 10-5
Michigan State 1-1 14-1
Purdue 1-1 13-2
Northwestern 1-1 13-2
Wisconsin 1-1 9-6
Penn State 0-2 9-6
Illinois 0-2 8-7
Nebraska 0-2 8-7
Minnesota 0-2 6-8
Rutgers 0-2 6-9
Wisconsin @ Indiana – IU won two road games against bottom feeders (Rutgers and Nebraska) but did it without James Blackmon, so they deserve some credit for getting that done. Wisconsin lost a tight one at home versus Purdue and then beat Rutgers decisively, also at Kohl. Assembly Hall is a tough place to win a game under any circumstances. It’s unclear as to whether Blackmon will be back (from what I’m seeing, it seems as if it could be something which may linger, a non contact injury to his knee and he did suffer a torn meniscus this summer) but even without him, it’s hard to see Wisconsin having what it takes to get it done in that gym.
Minnesota @ Penn State – These are two bad defensive teams, though this weekend Minnesota looked better at that end while PSU looked positively horrendous. I think Minnesota has a bit more talent on hand but the pieces aren’t fitting together well and PSU has an advantage inside. The Jordan Murphy/Brandon Taylor matchup should be a good individual battle. I’m inclined to go with the home team, so Nits it is.
Nebraska @ Iowa – The Hawks are definitely the team with the best start to the campaign, simply because of who they beat and in one case where they beat them. This is one Iowa simply should not lose but it does represent a test of sorts…does this group have the kind of focus required to win the Big Ten games they ought to? The Huskers lost home games to Northwestern and IU and are not nearly good enough or experienced enough to hang with Iowa objectively. I’ll go with the Hawks.
Rutgers @ Maryland – Mismatch. Total mismatch. RU is living down to expectations that they would be perhaps the worst Power 5 team in the nation, while Maryland hasn’t exactly blown people’s doors off in their two wins so far, but they’re a much, much better team than the Scarlet Knights. Maryland in a cakewalk.
Ohio State @Northwestern – The Bucks are 2-0. They outlasted Illinois today and blew out Minnesota, both in Columbus. Northwestern beat Nebraska on the road before falling to the Terps yesterday. If NU had Alex Olah in the lineup, it would be an easy call for me. Without him, it’s closer to a toss up. I’m ascribing the Bucks’ start to schedule more than their having completely solved their significant offensive problems. I think Northwestern still has enough to get this done as the young Buckeye team faces a Big Ten road game for the first time. Tight game, though.
Illinois @ MSU – Preview to come later in the week.
Michigan @ Purdue – Lots of intrigue with this one. Michigan struggled to beat Illinois but blew the doors off PSU without Caris Levert. Thing is, Levert may not play in this game either. In fact, there are rumors he might be facing something longer term than a couple of games. On the Purdue side, they are coming off a massive second half collapse against Iowa at home. This is a classic battle of rosters and styles. Purdue has a ton of size and that gives them a massive advantage against a soft Michigan interior. OTOH, I think it’s fair to wonder about Purdue’s ability to guard Michigan’s numerous perimeter weapons. You also have to wonder if Beilein might try to take a page out of Fran McCaffrey’s book and throw some trapping at the Boiler guards…he’s gone away from zone looks in recent years but this might be a time to dust some of that off. With Levert questionable and Purdue likely angry coming off a loss and still at home, I’m going with the Boilers.
Northwestern @ Minnesota – This would be an example of a game both teams probably think represents a big opportunity. For NU, it’s a chance at a winnable road game and those are precious in the Big Ten. For the Gophers, it’s a game at home against a team which shouldn’t be able to overwhelm them with a massive talent or experience advantage. Tough call, but I’m going with the Gophers to win their first game of the year here.
Maryland @ Wisconsin – Kohl Center ain’t what it used to be…the Badgers have already lost 4 times at home this year, something unthinkable for most of the last 20 years. It’ll also be Diamond Stone’s homecoming, as he returns to his native state. Wisconsin *can* win this game at home, but I can’t pick them at this point. They’d have to prove more than they have to date.
Nebraska @ Rutgers – Similar dynamic to the NU vs. Minnesota game above. If you’re going to pick Rutgers to win any games this season, this would be one of the best bets. I’m going with the Huskers, though…I think they have enough to win a tight one.
Purdue @ Illinois – Somewhat similar to the test the Boilers face against Michigan, except that Illinois isn’t as good as Michigan. This is one where Illinois really misses Michael Thorne…he would have given them a chance inside against all that Boiler size. OTOH, Illinois’ perimeter guys (well, at least Hill and Nunn and Coleman-Lands) will have an edge over their Purdue counterparts. Illinois playing at home gives them a shot, but I’m picking the Boilers in what could be a closer game than some expect.
Ohio State @ Indiana – This will be interesting…the Buckeyes have a terrible offense and IU is horrible defensively. So which wins out, the resistable force or the movable object? Hard to pick against a more experienced and simply better IU team at home.
MSU @ PSU – Preview to come later in the week.