Sunday, September 22, 2013

Week 4 is in the Books: Big Ten Rankings heading into 2013 Conference Race

It's time to get ready for Big Ten play; back to 0-0 for Iowa, etc.  As Wisconsin kicked off the 2013 Big Ten race with a 41-10 win in Madison over Purdue. Two more Big Ten games to close out September and Week 5.

Cidsports Week 4 Big Ten Rankings:

1. Wisconsin (1-0) - the three-time defending Big Ten champs opened 2013 with a nice home win over Purdue. They get to enjoy #1 for at least this week, with a trip to Columbus ahead and a prime time game at Ohio State in Week 5. No September bye week for UW (3-1 overall).

2. OHIO STATE (0-0, 8-0 last year) - It is fitting the Badgers get one week at #1 in the Big Ten, before the game of the year in the final year of the Leaders? Coaches rivalry as Urban Meyer vs. Gary Anderson (2 former State of Utah guys) square off in Columbus. Could the Buckeyes defense be suspect? Like three other B1G teams, no September bye week for Buckeyes (4-0 overall), who have experienced some injuries this season.

3. Penn State (0-0) - If any Legends program had to go on the road to Happy Valley, would any of them be favored over PSU? Depth is a concern for the Nittany Lions, due to probation and scholarship limits, but the first unit is talented. They open 2013 as the top spoiler in the Big Ten, with Michigan on 10/12, the Nittany Lions can help other Legends programs. Other games @ Minnesota and vs. Nebraska also face PSU (3-1 overall) in November. Bye week this week before opening @ Indiana on 10/5.

4. Northwestern (0-0) - the Wildcats are 4-0 to open 2013 in the OOC, and are on a seven game win streak beginning with a win at MSU last year, blowout of Illinois in home finale and the first bowl win in over 50 years. The Wildcats defense gets interceptions, including two Pick 6s in the 35-21 win over Maine during Week 4. The Wildcats enjoy Bye Week ahead of the Game of the Century on Homecoming hosting Ohio State. Pat Fitzgerald is 1-8 off bye weeks (including bowls) per Phil Steele. Northwestern is 1-28 vs. OSU with a home win in 2004, so a win in 2013 would be monumental not only for Pat Fitzgerald, but Northwestern Football.

5. Michigan State (0-0) - The Spartans have the top defense in the Big Ten again, but without a sure person managing the QB spot, they may be a train wreck as Big Ten play begins? The Spartans appear capable of a winning every game, due to the defense, but can they do it on defense alone? Bye week coming off loss @ Notre Dame, with another road trip @ Iowa to open Big Ten play 10/5. They only get Michigan and Minnesota at home in the Legends, and get bye weeks ahead of trips at Iowa and at Nebraska. After Iowa to start October, Indiana (HC), Purdue and at Illinois, so a 3-1 or better start isn't out of the question for Michigan State (3-1 overall)?

6. Michigan (0-0) - The Wolverines could be 1-3, but they squeaked out wins over Akron, then UConn on the road. They host Nebraska on 11/9, so the Wolverines get the #6 spot over Nebraska. In the Big Ten, Michigan is 7-14 in the last 21 B1G road games. Michigan rsmains 4-0 and will enjoy bye week ahead of opening Big Ten at home vs. Minnesota for Homecoming.

7. Nebraska (0-0) - It has been an usual September for Bo Pelini and the Cornhuskers (3-1 overall). Last year, dispite a blowout at UCLA, the Cornhuskers won the Legends division. But, after a home blowout loss to UCLA 41-21, where the Bruins scored 38 unanswered points, the Blackshirts are a concern. Iowa was 4-2 to open 2012, but lost six straight to finish an awful season. What will Bo and the Cornhuskers do in 2013? This is Pelini's sixth season and some fans are tired of 4 losses each year. They open B1G play, after a timely bye week, vs. Illinois in Lincoln on 10/5.

8. Indiana (0-0) - IU is 2-2 overall, but Kevin Wilson hasn't found a QB to fill the #1 role? Defense was swiss cheese in losses at home vs. Navy and Missouri. Hoosiers enjoy bye week, then open B1G play with another home game, fifth game straight at home to open 2013, vs. Penn State.

9. IOWA (0-0) - The Hawkeyes open at Minnesota in the Big Ten this week. Iowa has never won (0-2) at TCF Bank Stadium. Iowa faced two game losing streaks at ISU and vs. Western Michigan too, heading into 2013. So, does three continue to be a charm for Iowa for the third straight week? Phil Steele took Iowa ahead of Minnesota, despite the road game. Will Phil Steele prove right? Iowa appears improved in most phases of the game over last year. Last year's awful team did win the Big Ten road opener at MSU, so another measurement opportunity for the Hawkeyes in this year's opener.

10. Minnesota (0-0) - The Golden Gophers (4-0 overall) open B1G play with Homecoming vs. IOWA. Jerry Kill and the Gophers lost Floyd last year in Iowa City 31-13. The Gophers won at home in Kill's first season with a 22-21 victory. Prior to that, it was a 27-24 game at the end of 2010 with an interim coach. Iowa last win in Minnesota was the final game in the Dome, by the score of 55-0. The Hawkeyes-Gophers series has been played every year, since 1931. Iowa dominated last year's game in the first half, with a 24-0 score. What happens this week?

11. Illinois (0-0, 0-8 last year) - The Fighting Illini are 2-1 overall coming off first loss and a bye week. The Illini host Miami-OH this week, before opening B1G play at Nebraska on 10/5, then another bye week before hosting defending Leaders champ Wisconsin at home. How good can Tim Beckman be in the Big Ten in Year 2? They must travel @ Purdue near end of the season. Do they truly move out of the cellar in 2013?

12. Purdue (0-1) - Opened to tough game and another loss at Wisconsin in B1G play. Host Northern Illinois (3-0) for Homecoming this week, before first bye week of the season. Boilermakers (1-3 overall) host Nebraska in home opener on 10/12, then OSU, Iowa and Illinois later in the season. Get bye week before OSU, like Iowa.

Six Big Ten teams play on the last weekend in September, with two conference games. It is going to be an interesting 2013 -season, as Legends and Leaders close out conference history in the third and final season.

Will Michigan-Ohio State be played as a conference title game ever? Last opportunity is now.

Can Iowa become competitive in 2013?  We shall soon see in Big Ten play.

Who wins the Legends? Is Ohio State a lock for the Leaders? Can Ohio run the table for the second straight season under Urban Meyer?

Plenty of questions ahead in the next ten weeks in the Big Ten!

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