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September 17, 2013

Big Ten Rewind: Week Three

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Last week it was all about praising the Big Ten. Man it was fun while it lasted. Week three was a bit of a wake-up call for all those kool-aid drinkers, thinking this year could be the year the conference finally gains some credibility back. Thanks to the Pac 12 and the MAC, we're back at square one. Here's this week's Big Ten Rewind…

Grading the Big Ten/Pac 12 showdown

Over the weekend, four Big Ten teams battled with Pac 12 schools to potentially help decide who the second best conference is. A 1-3 mark was not what the conference was hoping for, especially after a few teams gave up sizable leads and opportunities in the waning seconds. Let review these four teams and grade out their performances from week three.

Nebraska - The blackshirts jumped off to a stellar start. They controlled the tempo of the game, Taylor Martinez was cerebral with his throws and they were simply out playing the Bruins. Then as soon as Brett Hundley began to get into a groove, the Cornhusker offense hit a wall. UCLA went on to score 38 unanswered points and cruised to victory. Grade: C

Illinois - When you review the numbers, you would think the Huskers completely dominated the Illini. And while they did dictate the pace of the game, I have to present kudos to Illinois for hanging in there and keeping it close. Washington isn't ranked by mistake. They've earned their seat in the top 25 and were challenged by Tim Beckman's crew. Grade: B-

Ohio State - The offense was dominant while the defense didn't hold up their end, so to say. We all knew the silver bullets would go through some early growing pains based on inexperience so it's important to stay patient as they continue to develop and mesh together. Kenny Guiton's been a remarkable story and was more than deserving of the Walter Camp Player of the Week. Grade: B+

Wisconsin - There's no question that Melvin Gordon's the best running back in the Big Ten today. His numbers support it and just reviewing the footage from their bout with Arizona State, you're able to see the rare explosiveness he possesses. I'd imagine the Badgers offense will continue to focus around Gordon and their stable of backs. The defense struggled in pass protection, allowing Taylor Kelly to throw for more than 350 yards. Grade: B

Surviving a scare

What happened in Ann Arbor? One week the Wolverines are handedly defeating the Fighting Irish by double digits. The next, they barely escaping past pitiful Akron. Now props need to go out to the Zips for their strong performance in the Big House. Quarterback Kyle Pohl played exceptionally well and made a few throws that really caught my eye. I think you can argue he outperformed fellow QB Devin Gardner. Also Chuck Amato's defensive game plan against Michigan was really what sparked the near upset on Saturday.

Hitting the road to East Hartford, CT will be a telling trip for the Wolverines. All the pieces are in place for a strong run at the Big Ten title but if they're unable to clear up some glaring errors, they could enter Big Ten play with a loss.

Stat of the week

I know non-conference games tend to be high scoring but it's worth noting that six Big Ten teams are averaging over 40 points a game this year. Indiana leads the way with 50.0 per game. Rewind to last year and only two teams (Ohio State at 40.6 per game and Nebraska at 40.3 per game) were hitting this mark. If this trend continues, we're in for a wild season of football.

Week three's Power Rankings

1.) Ohio State - Took care of business in Berkeley despite giving up 34 points. Offense is possibly the best in the country.
2.) Michigan - For their sake, they better hope that was just a hangover from Notre Dame. We may get a better feel of their legitimacy during their first road trip.
3.) Northwestern - Could possibly be the most balance team in the Big Ten. My early pick to win the Legends division.
4.) Wisconsin - It'll be interesting to see how the Badgers bounce back after such an odd ending in Tempe. They should be undefeated.
5.) Michigan State - The offense finally came alive…but it was against Youngstown State. Let's wait a bit before we hand Connor Cook the key to the city.
6.) Penn State - UCF just played a better game in Happy Valley. Simple as that. Take your licks and move on to the next one.
7.) Nebraska - I sense a collapse on the horizon. The Cornhuskers are undeniably talented but have too many issues across the board.
8.) Minnesota - Great start to the season and a very good chance to be 4-0 after this weekend. Here's to hoping we see Coach Kill back on the sidelines soon.
9.) Indiana - I truly believe they rival the Buckeyes for most explosive offense in the conference. Sudfeld continues to light up the scoreboard.
10.) Illinois - Came up just short against Washington which convinces me more that the Illini will challenge a lot of teams in the Big Ten.
11.) Iowa - Finally brought the Cy-Hawk home after a two year hiatus. Still a lot of question marks on the roster.
12.) Purdue - Almost pulled off the unthinkable against the Irish. If anything, the bottom-dweller of the conference proved they can hang with a far better team.



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