Big Ten Breakdown Week 2

Hi everyone! I run a personal Northwestern blog called "Purple Storm," over at One of my weekly segments is a Big Ten breakdown looking through a Northwestern-focused lens. I thought I would share this week's just to see if anyone is interested. Hope you enjoy!

This is my week 2 take on the Big 10 as a whole, ranking teams by where I foresee them finishing the season, and for teams that play NU, giving our likelihood of beating them.

Leaders Division

  1. LW (1) Ohio State: Despite Braxton Miller going down with a knee injury, Ohio State did everything right to stay in the top spot. Backup Kenny Guiton went 19/28 with 152 yards, 2 TDs, and an interception, while rushing for 83 and a touchdown on nine carries. The rest of the run game looked good as well, as the Buckeyes rushed for 262 yards. OSU's defense was similarly solid, holding SDSU to 280 total yards and forcing four turnovers. Overall, Ohio State is a very good, but not unbeatable team, and the uncertainty of Braxton Miller's health is an intriguing storyline. While Guiton is good, the team is clearly better with Miller, and while he should be back shortly, one has to wonder whether he will be 100%. Due to the uncertainty surrounding Miller, and because of how well the 'Cats played, I am bumping Northwestern up to a 45% chance of victory. Keep an eye on this Saturday, when OSU plays Cal. This is still a good first look at how NU and OSU compare.
  2. LW (2)Wisconsin: It's very tough to get a read on Wisconsin, due to the fact that they've only played two cupcakes, but they have certainly looked good against said cupcakes. For the second straight week, three Wisconsin players exceeded 100 rush yards. The defense was also stifling, holding Tennessee Tech to 113 yards. Overall, Wisconsin is outscoring opponents 93-0 so far. They get their first test this weekend against Arizona St., and we should have a better idea of what to think. As for right now, I'm leaving Northwestern at 55% win chance due to the NU rush defense.
  3. LW (4) Penn State: Penn State moves up this week, but this has more to do with Indiana's performance than the Nittany Lion's. That being said, Penn State played well. Hackenberg performed admirably, throwing for 311 yards, while both Lynch and Belton broke the 100 yard mark on the ground. The defense was also good, holding Eastern Michigan to 183 yards. The Nittany Lions do not play Northwestern.
  4. LW (3) Indiana: Indiana falls one spot after a loss to Navy. The Hoosiers got the passing game going with 363 yards from Nate Sudfeld, but the Navy option attack was too much for them, leading to 444 yards and no turnovers on the ground. The Hoosier defense just appears too porous for them to be very good right now. Indiana does not play Northwestern.
  5. LW (6) Illinois: Well well well, maybe I was too hasty with the Illini. Illinois demolished the Cincinnati team that blew out Purdue a week before. I'm not ready to move Illinois higher than 5, but they have the potential to move up a spot or two, we'll see. Scheelhaase was very good, throwing 4 TDs and no picks with 312 yards, and the run game backed him up solidly. Defensively, the Illini were mediocre in terms of yardage, but held Cincinnati to only 17, so they were effective. Was this a fluke? Quite possibly; we'll see when they play Washington this week. But for right now, I have to assume it was not and lower the 'Cats to only an 85% chance of victory against the Illini.
  6. LW (5) Purdue: Womp. This team looks awful. After being blown out in week one, they barely beat Indiana St. In fact, they actually got outgained by the Sycamores. There's very little to like about this team and 1-11 seems like a very real possibility at the moment.

Legends Division

  1. LW (1) Michigian: Michigan got a quality win this week over Notre Dame. Devin Gardner made some poor decisions in the game, but did very well statistically, throwing for 294 yards and 4 TDs, while adding 82 yards and a TD on the ground. Notre Dame had some luck through the air, however, as Tommy Rees threw for 314 yards. The Wolverines ultimately moved up in my estimation this week, but only about as much as the 'Cats did. I maintain a 52% chance of a Northwestern victory.
  2. LW (2) Northwestern: A solid win against Syracuse makes me feel a bit better about this Wildcat team than I did a week ago. As of right now, I feel we've solidified the #2 spot. For my full impressions of our week s game, read my Syracuse @ Northwestern recap.
  3. LW (3) Nebraska: There isn't much to get out of Nebraska's win against Southern Mississippi this weekend, as Southern Miss is a dreadful team. Everyone performed as would be expected. Abdullah had a solid game, and Taylor Martinez had a very good, but ultimately unremarkable, performance. The defense had a better game statistically as well, but, again, it's against Southern Mississippi. In the end, however, I saw nothing that changed my opinion that Northwestern matches up very well against this team. Northwestern has a 70% chance of winning.
  4. Minnesota: There is a pretty huge drop-off between the top 3 and the bottom 3 in the Legends Division, but for right now, Minnesota gets the "honor" of being the best team in the bottom 3. The reason they are a bottom 3 team, however, is primarily this: They are a terrible passing team. Philip Nelson is struggling mightily, completing only 48.6% of his passes this year. The run game is vastly better, though, as they ran for 342 yards in this game. Northwestern displayed last year that a team can win while seldom passing, but I just don't think this year's Minnesota team is that kind of team. I also struggle to see any team beatng Northwestern without at least a decent pass game. Therefore, I still see a 80% likelihood of victory for the 'Cats.
  5. Iowa: Iowa won this week, but this week's victory may be more discouraging than their week 1 loss. They did well offensively, particularly on the ground, as Weisman ran for 180 yards (AIRBHG smiting incoming?). And they did well defensively, limiting Missouri State to 197 yards, but they did not take advantage of opportunities, winning against this FCS team by only 14. They were also undisciplined, getting penalized for 100 yards. Northwestern looks like a much better team: 75% chance of victory.
  6. Michigan State: Another similar week for MSU. They looked good defensively, allowing only 155 yards (albeit against lowly South Florida), but didn't get much of an offense going, picking up only 265 yards. Their passing is particularly miserable, as three quarterbacks combined for only 94 yards. For the same reasons I like NU against Minnesota, I like the 'Cats here. 85% chance of victory for Northwestern.

For non-conference games, I now give us a 97% chance to beat Western Michigan, and a 99% chance to beat Maine. This all results in Northwestern having a 3.90% chance of going undefeated, up from 3.13% a week ago! I get to post this again:

So you're telling me there's a chance

My shoddy mathematical model now projects us 9.43-2.67, leaving us with a most likely regular season record of 9-3.
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