Another excerpt from my blog, Purple Storm, at NUWildcats.blogspot.com.
This is my week 3 take on the Big 10 as a whole, ranking them by where I foresee them finishing the season, and for teams that play NU, giving our likelihood of beating them.
- LW (1) Ohio State: OSU further solidified their top position this week a 52-34 victory over Cal, and, surprisingly, they are the only remaining undefeated team in the Leaders Divison. The Buckeyes are not struggling without star quarterback Braxton Miller, as backup Kenny Guiton has performed outstandingly. In this game he threw for 4 TDs and no interceptions. The running game has been impressive as well, with both running back Jordan Hall and Guiton leading this attack, resulting in 332 rush yards against the Bears. You know Urban Meyer is not happy with the 34 points allowed, and indeed this Buckeyes defense does not seem on par with the offense. Nonetheless, Ohio State is still easily the most impressive team in the Big Ten. at the moment, I'm not a huge fan of the 'Cats chances here, but we still have a shot. I'm giving the 'Cats a 35% chance of victory.
- LW (2)Wisconsin: The Badgers lost to Arizona St. last week, but I'm not holding it too much against them. The Sun Devils are a good team, and the Badgers got absolutely no love from the referees. That being said, the Wisconsin defense showed weakness this week, giving up over 350 yards through the air. The Badger run game continues to look good, however, as Melvin Gordon ran for almost 200 yards. I wish the Wildcats got the Badgers at home, but I still like this matchup.55% chance of victory for Northwestern.
- LW (3) Indiana: I'm moving Indiana back into the 3-spot this week, as I believe the week 2 loss to Navy was a fluke. While the Hoosiers' defense is suspect, they have the offense to compete in the Big Ten. Both their pass offense and QB rating, led by quarterback Nate Sudfeld, have Indiana at 11th in the country through these three weeks. On top of this, their run offense is far from weak, putting up 232 yards per game. This Hoosier offesnse is powerful enough to surprise a few teams. Indiana does not play Northwestern.
- LW (3) Penn State: The Nittany Lions drop a spot after an upset loss to Central Florida. While PSU got their offense going, with an impressive 262 yard game from Christian Hackenberg and 128 rush yards and three touchdowns from running back Zach Zwinack, it wasn't enough, as the Knights outgained and outscored the Lions. The Nittany Lions do not play Northwestern.
- LW (6) Illinois: Some will argue that Illinois deserves to be ranked higher after playing a good Washington team tight. I, on the other hand, point to total offense. The Illini got almost doubled up in the game, getting outgained 615-327. The fact that this game was as close as it is is more a fluke than anything, as this Illinois team is weak against both the pass and the run. I'm leaving the 'Cats with an 85% chance of victory.
- LW (5) Purdue: Despite the loss, Purdue managed to redeem themselves somewhat this week, playing a very close game against Notre Dame. Whether Notre Dame is actually a good team remains to be seen, but the Boilermakers certainly looked better than they have in recent weeks. They remain one of the worst running teams in college football, but Rob Henry looked adequate at quarterback. All things considered, however, despite saving face last week, they appear to be the worst team in the Big Ten by a decent margin. Purdue does not play Northwestern.
- LW (2) Northwestern: I can't believe I'm doing this after a weak performance by the Wildcats, but Northwestern appears to be the best team in the Legends division. This is a good team that can do enough to win easily against poor teams even with a sub-par performance, and they've been doing it without star running back Venric Mark. Michigan may again be able to oust them if the Wolverines recover strong this week, but for now, this spot belongs to the Wildcats.
- LW (1) Michigan: There was almost nothing to like about Michigan this week as they very nearly got upset by a truly awful Akron team. While Gardner looked good on the ground, running for over 100 yards, he looked less good as a passer, showing his questionable decision making en route to three interceptions. On top of this, Gardner appears to be the Wolverines' only legitimate running threat, as Fitzgerald Toussaint has been unable to muster even 4 yards per carry on the ground. The defense also looks suspect, giving up over 300 pass yards to a player who could not record 300 against UCF and James Madison combined. This is a team that will live or die with Devin Gardner, and because he is a talented player, they scare me a bit, but I still think Northwestern is the better team. 55% chance of victory.
- LW (3) Nebraska: Nebraska's defense is showing no signs of being able to fix itself as the Cornhuskers gave up 38 unanswered points to UCLA. On top of this, the Cornhuskers organization is now in turmoil as some ill-advised comments from coach Bo Pelini have come to light. There's no doubt that Martinez and Abdullah are talented players, and this Nebraska offense is very capable of putting up points, but the simple fact is this: if this defense remains as porous as it has been, and if Nebraska cannot get past this recent controversy, Nebraska will be no better than a third wheel to Northwestern and Michigan at the top of the division standings. Northwestern has a 70% chance of winning.
- LW (6) Michigan State: Many people are very high on the Spartans right now, due to the fact that the Spartans finally had a solid offensive performance. MSU put up 547 yards, and Connor Cook looked like the quarterback they desperately need. But let's slow down for a minute; they were playing the Penguins. I'm not yet sold on the MSU offense, but I moved them up this week anyways due to the Spartan defense. Their 177 ypg allowed is the best in the entirety of the FBS--they appear to be for real. Even if this offense doesn't click, the defense is good enough to potentially win the Spartans a lot of games. I'm dropping the Wildcats to a 70% chance of victory.
- LW (5) Iowa: How good of a story is Mark Weisman. The former transfer walk-on is nearly single-handedly leading the Hawkeye offense. His 85 rush attempts leads the nation by 10 carries. Despite Weisman's contributions, however, and despite Iowa's victory to Iowa State, this still does not look like a great team. They may be able to squeak by in a few more games, but for right now, they're just not great.80% chance of Northwestern victory.
- LW (4) Minnesota: The Gophers are here do more to uncertainty than incompetence. Starting quarterback Philip Nelson, a huge part of Minnesota's offense, suffered an injury last week. If the Gophers play well without him, or if he manages to return, I will probably move them back up, but for right now, I assume he will not play, and they will struggle without him. 80% chance of Northwestern victory.
In our final non-conference game against Maine, I'd be utterly shocked if we lost. 99.5% chance to beat the Black Bears. This all results in Northwestern having a 2.80% chance of going undefeated, actually down from 3.90% a week ago. Still...
My shoddy mathematical model now projects us 9.30-2.70, leaving us with a most likely regular season record of 9-3.