This week's edition of the rewind doesn't include any Northwestern-focused analysis, because, well, Northwestern didn't play this weekend. But there is a very big game featuring the Wildcats on the horizon, in case you haven't heard, and we'll have plenty of coverage throughout the week to get you prepared. Before that, we look back on an interesting weekend of Big Ten football in the fifth installment of the weekend rewind.
Here come the Hawkeyes
Earlier this week, I predicted Minnesota to beat Iowa, saying this could finally be the year the Gophers broke out with a big season. As it turns out, it may be the Gophers' opponent that turns some heads this year. Iowa dominated Minnesota in its 23-7 win in Minneapolis on Saturday. The Gophers came in averaging 285.25 rushing yards per game. The Hawkeyes held them to 30. That's starting to look like a trend for the Iowa run defense, thanks to an upgraded defensive line and strong group of senior linebackers.
And how about the offense? The offensive line is among the best in the league, while running back Mark Weisman continues to put up huge numbers — he had 147 yards on the ground against the Gophers, giving him 615 yards through five games. And this year, the Hawkeyes look like they can actually pass the ball. Sophomore quarterback Jake Rudock is going to be a good one — he's made some great throws and has shown some running ability, too — while Iowa actually has some solid receiving options in top possession receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley and speedy Damond Powell, who is averaging 51.5 yards per catch with 2 touchdowns on 4 receptions this season.
This Iowa team still has a long ways to go. It still isn't likely to make some noise in the Legends Division race, but it's steadily improving. It has a lot of talented young players on a defense that's finally breaking through, a strong offensive line, a powerful running game and a talented young quarterback. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this Hawkeyes team is it looks like the most improved Big Ten team through five weeks, and it's a young team that figures to keep improving. That sounds a lot like the 2008 team, which bounced back from a rough start and became a completely different team at the end of the season to blow out South Carolina in the Outback Bowl.
This Iowa team still has a lot to prove — can this hold up against a top opponent? — but the Hawkeyes are much better this season than they were last year. They'll be an interesting wild card to watch in a wide open Legends Division, even if that means ruining a better team's hopes for Indianapolis.
- Kevin Trahan
Maybe next year for the Boilers
One season ago, we witnessed a former MAC coach (Tim Beckman) take over a flailing Big Ten program (Illinois) and lead it to a woeful 2-10 (0-8 Big Ten) season. The negativity surrounding the Illini was pervasive, and sort of hilarious for Northwestern fans. Big Ten fans ridiculed Illinois in unison. Beckmemes grew into a temporary internet sensation. The Illini were down, and for a while there, it looked like Beckman was in danger of losing his job after just one catastrophic season. Four games into 2013, it appears the Illini – who rolled Miami (OH) 50-14 Saturday to move to 3-1 (the lone loss coming to putative Pac-12 contender Washington) on the season – have turned things around.
That feels like the best possible outcome for Purdue right about now – a second-year reversal of fortunes. After Saturday’s embarrassing 55-24 home defeat to Northern Illinois, Purdue is now staring at a bottomless pitfall, having won just one game (an ugly 20-14 win over FCS creampuff Indiana State) and with no “guarantee” games left on the schedule. The Boilermakers aren’t just losing games; they are forcing conference commissioner Jim Delany to seriously consider implementing the international club soccer principle of relegation to expedite their removal from the Big Ten.
That’s not actually happening, but the way Purdue looks right now, it’s hard to argue it doesn’t belong in a less rigorous division of football. The MAC seems like a good fit, but even there, first-year coach Darell Hazell’s team might struggle to compete. The Boilermakers rank near or at the bottom of the Big Ten in every major offensive category, and have been outscored 169-65 by FBS opponents this season. And Purdue’s one respectable performance to date, a 31-24 loss to Notre Dame, was diminished Saturday by the Irish’s two-touchdown home loss to Oklahoma.
This team is bad, and I don’t see it getting better any time soon. Between now and the Nov. 30 season finale at Indiana, the Boilermakers schedule reads as follows: Nebraska, at Michigan State, Ohio State, Iowa, at Penn State and Illinois. How many of those games can Purdue win? One, maybe two, at best?
Coaching changes often require more than one season to produce their desired effect, which – in today’s zero-patience college football culture – translates to “more wins.” That was the goal when Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke canned Danny Hope and brought in Hazell, a Jim Tressel disciple, this offseason. Based on everything Purdue has shown so far, a miraculous turnaround this season seems unlikely.
But a second-year boost in the Illinois mold is something to shoot for, I suppose. There’s your silver lining, Purdue fans! Next September is only 11 months away…
- Chris Johnson
1. Ohio State
The Buckeyes win the Leaders Division title game in September. It's sad, but that's probably what the Buckeyes-Badgers game was.
Gameday is headed to Evanston, so the Wildcats will be in the spotlight. Now comes the hard part: seizing the opportunity.
The Badgers' running game won't be a juggernaut against strong defenses, especially ones that can defend perimeter runs, but it was encouraging to see Joel Stave make some nice throws against Ohio State.
UConn lost 41-12 to Buffalo this week. In other news, Michigan dropped in the polls despite having a bye week.
The Huskers had a solid Saturday, managing to keep Bye Week under 300 rushing yards.
Could these Hawkeyes be for real? The play in the trenches indicates they could be.
The Illini are listed as 10.5-point underdogs to Nebraska on one site.
8. Michigan State
We'll learn a lot about Michigan State in its game at Iowa this week. If things go poorly, maybe new basketball recruit Lourawls "Tum Tum" Nairn can get to school early and enter the quarterback competition.
9. Penn State
The Penn State defense needs work, but the Nittany Lions have some nice talent on offense. They could certainly move up the power rankings with big wins later in the year.
The Gophers are two wins from being bowl eligible, but a difficult schedule means it could be tough for Minnesota to go bowling again. That would be a letdown in Jerry Kill's third year.
The Hoosiers haven't lived up to expectations so far, with a terrible defense (as expected) and an inconsistent offense (less expected).