This is the start of a new weekly feature for Maize n Brew -- Looking back at the week that was in the Big Ten with some admittedly arbitrary (but mostly resume-based!) rankings.
1.) Michigan State (2-0)
Last Week: The Spartans traveled up the road to Mount Pleasant to take on Central Michigan and cruised to an easy 41-7 over the hapless Chippewas. The Spartan defense was predictably dominant -- Central finished with 72 yards rushing, completed less than half of its passes, and didn't score an offensive touchdown. Andrew Maxwell looked much better than he did last week against Boise State, throwing for 275 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, while Le'Veon Bell followed up his herculean effort against the Broncos with two rushing touchdowns.
Justification: Michigan State may have some issues on offense -- Maxwell and his cast of receivers performed poorly against Boise State (although tight end Dion Sims did well) -- but the Spartan defense is as good as advertised so far and has yet to allow an offensive touchdown this season.
This Week: vs. Notre Dame (2-0)
2.) Northwestern (2-0)
Last Week: Northwestern welcomed Vanderbilt -- the Wildcats' second BCS conference opponent in a row -- to Evanston and followed up their thrilling win over Syracuse with a solid victory over the Commodores. Vanderbilt scored on the first drive of the game, but the Northwestern defense kept them out of the end zone for the rest of the game and eventually pulled away in the fourth quarter. Talented running back Venric Mark rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown, as Kain Colter and Trevor Sieman each split time at quarterback.
Justification: Northwestern may not have the talent level of the presumed upper echelon of the Big Ten and their wins were against lower-tier BCS teams, but they have two better wins than most of the conference can claim and managed to hold a decent Vanderbilt offense to 13 points.
This Week: vs. Boston College (1-1, 0-1 ACC)
3.) Ohio State (2-0)
Last Week: Braxton Miller continued to perform his best Denard Robinson impersonation -- the sophomore quarterback ran for three touchdowns and threw for another in a 31-16 win over an underrated UCF squad. Miller ran the ball 27 times for 141 yards and threw for another 155 on 18-24 passing. The Buckeyes scored a touchdown before halftime to take a 17-10 lead into halftime, and managed to hold the Knights to six points in the second half. An injury to Carlos Hyde necessitated the heavy workload for Miller, who continues to impress in Urban Meyer's spread offense.
Justification: The Buckeyes have won each of their two games against non-BCS opponents, and haven't really been seriously tested yet this season. We probably won't know exactly how good they are until they head to East Lansing to face MSU in a few weeks.
This Week: vs. Cal (1-1)
4.) Michigan (1-1)
Last Week: Despite struggling with Air Force's unique (and irritating) flexbone-based triple option offense, the Wolverines managed to hold off the Falcons and win 31-25. Denard was once again impressive against a lesser opponent, rushing and throwing for over 200 yards each and totaling four touchdowns. The Michigan defense had a ton of issues and ceded plenty of yardage, but forced two turnovers-on-downs on each of Air Force's last two drives and held on for the win.
Justification: I'm a Michigan fan, okay? The Wolverines were throttled by Alabama -- which isn't really a terrible loss, considering every other team in the Big Ten probably would have fared just as badly -- and Air Force is actually a decent mid-major opponent.
This Week: vs. UMass (0-2)
Hit the jump to see how poorly the rest of the Big Ten fared this past week
5.) Purdue (1-1)
Last Week: The Boilermakers mounted a solid comeback effort in the fourth quarter against Notre Dame in South Bend, but ultimately a late Tommy Rees drive led to a game-winning Irish field goal and a 20-17 win over Purdue. Everett Golson played well as Notre Dame's starting quarterback, and Rees came in for the two minute drill after missing last week's game with a suspension. The Notre Dame passing attack (324 yards, one touchdown) was the difference, but the Boilermakers stuck close with ND and could have won had the game gone to overtime.
Justification: Purdue destroyed a weak FCS team last week, so they were a relative unknown heading into the Notre Dame game. Even though we don't really know how good the Irish are -- we'll see after they play MSU and Michigan -- Purdue's performance on the road, in a rivalry game, wasn't too bad (and certainly better than some of the Big Ten's more embarrassing losses).
This Week: vs. Eastern Michigan (0-2, 0-1 MAC)
6.) Nebraska (1-1)
Last Week: The Huskers headed all the way out west to play at UCLA. The Bruins stumbled to a 6-8 record last year, fired Rick Neuheisel, and hired Jim Mora. Despite being the solid favorites, Nebraska fell at the hands out the Bruins, 36-30. The Husker offense hummed along nicely and put up decent numbers, but the defense was porous and conceded over 300 yards on the ground and through the air. The UCLA offense had been dreadful for years, so the upset -- won because of the offense and not in spite of it -- was a surprise.
Justification: Even after a pretty nice home win over Southern Miss, the Huskers' resume looks pretty weak after that loss to UCLA. What's especially concerning is the defense -- there's no way that Nebraska should have conceded that much yardage and that many points to the Bruins.
This Week: vs. Arkansas State (1-1)
7.) Indiana (2-0)
Last Week: Indiana ran roughshod over UMass at the home of the New England Patriots, umping out to an early 21-6 lead and cruising to a 41-6 win. Indiana quarterback Tre Roberson scored on two long, early touchdown runs, but was lost for the season on a brutal leg injury. UMass was simply overmatched -- even without Roberson for much of the game, the Hoosiers outgained the Minutemen by over 300 yards.
Justification: The Hoosiers are one of five Big Ten teams with undefeated records, and even though they've played very weak competition, they didn't look impressive in week one against a FCS team (Indiana State). Still, this was a big road win, especially for a team that only won one game a year ago.
Next Week: vs. Ball State (1-1, 1-0 MAC)
8.) Iowa (1-1)
Last Week: A year after being upset in a shootout against their in-state rivals, the Hawkeyes dropped another contest -- this one due to its lack of offensive production -- against Iowa State, 9-6. Iowa failed to score a touchdown, James Vandenberg threw two interceptions (one of which sealed the loss on the final drive), and the Iowa offense looked incredibly anemic under new offensive coordinator Greg Davis. To their credit, the Hawkeye defense did turn in an impressive performance, but holding the Cyclones to nine points wasn't enough.
Justification: A week after a less-than-impressive win over Northern Illinois in Chicago, the Hawkeyes were embarrassed at home by a lower-tier BCS team. The offensive questions for the Hawkeyes -- running back is unsettled and Vandenberg has struggled -- may be too much to overcome this year.
This Week: vs. Northern Iowa (1-1)
9.) Minnesota (2-0)
Last Week: MarQueis Gray accounted for four touchdowns in the first half and Minnesota easily beat New Hampshire, 44-7. Minnesota had recently lost some games to FCS opponents in recent years, so this comfortable win was a departure from the brutal upsets suffered at the hands of schools from the Dakotas. After struggling in an overtime win against UNLV, this was a nice rebound for the Gophers.
Justification: Even though they're undefeated, that opening night win over UNLV was extremely unimpressive -- the Gophers narrowly averted a loss to one of the worst teams in the country. Even though they overwhelmed an FCS team that lost its starting quarterback to injury early in the game, Minnesota still hasn't done much this year.
This Week: vs. Western Michigan (1-1)
10.) Wisconsin (1-1)
Last Week: The Badgers headed out to Corvallis, Oregon, to face Oregon State, and lost 10-7. Wisconsin's once potent offense was held to 207 total yards, ran for just 35, and only converted two third-down attempts. Oregon State -- who was shut out 35-0 last year in Madison and only won three games a year ago -- overwhelmed the Badgers' offense and won in an ugly home upset. Shortly thereafter, Wisconsin fired its new offensive line coach, Mark Markuson.
Justification: The Badgers barely beat a pretty decent Northern Iowa team last week, so there was some reason for concern, but losing to Oregon State (who was pretty terrible last year) is a really bad blemish for the presumed favorites in the Leaders Division. That offense -- one of the best in the country a year ago -- needs a lot of work.
This Week: vs. Utah State (2-0)
11.) Penn State (0-2)
Last Week: After a home loss to Ohio, Penn State lost a heartbreaker to Virginia on the road, 17-16. Penn State kicker Sam Ficken (who replaced Anthony Fera, who transferred in the wake of sanctions) missed four field goals, including one as time expired. Virginia scored the go-ahead touchdown on a short pass with less than a minute and a half remaining, and even though Matt McGloin was able to generate a drive to get into field goal position, Ficken hooked a 42-yarder wide left.
Justification: Penn State is the only winless team left in the Big Ten, but their losses were pretty respectable. Losing at home to the best team in the MAC isn't ideal, of course, but going on the road and losing to one of the better teams in a BCS conference isn't too bad. Bill O'Brien obviously has his work cut out for him this year and beyond, though.
This Week: vs. Navy (0-1)
12.) Illinois (1-1)
Last Week: Illinois traveled out west for the return leg of a home-and-home against Arizona State and was absolutely crushed by the Sun Devils, 45-14. Illinois was without starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, but the defense was the biggest issue, ceding over 300 passing yards and over 500 yards of total offense to a new starter for Arizona State. The game got out of hand early -- Arizona State took a 28-7 lead into halftime and quickly scored to start the second half, effectively ending the game.
Justification: Even though they did have that win against Western Michigan in week one, Illinois had what was quite possibly the worst performance of any Big Ten team last week (which, looking at the other upsets, is pretty bad). The Illini were simply not competitive against Arizona State.
This Week: vs. Charleston Southern (0-2)