College football's regular season is now at the half way point. It's half empty -- the games we wait for during the rest of the year are now approaching their end; it's half full -- the best games, rivalries, championships and bowl games are all still waiting.
I'm going to try to do something different this week. Instead of writing a little blurb about every team, I'm going to group some of them together. This hopefully cuts down on monotony and takes up less time on Sunday for me. I promise important information will still be conveyed when needed.
Here there be likely champions. I know college football and its rankings are extremely fickle, but these three teams are the ones most likely hosting the nameless B1G Championship Trophy. (My guess is that it'll someday be called the Jim Delany Trophy brought to you by Menard's.) Each team wiped the floor with their respective opponent -- although none of those opponents were national contenders -- and each team has it's own Heisman candidate. There are seven more weeks before the Championship and yet the outcome is still unknown. Pay attention, it's going to be exciting.
And just outside of the Top 3 is Minnesota. They're undefeated in the conference, currently leading the West, and in a good place to surprise, but it'll be hard to do. After traveling to Illinois this coming weekend, the Gophers play Iowa, Ohio State, Nebraska, and then Wisconsin to wrap up the season. That's a rough stretch that could possibly conclude without a single win. They've had a good season up to now, but it'll only get tougher each week.
Also, this was the first time Jerry Kill has won a game when trailing at halftime after losing 22 other such contests. That is all.
The win over Iowa is the first B1G win for home fans to enjoy, I'm going to bet it feels pretty sweet. Maryland and Rutgers have both come into the league and proven that they can compete with the rest. The Terps aren't a top team, but ranking them at 5th seems appropriate.
6. Wisconsin Badgers - DNP - LW: 7
I'm not going to spend much time with Badgers this week. All you really need to know is that Wisconsin is the 2nd best rushing attack in the nation.
Iowa was doing this thing in the last few weeks where they would get progressively better quarter after quarter, but this week it went backwards. They started out strong, and then forgot how to offense. This hasn't been the season that the Hawkeyes wanted, but not all is lost. They're one win away from bowl eligibility, and let me tell you: you should never take that for granted.
Rutgers has lost the luster from their scuffed-up helmets. They've been allowing more and more yards each week and now rank dead-last among B1G teams in opponent yards per play. Yet somehow they've only lost twice; once to a still-respectable Penn State, and now to an thriving Ohio State. Just like the Hawkeyes, they're also one win away from going to a bowl.
Northwestern carried a lead over the Huskers into halftime, but weren't able to hold them much after that. The Wildcats are actually pretty good in terms of scoring defense -- they rank 25th nationally, allowing 20.4 points a game. But their offense hasn't been able to keep them in games. They score an average 20.9 points a game, the 113th best in the nation.
Purdue is making rebuilding look manageable, and we Illini fans know that's not the case. Since the Illinois game, the Boilermakers have looked competitive, scoring more points on Michigan State than any team since Oregon, and now they've only lost by one point to a solid Minnesota. They still only have three wins so their chances of making a bowl aren't likely, but, man, this should be us.
11. Michigan Wolverines - DNP - LW: 10
13. Penn State Nittany Lions - DNP - LW: 13
14. Illinois Fighting Illini - DNP - LW: 14
This final group is lacking. What I mean is that each one of them has some missing element preventing them from winning. For Michigan, I would say coaching (there stats aren't as bad as you'd think); for Indiana, it's a defense; for Penn State, it's a problem of depth at places like the O-line and at linebackers; and for Illinois, poor poor Illinois, it's a slurry of several things, quite possibly what the other three teams have combined.