Big Ten football: It's not for everyone

Some wretched offense across the league Saturday

Northwestern defensive players celebrate a turnover as they make their way off the field at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill., last Saturday during their 39-0 win over Minnesota. (Elizabeth Flores/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)
Northwestern defensive players celebrate a turnover as they make their way off the field at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill., last Saturday during their 39-0 win over Minnesota. (Elizabeth Flores/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

No, this week’s Big Ten Performance Rankings can’t explain how Iowa’s Josey Jewell isn’t among the five Butkus Award finalists for the nation’s best linebacker.

Maybe it really is time to abolish the Electoral College. That said, here are this week’s rankings:

1. Wisconsin (8-0 Big Ten, 11-0 overall): The question isn’t if the Badgers will shut out Minnesota Saturday. It’s whether they could shut out the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers?

2. Ohio State (7-1, 9-2): Every story, column, TV or radio talk show, or conversation between two or more people that asks if Ohio State can reach the College Football Playoff should start with this: Do playoff teams get beat 55-24 by anyone?

3. Penn State (6-2, 9-2): Nebraska scored five second-half touchdowns at Penn State. As Bill Murray chanted in “Meatballs,” it just doesn’t matter.

4. Northwestern (6-2, 8-3): The Wildcats’ Justin Jackson became the Power Five conference player to post four 1,000-yard rushing seasons and the sixth Big Ten player to top 5,000 rushing yards. He is an economics major who was a second-team Academic All-American last year. Baller.

5. Michigan State (6-2, 8-3): Spartans quarterback Brian Lewerke completed 2 of 14 passes for 20 yards, but his team still beat Maryland, 17-7. Big Ten football. It’s not for everyone.


6. Michigan (5-3, 8-3): The Wolverines’ record against teams that currently have winning records is 0-3. The answer to Jim Harbaugh’s “Who’s got it better than us?” is “Michigan State, Penn State and Wisconsin, and this Saturday, Ohio State.”

7. Purdue (3-5, 5-6): On Saturday, the Boilermakers host Indiana in a battle of 5-6 teams. Both teams will be trying to get bowl-eligible and will be fired up. Maybe this should be the league’s Black Friday game.

8. Indiana (2-6, 5-6): Indiana led Rutgers 34-0, then there was a delay of almost two hours because of lightning, then the game resumed and the Hoosiers finished off a 41-0 win. It was their first Big Ten shutout in 24 years, so why not stretch it out as long as possible?

9. Iowa (3-5, 6-5): An announced crowd of 60,554 attended the Purdue-Iowa game. The Hawkeyes had no home sellouts this year. In 2012, when they went 4-8, they had six sellouts of 70,585. The times, they are a changin’.

10. or 13. Rutgers (3-5, 4-7): Trailing 17-0 with a 4th-and-3 at the Indiana 40, Rutgers punted for reasons that defy logic. If you ever become an athletics director, never hire a football coach who hasn’t taken an advanced statistics-and-probability class.

10. or 13. Maryland (2-6, 4-7): The Terrapins were in Detroit’s Quick Lane Bowl last year. The good old days.

10. or 13. Minnesota (2-6, 5-6): The Gophers threw two completions and three interceptions at Northwestern. In 2017. Big Ten football. It’s not for everyone.

10. or 13. Nebraska (3-5, 4-7): Twice this season, the Huskers have allowed 42 points in a half. For the first time since 1943, they’ve allowed 50-plus points three times in a season. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, Neb., how did you enjoy the play?


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14. Illinois (0-8, 2-9): The Fighting Illini had 105 yards at Ohio State. They were one of six Big Ten teams held under 260 yards Saturday. Every team in the nation but UTEP averages at least 276 yards. Which can mean only thing: The Big Ten is about to expand to El Paso!

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