Basically, I am employing the oldest sports blog trick in the book: rankings. (Hell, VH1 and ESPN Classic made fortunes doing this. Why can’t Buckeye Commentary be next?)
What follows is my ranking of the Big Ten teams after this week. Before you get bent out of shape while comparing these rankings to my weekly blog poll, keep in mind that those affect the MNC (mythically speaking). These rankings do not. But they have the benefit of comparing a smaller universe of teams that play (mostly) the same teams so, in theory, these are more accurate. Yeah, right.
Here goes nothing:
1. Penn State: Listen, I have doubted these plain clothed men recently, and then Troy Smith and co. got sacked right out of the title hunt. Is the 2008 edition of PSU as good as 2005? I have no idea because I did not think the 2005 version was so hot until the OSU offensive line could not block Tamba Hali and co.
2. Ohio State: I may come to regret this in a week as I have the Buckeyes loitering closer to 25 than 15 on my BlogPoll ballot, but I am cautiously optimistic about the 2/28 pairing residing in the Ohio State backfield. I am betting that this weekend’s result in Madison will bear this out, narrowing the gap with PSU.
3. Michigan State: To this point, they have the league’s best player, Javon Ringer. The Notre Dame win looks better now and the California loss not so egregious. Still, the defense better improve. Giving up heaps of yards and points to a neutered Hoosier squad is disquieting. I will give them a pass on that one. Another performance like that and I will suspect that Dantonio took some of Marvin Lewis’ magic pixie dust with him on his way out of Cincinnati.
4. Illinois: They have played two Top 10 teams and conference favorites and hung in there both times. Sure, losing close games is like kissing your sister, but kissing your sister is a lot like fourth place. So, this ranking makes sense. It is hard to imagine them climbing much higher than this but they play all the big boys in the conference so they will get their chance.
5. Michigan: I know you think this feature is bullshit and that this ranking proves it, but what am I supposed to do? The Wolverines took out Wisconsin and Vegas has the as the favorites versus Illinois. I also recognize that I am rewarding them for one good half of football. Otherwise, there is very little empirical evidence to suggest that the Wolverines will finish above this mark. A win this weekend would totally prove me wrong. I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt.
6. Wisconsin: This is probably too low considering their tough win at Fresno State while being short-handed. But if I am going to reward Michigan for a good half, I am going to punish Wisconsin for a bad one. On the bright side, they appear to be getting healthier. On the darker side, they have Ohio State and Penn State up next. At least those games are at home.
7. Northwestern: I have a feeling that Northwestern is going to beat some of the folks above them this season but I cannot possibly justify a ranking higher than this. They could start proving me right this weekend against Michigan State, but Iowa’s Shonn Greene ran for 160 yards last weekend; what is Ringer aiming for? My guess is 225.
8. Purdue: Where did the offense go? With the defense struggling mightily, Painter needs to put up big points. He has been moving the ball but the red zone has been a challenge. The Boilermakers start a three-week run (PSU, @OSU, @NW) that could net them the dreaded basement position.
9. Indiana: Let me be honest, these last three spots are a weeping mess. You could change all three around or make one team comprised of the best they have to offer and you still could not climb out of this hole. The Hoosiers get credit for hanging with Michigan State. Oh yeah, they were dominated by Ball State a week earlier. Ick.
10. Iowa: Have you seen Shonn Greene? If you have, you have seen one of the best-kept secrets in the conference and all the Hawkeyes have to offer. The 23-year old junior has accounted for 72 percent of the rushing offense. Seriously, he is a 23-year old junior.
11. Minnesota: I sat and watched this sorry excuse last weekend and cannot imagine there is a worse team in the league. Prove me wrong Gophers; beat Indiana this weekend and you can have their spot? [Special Ed] Yeeaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh![/Special Ed]