Photo: Greg Flint | CNHI News Service
You don’t need me to tell you week 2 was a rough one for the Big Ten. Fortunately, almost everyone is favored this week. Here’s what I’m watching for this weekend.
1. Can Northwestern make a statement?
In case you missed it on the podcast, Charlie and I are not happy with the Wildcats’ play after two games. They were embarrassed in the trenches against Duke, didn’t even try to run the football, and Clayton Thorson looked good for a little less than seven minutes. This was all after they escaped with a win over Nevada in week one. This week they face a far from spectacular Bowling Green team as their final non-conference tune-up.
Luckily for Northwestern, Wisconsin and Iowa were both underwhelming against inferior opponents, and the Big Ten West can still be theirs, but something has to change. Northwestern started slowly in 2014 with back-to-back underwhelming weeks against Cal and Northern Illinois, but opened up its conference play with wins over Penn State and Wisconsin. NU’s first two conference games this year? Wisconsin and Penn State. If you’re a believer in history repeating itself, well, there you go. But if you’re like me and need to see something in order to believe it, Northwestern needs to flex its muscles this weekend against Bowling Green.
2. Just how good is Wisconsin?
After a dominant second half in week one, Wisconsin couldn’t quite pull away against FAU in week two. This team is still the favorite to win the West, but it certainly has areas in which to improve before conference play starts.
This week is perfect for the Badgers. A respectable, but not elite, opponent in BYU on the road in a tough environment. Provo can get crazy loud when a big time team comes into town, and Wisconsin will certainly face a lot of noise when this one kicks off. Tanner Mangum is an experienced and talented quarterback for BYU, and Wisconsin could have its hands full if it isn’t ready. The Cougars throw the ball more than they run it, so the Badgers have a chance to clamp down and dominate this one.
The Badgers have a bye week next week before a crucial game against Northwestern on the 30th. I’ve been on record that game is going to go a very long way in deciding who wins the west. Fortunately for Wisconsin, Northwestern has looked underwhelming to say the least so far. A solid performance in this one should give Badger fans a confidence boost headed into Big Ten Play.
Photo: Associated Press
3. Purdue can rise back to relevance
The Boilermakers have not beaten a SEC team since 1979, their only win against the conference. They travel to visit Charlie and Missouri this weekend in Columbia in what could be a statement win. Mizzou is not the greatest example of n SEC team (sorry Charlie), but they are a SEC team nonetheless. Three years ago, a disrespected Indiana team walked into Columbia and walked out with a victory over the eventual SEC East champs. The Hoosiers still aren’t the most respected team in the conference, but certainly more so than they were prior to that game, which is considered a minor turning point for Indiana.
Purdue can yield the same effect with a win on Saturday. The Boilers took the Heisman winner and Louisville to the final minutes in week one, rocked one of the best MAC teams last week and are licking their chops at this weekend’s matchup. One thing that will give them a serious advantage this weekend: they are scoring efficiently. Their statistics won’t blow you away (David Blough threw for over 200 yards and 3 touchdowns on just 13 attempts last weekend), but they get yards in chunks and find the endzone. Against a vulnerable Mizzou defense, this could mean a breakout performance for the Boilers.
4. J.T. Barrett…
…learn to throw the football.