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Welcome to the Big Five! This is my weekly column discussing and take-ing on the top five headlines, news items, storylines, etc. of the week. Feel free to comment on my thoughts either below, on Twitter, on Facebook, or…shoot us an email – firstname.lastname@example.org – We’ll make sure to bring your comments up in the next podcast.
1. Don’t worry, I’m not firing Fitz
Surprised that Michigan State vs. Michigan wasn’t leading this article? Well, I learned a lot more from Northwestern’s performance Saturday. Pat Fitzgerald is one of the most loyal head coaches in terms of keeping his assistants, and that may be hurting him right now.
The Chicago Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein asked Fitz, and then wrote a column, about potential coaching changes on the offensive side of the ball (looking at you Mick McCall). Now I hate asking for people to be fired, and I won’t do it, but what McCall is doing is not working.
The Wildcats have future NFL’ers at quarterback and running back, yet they mustered up just 265 yards against Penn State. Justin Jackson had just 16 carries, matching his total carries against Duke and Wisconsin combined. That’s a problem. Maybe Northwestern’s offensive line isn’t great, but Jackson has proven excellence in large workloads.
Again, not asking for McCall to be fired, but something has to change if Northwestern wants to compete in the Big Ten West anytime soon.
2. Michigan State….is back?
So last season was just a fluke?
The Spartans are ranked No. 21 in the latest AP poll. They’re 4-1 and just beat Michigan on the road. Now, I’m not sure how much to buy into this because I think MSU’s victory had more to do with the Wolverines playing awful football, but the Spartans still deserve a ton of credit.
Michigan State turned the ball over eight times in its first three games, but hasn’t turned it over since. This was especially impressive against Michigan, which turned it over like it was its job last Saturday.
The Spartans should scare other Big Ten fans. With a young, talented roster led by quarterback Brian Lewerke, Michigan State will be loaded in 2018. For this season, it doesn’t look like a rebuild after all.
Photo: Daily Collegian
3. A scramble up top
On the other side of MSU’s victory lies an incredibly underwhelming Michigan performance. Its defense is still great, but its offense looked suffocated. I’ll rescind my previous take that the Wolverines are quarterback-proof, they most definitely are not.
But this makes the top four look interesting. Ohio State had a rough start to the year, but has come on strong as of late. Right now, Penn State seems to be the choice for top spot. The Nittany Lions, other than a few verbal question marks from their head coach, haven’t shown much weakness yet.
Over in the dark, dark Big Ten West lies Wisconsin, which may also be the best team in the Big Ten. Six weeks through the season, we still don’t know much about the top of the Big Ten.
4. Trust the process
That’s what Minnesota fans should be doing right now. After a 3-0 start, the Golden Gophers have picked up consecutive losses against two mid-level Big Ten teams — Maryland and Purdue.
And there’s nothing wrong with this. P.J. Fleck has a track record of success. Minnesota may not win the West this year, but Gopher fans should be cool with that.
5. I will pay you to watch this game
Mark your calendars, Rutgers plays Illinois on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. The teams have a combined 3-7 record, and that includes nonconference cupcakes. With Purdue not actually terrible, the Scarlet Knights and Illini have full ownership of the Big Ten’s cellar. You can buy tickets for the game starting at $3.