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B1G Thoughts: Reviewing the Big Ten at the two-thirds mark

With Halloween out of the way, we’re two-thirds of the way through the season and it’s time to see what’s changed in the last four weeks.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Every week after the Big Ten slate of games, I will bring you some B1G thoughts on everything that happened! This will include analysis, stats, key players, moments, and maybe a joke or two. Be sure to check out the I-70 Football Show in the Land-Grant Holy Land podcast feed for more in-depth analysis and to preview the next week of B1G games.

Halloween is over and people are starting to put up Christmas decorations. Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas’ is making its way up the charts, and soon enough we will be plunged into darkness by 4:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. That means we are two-thirds of the way through the college football season. Now is not the time to lament that CFB is the shortest compared to all the major sports — and yes CFB is a major sport. Nor is it the time to fear the end, as we still have a couple of glorious months, plus MACtion, so we can’t let the seasonal depression win.

Every team in the Big Ten has played eight games. At this point in the season, we know who all these teams are. Sure, some teams like Ohio State may have extra gears they can reach, but for the most part it is safe to assume who these teams are. Illinois has all but locked up the Big Ten West. Can they maintain their focus and complete one of the greatest seasons in their program history? Ohio State and Michigan have been on a collision course since the Wolverines dominated The Game last year. Can Michigan avoid an upset loss to Illinois? Ohio State has three easier games, but teams like Northwestern and Indiana are looking to play spoiler as their seasons are all but over anyway.

Since the one-third season review, we’ve had coaches fired, players enter the transfer portal, arguments over tunnels, and even a disgusting show of disrespect with a number of Michigan State players jumping Michigan players. With four games left, there are a number of teams still fighting for post-season eligibility, while for others it may be time to make decisions on coaches or let younger players — e.g. Drew Allar at Penn State — get some playing time to prepare for next season. Bret Bielema is well on his way to Big Ten and potentially National Coach of the Year, while Kirk Ferentz and Pat Fitzgerald are playing the legacy card in hopes of keeping their jobs.

This season hasn’t disappointed us yet, so let’s take a look at the past eight games.

Big Ten Conference Standings

Big Ten East Conference W-L
Big Ten East Conference W-L
Ohio State 5-0 8-0
Michigan 5-0 8-0
Penn State 3-2 6-2
Maryland 3-2 6-2
Rutgers 1-4 4-4
Indiana 1-4 3-5
Michigan State 1-4 3-5
Big Ten West Conference W-L
Illinois 4-1 7-1
Purdue 3-2 5-3
Minnesota 2-3 5-3
Wisconsin 2-3 4-4
Iowa 2-3 4-4
Nebraska 2-3 3-5
Northwestern 1-4 1-7

I would be lying if I did not admit there are a lot of surprises at this point in the season. We all could have predicted Ohio State and Michigan at the top of the East. Anyone who didn’t believe in Fitz’s Magic (maybe he should grow a beard to match Ryan Fitzpatrick) could have predicted Northwestern would struggle this season. On the flip side, Wisconsin being at 4-4 with an interim head coach wasn’t imaginable this season. I had them going 11-1 or 12-0 with a trip to Indianapolis already booked. Instead, Illinois is the class of the West, and if you predicted that congrats on becoming a multi-millionaire.

Big Ten Power Rankings

Ranking Team Record
Ranking Team Record
1 Ohio State 8-0
2 Michigan 8-0
3 Illinois 7-1
4 Penn State 6-2
5 Maryland 6-2
6 Purdue 5-3
7 Minnesota 5-3
8 Wisconsin 4-4
9 Iowa 4-4
10 Nebraska 3-5
11 Michigan State 3-5
12 Rutgers 4-4
13 Indiana 3-5
14 Northwestern 1-7

After four more weeks of evidence, there were major changes to my Big Ten Power rankings. Ohio State and Michigan stay at the top where they should always be, but Illinois has proven itself and taken the No. 3 spot, replacing Minnesota.

Minnesota has struggled as of late and falls to the middle of the pack, while Maryland jumps from No. 8 to No. 5, showing they can win in multiple ways even without their star quarterback playing. Northwestern and Indiana round out the bottom of the conference and should be looking for new coaches this offseason. I am more confident that Indiana will make the move, and there is an obvious hire in former defensive coordinator and current South Alabama head coach Kane Wommack. Northwestern will probably just build a statue of Pat Fitzgerald and let him run their program in the ground.

Big Ten Statistical Leaders

Offense Total Player School
Offense Total Player School
Passing Yards 2,377 C.J. Stroud* Ohio State
Passing Touchdowns 29 C.J. Stroud* Ohio State
Rushing Yards 1,208 Chase Brown* Illinois
Rushing Touchdowns 14 Blake Corum* Michigan
Receiving Yards 840 Charlie Jones* Purdue
Receiving Touchdowns 10 Marvin Harrison Jr. Ohio State
Defense Total Player School
Tackles 82 Jack Campbell Iowa
Tackles for Loss 10.5 Jacoby Windmon* Michigan State
Sacks 6 Nick Herbig Wisconsin
Pass Breakups 11 Joey Porter Jr.*/Kalen King/Devon Witherspoon Penn State/Penn State/Illinois
Interceptions 5 John Torchio Wisconsin
Forced Fumbles 6 Jacoby Windmon* Michigan State
*Denotes the same player led the category at the one-thirds review

Almost all of our offensive stat leaders stayed the same, as C.J. Stroud, Chase Brown, Blake Corum and Charlie Jones continue to have amazing seasons. Marvin Harrison Jr. caught Jones from behind and now leads the conference with 10 touchdowns. Most offensive awards go to quarterbacks, and Stroud is deserving, but if things were equal the race for Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year could get spicy in the final four weeks.

On the defensive side of the ball, there has been much more change, which should be expected as some more recognizable players have started to round into shape. Coming into the season many people projected Jack Campbell and Nick Herbig to be two of the best defensive players in the conference, so it was surprising when they were not leading any stats at the one-third mark. Eight games in and there is not a single Ohio State or Michigan player leader in these categories, as both teams have morphed into more team defenses versus their previous star-led units.

Big Ten Final Record Predictions

Team Current Record Final Record Prediction Bowl Eligible?
Team Current Record Final Record Prediction Bowl Eligible?
Ohio State* 8-0 12-0 Yes
Michigan 8-0 11-1 Yes
Illinois* 7-1 10-2 Yes
Penn State 6-2 10-2 Yes
Maryland 6-2 8-4 Yes
Purdue 5-3 8-4 Yes
Minnesota 5-3 8-4 Yes
Wisconsin 4-4 6-6 Yes
Iowa 4-4 5-7 No
Nebraska 3-5 3-9 No
Michigan State 3-5 5-7 No
Rutgers 4-4 4-8 No
Indiana 3-5 3-9 No
Northwestern 1-7 1-11 No
*Denotes projected division winners

I have watched every one of these teams play — yes, even Iowa and Northwestern — so i’m putting my reputation on the line by predicting all 14 teams' final records. I tried to account for upsets and weirdness that happens in rivalry games, as hatred makes team play better. If my predictions are accurate or even close, the Big Ten is looking at eight teams making bowl games, which is not great.

This has been a bad year for the conference, with many typical powers struggling. One thing to note: if Jim Leonhard gets Wisconsin to bowl eligibility I imagine they will give him the job. Mickey Joseph on the other hand is probably not keeping the Nebraska job. This season has been full of surprises, breakouts, and awesome games. Put on your seat belts, the final four weeks are going to be a wild ride.