clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

B1G Thoughts: Taking stock of the Big Ten at the one-third mark

We’re officially at the one-third mark of the season. and we’re wrapping up the out-of-conference slate. It’s the perfect time to take stock of the B1G before we enter the meat of the season.

Eastern Michigan v Minnesota Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

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. With the Big Ten expanding from 14 teams to 18 teams in 2024 this article will also include the newest members, Oregon, UCLA, USC, and Washington. Check out the I-80 Football Show for more in-depth analysis and to preview the next week of B1G games.

We are officially one-third of the way through the season, and it is time to re-evaluate the Big Ten. We all enter the season with the hope that this year will be the year; That our favorite teams will achieve their goals. Whether that be winning the Big Ten or making a bowl game, we all are full of hope and belief.

College football is a small sample sport. We do not get to wait long to determine if a team is good or bad. There is still time to grow, but after four weeks it is safe to assume teams are who they have been in their four games played. Some are on their way to a bowl game, while others are looking at a lost season. Some fans are celebrating their success and looking forward to each coming week, while others are calling for their coach to be fired.

Four weeks is enough time to build an identity, so let’s take a look at the Big Ten and see where teams stand.

Big Ten Conference Standings

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

Conference standings mean nothing at this point in the season when most teams have only played one conference game. It is going to be interesting to follow the West Division race, as the entire division looks awful. The Big Ten East is as strong as expected, but we’re going to have to wait a few more weeks before we get any of those showdowns.

Big Ten Power Rankings

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

Let’s start at the bottom, where Michigan State is the surprise of the season — and not for good reasons. Entering the year, Northwestern was expected to be the worst team in the conference, and that was before the hazing scandal. Michigan State saw all the negative attention that Northwestern was getting and said “Hold my Gatorade,” as they stole the attention with their scandal and poor performance.

Sure, Michigan State is 2-2 and Purdue only has one win, but the Spartans have been pretty awful and the vibes are bad. If they were to play tomorrow, I’d pick Purdue and Northwestern to beat Michigan State.

At the top I think two things are clear: there are only four good teams in this conference, and they all reside in the East. I expected Illinois and Wisconsin to have good seasons, predicting a 10-2 record for both of them... not because I thought they would be great, but more so because I thought the West would be awful. I was right about one of those things.

As far as the four good teams, I think it’s safe to say that Michigan looks a step behind Penn State and Ohio State. Michigan fans will disagree, but they’ve had the easiest schedule of the top three teams by far and have not been impressive, especially on the offensive side of the ball. J.J. McCarthy has not looked like the best quarterback in the Big Ten, the offensive line has taken a step back and the running game hasn’t clicked with Donovan Edwards averaging 3.3 yards per carry so far — down from 7.1 last season.

Penn State has the best defense in the country, and statistically they have had the best offense in the country, but I think that is a factor of who they have played. Ohio State was higher in some of these metrics before playing Notre Dame, which is a top defense in its own right, and... well they beat Notre Dame. No one at Penn State has played is that caliber. If Penn State and Ohio State were playing this weekend I might pick Penn State to win, but this is a review, not a preview, and I think that Ohio State has been just as impressive and has one of the best wins in the conference and nationally.

After Maryland at four it just becomes a sickos fest, but Rutgers has made some definite progress, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Now if only they could find an offense.

Big Ten Team Offensive Rankings

Big Ten Rank Team Scoring Offense Total Offense Red Zone Offense %
Big Ten Rank Team Scoring Offense Total Offense Red Zone Offense %
1 Penn State #15 - 40.5 ppg #33 - 449.8 ypg 91.30%
2 Maryland #28 - 37.2 ppg #31 - 450.5 ypg 82.40%
3 Ohio State #40 - 34.5 ppg #34 - 447.5 ypg 76.90%
4 Wisconsin #48 - 33.2 ppg #46 - 427.5 ypg 100.00%
5 Michigan #53 - 31.8 ppg #60 - 405.2 ypg 76.50%
6 Rutgers #84 - 25.5 ppg #111 - 324 ypg 84.60%
7 Purdue #88 - 24 ppg #63 - 398.2 ypg 68.80%
8 Northwestern #88 - 24 ppg #100 - 337.8 ypg 91.70%
9 Michigan State #92 - 23 ppg #80 - 377 ypg 84.60%
10 Illinois #96 - 22.2 ppg #69 - 394.8 ypg 91.70%
11 Nebraska #101 - 21.8 ppg #89 - 359.2 ypg 90.00%
12 Indiana #101 - 21.8 ppg #101 - 337.5 ypg 81.80%
13 Minnesota #105 - 21.2 ppg #98 - 341 ypg 92.30%
14 Iowa #105 - 21.2 ppg #129 - 245.5 ypg 91.70%

It is fair to say that so far the Big Ten has struggled offensively, but that is to be expected. Penn State and Ohio State both have first-year starters at QB. Michigan bring back almost their entire offense, but they have never been a dynamic offense. Despite that, it is shocking to see Wisconsin ahead of Michigan as they have looked disjointed and refuse to use their best player Braelon Allen instead giving up on the run as soon as it faces adversity.

After Michigan the conference takes a major deep dive. Cade McNamara has been worse than expected, and Brian Ferentz should lose his job immediately because despite having a better quarterback and more talent on offense. they are worse than the previous year. Nebraska, Minnesota, and Michigan State are probably regretting their quarterback decisions leading to some really bad offensive performances. At least Minnesota has found another stud running back.

Illinois is at the bottom of this list, but despite that I have some optimism about their offense. Luke Altmeyer struggled against good Kansas and Penn State teams, but he has shown some flashes and I think they are right the ship as the season progresses. They won’t be a top offense, but I think they find a way to surprise Northwestern, Michigan State, Minnesota, and Indiana to break into the top-10 in the conference.

Big Ten Team Defensive Rankings

Big Ten Rank Team Stop Rate Scoring Defense Total Defense
Big Ten Rank Team Stop Rate Scoring Defense Total Defense
1 Penn State #1 - 88.9% #4 - 8.75 ppg #1 - 219.5 ypg
2 Michigan #3 - 87.8% #1 - 5.75 ppg #3 - 231 ypg
3 Ohio State #5 - 85.3% #2 - 8.5 ppg #6 - 255.5 ypg
4 Maryland #11 - 81.8% #11 - 12.25 ppg #47 - 330 ypg
5 Rutgers #12 - 79.5% #19 - 15.25 ppg #31 - 308.2 ypg
6 Wisconsin #25 - 76% #43 - 19.75 #77 - 374.5 ypg
7 Iowa #31 - 74.5% #26 - 17 ppg #36 - 313.8
8 Nebraska #42 - 70.2% #33 - 18.5 ppg #23 - 298 ypg
9 Indiana #54 - 66.7% #42 - 19.5 ppg #56 - 342.2 ypg
10 Minnesota #60 - 65.9% #50 - 21 ppg #69 - 364.5 ypg
11 Michigan State #67 - 63.9% #75 - 371.8 yypg #75 - 371.8 yypg
12 Northwestern #70 - 63.8% #76 - 25.75 #76 - 372 ypg
T-13 Illinois #98 - 57.1% #87 - 27.25 ppg #113 - 422.8
T-13 Purdue #98 - 57.1% #99 - 404 ypg #99 - 404 ypg

Defenses in this conference are better than expected, which may also be contributing to some of the poor offenses. Penn State has the best defense in the country. They’re No. 1 in stop rate, a statistic that tells you what percentage of the opposing offenses drives in a punt, takeaway, or turnover on downs. Penn State is stopping their opponents on 88.9& of drives.

Michigan and Ohio State also have great defenses, landing in the top five in stop rate as well. The biggest surprise at this point is either Iowa falling from No. 1 at the end of last season to No. 31, or its Rutgers and Maryland being in the top-12 nationally.

After having one of the best defenses in the country last season, Illinois is struggling to replace Ryan Walters, while Walters is realizing that Purdue is going to be a much tougher rebuild than expected. This is lining up to be a throwback Big Ten season where the team with the best defense wins — unless Ryan Day finds a way to unlock his Death Star offense. Watch out if that happens, because this Ohio State defense is legit after a few down seasons.

Big Ten Statistical Leaders

Category Total Player School
Category Total Player School
Passing Yards 1,112 Taulia Tagovailoa Maryland
Passing Touchdowns 8 Taulia Tagovailoa J.J. McCarthy Drew Allar Maryland Michigan Penn State
Rushing Yards 532 Darius Taylor Minnesota
Rushing Touchdowns 8 Blake Corum Michigan
Receiving Yards 336 Marvin Harrison Jr. Ohio State
Receiving Touchdowns 6 Roman Wilson Michigan
Category Total Player School
Tackles 50 Jay Higgins Iowa
Tackles for Loss 5 Kydran Jenkins Andre Carter Aaron Casey Purdue Indiana Indiana
Sacks 3 Danny Striggrow Kydran Jenkins James Thompson Jr. Minnesota Purdue Wisconsin
Passes Defended 6 Marquis Wilson Purdue
Interceptions 3 Phillip Dunnam Tarheeb Still Ricardo Hallman Indiana Maryland Wisconsin
Forced Fumbles 2 Dominic DeLuca Penn State

For anyone who disagrees with the thought that all three top teams in the East have vulnerabilities or the thought that Iowa is not the same defense as last season, all you have to do is look at the individual leaders. Unlike last year, these leaders aren’t majority led by Ohio State and Michigan on offense and Iowa on defense. Even Penn State, which has the best defense in the country, does not have many statistical standouts like it did last season.

Taulia Tagovailoa is leading the conference in passing yards, and is tied for first in passing touchdowns, which should not be a surprise as he was arguably the second-best quarterback behind C.J. Stroud the last two seasons. It’s weird to not see an Ohio State quarterback lead these categories, but McCord is not far behind and he had to win a competition during the season.

Minnesota does not have many positives right now, but somehow they have found a replacement to star running back Mo Ibrahim. Freshman running back Darius Taylor is first in the conference and third in the nation with 532 rushing yards. Marvin Harrison Jr., despite having less than five targets in Week 1 and injuring his ankle in Week 4, still leads the conference in receiving yards.

On defense, it’s more of a mixed bag. Indiana has multiple players who show up on this list as their defense has been much more aggressive and better at causing havoc under new defensive coordinator and former Ohio State Analyst Matt Geurreri. It is a surprise that coming into the season Ohio State, Penn State, Illinois, Michigan, and Iowa were expected to have some of the better defensive lines, but they have not posted good sack numbers. Of this group, only Michigan is in the top-10 in sacks in the conference.

These four weeks have been interesting, but I expect these leaders to change drastically as we get into conference play.

Final Thoughts

Overall after four weeks, the conference has been mildly disappointing. Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan have taken care of business, but have not been impressive. This has also been one of the worst years for the Big Ten’s middle-class teams. Currently, the conference is 5-8 in out-of-conference games, including a 3-4 record against the ACC and an 0-3 record against the Pac-12.

This year more than any other the fate of this conference will rely on the Big Three in the East, but only one of them can end up on top. With the parity in the rest of the nation, it is unlikely that the Big Ten will find two teams in the playoffs.

The PAC-12 is having a resurgent year in it’s final season. The most encouraging thing for the Big Ten is that all of its future additions — Oregon, UCLA, USC, and Washington in 2024 — look really good. Until then though, one of Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan will need to round into form if the conference wants a chance to win a national championship before the 12-team playoff.

For the rest of the conference, they may want to get used to this level of mediocrity, because if they don’t right the ship now it will be much harder in the future.


Follow The I-80 Football Show on YouTube: @JordanW330

Subscribe to the podcast: RSS | Apple | Spotify | Google Podcasts | iHeart Radio

Connect with me on Twitter: @JordanW330

Follow I-80 Football Show on Instagram: @I80FootballShow