The Gophers are coming off their bye week and heading into the Big Ten portion of their schedule. Which means there isn’t a whole lot to say for the Monday Perspective. Not much has changed since a week ago. The team still has plenty to prove on the field before people will feel better about being undefeated (such a weird and wholly accurate sentence that was). Now they hit the road for their first Big Ten game and have a chance to continue to improve.
But what about the rest of the Big Ten West? How have expectations matched with reality so far? I’m going to arbitrarily bucket the Big Ten West teams into groups based on how high were the expectations for each team just 4 weeks ago.
This was essentially the ONLY team that the national media didn’t at least casually mention as being in the mix for winning the West. And they are meeting all expectations.
The Fighting Illini are 2-2 beating Akron (0-4) and UConn (1-2) but losing to Eastern Illinois and then Nebraska. If anything, their loss to Nebraska may be a loss with a little silver lining. The Illini held a 14-point lead late in the 3rd quarter before giving it up.
But I’m still selling this stock. Lovie Smith hasn’t exactly shown that this program is trending in the right direction. Two years ago they heavily pushed just how many freshmen and sophomores were seeing significant playing time. Turns out those young kids are not translating to more production as upper classmen.
I don’t recall there being a ton of hype surrounding Nortwestern, but it was often reminded that the Wildcats are a consistent team who had the division wrapped up last year before the final weekend. So was it conceivable that the Wildcats would continue to just go about their business, letting other teams make more mistakes on their way to another West title?
Possible, but they also were replacing a number of key positions. So as usual, very little hype or expectations on Northwestern.
But they have been pretty weak so far this year. Losing at Stanford (1-3) to open the season and losing to Michigan State (3-1) with a win over UNLV (1-2) in between.
I’m selling NU stock right now.
There was a time last year when Purdue was riding awfully high. A high-powered offense that had won 5 of 6 games at one point last year, including wins over Ohio State and a ranked Iowa team. The belief in Jeff Brohm was high and the Boilermakers were looking strong before faltering by losing three of their last four.
So what team would we get this year? There were some expectations that this team was on the rise and this may be a breakout year. Or there were questions about replacing a quarterback and several on defense. Turns out there are some questions and they have not yet been answered. The Boilermakers lost their opener at Nevada, beat Vandy at home and then lost soundly to TCU at home. They sit at 1-2 with some injury concerns as well.
I’m selling my Purdue stock
I won’t spend a ton of time on the Gophers as we are all pretty familiar. This team finished strong last year and returned a lot. Expectations locally were very high while nationally they received a few mentions as a dark horse candidate to win the West.
They, like Purdue and Northwestern above, have struggled this season.
They, unlike Purdue and Northwestern above (and Nebraska below), are undefeated after finding ways to beat South Dakota State, Fresno State and Georgia Southern.
Reasonably High Expectations
Iowa has gone about their business and sits at 3-0. The Hawkeyes were really my pick to as the best team in the West (while picking MN largely due to their schedule and desire to see that happen). They have not done anything overly impressive but they have taken care of business en route to 3-0.
I’m still buying Iowa stock.
I know that Wisconsin hasn’t really played anybody (and that statement might include Michigan) but they have dominated all along. I was really
thinking hoping that this year is when Wisconsin returns to mediocrity and I think I had them finishing 4th in the division.
But I’m buying Badger stock right now. Tell me I’m wrong, but so far they have looked as good as anybody in the division.
Unworldly and Ridiculously High Expectations
So thankfully the Nebraska pre-season hype has met reality. And this reality train hit harder than it did for any other Big Ten West program. After putting all the emotions into beating Colorado, they ended up losing that one in epic fashion. Now, they are 3-1. So from that standpoint they are very much in a similar boat to Minnesota. They “almost” lost Illinois...but they didn’t. But this team is not looking like a division contender.
I’m selling Nebraska this year.
Well, I think Wisconsin and Iowa are the teams to beat at the moment. The rest of the teams are really still in position to do the things necessary to put themselves in Indianapolis. But those two teams have passed the eye test better than the rest.