WARR writer Kevin Luchansky normally writes about baseball for WARR.com., this college football season he expands his reach by writing on another passion of his — college football, in particular the Big Ten.
You could say that Week 2 of the college football season wasn’t too kind to the Big Ten conference, but you’d only be the four millionth or so person to say it. You’re not going to get anywhere beating a dead horse.
The fact that last weekend was far from kind is all too true, but the media just won’t stop with their conference power narratives and the gleeful railings against the performance of the conference’s “Big 3” (Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan) on the national stage Saturday night — all losing performances by a combined score of 112-48.
I’m not trying to sugarcoat these under-performances, but I’d rather suggest we don’t jump to conclusions after two weeks of football in a season with as many as 14 weeks to it.
Have the chance of any Big Ten team making the inaugural College Football Playoff plummeted? Hell, maybe. But can we perhaps make it to, say, the middle of the season before we over analyze and over scrutinize? Just because there no longer is a BCS poll emerging every mid-October to cue end-of-the-world theories doesn’t mean that we can’t exercise restraint.
Of the “Big 3” that lost Saturday, only the Buckeyes (-11) came into the game as a favorite and both Michigan State and Michigan played road contests against top-20 opponents. Sure, Northwestern losing to Northern Illinois and Purdue to Central Michigan only muddied the Big Ten waters and weakened its depth, but were either of those teams even expected to go .500 this season?
One last thought on this topic and for this I’ll need an example. Let’s use the lowly Boilermakers of Purdue. All week, the team is — rightfully so — put down by experts and observers of the Big Ten.
Saturday comes along and Purdue gets beat by a team from a lesser conference, and here comes the onslaught of jokes from media and analysts.
Why?! It doesn’t make any sense, everyone on the planet saw this coming. It’s as if people act surprised only so that they can drum up more of the “the Big Ten is dead” narratives and story lines. It’s an odd fascination, one I certainly don’t recall hearing much about five or 10 years ago.
As for the schedule of Big Ten games this weekend, I’m intrigued by two 2-0 squads that have not much to lose, both standing currently as underdogs in challenging road contests to come. Losses may be expected here, but keep an eye on these games cause either program would gain a whole lot should they exit victorious.
This week, the West Lunt-led Illini travel to Seattle, Washington in the second half of a home-and-home series with the Huskies, who are now under the direction of first-year head coach Chris Petersen. You may remember Petersen from his coaching days and consistent success at Boise State or more so for the play call that led them to a BCS bowl victory over Adrian Peterson and the Oklahoma Sooners.
This season, Petersen leads a team full of recruits from Steve Sarkisian, who left the Huskies after last season for the same position at USC. The Huskies passing attack has looked okay in the first two weeks, but their strength is in the run game, though they no longer have the services of the elusive Bishop Sankey, who now suits up on Sundays in the NFL.
Frankly, the Illini didn’t show much promise on either side of the ball as they went on to win two games they were less than impressive in, including a nail-biting home opener against Youngstown State. My hunch here is that the Illinois coaching staff didn’t want to give too much of their playbook away before they faced more serious competition and my hope is that they’ve built much of their offensive plan around Lunt’s arm. He has the chance to be a big difference maker, but he can’t do it alone. Prediction: Washington 40, Illinois 26.
The other match-up I’m intrigued by is Minnesota visiting the TCU Horned Frogs in Fort Worth, Texas. I haven’t been able to see much of the Gophers this season, so I’ll spare you a regurgitated “preview” and just point out a few noticeable things.
The spread for this game sits at -16, making TCU a pretty heavy favorite. Being that the game is down in Texas, I think Vegas odds-makers might be overlooking Minnesota here and perhaps that could lead the Horned Frogs to sleep on them, too.
One thing that does happen to be in favor of TCU is this Minnesota defense has been emaciated by injuries and the Horned Frogs have had an extra week to prepare for them, as they were idle last weekend. It’s only two games we’re drawing from, but the Gophers have averaged 427 yards allowed this season, and TCU’s offense promises to be better than either team Minnesota has faced.
The X-Factor in this game for the Gophers will likely be running back David Cobb. If the Gophers can lead a balanced attack and move the chains with Cobb, I like their chances. If they go through a few three-and-outs early on, this one could get ugly as the only thing worse than relying on a beat-up defense is relying on a tired, beat-up defense that is forced to stay on the field for too many downs. Prediction: TCU 36, Minnesota 20.
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