With Michigan having dispatched its major nonconference foes, it's time to survey the rest of the league for indications as to how tough their sledding will be as they try to reach one of those bowl things.
First, and just to be whiny:
Vanderbilt: W 23-21
Illinois State: W 37-3
This is probably going to be the suckiest year at Northwestern in a while. They were considerably outgained by Vandy and only won on an egregious call that the Big Ten later apologized for, except they didn't. So of course they're off the schedule.
MTSU: W 24-17
South Dakota: L 38-41
With the Big Ten moving to divisions next year comes the functional end of one of the most-hated traditions in Michigan football: always missing the worst team in the league. Minnesota fans are here after they lost by two scores to South Dakota, completing their collection of humiliating losses from teams in a Dakota:
Tim Brewster isn't getting canned anytime soon.
I'd be fine with it happening today. I have zero faith he's going to turn this around this year because there has been no evidence in his four seasons here that he's capable of doing it. Still, it's not going to happen because as much as the season feels like it's over right now, it's not. Look no further than the Kansas Jayhawks: last week they lost to NDSU (remember how that felt?) 6-3 in what has to be the ugliest football game ever played. Not a great way to start off the Turner Gill Era. Yesterday, the hosted #15 Georgia Tech- AND WON! Talk about a shocker. Talk about a turnaround. It's one example, but it's proof the season isn't over yet. No matter how much you may hate Brewster and mistrust the coaching staff this morning, it's still very possible we turn this around.
Regardless, even if we lose to USC next week and NIU the week after AND Northwestern the week after that...we're still mathematically bowl eligible at 1-4.
Gopher bloggers are now declaring 1-11 a "distinct possibility" and asserting the upside to be 3-9. So, yeah, of course they're off the schedule.
To teams on the schedule:
Towson: W 51-17
A win over a I-AA team doesn't mean much, though Towson did just squeak by Coastal Carolina in five(!) overtimes. Chances are Michigan won't have any read on how competitive Indiana is going to be before they head to Bloomington. Their next two games are against Western Kentucky (0-12 last year, lost to Nebraska 49-10 and Kentucky 63-28) and Akron (lost to Syracuse 29-3 and I-Aa Gardner-Webb 38-37).
Stock: even by reason of virtual bye and actual bye.
Western Michigan: W 38-14
Florida Atlantic: W 30-17
Not a ton to learn from the first two games. Western hung tight for a quarter but let the game get away in the second, finishing 160 yards back by the game's end. FWIW, Western was bad last year and will probably be worse this year without Hiller—his replacement looked like Nate Montana.
The FAU game was slightly uncomfortable as the Owls were driving to pull within one score late until Howard Schellenberger exclaimed "suspenders!" and kicked a field goal; total yardage was 367-301. State's offense consisted of big plays including an 80-yard touchdown from Edwin Baker, 42 and 30 yard receptions from Keshawn Martin and BJ Cunningham. If there's something to be concerned about it's a seeming lack of progress in the passing game; Notre Dame will provide much more information along those lines.
Eastern Illinois: W 37-7
Iowa State: W 35-7
Iowa State is certainly awful by virtue of being Iowa State, but Ferentz has struggled against his cross-state rivals so a righteous pounding seems like a step forward even if last year's game was 35-3. Another step forward is a lack of Stanziball, though Iowa State did not provide a major test. Stanzi only had to throw 18 times. Iowa bloggers seem happy, at least.
Stock: up slightly, since the chance they'd have a meh game against Iowa State has gone by the wayside. Considerably more information coming this weekend when they travel to Arizona.
@ Penn State
Youngstown State: W 44-14
Alabama: L 24-3
The eeee Bolden hype after he did not self destruct against penguins (seriously, YSU is the Penguins) was a bit much, and indeed the Penn State offense came to a screeching halt at Alabama. Penn State blew two early opportunities to punch in touchdowns, came away with only three points for the whole game, and finished with just 283 yards of offense. Freshman quarterback in Tuscaloosa against Saban and his merry band of guys good enough to not get cut, but that's a worst-case scenario any way you slice it. Bolden was 13/29 for 144 yards, 5 YPA, and two interceptions.
Perhaps more disturbingly for Penn State, Evan Royster had a Michigan-tailback-esque day against 'Bama, putting up 32 yards on 9 carries. That follows a 11 carry, 40 yard performance against Youngstown State on a day when Penn State averaged just 4.6 YPC against a I-AA opponent, and only managed because Kevin Newsome's ELECTRIC RUNNING went for 21 yards on 3 carries. Initial diagnosis of Penn State OL: ass.
Defensively, it's also not so good. Bama was efficient on the ground and in the air, with Trent Richardson averaging 6.5 YPC and Greg McElroy 9.5 YPA. A lack of corresponding scoring seems attributable to 'Bama stretching out in the luxury of a three-score lead against an opponent with a freshman quarterback.
Stock: down. Right now this looks winnable, though not probable.
Missouri: L 23-13
Southern Illinois: W 35-3
SIU was a pretty good I-AA team a year ago, losing to Marshall by just 3 in their opener and then going undefeated against the rest of their schedule until going down to William & Mary in the I-AA playoffs. Illinois outgained them by almost two to one and clobberated them. So that's okay.
The loss to Mizzou was grim, though. After hopping out to a 13-3 lead it was all Missouri in the second half; the Tigers ended up outgaining Illinois 379-281. Throw in a –3 turnover margin thanks to the exceptional generosity of Nathan Scheelhaase and it's a wonder this didn't get out of hand. Scheelhaase was 9/23 for 81 yards, a TD, and 3 INTs, but did add 76 rushing yards on 16 carries. Denard Robinson thinks that's cute, kid.
Mikel Leshoure looks like a legit Big Ten feature back and Illinois controlled Missouri's ground game pretty well, but initial returns on the post-Juice era are looking a lot like returns on the Juice era, hopefully minus Mike Williams exploding.
Stock: probably even since no one expected much from Illinois; Michigan is probably feeling better given the passing performance against Mizzou.
Notre Dame: L 23-12
Western Illinois: W 31-21
Purdue struggled against Notre Dame and did worse relative to level of competition against Western Illinois. Despite being 1-10 in I-AA last year, WIU was tied at 7-7 late in the second quarter when they went for it on fourth and one by bombing it deep. It was incomplete, Purdue executed a two-minute drill for a touchdown, the ensuing kickoff was fumbled with 13 seconds left in the half, and Purdue was able to pull away… for a while, anyway. Total yardage ended up 406-402, Western Illinois.
In the aftermath, Hammer and Rails says "I haven't seen so much negativity around here since Robbie Hummel went down." Problems unsurprisingly include the OL:
I liked the comment I saw in last night's game wrap pertaining to our line being a sieve. BenJapal responded with, "Calling our offensive line a sieve is to imply that a small amount was being restrained."
He's exactly right. Peters Drey had a pretty bad game. I think there was at least one bad snap, and he somehow managed to commit three penalties on two plays. Nick Mondek is whiffing on blocks left and right at right tackle. I thought he was supposed to be the best guy there! What happened to Trevor Foy and Ryan Prater?
After two games Purdue is averaging a Sheridan-esque 5.1 yards per attempt. Fans now seem to be hoping for 7 or 8 wins, a significant step back from mutterings about being a darkhorse contender in the BIg Ten this year.
Stock: considerably down. Michigan should be a favorite despite being on the road, not something that would have been the case before the season.
UNLV: W 41-21
San Jose State: W 27-14
Wisconsin has been dominant statistically but sloppy in its first two. They put up what might be the most impressive non-UConn box score in the Big Ten by outgaining UNLV 475-217. Ground: 50 carries, 278 yards, 5.6 YPC. Air: 15/20, 197 yards, 9.9 YPA. San Jose State was closer as Wisconsin threw away chances to break away and lost focus late. It's still a start about on par with what was expected.
(PS: bet you're wishing you didn't cancel that Virginia Tech series now, eh?)
Stock: even. Not getting my hopes up here.
@ Ohio State
Marshall: W 45-7
Miami: W 36-24
The Marshall demolition looks a lot better now that the Herd coulda-woulda-shoulda taken down West Virginia for the first time ever, especially since total yardage in that game was pretty close to even. Against OSU the final tally read Basically A Billion-Zero.
The Miami game was deeply strange, with Jacory Harris throwing 4 INTs and Ohio State coverage units giving up two(!) return touchdowns. OSU outgained the 'Canes by about 60 yards, but Terrelle Pryor's 12 of 27 performance has to be worrying.
Stock: even. Very good team with Qs about Pryor is exactly what the deal was before the season.