This is another excerpt from my blog, Purple Storm, at NUWildcats.blogspot.com.
This is my week 4 take on the Big 10 as a whole, ranking them by where I foresee them finishing the season, and for teams that play NU, giving our likelihood of beating them.
- LW (1) Ohio State: It's getting very difficult to say whether OSU is better off with Braxton Miller or Kenny Guiton, as Guiton threw a ridiculous 6 TDs, albeit against a very bad Florida A&M. Regardless, this is a very good team with either QB. On defense as well, they were lights-out against the Rattlers, holding them to two first downs the entire game. This is a team without many obvious weaknesses, and it will be a tough game for the 'Cats. Even with all the x-factors in Northwestern's favor, I'm still giving the 'Cats only a 35% chance of victory.
- LW (2)Wisconsin: Wisconsin faced another weak opponent this week, but at least it was an in-conference one, in Purdue. While quarterback Joel Stave had a relatively unimpressive game, the Badgers continued to do what they do best: run the ball. Both Melvin Gordon and James White exceeded 140 yards, while Corey Clement added 83 of his own. On top of this, they had another lock-down game defensively, and they sit at 6th nationally in total defense. This team does scare me, but they are far from unbeatable. If the 'Cats can muster the run defense I know they're capable of and can run a solid, well-balanced offense, they have a good chance to win. 50% chance of victory for Northwestern.
- LW (4) Penn State: In a massive step down to number 3, we find Penn State. The Nittany Lions steam rolled Kent State en route to a 34-0 victory. The defense was solid. The 0 points and 190 yards allowed are testament to that. And the run game was impressive as well, as Akeel Lynch ran for 123 and Zach Zwinak got into the endzone three times. However, Christian Hackenberg struggled, completing only 13 of 35 passes against a team that gave up over 350 pass yards to Bowling Green. Penn State does not play Northwestern.
- LW (5) Illinois: The Illini had a bye this week, so they move up due to Indiana's failings, not their own success. I still believe the Wildcats have an 85% chance of victory.
- LW (3) Indiana: Before this week, the Hoosiers had promise, but yet again, Indiana pulled an Indiana. The Hoosiers continued to look good through the air in terms of yardage, throwing for 377 yards, but Nate Sudfeld threw three interceptions. On top of this, the Hoosiers got torched through the air and on the ground, allowing Mizzou 623 total yards. Indiana does not play Northwestern.
- LW (6) Purdue: Purdue is not very good. As already mentioned, they got steam rolled by the Badgers, particularly on the ground. But their offense was not any better. Rob Henry completed only half his passes for 135 yards, while the run game picked up only 45. Ugly. Purdue does not play Northwestern.
- LW (1) Northwestern: Northwestern continues to benefit from what is, overall, a very weak Legends Divison. The Wildcat's win against Maine was by no means a thing of beauty, but it never really felt in doubt. As a bonus, all signs are pointing to Venric Mark returning to the field against the Buckeyes. On top of the obvious benefit of having their best player on the field, the 'Cats playbook should open up significantly. Colter plus Mark is a scary combo for any defense.
- LW (2) Michigan: Two weeks in a row, both Northwestern and Michigan have played sub-par games against inferior programs, but these scenarios do not feel similar. Northwestern fans are nervous simply because the 'Cats did not win by a large enough margin in either game. I would contend this is foolish. Michigan fans, on the other hand, are nervous with good reason, as their games against both Akron and UConn, two bad teams, both came down to the bitter end. On top of this, there simply was not much to like from this Wolverines team. Even Devin Gardner, the one player who I thought could almost single-handedly lead this offense, looked bad against the Huskies. I'm beginning to wonder if this is even a good team, and questioning my choice to have them at number 2. Regardless, they have enough talent and a high enough ceiling to stay at #2 for now. Regardless, I'm growing increasingly confident in a Wildcat victory. 65% chance of victory for Northwestern.
- LW (3) Nebraska: Not a lot to gather from Nebraska this week as they took care of business, beating FCS South Dakota St. 59-20. The Huskers put up a huge amount of offense, but their 465 yards allowed does little to quiet the criticisms of their defense. As such, this week did little to change my opinion of the Huskers. Northwestern has a 70% chance of winning.
- LW (5) Iowa: The Hawkeyes had easily the most impressive game in the Legends Division, doing something NU could not manage: steamrolling Western Michigan. Iowa destroyed the Broncos in every facet of the game, throwing well, passing well, and returning punts and interceptions for touchdowns. I wonder about the overall talent level of this team, and don't think they have a terribly high ceiling, but right now they look like a very solid, well-coached team. I'm worried this game is a major trap game candidate. I have to drop the Wildcats to a 70% chance of victory.
- LW (6) Minnesota: The Minnesota running game continued to look highly impressive against San Jose St., but they're essentially missing the entirety of their passing game with Philip Nelson sidelined due to injury, and with his status into the next few weeks uncertain, this is a big blow. The Gophers get their first real test against Iowa this week, and it should be a significant game to learn about both teams. As of right now, I don't see much to change my opinion about this game, so still: 80% chance of Northwestern victory.
- LW (4) Michigan State: The Spartans are a very interesting team. One of the best defenses and one of the worst offenses nationally. The old adage says defense wins championships, but not if this is the type of offensive production you're getting. Many fans were praising Connor Cook as the quarterback of the future for MSU, but he looked lost and even got pulled for Andrew Maxwell, who was terrible, in relief. Honestly, I don't care how good this defense is, with this kind of quarterback play, they're going to struggle badly in the Big Ten. 80% chance of Northwestern victory.
ProjectionsNorthwestern's likelihood of going undefeated gets a slight raise this week, albeit only to 3.03%. Still, we get to see our old friend Lloyd, quite possibly for the last time.
While being undefeated would certainly be nice, my model now has us at 9.35-2.65, slightly up from last week, but still leaving us with a most likely record of 9-3.