The first College Football Playoff rankings of the 2017 season were released this week. The top two teams are of course the top two SEC teams, Georgia in the East and Alabama in the West. Notre Dame, an independent, comes in at number three. Number four is Clemson, an ACC team.
The Big Ten and the Big 12 are missing from the Top Four! Oklahoma and Ohio State at this point are just outside the playoff. Granted, this will change a lot over the next three weeks. It always does. We'll see doomsday articles about what will happen if there are multiple undefeated teams, but these things always work themselves out because November is the funnest month of college football and weird, stupid things always happen.
Georgia and Alabama will meet in the SEC title game and only one of them should ultimately make the playoff. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State meet this weekend in the Bedlam series – and there is a decent chance that they’ll meet again in the Big 12 Championship game. Clemson’s normal ACC nemesis, Florida State, is terrible this year but Miami has a shot at taking them out. Speaking of Miami, Notre Dame faces them next weekend.
Like I said, November. If you’re only focusing on Nebraska, this might not be a fun month, but if you love college football as a whole, it’s always the best month of the year.
Let's take a look at this week's Big Ten schedule!
Wisconsin at Indiana
Wisconsin hasn't lost the game while Indiana has yet to win a Big Ten conference game. The Badgers are favored by 10 in this game – that seems about right. Wisconsin would need a whole batch of things to go in their favor to get into the College Football Playoff, but first they have to beat a desperate Hoosier team.
Note that Jonathan Taylor is questionable for this game, as is Quintez Cephus, Wisconsin's leading receiver. I'd still expect the Badgers to wear down the Hoosiers over time and cover the 10 points.
Penn State at Michigan State
Michigan State racked up 540 yards of total offense against Northwestern last week, yet managed only 17 points in regulation. Sparty's defense is pretty darn good, third in the conference in total defense, but seventh in scoring defense, giving up 19.6 points per game. The Nittany Lions second in conference in scoring offense at 39.8 points per game.
Michigan State's offense is 12th in scoring at 21.5 points per game, and they won't be able to keep up unless Penn State is too mentally beat up from their loss to Ohio State last weekend. That's the big key here - did the Buckeyes take too much out of the Nittany Lions?
I'd say no. There's too much veteran leadership on this Penn State team, and there's still a chance for them to play for a Big Ten title.
Ohio State at Iowa
I find this game intriguing if for no other reason than Iowa was able to keep Penn State at bay literally until the last play of the game. Iowa has somewhat of the same problem as Michigan State in that their offense is terrible. The Hawkeyes are 10th in conference in scoring offense 25 points per game. The Hawkeye defense is pretty good at least as long as Josey Jewell is around.
Did you know that Iowa hasn't given up more than 40 points at home since 1999? It could happen this weekend if Iowa's offense can get first downs and their defense gets worn down in the process. I'm sure none of us would laugh if that happens.
Needless to say I don't see Iowa pulling off the same close game that they had against Penn State because Ohio State and JT Barrett are on a roll.
Maryland at Rutgers
Another interesting game. Rutgers has definitely improved while Maryland has pulled off some wins even though losing their top two quarterbacks for the season. Both stand at 2 – 3 in the East, although Maryland is at 4 – 4 overall and Rutgers is at 3 – 5. What we're talking about here is jockeying to see who can get into position to get into a bowl game. Rutgers could really use this win, obviously, and it's a home game.
I don't see the Scarlet Knights pulling this one out.
Minnesota at Michigan
The Gophers still haven't found an offense, while Michigan found their quarterback of the future last week, Brandon Peters. Minnesota's defense has been playing bad, ranked sixth in the conference in total, but Michigan's defense is first. With regards to total offense, Minnesota is ranked 11th while Michigan isn't that much better at ninth, but like I said, Brandon Peters.
I wouldn't expect the Little Brown Jug to be coming back to Minneapolis anytime soon.
Purdue at Illinois
Illinois still hasn't shown any signs of life and Purdue will be wanting to make up for that last-second loss to Nebraska last week. Again, this is probably the least interesting game of the week.
Northwestern at Nebraska
Our beloved Huskers have played Northwestern three times in Lincoln since joining the Big Ten conference. Of those three games, only one resulted in a win, and that required a Hail Mary pass from Ron Kellog III to Jordan Westerkamp.
It's funny that we continually talk about our lack of a rival when all of the games between Nebraska and Northwestern have come down to the wire. Obviously it's beneath most Husker fans to consider the Wildcats a rival even though they fit the bill. It's doubtful that no matter what happened between these two teams that Northwestern would never consider us a rival, not us lowly hayseeds despite the fact that our debate team keeps beating them.
One thing to note about Northwestern – their last two games went into overtime. Against Michigan State they played three overtimes. You'd like to think that this wouldn't take a toll on the team, at least if you're Northwestern, but one has to wonder if they are a little bit mentally fatigued.
This game, the Battle for NU, won't prove to be any different than the past. I would expect a high-scoring game, one that comes down to whoever commits the fewest turnovers. It would be nice if it's a Nebraska win, but I wouldn't hold my breath.