Nebraska and Illinois will play tonight. I trust you’ve adjusted your schedule accordingly. It could be Nebraska’s only event in this great Big Ten experiment of Friday night games, and it might not even deliver the one thing it’s meant to – exposure.
We know that Husker fans will tune in (and be there), of course, but it’s actually a pretty crowded slate. Miami-Duke kicks off an hour before Nebraska-Illinois. Should be a pretty good game for general college football fan settling in for the evening. For the fan who is maybe only watching one, No. 5 USC goes to No. 16 Washington State later that night. That’s a good game. (BYU and Utah State also play, which is a game between two teams in Utah.)
Does Nebraska-Illinois meet the same "good" criteria? We’ll see, but they haven’t looked like two of the Big Ten’s best through four games, which prompts the question: Which is the Big Ten’s best team through four weeks?
We know what ESPN’s FPI says (Nebraska 11th, Illinois 14th), and there are plenty of other rankings out there if you want them, but what’s your gut tell you? I spent a lot of time looking at stats, but for this exercise I’m not going to use any.
My gut tells me that Ohio State is still the best team in the conference. Most talent, most weapons and a young secondary that has two great opportunities (Rutgers, Maryland) to find its footing before it visits Nebraska.
I’d put Wisconsin second. The Badgers’ defense hasn’t missed a beat despite another coordinator switch and some key injuries. Penn State is a close third. The Nittany Lions put up a ton of yards against Iowa and the defense is keeping points off the board, but I think Penn State can be beaten. Iowa almost did it.
Speaking of the Hawkeyes, I’d have Iowa fifth. (Ran play-action on you there.) I skipped over Michigan in fourth place. I’d take the Wolverines over the Hawkeyes today in a game nobody, outside those two fan bases at least, would enjoy watching, but I’ve been impressed by Iowa so far in 2017. Then things get interesting.
Gophers or Spartans? They play in three weeks, and for now I’ll give Minnesota the slight edge over Michigan State overall. Northwestern, for all of the run its 41-7 loss to Duke got, is still 2-1. Watch the Wildcats give the Badgers more than they want this week.
I think we can now safely slot Nebraska in at ninth. If you want to argue for Purdue or Indiana, my next two in order, over the Huskers I won’t stop you. Both have probably proven more to this point, but Nebraska at its best (we havent' seen much of it) is still better in my mind.
Poor Maryland. If the Terps weren’t down to their third-string quarterback, a guy who isn’t a fit for what they want to do at all, they’d certainly be higher. As for Illinois and Rutgers, let’s call it a tie for 13th. Let me see the Illini in person first.
Who you got?
The Grab Bag
- ICYMI: A couple of good premium pieces for you yesterday as Greg Smith shared some recruiting insight into the situation at quarterback and Jacob Padilla did a defensive personnel breakdown.
- Good read from David M. Hale of ESPN on Virginia Tech's speedy rebuild.
- Well this is interesting: If Louisville AD Tom Jurich, currently on paid leave, is fired, football coach Bobby Petrino's buyout is cut in half.
- Also interesting: Clemson coach Dabo Swinney doesn't rule out a return to Alabama.
Today's Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.