October 9, 2012

Borton's Blog: Legends Look

It's always good to check the Legends Division pulse every now and then, especially since some teams are close to not having one. Here's a quick rundown of what Michigan faces.

Nebraska (1-1) - Everybody turned to the Cornhuskers as the division favorite after Ohio State kept its severely gouged eyes on the prize and won in East Lansing. But the fact is, Nebraska really ought to be 0-2 in the division, just like the other pre-season favorite.

Bo Pelini's crew can score the points, and needed to in rallying to beat Wisconsin at home in the season opener. They then hung 38 on the Buckeyes in Columbus - which proved just 26 shy of what was necessary.

Can a Big Ten team win a division with the 10th-best scoring defense (27.7) in the league, even with the best scoring offense (43.7)? We'll find out.

Michigan State (1-1) - The Spartans face the opposite issue, sitting 10th in the Big Ten in scoring (21.8), set against the best scoring defense in the conference (15.2). But Gang Green fans went on life support for long stretches against EMU and Indiana, and really don't know what to expect the rest of this season.

Andrew Maxwell has potential at quarterback, but offensive linemen are dropping like passes in East Lansing. If you need a huge rally to win at Indiana, every game on the schedule is in doubt.

Northwestern (1-1) - The Wildcats were the darlings of schedule watchers everywhere, who expected them to glide into an Oct. 20 meeting with Nebraska unscathed. Penn State had other ideas, and Pat Fitzgerald's team still has to host the Cornhuskers, then travel to Michigan and Michigan State later in the year. This doesn't look like a two-loss Legends squad.

Iowa (1-0) - The only undefeated Legends Division team besides Michigan required Homecoming against Minnesota and a bye week to get that job done. Now it gets real.

The Hawkeyes could give the Spartans a battle in East Lansing, but games at Northwestern, at Michigan and a home date with Nebraska should push Kirk Ferentz's squad out of the competition.

Minnesota (0-1) - The Gophers are a bigger spoiler than mayonnaise left on the counter for a week. Any game they win will prove to be a knockout punch for a contender.

Michigan (1-0) - Life looks a lot different when you're not facing Alabama, or Notre Dame in gift-unwrapping mode. Michigan's kickoff to the Big Ten season, and accompanying adjustments, moved ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit from picking against the Wolverines in West Lafayette to saying they've got a strong shot at the title game in Indianapolis.

That's a whiplash reversal, but there will be plenty more. Meanwhile, a quick look at the weekend…

• Iowa at Michigan State - It's an upset alert here, although neither team has impressed. The Spartans should hold on at home … barely.

• Illinois at Michigan - The Illini are wobbling, the Wolverines feeling good about themselves. This won't take three overtimes.

• Northwestern at Minnesota - Homecoming for the Gophers could be a killer for Wildcats hopes. It says here, though, they get it done on the road.

• Nebraska at Bye - Bye scores at least 30.

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