staff, October 8, 2012

It?s halftime, if you will, so let?s review. It seems crazy, but we?re halfway through conference play already. So with that being said, I think it?s suitable to sit back and reflect on where each of our seven teams is at this point. See my first-half analysis for every Big Ten team in this post.

At 9-2-1, and 3-0 in conference play, Todd Yeagley must be pleased with how the season has played out thus far. From a coaches standpoint, Yeagley will be more pleased that his side has yet to concede in the Big Ten.

Eriq Zavaleta has hit 11 goals so far this term, and he?ll continue to grab the headlines. But this Hoosier team starts at the back with leaders Caleb Konstanski, and in particular, Luis Soffner. The big senior has been colossal between the sticks, conceding just 6 goals and making a whopping 48 saves.

The Hoosiers midfield five is pure class. They rotate like Barcelona, and in Jacob Bushue, they possess one of the most complete, box-to-box midfielders in the country. Petts, Corrado, Oliver, Kotlov and Bushue will provide plenty of chances for Zavaleta, and there?s no better man in the conference to finish those opportunities. Onwards and upwards for Indiana, with no concern.

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Northwestern is realistically the only team that can challenge Indiana for Big Ten regular-season honors. Tim Lenahan has a solid team, but the gaffer will be concerned at his side?s recent two losses to DePaul and Bradley. The Wildcats conceded five goals in those games, and organized defending is seen as one of their standout qualities. Tuesday?s game at home to Notre Dame is now crucial, as Lenahan must see a response from his players, against a national powerhouse.

Another concern for Northwestern is the lack of productivity in front of goal from its star striker Joey Calistri. The young freshman started the season with a bang, netting four times, but he hasn?t registered a goal in the past five games. The ?Cats will need Calistri on top of his game if they?re to regain form and challenge the Hoosiers.

After a hugely impressive 6-1-1 start, Penn State will be disappointed with its results in the past three games. Losing to Lehigh was a setback, the overtime loss to Indiana was unlucky, given some of the chances the Nittany Lions had, and Saturday?s draw at Michigan was only satisfactory, given their dominance. Bob Warming?s team is on the rise, and they have a chance to cause a huge scalp when they face Akron on home soil Wednesday. Penn State is on the up, and I?d put them as my surprise pick for this year?s Big Ten Tournament.

Big Ten Standings (as of Oct. 7)
Team Record Pct. Pts. Record Pct.
Indiana 3-0-0 1.000 9 9-2-1 .792
Northwestern 2-0-0 1.000 6 7-2-2 .727
Penn St. 1-1-1 .500 4 6-3-2 .636
Michigan St. 1-1-0 .500 3 4-6-1 .409
Michigan 1-1-1 .500 4 3-5-1 .389
Ohio State 0-3-0 .000 0 3-5-3 .409
Wisconsin 0-2-0 .000 0 4-7-1 .375

Damon Rensing must have been absolutely thrilled with his team's road win at Ohio State on Sunday. Many felt that this was a chance for the Buckeyes to get their first conference win of the season, but the Spartans stifled them and thoroughly deserved their win.

I don?t think Michigan State is ready to challenge for Big Ten honors just yet. Adam Montaque leads the Spartans attack with just two goals - he?ll need to start firing if Michigan State is to pose a serious threat.

Wisconsin is another team that?s faced a grueling schedule so far. At 3-5-3, John Trask will no doubt be disappointed. But the Badgers run in is kind and look for them to make a late surge.

Like most Big Ten teams, Wisconsin lacks an instinctive goal scorer. Three players – Chris Prince, Nick Janus and Drew Conner – have scored twice this season, and that?s not good enough. Wisconsin has been narrowly beaten by the likes of Marquette and Washington, and having a predator is the difference between winning and losing tight games.

Chaka Daley is in a rebuilding process and that was always going to be the case. The Wolverines got their first Big Ten win of the season last week against the Buckeyes, and that game meant a lot for Daley. His team possesses leaders, such as Tyler Arnone, Kofi Opare and Ezekiel Harris, so I think Michigan will never be too far away in any game. I?ve been very impressed with its wide play from James Murphy and Colin McAtee lately, and Fabio Pereira will always create from the middle.

Michigan?s key is to keep Opare fit and stop conceding from set-pieces. It?s that simple! If that can happen, and T.J. Roehn continues to score, Michigan will climb that table.

John Bluem must be aggravated that his side has yet to pick up a point from its three Big Ten games. Right now, the Buckeyes have several problems, although goalkeeping is the main concern, to me.

Alex Ivanov is the No.1 pick right now, but Alex Wimmer must be wondering why. Ivanov was not at fault for the two he conceded against the Spartans on Sunday, but previous mistakes against Indiana and Michigan were costly. A team?s confidence stems from the leadership between the sticks, and for Ohio State?s season to kick start, they need whoever starts in goal to really step up.

Kevin Egan is the host of the BTN Soccer Report, an online-only weekly show spotlighting Big Ten men's and women's soccer. Want to send a note to Egan about Big Ten soccer and the BTN Internet show? Use the form below and subscribe to the Big Ten Soccer Report RSS here.