Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, October 3, 2014

What am I buying and selling this week? Check it out.


The Big Ten West is better than the Big Ten East.

Buy. Before the season started, the East looked like the stronger of the two divisions. But I give an edge to the West. The East is top heavy with Michigan State and Ohio State. Maryland and Rutgers also have been surprises. But Penn State doesn?t appear to be as good as its 4-1 record. Indiana isn?t living up to its potential. And Michigan is circling the drain. Conversely, the West is augmented by an unbeaten Nebraska squad along with legit contenders in Wisconsin and Iowa. Minnesota and Northwestern also look to be coming on. There is just more quality of depth in the West.

The winner of the Nebraska at Michigan State game will run the table the rest of the regular season.

Sell. I like the chances of MSU to run the table if its wins on Saturday. The Spartans will be favored in every remaining game. The scariest contests are a visit from Ohio State on Nov. 8, followed by a trip to Maryland the next week. Nebraska? It has two huge hurdles to clear in a quest for perfection, playing at Wisconsin on Nov. 15 and at Iowa on Nov. 28.

Melvin Gordon?s Heisman candidacy.

Buy. Yes, Gordon is just third in the Big Ten in rushing as I type this, carrying 78 times for 612 yards (153.0 ypg). But Gordon has plenty of time to make a move. And he has plenty of big games left in which to impress-Nebraska and Iowa are the tilts that he needs to dominant. Each contest is in November, allowing Gordon a late-season big-game stage to perform on. That?s all he can ask for.

Connor Cook is the best quarterback in the Big Ten.

Buy. This is becoming clearer each week, especially with the struggles of Penn State?s Christian Hackenberg who has gone three games in a row with a TD pass. Cook is No. 1 in the Big Ten in pass efficiency, completing 69 percent of his attempts for 837 yards with nine touchdowns and two interceptions. The only other Big Ten signal-callers in this conversation are Illinois? Wes Lunt, Nebraska?s Tommy Armstrong and Ohio State?s J.T. Barrett. Cook has become the face of the Michigan State offense, an offense that typically is a physical attack that likes to run the ball. How often has a quarterback carried the banner of a Mark Dantonio attack? Exactly.

Northwestern is a bowl team.

Sell. I still have my doubts about the Wildcats. Yes, they have won two games in a row. But it was against a FCS foe and a flawed Penn State team. NU still will struggle to get to six wins. Tell me if you can find four more wins in here: Wisconsin, at Minnesota, Nebraska, at Iowa, Michigan, at Notre Dame, at Purdue, Illinois.

Michigan is the worst team in the East.

Buy. I never in my life thought I would type those words. But, it?s true. From a talent standpoint, the Wolverines are only outclassed by Ohio State. And Michigan?s players are at least on par with Michigan State?s-if not better. Brady Hoke?s team has better talent than all of the rest. Regardless, Michigan?s confidence has to be wobbly, given the on and off the field issues the program is dealing with. This is yet another lesson that shows top talent doesn?t trump all.

Rutgers has been more impressive than Maryland in the debut Big Ten seasons for each.

Sell. It has been close, but I have to give the nod to the Terrapins, who have toppled FBS teams in USF, Syracuse and Indiana (on the road). Rutgers? best win? At Navy or vs. Washington State in Seattle. Edge Maryland. Plus, RU lost at home to a Penn State team that doesn?t appear to be that good. The Terps? loss was to a solid West Virginia club. Personnel-wise, I think the Scarlet Knights get the edge on defense when compared to Maryland. But that?s about it. The Terps are better on offense, sporting balance, big-play ability and superior quarterback play. These teams finish the season vs. each other in College Park, Md. Who knows? Maybe a bowl bid-or postseason pecking order–will be on the line when they face off.

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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