Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, October 23, 2014

Week 9 of the Big Ten football season is here. Can you believe it? Here?s what I?m buying and selling this week:

Minnesota is the best team in the Big Ten West.

Sell. I think Nebraska is the team to beat. Look. I love Jerry Kill and this Golden Gophers squad, which sits atop the division with a 3-0 mark. Minnesota has one of the most underrated defenses in the Big Ten. And an offense fueled by workhorse back David Cobb is getting better as quarterback Mitch Leidner comes on as a passer. Still, the offense remains too pedestrian. And a rough November schedule that includes visits from Iowa and Ohio State along with trips to Nebraska and Wisconsin may derail the Gophers. But you have to like the direction of things. Now, get Kill some better facilities.

Maryland is the third-best team in the East.

Buy. The Terrapins showed their prowess last week by dispatching Iowa to move to 2-1 in the Big Ten. And Maryland has a shot to perhaps win nine games. Rutgers? Michigan? Penn State? None of those East squads appear to be on par with the Terps, who are chasing Michigan State and Ohio State. But RU, Michigan and PSU will get a shot at Maryland. But none have a package that?s on par with Randy Edsall?s squad, which is buoyed by a dynamic offense that?s filled with speedy playmakers. A big key is keeping quarterback C.J. Brown healthy. In fact, the Terps could be a spoiler of sorts with Michigan State visits College Park on Nov. 15.


Indiana will win a game before Illinois.

Sell. IU?s issues at quarterback will be tough to overcome with a true freshman at the controls. But, honestly, it?s going to be difficult for either club to win another game. The Illini still have Minnesota; at Ohio State; Iowa; Penn State; at Northwestern. The Hoosiers have at Michigan; Penn State; at Rutgers; at Ohio State; Purdue. Illinois will have a shot to dump visiting Iowa and Penn State.

Mark Dantonio is Big Ten Coach of the Year to this point of the season.

Buy. Dantonio has the Spartans at 6-1 overall and 3-0 in the Big Ten. The lone loss was at Oregon. Impressive stuff coming off a magical 13-1 season that included Rose Bowl and Big Ten titles. You know what they say: Getting to the summit is easy; staying there is difficult. So far, MSU is still on the summit and primed to stay there en route to possibly nabbing a playoff berth.

Wisconsin is the most disappointing team in the West.

Buy. The Badgers are 4-2 overall and 1-1 in the Big Ten. The losses have come in the opener vs. one of Les Miles? more middling LSU teams on a neutral field. And Wisconsin also lost at Northwestern to a Wildcats club that?s 3-4. The defense is strong in Madison, as the Badgers rank third in the Big Ten in scoring defense (17.7 ppg) and No. 2 in total defense (286.0 ypg). But the offense is struggling with an unconventional two-quarterback system. The rushing attack remains primo, leading the Big Ten with an average of 343.0 yards per game. But the passing attack is No. 13 (141.0 ypg). Turnovers also have been an issue, as Wisconsin is No. 11 in turnover margin with eight turnovers gained and 11 lost. This was a team picked by most to win the West. The Badgers have work to do to make that happen.

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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