Big Ten & Irish Takeaways: Tough times for Chicago's college teams

Brian Kelly, the coach who has taken Notre Dame to a national championship game, saw the Fighting Irish slip and slide to a windy, rainy 10-3 loss at N.C. State in Hurricane Matthew-induced slop.

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Lovie Smith, who was a nine-point favorite to earn his first FBS victory as head coach, endured a wrenching 34-31 overtime loss to lowly Purdue on a glorious autumn afternoon in Central Illinois.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

The defeat left the sputtering Irish with a 2-4 record. It’s their worst start since they lost their first five games in 2007. And if this keeps up, they could go bowl-less for the first time since 2009.

Meanwhile, Illinois dropped to 1-4. Its lone victory came against Murray State. And if the Fighting Illini stub their toe at Rutgers this Saturday, the probability is strong that there will be a new President in the White House before Mr. Smith can celebrate his first FBS victory as Illinois coach.

Clearly, these are not happy times for the two most heavily supported college football teams in Chicagoland. Fighting Irish? Fighting Illini? They seem to be fighting in name only these days.

``Right now, we’re not a good football team,’’ Smith said. ``We need to keep working to become a good football team. We’re based in reality right now.’’

At least, everyone knew Smith would be in a rebuild mode at Illinois.

Notre Dame, which was supposed to be a contender for a New Year’s Six bowl, if not the College Football Playoff, is in unmitigated-disaster territory. The losses to Texas and Michigan State, who are both 2-3, are looking worse with every Longhorn and Spartans loss. And there’s no spinning the Duke and N.C. State messiness. The hurricane weather was drenching for both teams.

``I’m disappointed primarily in our ability to mount anything offensively,’’ Kelly said. ``I’m extremely disappointed in the offensive execution. The snapping of the football was atrocious."

At least Illinois can look forward to opportunity this Saturday at Rutgers, which doesn’t need hurricane weather to be declared a disaster area.

Notre Dame will need to buckle up for a tough encounter with Stanford. Like ND, the Cardinal, reeling after a pair of blowout losses, isn’t nearly as good as advertised. But this shapes up as a meeting between two desperate teams on Saturday.

BIG TEN POWER RANKINGS,

WEEK SEVEN

THE JUGGERNAUTS. . .

1, Ohio State (5-0, 2-0): Let Indiana hang around before winning 38-17. Big test this week at Wisconsin. (No. 1 last week)

2, Michigan (6-0, 3-0): Harbaugh talking up Jabrill Peppers for Heisman after 78-0 smackdown of Rutgers 78-0. (2)

THE BEST IN THE WEST. . .

3, Wisconsin (4-1, 1-1): Coming off bye week, Badgers, 2-1 vs. Top 10 teams, face their biggest challenge vs. Buckeyes on Saturday night. (3)

4, Nebraska (5-0, 2-0): Last remaining West Division unbeaten needs to be wary of trip to Indiana, which battled at Ohio State after beating Michigan State. (4)

THE MUDDLE IN THE MIDDLE. . .

5, Indiana (3-2, 1-1): A second straight bowl trip is looking more and more possible if IU keeps doing what it has been doing. Previous two bowls were in 2007 and 1993. (6)

6, Northwestern (2-3, 1-1): After slow start, NU needs to build on good win at Iowa in this week’s trip to Michigan State if it’s going to make something of this season. (7)

7, Iowa (4-2, 2-1): Back on the horse after productive trip to key rival Minnesota, Hawkeyes go to Purdue before key home game vs. Wisconsin. (8)

8, Penn State (4-2, 2-1): Hats off to the Nittany Lions for handling previously unbeaten Maryland impressively. That follows gritty win vs. Minnesota, and cools speculation about James Franklin amid hopes for a solid campaign. (10)

9, Maryland (4-1, 1-1): Just when they were earning kudos for 4-0 start, the Terrapins turtled in 38-14 loss at Penn State. (5)

10, Minnesota (3-2, 0-2): Two straight Big Ten disappointments, but schedule—which still has Rutgers, Illinois and Purdue to play—gives Gophers opportunity. (11)

BUMPETY BUMP

11, Michigan State (2-3, 0-2): Spartans, who looked so solid after win at Notre Dame, now are frontrunners for Big Ten flop of the year after their third straightt loss, 31-14 at home to BYU. (9)

12, Purdue (3-2, 1-1): Win at Illinois was much-needed, but Boilermakers coach Darrell Hazell needs more to truly get off the hot seat. (13)

13, Illinois (1-4, 0-2): Illini, who botched things in overtime home loss to Purdue, now face must-win at Rutgers to give much-hyped Lovie Smith rebuild some momentum. (12)

14, Rutgers (2-3, 0-2): The 78-0 loss to Michigan was Rutgers’ worst since an 82-0 wipeout vs. Princeton in 1888. It follows 58-0 disaster at Ohio State. Outscored by 136 points in two games? That’s the second-worst in the NCAA record book for FBS teams.(14)[/membership]

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