The only consistent thing? Wacky inconsistency. Looney Tunes stuff. Outside of Nebraska, here’s how the Big Ten West has stacked up in terms of points scored through each of the season’s first seven weeks:
Wisconsin: 16, 54, 23, 30, 7, 23. Points per game: 25.5.
Iowa: 45, 42, 21, 14, 31, 14, 49. Per game: 30.9.
Northwestern: 21, 7, 24, 13, 38, 54. Per game: 26.2.
Minnesota: 30, 58, 31, 26, 7, 31. Per game: 30.5.
Purdue: 45, 20, 24, 7, 34, 35. Per game: 27.5.
Illinois: 52, 23, 10, 16, 31, 24. Per game: 26.0.
Up, way up, down, up again, way up again. If you charted it with little dots, it would start to look like the path for the kind of roller-coaster that winds up getting banned in about 12 states.
And then there’s the Cornhuskers, whose scoring line has wobbled a bit, but rarely dipped: 43, 52, 35, 24, 31, 27. Per game: 35.3.
So whatever stones the world wants to lob at the Big Ten West — and she’s taken on plenty in recent years — you’ve got to also say this: When it comes to piling up points, expect the unexpected.
Or, against the Badgers defense, expect not much of anything at all.
But that’s not to say there haven’t been standouts, if not outright stars. With the season at about the midpoint, here is Land of 10’s all-West Division offensive team:
K — Emmit Carpenter, Minnesota, So.
The Gophers sophomore leads the division in field-goal makes (10) and ranks second in field-goal percentage (90.9) while nailing all five attempts from 40 yards or longer.
T — Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin, Jr.
A few years ago, he was attending classes at a local technical college, contemplating a career in welding. Now he’s arguably the best left tackle in the Big Ten West and one of the best handful in the country. The 6-foot-6 Wisconsin native was recently graded by Pro Football Focus as the highest-graded run blocker among Big Ten tackles so far this season; the scouting service has charged him with only 5 total pressures allowed and, most impressively, zero sacks surrendered.
G — Sean Welsh, Iowa, Jr.
The 6-3 Welsh has been money on run plays within coach Kirk Ferentz’s zone-blocking scheme and has been charted by PFF with only 6 pressures and no sacks allowed so far this fall.
C — (tie) Michael Deiter, Wisconsin, So; Dylan Utter, Nebraska, Sr.
PFF scouts love Deiter’s game tape (7 pressures allowed, with 5 coming vs. Michigan and Ohio State) but the sophomore has shifted between guard and center. Utter, meanwhile, was ranked as the site’s No. 6 center in the country after the season’s first month and the fifth-best run-blocking center in FBS.
G — Jordan Roos, Purdue, Sr.
Practicing against stud defensive tackle Jake Replogle has its advantages — PFF rates Roos as the top guard in FBS right now, a steadying force in both pass protection and on the ground. Despite throwing the ball all over the yard, the Boilermakers are giving up just 1.3 sacks per game, the fourth-best team total in the Big Ten.
T — Nick Gates, Nebraska, So.
The Huskers, meanwhile, lead the league in fewest sacks surrendered (0.7 per game), with the 6-5 Gates helping to keep edge rushers at bay. The Nevada native has twice been named to PFF’s all-Big Ten team of the week already, but ankle problems are threatening to rain on Gates’ 2016 before the season hits its stretch run.
TE — Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin, Jr.
Within the division, no tight end has more catches (23), and only Iowa’s George Kittle has more receiving yards among tight ends (280) than Fumagalli’s 265. The 6-foot-6 Illinois native is tied for the Badgers’ team lead in receiving first downs (17) with wideout Jazz Peavy.
WR — Austin Carr, Northwestern, Sr.
No. 80 is the latest in the tradition of unassuming-but-crazy-productive Northwestern wide receivers, becoming the go-to perimeter safety blanket that quarterback Clayton Thorson so badly missed last year. The 6-1 wideout has yet to record a drop in a league game while pacing the conference by a wide margin in receptions per game (7.2) and receiving yards per contest (99.2). With Carr grabbing everything over the top and Justin Jackson — more on him in a sec — motoring up the gut, the Wildcats offense has flipped, in a month, from one of the league’s worst to an engine that’s firing on almost every conceivable cylinder.
WR — Drew Wolitarsky, Minnesota, Sr.
If it wasn’t for Carr’s emergence the last three weeks, Wolitarsky would wear the crown of the division’s Mr. Dependable. Of the 6-3 wideout’s 32 catches, 24 have gone for first downs (75 percent). That’s the best ratio of first-down conversions among Big Ten players with at least 25 receptions.
RB — Justin Jackson, Northwestern, Jr.
The workhorse. After a whopping 312 carries last year, the Wildcats offensive anchor is on a pace to put up at least 286 more through 12 games in 2016 — assuming he can remain upright over the next six weeks. Dependable and tough as dried leather, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Jackson is a volume buy, leading the Big Ten in carries (143), rushing yards (698) and rushing first downs (40).
RB — LeShun Daniels, Iowa, Sr.
Even when everybody knows he’s coming, Daniels is a beast to stop — and that might be the best compliment you can stick on a featured back, at any level. Among Big Ten tailbacks with at least 50 carries on first down, the Hawkeyes running back leads the league in yards per carry on first down (6.93 per attempt). And if your offense is working from second-and-3 or second-and-4 consistently, it’s amazing how the rest of the playbook starts to open up.
RB/Flex — Rodney Smith, Minnesota, So.
The lightning to Shannon Brooks’ thunder. If the Hawkeyes don’t have the best 1-2 tailback punch in the division with Daniels and Akrum Wadley (7.4 yards per carry), then the honor goes to the Gophers with Smith (590 rushing yards) and Brooks (326 rushing yards). Among Big Ten West backs with 90 carries or more, only Northwestern’s Jackson is producing a higher percentage of first downs per carry (28 percent) than Smith’s 27.9.
QB — Tommy Armstrong, Nebraska, Sr.
Take care of the ball, and funny how the rest takes care of itself. After throwing a whopping 16 picks a year ago, the Huskers signal-caller has been picked only four times through six games. The running game (329 rushing yards) is a big part of the package, though, and each time No. 4 takes a hit, Big Red Nation holds their collective breath.