The Illini had a chance to build upon a solid Week 0 drubbing of a helpless Wyoming team. Illinois put up over 200 yards in both the ground and the air. The defense looked solid. Then the Indiana game brought reality back to Champaign. It is rare to see a team work so hard to deny themself victory. The decision to go for fourth and goal was fine with me, even if a field goal would have put them up by four. Still, your line was getting torched, and the run was stalling in the red zone. Why for the name of everything good and right in the world would you run a slow action draw while having no plan on how to create time with something like blocking? Then the final defensive stand is enough to make one vomit. Credit to Indiana for marching down the field against a non existent defense (I only say this because the way the game went made me believe that the Hoosiers couldn’t get a first down against air), but you still have to try to defend.
Honestly, the game against North Dakota does matter. The debacle known as the Northwestern game can’t be muted by a victory over a small school, especially since Nebraska struggled against a FCS team that went 5-6 last year. Nebraska lost all their games by single digits last year and started the same way this year. Coach Frost has a 33% win percentage at Nebraska and is probably on the hottest seat in the country. I feel for him in that I don’t hate the onside kick: to quote my high school coach, “you have to drive the nail in the coffin”. Of course, it ended up being driven into Frost’s own coffin.
Woohoo they won. Of course, they tried their best to lose. The final quarter of the game was some of the most painful football to watch. Honestly, several B10 teams did their best to avoid winning, see Penn St-Purdue and Nebraska-Northwestern. The rushing game was atrocious; the entire offense could get a an E- if it wasn’t for a pair of receivers that both went for over 100 yards. Still, I hate to say Indiana won as Illinois handed them the game after the Hoosiers squandered several opportunities. I’m writing this up as .5 in the win column instead of a full victory.
What more do you need to say other than they won? Most analysts had the Wildcats at the preseason bottom of the Big 10, but we were all proven wrong. Well, let’s slow down. The victory came against a Nebraska team that is notorious for losing close games and was also near the preseason bottom. Still, you have to do something right to put up 500+ yards in a game. The offense was very balanced with two backs both rushing for around 100 yards, and new QB Ryan Hilinski was legit with two touchdowns and completed 71% of his passes. Of course the defense gave up over 460 yards, but they did pickoff two passes and recovered a fumble.
Congrats. You just broke an 11 game losing streak to Boston College and came from behind despite being a healthy underdog. You showed the grit today to shock the world, well shock anyone that bothered following the game. Unfortunately Rutgers, you made the Michigan pass attack look spectacular; in fairness, Rutgers did run for 212 while holding BC under 30 yards. This was a great feel good moment, but keeping things in perspective is important. BC is a middling to low team in the ACC, and BC more gave the game away than anything else. Still, the Scarlet Knights have a better record than half the nation.
You scored seven points against an FCS team that went 11-4 last year. You’re the defending Big 10 West champion. You managed one field goal the entire game. I’ll give props to the Iowa defense for winning this game. Really, the defense scored four points and gave up a field goal. I want to point out that the defense gave up the field goal after the offense threw an interception, so it wasn’t like the defense put itself in a bad spot. My advice, fire your entire offensive staff and revoke every offensive scholarship. Giving Iowa ninth feels dirty, but I can’t disrespect the defense that beat a team 4-3.
Last year, Purdue was a giant slayer. They gave their best shot at making this year a sequel. The passing attack looked great, and the run defense was fine. Still, Purdue struggled to kill momentum and to defend in space. Still, they went toe to toe with the top of the Big 10. Morale victory baby!
6b. Michigan State
This might be the hardest team to figure out. Sparty looked amazing for the majority of the first half. The offense line mauled a very mediocre Western Michigan squad, Payton Thorne had thrown two touchdowns, and the running game looked like it wasn’t missing a beat from last year. Of course, the second half started, and somehow, Western cut the lead to 21-13 by the start of the 4th Quarter. Despite regaining control of the game, Sparty have work to do. They struggled at times to stop a freshman quarterback that played well for a true freshman but still wasn’t not transcendent. On the flip side, Thorne was hardly sharp, as he slightly overthrew passes that his receivers found acrobatic ways to corral. Defensively, MSU gave up multiple big plays and struggled with focus.
6a. Penn State
Hey everyone, some backup kid came in and had a good series, so let’s go way overboard and create a quarterback controversy. Stop!!! Did y’all not watch last season? The Nittany Lions were lost without Sean Clifford. Honestly, Penn State might have changed how the Big 10 shook out last year if it wasn’t for Clifford getting hurt in the Iowa game and never returning to health. I’m so tired of watching fans and media crucify kids that play through pain for their team and yet have the audacity to not play up to our standards. Enough of my soapbox, Clifford let a very feisty, tough Purdue team back into the game with a late interception, but every QB throws a pick from time to time. So we don’t need a QB controversy (still on my soap box, sorry); Clifford played a good game and led the team to victory, despite a non-existent run game. The biggest disappointment was a defense that struggled to stop the Purdue passing attack. Penn State has always been known for a stout defense, and Week 1 showed that the defense might not be as elite as advertised.
I get that Maryland at five is a little high, but they took care of business when a lot of the Big 10 struggled. There was a lot of positive against an overmatched team. The offense went for 300 passing and 150 rushing, roughly. Tagolaivoa put up big yards, though inefficiently, and the team had a rusher and receiver go over 100 yards each. The defense did enough to look competent. Will Maryland stay this high? Probably not, but they deserve their day.
I hear you Gopher Nation: this is the year. This isn’t a bad squad; plus, they brought Mohamed Ibrahim to the game. The senior returned from injury and dominated a hapless NMSU team; his 120 yards and two touchdowns have to have every gopher dancing for miles. The defense was stout, though a little less stout against the pass. While I am getting on Minnesota for giving up more passing yards then they had, I do want to point out that they did record four interceptions. I love gambling defenses; then again, really good offensive coordinators also love making gambling defenses pay.
For all the expectation that Michigan would ride a strong offense and try to plug holes on defense, nothing changed for the Maize and Blue. The split qb experiment has gotten off to an awful start, as Cade McNamara is a shell of himself. The offensive coaching staff decided to ignore the passing game until the fourth string qb entered the game. The defense was the brightest spot. The defensive line looked legit today. The poor CSU quarterback is going to need counseling tonight cuz he looked shell shocked for most of this game. In all, it’s the same old Michigan team: unimaginative run happy, a qb staring over his shoulder, and sacks galore.
Like Michigan and Minnesota, Wisconsin bullied a weaker opponent. The Badgers combined some explosive plays, including a 96 yard TD run by Braelon Allen. Wisconsin boasted a 74 yard TD pass and a 100 yard pick six. The defense was solid in holding Illinois St to under 60 yards rushing.
1. Ohio State
Despite being a 17 point favorite, Ohio State waited until the fourth quarter to take over the game. Despite a couple of big pass plays, the Ohio State defense suffocated a Top Five opponent. CJ Stroud never looked fully at ease, and Jaxson Smith Njigba barely played due to a first quarter injury. It was the run game and Myan Williams that carried the day. Traeveon Henderson nearly finished with a hundred yard game, and Ohio State walks away with a signature win to start the season. Give props to Notre Dame for a great game plan that will surely be tweaked by every opponent, but the Buckeyes might have shown tonight that they have the toughness to overcome regardless of what is thrown at them.