Michigan takes out the national runner-up by double digits one week, then struggles to beat lowly Akron. Indiana fails to stop Navy, then crushes an arguably better Bowling Green squad. Ohio State drops 52 on the road at a Pac-12 opponent but gives up 503 yards. Michigan State goes from barely getting a first down one week in warm-ups to putting up 55 points the next.
Such is life in the Big Ten this year. Just when a team appears to be a legitimate national title contender (Michigan), it nearly loses to a team that has lost 28 consecutive road games. That’s the longest road losing streak since Kansas State dropped 30 in a row from 1985 through 1990.
Michigan bounced Notre Dame 41-20 last week and buried Central Michigan — a 2012 bowl squad — 59-9 in the opener. Quarterback Devin Gardner was pedestrian against Akron, completing just 16 of 30 passes and throwing three interceptions.
“This is embarrassing for the University of Michigan football team,” Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan asid. “I’ve said it three times. Yeah, we won the game. We’re 3-0. That’s great. It was embarrassing. It was embarrassing. It wasn’t Devin’s fault. It was the leadership of this team. Devin is a leader on this team, but it was not on him.”
Instate rival Michigan State found its offense Saturday after sputtering through its first two games. Yes, the 55-17 victory was against an FCS squad, but Youngstown State is an annual national contender. The Spartans played musical quarterbacks during the first three weeks, but they seemed to have found a starting quarterback in Connor Cook. Cook completed 15 of 22 passes for 202 yards and four touchdowns.
“It was the plan to go with him and to stick with him if he had a difficult time,” Michigan State Coach Mark Dantonio said. “I thought he responded. Connor Cook is the No. 1 quarterback.
“We made that decision (for Cook to start) later in the week and said you’re going to go. He was excited about that opportunity. When you get your number called, you’re going to be excited.”
In a nod to its defensive past, Nebraska wore blackshirts against UCLA. But instead of competing like those legendary defenses of the 1990s, the Cornhuskers’ color of choice was more apt toward attending a wake.
Saturday, the Cornhuskers gave up a formerly insurmountable 21-3 advantage at Memorial Stadium in a 41-21 defeat. UCLA scored on six of seven second-half possessions. The Bruins pounded Nebraska for 245 yards on the ground and 504 overall. In four of Nebraska’s last five games, they’ve given up at least 500 yards and 34-plus points.
“I don’t know how many tackles we missed in that second half, but it is a lot,” Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini said. “You can’t play good defense that way. We missed tackle after tackle after tackle in that second half. It’s disappointing.”
Nebraska’s defense ranks 106th nationally and 120th against the pass.
Iowa quietly — but forcefully — has taken steps toward competing in the Big Ten with a pounding offense. The Hawkeyes rushed 60 times against Iowa State, tying a high under head coach Kirk Ferentz. Mark Weisman leads the country in carries with 85, 10 more than second-place Andre Williams of Boston College. He ranks third in the nation in yards with 425.
Iowa was 11-of-20 on third down against the Cyclones and went almost exclusively from a two-tight end, two-running back formation in the second half.
“We had a little momentum with that,” Ferentz said.
In all three games Iowa’s offense has held the ball for 80-plus plays,
Iowa RB Mark Weisman posted his second consecutive 30-carry performance and ranks first nationally in carries with 85. He’s third in yards with 425. … Ohio State backup quarterback Kenny Guiton passed for 276 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for another 92 yards. … Michigan State‘s Connor Cook appears to have ended the Spartans’ QB competition, passing for 205 yards and four touchdowns. … Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon rushed for 193 yards and two scores.
Indiana’s running back tandem of Tevin Coleman and Stephen Houston combined for 284 yards. … Nebraska wide receiver Quincy Enunwa caught touchdown passes of 11 and 14 yards. … Michigan linebacker Desmond Morgan had two tackles for loss, including a crucial stop on third down and goal to help preserve a win. … Minnesota defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman had six tackles, including two for loss, broke up one pass and blocked an extra point. … Penn State wide receiver Allen Robinson caught nine passes for 143 yards and a score. … Illinois receiver Ryan Lankford caught three passes for 100 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown strike. … Northwestern running back Treyvon Green ran for 158 yards at a 7.9 yards per carry and two scores. … Purdue quarterback Rob Henry threw for 256 yards and three touchdowns.
1. Ohio State (2) 3-0 0-0
2. Michigan (1) 3-0 0-0
3. Wisconsin (3) 2-1 0-0
4. Northwestern (4) 3-0 0-0
5. Michigan State (8) 3-0 0-0
6. Indiana (9) 2-1 0-0
7. Minnesota (8) 3-0 0-0
8. Penn State (6) 2-1 0-0
9. Nebraska (5) 2-1 0-0
10. Iowa (11) 2-1 0-0
11. Illinois (10) 2-1 0-0
12. Purdue (12) 1-2 0-0