Not all rankings are based on a body of work. This weekly Big Ten ranking is based on Saturday’s games only. I evaluate performance, the level of the opponent, and then throw in a bunch of whims.
All in all, not a glorious week for the conference. The Pac-12 beat the Big Ten in head-to-heads, 3-1. Maybe Urban Meyer whose Ohio State team got the lone win against a Pac-12 team, should advise fellow Big Ten coaches to recruit better. Here is the Week 3 ranking:
1. Ohio State, W 52-34 at California. Your star quarterback, Braxton Miller, has a sprained MCL. What do you do? Just plug in senior back-up Kenny Guiton and let him throw a 90-yard touchdown pass on your second play from scrimmage.
Surprisingly, that vertical route produced the longest play in OSU’s storied football history. The previous-long were 89-yard runs by Daniel Herron in 2010 and Gene Fekete in 1942.
The receiver was Devin Smith. “Devin has world-class speed,” Guiton said. That may be an exaggeration, but Smith did qualify for the NCAA outdoor track and field championships as part of the Buckeyes’ 4 x 100 relay team.
Should Big Ten coaches recruit speed like that, Coach Meyer?
2. Indiana, W 42-10 vs. Bowling Green. That was a good MAC team the Hoosiers handled. Bowling Green had won nine of its previous 11 games.
The Hoosiers had 601 yards, just seven fewer than Ohio State had at Cal. Indiana’s defense allowed just three points. Here is how the Falcons scored their touchdown:
3. Iowa, W 27-21 at Iowa State. This wouldn’t be Top 3 material most weeks, but what would you place above it from the other nine Big Ten results?
It was a road win over a Big 12 team that went to bowl games the previous two years. Let’s proceed.
4. Michigan State, W 55-17 over Youngstown State. Like I said, not a great week for the Big Ten. But the Spartans had to feel good about finally opening up some offense. Youngstown State is FCS, but it is a good program. In fact, the Penguins defeated Pittsburgh last year.
Mark Dantonio appears to have finally settled on a quarterback. Connor Cook passed just 15 times Saturday, but four of his throws were for touchdowns.
MSU ranks No. 1 in the nation in total defense, allowing 177 yards per game, and is fourth in rushing defense with 50.3 ypg.
5. Wisconsin, L 32-30 at Arizona State. I give propers to the Badgers for playing this game. I’m not sure why the officials didn’t review the final play to judge if Wisconsin QB Joel Stave’s knee touched the turf before he foolishly laid the ball on the turf, but it was good to see a game decided on an officiating guess instead of technology. Old school!
Lost in the flood of chaos was that Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon carried 15 times for 193 yards, and has season totals of 37 rushes for 477 yards. That’s a 12.9-yard average. That’s insane! And one of those carries Saturday was a 1-yard TD plunge that messed with his average.
Gordon is the only Big Ten player averaging more rushing yards per game than Iowa’s Mark Weisman, who had 35 carries Saturday night alone.
Have another look at the end-of-game madness and see some photos and comments about the finish here at TheWizofOdds.com.
6. Northwestern, W 38-17 vs. Western Michigan. The Wildcats’ first four possessions netted a total of three points. But class will tell, as they say.
The Wildcats ended up with 332 rushing yards. Kind of bodes well for Iowa’s game against WMU Saturday, wouldn’t you say?
Northwestern junior safety Ibraheim Campbell had an interception for the fifth-straight game. That’s impressive.
The Ryan Field crowd for this game was 33,128. Fans in pro markets are more judicious in how they spend their entertainment dollars, and Western Michigan is not entertaining. Nor is Maine, which plays at Northwestern Saturday.
7. Purdue, L 31-24 vs. Notre Dame. Purdue was supposed to be a dead team. It led the Fighting Irish 17-10 going into the fourth quarter.
The Indianapolis Star’s Bob Kravitz wrote the following in his column from the game:
For two weeks, Purdue looked like it had a chance to be the worst team in the Big Ten – which, given the state of the Big Ten, is truly saying something. They got run out of Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, 42-7. And they had to hold on to beat Indiana State 20-14 at home in a desultory effort that inspired the fear that this could be a very long, dispiriting season.
It was so bad after the Cincinnati game, Rob Henry, the quarterback, took to Twitter to apologize for his season-opening performance.
And then this happened.
Said Purdue Coach Darrell Hazell: “Tonight on the sideline there was not a lack of confidence. That’s a huge step forward for this program.’’
8. Minnesota, W 29-12 vs. Western Illinois. It was a win before an announced crowd of 42,217. And that’s that.
The story was Gophers Coach Jerry Kill suffering a epileptic seizure at halftime and being taken to a local hospital. That prompted this column from Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, who wrote what many surely feel.
How can a school continue to employ a football coach who has had four seizures during or after the 16 home games he has coached at the school, along with an unknown number of seizures away from the public eye? …
Even those who admire him most can’t believe that he should keep coaching major college football after his latest episode. Either the stress of the job is further damaging his health, or his health was in such disrepair that he shouldn’t have been hired to coach in the Big Ten in the first place.
The face of your program can’t belong to someone who may be rushed to the hospital at any moment of any game, or practice, or news conference. No one who buys a ticket to TCF Bank Stadium should be rewarded with the sight of a middle-aged man writhing on the ground. This is not how you compete for sought-after players and entertainment dollars.
Kill was expected back in his office Sunday. Here is a comment in a St. Paul Pioneer Press story about him, quoting Gophers offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover’s respons to those who say Kill should quit:
“To think someone is going to say, he’s an embarrassment to the university or he brings shame upon the university for what he does. There are a lot of ignorant people out there. I would rank the ones doing that right up there. That’s not me as a football coach, that’s me as a person.”
9. Illinois, L 34-24 vs. Washington in Chicago: The Soldier Field crowd was 47,312. That’s not overwhelming.
Washington gained 615 yards to the Illini’s 327. That’s not inspiring, if you’re Illinois.
But Illinois, 1-11 last year, was in a one-score game with five minutes left against a Huskies team that beat Boise State by 32 points. So that’s something.
10. Penn State, L 34-31 vs. Central Florida. Here’s a fact: UCF is a good team. Here’s another: Penn State seldom used to lose games like this.
Penn State defensive coordinator John Butler said UCF has a group of skill players that may be the best the Nittany Lions will see this season. And Penn State plays Ohio State and Wisconsin.
But PSU defensive tackle DaQuan Jones said this: We weren’t playing Penn State defense at all.”
UCF hosts South Carolina on Sept. 28. That should be more fun in Orlando than anything in one of those crummy theme parks.
11. Michigan, W 28-24 vs. Akron. Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan is a terrific player, a team captain, and judging by his Twitter profile, a guy with a sense of humor:
I have 37 children from 14 different countries each child has 2 cats, 13 of which have the name Whiskers.. What have you done today?
But Lewan wasn’t joking after his team was fortunate to beat the Akron Zips.
“That is truly embarrassing for Michigan that we came out like that. It’s not fair to the fans, it’s not fair to the people who are associated with this program, it’s not fair to the freshmen who are not playing. This is the seniors’ fault, this is the captains’ fault.”
Lewan is a captain.
“We will not come out like this again,” he said.
12. Nebraska, L 41-21 vs. UCLA. The Cornhuskers led 21-3 at one point. That was before the deluge.
Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald had a strong column about the game and the scene outside Memorial Stadium. An excerpt:
Two other disturbing answers emerged from Husker interviews. First, there were far too many “I don’t knows.”
More grating was Pelini and offensive coordinator Tim Beck repeating the “failure to execute” mantra. The execution talk has to stop. The reason Pelini and Beck get paid handsomely and have the word “Coach” stitched onto their shirts is to get players to perform under pressure.
Lee’s colleague at the World-Herald, Tom Shatel, wrote this in his column from the game:
What is the foundation of Pelini’s program? Does it have one?
This does not look like a case of the yips. It’s a pattern that has repeated too often. Hang tough early. Face some adversity. Back down. Start the snowball.
The Bruins had real adversity to deal with this week. They gave a clinic on toughness, in front of 90,000 Nebraskans who expected their coach to do the same when he was hired.
But when the going gets tough, the tough guy’s bunch is anything but.
Nebraska plays South Dakota State Saturday. I don’t think a win is going to produce quite enough salve on Big Red open wounds.
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