The weekly disclaimer: My Sunday Big Ten rankings are for the games played that weekend and only the games played that weekend. Everyone starts anew each Saturday. If only life were like that.
1. Wisconsin, W 41-10 vs. Purdue. The Badgers are the only 1-0 team in the conference. They dusted themselves off after their last-play fiasco at Arizona State.
“We put it to bed, put it to rest,” Badgers Coach Gary Andersen said.
Melvin Gordon rushed for 147 yards, James White for 143. The previous week, Purdue held Notre Dame to 91 yards on 37 carries.
Gordon’s stats remain ridiculous. He leads the nation in rushing at 156 yards a game, and is averaging 11.8 yards a carry. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Michael Hunt calls Gordon the “Kenosha Comet.” That’s like a nickname from two generations ago. I like it.
I’ve been calling bruising Iowa running back Mark Weisman the Buffalo from Buffalo Grove. It hasn’t caught on.
2. Minnesota, W 43-24 vs. San Jose State. First off, San Jose State wasn’t some FBS bottom-feeder just looking for that nice paycheck. It’s not a great team, but it’s at least competitive. It has a quarterback named David Fales who has NFL scouts following him.
Fales threw for 329 first-half yards and kept the Spartans close. But the Gophers, even with a beaten-up backfield that had them playing without starting quarterback Philip Nelson or running back Donnell Kirkwood, rushed the ball with great success. Freshman quarterback Mitch Leidner carried 24 times for 151 yards and four touchdowns. Running back David Cobb added 125 yards and two TDs.
Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press wrote this:
The punishing 1930s style running game — I kept waiting for a dropkick — wore down the Spartans.
Minnesota has completed just 33 passes in four games. But it’s 4-0. Now comes Iowa. Gophers Coach Jerry Kill likes the 2:30 p.m. starting time for that game.
“That means everybody will have a little bit more chance to have a good party and get started a little bit later,” Kill said. “We’ll have a great atmosphere. That’s what college football’s all about.”
3. Iowa, W 59-3 vs. Western Michigan. No Big Ten team beat a nonconference foe of distinction Saturday. So it’s basically all about style points.
When you return two punt-returns and two interceptions for touchdowns, you’re styling and profiling.
4. Penn State, W 34-0 vs. Kent State. The Golden Flashes of Kent State were very good last year. This year, not so much.
But a shutout’s a shutout, and outgaining an opponent 463 yards to 190 is outgaining an opponent 463 yards to 190.
It was a very rainy day. It sounds like it was even rainier than the day of the Iowa-Penn State game in 2009, though most of the precipitation that day fell before the game was played. David Jones of the Harrisburg Patriot-News summed it up:
From an entertainment standpoint, let’s just say it was lacking a certain je ne sais quoi. Penn State’s 34-0 slog through Kent State was a long haul uphill in as bad a weather day as you can dream up in September against a dreadful opponent in front a stadium barely half full.
5. Michigan State, L 17-13 at Notre Dame. I really don’t want to be one of those guys who bashes officials. But Michigan State defended Notre Dame passes cleaner than the officials thought. MSU got four pass-interference penalties.
“We did what we had to do in terms of defensively,” Spartans Coach Mark Dantonio said. “I felt we played the ball the way we teach them to play the ball. That’s how they played the ball.”
Michigan State held the Irish to 220 yards. This is what the Spartans do. Offense, however, is not what they do. MSU had just four more rushing yards (119) than penalty yards (115). Spartan running back R.J. Shelton threw a pass into triple-coverage. It was intercepted.
6. Nebraska, W 59-20 vs. South Dakota State. Is this what it’s come to? A rout of an FCS team is a good thing for Nebraska and the Big Ten?
Yes. Especially when that FCS team had a 17-14 lead over the Cornhuskers at the end of the first quarter. Especially when it was the end of what was perhaps the least-comfortable week in Nebraska football history.
The Huskers gained 645 yards, like they used to do game after game after game against the many overmatched teams on their schedules. But for the first time in Husker history, they topped 300 yards in both rushing and passing.
Unlike many Nebraska teams of yore and lore, however, the defense remains poor.
“The amount of times we shoot ourselves in the foot is just ridiculous,” Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini said.
7. Michigan, W 24-21 at Connecticut. Battling back from a 21-7 hole to win on the road is a good thing, no matter the foe.
But it was UConn. Just like it was Akron that nearly clipped the Wolverines a week earlier.
If you don’t think the Big Ten Legends Division is a free-for-all, think again. Entering the start of Big Ten play for that side of the league, it looks like a 6-team race. Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom isn’t wowed by the Wolverines, that’s for sure. He wrote this from East Hartford on Saturday night:
So much for Taylor Lewan’s impassioned apology last weekend, calling the Akron performance “embarrassing” and vowing in the media that “we will not come out like that again.”
That was true. This time they came out worse.
8. Northwestern, W 35-21 over Maine. The Wildcats took a page from Iowa’s book and returned two interceptions for touchdowns. One of the two was by Dean Lowry. So the weekend’s tally was B.J. Lowery 2, Dean Lowry 1.
A gathering of 32,726 at Ryan Field saw this forgettable outing. Northwestern controlled the game, but sure didn’t look like a BCS bowl-contender in doing so. I’m not saying it is a BCS bowl-contender, but someone from the Legends Division has to go to a BCS game. Probably.
“We can only go 1-0 each week,” said Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald. “That’s what we’ve done.”
9. Ohio State, W 76-0 vs. Florida A&M. I hate to rank the Buckeyes this high for playing a lightly regarded FCS team.
Buckeyes quarterback Kenny Guiton had four more touchdown passes (6) than the FCS Rattlers had first-downs (2).
Bob Hunter of the Columbus Dispatchwas among the many who found this matchup distasteful. He wrote:
Wouldn’t OSU’s first-team offense, which scored on the first play from scrimmage on three of its first five scoring drives and in two plays on one of the other two, get a stiffer test from its own defense and vice versa? The answer is obvious, and so is the problem: The school would have a difficult time getting 103,000 people to pay $79 a ticket to watch a glorified scrimmage.
This offered the appearance of a real game — at least until you started watching.
10. Purdue, L 41-10 at Wisconsin. The Boilermakers gained just 180 yards. Wisconsin gained 388 by rushing alone.
“Defense performance was minimal,” Purdue safety Taylor Richards said.
You won’t be seeing the Boilermakers in any late-September bowl projections. Or late-November.
11. Indiana, L 45-28 vs. Missouri. And so much for all those people in the preseason who tabbed the Hoosiers the Big Ten’s surprise team.
Home losses to Navy and now Mizzou have made a 6-win season look like a reach. Especially with a defense that surrendered 623 yards to the Tigers Saturday night, the most ever by an Indiana opponent in Memorial Stadium.
The Hoosiers don’t appear to be able to pass-block. Nor are they good at stopping the other team’s rushing game. Bad, bad combination.
The result means the SEC will take a 1-0 record against the Big Ten into bowl-season. Maybe the Big Ten will do some winning in the Capital One, Outback and Gator bowls. Maybe the Big Ten will win one of those games, I mean. Maybe.
Illinois had the week off.
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