Something rare and wondrous happened Saturday night. A Big Ten football game was played on a Saturday night, and the nation throughly enjoyed it.
It was Ohio State-Northwestern, and it was entertaining. That said, here is the rankings of the Big Ten teams for Week 6 (and only Week 6), based on their performances Saturday and their competition.
1. Ohio State, W 40-30 at Northwestern. The Buckeyes are 18-0 under Urban Meyer, but this was the first time one of his OSU teams had played a team ranked as high as 16th.
“Anytime you go a 12- or 15-round fight with someone and come out the other end, it builds toughness,” Meyer said. “We toughed out a win.”
Yep. The yardage was almost identical, and both teams scored six times if you discount the meaningless last-second Buckeyes score on a fumbled Northwestern hook-and-lateral.
Senior running back Carlos Hyde was tough, tough, tough. He ran for 168 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-decider with 5:22 left.
The Buckeyes hadn’t trailed all season before this game, but were behind 23-13 midway through the third quarter.
But did you see a team that was the equal of Alabama or Oregon or even Florida State or LSU or Stanford?
2. Indiana, W 44-24 vs. Penn State. The Hoosiers closed a five-game home stand in style with their biggest football win in a long time. This program was 1-11 just two seasons ago, and hasn’t had a winning season since 2007.
It’s the first time Indiana won its Big Ten-opener since 2000.
“Now we’ve just got to keep bringing it,” Hoosier defensive tackle Bobby Richardson said. “We’ve got a lot of teams we need to beat to be champions.”
Well, yes. Things get harder the next two weeks when Indiana plays at Michigan State and Michigan.
“Good teams become really good because they repeat what they’re capable of doing,” IU Coach Kevin Wilson said. “What we saw today is what we’re maybe kind of capable of playing like.”
But this was a really good win. The Hoosiers scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns in a span of three minutes and 40 seconds.
3. Michigan State, W 26-14 at Iowa. The Spartans could have come unglued. They dominated Iowa in building a 10-0 lead, but suddenly, they were behind 14-10 going into halftime and Kinnick Stadium was alive.
So MSU had a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half, and this time was dominant for the entire half.
Shawn Windsor of the Detroit Free Press wrote this in his column from the game:
When your (defensive) ends are as quick as the opponent’s skill players, the other team is in trouble.
Hey train-travel fans, here’s an interesting Lansing State Journal story on Amtrak and Michigan working together.
4. Northwestern, L 40-30 vs. Ohio State. Hey, I felt guilty shoving the Wildcats this far down the list after playing with so much heart and spirit against the league’s best team.
Oh, what might have been for the Wildcats with a win. A 5-0 record, a spot in the Top 10, a huge enhancement to their national profile.
“There’s a team that’s getting on a bus for Columbus that know it got into a fight,” NU coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “That’s what I will take from this.”
A win would have been a lot better.
But OSU’s Hyde wasn’t the only great running back in this game. Wildcat Venric Mark is top-shelf. He’s been out for a month with a lower-body ailment, but he had 141 all-purpose yards Saturday. He ran hard.
5. Nebraska, W 39-19 vs. Illinois. The first game in 27 years between these two was everything it would have been expected to be had they met in most of those years: A Cornhuskers romp.
The Huskers’ defense wasn’t shabby for a change. “They stood up,” Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini said.
Wrote Tom Shatel of the Omaha-World Herald: NU’s offensive line pushed the Illini all the way to Las Vegas, where somebody could explain how the game-time spread had dropped to 7.5.
6. Michigan, W 42-13 vs. Minnesota. The Little Brown Jug stayed in Ann Arbor. Michigan (5-0) is 30-2 against the Gophers since 1978, so that’s nothing new.
“I think we’re improving,” said Wolverines Coach Brady Hoke. “I think we’re a long way from where we need to be.”
Devin Funchess had seven catches for 151 yards. He is 6-foot-6.
“I’m just a big target,” he said.
As Mitch Albom wrote for the Free Press, Never mind the “just.” He offers huge possibilities for this passing attack.
7. Purdue. Idle. That’s a good week for this team.
8. Wisconsin. Idle. The Badgers host Northwestern Saturday. Could there be a better time in which to play the ‘Cats after their draining loss to the Buckeyes?
9. Minnesota, L 42-13 at Michigan. Maybe this ranking is being sympathetic, since Gophers Coach Jerry Kill missed the game because of yet another epilpetic seizure. He didn’t travel with the team to Ann Arbor on Friday.
“I’m not going to speculate on what’s down the road,” Minnesota Athletic Director Norwood Teague said. “More important, there’s the here and now and how to manage it [the seizures] better.”
This is a delicate situation for the school. Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote this:
Kill is being paid $1.2 million a year, a sum he couldn’t have imagined when he entered coaching, to be the face of a massive university. He knows he has to be on the sideline, and in front of recruits, to do his job well.
If he can’t find a way to perform his duties, and if his doctors can’t find a way to more effectively help him, I do believe he will eventually walk away.
10. Iowa, L 26-14 vs. Michigan State. The Texas Bowl had two representatives at this game. Do they know something?
This is the last year of the Big Ten’s affiliation with the Texas Bowl (formerly the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas). This year’s game is Dec. 27 in Houston. The Big 12′s representative could be Kansas State, TCU, , Texas Tech … or Texas.
Some would say playing Texas in the Texas Bowl would be more fair than what happened at the Longhorns’ game at Iowa State Thursday. One thing’s for sure: Texas doesn’t want to go to the Texas Bowl.
11. Illinois, L 39-19 at Nebraska. The Fighting Ilini have lost 15 straight conference games. They gave up 225 rushing yards Saturday to Ameer Abdullah.
“We have who we have,” said Illinois Coach Tim Beckman said, “and we have to continue to create opportunities for our guys to be successful.”
No Texas Bowl for this team.
12. Penn State, L 44-24 at Indiana. Let’s let Neil Rudel of the Altoona Mirror have his say here:
Even some of the sting of this season’s upset at the hands of Central Florida, at Beaver Stadium, was tempered by UCF’s solid showing against South Carolina.
Almost no one, though, saw Saturday’s 44-24 shellacking by Indiana coming, but with it comes the sobering reality of just where the Nittany Lions are right now.
And that’s a mediocre team, at best, facing an uphill climb just to avoid a losing season.
And here’s a snippet from David Jones of the Harrisburg Patriot-News:
It could just be that the unique emotional edge Penn State enjoyed all last season after the NCAA leveled it with sanctions is also wearing off some. It’s no longer Penn State against the world. It just football, better team wins. Maybe Indiana was, incredibly, just a better team at this point. Now, that’s a scary prospect.
Iowa lost Penn State and Indiana from its schedule this year and gained Ohio State and Wisconsin. That’s trading up, but not in a good way.