It was a pretty decent week around the conference this week - much better than the previous one. The only real downsides were 1) IU's heartbreaking last second loss to versus Ball State (although there were bright spots), 2) Michigan State getting manhandled by Notre Dame - throwing the championship picture into further confusion, and 3) Wisconsin needing Utah State to choke on their final FG to pull out a win. From around the Big Ten, below the jump:
Illinois 44 Charleston Southern 0
Not a close game, and not likely to tell us anything new about the Illini, other than back-up QB Reilly O'Toole is physically capable of throwing the ball for five touchdowns. Charleston Southern is now 0-3, and this was their first game against a Big Ten team (!). CSU's option offense went zero-for13 on third down conversions. So, Illinois' QB1 Nathan Scheelhaase was able to rest his ankle for another week. Next up, the defense-impaired Louisiana Tech Bulldogs come to visit on Saturday, so we likely still won't know where this Illini squad ranks until they host Penn State at the end of this month.
Iowa 27, Northern Iowa 16
The Hawkeyes were a bit nervous coming into this after only scoring 6 points against another in-state rival just the previous week. They are feeling better now. This win was even more impressive as, due to injuries, Iowa ended the game with a walk-on at halfback. Also, from Black Heart Gold Pants:
[T]he passing game finally found its legs. The offensive line held up as well as it has all season, not allowing a sack and giving Vandenberg all day to get comfortable and throw the ball. And throw the ball he did. Vandenberg completed his first six attempts to set the tone and finished 18/28 for 228 yards. The receivers managed to cut the number of drops from 8 a week ago to just 2 yesterday. The extra time even let Vandenberg look downfield, hitting Kevonte Martin-Manley for 51 and looking exponentially more dangerous in the 10-20 yard passing game
Michigan 63, Massachusetts 13
Likewise, the Wolverines had also been feeling trepidcaious following the blowout loss to Alabama and a narrow win over Air Force. In the second quarter, fans started worrying again when UMass cut the lead to eleven, but it was only a blip. Maize and Brew says this about the match:
Michigan didn't effortlessly dominate a hapless group of underdogs, it was just physically better, and even physically superior teams have a hard time pissing away that much of a talent advantage without a full on implosion. Michigan just looked out of sync... [but] would tack on another three touchdowns before halftime ensuring a second half devoid of drama.
Michigan State 3, Notre Dame 20
The Spartan Offense simply disappeared on this day. Part of it was certainly due to a good effort on the part of the Irish, but fans are a little restless. From The Only Colors:
The passing game didn't make big plays--but that's partly because the coaching staff chose at some point to stop trying to make them. Put it on Dan Roushar if you want, but these big picture strategic choices ultimately fall on the head coach. For as much as Mark Dantonio has shown gutsiness on trick plays and 4th-and-1 calls, he's still got some Tressel in him. If you're going to lose, at least lose knowing you took more than a couple shots at the game changing play, even if that means another couple sacks or a turnover. We still don't know a lot about Maxwell, but we know he can air it out.
Minnesota 28, Western Michigan 23
The Broncos were certainly upset-minded, but the Gophers played competently enough to grind out the win. Minny ate up 10:26 of the fourth quarter by putting together a decent running game when they needed it. From the Daily Gopher, this is viewed with mixed enthusiasm.
This was a good win over a good football team. But we were far from perfect. What needs improvement still?
The rush defense should be better. We were clearly focused on defending the pass but you can't completely ignore the rushing game of your opponent.
Mental mistakes killed our offense repeatedly. False starts and fumbles killed drives.
Special teams were unimpressive again today. Punting was weak. Kick return and coverage was average at best.
These types of things are going to make winning Big Ten games very difficult.
Nebraska 42, Arkansas State 13
The Huskers bounce back from a disappointing west coast loss to pummel an inferior opponent. And while it was a blowout, CornNation is feeling good about its chances in conference play.
Only a few offensive miscues kept it from being a great finish to the day... So when you consider that Nebraska's biggest problem is defense, and that Bo Pelini is the head coach, I still like Nebraska's chances to get something figured out this season. Nebraska might have the best group of offensive skill players in the conference; that might be the edge that the Huskers have this season.
Northwestern 22, Boston College 13
The Wildcats won it on the ground against the Eagles. Budding star Venric Mark was out for much of the day with an injury, but QB Kain Colter went 16 for 19 (145 yards) and the previously worrisome defense showed up to secure the win. From Sippin' on Purple:
When was the last time Northwestern won a game on the ground like that? 293 yards rushing, 106 in a return to relevance for Mike Trumpy while Venric Mark had 77 before going out with a minor injury. Trumpy looked good running the ball between the tackles, while NU's run defense was absolutely phenomenal. The 25 yards on 21 carries is a little bit misleading because of the 15 yards the Eagles lost on a bad snap, but they still got nothing on the ground thanks to a linebacker corps that is really on top of its game so far this season. Chi Chi Ariguzo was a real grown individual with 10 tackles, two pass breakups, and the fumble recovery.
Ohio State 35, California 28
OSU stayed perfect and held off the Bears, who were intent on notching an upset, but the Buckeyes did show some weaknesses in their defense. Land Grant Holy Land is not worried about the upcoming game against UAB, and finds a lot that needs fixing, and is still relieved at least to find themselves still winning.
Despite an incredibly paltry effort by an extremely lackluster Silver Bullets defense (including yielding 160 yards on 4 touches to sophomore Cal tailback Brendan Bigelow), the Buckeyes were able to find resolve when they had to, and though it was unimpressive and will surely impact their perception nationally, the Buckeyes move to 3-0 on the season. Ohio State showed they still have plenty of work to do but benefitted from the Miller to Smith combination, which accounted for 145 yards through the air and 2 TDs. Jordan Hall returned from injury to add 87 yards rushing on 17 carries on the afternoon as well.
Say what you will about the first real anxiety inducing Ohio State game since last year's Michigan loss, but even in a season that ends permanently in late November, surviving and advancing is still the name of the game.
Penn State 34, Navy 7
The Nittany Lions finally were having fun on the football field, for the first time in a long time. Black Shoe Diaries notes the change in mood:
The joy in Happy Valley began before the opening kickoff, during warmups. Six thousand students huddled behind the south end zone and cheered wildly for each Sam Ficken practice kick that passed through the uprights. And enough did that the 19-year old was caught smiling.
It continued as Penn State took the ball to start the game, and went 72 yards for a touchdown, in just seven plays - that's 10 fewer plays than it took against Virginia. Matt McGloin finished the drive 3 for 3 with a touchdown to true freshman Jesse James. His second pass went 40 yards - Penn State's biggest gainer of the season - to true sophomore Allen Robinson.
Purdue 52, Eastern Michigan 16
Purdue crushes EMU in their first post-Marve game, and QB TerBush did the job, but started out shaky (possibly due to illness). The Boilers are being discussed as a possible contender for the league crown now, but at this point Hammer and Rails are a bit reserved in their expectations. And uh, you could click through for BoilerTMill's suggestion at diversifying the pass offense if you like - it did make me chuckle a bit.
There are clearly still many things this team needs to work on. I'll give TerBush a pass due to illness this week, but if he comes out in two weeks against Marshall and is as bad as he was for part of today Marve needs to be the guy if he is healthy.
I am fine with this team having a recipe of defense plus a strong running game to win. The running game expands the time of possession and allows the defense to rest. It also wears down opposing defenses. I have never been more of a fan of the pass over the run or vice versa. Whatever moves the ball is fine with me.
Wisconsin 16, Utah State 14
The Badgers are in a full-blown re-assessment of their preseason expectations. UW's not bad, per se, but not the elite team that they were projected to be. Bucky's Fifth Quarter named Montee Ball as MVP of this game, but recognizes that the Hesiman talk is now probably a thing of the past.
Ball rushed for only 3.8 yards per carry, thought I would argue that's more of a consequence of the offensive line's struggles than anything have to do with Ball. Yes, perhaps, he could've picked up more yards picking up his feet and such, but Ball had several vintage-Ball type of runs where he extended the play by lowering his shoulder, driving opponents into the turf and not stopping on first contact.... Barring a few 200-plus-yard efforts over the next few weeks, I think we might as well shelve Ball's Heisman talk for this year. The real issue entering UTEP is that outside of Ball, Wisconsin doesn't have one single playmaker that's a consistent factor.
Other IU Non-Conference Foes:
Indiana State: The Sycamores beat down Drake, 27-10, as Shakir Bell rushed for a school-record 349 yards (and two TDs). Drake did pile up 329 yards in passing, but only 43 in rushing.
UMass: Just got pounded by Michigan (above). Nothing really else to be added, they're not very good at football this year.
Navy: Was simply dominated by PSU (above). Everything went wrong for them as PSU got it all together at once, defending the option extremely well, and even getting one of those fluke bounce-off-the-hands-of-one-receiver-into-the-hands-of-another TD catches.