Every Sunday, after an entire Saturday’s worth of college football, we’ll take a look around the Big Ten. As the conference as a whole fights as respectability in the non-conference, or as its power dynamics shift on a week-to-week basis this fall, we’ll follow every team and try to piece together the puzzle that is the 13-week-long season all the way up until Indianapolis.
Here are the top storylines from Week 10:
Purdue downs No. 16 Iowa on late field goal
This game had everything: long, explosive plays for Purdue; long, methodical drives for Iowa; two-score leads; comebacks; and then a dramatic last-second field goal. Purdue got off to a hot start, leading 21-10 in the second quarter and then 35-23 late in the third quarter. Iowa wouldn’t go away easily, storming back to take a one-point lead on the back of two Mekhi Sargent touchdown runs. The Hawkeyes’ two-point conversion failed, though, and David Blough, who threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns, led the Boilermakers down the field for a game-winning field goal with eight seconds remaining.
The Boilers pulled off another upset of a ranked-team in West Lafayette and immensely helped out Northwestern’s chances to win the West. Iowa, which looked like Northwestern’s biggest threat just two weeks ago, has now lost two straight conference games and will need lots of help to make it to Indy.
Wolverines are scarier and better at football than Nittany Lions
Penn State-Michigan was supposed to be the Big Ten’s marquee matchup of the weekend. Both teams entered the game ranked in the top 15, but it hardly looked that way. Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines look determined to quash the demons that have hindered his tenure in Ann Arbor, and James Franklin’s Nittany Lions will probably need another inspirational speech about coming up short.
Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson had another Shea Patterson-esque stat line, throwing for just 144 yards and two touchdowns, but as we have seen, this team is not reliant on him for big performances. The nation’s best defense held Penn State quarterback Trace McSorely to just five completions and 83 passing yards, and Michigan led 42-0 (!) before giving up a garbage time touchdown. If there was any sliver of hope for Penn State to win out, get help and make the Big Ten Championship after last week’s win over Iowa, it was unapologetically put to sleep this Saturday. For Michigan, the team continues to look better each week, and with Ohio State’s recent shakiness, the buzz keeps building that this is the year Harbaugh beats Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes.
Ohio State fends off the pesky Huskers
Ohio State had an extra week to think about its ugly loss to Purdue and clean up its deficiencies, and yet it had a tough time with 2-7 Nebraska. Now, Ohio State certainly does not currently look like the team many thought it would, but some credit should be given to these Huskers who are improving each week. Dwayne Haskins didn’t have a great day, but running back J.K. Dobbins had a career performance, averaging seven yards per carry en route to 163 yards and three scores on the day. The Huskers led at half, but a big third quarter and a critical fourth quarter scoring drive was just enough for the No. 10 Buckeyes to improve to 8-1. Despite the loss, Nebraska’s remaining opponents should be on upset alert, and Scott Frost should be confident this corn ship is headed in the right direction. The real highlight of this game, though, came from Nebraska kicker Caleb Lightbourn.
Maybe the greatest kickoff in college football history pic.twitter.com/Quc8VKHLJo— Luke Zimmermann (@lukezim) November 3, 2018
Notre Dame 31, Northwestern 21
The case can be made that this should be a larger headline, but it was the only non-conference game of the week and means zilch in the Big Ten. In what Tommy Doles called the most electric atmosphere he’s played in at Ryan Field, the ‘Cats hung tough for a while and battled back to make it a one-possession game, but Notre Dame showed why it is a College Football Playoff hopeful and walked out of Ryan Field with a statistically-dominant but hard-fought victory. Props to the NU fanbase for showing up in one of the biggest yet weirdest games in years.
Wisconsin 31, Rutgers 17
The Badgers won and did so in boring fashion, something they are akin to doing. Rutgers lost again, something it is akin to doing.
Michigan State 24, Maryland 3
One might have thought that the firing of D.J. Durkin would have led to the Terrapins playing inspired, but reality was much the opposite. Michigan State took a 10-0 lead and never looked back as running back Connor Heyward piled up 157 yards and two touchdowns to establish the Spartans as the premier mediocre team in this matchup.
Illinois 55, Minnesota 31
Plot twist: Illinois scores 55 instead of giving up 55. A week after a nice win over Indiana for Minnesota, this was not the follow up P.J. Fleck could have envisioned. The Illini doubled their conference win total, and their band formed a plane on the field, so that’s cool, too.