Every Sunday, after a Saturday full of college football, we’ll take a look at some of the top story lines around the Big Ten. We’ll follow every team throughout the bizarre eight-week season all the way up until Champions Week.
Here are the top storylines from Week Three:
Penn State remains winless
After last week’s win against Minnesota, it was unclear whether Maryland was heating up or came away with a fluke victory. This Saturday, they continued to state their case by blowing out Penn State 35-19 behind a 282 yard, three touchdown outing from Taulia Tagovailoa. The Nittany Lions put up a decent offensive performance in the game — quarterback Sean Clifford threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns but also threw two interceptions. Maryland led 28-7 at half and 35-7 by the end of the third quarter, but Penn State managed to score 12 unanswered points to make the final score 35-19. Both defenses were shaky at times, but Penn State has been searching to prove themselves and largely failed.
While it appears the Terps are trending toward a strong season, the debate remains on whether they are that good or their opponents are that bad. What is clear is that Maryland is now 2-1, and Penn State is 0-3 for the first time since 2001. Maryland plays Ohio State next weekend for their toughest matchup of the season by far.
Indiana keeps rising
The No. 13 ranked Hoosiers have proven better than anyone expected and beat No. 23 Michigan for the first time since 1987. Michael Penix was fantastic, throwing 30-for-50, 342 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Stevie Scott ran for 97 yards and added two touchdowns on the ground. While Michigan quarterback Joe Milton was able to match Penix’s production (disregarding his two interceptions), the Wolverines’ run game was stifled, as they recorded a total of 13 yards on the ground for the day.
Indiana got out to a strong lead and never looked back, winning 38-21 and improving to 3-0 for the first time since 1988. Michigan falls to 1-2 after the loss and as a result, will probably leave the AP top 25. Rank Northwestern in their place, you cowards.
Ohio State takes care of business once again
Ohio State played Rutgers in primetime this week. The Buckeyes won handily, but not as handily as you might assume for OSU standards. Rutgers scored 18 points in the fourth quarter, and Ohio State only won 49-27. Justin Fields continued looking like a Heisman winner by completing an impressive 24-of-28 passes for 314 yards and five touchdowns. The Buckeye running back committee put up an additional 203 yards, giving Ohio State over 500 yards of total offense on the game.
But here’s the thing — Rutgers had 373 yards of total offense in return. The Scarlet Knights scored about as many points with their backups as they did with their starters. Greg Schiano looked like a wizard of trick plays with Bo Melton’s punt lateral touchdown and Noah Vedral’s touchdown pass to offensive lineman Raiqwon O’Neal, so at worst, Buckeye fans can blame it on Ohio State’s defense being “out of their comfort zone.” The problem is, allowing 27 points against Rutgers is not an effective way to prove that you’re the best team in the nation.
Northwestern 21, Nebraska 13
Nebraska led 13-7 at half following two Peyton Ramsey miscues that turned into 10 Husker points. The ‘Cats clawed their way back into the game by scoring in the third and the fourth quarters while continuing to hold their opponents scoreless in the second half. It was not for lack of effort though —at one point Nebraska had eight straight plays within 10 yards of the end zone. But the Northwestern defense held strong, and the ‘Cats picked off Adrian Martinez before Nebraska could score. Northwestern is now 3-0, and the matchup next week with an undefeated Purdue squad will have serious implications towards who takes home the Big Ten West title.
nebraska joining the big ten expecting to mix it up in the title game against ohio state every year and then finding themselves playing in a deranged annual rock fight against northwestern is one of the funniest things that has ever happened in college football— BYCTOM (@BYCTOM) November 8, 2020
Minnesota 41, Illinois 14
Minnesota snagged their first win against an Illinois team starting their fourth-string quarterback. Starter Brandon Peters is still out due to COVID-19, but he likely wouldn’t have saved the Fighting Illini anyways. His replacement, Coran Taylor completed a measly 6-of-17 passes, good for 106 yards and a touchdown. Running back Mike Epstein gained 108 yards and another score on the ground, but this game was all Minnesota. Actually, this game was all Mohammed Ibrahim. On 30 carries, Ibrahim ran for 224 yards and four touchdowns. Wide receiver Rashod Bateman had an excellent performance too, with 154 yards and a touchdown on 10 catches.
Iowa 49, Michigan State 7
Iowa returned to form and finally earned its W after the last two weeks of tough losses. In a particularly eventful stretch with under a minute left in the second quarter, the Hawkeyes returned a Michigan State punt for a touchdown before MSU quarterback Rocky Lombardi threw a pick-six three plays later, giving Iowa the 35-0 lead at half. Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras didn’t look like Justin Fields, but he also didn’t look like Coran Taylor. Petras threw for 167 yards and a touchdown on the day, meaning that most of Iowa’s attack came from the ground. Running back Tyler Goodson scampered for 113 yards and two touchdowns, and Mekhi Sargent ran for two more.
For the second week in a row, Wiscovid did not play a football game. This time, Purdue got an impromptu bye week, which actually might turn out to be important given how the Big Ten West has been playing out. If Wisconsin can get their COVID cases under control, a return to football next week against Michigan would still leave them eligible for the trophy. The other two teams in strong competition are Northwestern and Purdue, who will play next week. However, because Purdue has completely dodged a potential loss to Wisconsin that Northwestern hasn’t, there could end up being a situation in which the winner of the Big Ten West revolves around the fact that Purdue missed this matchup.