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 through Champions Week.
Here are the top storylines from Champions Week:
No. 4 Ohio State becomes four-peat conference champs
In a game with a much different feel from two years ago, the ‘Cats became the first team to contain Ohio State quarterback and Heisman candidate Justin Fields this season, holding him to 12-of-27 completions for 114 yards and two interceptions, including this Odell Beckham-esque one-handed grab by Brandon Joseph.
Northwestern actually held a 10-6 lead at the half, but Ohio State coach Ryan Day eventually remembered his team has another option besides passing the ball. Running back Trey Sermon totaled 331 yards and two touchdowns on the day, breaking Ohio State’s single-game rushing yards record in the process, and the Buckeyes held Northwestern scoreless in the second half as they ran to a 22-10 victory.
Paul Bunyan’s Axe stays in Madison
This one meant a lot to both teams, who have each suffered their own COVID problems this tumultuous season. It was a very B1G punt fest, and Wisconsin jumped ahead 14-10 at the end of the third quarter, even with starting quarterback Graham Mertz leaving due to an upper-body injury. Backup quarterback Chase Wolf threw a touchdown pass on his first play from scrimmage. Wisconsin then kicked a field goal to make it 17-10, but a solid late-game drive from Tanner Morgan tied the game and sent it to overtime.
Minnesota missed a field goal in the first overtime, and Wisconsin made its field goal try to win 20-17 and win an emotional, rescheduled rivalry game. Badgers running back Garrett Groshek ran for 154 yards and a touchdown on just 24 carries, while his Minnesota counterpart Mohamed Ibrahim ran for 151 yards on 26 carries. Tough luck for Minnesota, as the Gophers have won the Axe just three times in the last 20 meetings.
Adrian Martinez has a moment
My Nebraskan friend texted me at the halftime of Friday night’s game, bemoaning how bad the Huskers were playing. She had a point—although they were only down 14-7, Adrian Martinez had turned the ball over three times. But Martinez came out a new man in the second half. He turned the ball over once more, but he also threw 24-for-28, 255 yards and a touchdown, while adding 157 yards rushing. Did I mention he “pooch” punted a 45-yard kick on a fourth-and-4 to pin Rutgers at its own 2-yard line?
The pooch punt, for those unaware, is one of the dumbest plays in all of football, where you make your quarterback punt it when the defense isn’t expecting it so they don’t have their return man on the field. Here’s Tom Brady doing one as an example.
Nebraska gained over 600 yards on the night and won 28-21, securing Scott Frost’s third straight year winning just three conference games.
Penn State 56, Illinois 21
What surprises me is that Illinois actually managed to keep this game close for a bit, even without now ex-head coach Lovie Smith. The game was tied at 21 after a quarter. Unfortunately for the Illini, they would never see the end zone again, and Penn State just slowly ran away, scoring a total of eight touchdowns on the day. The Illini started dual-threat quarterback Isaiah Williams, who led the Illini in both rushing and passing yards, but even if you combine those numbers he gained fewer yards than Sean Clifford’s passing totals. The Penn State quarterback completed 16-of-22 attempts, good for 285 yards and two touchdowns. He was largely boosted by wide receiver Jahan Dotson, who caught 6 of those passes for 189 yards and both touchdowns. I’ll do the math for you, it’s 31.5 yards per catch.
No. 12 Indiana - Purdue canceled
Condolences to fans of the Old Oaken Bucket, as No. 12 Indiana and Purdue could not play for the first time in a century due to a COVID-19 outbreak at Indiana. Give them credit for trying, though, as this was the second week in a row the game was scheduled and then canceled. The last time the two teams didn’t play? 1918 and 1919, during the Spanish flu pandemic. History likes to repeat itself.
No. 16 Iowa - Michigan canceled
Maryland - Michigan State canceled