After a Saturday full of college football, we 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 story lines from Week Seven:
Ohio State makes its Playoff case clear
The Buckeyes needed to make a statement after a close call against conference foe Indiana and with just four games played. And, despite the absence of Head Coach Ryan Day due to COVID-19, that is exactly what they did. Beating the Spartans 52-12, OSU dominated every area of the field—something the ‘Cats couldn’t do last week.
Justin Fields shone both in and out of the pocket, showcasing his mobility with 104 rushing yards and scampering for two of the Buckeyes’ seven touchdowns. Oh, and he also threw for 200 yards before true freshman CJ Stroud was called on to pick up offensive duties in the fourth quarter. Stroud racked up his first career touchdown as well, following in Fields’ footsteps with a 48-yard score on the ground. OSU’s defense was dominant too, barely letting Lombardi and the Spartans over the 50 yard line for the whole first half of the game.
Indiana’s impressive win over Wisconsin gives OSU more credit for its win over the Hoosiers two weeks ago. Whether the Buckeyes play their rivalry game against Michigan next Saturday or not, it’s likely the ‘Cats will be seeing them in Indy through Big Ten alterations. Either way, should Ohio State win out, it’s hard to not see them in the final field of four.
Indiana beats the Badgers for the first time in 10 meetings
Michael Penix Jr. or not, this Hoosiers team is solid all around. If people were doubting its resume before, Indiana has proven itself legit l by holding the Badgers to two field goals in their 14-6 win. Replacement quarterback Jack Tuttle proved he could lead the offense, completing two pinpoint touchdown passes as well as throwing on a dime into Wisconsin’s tight coverage in the red zone.
Both defenses dominated, as shown by the relatively low stat sheet. However, the matchup came down to who could take advantage of turnovers turnovers. Indiana was able to turn a key fumble recovery into six points whereas Wisconsin could only manage a field-goal on its second half defensive strip. IU’s defensive backfield was effective in shutting down whatever Graham Mertz had to throw at them as well — the redshirt freshman only completing 20 of 34 passing attempts with one interception. With the win, #TopTendiana should be a thing, and if it wins out should have a very strong case for an at-large selection to a New Year’s Six bowl. Tom Allen for Head Coach of the Year.
Michigan COVID outbreak probes conference to reconsider Championship benchmarks
Along with Northwestern-Minnesota, a COVID outbreak within the Michigan program left sidelined the Wolverines and Terps this week. If Michigan’s case-count does not decrease enough to meet the safety measures for the team to play next week, its rivalry matchup with Ohio State could be in jeopardy. A cancellation for the Buckeyes would result in the team being under the six-game threshold required for them to play the ‘Cats in Indianapolis for the Big Ten title.
However, Big Ten athletic directors are reportedly thinking about tweaking the rules a bit should this happen. To them, it would seem unjust for a top-four Ohio State team with a head-to-head victory over second place Indiana not to appear in the conference championship game. With the West decided, all eyes will be on Ann Arbor this week. The B1G could also shuffle some matchups to ensure OSU plays this weekend, like pitting them against East Division foe Maryland, a matchup that was canceled a few weeks ago. Otherwise, the conference has some serious thinking to do about who deserves a trip to Indy and who doesn’t. If it means anything, Iowa athletic director Gary Barta also chair’s this year’s CFP Selection Committee.
Nebraska 37, Purdue 27
Both the Huskers and Boilers have not had the success they had hoped for this season—the result of their frustration was a grudge match riddled with careless penalties. UNL maintained a healthy lead until mid-way through the fourth quarter, but the Boilers were their own worst enemy when it came down to crunch time. Purdue picked up the most penalties in team history since 2012 — 11 flags for 126 yards. In the end, Jeff Brohm’s incredible receiving corps couldn’t compensate for the lack of a running game against the Husker’s surprisingly efficient D-line (see their -2 rushing yards on the game), and Adrian Martinez’s 77% completion percentage spoke for itself in the Nebraska win.
Penn State 23, Rutgers 7
The snoozer everyone would have predicted, just maybe not with the pregame storylones. Nevertheless, the Nittany Lions put things together for their second win in a row. Rutgers with a measly 3-of-15 on third down, and PSU wasn’t much better, with a 4-of-15 mark in the victory. Hopefully you didn’t spend any part of your Saturday watching.
Iowa 35, Illinois 21
Wildcat fans kept an eye on this one with the annual HAT matchup this coming week. Illinois raced out to early 14-0 lead before Iowa turned it on with four minutes left in the first half. The Hawkeyes overcame the deficit early in the third quarter and didn’t look back. Spencer Petras found a groove, throwing for 220 yards and three touchdowns in the comeback. That being said, Illinois offensive capabilities as shown in the first thirty minutes of the game is something the ‘Cats need to be aware of this week if they want to win their sixth straight HAT.