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Around the Big Ten, Week Six: Iowa mounts a comeback while Michigan hangs on by a thread

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And then there were three (unbeaten B1G teams).

Penn State v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Northwestern (mercifully) had the week off, meaning you may have had some freedom and time to watch some of the Big Ten’s marquee matchups this past Saturday. On the off chance that you happened to watch the thrilling Red River Showdown or Texas A&M’s upset of Alabama instead — or that you therapeutically chose to spend the day away from football entirely — we’re recapping the best games in the conference right here in this week’s edition of Around the Big Ten.

In heavyweight fight, Iowa comes out on top and keeps undefeated record in tact

In what can best be described as a rock fight, the now-second-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes emerged victorious over previously unbeaten Penn State at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday evening. The win came on account of a combination of costly PSU injuries, ridiculous punts from Tory Taylor, continued success from the Hawks’ defense in turning the ball over and just enough offense from the unit led by QB Spencer Petras to put his team over the hump.

The Nittany Lions got out to an early lead, going up 17-3 early on in the second quarter and leading by as much as 10 with two minutes remaining in the third. However, after Sean Clifford exited with an unspecified ailment and was joined in departure by a number of Penn State defenders, Kirk Ferentz’s team was able to mount a comeback that sent the yellow and black-striped faithful into a field-storming frenzy and vaulted Iowa to its highest ranking since 1985.

Of note, Petras was unspectacular with a stat line of 17-of-31 passing for 195 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, but the San Rafael, Calif. native delivered when needed most with a 44-yard touchdown throw to WR Nico Ragaini that gave the Hawkeyes the lead 6:26 to play. Taylor continued his phenomenal 2021 campaign, pinning the Nittany Lions within their own 12 on five of his nine punts.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Iowa defense added four forced turnovers to its NCAA-leading total that now sits at 20, including a late Matt Hankins interception that put the Hawkeyes in position to begin running out the clock with a one-yard carry and pair of QB kneels. However, they could not fully run out the remaining time total and wound up giving the ball back to PSU, who promptly turned it over on downs. Big Ten football, baby!

Michigan survives as Scott Frost’s Nebraska remains winless against ranked opposition

Fresh off a vicious thrashing of Northwestern, the Nebraska Cornhuskers and their fans spent the week preparing for an opportunity to give Michigan its first loss of the year under the lights of Memorial Stadium. Despite getting off to a rough start and trailing 13-0 at the half, the Huskers nearly pulled off the feat before a late turnover thwarted their upset hopes.

As was previously mentioned, the Wolverines put 13 on the board via a short Hassan Haskins TD carry and two Jake Moody field goals in the second quarter while UNL remained scoreless. In the third, however, the tide shifted momentously, with a trio of Adrian Martinez passes resulting in scores, the last of which gave his team a 22-19 advantage. After a Blake Corum rush put U of M back on top early in the fourth, Martinez found his way into the end zone with his legs to put the Huskers ahead with less than half a quarter of play remaining.

A successful Moody field goal from 31 yards out knotted things at 29 with three minutes remaining, giving Nebraska the chance to mount a long drive and put up points to win the game, shock the Wolverines and make its back-ness truly known across the college football world. Unfortunately, true to Husker form, Martinez fumbled while pushing for additional yardage after gaining a first down on the ensuing possession.

The Wolverines cashed in on the turnover with a Moody field goal to take the lead with 1:24 left on the clock, and after the Huskers’ last ditch drive fell short, all Scott Frost was able to do was watch in horror as his record against ranked opponents as UNL’s head coach fell to 0-10.

Michigan v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Kenneth Walker III is that guy

If you watched Northwestern get torched by Michigan State transfer RB Kenneth Walker III in its season opener and thought that the game was a fluke (either in the fact that NU’s defense was putrid or that Walker performed remarkably), week six has now come and gone and your suppositions have been disproven.

In another banner day, Walker posted 232 yards on 29 carries — one of which was the following 94-yard house call in which he dapped up WR Jalen Nailor on his way to the end zone — while helping the Spartans to a 31-13 handling of Rutgers.

Nailor didn’t have half a bad day himself, hauling in five passes for 221 yards and three touchdowns. Sparty is now bowl-eligible at 6-0 in its second season under Mel Tucker and ranked 10th in the country by the AP. Walker, meanwhile, is near the top of many pundits’ midseason Heisman Trophy ballots with a NCAA-best 913 rushing yards and fourth-best in the nation nine touchdowns on the ground.

Other Scores

Ohio State 66, Maryland 17

Wisconsin 24, Illinois 0