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Around the Big Ten, Week Two — The Buckeyes fall, the Hawkeyes rise again

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Alliance on Alliance crime.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Barbara J. Perenic/Columbus Dispatch via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The second full Saturday of the 2021 season featured zero games between Big Ten teams, but a handful of contests between the conference’s squads and a few Power Five opponents yielded some exciting (and, perhaps, unexpected) results. Here’s your Week Two look around the Big Ten:


24th time’s the charm: Ohio State finally loses a regular season game under Ryan Day

Ohio State talked all offseason about how they were going to fix their defense, how they clearly can score with the best of them and have all the talent they need, but how certain ins and outs needed to be fastened.

Welp, 2021 has come, and Ohio State has done nothing to solve their problems, with Oregon stunning them in the Horseshoe 35-28 this past Saturday. CJ Verdell ran wild with 161 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, while quarterback Anthony Brown and backup running back Travis Dye pitched in 108 yards of their own. The Buckeye linebackers had no clue which gaps to fill, their safeties took bad angles trying to recover from said LB mistakes and a defensive line that’s supposed to be dominant got largely played to a draw by the Ducks and their front five.

Sure, CJ Stroud was far from perfect, but he still dropped some dimes to his talented wideouts and got the offense going. The bigger problem is that he’s not Justin “destroyer of all college football worlds” Fields, thus giving OSU a smaller margin for error, and Oregon took advantage of their defensive miscues. Ohio State might still run the table and make the playoff. Heck, it’s probably the most likely outcome. But for the first time in a while the port in the Big Ten’s Death Star has peeled open for a contender to blow up their title hold.

Io_a has been unstoppable since last year’s loss to Northwestern

At this rate, Pat Fitzgerald’s most hated foe might be taking their “W” back from him. The Hawkeyes continued their run of multi-score victories, extending their win streak to eight going back to last year by defeating No. 9 Iowa State 27-17 on the road, yet even that final score is being generous to the Cyclones. ISU nabbed a garbage time touchdown down 17, but everyone in Ames knew this game was over the moment Io_a forced turnover number four from Brock Purdy and Co.

Kirk Ferentz’ squad has risen as a contender in similar fashion to how Northwestern took center stage in 2020. Their defense is fierce and opportunistic, with seven takeaways in just two games, three of which they have returned for touchdowns. Two stars have emerged in defensive end Zach Van Valkenberg, who has racked up multiple QB pressures in both starts, and cornerback Matt Hankins, who recorded not one, but two interceptions off Brock Purdy on Saturday.

Their offense is still quite bland, having been stuck at seven points late in the first half before their defense pitched in a scoop-and-score, and Spencer Petras looks limited in his ability, often holding onto the ball too long throughout his release, which has lead to some disappointing throws. However, similar to Peyton Ramsey, he’s capable of finding his version of Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman in the end zone with deft throws when his team needs it most.

Beware of the Hawkeyes, everybody.

RUTGERS. SYRACUSE. (UGLY) NEW YORK/JERSEY FOOTBALL!!!

The score was 0-0 at half and, including the penalties it suffered, the Rutgers’ offense had moved forward by a grand total of 29 yards on their six drives in the first half of play. Thus, declaring Rutgers “good” in any definitive sense as a result of their 2-0 start is probably a mistake, but they’ve reached the point of reliably competent, at the very least.

Sure, they got bailed out by ‘Cuse multiple times, be it a missed chip shot field goal at the end of the first half, or whatever in the name of all that is good and mighty this was.

But still, the Scarlet Knights’ defense continues to dominate their competition, having forced seven takeaways while only allowing three touchdowns in 120 minutes of play. Quarterback Noah Vedral is not dynamic in any sense of the word, but he is yet to throw an interception, and that reliable, floor-raising play has this usual laughing stock of a program only four wins away from bowl eligibility.

Either Michigan is kind of good or Washington a 2019 Northwestern-level offense

You all saw the shocking ESPN notification last week alerting you that the No. 20 Washington Huskies had been beaten at home by an FCS foe — the Montana Grizzlies. Perhaps you didn’t see how things went this Saturday, when a particularly harsh (yet true) graphic made the rounds via the worldwide leader and @nocontextcfb on Twitter.

Long story short, Michigan beat Washington 31-10 in the Big House, cruising easily over a Power Five visitor. Of course, the Wolverines’ own offense was not great, with QB Cade McNamara somehow outdoing Hunter Johnson in the yuck department by completing only 7 of 15 pass attempts for a whopping 44 yards. They did run all over the UW’s stout defense, though, with running backs Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins rushing for a combined 326 yards and four touchdowns.

Michigan has done exactly what they’re supposed to through two games, but to ascend beyond the level they’ve maintained under Jim Harbaugh, they’ll need to open up more dimensionality in their offense, a tough ask following the Week One injury that ended star wide receiver Ronnie Bell’s season far too early.

Illinois (and by association, Nebraska) keeps getting worse

The coverage of the Week 0 game between the two Big Ten West squads was directed more toward Nebraska, roasting Scott Frost and his team for their continual failure to deliver on their promised potential, but there was also a tiny bit of positivity surrounding the boys in Urbana-Champaign.

That might have been an overstep. After losing at home to Conference USA’s UTSA Roadrunners last week, the Fighting Illini got smacked 42-14 by Virginia, as their defense continues to get torn to shreds. They could not generate anything remotely resembling pocket pressure on UVA quarterback Brennan Armstrong, missed tackles consistently led to the Cavaliers tacking on an extra five yards when needed and the communication and awareness in their secondary was abysmal.

Take this, for example:

This is Virigina’s tight end Jelani Woods, who is 6-foot-7 and 276 pounds. It’s hard to miss him.

First play of the game, would make sense to remember where he is right? Apparently not!

And it only got worse from there.

No matter how middling the Northwestern offense looks, they’ll always be able to run it up on the orange and blue. HAT soon come.

Other Scores:

Maryland 62, Howard 0

Penn State 44, Ball State 13

Wisconsin 34, Eastern Michigan 7

Minnesota 31, Miami (OH) 26 (!)

Purdue 49, UConn 0 (UConn plays Clemson on November 13. Plan accordingly.)

Indiana 56, Idaho 14

Michigan State 42, Youngstown State 14

Nebraska 28, Buffalo 3