Week Eight saw blowout wins, comeback wins, controversial wins, nail-biting wins, rivalry wins and plenty of losses to go with them, all of which came in the heartbreaking variety. Unless you’re Indiana, in which case you had an everyday, run-of-the-mill, blowout loss to Rutgers. Taking a look around the Big Ten this week, let’s break down what type of statement each team had to say, shall we?
Ohio State draws first blood in Big Ten East with victory over Penn State
The Nittany Lions arrived in Columbus with hopes of making a statement on the national stage. The good news is they managed to do just that. The bad news is it wasn’t the statement they were hoping to make. Instead, it was Ohio State who captured the marquee win, 20-12. The win was big for OSU for a couple reasons. The first being that it establishes the Buckeyes as the early front-runner in the Big Ten East, as Michigan still has games against the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions left to play. The even bigger takeaway, however, is how Ohio State won the game, doing so behind a stout defense. On a day where the offense was slowed by Penn State’s own stingy defense, the Buckeyes’ stepped up on that side of the ball, something we haven’t seen from the team in years past. It was a sloppy game overall, but Ohio State came out of it with a statement of its own — one directed towards Michigan and the rest of the country. This defense is legit and fears no one.
Michigan and Michigan State “battle” for the Paul Bunyan Trophy
Michigan had a quick response to the Buckeyes’ statement in the form of a 49-0 win against its other rivals in East Lansing. This game was over almost as soon as it started, in large part thanks to the new Heisman favorite, Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy. McCarthy finished the game 21-for-27 for 287 yards and four touchdown passes. He exited the game midway through the third quarter with a 42-0 lead. It was quite a response to both the Ohio State-Penn State game earlier in the day, as well as the lingering rumors of alleged sign-stealing taking place in the Michigan program. The Wolverines now sit at 8-0 with a tough stretch of games to close out the season. On November 4, they will return home for a rematch of last season’s Big Ten Championship game against Purdue. Michigan then finishes with road games against Penn State and Maryland before wrapping up the regular season with a matchup against the rival Buckeyes in Ann Arbor. For now, the Wolverines head into the bye week having made a statement of their own. Outside noise isn’t going to be what stops them on their path to a potential national title.
Big Ten West dramatics
We all saw what stopped Iowa from winning its game against Minnesota on Saturday night and I’m not talking about its putrid offense. I’m instead referring to the embarrassing officiating that took a go-ahead Iowa touchdown off the board late in the fourth quarter. With 1:21 remaining in the game, Iowa’s star cornerback and punt returner Cooper DeJean appeared to take a Minnesota punt to the house for a 54-yard touchdown that would have given Iowa a 16-12 lead. After a replay review, the touchdown was inexplicably taken off the board after the officials decided to make a statement of their own and ruled that DeJean had waved for a fair catch (he hadn’t). The game ended with Minnesota winning, 12-10, and securing the Floyd of Rosedale bronze hog statue for the first time in its last nine tries after a Deacon Hill interception ended the Hawkeyes’ hopes of victory.
Elsewhere in the Big Ten West, Iowa’s misfortune benefitted Wisconsin after the Badgers rallied from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat Illinois and retake control of the division. After falling behind 21-7, the Badgers finished with 18 unanswered points to pull out a 25-21 win in Champaign. Oh, and did I mention that they capped it off with your everyday, go-ahead touchdown catch by an offensive lineman. Yes, Nolan Rucci did that. The Badgers, now with a backup quarterback, stand alone as the only team in the division with one or less losses. In doing so, Wisconsin made the statement that it is in fact the team to beat in the Big Ten West (for this week at least).
A special shoutout is in order for our dear friends in Lincoln. The Cornhuskers, for the first time in 770 days, have a winning record after their 17-9 win Saturday over Northwestern. Nebraska’s next two games are against Purdue and Michigan State, so perhaps it can start a new, more positive streak in the coming weeks. Wouldn’t that be quite the statement!
Rutgers 31, Indiana 14