The dust is starting to settle just a bit around the college football landscape. While some teams are proving that they’re back to contending at the top, there’s a much larger contingent of teams that are starting to reveal themselves to be among the middle of the pack once again. This was the big story of the week in the Big Ten, where there were sparks of excellence among some teams, but many more examples of teams showing their true (and not so pretty) colors. With that being said, welcome back to a new edition of Around the Big Ten.
Iowa reclaims the Cy-Hawk Trophy
Let’s start with the good, shall we? Everyone loves a good interconference rivalry game, and that’s what was on tap for Iowa and Iowa State this past Saturday as they battled it out for the coveted Cy-Hawk Trophy. In typical Iowa fashion, the game was a relatively low -scoring affair, as the Hawkeye defense once again carried the team to a 20-13 win over their in-state rivals. While Iowa’s offense was held to just 235 yards, defensive back Sebastian Castro came through with a 30-yard pick-six to break the game open to the tune of a 17-0 lead for the Hawkeyes in the quarter. This level of offense isn’t likely to result in a conference title, but with a lockdown defense once again at their disposal, a Big Ten West title is very much a possibility. In the meanwhile, they can enjoy the fact that the Cy-Hawk Trophy is back in their possession and they’re back in the AP Top 25 at No. 25.
Purdue bounces back
We stay in the Big Ten West for more good news for the conference this week. While the majority of the Big Ten struggled in Power Five matchups this weekend (more on that in a bit), the Boilermakers were able to bounce back from a tough loss at home to Fresno State in Week One to go on the road and beat Virginia Tech by a score of 24-17. Using a late touchdown by quarterback Hudson Card midway through the fourth quarter, Purdue was able to escape Blacksburg with a victory and avoid an 0-2 start. Card once again played a solid game as he did last week, but for the key for the quick turnaround, you have to look at the Purdue defense for this one. The Boilermakers forced two turnovers out of the Hokies and held them to 11 yards on the ground. That’s going to get it done against most teams. Purdue will look to continue the positive momentum this upcoming weekend, as a home date with Syracuse awaits.
Top teams go on cruise-control
Two weeks into the season, it seems apparent that the top of the Big Ten is exactly what we expected it to be before the season got underway. It’s Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and then everyone else at this point. Each of those teams had home matchups against inferior opponents this past weekend, and each of those teams, as expected, won handily. Michigan beat UNLV 35-7, and Ohio State matched it by beating FCS opponent Youngstown State in identical fashion, 35-7. Penn State was also in action against an FCS opponent in Delaware, whom they blew out by a score of 63-7.
It’s hard to learn much about top teams in these types of games, but there were positives to take away in each. For the Wolverines, J.J. McCarthy continued to look sharp. He has a completion percentage of 87.3% through two games, and continues to look the part of the conference’s top signal caller. For Ohio State, Kyle McCord and Marvin Harrison Jr. looked more in lock-step this week. Harrison Jr. went off with seven catches for 160 yards and a couple of touchdowns for the Buckeyes as their offense looks to get back to their usual level. For the Nittany Lions, their ground game was unstoppable on Saturday to the tune of 315 yards and six touchdowns. While it’s impossible to know whether this level of performance by all three teams can continue against quality opponents, they’re each doing what they’re supposed to be doing and that’s good enough for right now.
Big second halves help to avoid upset losses to Group of Five
We’ve raced through the good (and the meh) to this point, but now it’s time to talk about the bad. And there were plenty of examples of it across the board in the Big Ten this past Saturday. Multiple teams were scheduled to play Group of Five teams at home games they were expected to win. But someone forgot to tell the teams early on because the Upset Alert was going off for a good chunk of the conference, as some of the games reached halftime. Let’s run through some of these halftime scores:
- Northwestern 7, UTEP 7
- Maryland 9, Charlotte 14
- Minnesota 10, Eastern Michigan 6
- Rutgers 13, Temple 0 (Rutgers 13, Temple 7 with 12 minutes remaining in fourth quarter)
To be fair to Northwestern, it was only a slight favorite over UTEP going in, so that halftime score was far from unexpected. But for teams like Maryland and Minnesota, it was a bit concerning to see them struggling so heavily. Entering the season, Maryland was picked as a clear fourth in the Big Ten East behind the trio of national contenders, and with Taulia Tagovailoa returning at quarterback, the expectations were high. Minnesota is a team that many pegged as contenders in the Big Ten West, while Eastern Michigan had just the week prior struggled to put away FCS opponent Howard at home.
Ultimately, these schools used big second halves to put away their opponents. Northwestern pulled away from the Miners with 31 second-half points for a 38-7 win, while Maryland eventually flipped the switch for a 38-20 victory. Minnesota outscored the Eagles 15-0 in the second half to win 25-6, and Rutgers scored 23 unanswered points to secure the win against Temple by a score of 36-7. While the wins are all that matters at the end of the day, these teams’ struggles early on raises questions about how competitive they’ll be moving forward.
Big Ten West struggles in key Power Five matchups
Last, but certainly not least, we have reached the ugly portion of this Big Ten report. Illinois, Wisconsin and Nebraska all had road dates with Power Five opponents this past weekend. That’s not all they had in common though, as all three also came out of the weekend with losses on their resumes. Illinois lost to Kansas 34-23 in a game where the final score makes it look closer than it actually was, while Nebraska lost to rival Colorado 36-14 where the final score makes it look more like a blowout than it actually was.
And then you have the Badgers, who came into this season as the Big Ten West favorites, losing a battle in Pullman by a score of 31-22 in Luke Fickell’s debut season at Wisconsin. You have to give props to these schools scheduling games against Power Five opponents as every team in the East was playing Group of Five teams or FCS schools this week. Unfortunately, however, that doesn’t change the fact that all these schools came out of it with some tough losses.
Indiana 41, Indiana State 7
Michigan State 45, Richmond 14