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Big Ten Sampler: Week 3

The Big Ten in review and preview

Thearon W. Henderson

While we were complaining about only winning by 21, the rest of the conference had a rough day.

Indiana 42, Bowling Green 10

Indiana was one of the few Big Ten teams to exceed expectations, scoring 35 unanswered points to turn a 10-7 deficit into a blowout win. Bowling Green's only touchdown came when they blocked a punt, while Indiana gained 600 yards and managed to score 42 points even while failing three times on fourth down and losing two fumbles. When I look at the box score, it says that Bowling Green gained 409 yards, which is confusing because Indiana's defense looked downright stout during the parts of this game that I watched.

Michigan 28, Akron 24

Akron had the ball inside the Michigan 5 as time expired, but they couldn't get into the endzone. The Zips also missed two field goals on the day, which could have changed the complexion of the game. Michigan's defense wasn't great, allowing a bad MAC team to gain 418 yards on 79 plays, but the real problem was Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner, who threw three interceptions and coughed up a fumble. Of course, he was also the only reliable source of offense for the Wolverines, as Fitzgerald Toussaint continued to struggle to find running room, gaining only 71 yards on 19 carries. Between this game and Notre Dame struggling to beat Purdue, there is a real possibility that Michigan is not very good this year.

Minnesota 29, Western Illinois 12

Minnesota struggled with the Leathernecks for much of the game, trailing 12-7 in the third quarter before scoring three straight touchdowns to take control. The more important story, however, was Jerry Kill's seizure at halftime. He went to the hospital and is in good condition. If you are tempted to argue that this somehow means Kill is unsuited to coaching the Gophers, take it over here.

UCLA 41, Nebraska 21

Nebraska led this game 21-3 in the second quarter, their defense looking fixed and their offense in high gear. The UCLA scored a touchdown with a minute remaining in the half and the Blackshirts failed to return from the locker room at halftime, allowing 28 points in the third quarter. The Cornhusker offense, meanwhile, limped to the finish, ending the day with only 331 yards on 77 plays and a miserable 3-14 day on third down. After the game, the sharks continued to circle Bo Pelini, as Tommie Frazier openly called for his firing and two year old audio of Pelini blasting the Nebraska fanbase was leaked. The good news for Pelini is that the next four games are pretty soft, so his team should enter November 6-1; the bad news is that the Huskers then have Northwestern, Michigan, and Michigan State in consecutive weeks.

Michigan State 55, Youngstown State 17

After two weeks in which the MSU defense outscored the offense, Connor Cook took firm control of the quarterback position as the Michigan State offense gained 547 yards and scored all 55 points. Youngstown State is FCS, but they have been fairly good in the past and are not obviously worse than MSU's first two opponents. The blowout, then, could well be a sign that MSU has turned a corner and will contend for the division title, as expected in the preseason; it could also be a sign that even good FCS teams usually have lesser athletes and more limited depth than their FBS brethren.

Iowa 27, Iowa State 21

When Iowa was up 27-7 in the fourth quarter, I declared this game a Ferentzing in the good sense, a game that epitomized Kirk's love of grinding opponents to dust with the defense and running game. Iowa State almost made it a Ferentzing in the bad sense, as Iowa once again failed to recover an onside kick, allowing an inferior opponent to make the game closer than it should have been. Still, the Hawkeyes have had a tough time against Iowa State in recent years, so a road win is nothing to scorn.

Central Florida 34, Penn State 31

Both teams achieved healthy yardage totals off of efficient offensive performances while turning the ball over once. While UCF came out ahead, Penn State continues to have the play of freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg (21-28, 262 yards, 1 TD) to provide hope for the future and that of his favorite target, senior receiver Allen Robinson (9 catches, 143 yards, 1 TD), to help the quarterback along.

Washington 34, Illinois 24

I was ready to write about how Nathan Scheelhaase and the Illinois defense are doing their best to drag the dead weight of the Ilinois offense, but Washington gained 615 yards on 85 plays and Scheelhaase went 9-25 for 156 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. The main things that kept Illinois within a respectable distance were penalties (12 for 104 yards) and turnovers (Illinois finished the game +1 in turnover margin). A week after blowing out Cincinnati, Illinois appears once again to be a bad team, though much improved from last year. Bill Cubit has done what he can, but the Beckmanning goes on.

Ohio State 52, Cal 34

Starting well is important: Ohio State score 21 points on their first three drives, Cal scored 0 on theirs, and the Bears never got back within one score. OSU did show some weaknesses, allowing 500 yards and 34 points on defense (though they were the first team to hold Jared Goff under 400 yards passing) and needing to convert 4 fourth downs to reach 52 points. Still, the Buckeyes never looked particularly challenged by a Cal team that Northwestern needed Collin Ellis heroics to beat, returning OSU to their position as the unquestioned top team in the conference.

Notre Dame 31, Purdue 24

Purdue also got off to a strong start, scoring the first 10 points of the game off of Rob Henry's efficient passing (not a typo). Unlike Ohio State, however, Purdue is not very good. Notre Dame took advantage, rallying from a 17-10 fourth quarter deficit by scoring 21 points in 4 minutes of game clock. Henry, meanwhile, returned to form later in the game, finishing the day 25-40 for 256 yards, 3 TDs, and an INT; one of Notre Dame's touchdowns came on the interception return.

Arizona 32, Wisconsin 30

Trailing 32-24 in the fourth quarter, Wisconsin scored a touchdown but failed on a two-point conversion; this would have been frustrating for Badger fans. Then Wisconsin got the ball back, drove into field goal range, and attempted to take a knee to center the kick. Instead of handing the ball to an official, however, Joel Stave placed it on the ground, where alert ASU defenders dove on it as though it were a fumble as time expired. The referees arguably handled the situation according to the rules, but they utterly failed in their broader responsibility of game management, allowing ASU to steal a win with a spectacular display of gamesmanship.

Syracuse 54, Wagner 0

Syracuse delivered a particularly brutal beatdown to FCS Wagner, winning the yardage battle 595-87 and the turnover battle 3-0. Cuse still has an outside shot of rallying from a 0-2 start to bowl eligibility, and crushing the bad teams is one step on that journey.

Next Week

I recommend averting your eyes, but here is the lineup if you must watch.

11:00 AM CT

Minnesota vs. San Jose State

Last year, San Jose State was actually quite a good WAC team, winning ten regular season games and their bowl. Their only FBS game so far came against Stanford, so their 1-1 record so far is not necessarily evidence that they won't repeat that performance. In any case, they are almost certainly better than Minnesota's previous non-conference opponents.

#4 Ohio State vs. Florida A&M

FAMU is 1-2 in FCS play; expect blood.

Iowa vs. Western Michigan

Western's third Big Ten game should have similar results to their first two.

11:30 CT

Syracuse vs. Tulane

Tulane currently has a 2-1 record, but one of the wins is over FCS Jackson State while their loss came against South Alabama, a team with only one full season at the FBS level. Syracuse should get back to .500.

2:30 CT

Michigan State @ #22 Notre Dame

Last week, I would have expected a solid Notre Dame win; after MSU appeared to find their offense and Notre Dame struggled with Purdue, I am less certain. This will be a good test for Connor Cook, and if he keeps his job after this game he should be set for the season.

Nebraska vs. South Dakota State

The Jackrabbits are a fairly good FCS team, so Nebraska can't take the day off completely. I imagine that they will be fired up to make a statement to their detractors, so the starters should get to take a quarter or two off at the end of the game anyway.

Penn State vs. Kent State

After last week's road drubbing by LSU, Kent State should be ready for a hostile environment. They probably aren't any better at football, however, so PSU should win comfortably.

Purdue @ #24 Wisconsin

The Big Ten season opener is rather lackluster this year, but it gives Wisconsin another chance to tune up before taking on Ohio State. Purdue's schedule requires them to pull multiple upsets to have any chance at bowl eligibility, so they need to get to work if they want to keep playing into December.

7:00 CT

#15 Michigan @ UConn

I have no idea how UConn got Michigan to agree to a home-and-home, but the schedule says they did. UConn's most notable achievement this season is a 33-18 loss to Towson in week 1's FCS uprising; I think Michigan should do well.

Indiana vs. Missouri

Indiana is unlikely to make a bowl if they win this game, but they are almost certain not to make one if they lose. That makes this game much more interesting than Michigan doing terrible things to UConn.