What a great Saturday for football in the Big Ten. It started early with ESPN College Gameday broadcasting from the Northwestern campus, and the action didn't stop until close to midnight EST. At the end of the day, the Legends race saw the waters muddied, The Leaders shows Indiana tied for the lead...wait, WHAT?!?!...and we had a classic game in primetime to cap off the evening. And we also have an issue brewing in Minnesota, or do we?
Indiana 44, Penn State 24: Kevin Wilson has been making slow but steady progress in Bloomington. He's built a legitimate offense, but the defense has been as bad as the offense was good. During the off-season, Indiana fans were pointing to this game as the best chance the Hoosiers had to beat PSU, and if it was ever going to happen, it would be in 2013. It happened, and Wilson has his first signature win. Nate Sudfeld threw for over 300 yards again, and the much maligned Hoosier defense held Penn State to 70 yards rushing as a team. They made several big stops on fourth down throughout in the game, and carried the team until the offense got untracked. For the Nittany Lions, there are some positives to look to here, Christian Hackenberg is the real deal, and they can build an offense around him and Zwinak. At 3-2, Indiana now has an outside shot at a bowl game. You can look at them beating Minnesota and Purdue, and if they could get past Illinois, they'll be bowling.
Nebraska 39, Illinois 19: Going in to this game, I thought Illinois had a shot at an upset, but Ameer Abdullah took control of this game early, and the Illinois offense never really got untracked. Playing without Taylor Martinez again, Nebraska went old school, and Abdullah rumbled for 225 yards and two scores, and Nebraska piled up over 300 yards rushing. The Blackshirts gave up almost 200 yards rushing, but they stiffened up in the red zone and forced two turnovers. It was a disappointing performance for Nathan Scheelhaase and the Illini offense, but if you're Nebraska, you have to be encouraged that the defense made some real progress on Saturday. If you're Illinois, you're disappointed, but you're still on track for a bowl game, which is something that didn't seem realistic when the season started.
Michigan State 26, Iowa 14: Coming off their commanding win against Minnesota last week, Iowa looked to pound the ball between the tackles again, but Michigan State absolutely throttled the Iowa rushing game, forcing the Hawkeyes into the air. Because they couldn't run, Jake Rudock couldn't take Iowa across the finish line, although they had a halftime lead. MSU's defense slowly squeezed the life out of Iowa, and the Hawkeye offense only had three plays over 10 yards in the entire second half. For the second time in three games, MSU looked like they've found an offense that can complement their defense. Although they struggled on third down, Connor Cook threw for 277 yards and two scores. This was a good road win for Sparty, and they put themselves into the thick of the Legends Division race..
Michigan 42, Minnesota 13: Minnesota played Michigan tough for about two and a half quarters, but the Wolverines were just too much for the Gophers, who were playing with a freshman quarterback and without their coach. Jerry Kill had another epileptic seizure Saturday morning, and didn't make the trip to Ann Arbor on Friday. This is the fifth gameday seizure since Kill became head coach, and that's troubling. We all wish Coach Kill the best and hope he's back on the sideline, but why have his seizures become worse since he took over as the Gophers coach? I hope it's an answer they find soon, because it's becoming more than just a minor distraction. They may have found their new quarterback in freshman Mitch Leidner, though, who made some quality throws early and seemed in more command of the Gophers offense than Philip Nelson. For Michigan, it was a good win, but their defensive line still looked pedestrian at key moments early on against a rushing offense that struggled against Iowa. But hey, Michigan is still undefeated, and although they struggled early, they put away the Gophers in the second half. And that's exactly what they were supposed to do.
Ohio State 40, Northwestern 30: Northwestern gave Ohio State everything they had, but still came up a little bit short, and in a manner that's increasingly uncomfortable for Wildcat fans. Last year, Northwestern lost three games against Nebraska, Michigan, and Penn State in the fourth quarter. In each of those games, Northwestern had a lead heading into the final stanza, and in each game, the defense cracked. Against OSU, it was the same story. Although the lead was smaller, they still threw a terrible pick that lead to a Buckeyes TD, and gave up a back breaking, 81 yard drive (in only five plays) that turned out to be the winning score for the Buckeyes after Northwestern answered to take the lead again. And when Northwestern absolutely, positively, needed to make a first down on fourth and inches late in OSU territory, Kain Colter fumbled the most basic of plays--the QB-center exchange. Colter was stuffed, OSU took over, and the game, for all intents and purposes, was over. This was a great win for OSU on the road against a team that was desperate to make a statement to the country, and Carlos Hyde was a full on beast, rushing for 168 yards, scoring three rushing TD's, and catching four clutch passes at key points in the fourth quarter. Northwestern still controls their own destiny in the Legends division, but they'll need to regroup and shake this off as a trip to Madison looms next week. For OSU, they get a well deserved bye coming up, but a manageable schedule from here on out.
Also of note. In case you missed it, the final play of the OSU Northwestern game was a defensive touchdown for the Buckeyes, and really made the score seem that the Buckeyes won comfortably. The game was much closer than the final score, but that final TD meant that OSU covered the spread. What kind of impact did that have?
(Let's try this again...) The last play in the OSU-Northwestern game? Just a $300 million swing in Vegas, that's all. (Per ESPN.) #Buckeyes— Dave Biddle (@davebiddle) October 6, 2013
Moral of the story? Never gamble on football, kids.