Well that was a nice little Saturday, wasn't it? No tectonic shifts in the B1G, for sure, but certainly enough drama and intrigue to foster some introspection over morning cups of joe across the great Middle West.
First, a few thoughts. Michigan is awful. So is Penn State. I may differ from the vast majority of long-time B1G fans and Buckeye fans, but that bothers me deeply. The B1G isn't the flashiest neighborhood these days, but it's my neighborhood. Sure, we tend to think of a lot of our fellow neighbors as jerks. There's no love lost between the OSU and Michigan contingent, and vice versa. I also sort of loathe Penn State for reasons stretching back to the early ‘90s. But just as much as we may wish misfortune upon our most distasteful neighbors, we also must recognize that that dislike falls someplace short of wishing for heir house to burn down. After all, when two or three houses on your street are ablaze, it starts to put a dent in your property value.
Make no mistake, I am not advocating for some SEC-brand blind conference homerism where we all chant B1G in unison at passers-by on the street. Then again, maybe we should? I'm as tired as anyone of the bedraggled masses below the Mason-Dixon preaching as though they invented college football. The ESPN-fueled narrative that college football was a Southern affectation until the mid 1990s is as unctuous as any dollar-driven storyline to emerge from the bowels of Bristol. If you haven't heard that one, go take a sniff around the internet. It's one of ESPN's favorite summaries of the BCS era.
The B1G's been down on its luck in recent years. On many fronts, we've been slow to adapt as a conference. Slow to change our recruiting. Slow to adopt night games. Slow to recognize the arms race. That's why I hate to see PSU and UM down so severely. Sure, PSU has been hurt by sanctions--the propriety and efficacy of which could fill another article. UM is a victim of themselves. As much as I'd like to laugh at that, I have to consider reality. Big programs hire the wrong coach more often than they hire the right coach. There's a reason the number of coaches retiring out of a job pales in comparison to firings.
Still, it bothers me. I mean that. I'm a Buckeye fan and it bothers me to see my neighbors standing in the street, watching their houses burn down. Here's hoping this is the last year where we have to watch a UM/PSU matchup that looked so, so bad.
Now, onto recapping the weekend's events...
Indiana at Iowa. I think Kirk Ferentz might be tired of the criticism. That's really the only reason I can see for Iowa putting up 38 points in the first half, including four TDs in four minutes. Granted, a lot of things had to fall into place, including Sudfeld launching a brutal pick-six to Desmond King at his own 36-yard-line, and Iowa's longest play from scrimmage this year. Tevin Coleman kept the Hoosiers in the game as best he could with some excellent running. That young man is a true talent, but with Sudfeld going down in the first half to injury he couldn't bail the water out of the S.S. Hoosier fast enough. Iowa fans should be delighted with the offensive output. This game marks only the second time Iowa has scored more than 40 points across three regular season slates, and the first 40+ performance against a B1G foe since 2011. Indiana had better hope Sudfeld's separated shoulder heals like he's the Wolverine, or the season just got a lot longer. Indiana next up: Michigan State. Iowa next up: at Maryland.
Northwestern at Minnesota. Ski-U-Mah! The Purple Messiah's reign has ended! (He remains happy and healthy, thankfully...he's just lost his mystical powers.). It's been said on here that Northwestern's defense is for real. That seems to at least be true within the confines of the B1G. Leidner looked like...Leidner. A journeyman thrower with flashes of real passing acumen, and a bruising runner compared to your average signal caller. Overall, this was an evenly matched affair, in a good way. Northwestern's 97-yard drive to tie the game in the fourth looked to be the momentum shift the ‘Cats needed to overcome their hosts. Then Jalen Myrick served up a hot dish in the form of a 100-yard kick return. That should remind Chicago's B1G team that the Twin Cities are nobody's patsy. Truth be told, I was glad to see the Gophers get the win. In the B1G neighborhood, Goldy is the guy who always mows his lawn, picks up your mail when you're out of town, and offers you a Grain Belt beer on Saturday afternoon. Good on you, Goldy. Overall, this was a fun one (despite the dearth points for most of the second half). NW is not dead, and Minnesewda is starting to settle into their identity with back-to-back wins. I, for one, never imagined the day where a home game against NW was a tougher game for the Gophers than playing Michigan on the road. Northwestern next up: Nebraska. Minnesota next up: Purdue.
Illinois at Wisconsin. Can either of these teams have nice things? Wisconsin came into this one fresh off a loss to the Wildcats, and Illinois came into this one fresh off a loss to...Purdue. It's hard to say where Wisconsin belongs these days. The Badgers have essentially trademarked the slow start by this point, trailing late in the first to the Illini. Then, as always seems to be the case, Melvin Gordon happened and the Badgers never looked back. Four TDs. 175 yards. The Badgers' draft horse eclipsed the 1000-yard mark in just his sixth game of the year--the fastest badger ever to do so. Sweet mercy, that kid is the real deal. Tanner McEvoy and Joel Stave have to feel a bit ashamed overall. When asked after the game what the team needed to do to win down the stretch, Melvin Gordon answered: "we've got to get the passing game going." Few can honestly disagree with him. Illinois did what they could in the absence of Lunt, but it seems quite likely that this year's campaign in Champaigne is doomed. Tim Beckman's days are almost certainly numbered. Illinois next up: bye. Wisconsin next up: bye.
MSU at Purdue. Speaking of Purdue, the B1G had better enjoy picking on Purdue while we can. If their improvement over the past three weeks is any indication, we won't have the Boilers to kick around much longer. Connor Cook was not his usual self, completing barely more than 50% of his passes. Consider that both he and Austin Appleby each attempted 37 passes. Appleby completed 5 more of them and almost matched Cook's yardage. Then consider that Appleby did it against the so-called "Galaxy Defense." In the end, though, Sparty had too much in the tank for Purdue to pull the upset. I dare say no one predicted that MSU would need a pick-six in the last two minutes to seal the game. Every team is susceptible to down weeks, and for MSU's sake the faithful are hoping this was their worst showing of the year. I'm still not certain why Purdue felt like masquerading as Oregon, but maybe there's something to it. Sparty seems to falter a bit in the face of neon yellow. As Graham pointed out, Purdue finally really showed up. They looked and felt like the Purdue of old: a team that may not win a Power 5 conference, but one that certainly belongs. MSU next up: at Indiana. Purdue next up: at Minnesota.
PSU at Michigan. Dreadful. I mean that with malice toward none. It's just the truth. This game was awful. Slow, plodding, full of mistakes. Franklin screaming at his OC like he's a child. Brady Hoke replacing a hobbled Gardner with the absolutely pathetically unprepared Bellomy. (Seriously, how are UM's backups so awful?) This game between erstwhile powers looked like a 3 credit-hour course at Clown College. Hack seems to be regressing. The kid who was hailed two weeks ago as the "best QB in the B1G" by apparently concussed BTN commentators looked like a scared high schooler. That's partly due to the fact that the PSU offensive line is essentially five human turnstiles. From start to finish, I felt as though I was watching two unmoored barges colliding. Slow and grinding, yet immensely damaging and a little sickening. Rarely do I delve into second-guessing the outcome of a single play, but it's hard to deny that the onside kick was completely blown by the refs. Even the most desperate of Michigan fans cannot deny that no one was offsides on that kickoff. Were the Wolverines were saved by the zebras? It's difficult to say, since neither team could move the ball effectively. Both teams combined for 470 yards of offense in this game. That's 28 yards shy of Wisconsin's offensive output for the day. The awful is strong with these two. At least PSU has an excuse. Penn State next up: bye. Michigan next up: bye.
Looking ahead to next week:
Iowa at Maryland
Purdue at Minnesota
(8)Michigan State at Indiana
Rutgers at (15)Ohio State
(21)Nebraska at Northwestern.