Good morning, sports fans. Those of you not hiding in your ebola bunkers are no doubt basking in the thrill of victory, or cursing the gods after a crushing defeat. Despite the seemingly endless onslaught of byes, the conference schedule still offered us five showdowns to help suss out the B1G pecking order. Let's review what we learned before we get into the nitty gritty.
Ten wave tops...
1. Indiana may not be fully in the grave without Sudfeld, but Tevin Coleman cannot carry the team on his own. But damn, he is good.
2. Michigan State is still not playing a full four quarters.
3. Purdue at The U (not "Da U") was a great game besmirched by the increasingly common problem of incompetent B1G officiating.
4. For the first time in a long time, Minnesota is a team no one truly wants to play.
5. Iowa is the Iowa we know and love and hate but still love.
6. Rutgers is in real danger of not winning another conference game.
7. Northwestern is still a mystery, and they have seemingly equal chances of going 6-2 or 2-6 in conference play.
8. Abdullah gonna Abdullah. Every game.
9. J.T. Barrett is shaping up faster than anyone predicted.
10. Delany must be a genius about Maryland TV viewing habits, since no one watches the games in person.
Bonus. In the last three seasons, FBS teams who have held their opponents to fewer than 120 yards of total offense are a combined 147-2. Those two losses belong to Florida teams coached by Will Muschamp. This has nothing to do with the B1G, I just enjoy laughing at his coaching impotence.
And now for the deep dive...
Iowa at Maryland. Byrd Stadium officially holds 54,000 fans. Yesterday's attendance barely broke 48,000, and a large portion of that number appeared to be the Iowa contingent. Maryland's home field was as much Kinnick East as it was the den of the edible turtles. Sadly for Hawkeyes at home and afield, the fans were Iowa's best performance all game. We did, however, learn that Randy Edsall still has some hops (kids still say hops, right?), as he snagged a Rudock throwaway with as much aplomb as any receiver. Even though C.J. Brown once again departed the game for Maryland, albeit temporarily, the injury-wracked Terps kept up the fire. With able backup Caleb Rowe gone for the season, third-string nobody Perry Hills decided to make a name for himself with a 53-yard TD toss-and-run to Stefon Diggs. Iowa dropped this one after opening up with a nice INT and a 14-0 lead. In their next 13 offensive series, the Hawkeyes amassed 148 yards and 7 points. That's an average of 11.4 yards of offense per possession. Rudock started 7-for-7 passing, then transitioned to a more familiar 2-of-12. As many greater minds have noted, he seems to prefer throwing to running backs, slotbacks, and Randy Edsall more than his own downfield receivers. Fans were happy to point out that Iowa ended this game in the most Iowa way possible, opting for a FG from the Maryland 6-yd line on their penultimate possession. That left the Hawkeyes needing to go the length of the field to win. Kirk Ferentz is the Bernard Montgomery of the B1G. Iowa next up: Northwestern. Maryland next up: at Wisconsin.
Purdue at Minnesota. What if I told you a month ago that Purdue and Minnesota would not only be an excellent game to watch, but that Minnesota's first place spot in the B1G West would be at stake? Lunatic prophecies like that are how you end up on watch lists. Darrell Hazell has worked wonders with a Purdue team that looked to be molderin' in the grave at the outset of the season. The wild card in this game was the officiating, and by "wild" I mean "atrocious." Cobb's second quarter fumble clearly occurred after his arm hit the ground. Purdue then benefited from a no-fumble call after an obvious catch-and-run by Anthrop on the goal line, which set up a field goal. Minnesota trailed by 11 at the half, but battled back to seal the win with a 52-yard bomb off the toe of Santoso. This marks the first time under Jerry Kill that the Gophers have battled back from a deficit to win. Purdue next up: bye. Minnesota next up: at Illinois.
Rutgers at OSU. Welcome to the functional B1G, Rutgers. If you've hitched your wagon to the State University of New Jersey, this was the ugliest thing you've seen in awhile. The east coast Scarlet came to the home of the Scarlet and Gray and found very little in the way of on-field hospitality (though hopefully the off-field experience was just the opposite). Rutgers was outclassed from the word go, and the game was over by the second quarter. JT Barrett was just plain unstoppable, throwing for 261 easy yards and 3 TDs, and running for 2 more TDs. Gary Nova was just plain. No TDs and the expected INT. There isn't much else to say, other than that the VT loss looks more and more like an inexplicable anomaly of a young team. Since that loss, OSU has averaged 56 points per game, and it's possible that they could join MSU in the top ten this week. The biggest question for the Buckeyes, who are still a very, very long shot to make the playoff, may end up being what to do with Braxton Miller next season. The odds of the young man going pro after not playing a year are slim, but JT Barrett is clearly the future. I wouldn't be shocked to see Braxton follow the Russell Wilson path and take his talents elsewhere as a graduate player, NCAA rules and eligibility permitting. Rutgers next up: at Nebraska. Ohio State next up: at Penn State.
MSU at Indiana. It's hard to think of something new to say about MSU. For another week, Sparty didn't play their best at times, but when they did it was more than enough. Connor Cook had some bonehead moments. Those precious few gaffs came amidst a 332-yard/3-TD performance in which he completed 75% of his passes. The weak point for the ol' "Galaxy Defense" was the run game. Sparty allowed a season-high 213 yards on the ground. It's hard to believe Indiana gashed MSU for more rushing yards in a blowout loss than Oregon did in a solid win. That's partly explained by the lack of a Sudfeld to give Indiana much else in the way of options. Watching Langford get the last four yards to the goal line through the air in a corkscrew dive was a sight to behold. MSU and OSU is shaping up to be a real showdown. MSU next up: Little Brother. Indiana next up: bye.
Nebraska at Northwestern. Another slow start for Nebraska, amounting to a 3-point deficit at the half. Big shocker: Ameer Abdullah was the standout start for the Nebraska offense, generating 4 TDs himself as part of a 146-yd campaign. In the News of the Weird category, WR Demornay Pierson-El threw for more TDs (1) than QB Tommy Armstrong (0). The real story of the win is Nebraska's second-half defense. The Huskers surrendered 28 yards on 26 plays. That's good, and they should feel good. Northwestern looked largely ineffective after the intermission, generating a total of 3 rushing yards in the latter quarters. When they weren't running the ball poorly, Siemian was running for his life. That's bad, and they should feel bad. The real ugliness was Northwestern's uniforms, which looked like wardrobe remnants from the Evanston Renaissance Fair. Perhaps Northwestern should consider more purple tarpage to prevent more than half the stands from being red next time. At this point, I don't know what to make of Northwestern. They're just as likely to win out in the conference as they are to drop every matchup. Your guess is as good as mine. Nebraska next up: Rutgers. Northwestern next up: at Iowa.
Last week, we decried Dave Witvoet as the worst ref in the B1G. Now it seems like he's a symptom of the greater disease of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad officiating in the B1G. Notre Dame should demand B1G crews for their games. They'd have walked away with a victory last night.