1. Coldest Buckeye game in 54 years. J.T. Barrett kept warm by clapping the erasers he used to wipe out three of Braxton's records.
2. Jerry Kill graduated magna cum laude from the Les Miles School of Inexplicable Strategy
3. Penn State is now eligible for a bowl for the first time since Paterno doddered along the sidelines.
4. Pat Fitzgerald should expect several strongly-worded letters from the Vatican.
5. No one can argue with the unstoppable force that is Melvin Gordon III. (Unless you're Northwestern, in which case argue away.)
6. Nebraska is in year five of battling the same disease that got Benjamin Button.
7. It's shameful that Tevin Coleman can turn in a performance like that and lose.
8. Indiana yielded more points to Rutgers than Howard did. Or anyone else this season, for that matter.
9. Michigan State is beatable, but it takes more than 6 yards rushing. #GalaxyDefense
10. If you want mediocre football, the I's have it.
Bonus: It's never too cold for a Dilly Bar. Ask the Gophers' sideline technician.
The Good Stuff...
Ohio State at Minnesota // Ohio State wins 31-24. With a 15-degree kickoff temperature, the Buckeyes and Gophers embarked on the coldest Buckeye game in 54 years, though only the coldest Minnesota game at TCF in 6 years. Minnesota has cold in buckets. The Buckeyes started out looking sharp, with J.T. Barrett turning a simple read option into a 86-yard run for the first TD of the day. Barrett looked like Benny Hill, streaking downfield on a far-corner scoring angle with 6 Minnesota defenders in tow. A few series later, he launched a beautiful downfield bomb that dropped perfectly into the arms of Briean Boddy-Calhoun. Unfortunately, Boddy-Calhoun is a Gopher and always has been. The interception was followed shortly by a back-breaking Jalin Marshall fumble into the endzone, which evaporated a 94-yard OSU drive. That fumble was one of Marshall's two soul-crushing errors on the day. The latter was a muffed punt late in the fourth that put the Gophers right back in the game. After Dontre Wilson's buttery mitts hurt the Buckeyes last week, I jokingly asked who would be fumbling the Buckeyes' chances away while Wilson's down with an injury. Don't ask questions you don't want to have answered.
On the prairie Gold side of the ball, Leidner and Cobb put up commendable numbers. Cobb gashed the OSU defense for 145 yards, and Leidner moved the ball masterfully. His piece de resistance was the 31-yard scramble to put the Gophers at the OSU 17 with 1:23 left. For some reason, Jerry Kill elected to kick a field goal on 2nd down to bring the score to a one-TD gap instead of exploiting the field position for a TD. Aside from leaving two downs on the field, this meant that his team would have to recover the onside kick and go all the way to the goal line to tie. I thought maybe I was missing something, but none of the Gopher fans around me could figure it out, either. Regardless, the Buckeyes pounced on the kick and that was all she wrote. Ohio State had a QB controversy on its hands last week. After watching Barrett break three of Miller's records in one game, I don't feel there's much controversy left. Ohio State next up: Indiana. Minnesota next up: at Nebraska.
Temple at PSU // Penn State wins 30-17. The Lions escaped Happy Valley with a win against traditional schedule-fluff Temple, thanks mostly to a seemingly endless slew of late turnovers by the Owls. I say "escaped" because the game was still knotted at 6 late in the third quarter, which should surprise few. That was when the reliable PSU defense turned the amplifier up to 11 (it's one louder). Four interceptions sealed the Owls' fate, though they didn't go down without a fight. Fortunately for the B1G, the Penn State offense found a little life courtesy of Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch. The latter netted the third 100+ yard game of his career. As you might imagine, the usual comedy of errors plagued PSU all day, who gave the ball away three times themselves (1 fumble, 2 INTs). Hackenberg's 12-for-26 performance was wholly expected at this point, but the season-high of 254 rushing yards offered a welcome breath of fresh air for a beleaguered offense. This game was a must-win for Franklin and the Happy Valley crew, and makes them bowl eligible for the first time since the NCAA sanctioned the program. Here's hoping things improve offensively before a showdown with an out-of-conference foe in what's sure to be a December bowl tilt--one probably named after chicken, car parts, or chicken-derived car parts. Penn State next up: at Illinois.
Indiana at Rutgers // Rutgers wins 45-23. It's a damn sad day when Tevin Coleman can put up numbers that best Gordon's output for most games by 100 yards and Indiana still loses. The return of Gary Nova was a welcome change for a Rutgers offense that managed 31 points across three games. Mr. Nova hucked 2 TD passes to mark his triumphant re-emergence from injury. Indiana's lack of defense is so glaringly apparent I need not dwell on it. The game was beset by crazy plays, from Coleman's 61-yard TD, to a Rutgers FG caroming off the crossbar, to Indiana faking a punt deep in its own territory. Very little went right for the Hoosiers, which is pretty much the storyline every week for the last month. Kevin Wilson's future is murky, but the spate of injuries probably provides excuse enough for another season. Rutgers next up: at MSU. Indiana next up: at Ohio State.
Iowa at Illinois // Iowa wins 30-14. The Hawkeyes offense that went missing in Minneapolis last week has been found alive in Champaign. Iowa pounded the Illinois defense into submission with nearly 600 yards of total offense, though thanks to timely stops by Illinois' somewhat under-appreciated defense, the Hawkeyes still struggled to convert drives into points the early going. A safety and one TD gave Iowa a 9-7 lead at the the half. Rudock and Beathard woke up the offense in the second half, each finding the endzone through the air, with an additional 6-yard TD scamper by big Jake. Wes Lunt's return was less formidable than predicted. While he went 14-of-25 through the air, his average toss moved the ball only 4.1 yards. WR Mike Dudek accounted for both Illinois TDs, snagging a pass from Lunt and O'Toole, respectively. Illinois falls to 4-6 on the season, and Tim Beckman's real estate agent is probably firing up Zillow. Iowa next up: Wisconsin. Illinois next up: Penn State.
Northwestern at Notre Dame // Northwestern wins 43-40 in OT. Wake up the echoes. Shake down the tarp. Pat Fitzgerald, you magnificent bastard, I read your book! He didn't really write a book. But if he did it would be titled "My Life in Two Games: Ruining Notre Dame's Day For the Sheer F***ing Joy of It" and I would buy a thousand copies. For those who don't know, Pat was a linebacker for Northwestern in 1995 when the Wildcats upset a Notre Dame team that expected to compete for a title. Now, he's gone into their house and ruined things again. The Cats looked sure to lose this one, down 40-29 with 6:04 left in the 4th quarter. That's when Trevor Siemian came alive. Despite his last two drives ending in back-breaking fashion, thanks to an interception and a blocked FG, the Cat signal caller went on the attack. Passing and running his way down the field, and with the aid of a personal foul call on Notre Dame, NW put 7 on the board. Notre Dame responded with a steady drive, only to have Ibraheim Campbell force a fumble. Northwestern marched into ND territory and Jack Mitchell hit a 45-yard field goal.
Overtime was all Northwestern. ND moved the ball about 3 inches on 3 plays, and Brindza's field goal sailed wide. Once more, Jack Mitchell's leg was gold. The young man hit four FGs on the day, all of which exceeded his previous career long of 29 yards. A win like this goes down in the lore of a team. This year won't just be remembered as a year of struggles, or the season when Siemian tripped to end the game. It'll be the season the Cats stuck it to the Domers in their own home. Again. Northwestern next up: at Purdue.
Nebraska at Wisconsin // Wisconsin wins 59-24. There's surprisingly little to say about this game. Melvin Gordon was obviously on another level, breaking the FBS single-game rushing record with 408 yards. Nebraska made it look good early, but was out of it halfway through the second quarter. Your humble "writer's" personal opinion, shared by several of the greater OTE minds, is that Gordon was electric for his first 200 yards. After that, he didn't have to rely on much in the way of his skills except to grab the ball and run untouched for 8 yards. At some point early in the 3rd, it became clear that Nebraska had forfeited all hope and was simply waiting for time to expire. Stave did next to nothing through the air, but why would he? When your running back tours the field at will, there's no point in lobbing the ball. As Woody Hayes said of the forward pass, two of three outcomes are bad. Armstrong was decent for the first quarter, but like the rest of his team he crumbled rapidly and dramatically. The embattled QB finished the night 6-of-18 for 62 yards and only 20 yards rushing. Ameer Abdullah was an also-ran (pardon the pun), eeking out only 69 yards on 18 carries. The Gophers are all that stand between Wisconsin and a division crown. As one commenter noted, Nebraska seems to have regressed year-over-year since joining the B1G. Soon Herbie Husker will look like Lil' Red. Wisconsin next up: at Iowa. Nebraska next up: Minnesota.
MSU at Maryland // Sparty wins 37-15. The Return of the Jedis? A long time ago, a Galaxy Defense far, far away ran herd over the B1G. Well, two weeks ago wasn't a long time ago, but it pretty feels like that for some Sparty faithful in light of recent realities. Nonetheless, MSU took the chance to reprise its role as a scary good defense in Byrd Stadium. The Spartans held the Terps to 6 yards rushing and picked off three passes. Maryland mustered an anemic 252 yards of offense against the Green Monsters. Predictably, Langford racked up 138 yards and 2 TDs. The B1G's quietest back is swiss-watch reliable. Connor Cook's night was so-so, totalling 240 yards on a 14-of-31 campaign. Not great, but like R2D2, he's always there when you need him. The Terps fall to 6-4 and still look more likely than not to make it an 8-win season. MSU next up: Rutgers. Maryland next up: at Michigan.
With Nebraska firmly out of the race, most are predicting a showdown between the Badgers and Buckeyes in Indianapolis. But, as always, there's football left to be played and nothing is a sure thing. For example, just this morning Michigan likely lost starting DE Frank Clark thanks to a domestic violence charge. You may remember this is the same Frank Clark who ran afoul of the law for a role in a home invasion, for which he received a one-game suspension. Things just keep getting worse in Ann Arbor.
As Graham pointed out, every game turned out pretty much as expected, with the notable exception of Northwestern. I doubt many would disagree that the Cats provided the best of surprises on a cold, snowy Saturday.
Here's to another great week in the Empire!