The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, the saying goes. Such was the case this week when the perennial mice of the B1G decided to go all Rats of Nimh on the conference's darlings. Come to think of it, even the lone out-of-conference mouse got in on the act. As the smoke cleared and the pads dripped dry on a soggy B1G Saturday, one thing became clear: we have some serious problems on our hands. The teams we've been courting as our potential suitors for the big conference dance just woke up with zits the size of road cones and a case of halitosis that could make a freight train take a dirt road. Is it time to start looking for new dates? A good midwesterner knows to dance with the gal who brung ya, but a man can only take so much.
14 B1G Things
1. Rumors of Penn State's offensive demise have not been exaggerated.
2. At least it was Army's blitzes that got to Hackenberg, instead of the vaunted Temple 2-man rush.
3. Maryland's uniforms look like as though they came from a video game that couldn't afford the rights to NFL teams and just made something up instead. Go Baltimore Cannoneers!
4. I notice that the Michigan folks haven't been so chippy about the Buckeyes' helmet stickers lately...
5. Stave is ready for the pros. He's butt-fumbling years ahead of his time.
6. This may be the point when Iowa's irrational exuberance becomes fully rational.
7. Dantonio's halftime speech must've been "Hey guys, don't pull a hammy this half."
8. Purdue is the Army of the B1G. Black, Gold, and dreadfully close to winning games.
9. Speaking of bad uniforms...it's not a contest, Northwestern.
10. If anyone can throw a football, there's a job opening in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.
11. For all the hype about Urban Meyer, it sure feels like Tom Herman was the coach behind the magic.
12. Don't mind Kevin Wilson. He's just quietly building a football program over there.
13. Nebraska ditched Pelini because they were tired of 9-win seasons. Well, that's one way to do it.
14. Bill Cubit has the best post-game speechifying skills in the B1G. A dash of Aw Shucks, two scoops of smiles, and no silly aphorisms.
The Nitty Gritty
Army at Penn State // Army narrowly snatches defeat from the jaws of victory, 14-20. Far be it from your humble "writer" to suggest that Penn State is adrift and shipping water, but consider the following facts. Army walked into Happy Valley with their backup QB at the helm, missing their best defensive player, and sporting nothing resembling a consistent passing attack. They put the ball on the ground seven times. They were penalized for more than twice as many yards as PSU. They have not a single NFL player on their roster. Yet, the Army team found themselves in a position to win the game on their final possession. This was not an unfamiliar feeling for Army, having lost four games now by a combined total of 16 points.
Penn State looked pathetic for most of the afternoon. One could even say that Army lost this game as much as Penn State won it. The Black Knights turned the ball over on three separate occasions, each time killing a drive that was churning through yardage. Even so, Army outgained PSU by a 294 to 266 margin. That disparity is made all the more damning by the fact that Army averaged more yards per play than the Nittany Lions. Penn State's offense did little to acquit itself like a Big Ten team playing an undersized and under-talented opponent. PSU finished the afternoon an abysmal 5-for-15 on 3rd-down conversions, and managed a paltry 108 yards rushing. Hackenberg connected on only 10 of his 19 passes. The big QB was harried all afternoon, fleeing Army defenders and falling three times to sacks. The Nittany Lions' defense should be no less concerning to the faithful in blue and white. The front seven allowed Army's fullback to bruise their way through the middle repeatedly, putting the Army offense in 3rd-and-manageable for much of the second half. If Army could've learned to hold on to the ball, things might be very different in Happy Valley today. PSU next up: Indiana
Michigan at Maryland // Michigan blanks Maryland 28-0. Michigan has outscored its opponents 59-0 in the last two weeks (reflexive Wisconsin cringe). That is a tough pill to swallow for the rest of the B1G East, who expected Michigan to occupy the "good in a few years" role this season. This game was uglier on both sides than the final score indicates. Each team managed to hand the ball over three times. Michigan opted for two fumbles and a trademark Rudock interception, while Maryland stuck to their guns and let Caleb Rowe toss three picks. The Terps' turnovers proved to be particularly back-breaking. The worst of the three came following a Maryland offensive PI penalty that turned a first-down catch deep in the red zone into a 3rd & 20. On the ensuing play, Rowe's harried screen pass caromed off his receiver and into the arms of Michigan's Desmond Morgan.
Michigan led only 6-0 midway through the third when Drake Johnson rumbled 31 yards on a screen pass to break the touchdown drought. Jehu Chesson followed with a 66-yard scamper on an end-around, and Johnson reprised his scoring role in the 4th to cap the day. Your humble "writer" would offer more commentary, but here to fill you in on the finer details is SMCD's own Maryland Correspondent, DJ Carver.
DJ's #HOTTAKE: Randy Edsall is hot fucking garbage. GARBAGE. The offensive performance today was on Kansas football levels of awful. There is absolutely no excuse to score zero points with the field position they had from punts and turnovers that Michigan gave them. No excuse.
What's worse? Your speech. You said that Maryland wants to run the ball and they shouldn't have an issue, after all they ran all over these same players last year. Guess what Randy? You ran into brick walls all day. Want to know why? BECAUSE MICHIGAN HAS A COACH. UNLIKE YOU, WHO DOES NOTHING, THEY HAVE A COACH WHO IMPROVED THEM FROM LAST YEAR WHILE ALL YOU DID WAS SEEM TO GET WORSE IN ALL FACETS OF THE GAME.
Fine, perhaps Michigan with a HC who took his team to NFC Championships and a Super Bowl loss is a bad example. Want a better one? THAT SAME TEAM THAT YOU DESTROYED LAST YEAR, INDIANA, LOST THEIR STAR RB TO THE NFL AND THEY HUNG WITH THE NUMBER ONE TEAM ALL DAMN DAY. THEY GOT BETTER, MARYLAND GOT WORSE.
That's right Randy, you are an awful coach. Your teams never show improvement year to year. What's worse is your goose egg of wins verse ranked teams. That's right, no wins over ranked teams. Actually, what's worse is how you seem to always be so ill-prepared and out coached in every single matchup against a ranked team. You sir need to go. Go see yourself out the door and do not just Maryland fans, but all Big Ten fans a favor so they don't have to watch your ill coached teams take the field anymore. Maryland next up: at Ohio State | Michigan next up: Northwestern
Iowa at Wisconsin // Iowa wins bulldozer derby 10-6 The trip heard 'round the world. Or the Midwest. Or the B1G West. Look, Stave tripped and it was insanely bad. Iowa and Wisconsin have no special love for another, and it showed this week in the lead-up to this polite grudge match between the long-accepted Class of the B1G West and Ferentz's surprisingly 4-0 Iowa squad. If high scoring is your thing, look elsewhere. Iowa put up no points in the second half--something they haven't done in a win since 2007. Turnovers were the story of the day, and the Hawkeyes capitalized on Joel Stave's errors. Wisconsin held a 3-0 lead when Stave hucked a pass into the arms of Iowa's Desmond King. Beathard and company turned the flip-flop of possession into a 7-3 lead with a bootleg pass. King would grab a second Stave pass to kill a later drive, as well.
Wisconsin had a chance to post the go-ahead touchdown on 2nd-and-goal from the one yard line. As Stave took the snap and turned to hand the ball off to Taiwan Deal, he
yipped tripped over an offensive lineman's foot and fumbled. That turnover marked the Badgers' fourth of the day, and Wisconsin was finished. The Badgers' final possession crumbled on a 4th-and-2 at the Iowa 16 when Stave overthrew Troy Fumigalli to surrender the ball on downs. Stave finished the day. Neither Qb was impressive. Stave finished the day 21-of-38 with two INTs and Beathard was a dismal 9-for-21 with a TD and an INT.
Alnamiasiv's #TEPIDTAKE: Iowa went to Madison and beat ranked Wisconsin 10-6, in arguably the ugliest (and most #OldKirkFerentz) game the Hawkeyes have won since their 2012 OT win over MSU. The game featured a total of three interceptions, five fumbles (three lost), one missed field goal apiece and a combined 144 yards in penalties. However, Iowa is 5-0 (1-0 in conference) and will be ranked for the first time since the end of the 2010. Wisconsin next up: at Nebraska | Iowa next up: Illinois
Purdue at Michigan State // MSU survives 24-21. Well, that got weird. After jumping out to a seemingly insurmountable 21-0 lead, the Spartans apparently opted to stop playing football for much of the second half to give Purdue a fighting chance. The Spartans seemed to have the game all sewn up at intermission. Purdue's offense had proven anemic and ineffective. MSU's LJ Scott and RJ Shelton had sliced up the Purdue defense for easy scores. Then Sparty just...stopped. That's the only way to put it, really. A team that had held the Boilermakers in check through two and half quarters suddenly fell for trick plays, missed tackles, and generally let the Purdue offense move the ball at will. The game seemed sealed late when MSU's Arjen Colquhoun broke up a fourth down pass, but he was called for holding. Never one for trickeration or strategery, the Boilers fired another fourth down pass at him a few plays later. This time, he made a clean play and the Boilermakers fell for good, giving MSU the longest active win streak against a B1G team. Connor Cook became the winningest Spartan QB with his 28th victory. He eclipsed Kirk Cousins' 27 games with the victory. Purdue's David Blough was a less impressive 15-of-31, but he kept his team in it to the last. Sparty surrendered its school record streak of 12 games with 30 points or more. Purdue next up: Minnesota | MSU next up: at Rutgers.
Minnesota at Northwestern // The house staff gets the night off after a rip-roaring Gridiron Football win for the Cats, 27-0. The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down of the big team they call Fitzy-Gumee. Ol' Gordo may not have sung a ballad about Pat Fitzgerald, but at this point he could probably get away with it. Northwestern is for real, folks. At least in the B1G West. What that means remains to be seen, but if the Cats aren't your pick to win out by now, I'd like to know who you've been watching. The vaunted Gopher defense--whose performance against TCU seems ever more an anomaly--had no answer for Clayton Thorson's offense. Mitch Leidner didn't do his defense any favors. Nor did the Gophers' special teams. NW was up 3-0 when Miles Shuler took a Minnesota punt 55 yards the other way, narrowly missing a TD thanks to the punter himself. That set up a Thorson option keeper for a TD. He'd add another TD on a 1-yard run to put the Cats up 20-0 in the third. Leidner, who'd not done well all day, signed the Gophers' death certificate with a fumble early in the fourth quarter. Northwestern's Anthony Walker snatched the loose rock off the turf and trotted 13 yards for the easy TD. Leidner finished the afternoon 10-of-21 with an INT. It's going to be a long season in the Twin Cities with this offense. Minnesota next up: at Purdue | Northwestern next up: at Michigan.
MNWildcat's #HOTTAKE: First, let's get one thing damn clear: someone send this tape to Kliff so he knows what an ass-kicking really looks like. Second, I'll sandwich in my complaint: this team still cannot finish drives. Of the drives before the Walker fumble-6: FG, punt, missed FG, punt, TD (set up by a PR to the 5), end of half, FG, TD, punt. That's just got to get better. Third, this is what Northwestern's offense should be. There's no #hottaek dismissal of Justin Jackson's rushing performance, because Jackson racked up yards and ran hard through what had been a stout Gopher defense. Thorson was efficient throwing the ball and managed the game. That's how this team wins games. Fourth, THAT DEFENSE THO. See you in Ann Arbor, Fightin HARBAUGHs.
WSR's #HOTTAKE: Yuck.
Ohio State at Indiana // Buckeyes avert disaster, convince no one of 1st place ranking in 34-27 win. Your humble "writer" and ardent Buckeye homer is fast running out of ways to say "what the hell was that"? That should not be the case for the supposed best team in the land. The Buckeyes are, without a doubt, the most talented team in the Big Ten. Probably in the country. Probably in the universe. So far, Urban Meyer's team has taken all that talent and done nothing with it. They are to football what Jay Leno was to late night television: a master chef who opens a hot dog cart. Cardale Jones started the day looking pretty swell, connecting on his first 8 passes. Zeke Elliott, on the other hand, couldn't buy a block. His first half amounted to a couple dozen yards, no TDs, and generally puke-worthy play calls. Cardale Jones got nervous in the pocket and started making bad throws, including a pick inside the Indiana 15 yard line. Every misstep, miscue, and garbage play we've seen from this offense reared its head once again.
The Hoosiers led 10-6 at the half and seemed poised to stick a fork in the Buckeyes. Then Zeke Elliott woke up. What started as a terrible afternoon ended as a career half for the young man from St. Louis. He scored on runs of 55, 65, and 75 yards. Without his heroics, we'd be looking at a new number one today. That said...maybe we ought to be, anyhow. Nothing from this team says number one to me. They couldn't stop Indiana's backup QB. They can't score points on a defense that got trucked by Western Kentucky in a shootout. Earlier this season I disagreed with one of our long-time Spartan commenters about whether Jones is a better QB than Barrett against MSU or other good B1G teams. I still don't think Jones gives opposing teams a better chance to win, but now that's because five games of sitting means Barrett has no feel for this offense. Bringing him on now likely won't change anything. Also, if anyone wants Jalin Marshall, you can have him. Just don't fall in love with the football. He'll give it away three times a game.
Give all the credit in the world Indiana for fighting like hell in the face of injuries. Hopefully Sudfeld comes back soon, because this "writer" is buying the hell out of Indiana football right now. Diamont is great talent, but he's too small. Devine Redding could turn out to be the second coming of Tevin Coleman. Indiana next up: at Penn State | OSU next up: Maryland
Nebraska at Illinois // Illa in a Thrilla, 14-13. Yes, calling a 14-13 score a "thrilla" is probably the most B1G thing ever, expect maybe naming a punter MVP. Nonetheless, this rainy, drizzly mess offered the best finish of the entire B1G weekend. Trailing 13-0 in the fourth quarter, Illinois QB Wes Lunt hit a wide open Marchie Murdock for a TD, cutting the lead to a manageable 13-7. Nebraska's offense sputtered in the final minute on an Armstrong incompletion. Illinois took over on downs in their own territory with 55 ticks left on the clock. Lunt marched his team down the field with a 15-yard strike to Sam Mays and 50-yard pickup on a pass to Malik Turner. Poised at the Nebraska 7-yard line, the Illini missed on three tries at the endzone. On their final offensive play of the game, Lunt made good with a low, barely catchable pass to Geronimo Allison. In shocking fashion, the tribe of Chief Illiniwek handed the Huskers yet another heartbreaking loss.
Thump's #HOTTAKE: Nebraska's insistence on trying to throw despite the classic swirling Champaign wind proved costly, as Tommy Armstrong would miss on 21 of 31 attempts including a monumentally ill-advised 3rd down toss to stop the clock with 55 seconds to go. Wes Lunt at long last showed the accuracy and poise that created so much hype for his arrival, putting balls where only his guys could get them. Geronimo Allison caught the game-winner with 10 seconds remaining.
This game featured one of the most spectacular officiating failures I've ever seen. On one Illinois series, the downs were being tracked improperly, and as they lined up to go for it on fourth and inches the refs called for a review, during which they determined that the previous play had actually been 4th and 10. I have no words.
What a week this was, indeed. This humble servant of the OTE masses cannot help but wonder: do we really deserve the top two spots in football? This feels very 2006. And we all know how that ended...