Photo: Leon Halip/Getty Images
Welcome to the Big Five! This is my weekly column discussing and take-ing on the top five headlines, news items, storylines, etc. of the week. Feel free to comment on my thoughts either below, on Twitter, on Facebook, or…shoot us an email – firstname.lastname@example.org – We’ll make sure to bring your comments up in the next podcast.
1. The Paul Bunyan awaits
Michigan State impressed me last week. The fumble-prone Spartans didn’t turn the ball over once in their 17-10 win over Iowa. They also held Iowa to 19 combined rushing yards. Up next? Michigan.
The good news for Michigan State is that Michigan’s offense hasn’t been great. Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh just named John O’Korn the starter for Saturday’s contest, which probably strengthens the offense, but still shouldn’t intimidate MSU’s defense.
The Spartans will face their biggest challenge against Michigan’s defense, which limited Purdue to 189 total yards, an 0-for-12 third-down conversion rate and just 10 points in its last time out. Michigan State showed promise in not turning the ball over against Iowa, and they’ll have to repeat that against the Wolverines if they want to stay in the game.
I don’t think they do, and I’m taking Michigan in this one.
2. Well, that was a letdown…
Iowa put together a really solid performance against Penn State, but the Hawkeyes followed that up with a sluggish road loss to Michigan State. Either the Spartans defense is really that good or Iowa just can’t move the ball on offense.
I’m probably going to take the ladder here. Looking back to that Penn State game, the Hawkeyes were out-gained 579-273, with possession for just one-third of the game. Against Michigan State, the Hawkeyes totaled just 226 yards and turned the ball over twice.
While the score against Penn State looked promising, Iowa’s offense is looking more and more like an anchor that’s limiting the Hawkeyes from becoming powerful in the West.
Photo: Lincoln Journal Star
3. Huskers climbing
Nebraska’s bad, but not lose to Illinois bad. On Friday night, the Huskers went into Champaign and beat the Illini 28-6.
That fanbase needed reassurance and got it, to an extent. On the bright side, the Huskers have won their last two Big Ten games after losing to Northern Illinois. On the dark side, those teams were Rutgers and Illinois.
Playing-wise, Tanner Lee, who led the FBS in interceptions coming into Friday night, finished with 246 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. Nebraska’s defense also held the Illini to 199 total yards. Solid performance from the Huskers.
Next week? No. 9 Wisconsin at home. Good luck.
4. Ohio State back?
Michael has been railing on J.T. Barrett for weeks now, and for some good reason. After Ohio State lost to Oklahoma, it was apparent the Buckeyes didn’t look like a College Football Playoff team.
On Saturday, however, OSU looked elite on all sides, beating Rutgers 56-0. Barrett became Ohio State’s all-time passing leader and the Buckeyes held the Scarlet Knights to just 209 yards.
Now, Ohio State faces Maryland and Nebraska to help it tune up for Penn State on Oct. 28.
5. Maryland impressed in Minneapolis
After ACL injuries to both of its starting quarterbacks and a blowout loss to UCF at home, Maryland is getting back on its feet. In their latest performance, the Terps struck late to win 31-24 against Minnesota on the road.
Quarterback Max Bortenschlager did his job and Ty Johnson did the rest. And that’s all Maryland needs to beat most teams in the Big Ten. The Terps have a monster running game, which pierced the Gophers, who were the top-ranked run defense coming into Saturday, for 262 yards and a pair of scores.
Next up is Ohio State. Again, good luck.