In week 3, the Big Ten fell on its collective face. Ohio State looked good in a marquee matchup against TCU, and a handful of teams won games as intended. But seven teams—literally half of the conference—somehow managed to lose to an assortment of non-conference opponents ranging from Missouri in the SEC to Troy in the Sun Belt and finally to Akron, a MAC team that had not beaten a Big Ten team since before there was a Big Ten (or an Akron, for that matter).
Rutgers began the day by losing to Kansas 55-14. Yes, that Kansas, the team that had won a single FBS game in the last three seasons and had lost to Nicholls State (FCS) to open the 2018 season.
The Scarlet Knights didn’t just lose the game. They looked atrocious doing it. On only the second Rutgers drive, quarterback Artur Sitkowski threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown, and it was all downhill from there. All told, the Rutgers offense turned the ball over six times, and if that wasn’t bad enough, the defense let Kansas—Kansas!—rush for 400 yards on a day when the Jayhawks could do no wrong.
Despite all the off-field issues, Maryland was actually doing really well this season. A big win over Texas was followed by a routine beating of an overmatched Bowling Green squad. Then the wheels came right off and the Terps lost to Temple 35-14.
The Owls basically sold out to stop the run, and Maryland’s stymied offense (just 50 yards rushing through three quarters) couldn’t get going in the passing game either. Starter Kasim Hill passed for just 56 yards and threw an interception. Backup Tyrrell Pigrome was even worse with just seven yards on four pass attempts, and another interception. With the offense completely flattened, it was inevitable the defense would eventually get worn down.
So what happens now? There’s already plenty to worry about at Maryland, with a possible announcement regarding the ongoing investigation following Jordan McNair’s death. With the Big Ten opener against 3-0 Minnesota looming, the Terps have to get better and fast.
The rest of the Big Ten East acquitted itself reasonably well. Ohio State beat TCU 40-28, but it wasn’t the blowout it seems like. Indeed the Buckeyes were locked in a tense and hard-fought battle with the Horned Frogs leading 14-13 at the half. A four minute interlude in the third quarter proved to be the difference. The Buckeyes somehow scored three touchdowns in that time, and TCU never really recovered.
Ohio State gets a bit of a breather this weekend with a home game against Tulane, and well, the Green Wave does not match up well against Ohio State.
Penn State is 3-0 and after a mighty struggle against Appalachian State in the first week, and an initial struggle against Pitt last week, the Nittany Lions made short work of Kent State, beating the Golden Flashes 63-10, and honestly, it wasn’t even that close.
Trace McSorley scored five touchdowns on a record-setting day when he also became the school leader in rushing touchdowns by a quarterback and hit the 1000-yard rushing mark, only the second time that’s happened at Penn State.
The Lions get a mild challenge this week from Illinois, in the Big Ten opener for both teams. After that, Penn State takes on Ohio State in a contest that could decide this season’s Big Ten championship.
Joining Penn State and Ohio State in the winner’s circle were Indiana and Michigan, with the Wolverines finally discovering a passing offense in a 45-20 defeat of SMU. The Wolverines were slow out of the gate and played the Mustangs to a scoreless tie in the first quarter. Then Ben Mason ran for a touchdown on 4th-and-1 and Michigan was in business. Shea Patterson would throw for three touchdowns on the day, including two to Donovan Peoples-Jones who has emerged as Michigan’s leading receiver.
Next up, Michigan takes on Nebraska in a contest that might be more interesting if the Huskers were any good, and if Michigan had an identity.
The Hoosiers beat Ball State 38-10 for only their second 3-0 start of the last decade. As usual, running back Stevie Scott did most of the work, rushing for 114 yards and two scores. Quarterback Peyton Ramsey played well enough to probably cement his spot as the starter.
Is something special brewing at Indiana? Maybe, and that proposition will get a proper test when the Hoosiers take on Michigan State this week.
As for Michigan State, the Spartans are just happy they didn’t take the field last week and therefore didn’t contribute to the Big Ten’s slate of misery.
Iowa and Minnesota were the lone winners in the Big Ten West in Week 3. Iowa beat Northern Iowa 38-14. The Hawkeyes were not challenged much in the game, and were particularly impressive on defense, allowing just six yards on the ground.
But honestly, who cares about all that? EVERYONE ELSE LOST!
Let’s dive right in to ALL THE SCHADENFREUDE.
Wisconsin took the big hit for the conference on Saturday and got bounced 24-21 by BYU, and with that, the Badgers’ 41-game non-conference winning streak—and any serious playoff hopes—came to an
The Badgers looked unprepared for BYU’s shifts and motions and Wisconsin’s usually reliable run game faltered against the Cougars’ control at the line of scrimmage. Alex Hornibrook struggled in the passing game too, throwing a costly interception deep in Badger territory. A game full of Wisconsin miscues ended with a missed field goal from usually reliable kicker Rafael Gaglianone.
Wisconsin takes on Iowa in the Big Ten opener for both teams, a contest that could only be made better by a meteor falling on the field.
The Badgers had plenty of company in their misery. For example, Northwestern—already reeling from a blowout loss to Duke—somehow managed to lose to Akron 39-34. The loss owed much to Clayton Thorson’s two interceptions and a fumble that turned into points for Akron.
To put this loss in context, we turn to the Worldwide Leader:
Akron holds on to defeat Northwestern for just its 2nd win all-time against a Big Ten opponent.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 16, 2018
The other came in 1894 against Ohio State. The Zips' coach at the time was John W. Heisman.
Yes, that Heisman.
So where does that leave the Wildcats? Well—because this is Northwestern, a place where football is just incidental to writing about football—it leaves the team licking its wounds as the fans try to find themselves via tortured prose only a Medill grad would ever actually write.
The Big Ten’s other NU didn’t fare much better. That signature first win continues to elude Scott Frost at Nebraska. The Huskers were unceremoniously dumped 24-19 by Troy and now sit at 0-2 for the first time since 1957. Nebraska was down 17-7 by halftime and never really recovered. The game ended when Andrew Bunch, starting in place of the injured Adrian Martinez, threw an interception and sealed the Huskers’ fate.
Nebraska will try to find consistency and an identity against Michigan in Ann Arbor this week. Barring some miracle, Frost’s tryst with a win will have to wait another week.
From the merely inexplicable to the utterly inevitable we go. Illinois’ 2-0 start always had the appearance of a false dawn, and that was proven out when the Illini dropped the final non-conference game to South Florida 25-19. That Illinois would lose a game was a foregone conclusion. That Illinois would lose a game like this, with a 19-7 lead in the fourth quarter, was a surprise.
Afterwards, Lovie Smith noted his team had made progress because this year’s loss to USF was closer than last year. I guess that’s something? Certainly the emergence of Mike Epstein at running back will help, especially as the rest of the Big Ten West appears to be down. But unless the Illini get way better in the next few days, a loss to Penn State is almost guaranteed.
And that leaves Purdue. Sigh. The Boilers are now 0-3 following a heartbreaking 40-37 loss to Missouri. This was a back-and-forth contest, and despite throwing an interception and taking the loss, quarterback David Blough played well enough to set a new school record with 572 passing yards and three touchdowns. Unfortunately, it was all for naught as Mizzou kicked a game-winning 25-yard field goal as time expired.
Afterwards, reflecting on the game, Jeff Brohm said:
I do think we played to win. I think we played aggressive. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re a good football team right now. I think anybody who watched us play knows that. We’ve got a lot of work to do to get better.
That’s either a really honest admission by Brohm or a scathing self-indictment. The Boilers will take on 3-0 Boston College to wrap up the non-conference slate.