This week, the Big Ten West Division was decimated by bad losses (and some bad wins, am I right?). A week like the one the teams in the West just had is definitely data point that anti-Big Ten pundits can use as proof when discussing weakest divisions in the Power 5. Let us begin the review of some painful results.
(Overall record, conference record)
Illinois Fighting Illini (2-1, 0-0)
Illinois reverted to their Lovie Smith-induced malaise this past Saturday, losing to lowly Eastern Michigan (93rd in SP+ overall) at home on a last-second Eagles field goal 34-31. A -1 in the turnover battle along with 9 penalties for 80 yards doomed the Fighting Illini despite a strong game from running back Reggie Corbin, who averaged 8 yards a carry on 18 rushes. The defense allowed Eastern Michigan quarterback Mike Glass II to throw for 316 yards, 3 touchdowns, and an impressive 76.5 QBR. Smith may not be long for the rolling fields of Chambana if this continues into conference play for another year.
Next Up: Nebraska pays a visit to Memorial Stadium to open both teams’ conference schedules.
Iowa Hawkeyes (3-0, 1-0)
The Hawkeyes emerged from the double-delayed ugly rock fight that was the battle for the CyHawk trophy victorious 18-17. By defeating in-state rival Iowa State, Coach Kirk Ferentz’s squad remains undefeated and at the top of a very early standings table. Despite averaging only 3 yards per carry (compared to the Cyclones’ 4.8), field position and turnover-less football allowed Iowa to comeback and win this game in the fourth quarter. The Hawkeye offense was less than impressive against a respectable defense (37th in SP+ defense) but it appears that this squad will continue in the Iowa mold of fundamentals and gritty victories.
Next Up: A bye week
Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-0, 0-0)
The Golden Gophers defeated Georgia Southern in a closely contested game 35-32. Despite only allowing 198 total yards of offense, the Gophers found themselves fighting for their lives thanks to multiple turnovers, short fields, running back injuries, and a poor rushing attack (1.9 yards per rush). A last-minute drive saved the Gophers’ non-conference perfection but there is much to do before hitting the conference schedule. Wide receiver Tyler Johnson had a headline game with 140 yards and 3 receiving touchdowns.
Next Up: A bye week
Nebraska Cornhuskers (2-1, 0-0)
Scott Frost’s crew took care of business against the dregs of the MAC, defeating Northern Illinois (90th SP+) by a score of 44-8 in Lincoln. The Husker offense enjoyed success both through the air and on the ground, averaging 7.2 yards per carrying and seeing Adrian Martinez pass for 257 yards and two scores. Running back Dedrick Mills had 116 yards on the ground to complement one rushing touchdown and the defense forced two turnovers in a game that was never in doubt.
Next Up: A trip to Urbana-Champaign to take on the Fighting Illini in a game the Huskers desperately need to right the ship.
Northwestern Wildcats (1-1, 0-0)
The Wildcats returned from the bye week with mixed results. Sure, they defeated UNLV 30-14 but they required a second half push to make the final score a bit more respectable after only leading 16-14 at the half. The Northwestern D put the clamps on the Rebels after the break allowing no points, 132 yards, and forcing two turnovers. The Wildcats will undoubtedly take anything they can get to get in the win column for 2019 despite a sub-par performance by quarterback Hunter Johnson. However, when you rush 50 times for 276 yards, there doesn’t seem to be much need for throwing success.
Next Up: A home game against Michigan State in what is sure to be a rock fight of epic proportions and will probably set college football offenses back many decades.
Purdue Boilermakers (1-2, 0-0)
Purdue fell to the TCU Horned Frogs in West Lafayette by a score of 34-13. With starting quarterback Elijah Sindelar out with a concussion, Jack Plummer took the reins for the Boilermaker offense and didn’t have much success against a strong TCU defense (19th SP+ defense) throwing two interceptions and completing 44.8% of his passes. Purdue managed 204 total yards for the game and an eye-burningly bad 0.9 yards per rush. Furthermore, prospective All-American candidate Rondale Moore was held in check with only three receptions for 25 yards. TCU is definitely a strong defensive unit but the Boilermaker defense didn’t look to staunch against the run the week after losing starting senior linebacker Markus Bailey.
Next Up: A bye week
Wisconsin Badgers (2-0, 0-0)
Badgers had a bye week.
Next Up: A huge home game against the Michigan Wolverines