Written by: TJ Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)
A note before we kick-off the recap in earnest: The B1G took on the ACC in five different games (think of it as a B1G-ACC Challenge Lite) this past weekend. After the dust settled, the ACC won three of the matchups (UNC, Miami and VT) while the B1G took two (Northwestern and Iowa). In conclusion, nothing definitive was decided about the two conferences and no narrative can conclusively be written but it was interesting to see these matchups unfold. On to the recap!
-Illinois Fighting Illini - 14 at North Carolina Tar Heels – 48
Illinois (2-1) began the game impressively, marching right down the field with a mix of Wes Lunt passes and Josh Ferguson runs. However, on fourth down from the 2-yard line, a pass to Geronimo Allison fell to the turf and the Illini turned it over on downs. Things went downhill from there as North Carolina (2-1) quickly took a 10-0 lead and never looked back, romping to a 48-14 demolition. Illinois’ defense came into this game allowing only three points through two games. North Carolina shattered the optimism surrounding the Illinois program by putting up nearly 500 yards and 48 points. Wes Lunt was only 15-32 and the only real bright spot for Illinois on the day was Josh Ferguson. Lunt relied on Geronimo Allison far too often and the Illinois missed several opportunities in the first half that may have changed the tenor of the game.
For a team that had looked so good in the first two weeks, Saturday’s road trip to North Carolina was a bitter pill to swallow.
-South Florida Bulls - 17 at Maryland Terrapins - 35
Caleb Rowe had a Jekyll and Hyde performance (four touchdowns but three interceptions) to lead the Maryland Terrapins (2-1) to a much-needed 35-17 victory over the South Florida Bulls (1-2). The Terps struggled to run the ball but Rowe threw for 297 yards and the offense looked a bit more explosive than it had under Perry Hills. The defense forced a pair of turnovers (both interceptions by Sean Davis, a nice bounce-back week for him) and held the struggling Bulls offense to only 300 yards. The game was incredibly sloppy as the two teams combined for 22 penalties and five turnovers but Maryland will take the “W” and work on cleaning up their mistakes as they head to Morgantown to take on the defensively stout Mountaineers of West Virginia.
-UNLV Rebels -7 at Michigan Wolverines - 28
Michigan (2-1) outgained the UNLV Rebels (0-3) 377-235 and forced a pair of turnovers to cruise to their second victory under head coach Jim Harbaugh. Jake Rudock struggled yet again, throwing for only 123 yards with one touchdown and one interception but Ty Isaac ran for 114 yards (including a 76-yard touchdown scamper) as the Wolverines pounded the Rebels into submission with 254 rushing yards. This game was never going to be anything other than an easy victory for the Wolverines but the game continued to expose some flaws for Michigan. Jake Rudock doesn’t look like a quarterback that should be playing for a good team and his timing with his wide receivers looks off.
The running game and defense are going to have to have to continue carrying the day for Michigan and I continue to think the Hoosiers actually match up fairly well with Michigan’s strengths (IU takes on Michigan in November). First things first though, the Wolverines take on the BYU Cougars in one of the more intriguing week four matchups.
-Air Force Falcons - 21 at Michigan State Spartans - 35
The Michigan State Spartans (3-0) survived the triple option and are now ranked second in the country. The Falcons (2-1) gave the Spartans more of a scare than the score would indicate as they outgained Michigan State 428-324 and averaged an impressive 7.1 yards per play. However, three turnovers in MSU territory (including one that MSU returned for a TD) and seven penalties for 95 yards cost the Falcons a shot to pull off the upset. Connor Cook threw four touchdowns but wide receiver Aaron Burbridge was the star on offense. Burbridge caught eight passes for 156 yards and three touchdowns and he looks like the star the Spartans need on the outside. However, the running game struggled, churning out only 77 yards on 42 carries.
Michigan State is an elite team but they didn’t necessarily play up to their lofty ranking on Saturday. Much of that could probably be attributed to the uniqueness than an opponent like Air Force brings but they’ll be looking for a much better performance moving forward if they want to make it to Columbus still undefeated.
-Kent State Golden Flashes - 7 at Minnesota Golden Gophers – 10
“Here’s a scary stat courtesy of Allen Moff (@AllenMoff_RC), Kent State (1-1) has been outscored 268-6 in its last six games against B1G schools.” That quote is how I began my B1G Viewing Guide preview of this game. Minnesota (2-1) was unable to pull away from the Golden Flashes (1-2) and it is now officially time to be concerned about the Gophers offense. Minnesota pulled out the 10-7 victory thanks to another tremendous performance from their defense, holding Kent State to 142 yards. We knew Minnesota’s defense was going to be quite strong and they have not disappointed. However, the offense appears to be in much worse shape than projected. This offense isn’t nearly explosive enough to recover from mistakes so three turnovers and eight penalties is going to result in what was seen on Saturday, an ugly slog-fest of a game.
The offensive line needs to improve, the playcalling could certainly be a bit more creative (stop running up the middle all game) and Mitch Leidner needs to make better decisions with the ball. If the offense can improve from “awful” to “okay”, Minnesota’s defense could still propel them to eight or nine wins.
-Northwestern Wildcats - 19 at Duke Blue Devils - 10
Northwestern’s defense is for real. The Wildcats (3-0) have now knocked off Stanford (who drilled USC on Saturday night) and won at Duke, making them one of the most impressive B1G teams thus far. The Cats gave up only one play of more than 20 yards and held Duke to 327 yards and only 10 points. Both offenses struggled throughout the first half and the Blue Devils went into the locker room ahead, 7-3. Northwestern changed the game on the opening kickoff of the second half as Solomon Vault ran the kick back for the go-ahead touchdown. Northwestern missed the extra-point and led 9-7. The two teams traded field goals before a 55-yard score by Warren Long sealed the 19-10 win for Northwestern.
Clayton Thorson struggled in his first road start, going only 9-23 for just 70 yards and throwing two interceptions. His struggles caused Northwestern to rely on the running game as they handed it off 54 times. They weren’t very efficient (only 3.7 yards per game) but it kept the Wildcats from turning it over and let the defense win them the game.
-Nebraska Cornhuskers - 33 at Miami (FL) Hurricanes – 36 (OT)
In the beginning of the fourth quarter, Nebraska (1-2) was getting embarrassed and fans had to be wondering how far things had fallen and whether or not they had hired the right man to bring back the glory days. Then, the Huskers erased a 23-point deficit in the final nine minutes of the game and Nebraska had forced overtime in Miami (3-0). However, Tommy Armstrong threw an interception to begin the overtime and the Hurricanes knocked in a chip shot field goal to avoid an epic collapse and wrap up the 36-33 victory.
Nebraska is now 1-2 for the first time since 1981 after showing up late and falling behind 33-10. Tommy Armstrong threw for 309 yards and four touchdowns but he only completed 21 of 45 passes and tossed three passes to the Hurricanes. Several of the incompletions weren’t Armstrong’s fault as his wide receiver corps dropped multiple passes. Both lines struggled mightily for Nebraska (Miami QB Brad Kaaya wasn’t really pressured and the Nebraska O-line was responsible for six penalties) and the Huskers’ secondary was torched. For the final ten minutes of the game, Nebraska looked like B1G West favorites, for the first 50 minutes, they looked like cellar dwellers. I’m guessing that reality is probably somewhere in the middle.
-Northern Illinois Huskies - 13 at (1) Ohio State Buckeyes - 20
An offense that was touted during the preseason as “one of the greatest offenses in history” is suddenly, and inexplicably, struggling to move the ball. The Buckeyes (3-0) are still #1 and they still have a ton of talent but there are at least mild concerns about why things aren’t quite clicking for the offense. Ohio State won this game because of their defense as the Buckeyes held the NIU Huskies (2-1) to 190 yards (only 80 through the air). Von Bell led the squad in tackles and the defense was good enough to carry Ohio State to the victory.
Now, let us dissect that offense. Their longest play was a 25-yard pass from Cardale Jones to Michael Thomas. The longest run was a 13-yard scamper by Ezekiel Elliott and Braxton Miller was limited to only ten total yards. The biggest shocker of the day was the five turnovers committed by Ohio State. Cardale Jones was benched but J.T. Barrett wasn’t much better in relief. Urban Meyer mentioned after the game that “odd fronts” (3-4 defenses) are causing some issues for Ohio State right now. Urban Meyer and his coaching staff are extremely bright so I expect they’ll get this offense humming but for now, the Buckeyes aren’t playing like the best team in the country.
-Virginia Tech Hokies - 51 at Purdue Boilermakers – 24
This wasn’t the result, or the performance, that Darrell Hazell needed. The Virginia Tech Hokies (2-1) racked up 471 yards with a back-up quarterback and dominated time of possession (38:11 to 21:49) to blowout the Boilermakers (1-2) in front of a disgruntled crowd at Ross-Ade Stadium. The Hokies threw the ball for 233 yards and ran the ball for 238 as backup quarterback Brenden Motley orchestrated the balanced attack. Austin Appleby was miserable for the Boilers, completing only 9 of 28 passes for 110 yards and throwing two interceptions. Appleby also ran the ball 13 times for an extremely inefficient 11 yards. Markell Jones was the standout offensive performer, rushing six times for 90 yards and a score.
Purdue has only beaten two FBS teams under Darrell Hazell and they really needed a good performance (and a win) in one of their two final non-conference games. They whiffed against Virginia Tech and now face a huge test as Matt Johnson, Roger Lewis and the high-flying Bowling Green Falcons roll into town. There are a lot of questions being rifled at Hazell and concerns about his coordinators. Offensive coordinator John Shoop, never a fan favorite, appears to be very poor at making adjustments in the second half of games and the defense routinely gives up plays right down the heart of the field (seam passes in the middle are seemingly always open against the Boilers). Joe Tiller was back in West Lafayette for a ceremony involving a road being renamed after him. His return inspired this line from Purdue blog Hammer and Rails, “at least we were kind enough to invite Joe Tiller back to the funeral where we buried everything he built”.
-Troy Trojans - 3 at Wisconsin Badgers - 28
The Wisconsin Badgers (2-1) rolled over the Troy Trojans (1-2) with an efficient 28-3 victory at Camp Randall on Saturday. Taiwan Deal led the way with 84 yards rushing and Joel Stave completed 13 of 17 passes for 202 yards and one touchdown. Tanner McEvoy continued to be used a jack-of-all-trades weapon, scoring on a 32-yard scamper. The Badgers cranked out 199 yards on the ground but were again without running back Corey Clement. The Badgers defense shined again, holding Troy to 255 yards and keeping Troy scoreless over the final three quarters.
Wisconsin is getting very good play from Joel Stave and great defense. Shockingly, Wisconsin is still last in the conference in rushing yards and rushing attempts. They’ll probably need Corey Clement to return to feel great about their chances in the B1G West. They should be fine next week against Hawaii but they battle the 3-0 Hawkeyes on October 3rd and would love to have their top running option available.
-Western Kentucky Hilltoppers – 35 at Indiana Hoosiers - 38
The Indiana Hoosiers knocked off the Hilltoppers in a thrilling 38-35 contest on Saturday afternoon in Bloomington. Hoosier Huddle has a lot of in-depth coverage on the win, so check the rest of the site for all the terrific coverage! A few notes, IU is second in the conference in rushing, Jordan Howard is the league’s leading rusher, Nate Sudfeld has the best passer rating in the B1G and Ricky Jones is the second-leading receiver. There’s a lot to like about the Hoosiers offense thus far!
-Rutgers Scarlet Knights - 3 at Penn State Nittany Lions – 28
The rain came down in Happy Valley but it could do little to dampen the flames surrounding the Rutgers (1-2) football program as Penn State (2-1) bludgeoned the Scarlet Knights, 28-3, to open B1G play. The Nittany Lions relied on the running game as Saquon Barkley ran for 195 yards and two TDs on 21 carries and Akeel Lynch added 120 yards and a score on ten carries. As a team, Penn State outran Rutgers 330 to 43 as the Nittany Lions stifling defense held the Scarlet Knights to only 1.3 yards per carry.
Rutgers was without top wideout Leonte Carro and head Kyle Flood. The Scarlet Knights were not expected to challenge Penn State under these circumstances but I think even the biggest pessimist was surprised at the blowout in this “rivalry” game. The Hoosiers play Penn State and it’s clear any team is going to be challenged to move the ball against this vicious Nittany Lions defense. However, Christian Hackenberg continues to underwhelm (10-19 with 141 yards and an interception) and Penn State’s offense has yet to play a complete game of balanced football. IU will be heavy underdogs in State College but a win there wouldn’t be completely impossible. The next week, IU will take on Rutgers. It’s impossible to know what the Scarlet Knights will look like by October 17 but that appears to be a real opportunity for the Hoosiers to grab a B1G victory.
-Pitt Panthers - 24 at Iowa Hawkeyes - 27
The Iowa Hawkeyes are 3-0 after pulling off a thrilling 27-24 victory over the Pitt Panthers (2-1). The star for the night was kicker Marshall Koehn. Koehn nailed a 57-yard game winning field goal as time expired at a raucous Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes never trailed against Pitt but this was a highly-competitive game throughout as Pitt never trailed by more than 10 points. C.J. Beathard threw for 258 yards on 27 of 40 passes as Jordan Canzeri ran the ball twelve times for 49 yards and two touchdowns. The Iowa defense stepped up against the Pitt running game, obviously hurting without James Connor, holding the Panthers to just two yards a carry and 55 yards.
The Iowa Hawkeyes join the Northwestern Wildcats as surprise 3-0 squads in the B1G West. They’ll wrap-up nonconference play next week against North Texas before a very important clash with division foe Wisconsin on October 3rd in Madison.