The Big Ten did its job heading into the night games. The conference got through the first nine games of the day with seven wins by double-digits. Only Ohio State-California really came down to the final possession.
Then the night games happened.
The three 8pm kickoffs could not have gone worse for the conference as Michigan State's offense neglected to play against Notre Dame, Wisconsin got lucky as hell against Utah State, and Indiana lost to a MAC team at home. In the end it was a 10-2 week, but the conference persona took another hit at the league lost the one marquee game of the week with its alleged best team losing at home and by dropping another game to the MAC.
So, here is this week's unsung player video with some very brief additional footage before hand, followed by the whistlestop tour around the league.
Illinois 44, Charleston Southern 0
As expected, the Fighting Illini had no trouble. Riley O'Toole tied a school record with five passing touchdowns and the Illinois defense gave up only 125 yards and six first downs. O'Toole was a very efficient 26 of 31 for 333 yards and added just one interception. Ryan Lankford caught two of the O'Toole scoring passes.
Ball State 41, Indiana 39
The Hoosiers pulled an Indiana. Third string quarterback Nate Sudfeld made a 13 point comeback with under five minutes left to put Indiana in front, but even with only 49 seconds left the IU defense could not stop Ball State from moving 44 yards in seven plays and banging home the winning field goal as time expired. Now IU may be the first Big Ten team ever to have a three-game losing streak to a MAC team:
This was a tough one, obviously. It's always a bitter pill to lose to Ball State in anything, and three in a row in football is brutal. There were some bright spots. We have two young quarterbacks who can play. Next year, we will have three. We will score some points this year. On the other hand, the offensive line is pretty green and we don't have Tre Roberson around to bail them out. The defense was a trainwreck. They weren't hopeless, and did get a big stop that allowed IU to temporarily take the lead, but the poor pass coverage was eclipsed only by the stupid penalties. There are things to like, and things to dislike. The lack of discipline is a major concern going forward, although I suppose it's worth noting that the What is really heartbreaking about this loss is that when IU had the lead in the final minute, it was possible to dream a little bit. The Big Ten is awful. Navy is awful. The Hoosiers will have some opportunities to win, but to keep the season interesting, they probably needed this one.
Iowa 27, Northern Iowa 16
I have to admit I was a little surprised by this one. I thought Northern Iowa was going to spring the upset against OMHR. Instead, the Hawkeyes found the elusive end zone a few times and their defense closed it out by giving up just three second half points. That is undoubtedly a step forward for Iowa. Unfortunately, AIRBHG showed his ugly head yet again:
Iowa halfbacks did what Iowa halfbacks do: Damon Bullock took a hellacious hit and left walking sideways, and backup Greg Garmon injured his elbow, and suddenly it was the 235-lb. walk-on Weisman at halfback. He did not disappoint, registering 113 yards on 24 carries, adding another 2 touchdowns and coming just inches short of a fourth. It was the Iowa running game in general, and Weisman in particular, that won the day, racking up 204 yards and giving the Hawkeyes a 10-minute advantage in time of possession.
Michigan 63, Massachusetts 13
Not much else to say here. The Wolverines obliterated a bad UMass team. Not much can be taken from it, really:
The first half score wasn't anything dreadful but a few things did stand out, including the defense's early struggles against the UMASS offense and Denard's pick-six. The defense went on to stymie the UMASS offense for the vast majority of the contest, allowing the offense to put a ridiculous amount of points on the board.
Notre Dame 20, Michigan State 3
I was excited to watch this one last night, but in the end it was a very dull affair. After ND went ahead 14-0 they basically dared the Spartans to beat their defense. All Sparty could managed was a 50-yard Dan Conroy field goal. That is both embarrassing for the virtual no-show at home as a top 10 team and impressive for the Irish defense. The lack of offense was the main topic of discussion:
The offense line was blown up, so MSU abandoned the run and passed the ball a ridiculous amount, and it didn't result in much. Weaknesses were exposed. The good news is that MSU won't play a better front seven all year, so things can't be worse than that, right? RIGHT??
Minnesota 28, Western Michigan 23
Break up the Golden Gophers! It has been far from pretty, but 3-0 is 3-0. Goldy is halfway to bowl eligibility and it certainly looks like there will be opportunities for three more wins and a bowl game. Only Northwestern among bowl eligible teams is in the same boat as Minnesota right now. For a program like Minnesota making a bowl game this year would be huge, but they may have to do it without MarQuies Gray, who left with an ankle injury and is out for awhile:
Overall this was a very good effort by the Gopher pass defense. And the offense was pretty good too, especially when you consider Gray didn't play for over half of the game. We move on. It may not have been the prettiest win, but it was a win. The Gophers are 3-0 and hosing a BCS level opponent next Saturday, under the lights.
In the end the message remains the same. There are things to improve, when we get into the Big Ten season will get exposed at times and we will not finish 12-0. But we are 3-0, it wasn't perfect but this team is clearly better than what we saw a year ago.
Nebraska 42, Arkansas State 13
The story of the day in Lincoln was Bo Pelini being carted out and taken to a hospital in an ambulance. He is fine, however, according to reports:
Pelini was released from the hospital shortly after the game with the "fine" diagnosis. (Of course, for Pelini, "fine" can mean anything between "nothing wrong" and "nothing that will keep him in the hospital", so Husker fans will have to wait to see if there are any longer-term concerns.)
Northwestern 22, Boston College 13
Do not be surprised if the Wildcats find themselves in the Big Ten title game. They are getting on a roll and winning close games. These things always come in bunches. They very well could be 7-0 before Nebraska comes to town, and if they beat the Cornhuskers a split at Michigan and Michigan State, where they win a game on a 97-yard triple reverse with a second left, might be enough. Even the defense is starting to come along:
When was the last time Northwestern won a game on the ground like that? 293 yards rushing, 106 in a return to relevance for Mike Trumpy while Venric Mark had 77 before going out with a minor injury. Trumpy looked good running the ball between the tackles, while NU's run defense was absolutely phenomenal. The 25 yards on 21 carries is a little bit misleading because of the 15 yards the Eagles lost on a bad snap, but they still got nothing on the ground thanks to a linebacker corps that is really on top of its game so far this season.
Ohio State 35, California 28
It looked like the Buckeyes were going to drop this one for a little while, but three missed field goals and a total lack of pass defense late allowed OSU to escape with the win. Braxton Miller got it done through the air with four touchdowns. As always happens, it is not enough just to win at Ohio State:
For all the defensive frustrations and the bipolar act rendered by the offense, Ohio State stayed perfect on the year. But while sometimes winning is everything, simply winning alone isn't enough. The message boards, comment sections, and talk radio idle guessing and finger pointing in the week that follows should make that abundantly clear. And with little to gain against have not UAB, it could be another two weeks before we know for sure what we have for sure with this 2012 Ohio State Buckeyes team.
Penn State 34, Navy 7
This is not your typically decent Navy team. There were still issues with another missed PAT, but for one Saturday at least the beleaguered fan base of the Nittany Lions could celebrate a win. According to Black Shoes Diaries it was about having fun again:
Bill O'Brien found a way to have his team play loose and have fun - and that defies logic. After an (0 - 2) start, and facing a less talented Navy squad they 'should' beat, and with teammates quitting in the middle of the week, this team should have been under all the pressure in the world. Instead, somehow, Bill O'Brien got his squad to play carefree. From the opening drive to the final whistle, they played hard, smiled and celebrated after good plays. They (finally) relaxed and had fun, and no team's ever deserved it more.
Purdue 54, Eastern Michigan 16
The only real negatives on the day were the struggles of Caleb TerBush and Sam McCartney. Otherwise, everything worked incredibly well. Danny Hope said yesterday that the bye comes at a good time because this is a tired football team. Id' rather have it in a few weeks because it is not going to get easier after playing Marshall. We're the only team that has to play eight straight weeks of Big Ten football. I do agree that it was good to be predictable, for once:
The Boilers -- for the first time in a while -- were predictable in a good way on Saturday. We all expected them to control Eastern Michigan pretty thoroughly and they did it. The 54 points is a high for the Danny Hope era, and perhaps the only flaw to point out today is that the team took a while to get rolling, then scored in bunches.
Wisconsin 16, Utah State 14
A highly questionable penalty force Utah State back and the Badgers were able to escape at home with a missed field goal. I honestly do not understand what is so hard about getting their offense to work. They have another monstrous offensive line. Tell those gentlemen to plow forward and knock people over while giving Montee Ball the ball. It's not hard. Hopefully they'll figure it out after visiting Ross-Ade on October 13. Unfortunately, even that isn't working:
If someone else besides Ball deserves this, I sure didn't see it. I wouldn't laugh at Kenzel Doe's name here for his 82-yard punt return touchdown, but if UW hadn't had Ball to pound the rock on 37 carries while two quarterbacks mixed mostly inefficiency with a few glaring mistakes, how would the offense have even scored its one touchdown?
Eastern Kentucky 35, Coastal Carolina 17 - EKU is starting to put it together with a nice road win.
Ohio 27, Marshall 24 - Rakeem Cato is the real deal, throwing for 432 yards and three TDs. He is going to test our secondary, as he leads FBS football in passing yards with 1,222 right now and is 7th with 8 touchdowns.