Ohio State posted a big win on a big stage. But elsewhere, it was pretty much a lost weekend in Big Ten football. It compiled a 6-7 record, including some really ugly setbacks, especially Wisconsin’s stunning home loss to BYU.
Here are Five Things we learned about Big Ten football in Week 3:
1, Ohio State can take a punch. Or two. Or three.
When the Buckeyes were trailing 21-13 in the third quarter to a very slick TCU, it would have been understandable if people were saying, “Here they go again.’’
Early last year, Oklahoma smacked Ohio State in the mouth 31-16. And that was in Columbus. With Urban Meyer. on the sideline instead of serving a suspension. And with defensive-line stud Nick Bosa on the field instead of injured and looking glum on the sideline.
Then the Buckeyes erupted.
Scoring three touchdowns in a four-minute span, Ohio State seized the lead 33-21 and went on to beat the Horned Frogs 40-28 at the Cowboys stadium in Arlington, Tex., on Saturday night.
No Meyer? No Bosa? No momentum? No problem.
A 63-yard touchdown catch-and-run by Parris Campbell and a 28-yard pick-six by Dre’Mont Jones started the onslaught. A 24-yard TD pass from Dwayne Haskins to K.J. Hill—set up by a blocked punt—finished it.
This is an exceptionally talented Buckeye team. We knew that. And now we know that it’s a team that can tune out distractions and harness its talent.
2, Playoff seat is the Buckeyes to lose
Before the season began—actually, before Urban Meyer’s suspension troubles began—there was a lot of sentiment that Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State were the Big Three, and the rest of the college football world would play musical chairs for the final playoff seat.
Obviously, there’s a ton of football to play. And obviously, Georgia has an excellent case for being playoff-worthy. I don’t want to get into the Dawgs/two-SEC-playoff-teams debate in September—other than saying that while the SEC again is laying a foundation for that possibility, some stars would need to align for that to happen again.
What I am saying is, for all of our chatter about the unpredictability of college football, the Alabama-Clemson-Ohio State troika is looking alive. And while it’s way-too-early, it hasn’t been too early for other supposed heavyweights to show they have glass jaws.
3, The Big Ten West race just got closer. A lot closer.
Wisconsin did the unthinkable Saturday, losing 24-21 at home to BYU, a team it beat in Provo 40-6 a year ago. The shocker ended the Badgers’ 41-game non-conference home winning streak, which began in 2003. And turned their path to the College Football Playoff into a mine field that’s hardly worth discussing.
It also put a dent in the Heisman resume of running back Jonathan Taylor, who carried 26 times for 117 yards but couldn’t carry the listless Badgers. Give what was supposed to be the nation’s best offensive line a big piece of that.
“BYU was physical from the start, in many ways beating the Badgers at their own game,’’ my Madison friend, Tom Oates, told his Wisconsin State Journal readers. “UW wasn’t sharp in any phase of the game.’’
It’s not the end of the Cheesehead world. But the Badgers will need to get their act together quickly. Or face Armageddon when they travel to Iowa City for a Saturday night special this week.
The Hawkeyes have allowed just 24 points against a non-conference slate that included capable Northern Illinois and Iowa State teams. And they have a history of chewing up ranked teams at Nile Kinnick Stadium. Remember that 55-24 shocker over Ohio State a year ago?
If Wisconsin was looking ahead, it now needs to pick up its head. Quickly. As in mach schnell.
4, Big Ten messy in non-conference play. Very messy.
Coming off its 7-1 bowl record at the end of last season, the Big Ten was full of hubris. At Big Ten media days in July, commissioner Jim Delany called it “one of the finest seasons in modern football, here or elsewhere.’’ Conveniently overlooking the league failing to place a team in the College Football Playoff, he cited its 77 percent winning percentage against non-conference FBS opponents, including that bowl romp.
That tune will be changing this year.
The Big Ten was a dismal 6-7 in non-league games on Saturday. It is the first time since the AP Poll began in 1936 that the league lost seven non-conference games to unranked opponents on one Saturday.
Beyond Wisconsin’s BYU disaster, Nebraska lost to Troy State, Northwestern fell to Akron, Maryland lost to Temple, Illinois lost to South Florida, Rutgers lost at Kansas and Purdue was beaten by Missouri.
The league is 24-12 in non-conference games this fall. The East is 14-4 but that includes Michigan’s loss at Notre Dame and Michigan State’s upset loss at Arizona State. Those are two teams for whom the sky was supposed to be the limit.
The West, meanwhile, is 10-8, with Purdue (Eastern Michigan, Missouri), Northwestern (Duke, Akron) and Nebraska (Colorado, Troy State) bringing up the rear. They each are 0-2 in non-conference.
The Cornhuskers are 0-2 for the first time since 1957. Just asking: Is that quarterback who transferred after losing the starting job to the guy who’s now injured thinking he might’ve made a rash decision?
5, Penn State is the best bet to crack the Buckeyes’ stranglehold
Since making headlines for nearly losing to Appalachian State, Penn State has quietly thrashed Pitt 51-6 and Kent State 63-10.
Considering that Michigan and Michigan State already have endured losses that showed their flaws, the Nittany Lions are looking like the last Big Ten hope against the Ohio State steamroller.
The Nittany Lions have things to work on. But they have a big upside if they iron out the kinks
Is Penn State good enough to make the Buckeyes miserable? We’ll find out on Sept. 29, when Ohio State travels to Happy Valley.
Wisconsin at Iowa this week. Ohio State at Penn State in two weeks. The Big Ten’s divisional races will come into focus very sharply after those two games.