Game of the Week
Wisconsin 17, Iowa 13 – The Hawkeyes showed why their coaching staff is still one of the tops in the Big Ten, rebounding from a heartbreaking loss to play a better opponent to the final minute. Iowa had two great chances to connect on big plays with under two minutes to play, but slips and drops cost the Hawks big pass conversions. As they tend to do, the Badgers put this one on their feature back, PJ Hill’s shoulders, and he delivered, contributing 113 yards on 29 carries against a stout Iowa run D. Iowa kept this one close despite registering only 228 yards; what the Hawks did do was win the turnover battle, 3-0, and get occasionally sparkling play from their gaggle of substitute receivers. But where is the Iowa running game? Sure, this Wisconsin run D is excellent; but in four games, Albert Young has just 262 yards.
Best of the Rest
Michigan 14, Penn State 9 – Defense was the currency in this battle between two Big Ten powers looking to make a statement. Mike Hart put himself squarely in the Heisman race with a 44 carry, 153 yard performance against a typically dominant Penn State defense. The Wolverines moved the ball much better than PSU, winning the yardage battle (336-270), the first down battle (25-14), and converting an impressive 10 of 18 third downs. Even though this was a one point game with nine minutes left, you never got the impression Michigan was going to let this slip away. People singing the praises of Nittany Lion QB Anthony Morelli after three games may need to reconsider; his 15-31 outing showed that he’s still not a top Big Ten QB.
Purdue 45, Minnesota 31 – Well, you got what you paid for. The Boilers won 45-31 in a shootout. Minnesota scored 14 points after the third quarter to run their total up to 80 on the year, but the brutal Gophers defense isn’t giving them a chance to compete with anyone. The Boilers ran up a 17-0 lead 13 minutes in, and coasted to a 24-3 halftime lead. The teams traded scores throughout the second half, with Minny never getting closer than 14. Maybe the Gophers are improving; they held Purdue without a touchdown for 23 minutes spanning the first to third quarters. Purdue’s Curtis Painter threw for 338 yards, and ran his TD-INT ratio to 16-1 on the season. If they can contain passers, the Gophers might have an outside shot at Indiana in two weeks.
Michigan State 31, Notre Dame 14 – Notre Dame’s offense got on the board with a gimme 5-yard drive after a turnover, but eventually got worn down by a hard hitting Spartan D, and dropped to 0-4. Don’t undersell how important this win was for Mark D’Antonio in East Lansing; ND got off to a good start, led 7-0, and all the pieces were there for a magical Irish win. But D’Antonio’s Spartan D didn’t let it happen, stifling the Irish offense to just 9 first downs on 203 yards. Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick were a devastating 1-2 punch, combining for 46 carries and 227 yards. QB Brian Hoyer got all the TDs, but Ringer and Caulcrick were the enforcers.
Ohio State 58, Northwestern 7 – I think I might have to rename the “Boring” category “Ohio State 58, Northwestern 7”. With the ‘Cats coming off last week’s humiliating home loss to Duke, and the Buckeyes getting their swagger back in a road win at Washington, the script was all there for a pounding and OSU delivered. The Bucks led 45-0 at half time, and N’Western’s only score of the day came on a 99-yard kick return to start the second half. OSU’s D is looking positively filthy, holding the ‘Cats to 120 yards, 0 rushing yards, and just 11 first downs. QB Todd Boeckman was scarily efficient, throwing 11-14 for 179 yards and 4 TDs. Yoo hoo, Big Ten – the Buckeyes are back.