The Buckeyes didn't play this weekend, but Urban Meyer is now facing what is without question the most formidable part of the 2017 schedule. On one hand, this made our Saturday a little bit less enjoyable. On the other hand, the team has an extra week to scheme for the looming showdown with the Nittany Lions.
Speaking of the No. 2 team in the country, this weekend's slate featured the marquee matchup in Happy Valley between Michigan and Penn State. It wasn't just the conference headliner, though. This one was the biggest game across America, and the Wolverines are probably wishing they could take a mulligan.
A recap of the weekend that was:
No. 2 Penn State 42, No. 19 Michigan 13
The country's Heisman Trophy frontrunner got things started off with a bang last night. The Wolverines came into the game as the nation's No. 1 defense and were allowing a paltry 85.8 rushing yards per game. Saquon Barkley went for 89 on his first three carries and 102 in the first quarter. Oh, and he also scored twice in the game's first frame.
Saquon Barkley, everyone. Im still laughing. pic.twitter.com/CkIcdWi0QE— Roar Lions Roar (@RLRblog) October 21, 2017
Penn State's offense was a well-oiled machine, and Barkley was far and away the best player on the field. The junior ran for 108 yards and two scores while adding another touchdown via a 36-yard reception. He's the best player in the country and obviously Ohio State is going to be in for a challenge next weekend.
Trace McSorley didn't look entirely comfortable throwing the ball at times, but he still had a huge day for the Nits. The Virginia native thew for 282 yards with a touchdown and an interception, but was even more impressive with his legs. McSorley ran for 76 yards and added three rushing touchdowns. DaeSean Hamilton was his top target on the day, hauling in six passes for 115 yards. Mike Gesicki added two for 52.
John O'Korn is certainly more mobile than Wilton Speight, but his pocket presence is downright bad at times. The PSU defense made things difficult, but the Wolverine offense just doesn't seem to flow well at all. O'Korn completed 16 of 28 passes for 166 yards. Karan Higdon and Ty Isaac both added rushing scores. The Nittany Lion defense got to the Penn State signal-caller seven times on the day.
This is Michigan's 15th consecutive loss to a ranked opponent on the road. Last win: at Notre Dame in 2006.— Kyle Rowland (@KyleRowland) October 22, 2017
Jim Harbaugh has to get this whole quarterback thing straightened out if the Wolverines hope to have any chance of bucking an ugly trend.
No. 5 Wisconsin 38, Maryland 13
The Badgers got off to a 28-3 lead in this one and really never looked back as the defense had yet another solid outing. Jonathan Taylor wasn't quite as unstoppable as he had been in previous weeks, but the true freshman still accounted for 126 rushing yards and a score. Taylor surpassed 200 yards in each of his prior two games, so the Terps' rush defense wasn't as atrocious as Purdue and Nebraska's.
Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor tied a major college record held by 5 others with the fewest games by a freshman to hit 1,000 rush yards (7)— Phil Steele (@philsteele042) October 21, 2017
Alex Hornibrook threw for 225 yards and a pair of scores. Troy Fumagalli led all receivers with seven receptions for 83 yards. A.J. Taylor and Zander Neuville both were on the receiving end of Hornibrook touchdown passes.
The Maryland offense came into this one averaging 339 yards per game, which checked in at No. 12 in the conference. The Badgers held them to just 268 yards and forced a pair of turnovers – including a pick-six by linebacker T.J. Edwards. Ty Johnson rushed for 83 yards on 16 carries. D.J. Moore was held in check, hauling in just three passes for 44 yards.
The undefeated Badgers likely won't be challenged until they host the Wolverines on Nov. 18.
No. 18 Michigan State 17, Indiana 9
It was a low-scoring, physical game in East Lansing as the Spartans used a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to earn their sixth win of the season. Mark Dantonio has now already doubled the win total from a season ago.
L.J. Scott has had an interesting week. The junior was arrested on Wednesday for driving with a suspended license—for the seventh time. I have no idea how Scott was allowed to play in this game, but he did just that and would go on to rush for 87 yards and a score. His touchdown actually came at an inopportune time as the Spartans were winning 10-9 and just trying to run the clock out. The score gave the Hoosiers the ball back and a chance to tie, though they were unable to find the end zone.
Brian Lewerke chipped in with 185 yards through the air and a touchdown strike to junior wideout Felton Davis III. True freshman Cody White was the game's leading receiver as he hauled in six passes for 99 yards.
The Hoosier offense struggled on the day and was way too reliant on kicker Griffin Oakes. Quarterback Peyton Ramsey put up 192 yards of total offense. Morgan Ellison ran for 47 yards and Simmie Cobbs Jr. caught seven passes for 53. Oakes was responsible for all of the scoring.
Northwestern 17, Iowa 10
After falling to the Wildcats in overtime, noted multi-millionaire Kirk Ferentz has now lost three of his last four games.
Two of the conference's top tailbacks went head to head in Evanston with Justin Jackson and Akrum Wadley putting up similar performances. Jackson rushed for 93 yards on 25 carries while Wadley went for 90 on 26. Iowa quarterback Nathan Stanley threw for 223 yards with a touchdown and a pick. Clayton Thorson accounted for 215 total yards and a score.
Outside of Hawkeye receiver Matt VandeBerg's 61-yard reception, there really weren't a whole lot of big plays in this one. One of the game's key moments actually came on special teams when Northwestern's Hunter Niswander booted an 80-yard punt in the third quarter. The two teams combined for 11 punts on the day.
Rutgers 14, Purdue 12
The Scarlet Knights have now won two contests in a row and Purdue has to be questioning its livelihood. Rutgers has been a member of the Big Ten since 2014, and this is the first time it has notched back-to-back conference wins.
Purdue recorded 25 first downs in this game. Rutgers only had eight and the Scarlet Knights were outgained by 250+ yards. Chris Ash's offense was led by senior tailback Gus Edwards and his 94 yards rushing. Edwards exploded for a 74-yard touchdown on Rutgers' second offensive play of the game. Giovanni Rescigno only managed 87 yards passing on the day. He did connect with Raheem Blacksheer for a 35-yard touchdown that ended up being the game-winner.
Purdue scored a touchdown with less than 30 seconds remaining in the game, but the game-tying two-point conversion attempt failed. The quarterback carousel continued as Elijah Sindelar and David Blough both saw action. Blough threw for 57 yards and a score and was the better option on Saturday. Sindelar threw for 138 yards and was picked off twice.
Minnesota 24, Illinois 17
The Gophers ground game was just about all P.J. Fleck needed to notch his fourth win of the season. Minnesota gashed the Illini for 292 yards and had a pair of tailbacks top the century mark.
Senior Kobe McCrary game into the game with 115 rushing yards on the season. He ran all over the hapless Illinois defense and ended the game with 153 yards and a score. Rodney Smith had 103 yards of his own and added a pair of receptions. Quarterback Demry Croft attempted just 15 passes on the day. He completed five of them for 47 yards with a touchdown and one interception.
For the Illini, Jeff George Jr. threw for 128 yards and a score. Ricky Smalling was the game's leading receiver as the true freshman hauled in eight passes for 71 yards and a touchdown.
So what are our takeaways from this weekend?
First of all, Michigan was completely outmatched last night, and it's more than okay to be worried about the Nittany Lions coming to Columbus next weekend. That was a damn good Wolverine defense, and it was still no match for McSorley, Barkley, and the rest of the PSU offense.
There are going to be all sorts of hype and analyses heading into next weekend's matchup as the playoff implications are obvious. Michigan's offense is a joke right now, and that's probably the biggest difference between the Buckeyes and Wolverines. Ohio State opened as a 9.5-point favorite over the Nittany Lions (which is still unbelievable to me), but one has to imagine that number will be coming down.
Yes, the Badgers are unbeaten, but is anyone really that impressed by Paul Chryst's squad? Tough to get too excited about them at this point, but their running game is for real and that defense is tough as well. Michigan State was sluggish against the Hoosiers and at one point I really thought they may not escape with a win. Northwestern taking it to Iowa was a bit of a surprise, and remember that time when Purdue actually looked like a decent team?
Week nine will be all about the Ohio State/Penn State showdown and you should absolutely stay dialed into 11W for all the content your heart desires. Elsewhere the Wolverines will look to put an end to Rutgers' hot streak, Wisconsin heads to Illinois, and Northwestern will host the Spartans.