Dumb Games: Penix Pushes Hoosiers Past Penn State, Wolverine Pass Rush Dominates, and Mertz Shines in Debut

By Andrew Ellis on October 25, 2020 at 7:05 am
Michael Penix Jr. came through with the play of the weekend for the Hoosiers.

All is now right in the college football world.

The Big Ten is officially back, folks. And while the conference's calendar isn't exactly in line with the rest of the Power 5, we're just glad that things are finally underway in the Midwest. Clemson has played five games to Ohio State's one? I'm not even mad about it right now. 

Remember that time the Buckeyes handled the Huskers, Justin Fields was nearly flawless, and Jaxon Smith-Njigbatron already looked like a seasoned veteran with his toe-tapping ways? That was pretty neat and fun.

The first College Football Playoff rankings will be unveiled on Nov. 24. Because we're less than a month away from the first edition, we've decided to do our recaps a bit differently this time around. After looking at the national games for the last several weeks, we'll now be doing a bit of a blend of both the key Big Ten contests and some of the more prominent matchups across the country. I apologize in advance if you were craving long-winded recaps of Maryland/Rutgers-tier games. 

We'll start with the more local flavor before digging into the national landscape. 

No. 18 Michigan 49, No. 21 Minnesota 24

Shortly before kickoff, it was reported that Minnesota would be without several of its starters. This included the right side of its offensive line, starting linebacker Braelen Oliver, as well as the starting kicker and punter. That's a lot for any program to overcome.

Michigan looked really good last night with the pass rush and ground attacks standing out the most. While some of that can be attributed to 40 percent of the Gophers' line being out, it was nonetheless an impressive showing for the backfield and Don Brown's unit. Tanner Morgan was under pressure all night long and really couldn't get much of anything going. 

I can only really tell you a few things about Joe Milton: he's mobile and he has a cannon for an arm. Michigan's new starter didn't need to do a whole lot through the air as he completed 15 of 22 attempts for 225 yards and a score. He added another 52 and touchdown on the ground. The ground game totaled 253 yards and five scores with Hassan Haskins and Zach Charbonnet leading the way. Haskins went for 82 yards and two scores while Charbonnet added 70 and a touchdown on just four carries. 

It was painfully obvious that Minnesota's offensive line was far from intact. Morgan was sacked five times with two of those coming courtesy of Kwity Paye. Mohamed Ibrahim did some damage on the ground with 140 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. Rashod Bateman still looks like a superstar with nine catches for 101 yards.

All in all, it was an impressive showing for Jim Harbaugh and Co. I'm sure we'll learn a lot more when the UM wideouts – sans Nico Collins and Donovan Peoples-Jones – have to make some plays, but Wolverine fans have to be happy after last night's performance. 

Indiana 36, No. 8 Penn State 35 (OT)

Wow. This was the wildest game of the weekend and one of the best finishes I've ever seen. I'll try to explain it in words but will go ahead and include a full highlight tape to do it more justice. Deal?

With just over three minutes remaining, Indiana was up 20-14 when Michael Penix Jr. hit a wide-open Peyton Hendershot across the middle of the field for what may have been a touchdown and almost certainly would have sealed a win for Indiana. But Hendershot dropped the ball, Indiana punted to PSU, and it only took the Nitts three plays to find the end zone and take a 21-20 lead.

A turnover on downs gave the ball back to Penn State with under two to play. Devyn Ford then made the mistake of scoring from 14 yards out instead of going down to run out the clock (28-20 PSU). Penix then drove the Hoosiers down the field for a score and ran one in for the two-point conversion to tie things up at 28. PSU scored in overtime to go up seven. Indiana answered and Tom Allen elected to go for the two-point conversion and the win.

Penix scrambled to his left and dove for the pylon. It couldn't have been any closer, but the officials ruled that the conversion was a success. The play was examined by replay officials but the call on the field would stand. I've watched the replay 20 times and still have no idea if it was good or not. Either way, Indiana was victorious.

PSU more than doubled the Hoosiers' yardage total (488 to 211), but three turnovers plagued James Franklin's crew. Sean Clifford threw for 238 with three scores and two interceptions. The redshirt junior was busy with his legs as well rushing for 119 and a score on 17 carries. Jahan Dotson was his favorite target with four receptions for 94 yards and a score.

For the Hoosiers, Penix totaled two touchdowns and the critical two-pointers. Stevie Scott rushed for 57 and found the end zone twice. His best move of the day, however, may have been his trolling of James Franklin after this one wrapped up. 

No. 14 Wisconsin 45, Illinois 7

Welcome to college football, Graham Mertz. The redshirt freshman was practically perfect in his first career start. A one-time Ohio State target, Mertz connected on 20 of 21 attempts for 248 yards and five touchdowns. Tight end Jake Ferguson caught seven for 72 and was on the receiving end of three of those scores. It doesn't get much better than that. 

I haven't seen a timeline for Jack Coan's return after the foot injury, but I have a feeling the senior has officially been Wally Pipped. Urban Meyer certainly remembers when the Kansas native was a major target for the Buckeyes.

I know I'm stating the obvious here, but the loss of Jonathan Taylor is going to be a tough one to overcome. I didn't see too many weapons at the skill positions and the ground game wasn't what we've been used to in Madison. Garrett Groshek led the way with 70 yards on 13 attempts while Nakia Watson added 62 on 19. Danny Davis was the leader among the wide receivers hauling in two for 72 and a touchdown.

Illinois didn't do anything on offense and managed just 218 yards and a pair of turnovers on the night. The lone score came on a scoop and score fumble recovery. 

Team W-L Rank
PURDUE 1-0 5
RUTGERS 1-0 10
IOWA 0-1 11

Rutgers 38, Michigan State 27

I had no intention of including this game today. But any time a school loses to Rutgers – at home and in its new head coach's debut – it's worthy of a mention. Greg Schiano went to East Lansing and bested Mel Tucker and the Spartans. The home team turned the ball over seven times (7!) which resulted in the Knights putting 38 on the board despite only 276 yards of total offense. Brendon White pitched in with the game-clinching interception. A quick glimpse at the Sparty message boards showed several "Fire Tucker!" threads in the very first quarter. Yikes. 

No. 1 Clemson 47, Syracuse 21

The Tigers were only up 27-21 late in the third quarter, but then the nation's No. 1 payer in the 2020 class made his presence felt. Bryan Bresee forced a fumble and Andrew Booth Jr. scooped it up and took it back 21 yards for a score. Clemson added two more touchdowns before all was said and done to make the scoreboard look a bit better. 

Trevor Lawrence hit on 27 of 43 attempts for 289 yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception. Travis Etienne dashed for 86 on the ground with three scores of his own. Amari Rodgers was the game's leading receiver with 91 yards on eight catches. The Tigers picked off Syracuse quarterback Rex Culpepper three times. 

No. 14 North Carolina 48, No. 23 NC State 21 

I had no idea the Wolfpack was even ranked, and you know it's not the best conference when this is your weekend headliner. The Heels rebounded after last week's loss to Florida State with a pretty easy victory in Chapel Hill. It was 17-7 at the half and then UNC used a 21-point third quarter to really pull away. It was mostly the ground game with Javonte Williams (160) and Michael Carter (106) leading the charge. Williams scored three touchdowns while Carter and quarterback Sam Howell each added one. 

Bailey Hockman and Ben Finley combined to throw for 358 with two touchdowns and three picks. One of those interceptions came when tight end Dylan Parham bobbled what should have been a wide-open touchdown only to have the ball end up in the hands of UNC's Don Chapman. The Wolfpack turned the ball over four times on the afternoon.

No. 2 Alabama 48, Tennessee 17

This was a bit of a Pyrrhic victory for Nick Saban and the Tide. Alabama took down Tennessee with ease, but it lost star wide receiver Jaylen Waddle for the season when the All-American suffered a broken ankle on the opening kickoff. The Crimson Tide offense still put up nearly 600 yards in Knoxville. Mac Jones hit on 25 of 31 attempts for 387 yards. Najee Harris rumbled for 96 yards and three more scores to bring his season touchdown total up to 14 in just five games. 

Jarrett Guarantano completed 13 of 24 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns. It wasn't a great performance by any means, but it's better than what we've been seeing out of the Volunteer quarterback. Jalin Hyatt was Tennessee's leading pass-catcher with two receptions for 86 yards and a score. 

No. 6 Oklahoma State 24, No. Iowa State 21

The Cowboys appear to be the class of the Big 12; for whatever that's worth. This one wasn't the shootout we've gotten used to in the Great Plains. Rather, it was the Okie State ground game that did most of the damage. Chuba Hubbard ran for 140 with a touchdown while quarterback Spencer Sanders totaled 306 yards with two scores and two picks. 

Brock Purdy wasn't great for the Cyclones as he completed 19 of 34 passes for just 163 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He added another 38 and a score with his legs. Breece Hall continued his superb play with 185 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Iowa State moved to 3-2 on the season. The Cowboys are sitting pretty at 4-0. 

No. 9 Cincinnati 42, No. 16 SMU 13

It was a battle of the unbeatens in Dallas last night, and Luke Fickell came away with a big win. The Bearcats have to be the quietest top-10 team in the country, but they'll be moving up a bit after handing SMU its first loss. The Mustangs actually came into this as a one-point favorite.

Desmond Ridder did it all for the Bearcats as he threw for 126 yards and rushed for another 179 while scoring four times. Gerrid Doaks ran for 105 with two touchdowns. Cincy pass-catchers didn't have to do a whole lot as the team's leading receiver had just 24 yards. Marcus Freeman's defense also delivered in a big way while holding the country's No. 4 offense to just 304 yards. The Mustangs had been averaging 563 per contest before butting heads with the Bearcats.

Just a few more quick hitters to touch on here. The Boilermakers topped Iowa 24-20 despite Rondale Moore's absence. All sophomore widout David Bell did was catch 13 passes for 121 yards and three scores. Northwestern crushed Maryland in Evanston. It was 30-3 at the half and the Wildcats ended up winning 43-3. Mike Locksley's offense managed just 171 yards in that one. That's enough to give the Terps the bottom spot in the ole power rankings.

When looking for the Sooner and Horns' scores, it feels weird having to click "All FBS" rather than viewing by the default Top 25. The unranked Big 12 foes both were victorious with Texas topping Baylor and Oklahoma taking down TCU 33-14. 

Notre Dame had no problems against Pitt. The Irish won 45-3 on the road and the Panther offense couldn't do a thing. Jeff Hafley moved to 4-2 with a nice little 48-27 win over Georgia Tech. 

  • Week's Best: Graham Mertz, Greg Schiano, Michigan's pass rush, Notre Dame's defense, Luke Fickell
  • Week's Worst: James Franklin, Mel Tucker & Sparty's turnover problem, Mike Locksley
  • Week's Weirdest: Rice finally played its season opener yesterday against Middle Tennessee State. In the first overtime, the Blue Raiders got the ball and missed a field goal. Then, the Owls basically ran it up the gut three straight times while playing for the game-winning field goal. Collin Riccitelli's kick was perhaps the first quadruple doinker I've ever seen. Rice would go on to lose 40-34 in double overtime.

As for next weekend, the top matchup will go down in Happy Valley even though that one lost a bit of its luster thanks to the Hoosiers. GameDay will be on hand for the 7:30 p.m. kickoff that would have been yet another White Out. Wisconsin heads to Nebraska and the Wolverines are set to host the rival Spartans. 

The national slate isn't all that spectacular. Mike Leach hits the road to Tuscaloosa for what will surely be a beatdown. Georgia heads to Lexington, and we'll all be hoping Jeff Hafley can keep things respectable on the road against Clemson. 

What are your Big Ten power rankings looking like after week one's action?

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