Big Ten Recap: Kenneth Walker Goes Off Against Michigan, Wisconsin Finds a Groove, and Minnesota Emerges As a Big Ten West Favorite

By Jason Priestas on October 31, 2021 at 7:10 am
Michigan State claims the Paul Bunyan Trophy
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Week 9 of the college football season is in the books, and another weekend of fantastically nutty games both nationally and within the Big Ten conference has us like:

Even if it's the last time we may ever see Chow on College GameDay.

Tuesday evening brings us the first set of College Football Playoff rankings of the season, and Michigan State made a strong case for inclusion (more on that in a second).

By all means, have fun Spartan fans, but not like this:

#8 Michigan State 37, #6 Michigan 33

  Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4  
#6 MICHIGAN 10 13 7 3 33
#8 MICHIGAN ST. 0 14 8 15 37

Typically, you remember a tremendous Sparty-Wolverine tilt thanks to one or two defining plays. Every now and then, these plays are insane, once-in-a-generation plays, like this one.

No. 8 Michigan State's 37-33 win over No. 6 Michigan Saturday was better in the sense that the entire game was great. And let me tell you, there's nothing better than watching an amazing college football game as a neutral observer.

It started when Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara hit Andrei Anthony on a 93-yard touchdown on the Wolverines' first possession of the game, through Spartan running back Kenneth Walker single-handedly keeping his team in it with two first-half touchdowns, while his quarterback, Payton Thorne, fought off two early interceptions.

And the second half picked up where the first half left off, with Michigan jumping out to a 30-14 lead eight minutes in, only to see Walker score three more second-half touchdowns as Michigan State outscored the Wolverines 23-3 down the stretch for the biggest win of Mel Tucker's tenure in East Lansing.

The nation's leading rusher, Walker finished with the five touchdowns on 23 carries for 197 yards, becoming the first man to ever rush for five scores against Michigan in the program's 142-year history. His Heisman-statement performance is part of what made the game so great: Michigan ate fists full of something they hold so dearly all afternoon, manball.

Michigan State got the W, but I think it's easy to come out of this one thinking both programs are probably better than many of us gave them credit for going into it. McNamara, who had topped 200 yards passing just once coming into this one, rang up a career-high 383 yards through the air on a 28 of 44 day. If the Wolverines can get the running and passing games going simultaneously, this is an offense that can do damage against good teams.

With the loss, Jim Harbaugh drops to 2–13 against top 10 teams at Michigan. The Spartans, meanwhile, are 8–0 for just the third time in the last 55 seasons.

And don't look now, but "Little Brother" has claimed the Paul Bunyon Trophy 10 of the last 14 times it's been contested.

I hope this guy got a free buffet voucher, at least.

NEXT:  Michigan State (8–0) at Purdue (5–3); Michigan (7–1) vs. Indiana (2–6)

Wisconsin 27, #9 Iowa 7

  Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4  
#9 IOWA 0 0 7 0 7
WISCONSIN 7 13 0 7 27

The year was two-thousand and twenty-one, and a Kirk Ferentz Iowa team was No. 2 in all the land…

I can already see myself telling this tale to my incredulous grandchildren 25 years from now. Yes, it's true. That Iowa team held the No. 2 spot in the AP Poll for a hot minute… and then it all came crashing down.

For the second week in a row, the Hawkeyes were held to seven points for an entire game – a first for that program since 1999 – as Wisconsin bagged its fourth straight win, topping No. 9 Iowa 27-7.

The Badgers jumped out to a 20-0 halftime lead thanks to a stifling defense that held Iowa to a meager 17 yards and one first down while forcing three turnovers in the opening two quarters. Wisconsin held Iowa to 156 total yards for the game – just 24 of those yards coming on the ground – and recorded six sacks in front of the Camp Randall friendlies.

How did Kirk Ferentz respond? Not well.

Wisconsin, who have now won eight of the last ten in this series, suddenly control their own destiny in the Big Ten West, regardless of what opposing kicking nets might have to say. At the same time, Iowa continues its quest to record the fastest fall from the No. 2 spot in AP Poll history.

NEXT:  Wisconsin (5–3) at Rutgers (4–4); Iowa (6–2) at Northwestern (3–5)

Minnesota 41, Northwestern 14

  Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4  
MINNESOTA 13 7 0 21 41

Speaking of controlling its destiny, the Minnesota Gophers do as well, following a 41-14 bludgeoning of Northwestern in Evanston Saturday.

Quarterback Tanner Morgan was an efficient 12 of 17, while Mar'Keise Irving (110) and Ky Thomas (106) both topped 100 yards on the ground for the Gophers, part of a 308-yard team rushing performance that saw Minnesota eat 40:09 of game clock.

Running back Bryce Williams left the game for the Gophers, and Minnesota is down to just two scholarship running backs, but that offensive line might be pretty good, you know?

The game marked the fifth time this season that Northwestern has given up 30 or more points after failing to yield 30 to a single opponent last season.

P.J. Fleck's style decisions remain super weird, but his team has wins in four-straight games and is a baffling loss as a 30-point favorite to Bowling Green away from being 7–1 on the season.

NEXT:  Minnesota (6–2) vs. Illinois (3–6); Northwestern (3–5) vs. Iowa (6–2)

Purdue 28, Nebraska 23

  Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4  
PURDUE 0 14 7 7 28
NEBRASKA 7 10 0 6 23

Good news, Nebraska fans! Your quarterback, Adrian Martinez, was responsible for the first 21 points of his game Saturday! Wait, what's that? I'm getting some clarification… Okay, seven of those points went to Purdue on a pick-six.

And so it went for the Cornhuskers at home against Purdue in a game in which they'd fall, 28-23.

Martinez would throw four interceptions on the afternoon – two in the final seven minutes of the game as the Boilermakers rallied to win their second Big Ten road game in a row and eliminate Nebraska from Big Ten West contention.

Quarterback Aidan O'Connell rebounded from a brutal showing against Wisconsin last weekend by throwing for 233 yards and two touchdowns to send Nebraska to their sixth loss of the year and we're not even out of October yet.

Those six Nebraska losses? All by a combined 33 points. I don't know, Scott Frost. Maybe try a magic speech? It can't hurt at this point.

NEXT:  Purdue (5–3) vs. Michigan State (8–0); Nebraska (3–6) vs. Ohio State (7–1)

Rutgers 20, Illinois 14

  Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4  
RUTGERS 7 3 0 10 20
ILLINOIS 0 14 0 0 14

If Rutgers wants to ascend to the land of Rutgers Good™, the Scarlet Knights have to take care of business against bottom-feeders like Illinois.

Saturday, they did just that, as Greg Schiano's squad ended a four-game losing streak by topping the Illini on the road, 20-14.

A week after going for over 350 on the ground at Penn State, Illinois was held to 107 rushing yards on 30 carries, as the Illini fell to 3-6 on the year with games at Minnesota and Iowa on deck. I don't think they are going bowling this season.

Rutgers, on the other hand, has a good chance.

NEXT:  Rutgers (4–4) vs. Wisconsin (5–3); Illinois (3–6) at Minnesota (6–2)

Maryland 38, Indiana 35

  Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4  
INDIANA 0 10 7 18 35
MARYLAND 14 0 14 10 38

Finally, the Hoosiers had an opportunity to play a team that was not ranked. Sadly, it didn't go well for Indiana as Maryland ended a three-game skid with a 38-35 win in College Park.

Despite missing two of his top targets, Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa threw for 419 yards – the third-most in program history – and the Terrapin defense made the plays when it needed to, biggest of all the recovery of an onside kick with a minute to play to ice the win.

With the win, Maryland improves to 5–3, needing one more win to become bowl eligible, while things don't get any easier for the Hoosiers, who travel to Michigan next weekend.

NEXT:  Maryland (5–3) vs. Penn State (5–3); Indiana (2–6) at Michigan (7–1)

B1G Power Rankings: Week 9
Rank Team Overall Conference Move
1 Ohio State   OHIO STATE 7–1 5–0
2 Michigan State   MICHIGAN STATE 8–0 5–0 1
3 Michigan   MICHIGAN 7–1 4–1 1
4 Minnesota   MINNESOTA 6–2 4–1 1
5 Penn State   PENN STATE 5–3 2–3 1
6 Wisconsin   WISCONSIN 5–3 3–2 1
7 Purdue   PURDUE 5–3 3–2 2
8 Iowa   IOWA 6–2 3–2 4
9 Maryland   MARYLAND 5–3 2–3 1
10 Nebraska   NEBRASKA 3–6 1–5 2
11 Indiana   INDIANA 2–6 0–5 1
12 Rutgers   RUTGERS 4–4 1–4 2
13 Northwestern   NORTHWESTERN 3–5 1–4 2
14 Illinois   ILLINOIS 3–6 2–4 1

The Buckeyes were not flawless in their 33-24 win over Penn State Saturday night, but they're still potent enough to lock down the top spot in our power rankings for the week.

That said, Michigan State impressed with a tough, gutty win over Michigan in East Lansing, and I cannot wait until the two teams meet on November 20 in Ohio Stadium.

Michigan drops just one spot to No. 3 because I genuinely believe they're one of the three best teams in the Big Ten right now, while fast-rising Minnesota, again, a team that controls its destiny in the Big Ten West, is up to No. 4.

Penn State, Wisconsin, Purdue, Iowa, and Maryland round out the top 10 while Illinois finds itself back in familiar territory, the bottom of our rankings.

I wish I could say there was a slate of games worth looking forward to in Week 10, but save for Michigan State at Purdue and Penn State at Maryland, we're staring down a bunch of games that won't figure to be close nor settle many cases when it comes to division standings.

Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III: 23 carries for 197 yards (8.6 per) and five touchdowns, plus three receptions for 11 yards in the Spartans' 37-33 win over No. 6 Michigan.

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