The Michigan Wolverines started slow this past Saturday, taking a mere three-point lead into the half against Northwestern. But they took care of business in the second half and not only beat the Wildcats but covered the 23.5-point spread.
The Wolverines weren’t the only highly-ranked team to struggle at times in Week 8, but they came out on the other side intact. Not everyone was so lucky.
Western Michigan (Sept. 14, 47-14 win)
The Broncos gave up three unanswered touchdowns in the third quarter and never recovered in a 34-15 loss at Toledo this past Saturday. The Rockets drove 80 yards on nine plays to start the second half and returned a fumble for a touchdown, and didn’t look back from there. WMU dropped to 5-3 and 2-2 in MAC play with the loss and has a bye this week, its once-promising conference title hopes looking very slim right now.
Washington (Sept. 11, 31-10 win)
The Huskies moved to 3-4 and 2-2 in the Pac-12, but not before flirting with disaster in the desert. Winless Arizona took a 13-0 lead into halftime, but Dylan Morris hit Terrell Bynum on a handful of downfield strikes in the second half and enabled Washington to pull away with a 21-16 victory. This week, they’ll take on Stanford in a game that could decide which mediocre West Coast squad goes bowling and which one spends the holidays at home.
Northern Illinois (Sept. 18, 63-10 win)
A Kanon Woodill field goal with 54 seconds remaining capped off the Huskies’ wild 39-38 win at Central Michigan this past weekend. NIU trailed almost the entire way, falling behind by as many as 17 points early in the third quarter. But Rocky Lombardi’s 320 passing yards and Jay Ducker’s 183 rushing yards spurred a rally.
At 6-2 overall and 4-0 in MAC play, the Huskies remain the only unbeaten team in conference play. All their games against FBS opponents, save for Michigan, have been decided by one possession. They’re off this week.
Rutgers (Sept. 25, 20-13 win)
The Scarlet Knights had a bye last week. They’ll head to Champaign this Saturday.
Wisconsin (Oct. 2, 38-17 win)
Wisconsin did Wisconsin things in a 30-13 win in West Lafayette which spoiled Purdue’s return to the AP Poll after 14 years. Graham Mertz threw just eight passes. Chez Mellusi and Braelon Allen ran for 149 and 140 yards, respectively, while the Badgers’ stingy rush defense held the Boilermakers to -13 yards on the ground. The score was 13-13 at halftime, but Wisconsin forced three second-half turnovers to pull away.
Seemingly finding their stride, the Badgers (4-3, 2-2) will welcome Iowa to Camp Randall Stadium this week.
Nebraska (Oct. 9, 32-29 win)
The Huskers were off in Week 8 and will host Purdue this Saturday.
Michigan State (Oct. 30)
The Spartans had a bye week to prepare for this Saturday’s clash with Michigan in East Lansing.
Indiana (Nov. 6)
Jack Tuttle and the Hoosiers started out strong against Ohio State. Tuttle capped off a 15-play, 75-yard drive with a touchdown pass to Peyton Hendershot to tie it at 7-7, but had to leave the game due to an injury sustained on that play. Indiana gained just four first downs the rest of the way and lost, 54-7, falling to 2-5 and 0-4 in the Big Ten.
With Tuttle and Michael Penix Jr. both injured, the Hoosiers’ next quarterbacks up are true freshman Donaven McCulley and walk-on Grant Gremel. Neither was effective Saturday, but perhaps with a week of practice time they’ll be better against Maryland this weekend.
Penn State (Nov. 13)
It was an embarrassing display for the Nittany Lions (5-2, 2-2) even before they failed to score on six of seven two-point attempts in their 20-18, nine-overtime home loss to Illinois. They were gashed on the ground by the Illini, who despite no threat of a passing game ran for 357 yards on 67 carries. Penn State averaged 2.1 yards per carry and Sean Clifford threw for just 165 yards.
While the Nittany Lions’ defense has never stopped being elite, their total lack of a running game and dependency on Clifford, who was clearly less than 100 percent against Illinois, came back to bite them in the most humiliating fashion possible. They’ll need to forget it fast because they’ve got to go to Columbus on Saturday.
Maryland (Nov. 20)
The Terrapins aimed to snap their two-game losing streak in Minneapolis last Saturday but were thoroughly outplayed by the Golden Gophers, 34-16, in every facet of the game. Minnesota’s top two running backs are out for the season with injuries, but the Gophers still ran for 326 yards on 56 carries, picked up 25 first downs, held the ball for nearly 40 minutes and punted only once. They’re finding their identity, while Maryland’s completely lost what it thought it had after a 4-0 start.
Now 4-3 and 1-3 in the Big Ten, the Terps will host Indiana this Saturday.
Ohio State (Nov. 27)
The Buckeyes (6-1, 4-0 Big Ten) have gone over 495 yards of offense in every game this season and scored at least 50 points in each of their last four. Nothing really changed against Indiana, just more copious amounts of C.J. Stroud, TreVeyon Henderson, Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Garrett Wilson. Ohio State’s defense also stood out, holding the Hoosiers to just 124 yards from scrimmage.
OSU’s spent the last month absolutely beating up on lesser competition, but that will change against Penn State’s defense this weekend. That said, considering the two teams’ current form, it shouldn’t be close. The Buckeyes are the best team in the Big Ten until someone proves otherwise.