Welcome to the B1G 10 recap and preview! This week, I’ve combined both the week 6 talking points recap and the week 7 preview. Let’s dive right in.
Big boys keep rolling
Michigan were surprisingly kept in check for 3 quarters against Indiana, but stretched away with 14 unanswered points in the final quarter. The game was overshadowed by a worrying report that running game coordinator Mike Hart had a medical emergency and was rushed to hospital. Thankfully, he appears to be progressing well. The Wolverines dominated the second half, limiting the Hoosiers to just 29 yards of offense and no points whatsoever. That foundation must bring buoyant confidence to the offense, allowing JJ McCarthy to operate with freedom and clear mind knowing the game isn’t solely on his shoulders. McCarthy produced his biggest passing day to date, throwing for 304 yards and 3 touchdowns, with just 1 interception blotting his stat sheet.
Ohio State rather coasted to victory against a Spartans team in disarray. The Buckeyes won by 29 points, but took their foot off the pedal long before the clock struck zeros. CJ Stroud threw for 6 touchdowns, finding emerging star Marvin Harrison Jr in the endzone 3 times. This offense is operating at an elite level, even without Jaxon Smith-Njigba and last week’s headline-maker Miyan Williams. They could have both back after the bye, and that’s scary for anyone in their path.
A game of 2 halves
On a Saturday where Texas took centre stage as they smashed through Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry, a former Longhorn rose to the occasion in the Big Ten. Casey Thompson shook off a big first half hit to bring Nebraska roaring back into their contest with Rutgers. Having been outclassed and outscored 13-0 in the opening 30 minutes, the Cornhuskers flipped the script. Their defense took over, refusing to ship anymore points. Thompson was able to lead his offense down the field twice, finding Trey palmer and Travis Volkolek for the 2 scores they needed to escape with a win.
Purdue survived some late drama to beat Maryland at the death. The Terrapins needed a 2 point conversion to tie the game with just 35 seconds left, and thought they had it! The dreaded yellow flag denied them, thrown for an ineligible lineman downfield. The Terps couldn’t convert on their try after the penalty and the Boilermakers move to 4-2. They have tight end Payne Durham to thank, as he came up clutch when they needed him. He finished the day with 109 yards and a crucial touchdown as he supplanted Charlie Jones as the golden boy in Brohm’s offense.
Jim Leonhard got his interim head coaching career off to a winning start with a strong display against Northwestern. Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz had a career-best 299 yards and threw 5 touchdown passes for the first time since his sensational debut. Chimere Dike was the biggest beneficiary, racking up 185 yards and 3 scores! Most importantly for the Badgers, they were able to run the ball much better. Braelon Allen found success and even threw for a touchdown! Wisconsin were enjoying themselves against a raged Wildcat outfit floundering on a 5 game losing streak. Dublin feels a long time ago now.
Backup kicker Fabrizio Pinton was the Illinois hero in a game of attrition against Iowa. Both defenses held strong with no touchdowns in the game. Illinois limited the Hawkeyes to just 52 rushing yards, essentially daring Spencer Petras to beat them. He could not, completing just 50% of his passes and tossing an interception into the mix. Pinton nailed all 3 of his attempts at goal, including the game winner from 36 yards with just under 3 minutes to go.
Bye bye bye
Bye weeks are coming thick and fast, with Ohio State, Iowa, Northwestern and Rutgers all taking this Saturday off. For the college fantasy players amongst us, make sure to take those players out of your lineups!
The result is less Big Ten action to feast on, but to make up for it the scheduling gods have given us a blockbuster of a headline act. Undefeated Penn State will enter the cauldron that is the Big House ranked #10 in the country. Michigan, ranked #5 are looking to bolster their standing before the AP and Playoff committee with a statement win.
Penn State have had a bye week to prepare their game plan. High on their list of improvements needed is ball security. They turned the ball over 5 times in their last outing against Northwestern. Make no mistake, do that against Michigan and this will not be a contest. The Wolverines are too talented and too disciplined – they will not let the Nittany Lions back in.
Michigan will get their first proper test of the year, having basically played nobodies up to this point. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve been impressive in their 5 games. The Wolverines have dominated and put away teams as they would expect, but Penn State will go hammer and tong to exploit any weakness they can find. Michigan’s run defense will need to stand up to a resurgent Penn State rushing attack. Last year they couldn’t get the ground game working at all, but OC Mike Yurcich is having more joy in 2022.
JJ McCarthy has the opportunity to pit his wit against an electric defense, known for their tenacity and speed. He has the talent and needs these kind of experiences to grow and develop. I’m sure he is relishing the opportunity with the eyes of college football focused on Ann Arbor.
Race for the West
Elsewhere, #24 Illinois are defending their lead atop the Big Ten West against a major challenger in Minnesota. The Golden Gophers are hopeful that bruising talisman Mo Ibrahim will be back from an ankle injury. His availability could really swing the outcome of this contest. If fit, Ibrahim makes this an entirely different matchup and much tougher game for the Fighting Illini. Illinois’ defense has stood up to some big tests, but haven’t faced an Oline or running back of this calibre – mainly because Wisconsin’s didn’t turn up!
Indiana welcome Maryland to Bloomington with the task of slowing down Taulia Tagovailoa and company. Michigan State and Wisconsin battle it out to prove they’re not actually bad teams, but spoiler – they might both be! And finally, Purdue look to keep in the hunt for the West at home to Nebraska. Aidan O’Connell is starting to make this offense click, but usually with only one receiver at a time. Most of the time that has been Charlie ‘Chuck Sizzle’ Jones but recently tight end Payne Durham has seen the most targets. If they can both be factors simultaneously this pass-heavy Boilermaker offense could go to new levels!
– Jack @JackCDCTT