What did we learn this week? The wheels keep on turning for Michigan, Ohio State are an offensive juggernaut and Illinois claimed a weird piece of college football history. The B1G Week 8 Review has ranked teams being upset and upstaged, a ridiculous overtime fiasco and lots of teams getting it done in the ground game. Most importantly, it gave us a Halloween gift – an undefeated Michigan v undefeated Michigan State!
Michigan will march into Spartan Stadium next week undefeated and flying high. The Wolverines dominated Northwestern from start to finish and advanced to 7-0. The defense forced 4 consecutive punts to open the game and the offense edged Michigan to a 10 point lead. Blake Corum cashed in the opening touchdown after a 13 play, 79 yard drive that epitomises 2021 Michigan. The Wolverines methodically moved the chains, running the ball well, opening up the play-action and controlling the clock.
In the second half Michigan pulled away and squeezed the life out of Northwestern. The Wildcats couldn’t get anything going on offense and were trampled on defense. The tandem of Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins is one of the best in all of college football. Both Wolverine running backs tallied more than 110 yards and 2 touchdowns each on Saturday. This is becoming a weekly occurrence in a conference supposedly known for its defense!
Northwestern had no answer for the relentless ground game. The Wolverines didn’t threaten much through the air, but they didn’t need to in this one. We are yet to see them really open up the playbook in the passing game. That is a luxury afforded them by the rushing game, but a more balanced offense may be needed in the coming weeks.
Ohio State are on a roll and defenses need to look out! The Buckeyes have posted over 50 points for the 4th week in succession and could have had plenty more. Ryan Day has shown mercy and pulled the 1st team off the field fairly early in each of those 4 games. CJ Stroud has truly benefited from resting his shoulder against Akron and has been firing on all cylinders ever since. He threw for another 4 touchdowns in the rain against Indiana and is justifying the Heisman chatter surrounding him.
TreVeyon Henderson had a fantastic day too. The true freshman has claimed the RB1 job for himself very quickly and is giving Buckeye fans feelings of delight and nostalgia. Ohio State boast a proud history of star running backs. Think Archie Griffin, Eddie George, Ezekiel Elliott, Keith Byars and JK Dobbins. Studs of the NFL as well as the college game. That’s the type of talent and potential Henderson has, and he’ll be making plenty of headlines in the scarlet and grey.
There weren’t many positives for Indiana and their injury list got bigger. Jack Tuttle was starting at QB in place of the injured Michael Penix Jr. Tuttle picked up a foot injury on the opening touchdown possession and could only return for 2 more snaps before exiting the game. The 3rd and 4th stringers didn’t have a fun time in his place, as Ohio State registered 5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. The Buckeye defense looks much improved and the team have real reason for optimism as they enter the business end of the season.
History was made at Beaver Stadium – the NCAA had its first ever 9 OT game. That’s right, 9 overtimes. NINE! Many who watched really wish it hadn’t. By the end this game had a real ‘please make it stop’ feel to it. The new overtime rules were brought in this season to speed the game up and reduce injury risk. Well here we had key injuries during OT and the game was anything but quick.
Penn State entered this game as 23.5 point favourites and looking to set the record straight. Their loss to Iowa last time out stung and the Nittany Lions had Sean Clifford back. But Illinois came to play and earned Bret Bielema his 100th win as a head coach. They had to fight back from a an early 10 point deficit to do so in a tight, defensive slog.
The Fighting Illini had a gameplan and boy did they stick to it! They were going to bully the Penn State defensive line and run, run, run the ball. Sitkowski completed 8 passes for just 38 yards. Chase Brown more than made up for the minimal air yards with 223 of the 357 yards Illinois gained on the ground. Contrastingly, Penn State cannot run for toffee. They struggled in general on offense but only 62 rushing yards is simply not good enough.
The game ended 10-10 and the teams traded field goals in 1st and 2nd OT. They then drew blanks on 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th AND 7th OT! 8th OT brought successful attempts for both teams before Penn State were turned away in the 9th. That gave Illinois the opportunity to end the game (finally) and they duly converted to win 20-18.
Wisconsin have flipped the form book and got back to basics in recent weeks, winning 3 in a row. This one, away at Purdue, is their first over a ranked opponent at the fourth attempt. The Boilermakers were coming off the back of a fantastic win over #2 Iowa but couldn’t repeat that performance on Saturday.
The highlight for Purdue, and their biggest play of the day was provided by their star Defensive End George Karlaftis. He scooped up a Graham Mertz fumble and returned it 56 yards for a touchdown, enhancing his already top-tier resume. Unfortunately that really was the only highlight. David Bell wreaked havoc against the Hawkeyes but was a sidenote here. He finished with 6 catches for just 33 yards, his lowest all year. Tight End Payne Durham was the only Boilermaker to put up any significant stats. Durham caught 9 passes for 112 yards and Purdue’s only offensive touchdown. Wisconsin won’t mind too much as they neutralised the running game, and dealt with everyone else Purdue threw at them. Thanks to the number of sacks and tackles for loss, Purdue ended the game with -13 rushing yards!
The Badgers had no such issues themselves. Chez Mellusi and Braelon Allen ripped through Purdue again and again as Wisconsin got “back to our brand of football” according to Allen. The freshman racked up 140 yards and 2 TDs alongside Mellusi’s 149/2TDs to rip this game away. Those are career highs for both running backs. Graham Mertz just kept handing the ball off, only throwing 5 completed passes all game – exactly what Wisconsin want to do. The defense forced 2 fumbles and 3 interceptions in a dominant display that will breathe life into the program.
Minnesota promoted freshmen Ky Thomas and Mar’Keise Irving up the running back depth chart by necessity, and they took their opportunity against the Maryland defense. Thomas and Irving became the 4th and 5th different Gopher to rush for 100 yards in a game this season. That is the definition of ‘next man up’. It doesn’t matter who plays, Minnesota are running the ball! They scored all 4 touchdowns on the ground thanks to the offensive line who opened up holes all over the field.
Minnesota have recovered from an opening day loss to Ohio State, and from multiple key injuries to get their season back on track. The Golden Gophers are now 5-2, tied for 1st place in the Big Ten West. Things are certainly looking up in Minneapolis.
On the opposite side of the coin, Maryland have gone from 4-0 to 4-3 and are headed in the wrong direction. Wide receiver Rakim Jarrett called out his team, saying “Guys just have to have pride, be more desperate to win than being OK with losing.” A rallying call or disheartening criticism? The Terrapins have suffered some big injuries themselves but will need to shake that off if they want to salvage their season. Unfortunately it’s a rough run-in with Penn State, Michigan State and Michigan lining up in a November gauntlet.
Written by Jack @JackCDCTT