The consistent punching bag of college football this season appears to be the Big Ten conference and its lack of quality teams in the top 10 of any polls. However, after a fairly solid day on Saturday, teams that were looked at as favorites may have to give way to some rather surprising leaders, no pun intended, in the conference.
While Notre Dame beat its third consecutive Big Ten opponent on Saturday night, no conference has given the Big Ten problems other than the Mid-American Conference as yet another team pulled off an upset on the road.
Other than the SEC, Big 12, MAC and Pac-12, no other conference has defeated any Big Ten teams until Saturday when an unlikely opponent thrashed a team on the road en route to an easy victory.
The Hawkeyes are off to a horrible start this season and it could hinder the program’s chances to make another bowl appearance. After a loss at home two weeks ago to Iowa State, Iowa failed to hold off a Central Michigan team that was held to seven points by Michigan State a few weeks ago. The Chippewas were able to recover an onside kick after its previous attempt failed and was negated by a penalty. After getting a second chance, Central Michigan reaped the benefits and watched as kicker David Harman booted a game-winning 47-yard field goal.
No. 16 Ohio State 29- UAB 16
For the second consecutive week, the Buckeyes trailed at home to a non-conference opponent and once again, Ohio State relied on the legs and arm of Braxton Miller to notch its fourth victory of the season. The Blazers of UAB led Ohio State 6-0 after the first quarter but allowed the Buckeyes to put up 21 points in the second quarter and eventually pull away with the win. Miller had 84 yards rushing and two touchdowns against UAB.
Wisconsin 37-UTEP 26
Montee Ball did something he hasn’t done while at Wisconsin and that’s losing a fumble. Not only did Ball have a turnover but he was also injured after scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. The Badgers once again were pushed to the limit at home and needed 14 points in the fourth quarter to stave off upset-minded UTEP. Wisconsin benefitted from solid production by freshman quarterback Joel Stave who passed for 210 yards and one touchdown.
No. 21 Michigan State 23-Eastern Michigan 7
The Spartans nearly loss this contest against its in-state MAC rival. Eastern Michigan led the Spartans 7-6 midway through the third quarter but allowed Le’Veon Bell to carry Michigan State to victory. The Spartans haven’t looked great on offense thus far this season and if it wasn’t for Bell’s 253 rushing yards, this could’ve been a huge loss for Michigan State at home.
Nebraska 73-Idaho State 7
The Cornhuskers coasted to an easy win at home over Idaho State. Nebraska will need all the momentum they can muster for conference play.
Penn State 24-Temple 13
After starting the season with two heartbreaking losses, the Nittany Lions have played much better on offense and has held its opponents under 20 points over the past two weeks. Quarterback Matt McGloin had an impressive day for Penn State as he passed for 318 yards and ran for two touchdowns.
Northwestern 38-South Dakota 7
Surprisingly the Wildcats are unranked and will begin conference play at 4-0 for the third time in five years. Northwestern may be the best kept secret in the Big Ten and yet they’ve received little national attention for their impressive start to the season by beating three consecutive opponents from BCS conferences.
No. 11 Notre Dame 13-No. 18 Michigan 6
As I stated earlier this week on the Big Ten Ballin’ podcast, the Wolverines would be in trouble if Denard Robinson threw any interceptions in the first half and he did. Robinson accounted for five turnovers against Notre Dame, four interceptions and a lost fumble. Michigan hasn’t looked good against great competition this season and it showed in South Bend, Ind. on Saturday.
Note to all the Illini fans that were ready to proclaim this team as ready to compete in the Big Ten, how about you follow up a 44-point victory with a win? Illinois was embarrassed at home by the Bulldogs of the WAC. Louisiana Tech entered the contest averaging 56 points per game and they didn’t disappoint as they made quick work of an Illini team that was overconfident after beating Charleston Southern last week. Colby Cameron threw four touchdowns and had 284 yards passing while the Bulldogs held the Illini to just 48 yards rushing.
Minnesota 17-Syracuse 10
Has anyone noticed the Golden Gophers impressive defense this season? Minnesota has been equally as impressive in the conference as they are 4-0 for the first time since 2008. The Golden Gophers were able to force Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib into throwing two interceptions, and benefitted from a strong performance from backup signal-caller Max Shortell’s 231 yards passing. Donnell Kirkwood added 99 yards on the ground and two rushing touchdowns to propel Minnesota on Saturday.