1 B1G takeaway from each team in Week 2
The Big Ten got off to a rough start with No. 3 Ohio State falling to No. 12 Oregon and Illinois losing at Virginia, but the league won out from there.
Here is 1 takeaway from each team in Week 2, starting with the winners:
Michigan — The depth at running back is great
I thought Donovan Edwards was going to be one of the most impactful running backs in the Big Ten, but he has only carried the ball 7 times for 31 yards in 2 games. That’s because Blake Corum (171 yards and 3 TDs on 21 carries) and Hassan Haskins (155 yards, TD on 27 carries) have been terrific for Michigan (2-0), which rolled past Washington 31-10. Cade McNamara only threw for 44 yards and averaged less than 3 yards per attempt, and he’ll eventually have to throw more to beat good teams. But on this night, leaning on the RB duo and the offensive line was enough. Michigan has over 600 rushing yards through 2 weeks.
Iowa — Defensive dominance includes great running backs
If you’re a Heisman hopeful, avoid Iowa at all costs. The No. 10 Hawkeyes (2-0) put the clamps on Indiana QB Michael Penix Jr. last week and on Saturday, they shut down Iowa State RB Breece Hall in the 27-17 win in the Cy-Hawk win. Hall had only 69 yards on 16 carries, which tied for the fewest yards he has had in a game since 2019. Iowa State QB Brock Purdy wasn’t a Heisman candidate, but the 4-year starter threw 3 INTs and got benched in the second half. That’s Iowa’s defense for you.
Penn State — The defense is full of playmakers
The No. 11 Nittany Lions (2-0) have demonstrated an athletic, play-making defense through 2 weeks. The latest example was Jesse Luketa’s pick-6 in Penn State’s 44-13 rout of the defending MAC champions. Ball State had gained less than 400 yards just once in the last 13 games, but Penn State held the Cardinals to 295 yards. It was just the kind of performance Penn State wanted going into the showdown with No. 25 Auburn next week.
Nebraska — Scott Frost is safe for now
The Huskers would obviously rather be 3-0, but the bright spot is that they have responded well to the season-opening loss to Illinois by taking care of business, the latest example being the 28-3 win over a Buffalo team that reached the MAC Championship Game last year. The Huskers averaged 8.6 yards per play, their highest output since 2018. Nebraska can’t go back in time, but it can move forward, and it has with 2 convincing wins. This season could’ve gone off the rails with a poor showing against a non-Power 5 opponent, but Nebraska hasn’t let it happen. Credit to Scott Frost. Now, it’s about playing this well against opponents in your conference.
Wisconsin — This is a typical Wisconsin team
The No. 18 Badgers (1-1) looked like themselves in the 34-7 win over Eastern Michigan, dominating in the trenches to the tune of 352 rushing yards while allowing just 16 from Eastern Michigan—the first such game since 2019. Chez Mellusi went nuts again with 144 yards on 20 carries, but most notably, Jalen Berger got 15 carries after not playing against Penn State. That duo will be tough to stop.
Michigan State — Payton Thorne can hold his own
I won’t overreact too much to a game against an FCS opponent, but it was important to see Payton Thorne throw 4 TDs in the 42-14 victory over Youngstown State. With the way the Spartans (2-0) led Northwestern from the very first play, Thorne never really got to assert himself. On the first play Saturday, he decided to take matters into his own hands with a 75-yard TD pass, setting the tone for a big day.
Minnesota — Identity didn’t change without Mohamed Ibrahim
Without their star running back, the Golden Gophers (1-1) leaned just as heavily on their ground game in the 31-26 win over Miami (OH). In fact, it’s almost like he was still in there but with a different name on the back of his jersey. Instead of relying on the experience of Tanner Morgan, who only attempted 17 passes, Minnesota fed Tyler Potts for an Ibrahim-like 34 carries for 178 yards and 2 TDs.
Northwestern — Offense not as good as originally thought
I was extremely optimistic about Northwestern’s offense after the loss to Michigan State, as Hunter Johnson looked in command. But Saturday’s 24-6 win against FCS Indiana State was a step back, as Northwestern (1-1) had just 275 total yards and was minus-1 in the turnover column. Johnson was just 9 of 16 for 66 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. He had great chemistry with Kansas transfer Stephon Robinson Jr. in the opener, but Robinson was limited to 4 catches for 16 yards. Not a great sign when thinking of all the good defenses in the Big Ten.
Maryland — This team is focused
Hard to draw too much from Howard, an FCS opponent, but the big thing is the Terrapins (2-0) were up 14 midway through the first quarter and by 38 at halftime en route to a 62-0 victory. That’s how you keep the momentum going after a strong opening win against West Virginia. Can the Terps go on the road in the Big Ten and win? Let’s find out next Friday at Illinois.
Indiana — Maybe it’s time to be concerned about Michael Penix Jr.
Yes, Indiana (1-1) won easily over Idaho 56-14, but this is not the explosive passing attack of the last few years. Penix had just 68 yards on 16 pass attempts, barely over 4 yards per attempt. Jack Tuttle had a 76-yard TD pass on his third attempt of the game in relief of Penix. With No. 7 Cincinnati up next, Penix needs to be more efficient.
Rutgers — Offense isn’t necessary
I say that tongue in cheek, because of course offense is necessary. But after a 17-7 win at Syracuse (1-1), Rutgers (2-0) is really testing that certainty. The Scarlet Knights had just 199 total yards, becoming the fourth team since 2019 to win while putting up fewer than 200 total yards. That was one week after Rutgers become the first team since 2002 to score at least 61 points with 345 yards of offense. The most important stat for Rutgers? It is plus-8 in the turnover department after 2 weeks. The defense takes it away, and the offense doesn’t give it back.
Purdue — No shortage of QBs
It’s hard to learn too much against a team like UConn, which may be the worst FBS team. But the Boilermakers (2-0) got some good game reps in the 49-0 win for backup QB Aidan O’Connell and third-stringer Austin Burton, who hadn’t played since he was at UCLA in 2019. Jack Plummer, who passed for 245 yards and 4 TDs, is entrenched as the starter, but the Boilermakers can’t seem to get a QB through an entire season without injury, so it’s good for O’Connell and Burton to get some experience. The Boilermakers also had 12 players catch a pass.
Ohio State — C.J. Stroud wasn’t the reason the Buckeyes lost
I wrote an entire column on No. 3 Ohio State’s tough day defensively in the 35-28 loss to No. 12 Oregon, so I won’t dwell too much on it here. Instead, how about pointing out that Stroud played very well, completing 35 of 54 passes for 484 yards and 3 TDs. Was he perfect? No. He is missing high early on in his young career, including on that late INT. But the guy did throw for the second-most yards in a single game in Ohio State history in his second career start. That’s quite the accomplishment. On a day when Ohio State only ran for 128 yards and gave up 505 yards, Stroud did about all he could.
Illinois — The Illini are struggling defensively
Illinois (1-2) got down 2 touchdowns less than 4 minutes into the game and allowed Virginia to rack up 556 yards, its highest output in 4 years. After holding down Nebraska in the opener, the Illini have struggled against UTSA and the Cavaliers. Virginia converted only 4 third downs, but that’s because they rarely got to third down.