1 B1G takeaway from each team in Week 8
Ohio State — Offense is on cruise control
The Buckeyes have the best offense in the country, and I don’t know if that’s even debatable right now. Until a third-quarter punt, Ohio State had 19 straight drives end in a touchdown with C.J. Stroud at QB, dating to the second quarter of the Akron game. That’s remarkable. The Buckeyes have more weapons than they know what to do with, so much so that Chris Olave isn’t even really needed all that much in some games. TreVeyon Henderson is the real deal. After 3 more TDs, he has 14 on the year, only 4 short of Maurice Clarett’s freshman record. Good luck stopping Ohio State.
Michigan — It wasn’t pretty, but who cares?
Style points don’t matter in 2021. Seriously. Look at how Oklahoma barely beat Kansas and Cincinnati barely beat Navy. Penn State lost to Illinois one week after Iowa lost to Purdue. The goal is to win and move on, and that’s exactly what Michigan did in beating Northwestern 33-7. It was perfectly unremarkable, which is exactly what the Wolverines wanted headed into the battle of the unbeatens with Michigan State next week. The Wolverines need to clean up the red zone issues, no doubt, but they are in a good place heading into their biggest game of the season.
Illinois — A truly impressive win
There’s not too great of a compliment you can give Illinois, which hasn’t really had much to feel good about since the season-opening win against Nebraska. Upsetting No. 7 Penn State 20-18 in 9 overtimes is the kind of win that could change the course of this program under first-year head coach Bret Bielema. And after some comments on the offensive line recruiting over the last few years led to a little controversy, the offensive line played its tails off, helping Illini running backs Chase Brown and Josh McCray combine for 365 yards on 57 carries.
Wisconsin — Badgers can win by only running the ball
Graham Mertz’s passing attempts have decreased 4 straight weeks, culminating in him only attempting 8 in the 30-13 win over Purdue. Chez Mellusi and Braelon Allen combined for 39 rushing attempts for 289 yards and 3 TDs. This comes one week after Mertz attempted 15 passes in the win over Army. It’s not hard to see why the Badgers are leaning on the run game, as Allen, a true freshman, is on a roll with 3 straight 100-yard games.
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Minnesota — Offensive line is one of the best in the B1G
This isn’t a hot take at all, but Minnesota’s offensive line is very, very good. The proof? It doesn’t matter who is running the ball for the Golden Gophers. Mohamed Ibrahim was an All-American last year, Trey Potts averaged 110 yards per game this year before getting hurt and now a few others are producing similar numbers. Ky Thomas ran for 139 yards in the 34-16 win over Maryland, and Mar’Keise Irving added 105. Two guys who weren’t even on the radar at the start of the season are now churning out 100-yard games against Big Ten defenses. The one constant is an offensive line that returned all 5 starters from last year and is the anchor of this offense.
Purdue — Here’s the problem when David Bell doesn’t go crazy
Wisconsin did a very good job blanketing the star Purdue wideout, and Purdue had no answer offensively. The Boilermakers finished with minus-13 rushing yards and just 206 total yards. Bell tallied only 33 yards on 6 catches, with a long of 10 yards. Purdue had only 1 offensive TD (George Karlaftis returned a fumble for the other). When Bell doesn’t go off, like he did against Iowa, it’s hard for Purdue to muster offense. And that’s why the appearance in the AP Top 25 will be short-lived.
Penn State — Run game is still broken
If ever there was a week where Penn State needed — and should’ve been able — to run the ball, it was this week against an Illinois squad that allowed 391 rushing yards to Wisconsin last time out. But Penn State managed only 62 yards on the ground in the 20-18 loss in 9 overtimes, continuing a season-long struggle in that department. With Sean Clifford banged up from the Iowa game, it would’ve been ideal to lean on the ground game. But Clifford had to attempt 35 passes with Penn State running backs attempting only 24 runs and not breaking 20 yards on any of them.
Indiana — QB issues continue
The Hoosiers played 3 QBs in the first half of the 54-7 loss to Ohio State as Jack Tuttle got hurt twice. Considering Michael Penix Jr. was already out, Indiana was in a tough spot. Tuttle, Donaven McCulley and Grant Gremel combined to go 8 of 17 for 80 yards against a pass defense that has been very friendly to opposing offenses, though not as much lately. It was quite the contrast from last year when Penix nearly threw for 500 yards.
Northwestern — Need to figure out some sort of identity
The Wildcats hung in there defensively against Michigan, for a while at least. Trailing 10-7 at halftime, this game was there for the taking, but Northwestern just has no offense. Evan Hull had a 75-yard TD run, but on Northwestern’s other 52 plays, it had 158 yards, an average of just over 3 yards per play.
Maryland — Offense really struggling without Demus
Since star WR Dontay Demus went down with a season-ending injury against Iowa, Maryland hasn’t broken 20 points. The Terrapins are clearly missing their top weapon, with the latest example being a 34-16 defeat at Minnesota. They don’t have the kind of run game you need to offset a big-play threat like Demus going down. Maryland managed only 268 yards.