1 B1G takeaway from every team in Week 7
Here is 1 takeaway from each Big Ten team in Week 7.
Ohio State — Buckeyes can piece it together until they are back at full strength
Ohio State played without 3 starters on the offensive line, and though it was shaky at times, the end result was a 52-12 win — exactly the kind of statement the Buckeyes need to make to the College Football Playoff Selection Committee. The Buckeyes were without 23 players, plus coach Ryan Day, and it showed at times, especially with Harry Miller’s snapping issues on the first drive and the offense’s inability to score from the 1 on traditional run plays. But thanks to the brilliance of Justin Fields, who threw for 2 TDs and ran for 2 more, the Buckeyes are doing all they can to ensure they stay in the top 4. Now can Michigan get healthy so this rivalry game can happen? Or can the Big Ten adjust the schedule to get Ohio State another game? It’s going to be an interesting week.
Indiana — There wasn’t a drop-off from Penix to Tuttle
Hoosiers backup QB Jack Tuttle certainly played like a starter against the nation’s No. 1 defense, throwing 2 TD passes (and missing out on a 3rd because of an egregious drop) and making several clutch throws late. With Michael Penix Jr. out for the season, it’s on Tuttle to continue this magical season, and he seems ready to do just that. Look for him to improve upon his completion percentage (59.1) and yards (130) as the opposition (Purdue) gets much easier next week. Indiana has struggled to run the ball all year, so it’s encouraging that Tuttle showed he can make big-time throws.
Penn State — Building toward a better 2021
It’s been a difficult season for Penn State, but the Nittany Lions appear to finally have real momentum. Rutgers came into Saturday’s game with 3 straight games of over 400 yards of offense, and Penn State allowed just 205. Penn State limited Noah Vedral to just 113 passing yards on 30 attempts, which comes out to 3.8 yards per attempt. While Penn State converted only 4-of-15 3rd-down attempts, it held Rutgers to just 3 conversions out of 15 tries. With Michigan State up next and then either Purdue or Illinois during Champions Week, Penn State has a real chance to wind up 4-5 (and maybe 5-5 after a bowl game).
Iowa — The more Ihmir Smith-Marsette, the better
This isn’t a complex theory. How does a player with 10 total TDs in 2019 (including on special teams) have just 1 through 5 games in 2020? Iowa has not done a good enough job getting the ball to one of the most dynamic players in the Big Ten — until Saturday’s win at Illinois. Smith-Marsette needed just 6 touches to score 2 TDs, one on the ground and one through the air. He finished with 76 yards, and Iowa desperately needs to find ways to get him the ball. Creative plays like this help.
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🔥 @_ihmirr_ to the corner for the TD@HawkeyeFootball is running away with it in the 4th quarter pic.twitter.com/2eR6tv4CfL
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) December 5, 2020
Nebraska — Finally, the Huskers do the little things to win
The Huskers always seem to find a way to lose, but Saturday, they capitalized on all of their opportunities. They took advantage of great field position, set up by a blocked a punt and a nice punt return on the first 2 drives. Nebraska needed to go only 18 yards on 4 plays to take a 14-0 lead. Adrian Martinez played with a ton of confidence, the Huskers had no turnovers and they allowed minus-2 rushing yards. Yes, Nebraska had 9 penalties for 107 yards, but let’s chalk that up to some overeager refs (Purdue had 11 for 126!), but this was a big step in the right direction for the Huskers (2-4).
BLOCKED@HuskerFBNation is off to a hot start against Purdue pic.twitter.com/VCaBvcxgcD
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) December 5, 2020
Purdue — One of the B1G’s most underwhelming teams
Purdue (2-4), losers of 4 straight, is in freefall after losing at home to Nebraska. It’s inexcusable for this team to be 0-3 since Rondale Moore’s return. There is too much talent on this roster for that, but the Boilermakers (11 penalties for 126 yards) are too undisciplined.
One sequence sums up the current state of Purdue football: The Boilermakers battled back from a 34-13 deficit and were down just 7 when a Martinez pass on 2nd-and-21 sailed over the head of the intended receiver. But instead of 3rd-and-21, a Purdue player was called for a late hit, giving Nebraska a first down, and the Huskers tacked on a field goal to all but end the game. After the play, Purdue coach Jeff Brohm mouthed, “So dumb.” And there may have been a cuss word in there, too.
Wisconsin — Badgers have a ways to go offensively
After scoring 94 points in its first 2 games, Wisconsin has all of 13 in its last 2 after losing to Indiana. Graham Mertz, who could do no wrong with 7 TDs and 0 INTs in his first 2 starts, has just 1 TD and 4 INTs in his last 2. Yes, Wisconsin dealt with some adversity, like starting wideout Kendrick Pryor apparently suffering another head injury, and starting center Kayden Lyles getting carted off the field. But the Badgers are well-past their COVID issues. It will be interesting to see if Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst considers going back to last year’s starter Jack Coan, who suffered a foot injury in the preseason but was in uniform for the first time Saturday.
Michigan State — The biggest emphasis in 2021 has to be consistency
The Spartans have been as inconsistent as any Big Ten team in 2020. They have beaten ranked foes Michigan and Northwestern, but their 4 losses are by an average of 29.3 points. There’s no shame in losing to Ohio State, even by 40, as this is a rebuilding year. But Michigan State needs to find some sort of way to produce consistent effort each week in Mel Tucker’s second season, 2021. Payton Thorne, who entered for an injured Rocky Lombardi, should get a real shot at starting next week at Penn State.
Illinois — Tough way for Brandon Peters to go out
If this winds up being Lovie Smith’s final season at Illinois, this will be the game that he looks back on and wonders if his fate could’ve been different. The Illini (2-4) looked great against an Iowa team that entered the game on a 4-game winning streak. But after leading 14-0, they let up 35 straight points. If Illinois had held on and beat a team ranked in the top 20 to move to 3-3, who knows what the future holds?
Rutgers — Scarlet Knights struggling at home
In one of the oddities of 2020, Rutgers is great on the road at 2-1, but is now 0-4 at home. Noah Vedral returned to the lineup, ending the successful QB rotation the Scarlet Knights used in the win at Purdue. Johnny Langan was incredibly effective against the Boilermakers with 95 rushing yards, but he only ran 4 times for 4 yards this week. Rutgers’ 202 total yards was a season-low.