1 thing I learned about every Big Ten team in Week 5
So, that Mohamed Ibrahim fellow is pretty good.
Given that he’s gained 100 yards in 13 consecutive games, this was already well established. But it became glaringly apparent just how much he means to Minnesota as the Golden Gophers offense ground to a halt without Ibrahim in the lineup. Minnesota gained only 47 rushing yards on 26 carries in a 20-10 loss to Purdue.
As a result of that loss, the Big Ten West is completely up for grabs.
Just 2 weeks into the conference schedule, there are no unbeatens. It’s a 6-way tie at the top with 0-2 Wisconsin all alone in last place.
Here’s what I learned about each Big Ten team in Week 5.
Illinois: This defense is the real deal
Wisconsin was limited to 2 rushing yards on 24 attempts — the fourth-worst ground performance for the Badgers since 2000.
Illinois is allowing just 8.4 points per game. With Iowa next on the schedule, the Illini defense will almost assuredly be allowing less than 10 points per game at the exact midway point of the season.
Bret Bielema’s team is a factor in the Big Ten West race.
Indiana: Bye-bye, bowl game?
Given the state of the East, the Hoosiers can ill afford dropping their crossover games against Big Ten West opponents if they want to go bowling. So Saturday night’s 35-21 loss at Nebraska puts Indiana in a precarious position for reaching the postseason.
Michigan and Maryland certainly don’t look beatable for Tom Allen’s team. That leaves Oct. 22 at Rutgers, Nov. 19 at Michigan State and the season finale against Purdue as perhaps the only realistic path to 6 wins. And Indiana is unlikely to be favored in any of those games.
Iowa: Same old song and dance
The Hawkeyes somehow gutted their way back into this game after falling into a 20-0 hole.
With Iowa facing a fourth-and-2 at the Michigan 5 with 6 minutes remaining, it actually felt like the Hawks might bridge the 20-7 deficit. And then …
Iowa throwing it short on 4th and 2 and called for OPI. Art.
— Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs) October 1, 2022
Spencer Petras actually looked poised in the second half, and might be turning the corner. But Brian Ferentz’s playbook and Iowa’s offensive line aren’t turning corners anytime soon.
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Maryland: A solid No. 4 in the East
Maryland has separated itself from Michigan State, Indiana and Rutgers as far as the Big Ten East pecking order is concerned. But the Terps also remain a tier below Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State. And that’s perfectly acceptable — all of those teams are ranked in the top 11.
Discipline remains a concern, as Maryland was flagged 9 times for 76 yards. It was an unfortunate step back after being penalized just once at Michigan. The Terps can’t afford to be sloppy when they play Ohio State and Penn State later this season.
Michigan: JJ McCarthy is a work in progress
JJ McCarthy isn’t there yet as far as being a game-breaking quarterback. And it’s clear that Jim Harbaugh wasn’t going to permit him to take any risks at Kinnick Stadium.
Of McCarthy’s 24 pass attempts, 14 were 5 yards or less from the line of scrimmage. But it worked — Iowa’s defense is truthfully its most dangerous scoring threat, and Michigan’s game plan minimized its chances of becoming a factor.
When you can get Blake Corum to pick up 133 yards on 29 carries, that plan is just fine. But there will come a game where McCarthy needs to make some big-time throws.
Michigan State: The Spartans are bad
Michigan State has a long, long path to bowl eligibility at 2-3 with games remaining against Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State.
While most fan gripes focus on the pass defense, Michigan State’s inability to run the ball is more troubling. Michigan State had 100 yards on 22 carries, and that’s the best performance on the ground in the current 3-game losing streak.
Third-string back Elijah Collins made an argument for more playing time moving forward, though, with 5 carries for 36 yards and a touchdown.
Minnesota: No Mo, no go
When injuries forced Minnesota to use 5 running backs last season, the Gophers still thrived on the ground because they had the No. 2 offensive line in the Big Ten. Four of those guys graduated, and the difference finally became apparent when Mohamed Ibrahim missed Saturday’s game with an ankle injury.
Minnesota was limited to 47 yards on 26 carries. The Gophers hadn’t run for fewer than 240 yards this season.
Nebraska: Don’t look now, but …
The Cornhuskers are tied for first place in the Big Ten West.
Nebraska came out with a different energy in its second game under Mickey Joseph, finally winning a game coming off a bye week — something that never happened under Scott Frost.
Can the Huskers now rally to do the unthinkable and win the division? Not if they play as undisciplined as on Saturday.
Nebraska committed 12 penalties for 111 yards with an ejection while also committing 2 turnovers, including a fumble in its own end zone. Better teams than Indiana will feast on mistakes like that.
Northwestern: The Big Ten’s new worst team
Ireland was an illusion. Northwestern isn’t better than Nebraska anymore. Not with the stench of Frost finally removed from Lincoln.
By the end of the season, the Wildcats will be all alone at the bottom of the Big Ten West.
Unless it turns out Wisconsin is actually even worse than Northwestern. We’ll find out next week.
Ohio State: CJ Stroud looked human, but Miyan Williams did not
It’s possible future opponents will glean something from Rutgers’ defensive game plan against Ohio State.
CJ Stroud looked as pedestrian as he has in any game over his 2-year career, completing 13-of-22 passes for 154 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception. But that did not matter, because running back Miyan Williams did not look human.
Williams tied Ohio State’s school record with 5 touchdowns and gained 189 yards on 21 carries.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions lose this game the past 2 years
There weren’t a whole lot of positives to glean from a rain-soaked, sloppy 17-7 win over Northwestern. But in the big picture, I think there is a big one: If Penn State turned it over 5 times in 2020 or 2021, the Nittany Lions probably would have lost the game.
That’s just the way things have gone. Penn State has had a knack for losing to teams it should not.
But on Saturday, Penn State turned 3 Northwestern turnovers into 14 points while the Wildcats failed to score from any of their 5 takeaways.
Ugly, but encouraging.
Purdue: The Boilers can dominate the trenches?
This may have been the most shocking development of the week.
Purdue came into Week 5 with 14 tackles for loss in 4 games, 8 of which came against FCS Indiana State. The Boilers finished with 7 TFL against the Gophers.
And the dominance was true on the other side of the line of scrimmage as well. Purdue averaged a season-high 5.9 yards per carry against a defense that was allowing 2.8 yards per carry.
Rutgers: The gap with Ohio State remains enormous
Rutgers took its first-ever lead over Ohio State in the first quarter, so the Scarlet Knights are at least making progress. But the Buckeyes have scored at least 49 points all 9 times they’ve played Rutgers, which further shows that the Scarlet Knights have added very little to the Big Ten as a football program.
Wisconsin: Paul Chryst’s seat is heating up
The Badgers have too much talent to be 2-3 for the second straight season, but here we are. And one wonders if pressure will begin to mount on Paul Chryst if this keeps up.
Wisconsin lost a home game to Illinois for the first time in 20 years, and suffered its most lopsided loss to the Illini since 1988. Chryst, a quarterbacks coach, coaches a quarterback who stinks.
The Badgers are also playing undisciplined football. Wisconsin has committed 10 or more penalties twice this season, which has never happened since those numbers were first tracked in 2000.
Wisconsin hasn’t finished last in the Big Ten since 1990, but the Badgers are the lone team in the West without a conference win right now.