Ohio State or Michigan?

As was the case for the entire 1970s, some of the ’80s and much of the ’90s, the Buckeyes and Wolverines are the Coke and Pepsi of the Big Ten. Nobody else in the market comes even close.

Perhaps Illinois or Penn State is strong enough to pull off the role of Dr Pepper. And Maryland’s offense certainly operates at a Mountain Dew level. But from there it’s a steep drop. The rest of the Big Ten is performing at an RC Cola level or lower.

Now that No. 2 Ohio State and No. 4 Michigan have both played a mutual opponent in Iowa, we have a bit more clarity as to whether the Buckeyes or Wolverines are the better team this season. Though not much.

Ohio State’s 54-10 win over the Hawkeyes basically reinforced preconceived notions about the Buckeyes. Ohio State is more explosive than Michigan offensively, especially in the passing game. But the Bucks are also more likely to turn it over, as we saw with a pair of giveaways against Iowa.

Chances are it is going to continue feeling like a toss-up, or perhaps a personal preference, until the matter is settled on the field in late November.

Here is what I learned about every Big Ten team that played in Week 8. (Illinois, Nebraska, Michigan and Michigan State were idle.)

Indiana: The thrill is gone

For the first time since his 2016 debut, it feels like Tom Allen is wading into troubled waters at Indiana. After a 24-17 loss at Rutgers, a bowl game is fading fast for the 3-5 Hoosiers.

If Allen can hang on for another season — and his track record is worthy of that — it’s hard to imagine offensive coordinator Walt Bell returning. Bell’s version of the tempo offense is offensive in all the wrong ways. The Hoosiers had 62 rushing yards and were 2-of-12 on third down against the Scarlet Knights.

Only Iowa’s utter ineptitude is keeping Indiana from being last in the B1G in yards per rush and yards per play.

Iowa: This is a crisis

Whether Kirk Ferentz wants to admit it or not, his offense is in a state of crisis. The Hawkeyes have scored 10 points or less 7 times in their past 16 games.

The scoreboard doesn’t show it, but Iowa’s defense played its butt off. Ohio State’s average field position was its own 46, and a defensive touchdown was included among its 54 points.

If Brian Ferentz continues to call this offense, I have a modest proposal: remove Iowa football games from TV.

Maryland: Mike Locksley is underappreciated

Good coaches make adjustments, and Locksley had to do it on both sides of the ball as the Terps reached bowl-eligibility in their 8th game of the year.

No Taulia Tagovailoa? Make Maryland’s offense a run-first attack. The Terps ran the ball 50 times for 257 yards against Northwestern. It’s the first time the Terps have run 50 times for 250 yards or more since 2016.

Northwestern starts a quarterback you’ve never seen on film? Make halftime adjustments that limit the Wildcats to 7 points and 57 passing yards in the second half.

Some may see a 31-24 win over Northwestern and think “big whoop.” But it really was a clinic in how a good coach wins games.

Minnesota: PJ Fleck may be a fraud, but Mo Ibrahim is the truth

The Gophers are in the midst of their first 3-game losing streak since 2018, which was PJ Fleck’s 2nd season in the Twin Cities. And with each loss, it grows harder to believe Fleck will ever match Minnesota’s 2019 season, when the Gophers went 11-2 and finished 10th nationally but still missed the Big Ten title game.

However, there is nothing fraudulent about running back Mohamed Ibrahim. With 30 carries for 102 yards, Ibrahim is the first FBS running back since Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott to gain 100 yards in 15 consecutive games. And Ibrahim and Elliott are the only backs to accomplish the feat in 25 years.

Northwestern: The QB change worked, kind of

Pat Fitzgerald injected some life into his offense by turning to sophomore Brendan Sullivan as his new starting quarterback, and it certainly worked in the first half.

Sullivan wasn’t explosive, but he was accurate while also providing a run threat as Northwestern opened up a 17-7 lead. After the Terps finally adjusted to a player they hadn’t seen on film, they stormed back to go up 24-17.

Sullivan wasn’t done, though. He was impressive leading the Cats on a 9-play, 72-yard drive to tie the game with 3:34 left.

Of course, Maryland scored on the opening play of the ensuing possession, then picked off Sullivan to effectively end things.

Will the Sullivan upgrade be permanent, or will he be exposed by opponents who now have a book on him?

Ohio State: What if this was the dud?

Even College Football Playoff teams are liable to have at least one dud every season, whether it’s an outright loss or a great escape. (Clemson’s comeback win over Syracuse qualifies in the great escape category.)

What if it turns out this was Ohio State’s dud?

CJ Stroud was not sharp early, getting strip-sacked for an Iowa touchdown and starting 11-of-18 with an interception. The Buckeyes averaged just 2.2 yards per carry while gaining 66 yards on the ground. That’s the fewest rushing yards Ohio State has gained in a win since the 2004 game against NC State.

This may end up being Ohio State’s sloppiest offensive performance. And the Buckeyes still won by 44.

Penn State: That’s how you rebound

I razzed James Franklin last week, but he deserves credit for making sure 1 loss didn’t turn into 2 for Penn State. The Nittany Lions were focused and ready to match the energy of the crowd for Beaver Stadium’s White-Out game.

Whipped on both sides of the ball by Michigan, Penn State returned the favor against Minnesota. The Nittany Lions averaged 7.1 yards per play against a formerly stout Gophers defense. Penn State’s defensive front dominated with 7 tackles for loss, resulting in 17 lost yards for Minnesota.

It’ll take a lot more of wherever that came from to beat Ohio State next week. But it feels much more possible to test the Buckeyes than it did a week ago.

Purdue: Man will land on Mars before Purdue beats Wisconsin

If this Purdue team is incapable of beating this Wisconsin team, then goodness knows when the Boilermakers will next be victorious over the Badgers.

Wisconsin has already fired its coach. The Boilers were playing to maintain their share of the Big Ten West lead. Yet the Badgers beat Purdue for the 16th consecutive time. And like most of the games in that streak, this was never really close.

So that settles it. Purdue isn’t beating Wisconsin until man lands on Mars.

Fortunately, that’s something Purdue graduates have some control over.

Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights are winners!

It’s been a minute since Rutgers could walk off its own home field with heads held high after playing a Big Ten opponent. Specifically, about 2,610,720 minutes.

Wisconsin: There won’t be many wins like this

I’m not sure Wisconsin wins this game against any team but Purdue. The Badgers allowed 431 yards. They committed 9 penalties for 81 yards, continuing a season-long issue.

But this rivalry being what it is, Aidan O’Connell threw 3 interceptions that the Badgers turned into 14 points.

Wisconsin’s 20-year bowl streak is still alive after this win, but the Badgers won’t get to 6 if they don’t sharpen things up.