1 thing I learned about every Big Ten team in Week 9
Week 9 in the Big Ten wasn’t exactly illuminating in a macro sense.
It underlined what’s been clear for a while. Ohio State and Michigan are clearly the teams to beat, and in all likelihood, both will be 11-0 heading into their rivalry game.
Illinois is the best the West has to offer. Perhaps the Illini will finally be the team capable of making the Big Ten championship game compelling, provided they get past Purdue. No one in the West can match Illinois’ offensive and defensive interiors, though making that translate to facing the Buckeyes or Wolverines is a different matter.
But on a smaller scale, there was plenty to learn about each Big Ten team that was in action this week — which does not include Indiana, Maryland, Purdue or Wisconsin.
Illinois: Tommy DeVito deserves our respect
We’ve shown Illinois running back Chase Brown plenty of love this season, noting that he belongs in the Heisman Trophy conversation.
And Ryan Walters’ defense gets better every week. This may legitimately be the top defensive unit in the Big Ten.
But quarterback Tommy DeVito has been easier to dismiss. A nice game manager who avoids mistakes.
Saturday, DeVito nearly avoided incompletions. He went 20-of-22 for 179 yards and 2 touchdowns, while also picking up 37 rushing yards on 6 carries.
DeVito is pretty clearly the Big Ten West’s No. 2 quarterback behind Aidan O’Connell.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes can score points!
Everyone who can form a sentence and connect to the internet has made fun of Iowa’s offense this season, and deservedly so. The Hawkeyes were on a historically inept pace through 7 games.
But for one glorious autumn day in Iowa City, they put together a performance worthy of a standing ovation at Kinnick Stadium, pounding Northwestern 33-13.
Iowa scored 33 points, its highest total since beating Illinois 33-23 last year. The Hawks rolled up 393 yards — their best showing since gaining 428 at Maryland last season.
That all of this is more an indictment of Northwestern than a credit to Iowa doesn’t matter. Let the Hawkeyes enjoy the moment.
Michigan: Get better in the red zone
It’s nice to know Jake Moody is capable of making 5 field goals, but it would be best to avoid settling for that scenario. Especially when 3 of those field goals were on red zone drives.
Michigan came into Saturday night’s game just 9th in the Big Ten in red zone touchdown percentage, and is likely to remain in the middle of the pack or lower after scoring 2 touchdowns in 5 red zone trips.
Settling for 3 isn’t going to be enough against Ohio State. Heck, if Michigan isn’t careful, it might not be enough against Illinois.
Michigan State: What was that call?
Even though it made no difference on the outcome, the Spartans made such a horrendous play call in the second quarter that I can’t let it go.
Trailing 10-7 midway through the second quarter, Mel Tucker decided to go for it on 4th-and-1 from the Michigan 5. Which is good. You’re the road underdog. Be the aggressor.
But instead of throwing it to talented tight end Daniel Barker or talented receiver Keon Coleman or other talented receiver Jayden Reed, Michigan State ran a counter play. Into the teeth of Michigan’s defense. A defense against which the Spartans finished the game with an average of 1.6 yards per carry.
Some day 15 years from now, I’ll be looking for my car keys, and instead I’ll be distracted by how much I hated that one fourth-down play call from a Michigan-Michigan State game.
Minnesota: Kryptonite to bad teams
One thing that’s true of the Gophers — if you have a bad football team, they will exploit it and absolutely bludgeon you.
Minnesota’s 31-0 win over Rutgers means the Gophers have outscored opponents by a combined 214-24 in their 5 wins. In their 3 losses, the Gophers have a combined 41 points. Minnesota is 5-0 against teams that are .500 or below and 0-3 against teams with winning records.
The good news for the Gophers? All 4 teams remaining on their schedule are currently .500 or below. And if the Big Ten can get both Michigan and Ohio State into the College Football Playoff, Minnesota could find itself in a very good bowl game.
Nebraska: Mickey Joseph has an uphill climb now
Had Nebraska beaten a ranked opponent for the first time since 2016, it would be hard not to feel good about Mickey Joseph’s chances of securing the Huskers’ full-time coaching gig. It would be a tangible sign of progress from Scott Frost’s wasteland.
Unfortunately, quarterback Casey Thompson’s hand injury made pulling that off impossible against No. 17 Illinois. Illinois finished the game on a 20-0 run after Thompson’s injury.
There’s more to it than wins and losses here. But making a bowl game would make it pretty tough to say no to Joseph. Nebraska has to finish 3-1 or better against Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa to pull that off now.
Northwestern: It’s not too late to forfeit next week
After allowing 33 points to Iowa, the Cats clearly have what it takes to be the Big Ten’s first 1-11 team since Rutgers in 2018. Prior to that, the Big Ten hadn’t had a 1-11 team since Purdue in 2013, so this is truly special company.
Did we mention Northwestern hosts Ohio State next weekend?
Personally, I’d claim a flu outbreak. But Pat Fitzgerald is honorable, so instead we’ll find out how many Herbstreits are on Ohio State’s roster. One of them may go over 100 yards. Receiving, rushing or passing.
Ohio State: The next great Buckeye defensive end is born
One of the few missing ingredients in Columbus the past couple years is a suitable pass-rushing successor to the Bosa brothers and Chase Young.
Consider that player found.
Sophomore JT Tuimoloau’s performance against Penn State was one of the most dominant showings any human has ever seen. Seriously. His stat line has not been replicated in the 21st century.
FBS players this century with 2 INT, 2 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in the same game:
J.T. Tuimoloau today vs. Penn State
— Jason Starrett (@starrettjason) October 29, 2022
And that doesn’t even take into consideration Tuimoloau batting a Sean Clifford pass that turned into a Zach Harrison interception.
You can’t have a game like that on accident. Tuimoloau is a force of nature preparing to unleash.
Penn State: The Franklin-Clifford Era summed up nicely
If you could sum up the James Franklin-Sean Clifford Era in one game, this would be it.
Dizzying highs. Stunning lows. And, ultimately, a bunch of interceptions and a loss against a top 10 opponent.
Clifford was picked off on Penn State’s first 2 possessions, but resolutely led the Nittany Lions back for a 21-16 lead with less than 10 minutes remaining.
From that point forward, Clifford turned the ball over twice and Penn State was outscored 28-10. In a span of 8:51.
Dizzying. And disappointing.
Rutgers: The B1G’s real worst offense
Iowa has scored 90 points in Big Ten play.
Rutgers has scored 57.