B1G Monday morning: Iowa should be mad, but Minnesota doesn't need to apologize
It was a big “yeah, but …” weekend in the Big Ten.
What’s a “yeah, but” you ask? An annoying cousin of the what-if.
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James Franklin has Penn State in the top 10. Yeah, but he can’t beat Ohio State.
PJ Fleck is Minnesota’s most successful coach in decades. Yeah, but he’s never beaten Iowa.
Iowa is ranked in the Top 25. Yeah, but that offense. Or the inverse: Woof, Iowa’s offense. Yeah, but they’re in the Top 25.
Franklin’s “yeah, but” rings louder than ever after his 7th straight loss to the Buckeyes. He’s now 1-9 against Ohio State with the only win coming on a blocked field goal that the Nittany Lions returned for a touchdown in 2016.
In essence, that makes Franklin the modern-day John Cooper. The coach who can beat every team except for the team his fans want to beat the most.
Fleck, Franklin’s B1G West brother in energy (high) and hairline (none), finally erased his biggest “yeah, but” this weekend with Minnesota’s 12-10 win at Iowa.
The Gophers snapped an 8-game losing streak to the Hawkeyes that predated Fleck’s arrival in the Twin Cities by 2 years. Minnesota also won on Iowa’s home turf for the first time in 24 years.
And, fittingly, the win comes with a “yeah, but” of its own.
Because Iowa was robbed.
Cooper DeJean’s go-ahead 54-yard punt return to give Iowa a late lead appeared to be one of the greatest in college football history. A work of art that would go up there with Billy Cannon’s Heisman-clinching Halloween return against Ole Miss in 1958, or Desmond Howard’s legendary 1991 return touchdown that ended with him dropping the Heisman pose in the end zone.
The footwork, the balance, the elusiveness — it’s pure wizardry. Hang it in the college football Louvre.
Cooper DeJean is a Superstar pic.twitter.com/jESym4nfGy
— RanDynasty (@ran_dynasty) October 21, 2023
And, according to the officials, it was invalid.
The waving motion that DeJean used to tell his teammates to get away from the ball — if it hits any of them, it’s live and Minnesota could recover — was deemed an invalid fair catch signal. Not by anyone actually on the field, mind you. Including the Gophers, who were going full-speed the entire play because that’s what well-coached teams do.
This decision was determined upon replay review, which seems like an unfairly retroactive way to use something intended to clarify potential officiating mistakes rather than as an adjudicator making the calls.
— John Steppe (@JSteppe1) October 22, 2023
It’s a classic letter of the rule/spirit of the rule situation.
Had DeJean actually affected the play by waving his arm, sure, go ahead and blow the play dead. But he didn’t. And it was never his intent to do so. Thus, applying it here feels wrong.
The rule exists so you can’t deke opponents into believing the play is dead. He’s not deking anybody. And the Gophers are proof of that. Nobody stopped playing at full speed. Because they knew what DeJean was doing with his arm.
Which brings us to another “yeah, but.”
Even though the highlight reel touchdown came off the board, this loss isn’t on the officials. To be fair, they did follow the rulebook to a T, even if their interpretation is completely illogical.
Iowa still had the ball at its own 46 with 1:21 left to play. The Hawkeyes simply needed to get into field goal range. A mere 20 yards likely might have been enough to do the trick for kicker Drew Stevens. That equates to a 51-yard attempt.
But Iowa couldn’t do it. Which explains why Hawkeye fans were littering the field with garbage when DeJean’s touchdown was overturned. Because they knew gaining 20-30 yards was completely out of the question.
And they were right. Iowa lost 7 yards on 2 plays before Minnesota defensive back Justin Walley picked off Deacon Hill.
Iowa finished with 2 yards in the second half. The Hawks gained 11 rushing yards and 8 first downs in the entire game — and 2 of those first downs were via penalty.
Eventually, those traits will catch up to you.
Cooper DeJean didn’t deserve to have his magnificent punt return taken off the board. But Iowa also didn’t deserve to win. Not when it was incapable of moving halfway down a 54-yard field.
Iowa fans are right to think the Hawkeyes were wronged.
And Minnesota fans are right to reply, “Yeah, but we’ve got the pig.”
Around the B1G horn
Couldn’t watch every game? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
No. 2 Michigan 49, Michigan State 0
If you can remember the last time the scoreboard was this ugly in a Michigan-Michigan State game, you may be entitled to the benefits they are talking about in those law firm commercials where they say, “you may be entitled to benefits.” I’m not sure at which age you’re supposed to start paying attention to the details in those commercials.
At any rate, this was the biggest blowout in the series since Michigan’s 55-7 win in 1946. Which we probably should have seen coming when the Wolverines were accused of scouting malfeasance earlier in the week.
No. 3 Ohio State 20, No. 7 Penn State 12
Penn State finished the game 1-for-16 on third down, and the lone conversion came on the Nittany Lions’ ultimately meaningless touchdown drive in the final minute. Maybe it was James Franklin’s homage to himself. Franklin is now 3-for-19 when facing top-10 opponents at Penn State.
Minnesota 12, No. 24 Iowa 10
The Golden Gophers won at Kinnick Stadium for the first time since Nov. 20, 1999 — the final game of Kirk Ferentz’s first year at Iowa.
So what was atop the music charts that day?
SOLID GOLD, BABY. Solid gold.
That’s right: Your reason for reason. The step in your groove.
“Smooth,” courtesy of Santana and Rob Thomas.
Rutgers 31, Indiana 14
Rutgers has been a Big Ten member since 2014. Saturday marked only the 2nd time the Scarlet Knights have won back-to-back Big Ten games. And because of it, they have 6 wins for the first time since 2014 as well.
Rutgers rushed for 276 yards against the Hoosiers, topping a 267-yard performance against FCS Wagner earlier this season.
It’s a program-high against a Big Ten opponent and the most productive ground game for Rutgers against any conference opponent since piling 336 rushing yards on a Mark Dantonio-led Cincinnati team in 2005.
Wisconsin 25, Illinois 21
The B1G West race took an extraordinary swing in the final 15 minutes of this game.
Illinois led 21-7 and was on pace to be only a game behind Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nebraska for the division lead. But the Badgers closed the game with an 18-0 fourth-quarter rally — 15 of the points coming after Illinois defensive lineman Jer’Zhan Newton was ejected for targeting — and now sit alone in first place.
And instead of being in the thick of it, the 3-5 Illini are now fighting an uphill battle to go bowling.
Nebraska 17, Northwestern 9
The Cornhuskers commemorated the 100th anniversary of Memorial Stadium with a fitting tribute: earning a win with 85 passing yards. Which also means 2 Big Ten teams won on Saturday with less than 100 yards passing.
Nebraska is also paying tribute to its vintage Blackshirt defenses. The Huskers have allowed fewer than 10 points in back-to-back conference games for the first time since 2010. Back then, the opponents were Kansas and Texas A&M.
Week 8 MVPs
1. WR Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State
A performance that proved Harrison belongs in the Heisman conversation.
Maybe Ohio State still would have won without him in the lineup, but you’d have to squint very hard to see that path.
Harrison finished with 50% of Ohio State’s receptions (11), 56.6% of Ohio State’s receiving yards (162), and 44.4% of Ohio State’s total yards against Penn State, and his 18-yard touchdown reception with 4:07 left put a wrap on the game.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) October 21, 2023
2. QB JJ McCarthy, Michigan
A performance that proved McCarthy belongs in the Heisman conversation.
Any quarterback on Michigan’s roster probably would have beaten Michigan State, but the fact McCarthy never has a hiccup is starting to demand attention. McCarthy finished 21-of-27 for 287 yards and 4 touchdowns, then got to sit on the bench for the final 23 minutes of the game.
〽️ 4 TD
〽️ 0 INT
— Big Ten Football (@B1Gfootball) October 22, 2023
3. RB Braelon Allen, Wisconsin
A classic workhorse performance from a Wisconsin running back.
Allen finished with 145 rushing yards and a touchdown on 29 carries at Illinois, helping the Badgers worm their way back to the top of the Big Ten West.
Wisconsin RB Braelon Allen in Week 8:
♦️ 162 Total Yards
♦️ 1 Touchdown
♦️ 112 Yards AFTER Contact
♦️ 7 Missed Tackles Forced pic.twitter.com/8qy6cjSonA
— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 22, 2023
4. LB Aaron Brule, Michigan State
In a week where Big Ten defenses balled out, the only defensive player on this list played for a unit that gave up a conference-high 49 points. But I’m not backing down from the pick. The Spartans gave up 49 points because they only have 1 Aaron Brule when they need 11. This guy played his tail off even after the game got out of hand. We’d show the highlights if they existed.
Brule had 11 tackles — 8 solo — with 2 TFL and the lone sack of JJ McCarthy. His effort was exemplary in a hopeless cause. This is the type of guy who can make it in the NFL as an undrafted free agent. (Which isn’t to say he won’t get drafted — he’s just got the attitude part down if he doesn’t.)
5. QB Gavin Wimsatt, Rutgers
How does a quarterback with 39 passing yards make it onto the list?
When he looks like Lamar Jackson when he tucks it and runs. Which was the case against Indiana. Wimsatt had what was probably the best performance of his career, finishing with 146 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns on only 16 carries.
Wimsatt has been frequently criticized in this space, but this game made me see the light. When he can get loose, he’s clearly an elite athlete.
Wimsatt’s Wheels 💨 pic.twitter.com/3cGm2vQ6uW
— Rutgers Football (@RFootball) October 21, 2023
Play of the week
It’s not just that Wisconsin elected to throw a pass to reserve left tackle Nolan Rucci. Or that the Badgers elected to run such a play on 3rd-and-goal.
It’s that both of those things happened with 31 seconds left in a game the Badgers trailed by 3 points. What an unbelievable display of cojones from Luke Fickell.
The play you’ve all been waiting for. Nolan Rucci TUDDY. pic.twitter.com/obPS3o2Av3
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) October 21, 2023