B1G stock report: Michigan State continues rise, Indiana's offensive stars flounder
It may be Sunday, but the stock market is open at Saturday Tradition.
This is your weekly recap of the Big Ten’s biggest movers in either direction each given week.
And since we want you to become informed investors, we won’t just recap the obvious — we’ll tell you whether this movement will be permanent, or just a temporary illusion.
1. Michigan State
As long suspected, East Lansing > South Beach.
Mel Tucker’s squad is off to a 3-0 start, and each win has come in convincing fashion. The Spartans impressed in a 38-17 win at Miami, mashing the Hurricanes 21-3 in the fourth quarter. MSU has already exceeded last year’s win total, and it is beginning to look like mere bowl eligibility is not going to be this team’s primary aspiration.
Tucker is regarded as one of college football’s top defensive minds, making the offensive prowess demonstrated by the Spartans a pleasant surprise. It’s been a while since Michigan State started a season on such a scoring spurt.
#Spartans have scored 38 or more points in three consecutive games in the same season for the first time since 2005, when they opened the year with four straight of 42 points or more.
OC Jay Johnson and staff getting it done.
— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) September 18, 2021
Buy or sell: Buy.
Michigan State won’t be playing in Indianapolis this December, but I’m willing to bet they are the reason some other team in the East is sitting at home on championship weekend.
The Spartans have an overpowering running game behind Kenneth Walker III, who is flashing all-Big Ten potential. And though quarterback Payton Thorne isn’t a star, he actually has the awareness to recognize it. Thorne knows his limitations and doesn’t try to do anything he can’t. The result is 9 touchdowns without an interception.
Thorne might not be the guy you pick to lead you back in a 2-minute drill, but he plays smart enough football that you won’t often have to be in one.
All in all, it’s a great formula for picking up an upset win over Ohio State, Penn State or any other higher-ranked team that will appear on the schedule.
2. TreVeyon Henderson
For 49 years, no Ohio State running back was able to break Archie Griffin’s freshman single-game rushing record.
Not Keith Byars. Not Eddie George. Not Ezekiel Elliott. Not Carlos Hyde. Not Beanie Wells. Not Robert Smith. Not Maurice Clarett.
You get the idea.
That all changed Saturday as the electric Henderson finished with 277 yards and 3 touchdowns — of 5, 48 and 52 yards — on 24 carries in a tougher-than-expected 41-20 win over Tulsa. It shattered Griffin’s mark of 239 yards, which was set against North Carolina in 1972.
Buy or sell: Buy, buy, buy!
By the end of the season, Henderson is going to be the premier home run threat in the Big Ten — aka, the guy most capable of breaking any play for 50-plus yards. And it’s only Year 1. His skillset brings Reggie Bush to mind.
3. Iowa’s defense
Last week, we told you there was no way Iowa’s defense could continue to force game-changing turnovers at such a ridiculous pace.
It happened for the third straight week, this time as Kent State threatened to make things interesting at Kinnick Stadium.
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 18, 2021
Buy or sell: Ah, what the heck. I’m buying.
Call it magic, mojo, voodoo or whatever you want. Every once in a while, a team gets on a run that defies logic because it believes at some point, someone is going to make a play. The Hawkeyes forced only a single turnover against the Golden Flashes, but it came at the most opportune moment.
Iowa is starting to look a bit like the 2006 Chicago Bears, architects of the infamous Monday night comeback that led to Dennis Green’s “they are who we thought they were!” postgame tirade. Iowa’s defense is always going to find a way to change the game, it seems.
4. Michigan’s run game
This is another one we told you to sell last week, because at some point the Wolverines are going to need to pass the ball in order to win a game.
But what if they don’t?
Michigan scorched Northern Illinois for 373 rushing yards on 48 carries in a 63-10 wipeout. The Wolverines scored 8 — 8! — rushing touchdowns.
Quarterback Cade McNamara put up some Tim Tebow-as-a-Bronco stats, finishing 8 of 11 for 191 yards and a touchdown.
Buy or sell: Sell, but I’m wavering.
This offense can’t possibly work in the year 2021 AD, can it? Or has the balance of defensive football shifted so much to teams primarily playing from a nickel base that it actually can?
The funny thing is that Michigan’s offensive style is what we would typically consider boring. But because it’s such an anomaly, it actually has been fun to watch. It just remains difficult to believe that this style sustainable until the Wolverines take down a quality opponent.
5. Scott Frost
Credit where credit’s due.
Frosty had Nebraska absolutely dialed in to compete against Oklahoma despite a talent deficit all over the field. Huskers fans have had little reason to smile so far in his coaching tenure, and he needs to start getting some real victories to go along with this moral one.
Few could have envisioned the Oklahoma game wouldn’t be decided until the final possession, and that shows Frost’s team hasn’t given up on him even if most of the fans have.
Buy or sell: Sell.
All Nebraska proved Saturday is that it would be a really entertaining game if the Huskers played Tulane, who also took the Sooners to the brink. But if their performance against Oklahoma turns into an actual building block, we’ll change our tune.
6. Nebraska special teams
If not for a truly horrendous kicking performance against the Sooners, Frost might have flipped off the switch under his hot seat.
Connor Culp, who reinvented himself at Nebraska after struggling at LSU, continued an unfortunate reversion to his SEC form with 2 more missed field goals at Oklahoma.
His day started on a promising note as he made a 51-yarder, but he later pushed a 50-yarder wide right before badly yanking a 35-yarder wide left. That prompted a kicking change that led to an even more damaging outcome.
After Adrian Martinez scored to cut Oklahoma’s lead to 14-9 late in the third quarter, backup kicker Kelen Meyer’s first PAT attempt was blocked and returned 100 yards by Pat Fields, resulting in 2 points for the Sooners.
PAT? Nah, 𝙋𝘼𝙏 𝙁𝙄𝙀𝙇𝘿𝙎. @PatrickFields24 ➡️🏠
— Oklahoma Football (@OU_Football) September 18, 2021
Buy or sell: Sell.
The only thing worse than a kicker with shaky confidence is 2 kickers with shaky confidence. Culp is now 3-for-8 on field goals this season, and if Meyer could kick better than him in practice he would have already gotten the call.
Special teams can provide a pathway to victory for a team with offensive and defensive deficiencies. But when they are the biggest part of the problem, your ship is sunk.
7. The Alliance
What a treat it was in Happy Valley Saturday night as No. 10 Penn State hung on for a 28-20 win over No. 22 Auburn.
Auburn’s first trip to a Big Ten school since 1931 and Penn State’s first regular-season win over an SEC opponent since 1990 lived up to every bit of the College GameDay hype.
Now we’re left wondering how often we’ll get to see these types of games again. With the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC announcing their much ballyhooed “scheduling alliance” in response to the SEC adding Texas and Oklahoma, prime SEC-Big Ten matchups are on the endangered list.
Buy or sell: Sell.
Everyone needs to grow up. Expand the playoff to 12 teams. Reward teams who schedule games like this with playoff bids. Continue to give us great non-conference matchups between all of the Power 5 leagues with no strings attached.
8. Michael Penix Jr.
Indiana’s would-be greatest quarterback since Antwaan Randle El is a walking turnover in 2021.
With 3 more interceptions against Cincinnati, Penix has thrown 6 picks and just 4 touchdowns this season. And half of those touchdowns were against Idaho. Penix has also rushed for negative yardage through 3 games.
Buy or sell: Hold, warily.
It’s not yet time to turn the offense over to Jack Tuttle, but that moment is rapidly approaching.
It’s still possible that Penix’s terrible start is a result of who the Hoosiers have played — two Top 10 opponents who figure to end the season in the Top 10 of multiple defensive categories nationally. No quarterback has faced a tougher schedule to begin 2021.
But there’s no question Penix has lost his mojo, and right now there’s no guarantee he’ll get it back.
9. Ty Fryfogle
It would help Penix if the people he threw to actually caught the ball.
Indiana’s star receiver was abysmal against the Bearcats, finishing with 3 drops to go with one catch on 6 targets.
Buy or sell: Buy.
I’m not giving up on Fryfogle.
It was guaranteed to be a tough afternoon against All-American Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner and Cincinnati’s salty secondary. That Fryfogle got open often enough to drop 3 balls in the first place shows this was probably a blip. The timing, however, could not have been worse for Fryfogle’s no-show.
Minnesota’s transition from the Land of 10,000 Lakes to the Land of 10,000-Foot Peaks was a piece of cake.
The Golden Gophers were supposed to be the ones huffing and puffing at Colorado’s Folsom Field, but instead they blew the Buffaloes down.
In one of the most dominant performances in the country this week, Minnesota’s 30-0 win was actually much closer on the scoreboard than it was in the stat book. The Gophers outgained Colorado 441-63, getting 22 first downs to just 6 for the home team. They had over 40 minutes of possession. They limited Colorado to minus-19 rushing yards. And they became the first non-conference opponent to shut out Colorado on its home field since LSU in 1979.
Buy or sell: Sell.
Unless it prevented the Gophers from winning by 50, altitude is clearly overrated.