Week 4 B1G report card: Big plays and passing grades
There wasn’t much red ink left in the pen after the B1G’s woeful showing in Week 3. Fortunately, this weekend was a much better display for the conference.
Week 4 marked the first (mostly) full weekend of conference action, with five B1G matchups stealing the spotlight. There were some teams that delivered brilliant performances and a few that looked horrendous.
Let’s hand out some Week 4 grads, shall we?
Just like any good student, Michigan continues to show improvement as the year progresses. Saturday’s win over Nebraska was the most complete performance the Wolverines have had since 2016. This was just an absolutely dominant showing in every way. Suddenly that blunder at Notre Dame doesn’t seem so bad.
Ohio State: A
The Buckeyes have been straight “A” students through the first four weeks of the season. No, they’re not teacher’s pets, they’re just really good at football. Dwayne Haskins was sensational again, throwing five touchdown passes in the first half. Parris Campbell had a career. The defense didn’t miss a beat without Nick Bosa, either. Not a bad way to round out the non-conference schedule.
Watching Maryland come up with big play after big play against Minnesota really makes last week’s lackluster performance against Temple even more puzzling. All of the Terps’ offensive touchdowns came from 20+ yards out as playmakers Ty Johnson and Anthony McFarland put on a show in College Park.
Penn State: B
You might see the 63-24 score and wonder why the Nittany Lions aren’t receiving an “A” on their report card. As good as Penn State was in that fourth quarter against Illinois — 35-0 scoring difference — the first three quarters weren’t that great. You’d expect James Franklin’s team to play a more complete game from start to finish.
Michigan State: C+
The Spartans’ defense did an excellent job shutting down Indiana’s rushing attack and limited the Hoosiers to 21 points. That was the good news. The bad news? The offense still has a long way to go. LJ Scott missed Saturday’s contest, which could’ve contributed to some of the woes on that side of the ball. Still, MSU’s offense is a real concern. But like Mark Dantonio says, it’s hard to win football games.
If Indiana didn’t have bad luck, it wouldn’t have any luck at all. Michigan State scored on a tipped pick-six and a fake field goal attempt. The Hoosiers could’ve played a lot better, but those ended up being the difference in the game. So much for that 4-0 start in Bloomington.
Another blowout loss, this time to Buffalo. Go sit in the corner, Rutgers. Again.
It took four weeks, but Purdue finally got a win. And it came against a ranked opponent, the first such win since 2011. Purdue didn’t just beat No. 23 Boston College, the Boilermakers pummeled the Eagles from the opening kickoff until the final snap. Holding AJ Dillon to 59 yards on 19 carries is pretty impressive from a young defensive line.
Alex Hornibrook has taken a lot of heat during his three years at Wisconsin, but Saturday night at Kinnick Stadium was his time to shine. A game-winning touchdown pass to AJ Taylor with less than a minute to play might’ve been the perfect confidence booster for the Badgers following that loss to BYU. A really strong all-around performance in an incredible defensive battle.
The Hawkeyes had chances, they just couldn’t capitalize. Iowa had to trips inside the red zone that resulted in just three points. Those have to be converted to touchdowns against a team of Wisconsin’s caliber. And those three turnovers were costly. But Iowa’s defense was really impressive. Don’t count the Hawkeyes out of the West race just yet.
Unfortunately, these grades reflect the entirety of a game and not just the first three quarters. Illinois went toe-to-toe with Penn State for 45 minutes on Friday night. Unfortunately, the Lions’ talent and athleticism prevailed. In a big way. Yes, it was a 39-point loss, but the Illini are beginning to show some upside.
Clearly Minnesota’s offense just isn’t the same without Rodney Smith in the backfield. And Zack Annexstad wasn’t at 100 percent, which made a huge difference as well. Still, the Gophers should’ve had a better showing than a 42-13 loss to Maryland. Minnesota’s offense had three turnovers and the defense gave up big plays all afternoon. Just a lousy day for P.J. Fleck and Co.
“Rock bottom” is right, Scott Frost. Nobody expected Nebraska to pull off the upset in Ann Arbor, but the Huskers weren’t even the slightest bit competitive. Nebraska is going to have to join Rutgers in the corner.
The Wildcats enjoyed an off week. We’ll see if that helps them snap a two-game losing streak next Saturday against Michigan.
Michigan State defense: Indiana entered Saturday’s game having eclipsed the 200-yard mark in each of its first three games. The Spartans held the Hoosiers’ rushing attack to just 29 yards. Michigan State also stuffed IU on 12-of-16 third down attempts.
Purdue defense: AJ Dillon had been compared to Ron Dayne and was an early Heisman favorite. He had 59 yards against a young Purdue front. That’s pretty darn good. The Boilermakers also forced four turnovers in the win.
Maryland offense: Matt Canada fixed the problem. The Terrapins looked more like a circus than a football team — in a positive way. 60 yards here; 20 yards there; 80 yards more. Maryland’s explosiveness really shined through against Minnesota.
Wisconsin offense: Really this just goes to Hornibrook. He completed 17-of-22 passes for 205 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. The junior quarterback is the reason the Badgers are 1-0 in the B1G.
Minnesota defense: You just can’t give up that many big plays and expect to win in the B1G. Minnesota’s defense has been pretty solid all year, but the Gophers looked abysmal against the Terrapins. The early injury to star DB Antoine Winfield Jr. didn’t help matters.
Nebraska defense: The final score was 56-10, but things really could’ve been much, much worse. It was a 39-0 lead for the Wolverines at halftime, the biggest deficit after two quarters in the modern history of Huskers football. What could Michigan’s offense have done if it was full-throttle all game long?
Rutgers offense: Six of Rutgers’ eight possessions in the second half were three-and-outs. That seems virtually impossible. And yet, here we are. If there’s any positive to take away from the loss to Buffalo, it’s that at least the Scarlet Knights didn’t have a turnover. That’s something, right?
Indiana offense: Indiana’s offensive line had been so good through the first three games of the season. But the Hoosiers gained just 29 yards on the ground and Peyton Ramsey was being chased down most of the night. This unit has some major room for improvement.