Dienhart: 10 things I learned in Week 3

A strange and bizarre Week 3 ended late on Saturday night (or early on Sunday morning, depending on where you were) in the heat of the Tempe, Ariz., on a weird final play in the Wisconsin-Arizona State game. Many lessons can be learned from the controversial conclusion that cost Wisconsin a victory. Here’s what I learned over the entirety of a strange Saturday.

[ MORE: Power Rankings | Week 3 honors, grades, top 10 & more | Week 3 picks revisited ]

1. Kenny Guiton could start at quarterback for over half of the Big Ten teams. Maybe more. I’m not gonna name them, but I think you can figure it out. With Braxton Miller out with a MCL injury suffered early in Week Two vs. San Diego State, Guiton got his first career start and was spectacular in leading the Buckeyes to a 52-34 win at Cal. The senior captain hit 21-of-32 passes for 276 yards with four touchdowns and ran for 92 yards. Wow.

2. Michigan is in trouble if it’s counting on Devin Gardner’s right arm to lead it to big things. The junior has made eight starts in his career and has 11 interceptions. He struggled mightily vs. Akron, losing a fumble and tossing three interceptions with one returned for a touchdown (the second week in a row) in a 28-24 escape vs. Akron. Yes, Gardner is a wondrous athlete, but his decision-making can be dubious. And when push comes to shove, he has to be able to stand and deliver as a passer when things are breaking down and not just take off and run. Denard Robinson did that, and Gardner is supposed to be an upgrade as far as being a better all-around signal-caller.

[ MORE: Analyzing the numbers: Devin Gardner vs. Akron ]

3. Michigan State may have found a quarterback. Connor Cook got the start vs. FCS Youngstown State and excelled, hitting 15-of-22 passes for 204 yards with four touchdown strikes, all in the first half, and no picks in a 55-17 triumph. Tyler O’Connor also saw action, completing 7-of-10 passes for 67 yards, as Andrew Maxwell may be fading from relevance. Yes, the opposition was just a FCS foe. Still, this was the type of success the MSU quarterbacks needed to taste for a floundering offense.

4. Nebraska isn’t ready for prime time. The Cornhuskers raced to a 21-3 lead vs. UCLA—then got outscored 38-0 in a 41-21 defeat. The defense melted in the third quarter, allowing 236 yards and 504 for the game. The offense also struggled after the fast start. Nebraska notched more than 19 yards on just two of its last 10 possessions and had only 130 of its 326 yards after halftime, scoring zero points in the second half. Are the Cornhuskers really championship material?

[ MORE: Dienhart: "This was a big step back" for Nebraska ]

5. Indiana’s bowl hopes are alive following a commanding 42-10 effort vs. Bowling Green. Yes, the Hoosiers’ offense impressed with 601 yards with Nate Sudfeld taking command of the quarterback spot. But the IU defense rebounded from a rough effort in a loss to Navy to allow just a field goal (Bowling Green’s touchdown came on a blocked punt).

6. Like Indiana, Iowa may have saved its bowl hopes with a 27-21 win at Iowa State. For the second week in a row, Iowa rode Mark Weisman to victory. He ran 30 times for 180 yards last week vs. Missouri State and he carried 35 times for 144 at Iowa State.

[ MORE: Enter the Buffalo Wild Wings Trip to the Football Championship Sweepstakes ]

7. Illinois still has work to do after a 2-0 start that surprised everyone. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase crashed back to earth. The Illini senior hit just 9-of-26 passes (36 percent) for 156 yards with a touchdown, pick and four sacks in a 34-24 loss to Washington in Chicago. Scheelhaase entered the game hitting 74 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and an interception. The Illinois defense also got torched for 615 yards. This was a team loss.

8. Penn State’s defense may have issues. The Nittany Lions were ripped for 507 yards in a 34-31 loss at home to Central Florida. The Golden Knights used a balanced attack, with 219 yards rushing and 288 yards passing. The potential good news: Penn State likely won’t see many—if any—quarterbacks better than UCF’s Blake Bortles.

[ MORE: Follow Big Ten Network on Instagram! | Tom Dienhart, too! ]

9. Northwestern is the lone Big Ten team that hasn’t had a “clunker” game this season. The Wildcats were efficient and impressive in beating Cal (44-30), Syracuse (48-27) and Western Michigan (38-17). Can’t wait for Ohio State to visit Evanston on Oct. 5.

10. I’m still dazed and confused over the end to the Wisconsin-Arizona State game. We all want to point fingers, but know this: Joel Stave took a knee, but he should have handed the ball to an official instead of placing it on the ground. Still, officials should have put time back on the clock after the ASU player fell on the ball, as Wisconsin wanted to stop the clock and set up for a potential 32-yard game-winning field goal. Regardless, it’s a tough way to end the game, as Wisconsin was sent home a 32-30 loser. What could the Badgers have done better? Pass. Joel Stave hit just 15-of-30 attempts for 187 yards with a TD. This offense must have more balance.

[ MORE: Twitter: Reaction to crazy, confusing Wisconsin finish ]

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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Show Comments (3 Comments)
3 Post Your Comment
ben on 9/15/2013 @ 9:51pm EDT Said:

I thought Gardner was the “best quarterback in the big ten” Tom. You’re quick to fall of the bandwagon, you do realize you just called him terrible after calling him the best right? I say bipolar, but seriously, last week you were saying how it was great how if he didn’t have anyone open he wouldn’t force it, he would scramble, and now this? I mean I guess I’m biased because I’m a Missouri fan but seriously, upgrade your writers BTN….

Big Ten Fan on 9/16/2013 @ 9:37am EDT Said:

Penn State’s only real issue on defense is the one that dogged them all last season, Big Ten officials flatly refusing to call opposing linemen for holding.

John Franklin on 9/16/2013 @ 10:32pm EDT Said:

Michigan is in trouble if it is depending on Gardner’s arm:
#1 Gardner’s arm (and legs) will be the only way Michigan will be able to go to a bowl game this year. The non Devin running game is just pathetic and the defense has shown some signs of struggling (especially against spread offenses).
#2 Like Ben said, Gardner was the only reason we beat ND. You cant go from potential Heisman winner to inconsistent QB in a week. Now as a Michigan fan, I do know that if Gardner throws 3 picks again this season, or even throws a pick every game, then we will lose some of the big and key games in November but I will not change my opinion on him in a week.

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