Tom's Take: My Week 8 grades, stocks & more
For the most part, it was business as usual in the Big Ten on this Saturday. Ohio State reasserted its dominance with a 19th victory in a row. Wisconsin dominated Illinois and Michigan State was methodical vs. Purdue, while Michigan beat Indiana in one of the wildest games of the season. Northwestern? I don’t know what to make of the Wildcats. Here is a wrap of Week 8.
Biggest surprise: Michigan State only winning 14-0 over a one-win Purdue team in East Lansing. Pitching a shutout was expected. But the Spartans were expected to score more points vs. a Boilermakers defense that came into the game ranked No. 9 in the Big Ten (417.2 ypg). Alas, the MSU attack scored just one touchdown. The other came on defense its fifth such score of the year. The Spartans had scored an aggregate 68 points the previous two games, as it looked like their offense was coming to life. The unit took a step back today.
Biggest disappointment: Northwestern. Losing to Ohio State and at Wisconsin is one thing. Losing at home to a Minnesota team that had lost two in row and was without its head coach on the sideline is an entirely different thing. Yes, the Wildcats were without quarterback Kain Colter and running back Venric Mark because of injury. Still, this was a game the Wildcats needed to find a way to win to help stabilize a listing season.
Best play: In the third quarter of the Indiana-Michigan game, Hoosiers receiver Kofi Hughes leaped over a defender for a pass, making a spectacular catch. But, he didn’t stop there. Hughes then raced 67 yards for a touchdown to cut Michigan’s lead to 42-40.
Play this again: Michigan 63, Indiana 47. This was a frenzy of points and yards. The Wolverines notched a school-record 751; the Hoosiers had 572. Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner set a school-record with 584 yards of offense and 503 yards passing, while Jeremy Gallon set a Big Ten standard with 369 yards receiving in a wild game that left fans and the scorekeeper breathless. It was like a flag football game.
Never play this again: Wisconsin 56, Illinois 32. The Badgers raced to a 21-0 lead with 5:03 left in the first quarter and cruised from there. Wisconsin had 478 yards, including 289 on the ground, as Badger backs Melvin Gordon and James White combined for 240 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
WEEK 8 GRADES
Michigan State: C+
Ohio State: B+
- Michigan offense. Yes, I know the Indiana defense was the worst in the Big Ten entering today (456.0 ypg). Still, it’s hard not to be wowed by a school-record 751 yards of offense along with 63 points.
- Purdue defense. The unit had lost its five games before Saturday by an average of 28 points. But the unit looked very good at Michigan State in limiting the Spartans to one offensive touchdown and just 294 yards.
- Philip Nelson. The Minnesota quarterback didn’t start at Northwestern, but he was more effective than Mitch Leidner in helping the Gophers to a big win that ended a two-game losing skein and pushed Minnesota to within a win of being bowl eligible.
- Michigan WR Jeremy Gallon. All he did was set a Big Ten record with 369 yards receiving on 14 catches, averaging 26.4 yards per grab with two TDs. The yardage total also was the second-most in FBS annals.
- Ohio State. That’s 19 wins in a row and counting. The BCS title game dreams beat on.
- Michigan State defensive scores. If you’re scoring in East Lansing—and I know you are—that’s five touchdowns for the Spartan defense this year after Denicos Allen ran a Purdue fumble in for a score.
- Wisconsin running game. It was devastating again in notching 289 yards. Melvin Gordon and James White combined for 240 yards.
- Jerry Kill. He was spotted in the press box during Minnesota’s 20-17 win at Northwestern and even addressed the team at halftime and after the game. Inspiring.
- Carlos Hyde. The big fella is coming on. He ran 24 times for 149 yards and two scores after rushing 26 times for 168 yards and three touchdowns at Northwestern.
- Michigan QB Devin Gardner. He set school records with 584 total yards and 503 passing yards, hitting 21-of-29 passes with two touchdowns and no picks.
- MSU running back Jeremy Langford. He ran 24 times for 131 vs. Purdue (career highs) a week after jetting 23 times for 109 yards and three scores vs. Indiana.
- Michigan State QB Connor Cook. The previous two games, Cook hit 47-of-75 passes (63 percent) for 512 yards with four touchdowns and two picks. He completed just 13-of-25 passes of 107 yards vs. Purdue.
- Northwestern bowl hopes. They took a big hit with a 20-17 home loss to Minnesota. That’s three losses in a row for 4-3 NU, which still must play Michigan State, Michigan, Iowa and Nebraska.
- Purdue offense. No doubt, the Michigan State defense will make a lot of offenses look bad. But the Boilers mustered a scant 226 yards vs. MSU and got shutout.
- Indiana defense. 751 yards and 63 points allowed. ‘Nuff said.
- Northwestern offensive line. The unit is struggling, as NU ran 26 times for 94 yards. The big fellas also are having issues pass blocking, allowing a combined 10 sacks the last two games.
- Iowa rush defense. It allowed its first two rushing scores of the season and was ripped for 273 yards on the ground by Ohio State.
- Illinois’ bowl hopes. The Illini are 3-3. But I’m having trouble finding three more wins on the schedule.
SNEAK PEEK AHEAD
It’s an abbreviated schedule with just four games. The headliner: A primetime affair that has Penn State at Ohio State. The Nittany Lions will be coming off a bye. Michigan State may have a trapdoor game at Illinois. Be careful, Spartans. Minnesota will look to stay hot with Nebraska coming to Minneapolis off a bye week. Reeling Northwestern is at Iowa.
|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.|