Get Tom Dienhart’s best of Week 3 in the Big Ten

Get Tom Dienhart’s best of Week 3 in the Big Ten

This was a Saturday dotted with big games and big opportunities. The results were very positive for the Big Ten on this big Saturday.

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At the top end of the scale were huge wins by Ohio State (at Oklahoma), Michigan State (at Notre Dame) and Nebraska (vs. Oregon). And Northwestern got its first win of the season, topping Duke. At the low end was Iowa’s 23-21 loss at home to five-time reigning FCS power North Dakota State. And Illinois got manhandled by MAC foe Western Michigan, 34-10.

Here is a look at a busy and fruitful Week 3.

Biggest surprise: It was a surprise to see Ohio State win with relative ease at Oklahoma. This was a Sooners squad that already had one loss after beginning the season as a top-five squad. OU needed to protect its home field and get a quality win. The Buckeyes would have none of it in a dominating effort that effectively killed OU’s playoff hopes.

Biggest disappointment: Iowa usually beats up foes. But the Hawkeyes got bullied by FCS North Dakota State in a 23-21 home loss to the five-time defending FCS champs. Iowa was outrushed 239-34 (Iowa had just 231 total yards). And C.J. Beathard hit just 11-of-22 passes for 152 yards. Iowa had not lost at home since Nov. 2014, falling to Nebraska. What a disappointing loss for a Hawkeye program that was the consensus pick to win the Big Ten West. Now, what?

Play this again: There was a lot of good back-and-forth in the Oregon at Nebraska game. The Ducks led, 20-7; Nebraska took a 28-20 lead; Oregon edged back for a 32-28 advantage before the Huskers scored late to win, 35-32. Good drama.

Never play this again: Northwestern’s 24-13 win vs. Duke was largely … what’s the word I’m looking for? … unexciting.

Best play: Tip of the hat to a spectacular one-handed, finger-tip catch by Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki that went for 52 yards (Watch it). You won’t see many finer grabs all season. And Michigan State’s Donnie Corley had an eye-popping TD grab at Notre Dame. But Ohio State’s Noah Brown’s catch behind the back of an OU defender takes the cake. Catch … of … the … year. Wow.

Best moment: Before Nebraska took on Oregon, the Ducks left a bouquet of flowers at the field’s 27-yard line in a nod to the jersey number of Nebraska punter Sam Foltz, who died in a car crash in July.

Did you see this? Prior to the Michigan-Colorado game, Jim Harbaugh played catch with another former Wolverine quarterback great Tom Brady, who had not been back on campus in 17 years.

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WEEK 3 GRADES

Illinois: F
Iowa: D
Maryland: C+
Michigan: B+
Michigan State: A
Nebraska: A-
Northwestern: B
Ohio State: A
Penn State: B-
Rutgers: C+
Wisconsin: D+

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WEEK 3 SUPERLATIVES

Offensive Player of the Week: Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong did it all. He hit 17-of-33 passes for 200 yards and three touchdowns and ran 16 times for a team-high 95 yards and a score in leading the Huskers to a 35-32 win vs. No. 22 Oregon. Armstrong hit a big pass on fourth down to keep the game-winning drive alive and ran 34 yards for the winning score two plays later. Have to give Ohio State WR Noah Brown (5 rec.; 72 yards; 4 TD) praise, too.

Defensive Player of the Week: Maryland CB William Likely was outstanding in the Terps’ thrilling 30-24 win over UCF. Likely recorded a game-high 15 tackles, two of which were for a loss, and added a pass breakup in the victory. He is one of the most underrated players in the conference, regardless of position.

Special Teams Player of the Week: Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers. He had four punt returns for 99 yards, taking one back 54 yards for a TD. He also had two kickoff returns for 81 yards. It was part of a great special teams effort for the Wolverines, as Michael Jocz blocked a punt and Grant Perry scooped up the loose ball and scored to cut Colorado’s first quarter lead to 14-7. CU also booted another punt into one of its own players, as Michigan used a short field to cut the Buffs’ lead to 21-14 in the second quarter. Last week, the Wolverines had two blocked field goals and two deflected punts last week vs. UCF.

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STOCK UP

Ohio State. The Buckeyes waltzed into Oklahoma and looked very impressive in dispatching a Sooners team that had a sense of urgency with one loss already. This Buckeyes squad that lost so many key players is rounding into form nicely. This, ladies and gentlemen, was a “coming of age” game. Be afraid, America. Be very afraid.

Michigan State. All of the Big Ten preseason hype went to Ohio State and Michigan. But the Spartans showed in their dominating 36-28 win at Notre Dame that they may be the team to beat in the Big Ten East. What a tough, physical, well-coached team that oozes talent.

Nebraska. The Cornhuskers downed No. 22 Oregon, 35-32, the program’s first win vs. a ranked non-conference foe since it beat Notre Dame in 2001. Will this be a launching pad to bigger and better things?

Michigan. The Wolverines eased to 3-0, coming back from a 21-7 deficit to take a 45-28 win vs. Colorado. Still not sure how good this squad is.

STOCK DOWN

Iowa. The No. 13 Hawkeyes suffered quite the upset, falling at home to FCS North Dakota State on a 37-yard field goal as time expired. Iowa’s goals are still intact, but this defeat hurts the program’s image. The loss was just the fourth by a ranked FBS team to an FCS school.

Illinois. That’s two losses in a row for the Illini, which fell to Western Michigan 34-10. Illinois ran 15 times for three yards. Illinois’ lone TD came on a trick play. The Broncos opened the season with a win at Northwestern. It’s just the fourth time a Mid-American Conference team has two wins over Big Ten foes in one season.

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WEEK 3 TOP NUMBERS

18, completions for Penn State QB Trace McSorley on just 24 passes. He threw for 287 yards with a touchdown and pick and also ran for a TD in a 34-27 win vs. visiting Temple a year after the Owls whipped the Nittany Lions.

320, yards passing for Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson. He also had three TDs, but completed just 18-of-39 passes with two picks. Austin Carr caught six passes for 135 yards (22.5 ypc) and a TD.

7.9, yards per carry for Michigan RB De’Veon Smith. He totaled 87 yards and a touchdown on just 11 carries.

8, career kick returns for Rutgers WR Janarion Grant, which is the most by an active NCAA player. Grant threw for a 21-yard touchdown and had a go-ahead 69-yard punt return for another score as Rutgers rallied vs. New Mexico to take a 37-28 victory.

2, touchdown passes and career road wins for Michigan State QB Tyler O’Connor. He completed 19-of-26 passes for 241 yards with two TDs and an interception in a big win at Notre Dame. In his only other road start, O’Connor led MSU to a win at No. 2 Ohio State last season.

3, scoring drives led by Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook. He came off the bench late in the third quarter for struggling Bart Houston and completed 8-of-12 passes for 122 yards with a touchdown and interception to help the Badgers avoid an upset to Georgia State.

82, the number of consecutive games that Oregon had thrown at least one touchdown pass, which came to an end at Nebraska.

110, receiving yards for Iowa TE George Kittle in a loss to North Dakota State.

169, yards rushing for Rutgers RB Robert Martin. He ran 21 times for a career-high 169 yards (8.0 ypc) with an 80-yard TD run in a 37-28 win vs. New Mexico.

33, yards rushing allowed by Wisconsin to Georgia State in a 23-17 win. Georgia State averaged just 1.4 ypc and had a long run of nine yards.

21-0, deficit for Rutgers vs. New Mexico. The Scarlet Knights fell behind Howard, 14-0, last week, and Washington 24-0 in the opener.

7.6, yards per carry for Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, who ran for 68 yards on just nine carries with a 55-yard TD jaunt after earlier leaving the game injured.

57, yards rushing allowed by Michigan State to Notre Dame, whose long run was 14 yards. Conversely, the Spartans ran for 260 yards on 52 carries, with Gerald Holmes running for 100 yards and LJ Scott 98.

350, consecutive home sellouts for Nebraska at Memorial Stadium, a streak that started in 1962.

246, yards rushing for Maryland, but no player went for over 100 yards. But Maryland freshman quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome replaced starter Perry Hills. And on his only play of the game ran 24 yards for the game-winning TD in a 30-24 double-overtime triumph at UCF.

4, touchdowns for Ohio State WR Noah Brown on just five receptions. He tied a program record for the most touchdown catches in a single game.

19-0, Urban Meyer’s record on the road as Ohio State’s head coach.

7,376, Tommy Armstrong’s career yards passing, which surpassed previous record-holder Taylor Martinez’s 7,258.

14, completions for Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett, on just 20 passes. He threw for 152 yards and four touchdowns. Yep, he’s a Heisman contender.

Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

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, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

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