Get Tom Dienhart’s Best of Week 8 in the Big Ten
Just like that, the Buckeyes have seen their unbeaten season trashed—and their playoff hopes damaged. But Michigan and Nebraska remain perfect. And Wisconsin tallied yet another impressive victory, while Michigan State’s misery continues. Oh, and keep an eye on Northwestern and Penn State. It was a fun Saturday in the Big Ten.
Get my Best of Week 8 below.
Biggest surprise: It was a stunner to see unranked Penn State dump No. 2 Ohio State, 24-21. It was the Nittany Lions’ first in Beaver Stadium against a team ranked so high since 1982 when they toppled No. 2 Nebraska. The loss doesn’t end the Buckeyes’ Big Ten title or playoff dreams. But Ohio State has a more difficult path. And it has some issues to sort out on offense—and special teams.
Biggest disappointment: Indiana. The Hoosiers have lost three in a row. And the offense is struggling, as the running game has lost its traction during the swoon with IU failing to run for over 100 yards during the losing skid.
Play this again: The Ohio State at Penn State game was great theatre in a great atmosphere in prime time. The Buckeyes surged to a 21-7 lead in the second half, but the Nittany Lions closed the gap to 21-14 in the fourth quarter. Then, a blocked punt set up a PSU field goal to cut OSU’s lead to 21-17. And then the Nittany Lions blocked a 45-yard field-goal attempt and ran it back 60 yards for a TD to take a 24-21 lead with less than five minutes to go and hung on for victory.
Never play this again: Michigan smothered Illinois, taking a 41-8 decision that wasn’t even that close. The Wolverines led 31-0 at halftime and rolled on to move to 7-0. Michigan out gained Illinois, 561-172.
Best play: This is easy. There is no competition. It’s Penn State’s blocked field goal that Grant Haley returned for the go-ahead and eventual game-winning touchdown to down previously undefeated and No. 2 Ohio State at Beaver Stadium. All of that said, Northwestern had a pair of incredible interceptions. First, Montre Hartage had an impressive one-handed interception in the first half, featured at the top of this post. In the fourth quarter, Kyle Queiro made a mind-numbing one-handed grab on a pick.
Best moment: The tributes to late Nebraska punter Sam Foltz continue to pour in each week, and Week 8 was no different. This time, it was Purdue honoring the fallen star and 2015 Big Ten Punter of the Year.
Did you see this? Michigan lined up like this again, and it worked, as the Wolverines scored on a Wilton Speight-to-Jake Butt touchdown.
Best fashion statement: Jim Harbaugh rocked these glasses Saturday vs. Illinois. Turns out, he wore them in honor of Woody Hayes, Michael Douglas and Malcolm X.
WEEK 8 GRADES
Michigan State: C-
Ohio State: B-
Penn State: A
WEEK 8 SUPERLATIVES
Offensive Player of the Week: Going with a tie here this week, as Wisconsin RB Corey Clement ran a career-high 35 times for 134 with a TD in a win at Iowa and Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson remained hot, throwing for 285 yards and three scores, in the Wildcats’ third straight win.
Defensive Player of the Week: In his first game back from injury, Penn State LB Brandon Bell looked like an All-American, making 19 tackles (eight solo) with a sack and TFL in the Nittany Lions’ upset of Ohio State.
Special Teams Player of the Week: Minnesota’s Emmit Carpenter nailed a 28-yard field goal with 10 seconds left to lift the Golden Gophers to a 34-32 win vs. Rutgers. Losing to a Scarlet Knight squad that had lost four in a row would have been a killer for Minnesota. Carpenter also hit a 39-yarder and nailed all four PATs.
Penn State. The program had been waiting for a win like this. And, the Nittany Lions delivered a stunning 24-21 win vs. Ohio State, rallying with 17 fourth-quarter points. It was the first time James Franklin had beat Michigan, Michigan State or Ohio State. And it was James Franklin’s first win vs. a ranked foe as PSU coach.
Wisconsin. The Badgers won for the fourth straight time at Iowa, taking a 17-9 win behind a suffocating effort by the defense that limited the Hawkeyes to three field goals and 236 yards.
Northwestern. The Wildcats continued to roll with a home victory vs. Indiana. That’s three victories in a row for NU, which began the season 0-2. This team will be a factor in the West race, as the offense has come to life the last three weeks, notching 116 points. Props to RB Justin Jackson, who has busted out in a big way with 465 yards rushing in the last three games. Jackson ran for 359 yards on 60 carries in victories at Iowa and Michigan State the two previous weeks. He had 128 total yards vs. IU on Saturday.
Michigan. Another Saturday, another win. The Wolverines raced to a 31-0 halftime lead vs. Illinois and never looked back in taking a 41-8 decision. Michigan had 561 yards and allowed just 172, running for 270 yards. Karan Higdon ran eight times for 106 yards and a TD. Even better: Rival and biggest competitor in the East Ohio State lost to Penn State.
Ohio State. The Buckeyes were hurt by a blocked punt that set up a field goal and a blocked field goal that was returned for the game-winning touchdown in a 24-21 loss at Penn State. Now what? OSU’s national title dreams have been dented, as it needs to improve its passing game and offensive line—as well as special teams.
Indiana. The Hoosiers have lost three in a row after that big home win vs. Michigan State. IU is having trouble running the ball, notching just 84 yards on the ground. Indiana had 88 vs. Nebraska and 99 vs. Ohio State in its previous two losses. The Hoosiers have scored just five touchdowns and 51 points in the last three games.
Michigan State. The stupefying descent of the Spartans continues. That’s now five defeats in succession for MSU, losing to Wisconsin, at Indiana, to BYU, to Northwestern and at Maryland.
Iowa. The Hawkeyes were inept on offense in a 17-9 loss to Wisconsin, Iowa’s third defeat at home this season. The Hawkeyes longest run was 12 yards; their longest pass was 21. Iowa managed just three field goals a week after scoring 49 points at Purdue.
WEEK 8 NUMBERS
285, yards passing for Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson, who hit 24-of-43 passes in a 24-14 win vs. Indiana. He became the first Northwestern signal-caller since at least 2000 to throw three or more touchdown passes in three consecutive games.
128, yards rushing for Michigan State’s LJ Scott on 20 totes with a TD.
60, yards Penn State’s Grant Haley ran with a blocked field goal to score the game-winning TD vs. Ohio State.
253, yards passing for Michigan QB Wilton Speight, who hit 16-of-23 passes with two TDs.
99, yards rushing for Penn State’s Saquon Barkley on 12 carries.
5, losses in a row for Michigan State, the program’s longest skid since 1991.
319, yards passing for Indiana’s Richard Lagow, who hit 35-of-59 passes but had two interceptions and no TD tosses.
111, yards rushing for Minnesota’s Rodney Smith on 22 carries with a TD.
125, yards receiving for Northwestern’s Austin Carr on seven catches with a TD. He was the Big Ten leader in receptions (43), yards (595) and TDs (eight) at the start of the day
20, games in a row Ohio State had won on the road win, dating to 2011. The streak is over.
309, passing yards for Purdue’s David Blough, who hit 25-of-43 passes with two TDs and a pick in a 27-14 loss at Nebraska. DeAngelo Yancey was his favorite target, making four grabs for 100 yards and two TDs.
6, times Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett was sacked by PSU.
6, games in a row Northwestern’s Austin Carr has caught a TD pass in.