Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, September 21, 2014

Let?s call this ?Bounce Back Week.? And, the Big Ten needed it. In a bad way-a really bad way.

The Big Ten went 12-1 on Saturday, including a 4-1 mark vs. schools from the Power Five conferences. This was a big, tall, cool, refreshing drink of success.

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The conference had taken some big hits the first three weeks of the season. We all had read about the carnage:

  • The Big Ten was 1-10 vs. other Big Five conferences.
  • The Big Ten was 24-14 overall in non-conference games, the worst among the Power Five conferences.
  • The Big Ten was 5-3 vs. the MAC.
  • The Big Ten was 2-12 in non-conference games vs. FBS teams with winning records.

And on it went ?

But the Big Ten turned the tide on that avalanche of bad news on Saturday. Does this undo all of the ugly headlines of recent vintage? No. But, it?s a start and something to build on.

Nebraska was the leader of the pack. The Cornhuskers moved to 4-0 with a convincing 41-31 victory over Miami (Fla.) in what is the conference's best non-league win of 2014. Nebraska looked like it could be the best team in the Big Ten West. The offense is clicking at a high level a week after a 55-19 win at Fresno State. Credit coordinator Tim Beck, who has some deadly weapons at his disposal.

Beck?s offense entered the day averaging 594.3 yards (fifth-most in the nation), the most the Huskers have averaged through Week 3 in more than 14 years. Nebraska finished with 459 yards vs. a Miami club that had held teams to 259.7 yards a game in the first three weeks (eighth-best total defense in the country).

?Well it was a good win for the program and a good win for this football team," said Bo Pelini. "We took care of our business in the outcome. That's what we needed to do. We're 4-0. You know, it was the next one."

How special was Abdullah? He ran 35 times for 229 yards and two touchdowns, adding to a resume that already was glossy. The guy is on a roll. And so is quarterback Tommy Armstrong, who hit 9-of-13 passes for 113 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

Nebraska?s fast start is good news for the Big Ten?s hopes of landing a team in the four-team playoff. The conference needs a few teams to begin long, deep runs of victories with Big Ten play about to begin. Ideally, the champions of the East and West will bring records of 11-1 or so into the league championship game in Indianapolis. That would mean the winner of the game will have a big-time quality victory to build a case for playoff berth-along with a shiny record and probable lofty ranking.

But, we?re getting ahead of ourselves. Let?s savor today.

Here's a look at the other big-time wins.

Iowa. The Hawkeyes arrived at Pitt with questions. How good was Iowa? Its offense struggled the first three games, ranking No. 11 in the Big Ten (377.0 ypg) as it headed to play a 3-0 Panthers club. Things looked bleak for a half. But then, the Hawkeyes switched quarterbacks, inserting C.J. Beathard for injured Jake Rudock. And Iowa?s fortunes changed with the offense coming to life in a 24-20 gut-check victory.

"All the guys were supportive of me," said Beathard. "They said, `Let's go, we've got this' and that I had to lead them. They look up to me in that situation and that's what I did."

Indiana. The Hoosiers notched the most surprising win of all, taking a 31-27 decision at No. 19 Missouri. It was Indiana?s first victory over a ranked team since 2006. Making the win even more improbable is the fact Indiana looked bad in a 45-42 loss at Bowling Green last week in which the defense played horrid in allowing a last-second, game-winning TD. It was IU scoring the last-second, game-winning TD this week.

"Guys played hard,? said Indiana coach Kevin Wilson. ?We made good plays at the end. Good win, Good team. Our team's got a lot to grow and gain on it. It's nice to finally play hard and get on the right side.?

Rutgers. No one was sure how the Scarlet Knights would rebound from that 13-10 home loss to Penn State that was emotionally draining. Well, Rutgers showed a lot of heart and talent in notching a 31-24 win at Navy. It?s not easy to prep to play the Midshipmen in a week?s span. It?s even more difficult coming off a heart-breaking loss. But RU responded by rushing for 284 yards to beat Navy-which entering the game led the nation in rushing with a 403-yard average–at its own game.

"I was kind of anticipating [more playing time]," said Scarlet Knights? running back Desmon Peoples, who carried 19 times for 82 yards. "Everybody doesn't stay healthy all season, so I was just ready to pick up the role and I feel pretty good. ? It was fun. Every time I get out there, it's the best experience of my life."

But wait. There's more ?

Purdue knocked off Southern Illinois, 35-13, to double their win total from last year. ? Wisconsin looked like a buzz saw in a 68-17 win vs. Bowling Green with 644 yards rushing. ? Michigan State flexed its muscles in a 73-14 victory vs. Eastern Michigan. ? Maryland bounced back from a difficult home loss to West Virginia with an impressive 34-20 triumph at Syracuse. ? Penn State destroyed UMass, 48-7, flashing a previously missing balance offense to move to 4-0. ? Illinois continued its cardiac ways with its third fourth-quarter comeback win of the season. ? Minnesota showed resourcefulness in a 24-7 victory vs. San Jose State, winning with just one pass completion. ? Northwestern tallied its first win of the season in taking a 24-7 decision vs. Western Illinois.

There was one downer, as Michigan fell, 26-10, at home to Utah to drop to 2-2 and reopen questions about the direction of the program. But that setback wasn?t enough to dim what was a big Saturday for the Big Ten.

A big Saturday that was long overdue.

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, 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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