Seriously, if you only watched the Nittany Lions this week, you missed a surprisingly interesting Big Ten slate. Ohio State-Northwestern actually lived up to the hype, Illinois finally had their Denny Green moment (THEY ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE), Michigan managed to put away a terrible opponent, and Michigan State has a quarterback? Oh, and now that every team's played a conference game, we'll have some movement.
This week's theme: The Big Lebowski.
(6-0, 2-0; Last week: #1) "Nobody f***s with the Jesus."
Even though the game was played at Ryan Field, it still felt like an Ohio State home game. I'd call it embarrassing for Northwestern, but, to be fair, midterms were coming up. But here's the thing: the Buckeyes struggled defensively, Braxton Miller was so bad that Urbz almost went to Kenny Guiton, and Northwestern led most of the game. But they pulled it out, and there's no question they're the Big Ten's best.
(4-1, 0-1; Last week: #3) "Is this your homework, Larry?"
What's there to say about Northwestern? It's funny, they have the talent, they have the schemes, they have the coaching and the execution, but they're Spartying on a different level. I'm not going to question the dedication or willingness to win, but jeez, all these fourth quarter collapses have to be talking a toll on all seven Wildcat fans.
(3-2, 1-1; Last week: #2) "Obviously you're not a golfer."
Wisconsin comes off a bye to host Northwestern. Nice of the Big Ten to frontload the interesting games, but I fear an Ohio State hangover for the Wildcats. So does Vegas; the Badgers are a surprisingly-high 10.5-point favorite.
(5-0, 0-0; Last week: #5) "Don't be fatuous, Jeffrey."
For a while there, it seemed like Michigan was going to do what it does, at least this year: let an inferior opponent stick around for far too long, win, but not comfortably, and generally uninspire. But the Wolverines pulled away from a game Minnesota squad with a 28-6 second half, and at least have some mojo heading into a matchup with a Penn State team that has none.
(4-1, 1-0; Last week: #6) "This aggression will not stand, man."
Mark Dantonio decided to stick with Connor Cook at QB. He promptly threw for 277 yards, which might be the most by a Spartan QB since Kirk Cousins. More importantly, that defense continues to be kind of insane: they held Iowa to 23 yards rushing. Related: a run on a fake by Sparty punter Mike Sadler picked up 25.
(4-1, 1-0; Last week: #9) "You're not wrong, Walter, you're just an asshole."
If nothing else, we owe Nebraska a debt of gratitude for knocking Illinois back to the bottom of the Big Ten where they belong. The Illinois offense that had looked so dynamic in recent weeks was held in check; an offense even lacking Taylor Martinez was able to move the ball at will, especially on the ground (don't look now, but Ameer Abdullah is having an awesome year), and Nebraska is firmly within this second tier of Big Ten teams.
(4-2, 1-1; Last week: #8) "I told that Kraut a f***ing thousand times I don't roll on the shabbos."
Iowa had to deal with a perfect storm Saturday--they couldn't run the ball, injuries started piling up, the Hawkeyes got burned on special teams, and, somehow, the Michigan State offense started making big plays. They've got a week off to get healthy, and to get Mark Weisman back on track...before a devastating stretch against the Big Ten's top 3 teams. If they're not 4-5 by November, consider it a minor miracle.
(3-2, 1-0; Last week: #10) "Come on, man. I had a rough night and I hate the f***in' Eagles, man?"
I don't want to talk about it.
(3-2, 0-1; Last week: #4) "Three thousand years of beautiful tradition, from Moses to Sandy Koufax, you're goddamn right I'm living in the f***ing past!"
That's more like it. Illinois still isn't an awful team, but this loss knocks them back down to earth. Nathan Scheelhaase went from slinging it around the field to completing half his passes against a putrid Nebraska secondary, the Illini D barely put up any resistance against the run, and Tim Beckman's squad never really put up a fight. Let's hope this is the real Illinois.
(3-2, 0-1; Last week: #7) "This is what happens, Larry. This is what happens when you f*** a stranger in the a**!"
I still don't want to talk about it.
(4-2, 0-2 Last week: #11) "Say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, but at least it's an ethos."
For about a half on Saturday, Minnesota looked like they were going to somehow challenge Michigan, like Akron and UConn had done in previous weeks. Mitch Leidner looked good, the big plays weren't there for Devin Gardner, and Minnesota looked almost competent. Then the second half happened, and the defense just could not get off the field. Michigan coverted 10 of their 13 first downs on the day. Not a winning strategy.
(1-4, 0-1; Last week: #12) "Ever thus to deadbeats, Lebowski."
If anyone could find a way to lose the Bye week, it would be Purdue, and lose to the Bye week they did. Starting receiver BJ Knauf was suspended for shoplifting. Isn't it kind of weird to remember that Purdue used to be a perennial 8- and 9-win team under Joe Tiller?