Every week, the Big Ten gives us things to talk about - and I’ll be here every week to bring you some of the biggest. There were plenty of great plays over the (extended) weekend. There were also some of the plays and moments that make Big Ten football so special - like punts and safeties.
Here are your Big Ten Superlatives for Week One!
Best Win of the Week
There was a nationally televised night game played between two top-five teams on Saturday night in Columbus. Even though Ohio State players and coaches came away saying it was an “ugly win”, the No. 2 Buckeyes controlled the second half in the 21-10 win. No. 5 Notre Dame seemed content to burn clock, play keepaway, and to take away the big play down the field. The Irish even did this after falling behind by two scores in the fourth and even punted the ball away with about four minutes to go and no real hope of getting the ball back twice via their defense (go ahead and join the Big Ten already, Notre Dame; this shows you’re ready). There were more exciting finishes in Big Ten play (you know one, right!), but even against a punchless Notre Dame offense, Ohio State’s maligned defense showed a lot of life and the Buckeyes have a couple home cupcakes to get the offense more in sync.
Worst Loss of the Week
There was a nationally televised night game played between two receiving votes teams on Thursday night in West Lafayette. I think you know what happened here. But imagine it from a Purdue perspective. The Boilermakers had taken a late lead, watched their defense stand up, and even as irritated as they were with Jeff Brohm’s clock management, the game appeared to be over after Aiden O’Connell appeared to have completed a pass to pick up a key first down. Again, I think you know what happened next. That was a brutally tough loss, and one of only two losses for Big Ten teams in Week One.
Offensive Performance of the Week
Look, a quarterback went on the road into a sold out night game atmosphere and threw for nearly 300 yards, accounted for five touchdowns, and led a game-winning touchdown drive in the closing minutes despite missing some time with some sort of injury or ailment. Many of you won’t like it, but it’s our guy - Sean Clifford!
Defensive Performance of the Week
I’ve already mentioned the Ohio State defense standing up to critics and it was led by two guys who made splash plays on Saturday night. Defensive tackle Michael Hall Jr. was unblockable at times on his way to four tackles, two tackles for a loss, a sack, and general disruption that is already giving me scary feelings heading into Penn State’s Halloween weekend matchup. Meanwhile, Tommy Eichenberg led Ohio State with nine tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks.
Offensive Play of the Week
Death, taxes, Wisconsin playing a September game in Camp Randall where they beat up on some team who will later mess up your March Madness bracket. At least it came with some history on Saturday night, like Braelon Allen recording the longest touchdown run, 96 yards, in the history of Badger football.
Defensive Play of the Week
Let’s not jump around and instead stay in Madison where safety John Torchio ran a long way, too. He picked off a first half pass and took it back 100 yards for a score, the longest interception return in Wisconsin history.
Most Big Ten Thing of the Week
You did it, right? If you weren’t paying attention, you’d have glanced at Iowa’s 7-3 win against South Dakota State and assumed some magical Kinnick Stadium moment had led to four Jackrabbit players being injured on the same play as an Iowa safety ran back a fumble for a game winning score. Close. Oh, so close. Instead, it was Iowa netting a field goal (on a four-play drive) and not one, but two second-half safeties to escape with the home win. We’d been wired to think for all these years that two safeties couldn’t win a game.
Most Big Ten Thing of the Week Honorable Mention
The old coaching adage goes that you make sure a drive ends with a kick. A first and goal from the Boston College 10-yard line did just that for Rutgers. That kick, however, was not by a placekicker. Instead, a few plays, a couple penalties, and one sack later, Rutgers was PUNTING on fourth-and-goal from the BC 43.
Rutgers football is BACK— Pickswise (@Pickswise) September 3, 2022
4th & goal at the 43 and the Scarlet Knights were forced to punt pic.twitter.com/DZk3aR3pTn
Most I Smiled Thinking About the Great Times Moment
Former Penn State All-American Wide Receiver Bobby Engram made his debut as offensive coordinator at Wisconsin. The final Badger stats: 221 yards passing and 219 yards rushing. That’s balance. Nearly perfect balance and I couldn’t help but think about that 1994 offense that usually had those numbers through two and a half quarters. I’ll always miss you Bobby, my favorite Penn State player of all time.
Thing We Are Looking Forward to the Most
The Big Ten slate leaves a lot to be desired in Week Two. But, I know that I’ll be filling several of these slots with moments from the battle in the Hawkeye state. I am sure there will be a lot of punts and a final score to the tune of 11-9. Can’t wait.