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Sunday Debriefing: The Wild Wild (Big Ten) West

Nebraska get shucked by Michigan, Minnesota get rolled by Maryland, Wisconsin snatched a win from Iowa.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

This weekend was a good one for Big Ten conference contenders. For the first time in what seems like forever, nobody really slipped on the proverbial banana peel—even though some teams tried.

Ohio State was not one of those teams, thankfully. The Buckeyes, who now have Urban Meyer back on the sidelines, surfed past the Tulane Green Wave, 49-6. Offensively, OSU showed that Dwayne Haskins may very well be the best quarterback in all of college football; defensively, the Bucks proved that even without Nick Bosa in the fold, they can still strike fear into the hearts and minds of offensive lines. This was Ohio State’s last tune-up game before they head to State College, Penn. next weekend for a clash with another Big Ten East titan, Penn State.

The Nittany Lions weren’t in action on Saturday. They played on Friday night under the bright lights of Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill. The Fighting Illini gave the No. 10 team in the country a good scare; halfway through the third quarter the score was 24-21 Illini. But, in a blink of an eye, the Nittany Lions roared back.

And by the end of the game, James Franklin’s squad had rattled off 42-straight points en route to a 63-24 win. Just like the week prior, PSU put up 63 points against Kent State. While it is very unlikely that Penn State will score 63 points against Ohio State, it should be a high-scoring affair as both teams can move the ball on offense, and have trouble stopping teams while on defense.

Should be a good one next week in a battle of AP Top 10 squads. ESPN’s College GameDay will be on hand for the Buckeyes-Nittany Lions showdown.

The Big Ten East wasn’t done yet winning. Michigan had, arguably, the most surprising victory of the afternoon. With the Nebraska Cornhuskers making a visit to Ann Arbor, Mich., head coach Scott Frost was in search for his first win as the Huskers’ new man in charge. It would’ve been doubly sweet if he was able to make that win a signature one by topping a top-20 Wolverine squad in the Big House.

However, whatever you consider the opposite of sweet to be, that’s how bad this game ended for Nebraska. Nope, it wasn’t sour; it was an absolute, revolting taste—one that I don’t wish on anyone. The Wolverines totaled 491 yards of offense on the way to a 56-10 beatdown of their Big Ten brethren. Michigan was up 46-0 before Nebraska answered with a field goal. It was a stew of miscues for Frost’s team. A safety was surrendered, as was a 60-yard punt return for a TD, in addition to the Huskers giving up big plays on the ground and in the air.

Nebraska has to play Purdue next week—and it might be tough to find their first win against the 1-3 Boilermakers. Purdue had three close calls on the season, all losses by a combined eight points, before taking their frustration out on a then-No. 22 Boston College team. While these teams are riding the struggle bus, one B1G West team look a big step forward on Saturday night.

Wisconsin and Iowa met under the lights in Kinnick Stadium, and was the Big Ten’s defacto game of the week. And boy, did it deliver; the dramatics down the stretch made the game entertaining. With 5:40 left in the game, quarterback Alex Hornibrook needed to lead the Badgers down the field to either tie or take the lead. Trailing 17-14, the visitors had their work cut out for them—the drive started at Wisconsin’s 12. Hornibrook made the passes down the stretch, with the culmination being a go-ahead TD to A.J. Taylor with under a minute remaining. Iowa had an opportunity to answer, but a Nate Stanley interception ended all hopes of that.

Even though Wisconsin took a tough loss at home last week to BYU, they turned right around and beat Iowa in Kinnick Stadium. At the same time, I don’t know what to think of this Wisconsin team. They aren’t flashy, but they do enough to get by—until they don’t, but that kind of describes every Wisconsin team ever. Right now, though, they hold a share of the lead in the Big Ten West with Northwestern. Everybody else in the West (Minnesota, Nebraska, Illinois, Purdue, Iowa) is 0-1 in conference play.

Minnesota joined the loss column this weekend as Maryland woke back up and played like they did in their winning effort against Texas. Rutgers and Indiana are the only Big Ten East teams to have suffered a conference loss.

Rivalry trophies within the conference were also at stake in a couple of the games. Wisconsin’s win keep the Heartland Trophy in Madison, Wisc., for another season. Michigan State handled Indiana to win the Old Brass Spittoon. Real talk: a brass container that is normally used for spitting into is the prize awarded between the Hoosiers-Spartans. You can’t make this stuff up.

And lastly, Rutgers got embarrassed at home by Buffalo. Smh.