Every Sunday after the Big Ten slate of games, I will be bringing you some B1G thoughts on everything that happened! This will include analysis, stats, key players, moments and maybe a joke or two. Be sure to check out the I-70 Football Show in the Land-Grant Holy Land podcast feed for more in-depth analysis and to preview the next week of B1G games.
Ohio State’s defense has been one of the most talked about things in the country early in the season. In their first three games, they were easily one of the worst units in the country. Well, under the direction of de facto defensive coordinator Matt Barnes, the defense has made significant improvements.
Sure, you’ll hear people say, “Look at the opponents,” but good defense is good regardless of the opponent. In consecutive weeks, Ohio State’s starting 11 has held the opposing team under 10 points, before the final totals being determined by late scores against backups.
Not only have they been stingy, but they’ve also started producing takeaways. To my count, this defense has forced nine interceptions in four games. Not only that, but they have had a pick-six in four consecutive contests. This is an impossible streak to keep up, but for now, just enjoy this moment and marvel in the speed and athleticism of OSU’s defensive backs.
Craig Young takes it to the house to make it four straight games:
Craig Young with the pick-six! 4 straight games with a defensive TD for Ohio State. Buckeyes beat Maryland 66-17. #GoBucks pic.twitter.com/fiLQPY22aP— The Buckeye Nut (@TheBuckeyeNut) October 9, 2021
Olave is the best WR in the Country
Alright, I’m sure at this point you’re well aware of the Chris Olave hype. Some of you may be on the train, while others may be tired of it. Well, I for one believe in giving people their flowers while they’re here.
This is the last season that we will see Olave in a Buckeye uniform. Soon, he will be taking his talents to the NFL and being paid handsomely for them. When watching Olave, you can’t help but notice just how smooth he is. After a slowish start to the season, Olave has turned it on.
He followed up his five catch, 119 yard, two touchdown performance at Rutgers with a seven catch, 120 yard, two touchdown performances. Olave is a special player and is making his case to be considered the best wide receiver in Ohio State history. You don’t get to see these types performances often; Olave hasn’t yet gotten the hype of a DeVonta Smith or a Jamarr Chase, but he is just as good — if not better. Appreciate him while he is here.
Watching one of Olave’s two touchdowns:
Are you kidding, @chrisolave_— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) October 9, 2021
Just can't stop the @OhioStateFB WR pic.twitter.com/dDc0brDpwS
C.J. Stroud for Heisman
C.J. Stroud has been solid at his worst, and spectacular at his best, thus far in his young career. While Buckeye fans were calling for his replacement early in the season, there were teams nationwide — and 13 teams in the Big Ten — wishing that he was their starter.
After a dominant performance where he threw for 406 yards and five touchdowns while going 24-for-33 (73%) against Maryland, it’s time to talk Heisman. Unfortunately for running backs everywhere, the Heisman is essentially a quarterback award. Due to this well-established unwritten rule, there are only two real challengers to Stroud’s Heisman campaign, Bryce Young of Alabama and Matt Corral of Ole Miss.
This is not me saying that he is going to win it; you can never really predict that. However, even while missing a game earlier in the season, Stroud’s on par — or better — than most quarterbacks in the country.
The Heisman is won on big moments, and the OSU QB will have games against ranked Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, and probably Iowa to make his case. I don’t expect 400 yards and five touchdowns every week, but if he can average 300 yards and three touchdowns, plus have one or two major statistical games, if the Buckeyes win out, he will be in New York and possibly hoisting the trophy.
What an absolutely incredible throw by C.J. Stroud:
Look at this dime, under pressure. @CJ7STROUD // @OhioStateFB pic.twitter.com/V7bjVqfXbZ— Ohio State on BTN (@OhioStateOnBTN) October 9, 2021
Jalen Nailor’s Big Day
When we talk about wide receivers in the Big Ten, we rarely bring up Michigan State’s Jalen Nailor... well that ends today!
Nailor had a MONSTER performance today against Rutgers. A lot of attention for the No. 11 Spartans goes to transfer running back Kenneth Walker, but Nailor refuses to be overlooked. Against a solid Rutgers team, Nailor caught five passes for 221 yards and three touchdowns.
In case you didn’t pull out your calculators that is a stunning 44.2 yards per catch average; scoring a touchdown on 60% of your touches isn’t too shabby either. Nailor has an uphill battle to be considered one of the best wide receivers in the Big Ten, but he’s a good player and came up big when his team needed him. Performances like this will go a long way to helping Michigan State regain their footing in the B1G East.
Nailor would not be stopped on this touchdown:
You probably figured Jalen Nailor would be down near the sideline.— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) October 9, 2021
Nope. @SpeedyNailor // @MSU_Football pic.twitter.com/mIy0Lvbxcn
Michigan State’s offensive explosion
Despite his gaudy numbers, Nailor wasn’t the only person to have a major game against Rutgers, as he was joined by Walker and quarterback Payton Thorne. Thorn threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns on 16-for-27 passing, while Walker ran for 232 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries.
In case you weren’t aware, it is very rare for a team to have a quarterback throw for 300+ yards and a running back and wide receiver each have 200+ yards in the same game. Michigan State is only the fifth team in FBS history to pull off this feat. The Spartans are trying to prove that they’re not a one-man show, and if this offense keeps improving, they’re going to be hard to beat.
I’m very close to believing that they’re the second-best team in the Big Ten East, but lucky for us, we get to see them all play each other sooner or later.
Kenneth Walker goes 94 yards to the house:
KENNETH WALKER— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) October 9, 2021
94 YARDS! pic.twitter.com/Pb291Pzkhu
Iowa survives against Penn State
Iowa vs. Penn state was not a very pretty game, but a win is a win. After going down early, the Hawkeyes pulled off a tremendous comeback and won 23-20 against No. 4 Penn State. This is the first major domino to fall in this Big Ten season.
Penn State realistically was probably Iowa’s toughest remaining opponent; there is a very real chance that Iowa ends the regular season as 12-0 Big Ten West champs heading to Indy for the conference title game.
For Iowa, it is very important for them to go 12-0. If they go undefeated and win the Big Ten, they’re in the playoffs. But, if they were to fall in a close B1G title game, they would still have a case for making the CFP field following wins over ranked Penn State and Iowa State. It might be a bit early to be thinking playoffs, but this was a big win for the Hawkeyes program.
Iowa is not a great football team
I tend to be very positive in these articles because negativity serves no one. Even still, sometimes you have to trust your eyes, and I don’t believe that Iowa is a great football team. They may be good, but they’re not great. We have to judge this Iowa team not by their peers, but by their goals. Iowa wants to win the Big Ten and represent the conference in the playoffs for the first time in school history. If you look at this team objectively, you see a very opportunistic defense who was getting carved up by Penn State before Sean Clifford, who is not a good quarterback, got injured.
Then you see an offense that does not look like they can score on anyone. For the first time this season, they faced a good defense, and this offense looked inept for most of the game. I’m sorry to tell you, Penn State is not Ohio State, they’re not Alabama, and they’re certainly not Georgia — who looks like the best team in the country.
Iowa has benefitted from a senior laden defense, a bunch of bad opposing quarterbacks, and scoring on short fields. Against the cream of the crop, Iowa doesn’t match up. If somehow, they find a way to make the playoffs, we could be looking at another Michigan State in 2015 type situation. Lucky for them, they have more games to fix their issues, but if their offense doesn’t get better and their defense takes half a step back, their special season could become a lot less special.
Battle to be the worst QB in the B1G
Before Saturday, I did not know that there was an active battle to decide who the worst QB in the Big Ten is. Why try to be the best when you can be the worst? The battle got out of hand on Saturday, check out these performances below.
Artur Sitkowski, Rutgers: 8/27, 55 yards
Graham Mertz, Wisconsin: 10/19, 100 yards 1 interception
Ta’Quan Roberson, Penn State: 7/21, 34 yards, 2 interceptions
Sean Clifford, Penn State: 15/25, 146 yards, 2 interceptions
Noah Vedral, Rutgers: 15/30 208 yards
Spencer Petras, Iowa: 17/31, 195 yards 2 touchdowns and 1 interception
Some of these are significantly better than others, but none of them would be classified as “good” games. The Big Ten has a quarterback problem. It is embarrassing for basically every quarterback in the Big Ten to look like they’ve never played the position before on the same exact day.
Nebraska has improved significantly
Nebraska is 3-4 and is in danger of not making a bowl game after losing 32-29 to No. 9 ranked Michigan. Most people gave up on Nebraska after their Week One loss to Illinois, and rightfully so.
But since then, Nebraska has looked like a much different team, their schedule has been tough, and while some people don’t like to take moral victories, this isn’t the Nebraska team of old. I said before the season that Scott Frost needed to make a bowl game to keep his job, that still may be true, but after close losses to No. 6 Oklahoma, No. 9 Michigan and No. 11 Michigan State, if Nebraska can win the games that they’re supposed to, and keep the rest close, Frost may earn himself another year, even if he does end up with another losing record.
I’m not sure if Frost is the guy to turn around Nebraska, or if they can even be turned around, but his team is fighting this season, and that alone is progress.
Michigan keeps finding ways to win
In my humble opinion, Michigan is the worst of the five teams atop the Big Ten. If you believe in the college football transitive property, Michigan fans should be concerned. They only beat Rutgers 20-13 while Ohio State beat them 52-13 and Michigan State beat them 31-13.
Transitive properties aren’t the best way to look at sports, and Michigan is still undefeated, but we will find out how good they are when they play Michigan State and Ohio State later in the season.
What I can tell you is that if nothing else, there is one major difference in this team, and it is that they refuse to quit. They’ve played some tight games that previously under Jim Harbaugh they would have found a way to lose. Instead, they’re finding clutch plays offensively and defensively to win close games.
I hope we get to see an undefeated Michigan play an undefeated Michigan State in a top-10 battle on Oct. 30. If we do, that may be the biggest day in recent Big Ten history, as we’ll get to see that rivalry game and another highly ranked matchup between Ohio State and Penn State.
Bonus: National Championship Prediction
Before the season I said two things, that Georgia was going to win the national championship and that if they didn’t, it wouldn’t surprise me if Ohio State did — because the Buckeyes always seem to win it all the year that they’re not supposed to.
It’s too early and there is too much craziness going on to feel strongly on any preseason prediction, but after Alabama lost to an unranked Texas A&M, things are looking promising.
Ohio State, after losing to Oregon, has kicked things into gear and has an offense that looks unstoppable. You can never count out Alabama, but this is me calling for an OSU vs. Georgia National Championship Game. I think nationally it will be the most compelling match up and we the fans deserve it.