Every Sunday after the B1G slate of games ends I will be bringing you some BIG thoughts on everything that happened! This will include analysis, stats, key players, moments and maybe a joke or two. Can’t wait to bring you some BIG thoughts week in and week out! Be sure to check out the I-70 Football Show for more in depth analysis and to preview the next week of B1G games.
Penn State vs. Illinois goes to Nine Overtimes
Depending on which side of the fence you sit on, the Penn State vs. Illinois game was either the game of the year or a miserable watching experience. You were either thankful for the NCAA overtime rule changes or cussing and screaming that they changed the best overtime in all of sports. Maybe you, unlike myself, decided to protect your mental health and not watch all nine overtimes. Whichever side you fell on, one thing we know for an absolute fact is that this game, in fact, happened.
For those of you who were not aware of the new overtime rules, I am sorry that you had to be made aware of them in this shocking way. Under the guise of player safety, the NCAA decided that any game that goes past two overtime periods would begin to exchange two-point conversions.
That means that each team gets one play from the three-yard line to score and it goes back and forth until one team wins. What they did not account for is that two-point conversions are some of the hardest plays to convert, which is why teams don’t do them often.
After ending regulation tied 10-10, Penn State and Illinois went into overtime. During the two traditional OT periods, the teams traded field goals leading to a third overtime tied at 16-16.
This is where things went off the rails as the ensuing overtime periods led to 10 consecutive failed conversion attempts. It was both painful and hilarious to watch. And unfortunately, while this rule change was supposed to protect players, in the eighth OT, Illinois quarterback Artur Sitkowski broke his arm trying to convert an attempt.
This game mercifully came to an end in the ninth overtime after backup quarterback (and former starter) Brandon Peters completed a pass in the end zone to upset Penn State 20-18. While entertaining, the new overtime rules did not lead to a shorter game, this was the longest game in FBS history, at least in terms of overtime periods.
The rule change also did not protect the players as it’s safe to assume that Sitkowski is done for the year with a broken arm. The NCAA is on its last leg, but I, for one, hope they revert to the original rules.
ILLINOIS UPSETS NO. 7 PENN STATE IN THE NINTH OVERTIME‼️— ESPN (@espn) October 23, 2021
That’s the most overtimes in FBS history pic.twitter.com/uKlOg9Sd6j
Chase Brown — Illini
My memory could be foggy, but I do not remember a season in which so many different players had monster games. There have been at least five different players eclipse 200 yards rushing or receiving in the B1G this year. That doesn’t include the 400 and 500+ yard games by some of these quarterbacks as well. After watching his contemporaries — like Kenneth Walker, TreVeyon Henderson and Blake Corum — eat, Illinois running back Chase Brown wanted to feast as well, and ffeast he did.
Brown finished the game against Penn State with 223 yards on 33 carries and one touchdown. He wasn’t the only Illini back to eat either, as his teammate Josh McCray went for 142 yards on 24 carries. This two-headed monster helped lead the Illini over Penn State in what is one of the biggest upsets in recent B1G memory.
My only complaint, after racking up 357 yards on the ground, Bert and the guys just refused to run the ball in OT. When they went to the two-point conversion portion of the process, they only attempted to run the ball once and clearly it didn’t amount to anything.
After the injury to their quarterback, it’s safe to assume Brown and McCray will be seeing a lot of touches going forward, can they propel the Illini to a bowl game? Only time will tell.
Dominoes continue to fall
Two weeks ago, the Big Ten had five teams in the AP Top 10. This week they had four teams in the AP Top 10. After a loss to Illinois, Penn State has dropped to No. 20 in the AP poll.
The Big Ten dominoes are continuing to fall as teams are starting to reveal whether they are contenders or pretenders. After beating a good Iowa team, Purdue looked to be contenders in the B1G West, but a loss to Wisconsin on Saturday put that on hold. Many of us gave up on Minnesota after they lost to Bowling Green, but after a dominant 34-16 win over Maryland, they could still challenge in the West.
The gauntlet that is the Big Ten East begins its round robin of sorts next weekend. While the East has the “big name teams,” the West race is wide open and there are four legit contenders: Iowa, Minnesota, Purdue and Wisconsin. The best part of conference play is that all these teams must play each other, and we as fans get to sit back and enjoy it.
Michigan’s bad play calling
I should preface this by saying, I understand this is a minor thing. It may not be worthy of a B1G Thought, especially seeing how the game ended, but these are my thoughts, and this is a thought I had watching TTUN play on Saturday.
Michigan, currently undefeated and ranked No. 6 in the AP Poll, is in control of their own destiny. Despite the complaints from some fans, they are set on being a team that runs the ball and only throws when necessary. I can’t complain about this strategy as it has worked so far, but one thing I do take issue with is their play-calling.
There have been multiple instances in which Michigan either buys into their identity too much or just completely forgets they have an identity at all. They have shown a tendency to make critical mistakes in key moments and while it hasn’t hurt them too much yet, for them to complete this dream season, that needs to be fixed.
The perfect example of this is a play I will link below. Michigan is about to score in a goal-to-go situation, instead of relying on their run game, they decide to throw a flare and try to out athlete Northwestern. It is not successful; the pass catcher gets stopped short of the end zone and to make it worse, he fumbles.
It didn’t matter against a stumbling Northwestern, but against the rest of their schedule it very well might. To win this upcoming match-up against Michigan State — and ultimately the Big Ten — they need to be perfect, that is the downside of playing ball control football. If you can’t rely on a big play to overcome mistakes, you simply can’t make mistakes at all, especially when they take points off of the board.
You pride yourself on running the ball but this is what you call on 3rd and goal?:
Coco Azema — 10 tackles, 1 FF in the first half
I am a self-proclaimed defensive guy, and yet I have not done enough to highlight defense in this column. So, I want to take a quick second to praise a masterful first half from a defensive player.
Coco Azema, a defensive back from Northwestern, went into half time with 10 tackles and a forced fumble. In case you were curious, he forced the fumbled from the previous Michigan thought that kept them out of the end zone.
Azema finished the game with 13 total tackles and two forced fumbles. The craziest thing... he didn’t lead his team in tackles, he finished third overall. Linebacker Chris Bergin finished with 16 tackles to lead the team and sophomore Bryce Gallagher finished second with 14.
There aren’t many positives from Northwestern’s season, but three of their four leading tacklers are sophomores, which bodes well for Pat Fitzgerald’s strategy of only winning when his players are seniors. Watch out, Northwestern could be in Indianapolis in two years led by Azema, Gallagher and Joseph if they can be convinced not to turn pro after next season.
Minnesota has five RBs with 100 yards games this season
No one knows what is going on with Minnesota, so the one thing that I will say is that they have an identity and are sticking to it. Despite losing all-conference running back Mohamed Ibrahim and his very good back up Trey Potts, Minnesota is continuing to run the ball and run well.
A part of that should be credited to their awesome offensive line which, after this season, will see multiple players drafted. Since the start of this season, Minnesota has had five — count them, FIVE — different backs run for over 100 yards in a game. This week it was freshman running backs Ky Thomas and Mar’Keise Irving. Thomas ran for 139 yards on 21 carries while Irving ran for 105 yards on 15 carries; both backs had a touchdown too. It’s tough to lose one running back, losing two is nearly impossible to overcome, yet Minnesota has depth, and they’ll need it as they control their destiny in the Big Ten West.
C.J. Stroud for Heisman
C.J. Stroud in his last three games has thrown for 14 touchdowns and zero interceptions. His offense has score 50+ points per game in four straight games. According to Bill Landis of The Athletic, Stroud’s first team offense has scored 20 touchdowns in 24 drives against their last three opponents.
This OSU offense has scored an absurd 150 points in their last 156 plays. Unless you’re advocating for TreVeyon Henderson, who had three touchdowns on 10 total touches in less than one half of work, you can’t tell me that Stroud shouldn’t be the leader for the Heisman at this point in the season.
This may be the best throw of the year:
that's about as perfect of a throw as you're going to see. pic.twitter.com/v09UcqfszF— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) October 24, 2021
Michigan vs. Michigan State
If you follow me on Twitter (@jordanw330), listen to the I-70 football show, or read this column regularly, you would know that I have been doing what no coach or player should ever do and that is looking ahead.
For the past three or four weeks, I have been salivating at the thought of a battle of undefeated rivals with a chance at the Big Ten East title on the line. There have been some scary moments, but both Michigan and Michigan State are 7-0. Michigan is ranked No. 6 and Michigan State is No. 8 in the AP Poll.
Next week will be the first match up of top 10 teams in this rivalry since 1964. This is without a doubt one of the biggest games of the year and the winner will control their own destiny with a spot in the playoffs on the line when they face the buzzsaw that is Ohio State in one of the last two weeks in November.
B1G Pre-Halloween Slate
No. 6 Michigan vs. No.8 Michigan State isn’t the only big game next weekend. We also have:
No. 5 Ohio State vs. No. 20 Penn State
No. 9 Iowa vs. Wisconsin
Minnesota vs. Northwestern
Five of the eight teams playing in these games are ranked. Penn State vs. Ohio State lost a little luster with the Nittany Lions losing, but it is still a huge, primetime game. All four of the above games have major implications on who will win their respective divisions and represent their half of the conference in Indianapolis.
The best part is that three of the four matchups are in different windows, so you can realistically watch them all. Michigan vs. Michigan State kicks off at 12 noon ET as FOX’s Big Noon Kickoff. Iowa and Wisconsin will also kick at noon, but will air on ESPN.
Then in the afternoon window, Minnesota vs. Northwestern will be at 3:30 p.m. ET on BTN, and then the B1G’s big day will culminate with Ohio State and Penn State is a 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC. This is without a doubt the best weekend of the amazing season so far.
Big Ten Standings
Lastly, I just wanted to post the current Big Ten Standings. There have been a lot of shocking results already this season, and the Big Ten is a wide-open race. It’s not safe to assume that Ohio State is winning the East and we may finally get a new team representing the West. Check out the standings and let me know who you think comes out on top!