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.
There are clearly five really good teams in the Big Ten and, lucky for us, the majority of them play each other. Five weeks in and we have five B1G teams in the top 11 of the AP Poll. This might be the best Big Ten season in a long time and I can’t wait to watch the rest of it unfold.
Iowa tallies seven turnovers
Iowa’s defense continues to defy the laws of normalcy. I keep waiting for the Hawkeyes to have a game with two or fewer takeaways, but I’m still waiting. History tells us that it is not possible to rely on a defense to have multiple takeaways game after game, yet Iowa is dead set on proving everyone wrong.
This defense took a potent Maryland offense and made it look like it didn’t belong on the same field. Iowa forced six interceptions and one fumble; at this rate, we might have to start talking about this Iowa defense as one of the greatest of all time! No one knows if they can keep this up, but I’m not willing to bet against them.
When it rains it pours, check out all all six interceptions by Iowa against Maryland:
Pick Party. #BallHawks pic.twitter.com/suuYG4r7wj— Hawkeye Football (@HawkeyeFootball) October 2, 2021
Penn State dominates Indiana
Indiana’s dismal season continues. This time it was Penn State and Sean Clifford who had their way with the IU defense. I’m on the record as saying that Clifford is not a good quarterback, but he did more than enough to beat the Hoosiers on Saturday.
Indiana, formerly known for their good defense, gave up 209 rushing yards to the tune of five yards per carry. Jahan Dotson continued his strong season with eight receptions for 84 yards and two touchdowns. This was a nice warmup game before Penn State faces a much tougher Iowa defense this week.
Penn State vs Iowa
No. 3 Iowa vs. No. 4 Penn State; yes, you read that right! There are two Big Ten teams in the top 5 and neither of them are Ohio State. The fact that they’re playing each other so early in the season makes this even more unique. I was admittedly low on Iowa coming into this season, and no one really knew how Penn State would bounce back after a tough pandemic season, but all they’ve down is beat everyone in front of them and earn their lofty rankings. In a season where teams are getting upset every week, we must give credit to Penn State and Iowa for making it this far.
This is easily one of the biggest games in recent Big Ten history. Luckily for both teams this is a crossover matchup so losing doesn’t end their playoff hopes. Lose this game and win out, and we may be seeing a rematch in Indianapolis with a spot in the playoffs on the line.
Both teams are led by great defenses with mediocre offenses. Penn State has the better offense, but Iowa has the better defense. This has a chance to be an instant classic. You do not want to miss this game.
Ohio State is BACK!?
I’ve said it before, Rutgers is a measuring stick for how good you can be in the Big Ten. The same can be said for Maryland. Blow them out and it could be a special season, lose or play close, and you may have some issues that can rear its head.
Ohio State took care of business against a much-improved Rutgers team this weekend. Now, before you roll your eyes and say, “It was Rutgers,” the football overlords in Vegas had this game with a line of 14.5, previously the line would be over 30; even bookmakers recognize that this is a much better Rutgers team.
Couple that with an Ohio State team that was struggling, and anything could have happened. Instead, the Buckeyes looked like their vintage selves, blowing out Rutgers and finishing the game with backups. C.J. Stroud, after taking a week off to rest his shoulder, went 17-for-23 for 330 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions.
The defense gave up one big play, a 75-yard touchdown pass to Aron Cruickshank. Aside from that they shut down Rutgers until late in the fourth quarter when there were largely playing third and fourth stringers, including a number of walk-ons.
I know it’s Rutgers, but I’m here to say that Ohio State is back. Their offense has found its rhythm and their defense has found some playmakers. The Big Ten isn’t the cake walk it used to be, but Ohio State is still a challenger and might be the favorite.
Denzel Burke the next Derek Stingley Jr.?
Denzel Burke has been a revelation at corner for Ohio State this season. The former high school wide receiver came to Columbus to play defense and I’m here to say that he made the correct decision. Credit to the OSU staff for trusting their evaluation and believing that Burke could make the switch from offense to defense. Burke is the next great defensive back in a long line of great players at that position for OSU, but he’s doing something very few have done before.
He’s locked down the CB1 spot and doesn’t look to be giving it up. Burke started this season as an injury replacement for Cameron Brown and Sevyn Banks, but the true freshman has solidified his starting spot and is making the claim that he’s the best player on the entire defense.
Ohio State doesn’t play true freshman often, so that alone shows how talented he is. He’s not alone, but his play has help spark a renaissance for this defense and it’s time that he gets some national recognition.
After securing his first career interception and returning it for a pick-six, I’m calling for the hype train and ready to serve as the conductor. Burke is on the path to Big Ten honors and — dare I say — All-American honors too? Stingley Jr. was recognized as one of the best corners in college football after his freshman year, and it’s time to give Burke the same treatment.
Watch Burke turn his first career interception into a pick six:
✅ First INT— Ohio State on BTN (@OhioStateOnBTN) October 2, 2021
✅ First Pick-6 @King10Burke adds on to No. 11 @OhioStateFB''s early lead at Rutgers. pic.twitter.com/PijWjGyTRg
Tyleik Williams Appreciation
Not to be outshined, Tyleik Williams is another true freshman making a name for himself on this Ohio State defense. The 2018 and 2019 recruiting classes have underperformed, which has left the door open for new players and all 6-foo-3, 315 pounds of Williams is running through that door at full speed.
Williams, like most of us, had some issues keeping down his weight during the pandemic and reported to camp a little heavy. After working with Mickey Marroti to shed some pounds, Williams is wrecking opposing offensive lines and murdering (figuratively) quarterbacks on a weekly basis.
In what has really been two to three games of significant snaps, Williams has four sacks and some more vicious hits on opposing QBs.
In a class headline by five-star defensive ends J.T. Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer, Williams is the one who has broken out early. Ohio State has always been known for their dominant edge players, but it looks like they may finally have a dominant, game-changing defensive tackle to go along with them. If Tuimoloau and Sawyer reach their ceiling, Ohio State will have a dominant line like never before... beware opposing quarterbacks!
Check out Tyleik Williams punishing Noah Vedral leading to an OSU interception:
Noah Vedral entered today with 0 INTs.— Ohio State on BTN (@OhioStateOnBTN) October 2, 2021
He'll finish the day with at least 3 of them.@TheRyanWatts // @OhioStateFB pic.twitter.com/ovFUkAhW5b
Chris Olave zeros in on record
After two games — including one with zero catches — Olave has found his way back to the spotlight and reminded everyone why he was widely considered the best wide receiver in college football.
After collecting two touchdowns on Saturday, Olave tied OSU great Cris Carter with 27 career touchdown receptions. Barring injury, Olave has a minimum of eight games left at OSU and all he needs is seven TDs to tie — and eight to break — the record for most touchdowns in a career.
Olave is already one of the best receivers in Ohio State history, and without a pandemic shortened season in 2020, he very well might already own this record. Get your trackers out, this may not be the only record to fall before this season ends.
Check out this impressive Chris Olave touchdown:
Wow. All of this.— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) October 2, 2021
No. 11 @OhioStateFB leads 45-6 in the 2Q. pic.twitter.com/weJp3Doj7W
Will the real Nebraska please stand up?
Who is the real Nebraska? Is it the team who lost to Illinois? Maybe it’s the team who lost by a combined 10 points to No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 11 Michigan State. It could also be the team who beat Northwestern 56-7.
Scott Frost is coaching for his job, and his team currently sits at 3-3. It will be hard to retain Frost if he does not at least reach and win a bowl game this season. It’s near impossible to determine which Nebraska team will show up on any given week, but if it’s this last version, then next week’s game against Michigan just got a whole lot more interesting.
The Huskers still must play No. 3 Iowa, No. 7 Ohio State and No. 9 Michigan, so unless they upset one of the three, they will have to beat Minnesota, Purdue and Wisconsin for a chance to make a bowl game. That is not an easy slate, but it’s hard to see Frost returning with another losing season.
How secure is Paul Chryst’s job?
This is probably an overreaction, but Chryst and his Badgers are 1-3 on the season and could realistically end up with a losing record, despite their schedule getting much easier from here on out.
They don’t have a quarterback who can win them a game, or even avoid losing them a game it seems. For the first time in forever, they don’t have a transcendent running back and their offensive line couldn’t stop a leak if you gave them instructions.
Wisconsin plays a fairly dated style of play, but they make it work with a dominant offensive line and a bevy of elite running backs. Chryst has done enough to earn some leash, but if this team misses out on a bowl game and shows no clear improvement, it may be time to consider if this style is sustainable. Maybe it’s time for a new philosophy in Madison.
Who is the team to beat in the Big Ten?
The Big Ten, specifically the Big Ten East, is DEEEEEP! The Big Ten has five teams ranked in the top 11 of the AP Poll, and four of them are in the East. For the first three weeks, Ohio State looked mortal, but the buzzsaw has been greased and looks ready to get back to work.
Iowa is led by their defense and a competent offense, and seemingly gets takeaways at will. Penn State has bounced back from a dreadful season and looks like they’re ready to win the Big Ten and challenge for the playoffs. Lastly Michigan and Michigan State are led by stellar run games, quarterbacks who rarely make mistakes, and defenses who are tough to move the ball on.
Four of these five teams are still undefeated, there will be at most three after this weekend, as you already know, Iowa and Penn State play each other this week. But outside of these five elite B1G squads, it’s tough to imagine anyone else beating them this year.
So, at this point in the season, who is the team to beat? Honestly, I don’t have the answer, but luckily, we’ll get to see all this all play out on the field. Whoever wins the Big Ten — especially if it is one of the four teams from the East — will have gone through a gauntlet, and will have earned the title Big Ten Champ and almost certainly a spot in the College Football Playoff.