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B1G Thoughts: An instant classic, a dog fight, and a new leader in the West

No. 6 Michigan vs. No. 8 Michigan State led to an instant classic, Penn State shows life in a tough loss to Ohio State and the Big Ten West is led by Minnesota?

Penn State v Ohio State Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Every week 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.

Wow… I’ve said all season that the Big Ten refuses to disappoint, and they gave us everything we wanted plus more this weekend. This week’s slate gave us an instant classic between Michigan and Michigan State, a dog fight between Ohio State and Penn State and a weird blowout with Wisconsin dominating Iowa. Lastly, it ended with less clarity in the East while Minnesota has sole possession of first place in the West. Nine weeks into this season and it has been nothing short of spectacular.

Michigan State shows resilience

In less then two full seasons as the head coach of the Michigan State Spartans, Mel Tucker has entirely changed the culture. Win or lose, you would describe his teams as tough, resilient and well-coached. His players play the full 60 minutes no matter what. That was true last year when they were at the bottom of the Big Ten, and it’s true this year at the top.

Michigan State could have given up when they went down to Michigan. They could’ve packed the bags when Kenneth Walker III looked like he couldn’t find a hole. They could’ve headed to the buses when Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo toyed with their offensive line and made life hell for Payton Thorne. Yet, a Mel Tucker team would never do that.

Despite the early poor showing leading to a 30-16 deficit, the Spartans — much like the Spartans in the movie 300 — put their backs against the wall and fought the good fight. The coaches stayed aggressive, and they put the game in the hands of the players who led them to the 7-0 start. On the backs of Thorne and Walker III they chipped away at the lead. Two touchdowns and two successful two-point conversions (take notes Penn State and Illinois) and the game was tied 30-30.

When Michigan went up 33-30 and had the ball which a chance to extend the lead, MSU kept fighting and finally got the break it needed when promising freshman J.J. McCarthy fumbled the handoff and lost the ball. From there, all the Spartans needed to do was hand the ball to their playmaker and Walker III led them to victory. In what was an instant classic, Michigan State proved more resilient, winning 37-33, and therefore has a chance to continue its special season. All they have to do is keep winning.

Check out the Spartans’ game-sealing interception:

It takes guts to win big games

Winning in college football isn’t easy. Even though teams like Ohio State, Alabama, Oklahoma and Georgia make it look easy, it is not. Sometimes your back is against the wall and one decision can make or break a game. In this case, down 13-7, Tucker and his Spartans went for it on 4th-and-1, and if you didn’t watch the game, you’re assuming they handed it to Walker III.

You would be wrong. Instead, they took a deep shot which led to a touchdown shortly after. Having guts in that moment and showing confidence in his guys paid dividends as they continued to fight all game until they pulled out the win.

Check out that gutsy 4th-and-1 call:


Listen, if you’ve been paying attention to college football this year, there is only one right answer for who is the leader contender for the Heisman trophy, and it is Kenneth Walker III.

The Heisman has become an award that is handed to the best quarterback on the best team by default unless another player has the type of season no one can ignore, and that is what Walker III is doing. He currently has 1,194 yards and 14 touchdowns in eight games. He averages 6.8 yards per carry, and he’s doing it for an undefeated Michigan State team that has a chance to win their conference and make the playoffs.

He’s checked off every box so far, and this past week he got his “Heisman Moment” by running for 197 yards on 23 carries and cashing in five (FIVE!) touchdowns against Michigan. If this isn’t a Heisman moment, nothing is. I’m tired of the Heisman going to quarterbacks by default. K9 is deserving, and if he doesn’t win it’s a shame.

Kenneth Walker III showed up in the game’s biggest moments:

Cade McNamara job security?

Anyone following Michigan this season will immediately notice that they are running some sort of a two-back system. Cade McNamara is the starter, but former five-star freshman quarterback J.J. McCarthy comes in for multiple plays a game. This isn’t a gimmick either — McCarthy comes in during pivotal moments and both runs and throws the ball. Yet you must wonder after McNamara went 28-of-44 for 383 yards, two touchdowns and one interception if he’s garnered some needed job security.

A lot of fans and media members alike are wondering why McCarthy isn’t starting, as he seems to flash every game. Yet, as freshmen tend to do, he made a mistake at a key moment, fumbling the hand off that led to Michigan losing this game. McNamara is the starter this season, but maybe he’s done enough to keep the job next year too. If that’s the case, it will be interesting to see if McCarthy stays or bolts for greener pastures.

Andrel from East Lansing

There are not many absolute truths in college football, but the one I believe in the most is that talent flashes early. Being an Ohio State fan, every great player of the Urban Meyer era had a moment — a play or a game as a freshman — that let us know that this kid is legit and will be star. True freshman Andrel Anthony, who is from East Lansing in case you missed that, had his moment in this game.

Michigan hasn’t needed to throw the ball much this season, but they did on Saturday and Anthony flashed, catching six passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns. The most impressive part? He had never had a career catch up until this point. Anthony has the makings of a star, and whoever is passing the rock for Michigan should find him early and often throughout his career.

Anthony wouldn’t be denied on his second career touchdown:

Ohio State survives a dog fight

Who thought that Ohio State would struggle against Penn State? If you said yes, you’re either lying or should play the lottery. After losing to Iowa and Illinois, it looked like Penn State’s season was over, and many people expected a blow out in Columbus. Instead, Penn State came into this game and fought for their season. They made Ohio State earn everything and they almost came out with a victory.

No one like moral victories, but holding the best offense in college football to 26 points (OSU scored a defensive TD) plus holding them to one touchdown, four field goals and a turnover on downs in six trips to the red zone is a moral victory. Penn State has lost three straight, but they haven’t given up. For Ohio State? A win is a win. Penn State week is always a tough game, and you’ll take a nine-point win over a seven-point loss. The team that played Oregon would’ve lost this game, but these Buckeyes are stronger and found a way to win.

What determines a rival?

After Saturday’s game against Penn State, it’s time to have a conversation. Penn State did what it always does and made Ohio State sweat and earn a 33-24 victory in Columbus. So my question is this, what determines a rival? Is it history? Is it the school and fans calling you their rival? Or is it what happens on the field?

History suggest that Michigan is Ohio State’s only rival, but the last 10 seasons or so would suggest that Penn State is a rival too. For some reason Ohio State fans refuse to accept Penn State as a rival, yet when you look at the games the only thing that explains their competitiveness is a rivalry. I’m not suggesting that Penn State should supersede Michigan. it is impossible for Ohio State fans to hate anyone as much as they hate Michigan. But it is possible to have two rivals. Michigan has two rivals, and Penn State truly is our second rival. If you disagree look at the results of the last 10 games.

Sure, Penn State has only won twice and Michigan has won once. Not a significant difference, but unlike Michigan, Penn State has won a game that wasn’t part of the 2011 season with Luke Fickell, and they’ve kept almost all of the games a lot closer. Michigan is the true rival, but Penn State deserves recognition too.

Big Man Touchdown

Who doesn’t look a Big Man touchdown? Ohio State Jerron Cage debuted a 4.3 – 40-yard dash on this scoop and score. This is the second big man touchdown this season, and I for one want a lot more.

Wisconsin blows out Iowa

Wisconsin — the team we thought would win the West and then was left for dead — beat Iowa — the team we thought could make the playoffs — and it wasn’t close. Wisconsin won 27-7, and controlled this game from jump. The fall from grace for Iowa has been immediate and painful. I tried to warn y’all about this terrible offense and how hard it would be to keep their record-breaking pace on takeaways, but even I didn’t see this coming. Now Wisconsin just needs to keep winning and they could find themselves in Indianapolis again, while Iowa needs to find some confidence or this special season will continue to spiral.

Minnesota leads Big Ten West

In the surprise of the year, Minnesota — who recently lost to Bowling Green — is currently in sole possession of first place in the Big Ten West. Win their win over Purdue and Wisconsin’s win over Iowa, the West is the Gophers’ to win. All they have to do is beat Wisconsin and they’ll find their way to Indianapolis. Big Ten Coach of the Year is going to Mel Tucker in a landslide, but P.J. Fleck deserves a lot of credit for what he’s done this year.

Losing to Bowling Green is a major low point, but after losing both star running back Mo Ibrahim and his backup to injury, maybe we give them a mulligan. They’re currently 6-2, with a 4-1 in conference play, and the division is theirs to lose. That’s a major accomplishment and I’m rooting for them.