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.
OSU vs. Nebraska full of cowardly coaching
As a football fan, there are few things I dislike about college football. Referees aside, college football is the greatest sport on the face of the planet and brings joy to millions. One of the few things I dislike about college football is cowardly coaching by people who make millions of dollars to coach this sport. It’s even worse when it comes from a clear underdog who has nothing to lose and should be doing everything they can win the game.
With that in mind, Ohio State vs. Nebraska was a game full of cowardly coaching. There were punts from right outside the red zone, there were decisions not to go for it on fourth down, settling for field goals, lack of aggression in play calling — the list goes on and on. Ryan Day coached this game not to lose, which is a terrible place to be when you’re the head coach at Ohio State. Scott Frost coached this game like winning doesn’t matter at all. He talks about how his team doesn’t give up and he’s proud of them and loves coaching there, but when he has a chance to get the biggest win of his career he folds.
Kicking in college football is a disease. There are very few good kickers in the sport and Nebraska has one of the worst. Yet, Frost chose to put the game in his hands, and he missed two field goals in an eventual nine-point loss. This was the worst coaching performance in Ryan Day’s Ohio State career. Unfortunately for Scott Frost, this is just another poor performance in what should ultimately his last season at Nebraska.
Short Yardage Trouble
My Co-Host Chris Renne likes to say that Ohio State has the best offense in the country between the 25-yard lines. Ohio State has the most explosive offense in the country and can score from anywhere on the field on any singular play. The issue with the Buckeyes is they are very ineffective in short yardage situations — whether its 3rd-and-short, 4th-and-short, or in the red zone. There are multiple reasons for this, but in my opinion there are two main factors.
The first and biggest reason is that Ryan Day lacks creativity in these situations. When he chooses to run, he almost always runs inside zone. He is very predictable, which is acceptable when your offensive line is dominant. This leads to the second issue. Ohio State’s offensive line is easily the best line in the country when they’re asked to pass block. Run blocking, especially in short yardage, is abysmal.
Maybe it’s the four-tackle line up. Maybe it’s Day not considering his players’ strengths. Or maybe it’s lack of consistency due to injuries and trying to get six players on the field who all deserve to play. Whatever the reason, Ohio State cannot run in short yardage situations, and that bleeds into the red zone. If you can’t run inside the 25, you have to rely on the pass — which is hard. It doesn’t matter if you have better athletes when there is no space to out athlete your opponent. Unless they figure out short yardage running, Ohio State could lose again, whether that’s before the Big Ten Championship or after.
JSN has arrived!
If I would have told you that Jaxon Smith-Njigba would be keeping pace with Chris Olave and Garett Wilson statistically through nine games in the season, you might have laughed at me. If I would have told you that JSN would be Ohio State’s leading receiver after nine games and making a case for being the best receiver on the field, you would have tried to indict me on criminal charges. Well, after nine games and a record-breaking 15 catches for 240 yards and one touchdown against Nebraska, JSN is doing just that.
He leads Ohio State in catches (50) and total yards (888) this season. He’s second in yards-per-catch at 17.8 behind only Emeka Egbuka. He’s 112 yards away from being Ohio State’s first 1,000-yard-wide receiver since Parris Campbell. That is an objectively amazing season from the sophomore who came into this season with high expectations but clearly as the third option behind arguably two of the best wide receivers in Ohio State history.
JSN wouldn’t be stopped!
Here is where I make a petition for the Purdue Boilermakers to officially change their name to the Purdue Spoilermakers. I did not create this nickname; I saw it on twitter via Dan Hope of Eleven Warriors, but tell me a more fitting nickname for this team?
After upsetting No. 3 Michigan State, Purdue now has 17 wins against top-five ranked teams as an unranked team. That is way more than anyone else, and at this point teams should hope and pray they aren’t top-five ranked when they play Purdue. This season, the Boilermakers are 6-3, with two wins over top-five opponents and with a chance to make it three next week when they play the Buckeyes. Lucky for Ohio State, Purdue should be ranked next week, and so hopefully the magic wears off.
Regardless, Purdue is 6-3, they’re bowl eligible and have a chance to win the Big Ten West with three games left. This is a special season for the Boilermakers.
What is so special about Purdue? Somehow they always seem to have a special game-changing wide receiver. Most recently it was Rondale Moore, who almost singlehandedly led to Purdue upsetting Ohio State in 2018. Now they have David Bell, who has almost singlehandedly led to Purdue beating Iowa and Michigan State.
On Saturday, Bell had himself a day with 11 catches for 217 yards and one touchdown. Somehow, this is only his second-best performance of the season, as he had 11 catches for 240 yards and one touchdown against Iowa. Bell now has over 1,000 yards on 64 catches and five touchdowns this season with three games left, and is a legit contender to win Big Ten wide receiver of the year and become an all-American.
Trick plays are the life blood of underdog teams looking to upset an opponent. College football fans love them, they’re exciting to watch and when executed properly can change the outcome of a game. Well, Purdue ran one of the greatest tricks plays I have ever seen in their upset of Michigan State.
Check out this play:
How does Sparty recover?
Michigan State had the misfortune of playing Purdue after the biggest game of their season while holding a top-five spot in the College Football Playoff rankings. Luckily for Michigan State, this loss came from a Big Ten West opponent, meaning the Spartans are still in control of their own destiny in the Big Ten East. Their season was always going to come down to beating Ohio State to win the Big Ten East, winning the championship game and walking into the playoffs.
A one-loss Big Ten champ is not missing the playoffs. So, the question is simple — how do Mel Tucker and his Spartans bounce back from this loss? Will they recover and continue their special season, or will they fold and lose all their momentum? Who knows if Michigan State was ever going to beat Ohio State, but an 11-1 Big Ten East champ or 10-2 runner up is a lot better than 9-3 or 8-4. This loss hurts, but their season isn’t over.
After a tough start to their season, Wisconsin is now 6-3 and in a four-way tie for first place in the Big Ten West. After a 52-3 blowout win over Rutgers, Wisconsin has started to right the ship and is in full control of their destiny. Wisconsin, while in a four-way tie, has tie breakers over Iowa and Purdue. A win against Minnesota and they’re back in Indianapolis where they can be 60 minutes away from winning the Big Ten.
The way this season started, most of us left Wisconsin for dead. They still have a lot of issues that need to be fixed, and there is still some concern for the future, but a 9-3 Big Ten West championship season is on the table. That is still a good campaign as far as I am concerned.
Big Time Playmakers
I’m not good with slogans so I apologize if this is corny but, Big Ten – B1G Playmakers? That’s corny but it’s true. The Big Ten has the best group of playmakers in the country. You’ve seen it in this article almost every week there is a wide receiver or running back with over 200 yards rushing or receiving. All this with a conference full of subpar quarterbacks.
This past Saturday alone there were three — THREE — wide receivers with 200+ yard performances. I already wrote about Jaxson Smith-Njigba and David Bell. Jahan Dotson simply wouldn’t be left out, and he had a monster game for Penn State against Maryland with an 11-catch, 242-yard and three-touchdown performance. Let’s not forget the running backs though, as Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker ran for 146 yards, Illinois’ Chase Brown ran for 147, and Iowa’s Tyler Goodson ran for 141 yards. Not to be outdone, Michigan’s Hasan Haskins ran for 168 yards, and Wisconsin’s Braelon Allen ran for 129.
It is becoming a weekly occurrence to have multiple big games from Big Ten playmakers, and I expect to see a lot of these names called early in the draft.
I mentioned this on the I-70 football podcast a few weeks ago, but I firmly believe that just about every school in the Big Ten West should fire their coach. No team in the West has a chance to make the playoffs this season or really any season. There are currently three teams in the Big Ten East who have a chance at the playoffs, and up until 2 weeks ago there were four. Regardless of who comes out the East, I expect the West contender will be the underdog in the Big Ten Championship game.
I understand that Pat Fitzgerald, Kirk Ferentz, and Paul Chryst are good coaches. Yet, the reliance on bad quarterbacks and waiting until your team is full of seniors to win is a crappy way to live. Sure P.J. Fleck is a good coach, but his boat has snapped a few oars and ran into the rocks against Illinois and Bowling Green. Jeff Brohm has Purdue playing well, but how can you beat top-five teams and no one else? The Nebraska situation has already been discussed, and I think we’re all in agreement that Scott Frost should be fired. The only team who shouldn’t fire their coach is Illinois because they just hired Bret Bielema.
I know I’ll catch a lost of hate for this, but if a 9-3 season with a decent bowl game is enough for you as a fan, then this isn’t the article for you. There is no reason a whole division of this conference should be running an offense from the 1960s. I don’t want to hear anything about location, recruiting, none of that; Because it’s truly lack of innovation. They don’t even pretend to want a good quarterback, and that alone should be a fireable offense.
The biggest reason for this opinion is such that the Big Ten is expected to get rid of divisions soon in response to the Alliance and the 12-team playoff. If there is a round robin format to the Big Ten, does anyone expect the West teams to be ranked higher than 3rd or 4th? Even in a 12-team format, do you expect any West team to make the playoffs consistently with no division to beat up on? If the West must consistently play OSU, PSU, Michigan, Michigan State — and even sometimes Rutgers and Maryland — they will struggle to succeed.
So, let’s get to it, fire all your coaches, start over and build to a better future!