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B1G Thoughts: Stroud can run and Michigan State bounces back

In a week where the midwest was pounded by crazy winds and rain, we were treated to a weekend of surprising performances and even more surprising results.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Every week after the Big Ten slate of games, I will bring 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.

Run, (Stroud), Run

What would you say if I told you that C.J. Stroud would run for more yards than he threw for? You would probably call me all sorts of names, claim that I know nothing about football, laugh at me, and maybe worse. Yet, that is exactly what happened against Northwestern on Saturday. In a game where winds sustained at 30mph and had gusts of wind over 50mph, the Ohio State passing offense was rendered mute as the winds took passes way off the mark.

Stroud has emphasized all season that he doesn’t care about stats and just wants to win. Well, he backed that up on Saturday by running the ball for a career-high 79 yards on six carries, including a long scamper of 41 yards. Stroud is an exceptional pocket passer, and putting this on tape is a massive win as teams will have to start preparing for Stroud as a runner. Now it’s up to Ryan Day to unleash his quarterback and allow him to use his legs when the situation dictates it.

This was not football weather:

Illinois falls as Michigan State rebounds

The Big Ten East is one of the best divisions in college football, and they’ve flexed their muscle this season with multiple wins — some less expected than others — over their West counterparts. This trend continued this weekend with Michigan State. After previously beating Wisconsin, they took down Illinois 23-15 on Saturday.

Illinois came into the game at 7-1 with arguably the nation's best defense and one of the best running backs in the country. Michigan State, on the other hand came, into this one following an embarrassing loss to Michigan after an even more embarrassing decision by their players to jump two of Michigan's players in the tunnel after the game. This led to eight players being suspended, including star linebacker/defensive end Jacoby Windmon.

Even at full strength, many expected an Illinois win. Especially with MSU down eight players, this seemed like a blowout in the making. Instead, coach Mel Tucker rallied his troops and got a much-needed win. This season has been a major disappointment for the Spartans, but wins like this can provide some positivity for the future.

Iowa found its offense, which is bad for everyone involved

Iowa upset Purdue 24-3 on Saturday behind another impressive offensive performance. No, this is not a joke — their offense was impressive. Spencer Petras played one of his better games, throwing for 192 yards and two touchdowns while most importantly not turning the ball over. The most impressive showing came from freshman running back Kaleb Johnson, who ran the ball 22 times for 200 yards and a touchdown. He broke off a 75-yard touchdown run, and averaged almost first down per carry with his 9.1 yards per carry average.

All of this sounds great, except this 100% means that Kirk Ferentz is going to puff out his chest, blame the media for chronicling the downfall of the Iowa Hawkeyes, and give his son a raise. Ferentz has been almost hostile when asked about his offense scuffles. The past two games have been their best performances in the past couple of seasons, but for there to be real change this offense needs to continue being the worst in college football. Unfortunately, if this continues and Iowa keeps winning because of it, we will be stuck with the Ferentz father/son duo for the foreseeable future.

75-yards to the house in a breakout game to remember:

Aidan O’Connell’s draft stock is plummeting

Iowa has a special defense. That is not shocking to anyone who hasn't been living under a rock the past few seasons, and they gave Aidan O’Connell hell this weekend. O’Connell came into the season with fringe first-round hype, but finished this last game 20-of-43 for 168 yards with zero touchdowns and two interceptions. O’Connell connected with Charlie Jones 11 times for 104 yards, but that is the only good thing about this performance.

Iowa's defense made C.J. Stroud struggle for half, so you could argue that the credit should just go to Iowa, but Stroud figured it out eventually. To be a first-round pick you have to play well against your toughest opponents. On the season, OConnell has thrown for 2,438 yards, 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions with a 64% completion percentage. With three games left he has almost eclipsed his interception total from last season, and is not producing touchdowns at nearly the same rate.

O’Connell will probably still get drafted, but in a season where you wanted to see him build on his 2021 campaign, throw fewer interceptions and lead Purdue to back-to-back good seasons, he has fallen short in almost every category.

Nebraska…. You know what to do

Lance Leipold just orchestrated one of the best turnarounds of the past couple of decades, turning around the Kansas Jayhawks and making them a legitimately good football team. In their second season under Leipold, the Jayhawks are going bowling and there are still three games left to play. Leipold is the hottest name in the coaching industry right now. He’s in Kansas and made his name at Wisconsin-Whitewater, so he isn’t afraid to coach in the midwest. Plus he has Nebraska ties, spending seven years at Nebraska-Omaha and another three years at Nebraska-Lincoln.

There is not a better coach on the market, and if he keeps current interim head coach Mickey Joseph on staff to recruit, he could turn Nebraska around faster than Kansas. This is a no-brainer. Back up the brinks truck and promise your firstborn grandchild if you must, but Lance Leipold needs to be screaming Go Big Red next season. Anything else would be a complete failure. That may be harsh, but as a Big Ten program you should be able to take a coach from almost any school in the country, especially one with ties to your program.

Head ball coach, Jim Leonhard

Jim Leonhard, congrats on your full-time appointment as the head ball coach of the Wisconsin Badgers. You’ve shown yourself capable of going 3-1 in your first four games with three games left and a chance to win the division. As long as you don’t finish 0-3, you’re all but guaranteed the job. No pressure, you just need to win enough games to make it in a 12-team playoff and compete for a Big Ten Championship against Ohio State, Michigan, and USC.

If I can offer some advice, don’t do the loyalty play. Fire the majority of this staff, and bring in a young and talented offensive staff who can innovate and recruit. Hire a defensive coordinator who can run your system and trust them to do it. As a first-time head coach in this situation, you do not need to hold onto defensive play calling. Hire people you trust, and bring Wisconsin into national relevance. I promise you, no one wants to play in Madison in mid-December.

Stars Matter

Throughout the last few seasons — maybe since Saquon Barkley left for the NFL — Penn State has struggled to run the ball. Much of their struggles can be attributed to a porous offensive line that couldn’t block a troll on Twitter. Despite multiple high-ranked running backs, the Nittany Lions could not run the ball effectively. That changed this year, and it's due to two highly ranked freshman running backs.

Recruiting isn’t a surefire thing. You may miss on a few prospects, but the more highly rated guys you land the higher your chance of success. Penn State found success in the 2021 recruiting class, landing the No. 1 running back in the cycle in Nick Singleton, and adding four-star running back Kaytron Allen to boost the class. Both running backs have been a huge success and are going to compete to be the best running back duo in the country as early as next year. Add in five-star quarterback Drew Allar, and Penn State’s future is bright.

Go home West Division, you’re drunk

Nine games into the season and anyone can win the West division. I’m sure if we did the math even Nebraska could find a way to win. Illinois, despite a loss to Michigan State, still leads the division with a 7-2 record and a 4-2 mark in conference play. Four teams — Iowa, Wisconsin, Purdue, and Minnesota — are tied for second at 3-3 in the division with three games left. Illinois is the favorite to win the division with the tie-breaker wins over Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota, but they still have to face Purdue and Michigan to end the season.

In the past two weeks, Iowa has found an offense and has put up impressive numbers, by their standards. Jim Leonhard is 3-1 as Wisconsin’s interim head coach and has them playing much better en route to most likely making a bowl game. With four teams still in play, the West is bound to cannibalize itself. I can’t in full confidence say that anyone is going to win this division, so buckle up. It’s going to be a fun three weekends until this thing is settled.