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B1G Thoughts: A return to dominance just in the nick of time

Ohio State returned to dominance a week before the Notre Dame game while Michigan enters Big Ten play with more questions than expected.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 16 WKU at Ohio State Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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. With the Big Ten expanding from 14 teams to 18 teams in 2024 this article will also include the newest members, Oregon, UCLA, USC, and Washington. Check out the I-80 Football Show for more in-depth analysis and to preview the next week of B1G games.

Is that a dominant defense in Columbus?

Alright, I’m convinced. Ohio State has a good defense. OSU fans can breathe a sigh of relief… for now. This same defense looked good - albeit not this good - last season but failed spectacularly against Michigan and Georgia at the end of the season. This feels different. Three weeks into the season the Silver Bullets have passed each test with flying colors. They are effectively stopping the run, they are limiting big plays and Knowles seems to have learned from his mistakes and has tempered his aggressiveness. Most importantly, they are playing their best players. After giving up big plays last week and last season Cam Martinez only played two snaps in this game. Knowles didn’t overthink this by playing safeties in the slot, instead, he let corner Jordan Hancock man that position for most of the game.

All of this put together led to Ohio State’s most defensive performance in years. Western Kentucky has been a top-five offense for the past two seasons and Ohio State shut them down in all facets of the game. They held Austin Reed to 207 yards and one touchdown. Reed also threw his first interception of the season. While not known for their rushing prowess, WKU ran the ball 33 times for 80 yards at 2.4 yards per carry. Ohio State finished the game with two sacks, eight tackles for loss, two interceptions, three forced fumbles with two recovered, and two defensive touchdowns. This was a dominant defensive performance against the best offense they’ve faced so far and it backed up the optimism from the first two weeks. After this game, Ohio State has allowed its fewest points through three games since 1975. This defense is legit and should be a concern for their Big Ten opponents.

Kyle McCord: Best quarterback in the Big Ten?

Stoop me if you’ve heard this before, Ohio State has the best quarterback in the Big Ten. It may be too early to say that but McCord has stepped into his own and shown why Ohio State fans should finally accept him as their QB1. McCord, after getting the official nod from Day, had his best game of the season. He went 19 for 23 for 318 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions. He had maybe one bad pass all game and it came on the first drive. The only gripe is he held the ball too long and gave up a sack fumble but other than that it was essentially a perfect game.

Through three games in the conference, McCord ranks third in total passing yards, yards per game, and completion percentage. He also ranks second in passing touchdowns and efficiency. Not bad for a guy who fans and media thought couldn’t play at Ohio State. McCord still has a ways to go to be on par with the Ohio State standard and he has to pass the Notre Dame test but he has shown an ability to play at a high level and he’s gotten better each and every week. If that continues then Ohio State may have found them a quarterback.

A game full of firsts!

Last thing on Ohio State, for college football fans who can’t keep their eyes off the future this was the game for you. With Ohio State finally flexing its muscle it allowed for some young guys to play and show some promise for the future. Ohio State running back Chip Trayanum scored his first touchdown as a Buckeye with a 40-yard run late in the second quarter. In the fourth quarter, the young guys got to show out. Devin Brown threw his first passing touchdown of his career and stud freshman wide receiver Carnell Tate was on the receiving end. Tate has been the talk of the wide receiver room all offseason and after dealing with personal tragedy it was nice to see him get into the end zone and back up all the positive talk. On the defensive side of the ball freshman corner Jermaine Matthews Jr. jumped a route and scored a 58-yard pick-six for the final score of the game. Ohio State always recruits at a high level so it’s great to see that in action early in the season before they collect their redshirts or don’t play due to tighter games against tougher competition.

This was never going to be Michigan’s best team

All offseason I’ve been on a Jon Snow solo campaign to remind people that Michigan lost a lot of talent and this is not their most talented team. To be clear, this is not to say Michigan isn’t good. I’m not saying they can’t or won’t beat Ohio State for a third year in a row or that they won’t make the playoffs. What I am saying is that Michigan came into this season overhyped and through three weeks they’ve shown some concerns that anyone with real analysis could’ve seen coming. For reference in the last two years, Michigan has lost 14 players to the NFL, three in the first rounds and a fourth who would’ve been a first-rounder if not for a pre-draft injury. On defense, they lost starters Aidan Hutchinson, Dax Hill, David Ojabo, Mazi Smith, D.J. Turner, and Mike Morris.

There is no way you can look at the talent lost over the last two seasons and say this is their most talented team. Even with the return of JJ McCarthy, Blake Corum, and Donovan Edwards. Michigan also lost talent on the offensive line and clearly, they haven’t figured out who to use to replace them. Through three weeks their running game has been far from dominant and against Bowling Green they brought in a new left tackle and moved their right tackle to left tackle. That is not a positive sign for a team that expects to win Joe Moore awards at the end of the season. Michigan will still run through the Big Ten but I think so far it’s fair to question how this offensive line and defense will hold up against Penn State, Ohio State, and Maryland, the only teams they’ll play with a pulse.

Penn State and the growing pains of a young quarterback

Through three games Drew Allar has looked like the guy Penn State fans hoped he would be. He’s also looked like a first-year starter. Allar has shown all the promise in the world but he did not pass his first test against a real defense this season. Penn State fans should be happy, they won the game and Allar did not make the game closer than needed by throwing the ball away to the opposition but it may be time to pump the brakes on the Drew Allar Heisman campaign. Allar against Illinois completed less than 50% of his passes going 16 of 33 for 208 passing yards and zero touchdowns. Penn State’s offensive line was bullied by Illinois’s defensive front and Allar struggled throughout the game. This is the life with a young quarterback, Penn State shouldn’t be concerned. Allar is clearly the guy and has the potential to be the best quarterback of the James Franklin era but he still needs time to grow into that. Unfortunately for Allar and Penn State, it doesn’t get any easier as they play Iowa this week.

Defensive tackles are now the prettiest girls at the ball

For a long time, the Belle of the Ball on the defensive line was always the defensive end. While ends are still pretty enough, defensive tackles are starting to take away some of the attention. This week in the Big Ten the defensive tackles were by far the prettiest as they put together dominant performances. Ohio State’s Tyliek Willias was a one-man wrecking crew against Western Kentucky. He finished with seven tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss, and a defensive touchdown where he pulled the ball out from under a pile of players. Illinois stud duo of Keith Randolph Jr. and Jer’Zhan Newton were dominant against Penn State in a loss. Randolph Jr. had eight tackles with half of a tackle for loss. Newton has six tackles, one tackle for loss, and two pass deflections. Illinois held Penn State to 4.1 yards per carry and had constant pressure in Drew Allar’s face. It’s well-known that quarterbacks hate pressure up the middle and these guys are wreaking havoc so far this season.

Michael Penix Jr. is your next Heisman Trophy winner

Is Michael Penix the best quarterback in the country? Probably not. Is he the most exciting quarterback in the country? That is debatable. He is undoubtedly playing the best of any quarterback so far this season and if the Heisman were given out this week he’d be my pick — not that I have a vote. Through three games Penix has 1,332 passing yards with 12 touchdowns and only one interception. He is completing a ridiculous 74.3% of his passes and Washington looks like one of the best teams in the country. I picked Washington to win the PAC-12 this season and Penix's play coupled with his amazing wide receiving corp was the reason why. The PAC-12 is going to be tough this year, they currently have eight teams ranked in the top 25 but Penix is going to give Washington a chance in every game. He is also catapulting himself into an NFL draft pick. He’s playing great and at this pace don’t be surprised to see him lifting that trophy at the end of the season.

A necessary quarterback change

Nebraska, after falling 0-2, decided to make a change at quarterback. To be truthful, they didn’t have another choice. Regardless of what happened in this game, Jeff Sims did not do enough to keep his job, he accounted for six turnovers on his own through two games. Nebraska’s players and fans deserved to at least see what the backup could do. It’s been one game but so far so good. Against Northern Illinois, a team that already beat an FBS team in Boston College, Nebraska started redshirt sophomore Heinrich Haarbeg. Haarberg wasn’t special but he didn’t make any game-breaking mistakes which is all he needed to do. He finished the game 14-24 for 158 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 121 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. In total, he accumulated 279 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers. That will give Nebraska a chance against most teams. It was Northern Illinois so we’ll have to see how he performs against Big Ten competition but he did enough to earn the start next week and should probably keep the job the rest of the season.

Iowa gets over 25 ppg despite discouraging quarterback play

Congrats Iowa, it only took three games but you finally scored 25 or more points after putting up 41 on Western Michigan. The good, you put up a lot of points. It was clear that Ferentz knew the score and that he was behind the eight ball and kept his foot on the gas. It’s also clear that Iowa still has one of the best defenses in the country. Iowa even had a good game from a running back. Now time for the bad, which is everything else. Cade McNamara was supposed to be different. He was supposed to list Iowa’s ceiling, but so far he is a copy and paste of every quarterback Iowa has rolled out in the past few years. Cade’s biggest strength is the fact that he doesn’t throw interceptions, except at Iowa he does. He threw two interceptions on Saturday.

Through three games, Cade has three interceptions total - he only threw six total in 14 games as a Michigan stater in 2021. He is only completing 53.5% of his passes which is 11 percentage points lower than his Michigan average. He has thrown for 417 yards and four touchdowns to go with his three interceptions. That’s an average of 139 yards 1.33 touchdowns and 1 interception per game. That is awful, the fact that he is this much worse than he was at Michigan is an indictment of Brian Ferentz and that offense. They ruined a perfectly average quarterback. So celebrate the points if you want but Iowa should be concerned. Hopefully, their defense keeps it up, it’s easy to win when you have touchdown drives of 17, 25, and 33 yards due to your defense dominating. For those who thought Iowa would be different, I’m sorry to inform you it’s more of the same.

Wisconsin still doesn’t know how its bread is buttered

I'm going to make this short and sweet. No matter what the result of this season is this needs to be Phil Longo’s first and last season at Wisconsin. It is totally acceptable for Luke Fickell to want to change Wisconsin’s offense, but it is not acceptable for Longo to refuse to utilize the best player on their entire offense. Braelon Allen ran the ball 12 times for 94 yards and two touchdowns. That sounds good, but the issue becomes the fact that backup Chez Mellusi had 15 carries which if you’re bad at math is more carries for the second week in a row over their star running back. The other issue, quarterback Tanner Mordecai threw the ball 30 times with zero touchdowns. Longo is not capable of sticking to running the ball which is bad but refusing to utilize your best player regardless of position is worse. I’m over it and Wisconsin should be too.

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