For one Saturday afternoon it was finally good to be a team from the Big Ten.
Unless, of course, you hail from a “traditional” power that hasn’t happened to exhibit any actual power since its fan base grew tired of all of those awful conference championships and bowl victories. Let’s not even mention a share of a national championship.
What the folks at Michigan wouldn’t give for good, old Lloyd Carr these days, eh?
But enough of the bad because this week was good for the Big Ten. In fact, it bordered on great after a couple of weeks of pure misery. Forget the 1-10 mark against teams from the other power conferences. That all flew out the window.
Every Big Ten team that played on Saturday won. OK, actually 12 of 13 came away with a victory, but we’re choosing to ignore that one rain-soaked beauty in the substantially empty house.
And as impressive as the numbers were — three victories came against Power Five schools — the heroes of the day had to be Indiana.
That’s right, the Hoosiers. This had nothing to do with candy-striped basketball warm-up outfits. This was about a program and a coach potentially getting the signature win it has been grasping at for years.
Indiana’s 31-27 victory at No. 18 Missouri was so stunning, it just might be what Kevin Wilson needed to not only secure his job in his fourth season, but finally springboard the Hoosiers to significance.
“We’ve been talking about how we’ve been knocking on the door and now you have to knock it down,” Wilson said. ‘We kept tapping on it and hadn’t knocked it down.”
The fact the Hoosiers can score is nothing new, but what made this win all the more surprising — added, of course, to the fact Indiana lost last week to Bowling Green — was that it was the defense that came up big. The same defense that has done a better job of laying out the red carpet for opponents than stopping them allowed only one touchdown in the second half and gave the offense a chance to come back.
It responded, even with running back Tevin Coleman requiring IV fluids while still running for 132 yards and a touchdown. The final drive culminated with a three-yard plunge from D’Angelo Roberts with 22 seconds to play.
“That’s what we feel like we should have been doing a while ago,” quarterback Nate Sudfeld said. “We feel like we’ve been at that level. But finally we’re starting to believe and finish these drives, finish these games.”
And in the process, it was the Hoosiers — believe it or not — that gave the Big Ten its signature win so far this season. The key now in Indiana is to prove this is no aberration.
“We ain’t got nothing figured out,” Wilson said. “We’re the same bunch of bums who played last week. That’s the same bunch of bums this week. We’ll see how we show up next week.”
Comeback for Hawkeyes
Count me as someone who thought Iowa could win the West, then felt silly about that pick after three games.
So needless to say, going on the road against Pittsburgh and winning didn’t seem like a likely scenario. And for a half, it appeared that was going to be true.
But then quarterback Jake Rudock suffered what was described as a “strain” by coach Kirk Ferentz — somewhere in the lower body — and backup C.J. Beathard entered. And that was the spark the Hawkeyes needed as they pulled off the 24-20 victory as Beathard was 7-for-8 for 98 yards.
Who runs the show moving forward remains to be seen, but considering how Iowa looked with Beathard, it seems like an obvious choice.
“We have two good quarterbacks,” Ferentz said. “I wish we had that kind of depth everywhere.”
It’s not something most coaches like to be a part of, but in the playoff era, winning impressively doesn’t hurt. And for two teams that will likely need to do some convincing later this season —Michigan State and Wisconsin —impressive was the best word to describe their wins.
Michigan State beat Eastern Michigan, 73-14, and Wisconsin buried Bowling Green, 68-17, behind 644 rushing yards. Melvin Gordon had 253 yards and five touchdowns … on 13 carries.
“It was an awesome performance,” Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said. “I’ve never been around a rushing total like that, that’s for sure.”
How much will those types of wins factor into each team’s playoff hopes down the road? That is debatable, but neither team is taking any chances.
How Big Ten teams fared
Last week’s result; Saturday’s game
Penn State (1-0, 4-0) d. UMass, 48-7; vs. Northwestern, noon (BTN)
Maryland (0-0, 3-1) d. Syracuse, 34-20; at Indiana, 1:30 p.m. (BTN)
Indiana (0-0, 2-1); d. Missouri, 31-27; vs. Maryland, 1:30 p.m. (BTN)
Michigan State (0-0, 2-1) d. East. Michigan, 73-14; vs. Wyoming, noon (ESPN2)
Ohio State (0-0, 2-1) IDLE; vs. Cincinnati, 6 p.m. (BTN)
Michigan (0-0, 2-2) lost to Utah, 26-10; vs. Minnesota, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
Rutgers (0-1, 3-1); d. Navy, 31-24; vs. Tulane, noon (ESPN News)
Last week’s result; Saturday’s game
Nebraska (0-0, 3-1) d. Miami (Fla.), 41-31; vs. Illinois, 9 p.m. (BTN)
Illinois (0-0, 3-1); d. Texas St., 42-35; at Nebraska, 9 p.m. (BTN)
Iowa (0-0, 3-1) d. Pitt, 24-20; at Purdue, noon (BTN)
Minnesota (0-0, 3-1); d. San Jose St., 24-7; at Michigan, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
Wisconsin (0-0, 2-1) d. Bowling Green, 68-17; vs. So. Florida, noon (ESPNU)
Purdue (0-0, 2-2) d. So. Illinois, 35-13; vs. Iowa, noon (BTN)
Northwestern (0-0, 1-2) d. West. Illinois, 24-7; at Penn State, noon (BTN)