Shockingly, we are approaching the halfway point for the season already. Six of the thirteen weeks of the season are now in the books. The conference’s leaders for the 2018 season are shaping up as expected even before the season began, with a couple of surprises. This week’s games demonstrated who, to use the cliche, are the contenders and who are the pretenders. Let’s take a look at them...
#15 Michigan (5-1) 42 Maryland (3-2) 21
In a game that was delayed for an hour due to weather, Michigan had a slow start before they finally got rolling. Once they were rolling, however, Wolverine quarterback Shea Patterson had a big day as Michigan dispatched Maryland. Maryland came back on Michigan and jumped to a first quarter lead which they held until mid-way through the second quarter, when Michigan ran off 24 unanswered points. Patterson threw for 282 yards and Wolverine running back Karan Higdon had another 100 yard afternoon to double-team the Terrapins.
Northwestern (2-3) 29 #24 Michigan State (3-2) 19
In the big surprise of the day, Wildcat quarterback Clayton Thorson demonstrated his throwing ability against the Spartans and the home team was not able to stop his arm. Thorsen threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns, which was critical as the Northwestern offense only gained eight total yards on the ground all afternoon. For a while it looked like Northwestern was repeating history as they gave up their early lead to the Spartans and fell behind, as they had already this season in losses to Akron and Michigan, but were able to get the lead back thanks to the accurate throws of Thorsen.
Iowa (4-1) 48 Minnesota (3-2) 31
Hawkeye quarterback Nate Stanley threw for four touchdowns and Iowa overpowered Minnesota on the road in Minneapolis. After jumping to a 14-0 lead, Minnesota kept the game within reach until the very end of the game, when Iowa added their last touchdown with just over a minute left to put the game out of reach.
#3 Ohio State (6-0) 49 Indiana (4-2) 26
The Hoosiers did a good job for the first half of the game, taking a 17-14 lead in the second quarter and hanging close to the Buckeyes until the end of the third quarter, when Ohio State’s grinding offense just wore Indiana down. A pair of unanswered Ohio State touchdowns in the fourth quarter put it all out of reach for visitors from Bloomington.
#16 Wisconsin (4-1) 41 Nebraska (0-5) 24
Errors by Nebraska and a strong game by Badger running back Jonathan Taylor doomed the ‘Huskers’ chance to win, and they remain “0-fer” the 2018 season. Ten penalies for 100 yards and Taylor running for 221 yards were too much to overcome. In that 221 yards was a 88 yard run in the fourth quarter that showed Taylor’s athleticism as well as the exhaustion of the Nebraska defense, forced to deal with the Wisconsin offense all game. The loss extended Nebraska’s losing streak to a program-record ninth consecutive loss, and are still winless under new head coach Scott Frost.
Illinois (3-2) 38 Rutgers (1-5) 17
Illini quarterback A.J. Bush was back under center, and ran for a pair of touchdowns as well as throwing another as Illinois won the “Battle for the Basement” of the Big Ten in Piscataway. Bush was back after missing the past two games with a pulled hamstring, and was (as described by On the Banks’ Aaron Breitman) the best player on the football field yesterday as he beat up the Scarlet Knight defense with both his feet as well as his arm.
Next week will put the first half of the season in the rear-view mirror. This week also ended the longest home stand of the season for the Scarlet Knights, though it was not a positive time at home, having gone 0-3 during that stretch. Next week, they are back on the road. The road they will be traveling is I-95 as they travel south to College Park to take on the Maryland Terrapins.