Purdue > SEC: Ten big things from the weekend in Big Ten football


Purdue > SEC: Ten big things from the weekend in Big Ten football

Choo choo!

The Big Ten better look out because here comes the Purdue train rolling down the tracks.

We'll see if the to-this-point impressive Boilermakers can remain competitive once Jeff Brohm gets his first taste of Big Ten football. But through three games, Purdue has looked a new team and a new program, most recently going on the road and blowing out an SEC team.

So, yeah, Purdue > SEC.

Read on for more about the Boilers and the rest of the 10 big things from the weekend in Big Ten football.

1. It just means more

Allow me and the rest of Big Ten Country some schadenfreude when the Big Ten’s supposedly bottom-feeding program rolls into an SEC stadium and rolls out with a 35-3 blowout win … even if it did come against my alma mater.

While it’s clear the Chase Daniel-Jeremy Maclin glory days are long, long gone at Mizzou, could we be witnessing the dawn of a new golden era of Purdue football? Jeff Brohm has three games under his belt as the Boilermakers’ head coach, and his team has impressed in all of them. First there was the hanging tough with Louisville, followed by a Friday-night beatdown of Ohio and now a shocking 30-point smoking of an SEC team. Holy Boilermakers, Batman!

Sure, the Fighting Tigers are not what they used to be. This is a team that allowed 43 points to an FCS school in Week 1 and fired its defensive coordinator after a Week 2 loss to South Carolina. But Purdue hadn’t won back-to-back games in half a decade. Let that soak in.

With the Purdue defense keeping Mizzou completely out of the end zone, things get real interesting for Week 4’s conference-opener against Michigan, an offense that hasn’t been all that impressive through its first three games. Are the Boilers going to upset the Wolverines? A wild thought that you would have laughed at three weeks ago all of a sudden seems not that impossible.

Boiler. Up.

2. It’s getting hot in Lincoln … so fire your head coach?

Mike Riley’s hot seat is getting real hot. He can thank his hand-picked quarterback for that after Tanner Lee threw a pair of pick sixes in Nebraska’s ultra-embarrassing home loss to Northern Illinois on Saturday. While NIU has made a habit of going into Big Ten stadiums and coming out with shocking wins (four of ‘em in the last five years, to be precise), Nebraska had no business losing this one — and yet it did.

The problems have been myriad over the season’s first three weeks for the Huskers. They were defensively inept in their first two games, surrendering 78 combined points to Arkansas State and Oregon. Then came Saturday’s disaster, in which the offense fell off a cliff and was stopped on two late drives by a MAC team. Lee threw three interceptions in all, including one on fourth down on the team’s final possession, an absolutely abysmal quartet of plays.

And so Riley’s job status is obviously a big topic of conversation this week. Riley’s hiring is not aging well. Made the main man in football-mad Lincoln after a career of middling mediocrity at lowly Oregon State, Riley getting the gig was a bit of a head-scratcher then. And it’s still one now, meaning maybe athletics director Shawn Eichhorst has some blame to shoulder for the state of Nebraska football.

Rutgers and Illinois in back-to-back games to start conference play could turn a sour 1-2 start into a slightly more acceptable 3-2 beginning heading into the Wisconsin-Ohio State gauntlet in early October. But it’s hard to see Nebraska emerging from the other side of that with a better-than-.500 record. Meaning Riley’s seat is going to stay hot.

3. Best way to fix the Buckeyes’ offense

Truthfully, the best way to fix Ohio State’s seemingly broken offense was to play Army. Mission accomplished. A week after getting trucked by an unstoppable Sooner Schooner, the Buckeyes easily dispatched of the Black Knights from West Point. So, problem solved?

It unfortunately won’t be that easy, as the Big Ten doesn’t have too many Army-caliber teams for J.T. Barrett and company to beat up on. But there seemed to be one obvious solution reached in Saturday’s win: Give the ball to J.K. Dobbins. The true freshman running back is already starting over last year’s freshman sensation in the backfield, Mike Weber. Weber’s been a bit banged up at times, which partially explains Dobbins’ ascension, but Dobbins’ play likely did most of the convincing when Urban Meyer was given the possibility of Dobbins topping the depth chart.

Saturday, Dobbins got 13 carries and did incredible work with them, rushing for 172 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Give the kid the ball. Like all the time.

Barrett was back, kind of, after that horror show against Oklahoma, completing all but eight of his 33 passing attempts, racking up more than 300 total yards and accounting for three touchdowns (two throwing, one rushing). He’s now the Big Ten’s all-time leader in touchdowns responsible for, a mouthful of a stat but a remarkable accomplishment, nonetheless. Guy whose record he broke? Drew Brees. Ever hear of him?

4. Lack of offense a reason to panic in Ann Arbor?

Last season’s string of blowout wins? That doesn’t look likely to be repeated by this year’s Michigan team, which through three weeks has an offense that can’t seem to move the ball or produce many points. Problematic, as those are the two main goals of a college football offense.

While Wolverines fans weren’t too enamored with Wilton Speight last season, he’s inspiring little to no confidence without last season’s cadre of pass-catching weapons like Jake Butt, Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson. Instead, with a new receiving corps, Speight isn’t doing much of anything. The Michigan offense only accumulated 359 yards in Saturday’s win over Air Force. Through three weeks, the Wolverines rank an unimpressive eighth in the conference in scoring offense.

Now, do these offensive woes mean it’s time to freak out? Not at all, really, because it seems that Michigan’s defense is better than anyone could’ve hoped considering it had 10 starters to replace this season. That defense looks as good as any in the conference right now (it ranks second in the league, allowing 208 yards a game) and seems like it could win any game for the Wolverines.

Michigan is very much in the hunt for a conference title, especially with Ohio State looking so vulnerable. But get used to the reality that if wins start stacking up, they’ll come in sweat-em-out fashion as compared to last year’s blowouts.

5. Cats back!

After a couple of rough showings in the season’s first two games, Northwestern woke up and responded to a beatdown of a loss at Duke last weekend, crushing Bowling Green by six touchdowns on Saturday. Those ugly performances against Nevada (a win) and Duke (a loss) featured a struggling offense. In Week 1, the Cats were trailing in the fourth quarter. In Week 2, the Cats couldn’t do much of anything, with a banged-up Justin Jackson limited to seven carries and Clayton Thorson throwing two picks.

Well, those struggles were distant memories Saturday night, with the Northwestern offense doing just about whatever it wanted under the lights at Ryan Field. Jackson was back to his usual self, rushing for 121 yards and three touchdowns. Thorson was 23-for-30 for 370 yards and two touchdowns, a huge day. As for the preseason mystery of who’d be catching Thorson’s passes? Well, Thorson found a couple go-to guys Saturday: Garrett Dickerson went for 150 yards on nine catches, and Bennett Skowronek caught three passes for 86 yards and two touchdowns.

It might have just been a cleansing matchup against Bowling Green. Back-to-back games against Wisconsin and Penn State will be monumental challenges for this team. But the Cats looked far closer to what was expected in the preseason than what we saw in Weeks 1 and 2.

6. #TraceTheHeisman

Back at Mizzou, we had the phrase “Chase the Heisman” to support the now twice-mentioned Chase Daniel’s Heisman campaign. Well, maybe Penn State should adopt “Trace the Heisman” for its quarterback. While that phrase makes no sense, the notion that McSorley is one of the Big Ten’s more legit Heisman candidates does make some sense.

The Penn State signal-caller — and home run hitter — had another big day in the Nittany Lions’ 56-0 blasting of Georgia State on Saturday. He needed just 18 completions to rack up 309 yards and four touchdowns, also getting into the end zone on one of his three carries. Through three weeks, McSorley has led Penn State’s high-octane offense to the tune of 753 yards and nine touchdown passes, plus a pair of touchdown rushes.

Thing is, McSorley, as it’s well known, might not even be the top Heisman candidate in his own backfield. Saquon Barkley might have rushed for only 47 yards this weekend, but he’s an obvious threat in the passing game and he racked up 142 receiving yards and a touchdown catch. Let’s check in on Barkley’s Heisman resume through three games: 548 combined rushing/receiving yards and five total touchdowns. So, you know, pretty good.

7. Does Wisconsin have the Big Ten’s best offense?

Don’t look now, but the most electric offense in the Big Ten through three weeks belongs to the Wisconsin Badgers, who despite not really playing anyone terrific are blasting every team they come into contact with. You might not have believed your eyes this past weekend, with the Badgers doing work through the air.

While the Wisconsin ground game is the stuff of legend, the passing attack has been hit-or-miss in recent years. Not so Saturday at BYU, with quarterback Alex Hornibrook throwing four touchdown passes in the 40-6 romp. He was nearly perfect, too, completing 18 of his 19 passes.

Combine Hornibrook’s big day with a to-be-expected huge day from a Badger running back — Jonathan Taylor went for 128 yards and a touchdown — and you’ve got an offense that’s racked up 130 points in three weeks. Wisconsin’s offense is tops in the conference and 16th in the country with 511 yards per game.

8. The Illini continue to be young … and that’s about it

Illinois is going through some growing pains. The Illini are a very young team, and their trend of throwing that youth on the field continued this weekend. They started 10 true freshmen in Friday night’s loss to South Florida, breaking a program record set just a week earlier.

Thing is, that youth isn't having much success out there in its first taste of college football. Illinois was throttled by USF, losing by 24 points. A defense that started five true freshmen gave up almost 700 yards of offense. The Illinois offense didn’t fare much better, with starting quarterback Chayce Crouch plucked from the game and replaced with Jeff George Jr.

The point that I’ve been making throughout the season’s first three weeks remains the same: All this youth is a good thing, in that it shows Lovie Smith is recruiting guys who are better than the players who were there when he was hired. But the flip side of that is it takes those guys a while to get their footing. And in the meantime come games like Friday’s — games that haven’t necessarily been rare for the Illini in recent seasons.

9. Is Nathan Stanley already one of the Big Ten’s best quarterbacks?

Iowa’s quarterback position was a big ol’ mystery following the graduation of C.J. Beathard. But Nathan Stanley has solved that mystery in a hurry, and in three games he’s already become one of the conference’s most-productive signal-callers. He threw just nine passes in 2016, but he’s been pretty fantastic during Iowa’s 3-0 start.

The sophomore Hawkeye — who being from Menomonie, Wisconsin, managed to elude both the Badgers and nearby Golden Gophers — leads the conference with 10 touchdown passes in three games. He’s passed for 655 yards and only thrown one interception. And all the while the Iowa offense has kind of been a point-producing machine, scoring 99 points in those three games. That includes the 31 points and two Stanley touchdowns from this weekend’s win over North Texas.

10. No running on the boat

If you’ve yet to be impressed by Minnesota, that’s OK. The Fightin’ Flecks narrowly beat Buffalo in the season-opener and then blew out Oregon State and Middle Tennessee State. But they’re 3-0 and don’t figure to be in a game where they’re a big underdog until at least the end of October.

What you do need to know about the Golden Gophers, though, is that they have a remarkable run defense through three weeks. Again, that level of competition hasn’t been super great. But Minnesota is allowing an average of just 59 rushing yards a game, tops in the conference and fourth in the nation.

And the rest!

— Rutgers bounced back nicely after that embarrassing loss to Eastern Michigan, putting a 65-0 whooping on FCS foe Morgan State.

— Indiana’s game against Florida International was canceled in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

— Michigan State and Maryland were off this weekend. Both remain undefeated.

A less than appealing slate for Week 3 Big Ten previews and picks


A less than appealing slate for Week 3 Big Ten previews and picks

After last weekend’s monster top-five showdown between Ohio State and Oklahoma, this weekend’s Big Ten slate is … less appealing.

That’s the nice way of putting it, as the non-conference matchups in Week 3 leave a ton to be desired. These things happen, of course, but I won’t blame you for being far more excited for Clemson-Louisville than the totality of this weekend’s Big Ten schedule.

Nonetheless, get ready for every Week 3 game featuring a Big Ten team with previews and picks below.

Friday, Sept. 15

Illinois at No. 22 South Florida, 6 p.m., ESPN

The Illini are 2-0 despite some offensive shakiness through the first two games. Mike Epstein has emerged as a noteworthy name in the backfield, already getting far more carries than incumbent starter Kendrick Foster. In the preseason, this game was shaping up to be a near surefire loss for Illinois, with South Florida pegged as “the” Group of Five team after a strong 2016. The Illini defense will still need to play a strong game to stop quarterback Quinton Flowers, but the Bulls have started slowly in each of their first two games of the season, something Lovie Smith’s crew might be able to take advantage of.

The pick: South Florida

Saturday, Sept. 16

Air Force at No. 7 Michigan, 11 a.m., Big Ten Network

Michigan raised a few eyebrows by failing to blast Cincinnati into oblivion last weekend, but the Wolverines still won that game by three touchdowns so those complaints need to be put in perspective. The excellent Michigan defense still created some turnovers, and a feature back emerged in Ty Isaac. Expect a romp this time around, too, though if the Wolverines “only” win by three touchdowns, don’t be too mad, either.

The pick: Michigan

Northern Illinois at Nebraska, 11 a.m., FS1

There’s good news and bad news for the Huskers this weekend. The bad news is that Bob Diaco’s defense has to take the field again after getting throttled in each of the last two weeks by Arkansas State and Oregon. The good news is this weekend brings a matchup with Northern Illinois. That beat-up defense should get an opportunity to make some stops. But if it doesn’t, Tre Bryant should at least run by the Huskies’ defense. He’s got 299 yards in two games.

The pick: Nebraska

No. 10 Wisconsin at BYU, 2:30 p.m., ABC

At first glance, it might look like an appealing watch in a weak weekend slate. But BYU has been pretty bad through its first three games, scoring just 20 points against an FCS opponent before getting shut out by LSU and scoring just 13 against Utah. Remember that former Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is running the defense at LSU now, and his Bayou Bengals held the Cougars to a negative rushing total. I expect a similarly strong performance from the Badgers’ defense.

The pick: Wisconsin

Middle Tennessee State at Minnesota, 2:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

Two weekends, two dramatically different performances from P.J. Fleck’s crew of boat-rowers. Week 1’s ugly offensive performance against Buffalo was followed by last week’s road rout of Oregon State. Middle Tennessee State won on the road at Syracuse last weekend and could be smelling more Power Five blood in the water. The Blue Raiders have held two Power Five teams to an average of fewer than 100 rushing yards through two games. If that happens to the Gophers, there could be trouble.

The pick: Minnesota

North Texas at Iowa, 2:30 p.m., ESPN 2

The Hawkeyes are rolling through two weeks, turning in a pair of impressive performances in wins over Wyoming and Iowa State. The defense has shown its capability, shutting down a guy who could be a first-round draft pick. The offense has shown its capability, new quarterback Nathan Stanley throwing five touchdown passes in an overtime comeback win and Akrum Wadley looking awesome. North Texas gave up 54 points last week, so … yeah.

The pick: Iowa

Morgan State at Rutgers, 2:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

It was a horrible weekend for Rutgers last week, losing to Eastern Michigan, which prior to beating the Knights hadn’t beaten a Power Five team ever. That fact makes it somewhat unappealing to pick Rutgers this weekend, even with the FCS opponent. Still, you’d have to expect the Knights have enough to defeat Morgan State. Right? Bueller?

The pick: Rutgers

Purdue at Missouri, 3 p.m., SEC Network

The Boilers are playing well, fresh off presenting a challenge to Louisville and beating the pulp out of Ohio. The Tigers are not, fresh off surrendering 43 points to Missouri State, scoring just 13 points against South Carolina and firing their defensive coordinator. Purdue has an opportunity here to score a big road win in the SEC. If it does, Mizzou will have lost home games to Big Ten teams from Indiana twice in the last four years.

The pick: Purdue

Army at No. 8 Ohio State, 3:30 p.m., FOX

Ohio State is in full-blown crisis mode after that ugly showing against Oklahoma. The offense appears to be broken, with J.T. Barrett and his receivers constantly out of sync. And under the radar though equally troubling, the Buckeyes have what is statistically the worst pass defense in the country. Ouch. A date with Army is just what the doctor ordered, but Ohio State’s biggest opponent on the field will likely be Ohio State. Can they stop the spiral?

The pick: Ohio State

Georgia State at No. 5 Penn State, 6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

Penn State has trucked through each of its first two opponents, even turning the rivalry game with Pitt into an easy win last weekend. Georgia State has played just one game in 2017 — and it was a loss to FCS opponent Tennessee State. Expect Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley to have monster games and for the Nittany Lions to keep looking like the class of the Big Ten.

The pick: Penn State

Bowling Green at Northwestern, 6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

Another moment of reckoning for Northwestern, which hasn’t looked good through two games. Last weekend’s loss at Duke was particularly nasty, a 41-17 blowout in which the Cats struggled in every aspect of the game. The best remedy is getting Justin Jackson back on track. Supposedly banged up last week, the senior running back only had a handful of carries for a paltry rushing total. If Jackson and quarterback Clayton Thorson can get the offense going this week — and know that Bowling Green has allowed a combined 70 points in two losses — that will ease concerns, if only a bit, heading into a tough start to conference play.

The pick: Northwestern

Crisis in Columbus? Ten big things from the weekend in Big Ten football


Crisis in Columbus? Ten big things from the weekend in Big Ten football

Things aren't going so hot in Columbus right now.

The Buckeyes were beaten by Oklahoma over the weekend in a highly anticipated matchup that did not at all go Ohio State's way.

The offense is stuck in the mud. The defense is getting thrown all over. What's Urban Meyer going to do?

Read all about the Buckeyes' woes and everything else that happened with these 10 big things from the weekend in the Big Ten.

1. Ohio State ain’t dead … but boy are they ailing

Saturday’s most-anticipated game turned into a real clunker for the Buckeyes, who were blasted by Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma Sooners. Mayfield looked like a Heisman winner carving up the Ohio State pass defense, which believe it or not is statistically college football’s worst.

But the greater share of attention will go to the Buckeyes’ offense, which looked ghastly against the Sooners, only reaching the end zone once. J.T. Barrett looks a far cry from his redshirt freshman season, when he was breaking records and running a well-oiled machine of an offense. That’s nowhere near the case through the first two weeks of this season, and he continues to look out of sync with his receivers, who certainly deserve as much blame as he does for this mess. Urban Meyer said he’s going “fix the damn thing” and even fielded questions about making a potential quarterback change — his answer, unsurprisingly, was a short “no.”

Of course, none of this means Ohio State has been eliminated from Playoff contention. The Buckeyes could still run the table in the Big Ten and wind up back in the final four. But the confidence level is dropping like crazy as this team has played uninspiring football for six of the eight quarters in this 2017 season.

The Buckeyes aren’t out of this by a long shot. But panic is starting to set in, and it looks, at the moment, somewhat justified.

2. The greatest battle for the Cy-Hawk Trophy of all-time!

Has there ever been a more entertaining rivalry game between Iowa and Iowa State? A quick look at the rivalry history digs up a triple-overtime win for the Cyclones way back in … 2011. But still, Saturday’s battle for the Cy-Hawk Trophy was electric.

And it made a star out of new Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley, who became the first Iowa quarterback with more than 300 passing yards and five touchdowns in 30 years. Stanley was terrific in the overtime victory, and the rest of Iowa offense shone along with him. Receivers Matt VandeBerg and Ihmir Smith-Marsette made remarkable diving catches in the end zone. And Akrum Wadley was sensational, rushing and receiving for 190 total yards and two touchdowns, the more spectacular of which was the play of the game: a 46-yard catch and scamper in the final 90 seconds in which he broke three tackles and dragged a fourth would-be tackler into the end zone.

The Hawkeyes haven’t played the greatest competition in the world through the season’s first two weeks, but they’ve definitely exceeded expectations, first silencing Wyoming’s star quarterback, Josh Allen, and now scoring 44 points and winning a shootout with a quarterback starting just his second game. Crank up that Victory Polka!

3. Jonathan Taylor Touchdowns

Wisconsin has another star running back. Ho hum.

While it’s no shock that the Badgers would keep their running back factory humming at top speed, you can’t help but be wowed by the latest highlight-reel ball-carrier up in Madison. Meet freshman Jonathan Taylor, who has already been given a JTT-style nickname: Jonathan Taylor Touchdowns. In Saturday’s win over Florida Atlantic, he racked up an astonishing 223 yards and scored three touchdowns (hence the nickname).

But it wasn’t just the numbers. Watch the touchdown runs:

Impressive, right?

Wisconsin’s running back legacy is absolutely incredible, and of course it goes hand in hand with a great tradition along the offensive line. There’s no reason that should be any different in 2017, and, per usual, there’s depth, too. Chris James also had a 100-yard day as the No. 2 running back. And that’s with Bradrick Shaw and Taiwan Deal out with injuries. Never change, Wisconsin.

4. Penn State has no problem with Pitt

Last year’s rivalry bout between Penn State and Pitt was an instant classic — and a loss that might have been the reason the Nittany Lions couldn’t get a spot in the Playoff. This year? No such trouble. The Penn State defense had a great afternoon and made sure it was an easy day for James Franklin’s team in a 33-14 win.

The number weren’t as huge as we’ve come to expect on the offensive side of the ball. Saquon Barkley didn’t hit 100 yards rushing (he was at 123 overall if you throw in his receiving yards), and Trace McSorley threw three touchdowns but only passed for 164 yards and threw an interception. The reason? Well, two of the team’s four touchdown drives were less than 10 seconds in length. McSorley is a home-run hitter, after all.

But the defense was the star of the show, keeping Pitt to just 14 points despite the fact that the Panthers had the ball for nearly two-thirds of the game. The Lions took the ball away three times. After Michigan’s somewhat shaky day at the office Saturday and Ohio State’s loss, it looks like Penn State — right this second — is the king of the Big Ten hill after a pair of easy wins.

5. Feature back emerges for Michigan?

Watching Michigan’s win over Cincinnati and reading the box score from Michigan’s win over Cincinnati were two dramatically different experiences this weekend. As a viewer, it sure seemed like the Wolverines didn’t look too dominant against a team that barely beat Austin Peay the week prior. As a reader, the Wolverines had more than double the yards, came away with two interceptions and had a balanced offensive attack.

Regardless, the one story both digestions of this game told is that there might be a feature back emerging from the committee of carriers in the Michigan backfield: Ty Isaac. The Chicagoland area native and USC transfer, Isaac has looked great in the first two games of the season, and he really broke out Saturday, carrying the ball 20 times for 133 yards. There are obviously an abundance of options on the depth chart, as Jim Harbaugh showed last season. But Isaac got a heavy workload Saturday, perhaps a signal that Harbaugh & Co. have picked out a true feature back.

6. Maryland is invincible!

The Terps lost their starting quarterback in Week 1. But that didn’t stop them at all from following up their 51-point performance at Texas with a 63-point blowout of Towson, bringing the grand total to 114 points through eight quarters of football. Any room at the top of the Big Ten East for the Fightin’ Turtles?

Kasim Hill was great in his first collegiate start, completing 13 of his 16 passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns, and that D.J. Moore fellow is pretty good, too, catching seven passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns. But as they were last season, the Terps are about that ground game and they showed it Saturday. Maryland churned out 367 rushing yards, with Ty Johnson’s 124 yards and two scores leading the way.

I know what you’re thinking: “It’s Towson. Who cares?” But look how improved this Maryland team, look how capable it is compared to just two years ago when Randy Edsall was fired in the middle of that gross 3-9 season. DJ Durkin doing work.

7. Cats crushed

Ohio State had a high-profile loss and didn’t look good doing it, but there were worse days in the Big Ten. One of them belonged to Northwestern, which was absolutely dominated down in Durham in a 41-17 pounding at the hands of Duke. The Dukies have put up more than 100 points through the first two weeks of the season and are perhaps better than the experts think. But this was a disastrous day for the Cats, who are banged-up on defense, a partial explanation for Duke quarterback Daniel Jones cutting them up all day long.

But what’s going on with this offense? The 1-2 punch of Justin Jackson and Clayton Thorson helped overcome a bad-looking day in the Week 1 win over Nevada, but they didn’t do much of anything against Duke. Jackson was supposedly also a little dinged up, as Pat Fitzgerald explained after the game. He had to be real bothered to only get seven carries and rush for just 18 yards. Northwestern as a team had just 22 rushing yards! And Thorson wasn’t much better, throwing two interceptions compared to zero touchdowns.

The high hopes of the preseason seem like a long time ago at this point, as the Cats have turned in two underwhelming performances to kick off what was supposed to be a season in which they could compete for a Big Ten West title. It sure doesn’t look that way right now.

8. Does anyone in Nebraska want to play defense?

The revamped defense under new coordinator Bob Diaco is off to an awful start for the Huskers. After allowing 36 points in Week 1’s home win over Arkansas State, Nebraska was run out of Eugene, the Oregon Ducks dropping 42 points and racking up 566 total yards.

That needs to come with the qualifier, of course, that the Ducks didn’t score a point after halftime and spent the second half turning the ball over and missing a field goal. But this game was well over by the half, when Oregon led 42-14 and was doing absolutely anything it wanted against this Nebraska defense. The first half featured the Huskers surrendering touchdowns on six of eight drives including each of the final three. Tanner Lee’s pair of first-half interceptions surely didn’t help.

But man this transition is going anything but smoothly, with Diaco’s defense demolished in each of the season’s first two weeks. You wonder how much of that will be blamed on Mike Riley, who had to revisit the demons of Autzen Stadium from his days at Oregon State. And if the blame is laid at Riley’s feet, how much longer before the patience runs out in Lincoln?

9. Illini look much better

Things went much better for Lovie Smith’s group in Week 2 than they did in Week 1, when the Illini somewhat miraculously pulled out a comeback win to beat Ball State. Against pass-happy Western Kentucky, Illinois' defense looked much better, shutting down the Hilltoppers and taking advantage of turnovers. After getting consistently marched on by Ball State, the Illinois defense allowed just two third-down conversions to Western Kentucky and had a pick six.

The offense still left a bit to be desired, scoring just one touchdown and barely reaching triple digits in passing yardage. But Mike Dudek had more catches in this one, and Mike Epstein continues to be the season’s bright spot. The freshman once more got the bulk of the carries, rushing 21 times for 111 yards.

10. All aboard the Purdue train!

Following up that strong performance against Louisville in the season-opener, Purdue was excellent in Week 2, crushing Ohio. David Blough and Elijah Sindelar teamed up to throw four touchdowns, and Tario Fuller broke out as a ball-carrier, rushing for 142 yards and a touchdown. All in all, the Boilers racked up 558 total yards.

Now, no, Ohio is no powerhouse. But that’s now two great efforts in as many weeks for a Purdue team that hasn’t been able to do that in some time.

And the rest!

— Do we have a quarterback competition on our hands in Indiana? The Hoosiers used Peyton Ramsey an awful lot in the win over Virginia, and he delivered with three total touchdowns.

— Michigan State beat Western Michigan, a good sign considering the points the Broncos produced a week earlier at USC. Sparty’s D came to play, holding Western under 200 yards.

— Rutgers, Rutgers, Rutgers. A week after a great showing against a top-10 Washington team, the Knights lost to Eastern Michigan, giving that program its first-ever win over a Power Five team. Smh.

— There’s that boat-rowing we were promised! P.J. Fleck’s boys broke out the oars and rowed right through Oregon State, beating that lowly program by five touchdowns.