Around the Big Ten: Week 6
Eric Ohlson, Tom Johnston, David Hadar and Tyler Olson break down this week's action across the conference.
In Week 5, the Big Ten featured a full slate of conference games for the first time this season. The front-runners took care of business, but some shifting occurred in the pecking order behind them.
Just like opening weekend, Maryland was the story of the land. The injury-decimated Terps went on the road with a third-string quarterback and out-dueled Minnesota 31-24.
Bottles of Bortenschlager are flying off the shelves in College Park, thanks to the sophomore who was unexpectedly thrust into a starting role after both of his predecessors tore ACLs.
Bortenschlager threw for 154 yards and two touchdowns, running for another as Maryland put up 31 points on a Minnesota defense that was allowing just eight points per game, the best in the country. Maryland’s next road test presents more of a challenge, as the Terps visit No. 10 Ohio State on Saturday.
Michigan State grinded out a 17-10 home win over Iowa, matching their win total from the disastrous season a year ago.
The Spartans improved their conference-worst minus-six turnover margin by forcing two Iowa turnovers and not committing any of their own. Mark Dantonio’s bunch still has a long way to go before being considered a contender again, but opportunity looms as they travel to Ann Arbor for the annual in-state rivalry with No. 7 Michigan on Saturday.
Mike Riley lived to coach another week, as Nebraska took a Friday night trip to Champaign and handled Illinois, 28-6. Surprisingly, The Huskers aren’t the first team to lose to Northern Illinois and beat the Fighting Illini in the same season (’09 Purdue, ‘10 Minnesota).
QB Tanner Lee threw for three touchdowns and no interceptions, his first INT-less game since Week 1. The Huskers are 2-0 in conference play, and have a chance to re-live the 2016 Penn State-esque timeline of “fire the coach” to “signature win” as they host No. 9 Wisconsin under the lights on Saturday.
Progress was made in Piscataway as Rutgers lost just 56-0 to No. 10 Ohio State, improving on last year’s 58-0 loss to the Buckeyes. (Should Northern Illinois take their spot in the Big Ten?)
Rounding out conference action, No. 4 Penn State scored 28 first-quarter points on route to a 45-14 win over Indiana, and No. 9 Wisconsin held off Northwestern, 33-24.
Week 6 features a half-dozen conference games, which each hold interesting storylines. Starting at 12 p.m., Northwestern hosts No. 4 Penn State from what’s expected to be a windy, rainy Evanston.
James Franklin is 0-2 vs. Pat Fitzgerald’s Wildcats, but if the Nittany Lions can escape with a win, they will head into the bye week 6-0 with two weeks to prepare for a home matchup with Michigan.
Although the biggest West division tilt on Saturday is certainly No. 9 Wisconsin visiting Nebraska, two other games that could solidify order are Illinois at Iowa and Minnesota at Purdue.
With all four of the conference’s top 10 teams facing decent competition, don’t be surprised to see at least one of them fall.
You can throw out the rankings in the Michigan vs. Michigan State rivalry. It’s been demonstrated in past years that truly anything can happen when the Spartans and Wolverines clash.
Maryland has played great thus far on the road, and home field advantage didn’t benefit Ohio State against Oklahoma. The Buckeyes shouldn’t feel too comfortable at home against the Terps.
Last season, Penn State started 2-2 and many called for James Franklin to be fired. The Nittany Lions followed with two straight conference wins before shocking No. 2 Ohio State at home, propelling them to new-found momentum and a Big Ten title.
This season, Nebraska started 1-2 and many called for Mike Riley to be fired. The Huskers followed with two straight conference wins, and now face No. 9 Wisconsin at home. Even if you believe the storylines are completely different, you can’t deny that the Huskers have a chance to register the same type of season-reviving signature win against the Badgers. It’s always a tough environment at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.
Matt Freiler is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism
Senior / Broadcast Journalism, Political Science
Tyler Olson is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and political science. He is a student in Centre County Report and a news director for CommRadio. In addition, Tyler covers hockey, basketball and baseball for CommRadio and is a columnist for the Daily Collegian.