College football had played for seven weeks leading up to this Saturday, and while it brought a sense of normalcy to a world that is anything but, it still just did not feel right until this weekend. Saturday, Oct. 24, was the day Big Ten football returned.
Big Ten football is back, and it did not come back without some drama, flair and controversy. The first conference game of the season was Friday night. No. 14 Wisconsin played host to Illinois, a team that upset them on a game-winning field goal at Illinois last season. There was no chance at an upset this season.
Freshman QB Graham Mertz finished with five touchdowns and a 95% completion percentage, completing 20 of his 21 pass attempts as Wisconsin steamrolled Illinois 45-7. There were a few more blowouts, notably Northwestern’s 43-3 home victory over Maryland and No. 5 Ohio State’s 52-17 domination over Nebraska, also at home.
Northwestern was led by Indiana University transfer Peyton Ramsey who threw for 212 yards, one touchdown, and carried the ball seven times for 47 yards and another touchdown. Justin Fields, Ohio State’s Heisman QB, threw for 276 yards and two touchdowns against Nebraska, also completing 20 of his 21 pass attempts.
Rutgers was on the right side of the score this time, earning their first conference win, a 38-27 hard-fought victory over Michigan State, since 2017. The defense for Rutgers was tremendous, forcing five fumbles and two interceptions. While the offense was outgained by nearly 150 yards for the game, the great starting field position was awarded to them because of the efforts of the defense, allowing them to outscore Michigan State and keep the game out of reach. Purdue, without star wide-receiver Rondale Moore, squeaked out a 24-20 victory at home against an always tough Iowa team.
Now we get to the controversy in what has been the best game of the season so far. Indiana played host to No. 8 Penn State. Indiana had come within one possession of an AP Top-10 team four times in the last five seasons, and lost them all.
Indiana forced two interceptions and three missed field goals, and yet they found themselves trailing 34-35 in OT. Tom Allen, Indiana’s Head Coach, had a choice to make, and he decided to go for the win. Michael Penix Jr, QB for Indiana, scrambled to his left and dove for the pylon, and by a miracle, he seemed to touch it, and the referees agreed.
They ruled the play a touchdown and Indiana the victors, but in the words of Lee Corso, “Not so fast!” They went to instant replay, and as they looked at it, it looked less and less clear. It seemed that the ball touched the ground right before the pylon, but they couldn’t determine for certain whether that ball had crossed the plane for a touchdown before it hit the ground, and so they went with the call on the field, which was a touchdown.
The battle between No. 18 Michigan and No. 21 Minnesota played host to College Gameday, and was the ABC Saturday Night Football primetime game. This was meant to be the crowning game of the Big 10’s return, but Michigan trounced Minnesota on the road 49-24 thanks to RB Mohamed Ibrahim who ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns.
The Big Ten is back, and in typical college football, it was anything but usual. The game of the week was anything but exciting.
All in all, the Big Ten is back. In the new AP rankings released Sunday morning, Ohio State moved up to No. 3, Wisconsin moved up to No. 9, Michigan rose to No. 13, Penn State fell to No. 18, and the Hoosiers moved up to No. 17.