Jonathan Taylor Saw, Missed
The big question at the heart of Wisconsin's 2018 Big Ten championship bid has always been quarterback. Alex Hornibrook looks like another in the long line of milquetoast Wisconsin game managers incapable of exploiting the Badgers' talented group of wideouts if a defense loads up against the run.
If Saturday is any indication, that might not matter. Wisconsin needed only eleven Hornibrook passes for 148 yards to put up 45 points on New Mexico. Even a trademark hideous Hornibrook interception didn't matter. Here's what did: 253 yards rushing and three touchdowns for Jonathan Taylor.
Wisconsin ended up with 417 yards on the ground on 59 carries. Yes, there is a talent gap, but Bob Davie knows more about stopping a traditional power running game than just about everyone, and his team got worked like a heavy bag all afternoon Saturday. Everyone thinks that Wisconsin can be beaten if its running game can be halted. Saturday was our first evidence that that might not be possible.
For years, Joe Paterno refused to play Pitt on even terms. Saddled with a home-and-home with his in-state rival, James Franklin has decided to go another direction: Make it so painful for Pitt that they never want to play Penn State again.
Penn State pasted Pitt 51-6 this weekend, scoring 37 unanswered points in the second half.
Franklin, who last year said that beating Pitt was "like beating Akron," made the blowout especially painful. Penn State's last touchdown came on a 34-yard touchdown pass thrown by PSU's backup quarterback while up by 38 points. Franklin then challenged a Pitt non-fumble in the final minute of the game.
This is how you handle an in-state rival: Torch the huts. Kill the livestock. Salt the earth. Bravo, James Franklin.
Your Weekly Antoine Winfield Jr. Highlight
Minnesota trailed Fresno State 14-13 with four minutes to go Saturday night. But Minnesota's offense finally found its footing on a touchdown drive to take a 21-14 lead, and Fresno State was left to drive the length of the field to tie.
It took Fresno five plays to cover 58 yards, because Minnesota gonna Minnesota. The Bulldogs sputtered in the red zone, though, and took four plays to convert a first down at the Minnesota 4 yard line. On first and goal, Fresno State opted for a halfback pass, and the receiver broke completely free behind the Minnesota secondary. Josh Hokit's pass floated over the Gopher defense, toward what looked like an easy game-tying touchdown.
Enter Antoine Winfield Jr.
Winfield's interception, where he changed direction while the ball was in mid-air, sealed the Gopher victory. It also broke the cycle, because Minnesota ALWAYS loses this game. If the Gophers are Groundhog Day, Winfield is saying I love you.
Ascendant Purdue isn't quite so ascendant anymore. One week after a home loss to Northwestern, a loss that looks a lot worse after this weekend, the Boilermakers dropped another home game against Eastern Michigan when the Eagles made a last-second field goal. Purdue, again splitting snaps between David Blough and Elijah Sindelar, managed just 135 yards on 14/24 passing (they did have 341 yards on the ground, to be fair).
But Eastern Michigan's victory can be chalked up as a proxy win for Iowa over its Most Hated Rival Purdue. Former Hawkeye quarterback Tyler Wiegers, who transferred to EMU this offseason, went 20/28 for 312 yards and a touchdown. And Eastern Michigan coach Chris Creighton, now in his fifth season in Ypsilanti and 2-0 on the season, made his name during six seasons at Drake. That dude can coach, and his quarterback can sling it. Go Hawks I mean Eagles. Go Eagles.
Scott Frost's debut as Nebraska coach was delayed a week when Scott Frost decided to send a thunderstorm into Lincoln, then sell out all the hotels in Lincoln so that Scott Frost couldn't play Akron on Sunday. The Scott Frost giveth, and the Scott Frost taketh away.
That meant that Scott Frost would start his career of non-stop Big Ten dominance against Colorado, a bit of poetic justice for Frost; after all, it was Colorado that wasn't good enough to be Nebraska's rival before all of the other rivals beating the holy hell out of Nebraska in the last decade weren't good enough to be Nebraska's rival.
Scott Frost was beating Colorado for most of the game, but it turns out that an all-risk, all-reward defense might not be the best option when trying to prevent an offense built on deep routes from scoring.
It also might help to have a backup quarterback who isn't a walk-on, which usually happens when you don't run off the existing backup. But this is all part of Scott Frost's plan. Do not question the Scott Frost, lest you be smoted or turned into a pillar of salt or something.
Holes in the Desert
Michigan State went to Arizona State for a September night game in the desert. If there is a standing Big Ten scheduling rule, it's that you should never, under any circumstance, agree to a September night game in the desert. There are a lot of holes in that desert.
Arizona State kept chucking it deep. Michigan State kept putting its corners in man coverage without help. Eventually, something was going to break, and when it did, the game was tied.
Herm Edwards, a man knowing for PLAYING TO WIN THE GAME, totally worked Mark Dantonio on the clock, setting up a chip-shot field goal with three seconds to go, and that was it. Michigan State suffered the same fate as 2013 Wisconsin, 2012 Illinois, 2010 Iowa, 2005 Northwestern, 2004 Iowa, 1998 Iowa and 1996 Nebraska. Don't go to the desert, folks, or you'll end up in one of those holes.