Written by: Aidan Champion
There has been some significant change in the college football rankings going into Week 3, but there is still much more to come. By the end of the weekend, the Big Ten conference will have dictated much of next week’s standings. Here’s what to be on the lookout for in the Big Ten’s matchups in Week 3.
Maryland at Illinois
The Fighting Illini have made it clear they will have no part in the hunt for the Big Ten title game. A Week 0 victory over Nebraska may have lifted some spirits for Illinois fans, but those hopes are assumed to be no more after two-straight losses, including a brutal defeat at the hands of Virginia.
Maryland enters the contest fresh off of a 62-0 shutout against Howard, and quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa is still making strong cases for the best QB in the conference. He threw for 274 yards and three touchdowns on Saturday, while converting on 22 of 27 passes.
Illinois’ defense just gave up 423 passing yards against Virginia. It’s safe to say Tagovailoa will have another field day, but then again, any Big Ten matchup on the road can never be taken lightly.
Indiana bounced back in Week 2 after a tough loss to a ranked Iowa team. The story of the game was IU’s rushing, which was primarily led by running back Stephen Carr. Carr ran for 118 yards and a TD in the Hoosiers demolishing of Idaho.
The main mystery that hovers over IU right now is QB Michael Penix Jr. The redshirt junior hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations so far this season, having played poorly in the Hoosiers’ Week 1 loss and failing to execute the dominating performance he’s capable of in Week 2.
On Saturday, Penix threw for just 68 yards on 11 passes before exiting the game late in the third quarter. He did, however, make two TD passes.
The Hoosiers will have their hands full this Saturday when No. 8 Cincinnati comes into town. The Bearcats have held their last two opponents to a combined 21 points and is ranked 10th in the nation in passing yards allowed per game. This weekend will be a true test for Penix, as he has an opportunity to expose one of the top defenses in the league and help defeat a top 10 team.
Coach Kirk Ferentz and his team did exactly what they had to in Week 2 to validate their credibility as a top five team in the country. The Hawkeyes defeated in-state rival and ranked opponent Iowa State by a comfortable 10-point margin.
A strong second and third quarter was what made the difference in the game’s outcome, but a slow start and unideal finish is not a habit that will keep Iowa in the position it’s in.
The Hawkeyes also were bested by the Cyclones in total yards, passing yards, rushing yards, and yards per play. The defense showed up and did its job, but QB Spencer Petras and the offense will need to perform at a high level on a consistent basis if they want a shot at the Big Ten title.
Fortunately for the Hawkeyes, Iowa will have the chance to put on a dominating scoring display at home against Kent State on Saturday.
The No. 25 Wolverines earned themselves a spot in the rankings this week after conquering a hungry Washington opponent 31-10 in the Big House on Saturday night.
Michigan’s defense limited the Huskies to just 50 rushing yards in the contest. But Washington’s defense was effective as well, holding the Wolverines to only 44 passing yards.
Jim Harbaugh and company will once again have the privilege of playing at home in Week 3, as they host the Northern Illinois Huskies. The Huskies enter this week with one win out of back-to-back close contests.
QB Rocky Lombardi will be returning to Ann Arbor for the third-straight season. He is much familiar with the Wolverines, having been part of the Michigan State rivalry as a Spartan for four seasons.
Michigan’s rushing defense should have an awakening test this week, after Husky running back Harrison Waylee rushed for 179 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Week 2. Running back Clint Ratkovich joined the show as well, finding the end zone three times on Saturday.
If the Wolverines bring the same heat on defense that they did last week, it could be a long night for program foe Lombardi and the rest of the Huskies.
This Week 3 matchup will be one of the Big Ten’s more interesting contests, as Michigan State’s performance will dictate where it stands among the conference’s top threats.
The Spartans are one of the Big Ten’s biggest surprises so far this year. Coach Mel Tucker’s squad has looked prepared and focused in each of its two games. But a road game against No. 24 Miami will all but solidify MSU’s credibility as a winning team.
As talented as the Spartans have looked, they have a chip on their shoulder due to their underachieving seasons in recent years. There is pressure that comes with every game, seeing as fans around the conference are seemingly anticipating an off-game before they make any judgements regarding this team.
A win on Saturday, though, will answer a lot of questions that surround this new and improved MSU group.
After holding its own against Ohio State, the Gophers won by merely five points against Miami of Ohio in Week 2. Minnesota was even outmatched in total yards, passing yards and yards per play in the matchup, a performance that won’t get them far in the Big Ten.
The Gophers head to Colorado this week to take on the Buffaloes in a duel that could be closer than some might expect. Colorado comes off a narrow loss to No. 7 Texas A&M in a matchup where the Buffaloes held the Aggies to just 97 rushing yards.
Gopher running back Treyson Potts was the hero of Week 2 with 178 rushing yards and two touchdowns, but his impact on the offense could be limited by a strong Colorado rushing defense.
Though Nebraska heads into Week 3 with a 2-1 start, the rest of its season could pan out to be brutal for the Huskers.
Nebraska will be on the road facing No. 3 Oklahoma on Saturday, and this more than likely will be the start of the Huskers’ downfall. The Sooners have put up a combined 116 points through two weeks, including a 76-0 shutout against Western Carolina in Week 2.
It would seem foolish to predict anything but another dominating win for Oklahoma this week, but stranger things have happened.
The Wildcats turned things around after their home-opening in-conference loss to MSU in Week 1. Northwestern came away victorious in its win over Indiana State on Saturday, but there still wasn’t much promise seen from the reigning Big Ten West champs.
The team finished with just 66 passing yards, but did hold the Sycamores to 31 rushing yards and 3.0 yards per play.
NU will be on the road for the first team this season when it goes up against Duke on Saturday. The Wildcats need to have a strong offensive performance in Week 3. They can’t afford to wait until midseason for the offense to display its true potential.
Perhaps the biggest surprise in all of college football in Week 2, was the Buckeyes upset loss to now No. 4 Oregon.
Every great team knows how to forget and move on, though, and No. 9 Ohio State has the perfect opportunity to do so against Tulsa. Ideally, the Buckeyes shouldn’t be challenged again until Penn State, but a Week 2 loss has alerted the Big Ten that OSU may not be the powerhouse it has been in recent years.
The Buckeyes will likely remind you that they still own the conference throughout these next few weeks, but the question remains if they can conquer a worthy opponent.
James Franklin’s team has been on a roll in its first two games, knocking off Wisconsin in Week 1 and winning soundly against Ball State on Saturday.
The Nittany Lions have a big test in Week 3, though, as they take on No. 22 Auburn in University Park.
Fortunately for Penn State, the Tigers have yet to face a ranked opponent, whereas the Nittany Lions already bested a top 20 opponent in Wisconsin.
Two of Auburn’s star running backs in Jarquez Hunter and Cartavious Bigsby each rushed for over 100 yards in the Tigers’ blowout Week 2 win.
Auburn is also second in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game, but the Nittany Lions’ offensive strength is their passing game, an area they will have to rely on yet again in this matchup.
This should be one of the more competitive games to watch in terms of Big Ten play this weekend.
The Boilermakers have the most challenging matchup in the Big Ten this week, as they journey to Notre Dame to face the No. 12 Fighting Irish.
Purdue looks solid going into the contest, though, as the Boilermakers’ defense just shut out Connecticut in Week 2. In terms of momentum, it could be argued that Purdue has more of it, considering ND only beat Toledo by a 3-point margin on Saturday.
But for that reason, the Fighting Irish will have all the more intention of wanting this game more than the Boiler Makers. It might not be a surprise if this game is closer than it should be, but ND has too much to lose to not win this matchup at home.
Rutgers will have one more opportunity to appear as a decent team before entering conference play against Michigan next week.
The Scarlet Knights have, however, have had impressive showings from their defense these last couple weeks, allowing a combined total of 21 points from their opponents.
This trend should continue into Week 3, but it likely won’t last beyond that point.
Written by: Aidan Champion
Aidan is an MSU Journalism Student and Spartan Football writer for: impact89fm.org