Quick thoughts and takes on every Week 8 Big Ten game.
Ohio State 52, Northwestern 3
The Ohio State speed and talent were on full display. Northwestern might have grown the grass up high – one of the funny week-long rumors – but that didn’t make JK Dobbins and Master Teague any slower. The Buckeyes ran or 279 yards and two scores – averaging 7.5 yards per carry – and Justin Fields didn’t have to take off too often. Fields was brilliant hitting 18-of-23 passes for 194 yards and four scores, partially because he had all day to work.
Ohio State is Ohio State. It might be the best team in college football, but it took two to tango in this. Northwestern is just really, really bad. Even against the terrific Buckeye secondary, the Wildcats should’ve been a whole lot better than 6-of-21 for 42 yards and two picks through the air. Aidan Smith didn’t have any open targets to throw to and had to force everything.
At 1-5, that about does it for the Northwestern bowl hopes. It has to win five of its last six games: Iowa, at Indiana, Purdue, UMass, Minnesota, at Illinois. That’s not happening.
Now Ohio State has to refocus. It might have been fired up about Wisconsin, but it can’t let down even a little bit after what happened in Champaign. The Buckeyes keep on rolling as they keep playing and looking like the best team in college football in all phases. There are just no flaws.
Illinois 24, Wisconsin 23
And THAT’S how Wisconsin loses. The Badgers had the ball for almost 41 minutes, but three turnovers were killers. A Jonathan Taylor fumble on what should’ve been a game-sealing drive, a bad interception thrown from Jack Coan on what then should’ve been a game-sealing drive, and the secondary gets exposed a bit on the deep ball. The Badgers did what they were supposed to do for most of the game, kicked a field goal to go up nine when it was 4th-and-goal from the one, and seemed like the amazing defense could stop freaking Illinois. Nope.
Illinois was beating the Badgers on the lines. QB Brandon Peters only hit nine passes, but he connected deep, the running game got the big dashes when needed, and Jonathan Taylor was contained just enough – allowing just 132 yards and a score on 28 carries. It stayed alive, stayed alive, stayed alive and it came through with the drive it needed to have late for the game-winning field goal. That was no given that the offense was getting into field goal range after getting the ball back late with the pick.
Illinois lost to Eastern Michigan at home, was on a four-game losing streak, only beat Akron and UConn, and even with this, it’s still going to have to fight to get three more wins with at Purdue, Rutgers, at Michigan State, at Iowa, Northwestern to go. However, if the team plays like this – and continues to be great on the lines – it can absolutely get there.
Does this end Wisconsin’s College Football Playoff chances? No, but it’s going to take some help – and a LOT of big wins. To make it happen, the Badgers have to finish 12-1 with a Big Ten Championship, and that would mean beating Ohio State in Columbus, probably doing it again in the Big Ten Championship, beating Minnesota in Minneapolis, Nebraska in Nebraska, taking out Iowa, and then bringing up those dominant wins over Michigan and Michigan State. A 12-1 Big Ten champion is PROBABLY in, but again, it’s going to take some other big teams to fall.