CFB: Michigan, Ohio State roll in Big Ten’s Week 1

This week brought several new CFB Playoff contenders back into the spotlight


Indiana QB Michael Penix Jr. led the Hoosiers over Penn State (Scott Maples/Zuma Press/TNS)

Dylan Tynes, Staff Writer

Saturday saw the return of two FBS conferences to the college football field — the Big Ten and the Mountain West — setting up the busiest slate of games to date in 2020. Yet, the weekend was surprisingly quiet. The first few weeks of this abnormal year were filled with shocking upsets, slow-moving offenses, and compelling overachievers, but Week 8 pretty much went as expected, minus a few exceptions.

First, let’s look at who justified their rankings this week. Ohio State trotted out onto their home field ranked No. 5 in the nation, looking to throttle a perennially rebuilding Nebraska team. After stumbling out the gate on defense and allowing the Cornhuskers to match their pace, the Buckeyes finished strong, cruising to a comfortable 52-17 victory. En route to the victory, quarterback Justin Fields reminded America why he was a Heisman finalist last year.

In another top-tier Big Ten matchup, No. 18 Michigan exceeded all expectations in their 49-24 shellacking of No. 21 Minnesota, who were a trendy pick this year to win the Big Ten West. The Wolverines answered many questions about their underclassman-heavy offense as junior quarterback, Joe Milton, looked in-control from the first whistle. The result was especially surprising considering Minnesota’s high expectations — the Golden Gophers returned almost all of their offensive weapons from their 11-2 season last year. 

Over in the ACC, Clemson found itself in an awkward situation going up against the Syracuse Orange, a team one week removed from being manhandled by Liberty. Despite being favored by over 45 points, the Tigers looked sloppy in the first half and led 27-21 late in the third quarter before they managed to comfortably pull away for a 47-21 win.

Many other matchups between ranked teams also saw victories for the favored team, albeit in differing styles. No. 6 Oklahoma State outlasted No. 17 Iowa State in an ugly 24-20 contest. Both teams are built around their offenses, yet neither could find any consistent rhythm, and the Oklahoma State defense managed to win the day (with the help of two missed field goals by the Cyclones). No. 9 Cincinnati, on the other hand, impressed in their 42-13 thumping of No. 16 SMU. The defensively-oriented Bearcats were consistent on both sides of the ball, putting up 313 rushing yards in a surprisingly dynamic performance. The electric SMU offense was stifled from the start, and thus far, Cincinnati looks to be the Group of Five team to beat.

Besides Wake Forest’s 23-16 upset of No. 19 Virginia Tech, the only other major upset in college football was Indiana’s overtime win over No. 8 Penn State, 36-35. The Hoosiers showed their gritty 2019 campaign was not a fluke, they hung around all game, and took advantage of Penn State turnovers to defeat the Nittany Lions, who out-gained them throughout the game. Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was the hero, leading a game-tying drive and two-point conversion in the final minute of regulation before doing the same in overtime to secure the win. In the overtime conversion attempt, Penix was judged to have reached the endzone on an insanely athletic stretch before landing out-of-bounds, a decision that has since sparked controversy online.

In perhaps the biggest surprise of the day, Rutgers won its first Big Ten game in nearly three years after defeating a rebuilding Michigan State team, 38-27. The Scarlet Knights managed to control the game despite seven turnovers, they have the potential to find success against even tougher opponents, if they can figure out how to hold onto the ball.

College football looks a little more complete now, even if this week lacked somewhat in the upset department. Next week’s slate may only feature one ranked matchup, but with more games on the slate comes more excitement and more chances for those can’t miss chaotic endings that make college football, college football.