Big Ten

Turtle power: Ten big things from the weekend in Big Ten football

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USA TODAY

Turtle power: Ten big things from the weekend in Big Ten football

Well that was fun.

Week 1 of the college football season was a five-day smorgasbord of entertaining games that included the biggest upset of all-time (per the pregame point spread), the second biggest comeback of all-time and the first-ever season-opening matchup between the Nos. 1 and 3 teams.

That, of course, is all without even mentioning the Big Ten, which had a tremendous opening week, turning in a fun conference opener way back on Thursday before a 10-2 non-conference weekend.

The bad news is it's over for a few days. The good news is we get three more months of this!

Oh, and you now get to read the 10 big things from the weekend in Big Ten football.

1. Maryland throws sand in the Eyes of Texas

Maryland might not be the Big Ten’s best team after one week of the 2017 college football season, but the Terps did have the most impressive victory, going into Austin and dumping 51 points on the heads of the Texas Longhorns. The obvious national reaction was that Texas, ranked 23rd at the time, was nowhere near as good as folks thought it’d be and that Tom Herman — Urban Meyer’s former offensive coordinator at Ohio State — face planted hard in his first game as the Horns’ head coach. And certainly those things are true.

But let’s dole out some credit to the Terps, who continued upon last year’s on-the-rise vibe by landing one of the biggest wins of the season’s opening weekend. That Maryland offense looked terrific, whether it was Tyrrell Pigrome or Kasim Hill under center. And Ty Johnson, who quietly had himself a great 2016 season, ran all over what looks to be a bad Texas defense. The play of the game? Jake Funk's fourth-quarter touchdown run to clinch the win, responding after the Horns stormed back to within three points.

On the road and against a high-profile program, it was Maryland’s biggest win in a long time. And, in what you’ll see is a trend as you read on, the bottom part of the Big Ten is establishing itself, at least early on, as anything but the punching bag it’s been in recent years. The division schedule is still brutal, and one win over Texas isn’t going to suggest that Maryland is going to win 10 games or anything like that. But DJ Durkin has clearly done a very good job in a very short time in steering this program in a much better direction.

2. The Michigatrix: Reloaded

No Big Ten team looked better in Week 1 than Michigan, something that actually was a bit of a surprise considering the talent coming back at places like Penn State, Ohio State and Wisconsin and the amount of talent that left Ann Arbor this offseason. The Wolverines were replacing 10 starters on the defensive side of the ball — and plenty on the offensive side, too — and yet dominated a 17th-ranked Florida team, looking every bit a College Football Playoff contender in the process.

Jim McElwain’s Florida teams have been known for their inability to generate much offense, and that was certainly the case again Saturday. But that really didn’t take too much away from how impressive this reloaded Michigan defense was, as the Wolverines kept the Gators to just 192 total yards, 11 rushing yards and only three points (Florida’s other 14 points in the game were scored on defense). Michigan held Florida to just nine first downs and just two third-down conversions and made both of the Gators’ quarterbacks look inept. And the Wolverines did all that with 10 new defensive starters on a neutral field against a top-20 team!

There was little reason to doubt that Jim Harbaugh’s tremendous recruiting over the past two cycles would keep a depleted Michigan team in the mix. But did anyone expect the Wolverines’ defense to pick up where it left off a season ago, when it was one of the best units in the country? I thought it’d take a little longer than right out of the gate.

That’s not to say Michigan is problem-free. A whole offseason didn’t seem to bring a resolution to the quarterback situation, with Wilton Speight throwing pick sixes on back-to-back passes, getting replaced by John O’Korn and then going back in when O’Korn wasn’t much better. There were two missed field goals, meaning freshman kicker Quinn Nordin’s Groza Award isn’t quite locked down yet, even though he made two kicks from 50-plus. And really Michigan should’ve scored a lot more points. It’s kind of surprising that for as dominant as the Wolverines were they only won by 16.

But all that aside, the Wolverines through one week are the Big Ten’s best-looking team.

3. Ohio State’s offense is fixed? Kind of? Maybe? Not yet?

If you only watched only the first 40-ish minutes of Ohio State’s season-opening bonanza against Indiana, you might think the Buckeyes are still plagued by the same problems that caused that 31-0 embarrassment against Clemson in the College Football Playoff. It also means you missed the third-quarter Shyamalan twist where it was revealed that Ohio State is every bit the behemoth we thought it’d be.

In a bit of a replay of last season, when the Buckeyes took flack for their offense not always being in tip-top, best-in-the-country shape, Ohio State struggled through the first two and a half quarters at Indiana, only to wind up with a great big pile of offensive numbers and an even bigger pile of points in a blowout win. J.T. Barrett and his receivers looked badly out of sync to start the game, but he ended up with more than 300 passing yards and three touchdown throws. The Ohio State offensive line wasn’t too impressive at first, but true freshman running back J.K. Dobbins was electric, finishing with 181 yards. Parris Campbell made a horrendous drop in the end zone but redeemed himself greatly with a 74-yard touchdown play and 136 receiving yards.

See? It all worked out fine.

You can definitely argue that things should’ve gone a lot smoother for Ohio State. Indiana impressed that night, but the Hoosiers are still far from the class of the conference. New Buckeyes offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson had all offseason to gameplan against the team he coached last season, and it took him and his players more than a half to finally get things going.

But in the end this was a blowout win for Ohio State in which it dominated the second half. College football and the Playoff selection process is always about splitting hairs, but in the season’s first week, what more could you have asked for?

4. Saquon Barkley, your seat at the Heisman table is waiting

While Big Ten powers like Ohio State and Wisconsin took more than a half to get going in their respective season-openers, Penn State throttled Akron and dominated from start to finish. The 52-0 rout was what was expected from the reigning conference champs, of course, and we’ll learn a lot more when the Nittany Lions take on the Pitt Panthers on Saturday.

What we already knew was that Saquon Barkley is amazing. And he was amazing again Saturday, rushing for 172 yards and two touchdowns, also adding 54 receiving yards on just three catches. Barkley had a fantastic 30-yard touchdown run and almost had a career-long 87-yard scoring scamper that was shortened to an 80-yard dash when officials ruled he stepped out of bounds. And in true Barkley fashion, there were a couple hurdles in there for good measure.

Barkley picked up right where he left off a season ago, and the weekly tracking of his Heisman candidacy can officially begin with a bang — especially when a couple other preseason favorites like USC quarterback Sam Darnold and Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen struggled in their season debuts. Barkley entered the season as the country’s consensus best running back, and nothing happened in Week 1 to suggest that isn’t the case.

5. Oh, hello, Iowa defense

One of the bigger surprises in the conference — for me, anyway — was Iowa’s defensive performance against Josh Allen and Wyoming. It seemed like a real tough Week 1 matchup for a group of Hawkeyes that had plenty of mystery surrounding it heading into 2017, going against a guy folks are hyping as a potential No. 1 draft pick.

Well, Iowa made Allen look every bit like a Mountain West player going against a Big Ten defense, limiting the Wyoming offense to just 233 total yards and keeping it out of the end zone entirely. Allen was just 23-for-40 with 174 yards and two interceptions. So either the draft hype was way off the mark or the Iowa defense played great. I’ll say it’s a mix of both.

Certainly Josey Jewell was predictably awesome, racking up 14 tackles, including two sacks of Allen, and winning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors.

The Hawkeyes looked all right on offense, too, with new quarterback Nathan Stanley throwing three touchdown passes and returning, playmaking running back Akrum Wadley rushing for 116 yards in the 20-point blowout. But that defense was the most impressive part of Iowa’s day, creating four turnovers and effectively silencing what was expected to be a challenging opponent. Bravo, Kirk.

6. So is Indiana good or what?

Much like Ohio State’s night in Bloomington was a tale of two halves, so too was the case for Indiana. The Hoosiers hung with and actually played better than the Buckeyes for about 40 minutes of action until the scarlet and gray turned on the jets and streaked away from the crimson and cream.

One thing’s certain: that Indiana looked a heck of a lot better that night than it had in seasons past. That, of course, means that Kevin Wilson’s explosive offense was fine and good but didn’t mean a lick if there was no defense to go with it. Tom Allen revamped that defense a season ago, making the Hoosiers a tad more competitive, and it looked even better last Thursday night. And still the offense was functioning at high capacity at times, with Richard Lagow made to look fantastic by his receivers, led by Simmie Cobbs, who made some truly unbelievable catches.

In the end, what does all that matter, though, if Indiana still lost by four touchdowns? That’s a good question. What it seems to indicate is that the program is improving, something that can be said after one week for several of the Big Ten’s lower-tier groups. Maybe the conference schedule is too tough to ratchet up the win total. But that’s as good a Week 1 showing as you can have in a 28-point defeat. If that’s a thing.

7. The Mike & Mike Show down in Champaign

While Illinois’ escape of a win against a Ball State team that went 1-7 in the MAC last season was pretty ugly in most aspects, there were a few very promising highlights in that game. And two of them are named Mike.

The first was undoubtedly wideout Mike Dudek, who is finally back on the field after two straight spring ACL tears wiped out his 2015 and 2016 seasons. And excitingly, perhaps even shockingly, he picked up right where he left off. Dudek made a spectacular catch for the Illini’s first touchdown, leaping and grabbing the ball around the arm of a defender. He caught and ran for a 30-plus-yard gain in the second quarter that helped set up a field goal. And his 52-yard punt return in the fourth quarter was the play of the game, setting up the late go-ahead touchdown. Dudek’s electric play was back from three years ago, when he was one of the best receivers in the Big Ten. He only caught four passes Saturday, and the Illini would be wise to get him the ball as much as humanly possible.

The second was backup running back Mike Epstein, who scored the other two Illinois touchdowns. He was given the ball 11 times, which was three more than starter Kendrick Foster, and racked up 54 yards on the ground, plowing in from short distance for both those scoring rushes. Epstein also accumulated 32 receiving yards, giving him a very fine 86 total yards in his first game at the college level.

The Illini offense generally didn’t look great, considering it had the ball for almost half the time Ball State did. The defense was even shakier, allowing Ball State to march on several long drives. But the amount of youth on the field for Illinois was staggering, and that can be looked at as a good thing, in a way. It means Lovie Smith is recruiting players that give the team a better chance to win than the players who were there when he arrived. Progress?

8. Northwestern’s 1-2 punch looks good, even in shaky win

Before the weekend, Northwestern looked like it had the stuff to win a whole bunch of games this season and challenge for a Big Ten West title. That could still be the case, but there was a lot to be concerned about watching the Cats’ narrow escape against visiting Nevada. Missed opportunities in the red zone, dropped passes and missed kicks have been problems for multiple seasons now and didn’t go away during the Cats’ first game of 2017.

But what also didn’t go away was the tremendous consistency of Justin Jackson and the continued improvement of Clayton Thorson. The 1-2 punch at running back and quarterback was the No. 1 reason for high hopes in Evanston, and those two guys delivered in a big way Saturday. Jackson was as consistent as ever with 109 yards. Thorson was downright terrific with a career-high 352 passing yards, two touchdown passes and a couple fourth-quarter touchdown runs in the final five and a half minutes that ended up the difference what was a much closer game than it was expected to be.

Nothing was perfect, of course. Nevada did a decent job bottling up Jackson despite his production. And for the high number of pretty passes that Thorson threw, he had a few clunkers, including a nasty interception that set Nevada up in the red zone in the fourth quarter. But the bigger problems lie elsewhere and with the strange intangibles that keep making the Cats repeat the same mistakes year after year. (What is with this team and missing field goals?)

Week 2’s matchup with Duke should be very interesting. The Blue Devils dropped 60 points in their season-opening win.

9. Purdue shows something … 

As alluded to a couple times already, it was a good weekend for the bottom of the Big Ten, even if that means there were a couple losses among the conference’s lower-level programs. Purdue was particularly impressive, giving 16th-ranked Louisville and defending Heisman winner Lamar Jackson everything they could handle on Saturday night in Indy.

How about the Boilermaker defense forcing three fumbles — including two at the goal line and probably another the officials didn’t give it that should’ve been a touchback — and holding the Cardinals to 13 points through the game’s first 40-ish minutes? I didn’t know they had it in them. Jeff Brohm must’ve performed one heck of an XFL pump-up speech.

Of course, Purdue didn’t win, and its quarterbacks were as much to blame for giving away the lead as they were for helping to build it in the first place. David Blough didn’t start but played a lot and got picked off twice. One was a pick six that went back 60-plus yards. Another was on a horrible flea flicker during which Tim Brando used the word “chicanery.” Elijah Sindelar did start and then came back at the end, also throwing an interception. So Brohm has a quarterback problem on his hands.

But that’s as good a showing Purdue has put on in recent memory and should be lauded.

10. … and so does Rutgers!

Also worthy of trumpets is Rutgers. Yes, that Rutgers, which somehow, some way tested eighth-ranked Washington — a team that made last year’s College Football Playoff. The Knights actually had a lead at one point and hung around admirably, mostly thanks to their defense, which even in the end held the Huskies to just pedestrian numbers.

And so it’s another one of those lower-tier Big Ten programs showing some marked improvement in Week 1 of the 2017 season. Chris Ash’s Rutgers team was downright awful last season, but here we are one game into this season and things are looking up. Something I did not expect to say about Rutgers after facing a top-10 team.

Bonus: And the rest!

— Nice work by Michigan State, having no trouble blowing out Bowling Green in its opener. Easy wins have been a rarity over the past calendar year for Sparty, which even last season only beat FCS foe Furman by 18.

— Wisconsin played a near-identical game to Ohio State, tied at 10 with Utah State at halftime only to outscore the visitors 49-0 after the break. Alex Hornibrook threw three touchdown passes, Bradrick Shaw and Jonathan Taylor each had more than 80 rushing yards, and the Badger defense allowed just 10 points and came away with four turnovers.

— Minnesota ain’t rowing the boat quite yet, narrowly winning P.J. Fleck’s debut over a Buffalo team it should’ve pounded. Count this as portaging the boat. Or something.

— Nebraska’s defense allowed 36 points to Arkansas State, which is not a good sign. But the Huskers might have a new star running back on their hands in Tre Bryant, who rushed for 192 yards in the opener.

See how they stack up: Week 3 college football top 25 rankings

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USA TODAY

See how they stack up: Week 3 college football top 25 rankings

With Week 3 in the books, here’s my top 25.

1. Clemson (3-0)

The defending champs are looking like repeat candidates in the season’s early going, following up a lockdown of Auburn with a throttling of a Louisville team that boasts the reigning Heisman winner.

2. Oklahoma (3-0)

Baker Mayfield and the boys didn’t slow down the Sooner Schooner one bit after the win at Ohio State. Mayfield added 331 yards and four touchdown passes to his Heisman resume in a win over Tulane.

3. Alabama (3-0)

The Tide keep rolling, even if Clemson and Oklahoma have turned in more impressive wins. Bama blew out Colorado State this weekend and gets a surprisingly undefeated Vandy team in its SEC opener.

4. Oklahoma State (3-0)

The competition has been anything but fierce, but Okie State looks unstoppable. Mason Rudolph added nearly 500 yards and five more touchdowns to his Heisman resume this weekend. Bring on Bedlam.

5. Penn State (3-0)

The Lions have two Heisman candidates in their backfield, and they keep turning in monster days. Things could finally get tricky for Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley with Iowa in the Big Ten opener.

6. USC (3-0)

The double-OT win over Texas was one of the best games of the young season. You might have seen shaky play against a bad team. I saw the clutch-est of strips from Christian Rector, a season-saver.

7. Wisconsin (3-0)

The Badgers are absolutely blasting every team they come into contact with these days, the highest-scoring offense in the Big Ten. And now they have a passing attack? Look out.

8. Virginia Tech (3-0)

Things didn’t start so hot for the Hokies against East Carolina, but they ended up dropping 64 points on the Pirates. Josh Jackson has nine total touchdowns and zero interceptions this season.

9. Georgia (3-0)

A 3-0 record and a true freshman at quarterback? Impressive. If the Dawgs can beat their fellow canines in Saturday’s matchup against Mississippi State, then they’ve got something special going on.

10. Michigan (3-0)

The Wolverines’ offense is making folks nervous, and rightfully so with Wilton Speight’s unit not doing much impressing. But the defense continues to look awesome, so stay away from the panic button.

11. West Virginia (2-1)

Since looking good in a one-possession loss to Virginia Tech, the Mountaineers have scored 115 points in their last two games. Will Grier is already over 1,000 yards on the season. In three games!

12. Mississippi State (3-0)

This was supposed to be LSU’s breakout game, but it was Mississippi State’s instead. A jaw-dropping pounding by the Bulldogs, who held the Bayou Bengals to 270 yards.

13. Ohio State (2-1)

If only the Buckeyes could play Army every week, right? The offensive problems have not been exorcised, one must imagine, but Ohio State has a star in running back J.K. Dobbins. Feed him the ball.

14. TCU (3-0)

So much for TCU’s defensive dominance, giving up 36 points to SMU. But the Frogs’ have an offense, too, scoring 56 points on 619 yards. TCU’s outscored opponents 147-43 in three games.

15. Oregon (3-0)

It’s becoming obvious that Josh Allen just isn’t very good when he plays good teams, but still give the Ducks credit for thumping Wyoming. This is really looking like the Oregon teams of old.

16. Vanderbilt (3-0)

Is it up to the Dores to stand in the way of Bama’s annual conquest of the SEC? Vandy's been a feel-good story so far and beat a very good Kansas State team to stay perfect.

17. Duke (3-0)

The Devils can’t stop scoring, and it appears they won’t stop scoring. Three games in and Duke has scored 135 points. Oh, and the Duke defense forced four turnovers in the win over Baylor.

18. Maryland (2-0)

An off week for the Turtles, but Maryland still has the No. 2 scoring offense in college football, averaging 57 points a game!

19. Louisville (2-1)

I don’t blame the Cards for losing to Clemson, but there’s clearly something up with the Louisville defense. It’s allowed 28, 35 and 47 points in three games against Purdue, North Carolina and Clemson.

20. Miami (1-0)
21. Florida State (0-1)

The aftermath of Hurricane Irma postponed what would’ve been a much-anticipated matchup between these two rivals. They’ve still only played one game apiece.

22. Washington State (3-0)

Mike Leach’s team has been predictably good at scoring points. In three games, it has put up 130 of them. A USC-Oregon-Cal stretch, however, lies on the other side of Saturday’s game against Nevada.

23. Iowa (3-0)

The Hawkeyes have been mighty impressive through three games. New quarterback Nathan Stanley leads the Big Ten with 10 touchdown passes, and Iowa has 99 points in three wins.

24. Cal (3-0)

It wasn’t the prettiest game between Cal and Ole Miss, with a bunch of turnovers. But the Golden Bears won the second half 20-0 and came back to move to 3-0.

25. Auburn (2-1)

Auburn’s lack of offense against Clemson is looking more and more understandable. But only beating Mercer 24-10 is going to take some explaining.

Others receiving votes:

San Diego State (3-0)

CSNChicago.com White Sox Insider Dan Hayes will appreciate the Aztecs love. They’ve got two wins over Pac-12 teams already this season, including a takedown of Stanford — Stanford! —this weekend.

Washington (3-0)

You’re almost there, Huskies. Win at Colorado like you won easy home games against Montana and Fresno State and you’ll be ranked.

Texas Tech (2-0)

The Red Raiders will never not score a million points. The strength of schedule has actually been decent, too, 108 points in two wins over strong FCS program Eastern Washington and Pac-12 foe Arizona State.

Memphis (2-0)

Through three weeks, the Game of the Year award goes to Memphis’ win over UCLA. The highly entertaining four hours featured a billion points — and some key defensive plays by Memphis.

Kansas State (2-1)

Narrowly missing out on a big road win at Vandy. K-State is still a good team and held a 3-0 SEC team to 270 total yards.

South Florida (3-0)

You don’t get too much love for beating up on the Illini, but USF’s offense has been very good so far in 2017 — despite the slow starts. Nearly 700 yards in Friday night’s win.

Purdue > SEC: Ten big things from the weekend in Big Ten football

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Purdue > SEC: Ten big things from the weekend in Big Ten football

Choo choo!

The Big Ten better look out because here comes the Purdue train rolling down the tracks.

We'll see if the to-this-point impressive Boilermakers can remain competitive once Jeff Brohm gets his first taste of Big Ten football. But through three games, Purdue has looked a new team and a new program, most recently going on the road and blowing out an SEC team.

So, yeah, Purdue > SEC.

Read on for more about the Boilers and the rest of the 10 big things from the weekend in Big Ten football.

1. It just means more

Allow me and the rest of Big Ten Country some schadenfreude when the Big Ten’s supposedly bottom-feeding program rolls into an SEC stadium and rolls out with a 35-3 blowout win … even if it did come against my alma mater.

While it’s clear the Chase Daniel-Jeremy Maclin glory days are long, long gone at Mizzou, could we be witnessing the dawn of a new golden era of Purdue football? Jeff Brohm has three games under his belt as the Boilermakers’ head coach, and his team has impressed in all of them. First there was the hanging tough with Louisville, followed by a Friday-night beatdown of Ohio and now a shocking 30-point smoking of an SEC team. Holy Boilermakers, Batman!

Sure, the Fighting Tigers are not what they used to be. This is a team that allowed 43 points to an FCS school in Week 1 and fired its defensive coordinator after a Week 2 loss to South Carolina. But Purdue hadn’t won back-to-back games in half a decade. Let that soak in.

With the Purdue defense keeping Mizzou completely out of the end zone, things get real interesting for Week 4’s conference-opener against Michigan, an offense that hasn’t been all that impressive through its first three games. Are the Boilers going to upset the Wolverines? A wild thought that you would have laughed at three weeks ago all of a sudden seems not that impossible.

Boiler. Up.

2. It’s getting hot in Lincoln … so fire your head coach?

Mike Riley’s hot seat is getting real hot. He can thank his hand-picked quarterback for that after Tanner Lee threw a pair of pick sixes in Nebraska’s ultra-embarrassing home loss to Northern Illinois on Saturday. While NIU has made a habit of going into Big Ten stadiums and coming out with shocking wins (four of ‘em in the last five years, to be precise), Nebraska had no business losing this one — and yet it did.

The problems have been myriad over the season’s first three weeks for the Huskers. They were defensively inept in their first two games, surrendering 78 combined points to Arkansas State and Oregon. Then came Saturday’s disaster, in which the offense fell off a cliff and was stopped on two late drives by a MAC team. Lee threw three interceptions in all, including one on fourth down on the team’s final possession, an absolutely abysmal quartet of plays.

And so Riley’s job status is obviously a big topic of conversation this week. Riley’s hiring is not aging well. Made the main man in football-mad Lincoln after a career of middling mediocrity at lowly Oregon State, Riley getting the gig was a bit of a head-scratcher then. And it’s still one now, meaning maybe athletics director Shawn Eichhorst has some blame to shoulder for the state of Nebraska football.

Rutgers and Illinois in back-to-back games to start conference play could turn a sour 1-2 start into a slightly more acceptable 3-2 beginning heading into the Wisconsin-Ohio State gauntlet in early October. But it’s hard to see Nebraska emerging from the other side of that with a better-than-.500 record. Meaning Riley’s seat is going to stay hot.

3. Best way to fix the Buckeyes’ offense

Truthfully, the best way to fix Ohio State’s seemingly broken offense was to play Army. Mission accomplished. A week after getting trucked by an unstoppable Sooner Schooner, the Buckeyes easily dispatched of the Black Knights from West Point. So, problem solved?

It unfortunately won’t be that easy, as the Big Ten doesn’t have too many Army-caliber teams for J.T. Barrett and company to beat up on. But there seemed to be one obvious solution reached in Saturday’s win: Give the ball to J.K. Dobbins. The true freshman running back is already starting over last year’s freshman sensation in the backfield, Mike Weber. Weber’s been a bit banged up at times, which partially explains Dobbins’ ascension, but Dobbins’ play likely did most of the convincing when Urban Meyer was given the possibility of Dobbins topping the depth chart.

Saturday, Dobbins got 13 carries and did incredible work with them, rushing for 172 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Give the kid the ball. Like all the time.

Barrett was back, kind of, after that horror show against Oklahoma, completing all but eight of his 33 passing attempts, racking up more than 300 total yards and accounting for three touchdowns (two throwing, one rushing). He’s now the Big Ten’s all-time leader in touchdowns responsible for, a mouthful of a stat but a remarkable accomplishment, nonetheless. Guy whose record he broke? Drew Brees. Ever hear of him?

4. Lack of offense a reason to panic in Ann Arbor?

Last season’s string of blowout wins? That doesn’t look likely to be repeated by this year’s Michigan team, which through three weeks has an offense that can’t seem to move the ball or produce many points. Problematic, as those are the two main goals of a college football offense.

While Wolverines fans weren’t too enamored with Wilton Speight last season, he’s inspiring little to no confidence without last season’s cadre of pass-catching weapons like Jake Butt, Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson. Instead, with a new receiving corps, Speight isn’t doing much of anything. The Michigan offense only accumulated 359 yards in Saturday’s win over Air Force. Through three weeks, the Wolverines rank an unimpressive eighth in the conference in scoring offense.

Now, do these offensive woes mean it’s time to freak out? Not at all, really, because it seems that Michigan’s defense is better than anyone could’ve hoped considering it had 10 starters to replace this season. That defense looks as good as any in the conference right now (it ranks second in the league, allowing 208 yards a game) and seems like it could win any game for the Wolverines.

Michigan is very much in the hunt for a conference title, especially with Ohio State looking so vulnerable. But get used to the reality that if wins start stacking up, they’ll come in sweat-em-out fashion as compared to last year’s blowouts.

5. Cats back!

After a couple of rough showings in the season’s first two games, Northwestern woke up and responded to a beatdown of a loss at Duke last weekend, crushing Bowling Green by six touchdowns on Saturday. Those ugly performances against Nevada (a win) and Duke (a loss) featured a struggling offense. In Week 1, the Cats were trailing in the fourth quarter. In Week 2, the Cats couldn’t do much of anything, with a banged-up Justin Jackson limited to seven carries and Clayton Thorson throwing two picks.

Well, those struggles were distant memories Saturday night, with the Northwestern offense doing just about whatever it wanted under the lights at Ryan Field. Jackson was back to his usual self, rushing for 121 yards and three touchdowns. Thorson was 23-for-30 for 370 yards and two touchdowns, a huge day. As for the preseason mystery of who’d be catching Thorson’s passes? Well, Thorson found a couple go-to guys Saturday: Garrett Dickerson went for 150 yards on nine catches, and Bennett Skowronek caught three passes for 86 yards and two touchdowns.

It might have just been a cleansing matchup against Bowling Green. Back-to-back games against Wisconsin and Penn State will be monumental challenges for this team. But the Cats looked far closer to what was expected in the preseason than what we saw in Weeks 1 and 2.

6. #TraceTheHeisman

Back at Mizzou, we had the phrase “Chase the Heisman” to support the now twice-mentioned Chase Daniel’s Heisman campaign. Well, maybe Penn State should adopt “Trace the Heisman” for its quarterback. While that phrase makes no sense, the notion that McSorley is one of the Big Ten’s more legit Heisman candidates does make some sense.

The Penn State signal-caller — and home run hitter — had another big day in the Nittany Lions’ 56-0 blasting of Georgia State on Saturday. He needed just 18 completions to rack up 309 yards and four touchdowns, also getting into the end zone on one of his three carries. Through three weeks, McSorley has led Penn State’s high-octane offense to the tune of 753 yards and nine touchdown passes, plus a pair of touchdown rushes.

Thing is, McSorley, as it’s well known, might not even be the top Heisman candidate in his own backfield. Saquon Barkley might have rushed for only 47 yards this weekend, but he’s an obvious threat in the passing game and he racked up 142 receiving yards and a touchdown catch. Let’s check in on Barkley’s Heisman resume through three games: 548 combined rushing/receiving yards and five total touchdowns. So, you know, pretty good.

7. Does Wisconsin have the Big Ten’s best offense?

Don’t look now, but the most electric offense in the Big Ten through three weeks belongs to the Wisconsin Badgers, who despite not really playing anyone terrific are blasting every team they come into contact with. You might not have believed your eyes this past weekend, with the Badgers doing work through the air.

While the Wisconsin ground game is the stuff of legend, the passing attack has been hit-or-miss in recent years. Not so Saturday at BYU, with quarterback Alex Hornibrook throwing four touchdown passes in the 40-6 romp. He was nearly perfect, too, completing 18 of his 19 passes.

Combine Hornibrook’s big day with a to-be-expected huge day from a Badger running back — Jonathan Taylor went for 128 yards and a touchdown — and you’ve got an offense that’s racked up 130 points in three weeks. Wisconsin’s offense is tops in the conference and 16th in the country with 511 yards per game.

8. The Illini continue to be young … and that’s about it

Illinois is going through some growing pains. The Illini are a very young team, and their trend of throwing that youth on the field continued this weekend. They started 10 true freshmen in Friday night’s loss to South Florida, breaking a program record set just a week earlier.

Thing is, that youth isn't having much success out there in its first taste of college football. Illinois was throttled by USF, losing by 24 points. A defense that started five true freshmen gave up almost 700 yards of offense. The Illinois offense didn’t fare much better, with starting quarterback Chayce Crouch plucked from the game and replaced with Jeff George Jr.

The point that I’ve been making throughout the season’s first three weeks remains the same: All this youth is a good thing, in that it shows Lovie Smith is recruiting guys who are better than the players who were there when he was hired. But the flip side of that is it takes those guys a while to get their footing. And in the meantime come games like Friday’s — games that haven’t necessarily been rare for the Illini in recent seasons.

9. Is Nathan Stanley already one of the Big Ten’s best quarterbacks?

Iowa’s quarterback position was a big ol’ mystery following the graduation of C.J. Beathard. But Nathan Stanley has solved that mystery in a hurry, and in three games he’s already become one of the conference’s most-productive signal-callers. He threw just nine passes in 2016, but he’s been pretty fantastic during Iowa’s 3-0 start.

The sophomore Hawkeye — who being from Menomonie, Wisconsin, managed to elude both the Badgers and nearby Golden Gophers — leads the conference with 10 touchdown passes in three games. He’s passed for 655 yards and only thrown one interception. And all the while the Iowa offense has kind of been a point-producing machine, scoring 99 points in those three games. That includes the 31 points and two Stanley touchdowns from this weekend’s win over North Texas.

10. No running on the boat

If you’ve yet to be impressed by Minnesota, that’s OK. The Fightin’ Flecks narrowly beat Buffalo in the season-opener and then blew out Oregon State and Middle Tennessee State. But they’re 3-0 and don’t figure to be in a game where they’re a big underdog until at least the end of October.

What you do need to know about the Golden Gophers, though, is that they have a remarkable run defense through three weeks. Again, that level of competition hasn’t been super great. But Minnesota is allowing an average of just 59 rushing yards a game, tops in the conference and fourth in the nation.

And the rest!

— Rutgers bounced back nicely after that embarrassing loss to Eastern Michigan, putting a 65-0 whooping on FCS foe Morgan State.

— Indiana’s game against Florida International was canceled in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

— Michigan State and Maryland were off this weekend. Both remain undefeated.