WRITTEN BY: JOE LAURICH, Staff Writer
The Big Ten college football season began on Saturday with plenty of good games.
The best of the day was between Indiana and Penn State, as Indiana overcame an early deficit to upset the No. 8 ranked Nittany Lions with an overtime win.
Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was the star. His stretch for the end zone on a two point conversion attempt to win in overtime was a remarkable play. He also tallied 170 yards through the air in the 36-35 win for the Hoosiers.
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights welcomed back their former head coach Greg Schiano, as he returned to the school after a few years in the NFL and other colleges as a defensive coordinator. Schiano led Rutgers to their first Big Ten win since 2017, as they beat Michigan State 38-27.
It was also the debut at Michigan State for Mel Tucker, who took over as their head coach after one year at Colorado. Tucker is taking over a Michigan State team that will likely struggle this year, especially with the shortened Big Ten-only schedule.
Another big game was between the Michigan Wolverines and Minnesota Golden Gophers. Michigan was favored by six points, but quarterback Joe Milton played superb and the Wolverines pulled out a 49-24 win. Milton threw for 225 yards and ran for 52 more to help Michigan get a 1-0 start to their season.
Michigan has underperformed relative to expectations during Jim Harbaugh’s tenure with the team. While they’re unlikely to move on from him after this year, this is still a big year to determine his future with the team.
The best performance in the Big Ten came on Friday night as redshirt freshman Graham Mertz dominated to lead Wisconsin to a 45-7 win over Illinois. Mertz went 19-20 with 248 yards and five touchdowns and connected on his first 17 pass attempts.
Wisconsin alum and current Texans defensive end JJ Watt shouted out Mertz on Twitter, as did reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes. Mertz has the potential to provide stability at the quarterback position for the Badgers, which is something they’ve lacked the past few seasons.
Purdue also pulled off an impressive win on Saturday. Even without star receiver Rondale Moore and head coach Jeff Brohm, who is battling COVID-19, the Boilermakers beat Iowa 24-20.
Iowa was impressive last season, and they had high expectations this year, but Purdue’s defense played well enough to hold Iowa to just 20 points. Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Connell, who was their fourth-stringer before last season, also played well, throwing for 282 yards and three touchdowns.
Ohio State, the favorites in the Big Ten, survived an early scare from Nebraska and ended up with a dominating 52-17 win. Justin Fields showed why he’s a Heisman candidate, as he was impressive all game, throwing for 272 yards and tacking on 54 on the ground.