Wrapping up the weekend that was in the Land of 10, Week 9 …
The Point After
The 8-0 record? Woodson: Check. Peppers: Check.
Win over Colorado? Woodson: Check. Peppers: Check.
Win at Michigan State? Woodson: Check. Peppers: Check.
Even with Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson soaring, Michigan’s Mr. Everything, Jabrill Peppers, keeps making a damn fine Heisman Trophy case, scoring the first and last touchdowns for the Wolverines in a 32-23 victory over the Spartans while recording seven tackles and a sack. Mr. Everything was Mr. Everywhere — again.
What’s even more astonishing are the parallels to the 1997 Heisman campaign of Big Blue’s last great two-way star, cornerback/receiver/return man Charles Woodson, after eight games:
Peppers — 17 offensive touches, 559 all-purpose yards, 3 touchdowns from scrimmage
Woodson — 14 offensive touches, 529 all-purpose yards, 3 touchdowns from scrimmage
Coach Jim Harbaugh can scheme and tinker to his heart’s delight — and he will, you can count on it — to try to make Peppers look sexy on national television. But here’s the thing about a Heisman Moment ™: That the moment ™ usually happens on a massive stage, in a massive game, against massive opposition, that draws massive eyeballs.
So if there’s a trick still left up Captain Khakis’ pant legs, we might suggest turning it at Iowa on Nov. 12 in prime time. And the Ohio State game two weekends after that sort of speaks for itself, doesn’t it?
Woodson’s ’97 Wolverines were 4-0 in November and beat three ranked teams — two on the road in Penn State and Wisconsin — in back-to-back-to-back weeks before taking on the Buckeyes. The candidacy of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o in 2012 was aided and abetted by an Irish team that capped an unbeaten regular season with a perfect November that included two road wins (at Boston College, at USC).
Defensive players don’t have to be perfect — but their teams probably do. Former Nebraska defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh was arguably the single-most dominant force in college football in the fall of 2009, but the Cornhuskers’ home losses to Texas Tech and Iowa State knocked the Big Red off the national radar early. Suh wound up fourth in the Heisman balloting.
The onus is being on a signature team in signature games against signature opposition down the stretch. Attention spans were short 20 years ago, and with the constant stream of social media and 24-hour news, those spans are even shorter now. In 2012, Te’o recorded two picks against Michigan; racked up 10 tackles and a sack at Oklahoma; and scored an interception at USC in a contest watched by 16.1 million people.
In 1997, in the season finale at home to No. 4 Ohio State, Woodson ran a punt back 78 yards for a touchdown, intercepted Buckeyes quarterback Stanley Jackson and caught a 37-yard pass. The Wolverines (12-0) won 20-13 and beat everything thrown at them that year, save for Scott Frost.
Peppers will get his chance, and that moment ™ doesn’t necessarily have to end in the classic statue pose. Although precedent says it sure as hell couldn’t hurt.
Things that impressed the CFP committee
- And while we’re on the subject of Woodson/Peppers parallels, Big Blue’s victory at East Lansing was the largest (nine points) at Spartan Stadium since a 23-7 win in … 1997. Fate can be funny like that.
- With its third win over a top-10 opponent — and more on that below — Wisconsin (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) remains an excellent candidate for the Big Ten’s Orange Bowl slot. And the visitors to Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday night aren’t faring too badly on the national front, either — our good pal Jerry Palm over at CBS Sports.com on Sunday projected Nebraska (7-1, 4-1 Big Ten) to snatch one of the committee’s at-large slots in the Cotton Bowl.
And the thing that didn’t
- Ohio State surrendered more points at home to Northwestern (20) in one afternoon than it had in the Wildcats’ previous three trips to Ohio Stadium combined (14) dating back to 2003. Before Saturday, the purple hadn’t come out of Columbus within single digits of the Buckeyes since a 16-7 defeat in 1979, and haven’t won at Ohio State, period, since a 14-10 shocker in 1971.
One man’s rolling Heisman Ballot (Big Ten edition)
- Jabrill Peppers, OLB/QB/PR, Michigan. See above. Averaging 17.1 yards per punt return and 7.9 yards from scrimmage.
- Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State. Ripped up some already sketchy turf at West Lafayette to the tune of 207 rushing yards on 18 carries.
- J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State. The best player on the field against Northwestern (223 passing yards, 71 rushing), as expected, and able to do what he wanted to, when he wanted to, late. But didn’t account for a touchdown in a game nobody outside of Pat Fitzgerald’s inner circle expected to be remotely close.
Thanks for coming, hope we didn’t hurt your boys too bad
Penn State 62, Purdue 24
First the sinkhole, now this: The Lions’ point total was the most-ever by an opponent at Ross-Ade Stadium. Woof.
Not even a pro like Dave Revsine can spin this bad boy
Minnesota 40, Illinois 17
Given that The U hosts Purdue next week, it’ll probably be 7-2 (4-2 Big Ten) heading to Lincoln on Nov. 12. Goldy finishes the regular season with Nebraska (4-1 Big Ten), Northwestern (3-2 Big Ten) and Wisconsin (3-2), which means if the Gophers want to make a crazy Big Ten West race even crazier, the power is in their paws.
That’s why you leave this kind of goofy stuff to the professionals, like Jim Harbaugh
Purdue ran the best trick play ever for the worst result ever. pic.twitter.com/21QSpmYWxT
— SB Nation GIF (@SBNationGIF) October 29, 2016
Ask a Silly Question results, Part I: The most underrated player in the Big Ten? You say it’s Michigan QB Wilton Speight
The second most popular guy in Madison after Dare Ogunbowale
— Sean Keeler (@SeanKeeler) October 29, 2016
Bonus: Larry Culpepper, in real life, is a Big Ten native. Born in Omaha. True story.
Ask a Silly Question Results, Part II: The most overrated player in the Big Ten? You say it’s Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett
Welcome to the Hot Seat, pal
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
So after the coach of the defending Big Ten West champs dropped jaws with fuzzy math last week, we get word that Dantonio, coach of the defending East champs, uses the same textbook as Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. Down 30-10 to No. 2 Michigan, with 10:43 left in the tilt, the Spartans (2-6, 0-5) attempted a 34-yard field goal because, the coach explained later, it would’ve “cut it to two scores.” It wouldn’t have, unless a field goal in the Big Ten is now worth four points. But in Dantonio’s defense, there aren’t a lot of killer options on fourth-and-goal from the 17.
Fake Bo Pelini tweet(s) of the week (This Belk Bowl Thing Is Complicated Edition)
Alumni of the week
Joba Chamberlain, ex-Cleveland Indians reliever
Look on the bright side, Cubs fans: One of our favorite former Nebraska pitchers is one victory away from possibly notching his second World Series ring in two years, despite tossing relatively minimal innings for that would-be World Series champion. The burly righty appeared in 20 games for the American League pennant-winners this summer before his release on July 10. Big Joba made six appearances with the 2015 champion Kansas City Royals.
Sometimes in life, timing really is everything.
3 games coming up we’d seriously pay to watch
- Nebraska at Ohio State (8 ET, ABC). The Huskers impressed over Halloween weekend in a road loss, while the Buckeyes raised more red flags in a narrow home win. Is the truth somewhere in the middle?
- Iowa at Penn State (7:30 ET, BTN). It won’t be a 6-4 game. We promise.
- Wisconsin at Northwestern (noon, ABC). The last time the Badgers won at Ryan Field, a Clinton was president. As in Bill Clinton (1999).
The takeaway number
The last time a Big Ten team defeated three top-10 teams in one season before Wisconsin turned the trick Saturday night against then-No. 7 Nebraska. The 2003 Michigan Wolverines (10-3, 7-1) took out No. 10 Purdue, No. 9 Michigan State and No. 4 Ohio State en route to a Big Ten crown under Lloyd Carr. This year’s Badgers have pelts on the wall of No. 5 LSU, No. 8 Michigan State and the Huskers, three of the five top 10s Bucky’s faced this season — both single-season school records.