College football raged on this weekend while Ohio State took a Saturday off.
Here is what we learned:
1. Penn State made a statement about both the Nittany Lions and the Wolverines.
Given Michigan's season-long problems on offense, I never expected the Wolverines to be able to keep up with Penn State on the scoreboard.
Forty-two points are more than I thought the Nittany Lions would put up, though.
PSU did a great job getting favorable matchups and exploiting them.
Saquon Barkley could be a one-man wrecking grew, but he doesn’t have to be. Trace McSorley is great at running the read-option and throwing the deep ball. They’ve got big, talented receivers all over the field and a matchup nightmare at tight end.
2. I was surprised how ordinary Michigan’s personnel looked compared to Penn State.
Youth is supposed to be Michigan’s problem more than talent. (Of course, James Franklin has been recruiting well all along, which is why I thought he was underachieving until he switched offensive coordinators last year.)
The Wolverines’ supposedly brilliant defensive coordinator had no answer for the Nittany Lions’ spread attack, looking like a 1990s matchup against one of those Joe Tiller Purdue teams but with more talented players wearing blue and white.
Jim Harbaugh doesn’t have any answers for his offense because while having an unreliable offensive line isn’t new, the first two seasons he had a quarterback able to execute a ball-control passing game and now he does not.
3. I still am inclined to think Ohio State-Penn State will end up being a shootout.
Michigan’s defense got exposed. The Wolverines aren’t as good as their numbers because they haven’t really played anyone else who can throw.
(Purdue is decent.)
Meanwhile, Ohio State’s secondary HAS been tested, but the results have not been encouraging.
It will be interesting to see how Greg Schiano and Co. used the off week to concoct some curveballs for PSU.
I would expect them to come out doing what they do -- man to man press coverage most of the time -- but to be prepared if that isn’t working.
4. Ohio State’s offensive line play could be the No. 1 key next Saturday.
This will of course be the best test for Ohio State’s revamped offense. There’s always a fear of reverting back to Urban Meyer’s over-dependence on running the quarterback too much if things bog down, but I don’t think that will happen. Many of the answers they came up with over the past month are for things Penn State was the first to do to them.
RELATED: What are RPOs in football?
The Nittany Lions are at least solid all around defensively, but they don’t have the same type of edge rushers that have been a key part of disrupting the Buckeyes’ overall offensive plan in past seasons. To get pressure, they have to blitz.
As always, if the Buckeyes can run the ball on early downs, it will make J.T. Barrett’s life easier when it gets to third.
On top of that, Ohio State should have time to throw on early downs to avoid being too predictable, which makes everything else work more smoothly.
5. Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor is really good. He’s the total package: Big, strong, shifty with breakaway speed.
It’s mostly overlooked because Wisconsin is in the Big Ten Junior Division and doesn’t play anybody, but he is leading the league in rushing by a wide margin.
And after watching the Badgers take care of Maryland on Saturday, I think we should stop and appreciate the way Ohio State completely boatraced the Terrapins. Maryland is a decent team and the Buckeyes made them look like FAMU did a couple years ago when they came to Ohio Stadium
6. I watched all of Oklahoma State versus Texas and concluded that offensive line problems are not confined to the Big Ten.
The Cowboys have one of the most explosive offenses in the country, but the Longhorns short-circuited them by playing off coverage and daring them to run the ball. They couldn’t do it.
It's amazing how far the Texas defense has come since being shredded by Maryland on the first Saturday of the season.
Too bad for Tom Herman his first UT squad is saddled with a bad offensive line and a promising freshman quarterback who plays like a freshman too often.
7. The Indiana-Michigan Stage game was predictably awful, but Brian Lewerke made a few big throws in the fourth quarter that made the different for the Spartans.
There’s a temptation to say, “Hey this is another underrated Mark Dantonio team that just knows how to win games,” but I don’t think that’s true. Indiana is very familiar with losing just this type of game. The Hoosiers are also being held back by a freshman quarterback at this point in the season while the guy who threw for 300-plus yards against Ohio State sits the bench.
And MSU’s win over Michigan, which was no doubt impacted by the weather, looks worse by the week.