Sports Specs with Sam

The first week of football in the Big Ten offered some very intriguing matchups, including a shocking upset

Sam Janssen

More stories from Sam Janssen



Nearly two months later than usual, the Big Ten finally had its first week of football matchups this past weekend. The first week of games in the Big Ten did not disappoint, as it offered several intriguing matchups and even a shocking upset.

Wisconsin dominates Illinois

The opener of the Big Ten season took place on Friday night as Wisconsin hosted Illinois at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.

Illinois showed improvement last season, as they reached bowl eligibility for the first time since 2014. 

However, in this game Wisconsin dominated on both offense and defense, with the game ending in a 45-7 defeat.

The headline of this game was the performance of Graham Mertz, the redshirt freshman quarterback getting his first start for the Badgers.

Mertz was stellar in this game, completing 20 out of 21 passes for 248 yards and five touchdowns.

Mertz was composed and quick with his decision-making the entire game, as Wisconsin was able to complete quick passes and attack downfield throughout the entire game.

Wisconsin’s defense also shined in this game, as Illinois was only able to convert on two third-downs and only managed 87 passing yards.

Wisconsin should be the favorite to win the Big Ten West division again this season.

Indiana upsets Penn State

In the most shocking result of the weekend, Indiana upset Penn Statethe 8th ranked team in the nationdefeating them 36-35 in overtime.

Indiana held a 17-7 lead until the end of the third quarter, when they let Penn State back into the game by surrendering a 35-yard touchdown run by Sean Clifford, Penn State’s quarterback.

Penn State eventually gained a 21-20 lead on Indiana on a 60-yard touchdown pass with just over two minutes left in the game.

Penn State even got the ball back, as Indiana turned the ball over on downs inside their own 20-yard line,

Penn State could have realistically run out the clock at this point with one first down, as only 1:45 remained in the game and Indiana only had one timeout left.

Instead, Indiana let Penn State score, as the defense allowed Devyn Ford, Penn State’s sophomore running-back, to walk right into the end zone, making it a 28-20 game and giving them a chance to get the ball back.

Indiana would eventually score and convert a two-point conversion to send the game into overtime.

Penn State received the ball first in overtime, scoring a touchdown to make it 35-28, but Indiana answered with a touchdown of their own and a two point conversion, giving them the 36-35 win.

James Franklin, Penn State’s head coach, has been heavily criticized for his time management at the end of the fourth quarter.

Franklin should have instructed Ford to get down and not score the touchdown, so Penn State could run the clock out and not give Indiana a chance with the ball to tie up the game.

“It’s my job as the head coach to make sure everybody clearly understands those situations and obviously right there that didn’t happen,” Franklin said after the game.

This will be a costly loss for Penn State, a team which had national championship aspirations this season. 

After this loss it will be much more difficult for them to reach the College Football Playoff.

Penn State will face Ohio State, the third-ranked team in the nation, next week.

Michigan embarrasses Minnesota

Last year was a magical season for the Minnesota Golden Gophers, as they finished with an 11-2 record, their most wins since the 1904 season.

Their Saturday night matchup with the Michigan Wolverines proved last year’s magic had run out, as they suffered a 49-24 defeat.

Minnesota’s offense kept them in the game for a while, but after an early third quarter Gophers touchdown trimmed Michigan’s lead to 35-24 the wheels came off. 

Michigan was able to march down the field with ease to score two more unanswered touchdowns and put the game on ice.

Minnesota struggled with field position the entire game, largely due to the fact their starting kicker and punter were both unable to play.

In his first game as Michigan’s starting quarterback, Joe Milton looked like a force to be reckoned with, as the 6’5”, 243-pound junior showed great athleticism and poise. Minnesota could not do anything to stop him all night.

The Golden Gophers lost seven of their starters on defense from last season and it really showed. 

The Gophers still have star power on offense, as Rashod Bateman is one of the best wide receivers in the country and Tanner Morgan is a solid starting quarterback.

Mohamed Ibrahim, Minnesota’s starting running-back, was a standout in this game, rushing for 140 yards on 26 carries and scoring two touchdowns.

However, despite their talented offense, Minnesota’s new, young starting cast on defense is going to need to improve quickly for them to have any chance in the Big Ten West division this season.

Janssen can be reached at [email protected]