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Saturday, October 17, 2009
Recapping the early Big Ten games


Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

It has been quite a day already in the Big Ten, with No. 7 Ohio State going down to a 1-5 Purdue team and Iowa affirming itself as the class of the conference. I'm convinced that Iowa can do some special things this fall after watching the Hawkeyes rally past Wisconsin, 20-10.

Here's a look at the other Big Ten games:

Purdue 26, Ohio State 18 -- It will go down as one of the bigger upsets of the college football season, but those who have watched both of these teams shouldn't be totally surprised. Purdue had played a lot better than its 1-5 record indicated. The Boilermakers simply couldn't overcome all their turnovers and lost four games by a combined 18 points. Ohio State boasted a dominant defense but an offense with no rhythm and no identity aside from the occasional big play. The Buckeyes had it coming today, and by combining terrible production with five turnovers, their streak of consecutive Big Ten road wins ended at 16. Sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor endured the worst performance of his young career, committing four turnovers (2 interceptions, 2 fumbles). Turnovers have been a bugaboo for Pryor this season, and he simply isn't developing the way most had envisioned when he took over the starting job just four weeks into his career. Head coach Jim Tressel and his staff will be criticized, and quite frankly, they deserve it. Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan had a monster game (three sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, four tackles for loss) and quarterback Joey Elliott finally secured the huge win that has eluded Purdue for so long. Kudos to Danny Hope and the Boilermakers.

Michigan State 24, Northwestern 14 -- Both of these defenses are improving with every game, but Michigan State made more plays in the second half to continue its hot streak. Cornerback Chris L. Rucker played a role in another critical turnover, changing the game by forcing a fumble early in the third quarter. Linebackers Eric Gordon and Greg Jones both turned in huge performances for the Spartans defense, which bottled up Northwestern's anemic rushing attack. After a slow start, Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins picked apart Northwestern, hooking up twice with Blair White (186 receiving yards) for long touchdowns. You have to feel for Wildcats quarterback Mike Kafka, whose hard-luck season continued. Kafka once again put up big numbers (34-for-47 passing, 291 yards, 2 TDs), but he has no help from the run game or on special teams. This season has shown that Northwestern isn't at a point where it can lose a bunch of offensive playmakers and reload.

Michigan 63, Delaware State 6 -- The Wolverines snapped a two-game slide and flexed their muscles on offense against a completely overmatched opponent. Michigan set several school records, including total yards with 727. The 57-point margin of victory tied for the second largest for Michigan since 1950. I didn't really see the need to start quarterback Tate Forcier, who suffered a concussion last week, but he led a scoring drive and departed without further injury, so no harm done. Head coach Rich Rodriguez wisely got his backups plenty of work, and quarterback Denard Robinson (2 pass touchdowns, 1 rushing touchdown) and running back Vincent Smith (166 rush yards, 1 TD) came up big. Had anyone heard of Michael Cox (82 rush yards, 2 TDs) before today's game? That's what happens when you play Delaware State. Things obviously get much, much tougher next week against Penn State, but the Wolverines regained some confidence.