After a one-week hiatus, here are your Week Eight Midweek Musings:
At this point, Michigan’s defense is the best in the country. They do, in fact, rank first in total defense and seventh in run defense. They’re in the top 20 in basically every defensive stat. And they can get after a quarterback. Michigan State’s Brian Lewerke completed just five of 25 pass attempts for a total of 66 yards on Saturday, and rushed four times for minus-11 yards. (If you missed it, read what our Lukas Weese wrote about Michigan DL Chase Winovich here).
This was not a tidy game for either team. At one point, Michigan lost a fumble to Sparty, only to recover a fumble from them on the same drive, and promptly turn the ball back over. The weather conditions (cold and rainy) were not conducive to precise football, nor to the passing game. Michigan State lost leading receiver Felton Davis to a torn Achilles tendon during the game, which didn’t help their cause. Michigan, on the other hand, has Karan Higdon at running back, which helped their cause greatly. Higdon rushed for 144 yards, despite the Michigan State defense giving up just 62 per game through Week Seven.
For the first time in awhile, Michigan-Ohio State could have meaning beyond pride.
So Purdue is pretty good at this whole “run defense” thing, too. While they’re only ranked 41st, they held the Buckeyes to 76 yards. As a result, Dwayne Haskins had to throw the ball 73 times. (I’m not sure when the last time was I saw 73 pass attempts in a game that didn’t include OT.) Haskins completed 49 of those passes, for 470 yards, two scores, and an interception. But it was the near-total shutdown of the run game that doomed the Buckeyes.
Purdue aired it out too, as quarterback David Blough threw for 378 yards and three touchdowns. Add in three D.J. Knox rushing touchdowns and a pick-6 and you have domination. Purdue has now won four straight after starting 0-3, and they could easily be 7-0 now. The Boilermakers lost those first three games by a total of eight points. As it is, they’re second in the Big Ten West. Go figure.
This was about as good a bounce-back game as you could ask for from the Sooners. They were 180 degrees away from the team that played the first half of the Red River Rivalry two weeks ago. Kyler Murray completed 19 of 24 pass attempts for 213 yards and four touchdowns, the team rushed for 323 yards, and they were plus-one in the turnover margin. Linebacker Kenneth Murray led the defense with 11 total tackles, eight solo, a sack, two tackles for loss, and a pass defensed. Kyler as certainly worked his way back into the Heisman discussion, and Oklahoma is one of several one-loss teams whose Playoff chances aren’t gone.
This wasn’t the finest outing for the Tigers’ offense, but the defense bailed them out in the 19-3 win over Mississippi State. Safety Grant Delpit should be getting far more recognition outside of the SEC. The sophomore(!) had two of LSU’s four interceptions on Saturday, bringing him to five on the season and giving him the NCAA lead.
Speaking of defense, the Bulldogs aren’t bad in that department either. They held LSU to one offensive touchdown on the night, and just 110 yards on the ground. They also picked off Joe Burrow once. But you aren’t going to win many games, especially against a defense as stout as the Tigers’, when your quarterback completes 8 of 24 pass attempts, and throws another four to the wrong team.
Also- the shiny, iridescent purple helmets for LSU? AWESOME. Those need to be an annual thing. Maybe, since they were designed to honor the “silent season” of 1918, they could come out for the game closest to Veterans’ Day every year?
Best of the Rest
Illinois @ #23 Wisconsin
Snow game alert!
UConn (1-6) @ #21 South Florida (7-0)
The Bulls won, 38-30, but this very nearly became my “WTF” moment of the week. I live in Connecticut, and this UConn team is… not good. (They’re also very young, but…)
Kentucky 14, Vanderbilt 7
Kentucky’s Benny Snell would be getting some Heisman love if he played at any other school in the SEC. (Okay, maybe not Vandy.) Seriously, he should get an invite to NYC.
#18 Penn State 33, Indiana 28
The Nittany Lions came within six points of losing three straight. Their next opponents? Iowa at home, Michigan at the Big House, and Wisconsin at home. In other words, it’s not getting any easier.
And those are my week eight Midweek Musings! Check back this weekend for all of our college football coverage, and for Midweek Musings next Wednesday.