Every Monday after the Big Ten slate of games, I’ll bring you some B1G thoughts on everything that happened! This includes analysis, stats, key players, moments and maybe a joke or two. For more in-depth analysis and previews of the next B1G games, be sure to check out the I-70 Football Show in the Land-Grant Holyland podcast feed.
Mike Hall Jr. Meet college football. College football meets Mike Hall Jr.
Last year, Ohio State’s defense was a laughingstock among most fans and the media. Much of the focus has been on the coaching staff, which has been good, but something that has gone a little under the radar is the absence of a defensive line. Larry Johnson, a living legend and future CFB Hall of Famer, was the only coach retained from the staff. Many of us think it’s insulting to talk bad about Johnson, he’s one of the greatest coaches in the game, but last year there wasn’t one guy and it was fair to question his class, after the Joey Bosa, Nick Bosa run. , and Chase Young. Well, now there might be a guy in that room, and unlike the previous trio, he’s an inside linebacker.
A few weeks ago, Larry Johnson said, “You’ve got to have an alpha dog on every team, right?” It is mentioned. Johnson goes on to say, “One has to be committed to doing that. I think it’s important (and) I think we have that person. Most of us assumed that guy was JT Tuimolow or Jack Sawyer, the No. 4 and 5 players in the 2021 recruiting class. Instead, it could be Mike Hall, the often-overlooked member of the 2021 class despite being the No. 53-ranked player in the class.
If you listen closely to all the breaks, you can hear the cheers building around the auditorium, and he proved it with his impressive performance against Notre Dame. Hall finished with four tackles, two tackles for a loss and a sack, but his impact lagged behind in the statistical count. What could have been a secret is no longer a secret as Mike Hall introduced himself to the world in major fashion.
Watch Mike Hall dominate Notre Dame’s offensive line:
Jim Knowles is as advertised.
Jim Knowles has bucked the trend for himself as a top-tier defensive coordinator. Knowledge doesn’t trust the offense to respond to what it does, but instead trusts the defense to respond to what it does. Many experts say that one of his best qualities is his ability to make adjustments mid-game, especially at halftime.
Knowles showed his ability to make adjustments against Notre Dame. After going 8-of-9 for 128 yards with eight straight completions in the first half, Notre Dame’s Tyler Buechner was 2-of-7 for 49 yards in the second half. The Knowles defense forced Notre Dame into six straight punts and finished the game 3-for-13 on third down. They have demonstrated the knowledge of multiple manpower packages, camouflaged coverages and a willingness to shine in critical situations. It’s hard to say this defense is fixed after just one game, but the signs are encouraging.
X-ray Mian Williams confirmed the dog was inside!
After a hard-fought three quarters, Ohio State got the ball on their own five-yard line for a 14-10 lead. Enter Mian Williams, who turned a crucial third-down pick-up with a sliding 12-yard catch from C.J. Strode after finding himself out of the pocket due to pressure from Notre Dame’s defensive front. After the catch, Williams capped a physical running game with runs of 11, 15 and 12 yards leading to a two-yard touchdown run.
Ohio State went 95 yards on a drive that lasted more than seven minutes, and Williams accounted for 61 yards after refusing to go down and holding multiple defenders on his back. Treveon Henderson may be the name in Ohio State’s backfield, but Mian Williams belongs in the Thunder. When the Buckeyes needed a touchdown, Mian put the team and Buckeye Nation on his back.
Welcome Mo Ibrahim
Muhammad Ibrahim is one of the best running backs in the Big Ten, and after suffering a season-ending injury against Ohio State in Week 1 of the 2021 season, he decided to forgo the NFL draft and come back for a sixth season. In his first action in nearly a year, he showed his potential by rushing for 132 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. Minnesota is the favorite to win the Big Ten West, largely due to the return of Mo Ibrahim. It was good to see him back after missing him last season.
New running backs, same Big Ten
The Big Ten is a conference dominated by running backs – no pun intended. Now don’t be fooled, there are talented players at all positions. Some of the best wide receivers in the NFL are from the Big Ten, and the streak continues as several Big Ten receivers were drafted last year. Basically, this is a conference that runs the ball first.
We saw great performances from running backs like Chase Brown’s 199-yard run against Indiana in Week 1, but we also got a big showing from some new faces. New running back Roman Hemby for the Maryland Terrapins introduced himself by rushing for 114 yards and two touchdowns on just seven carries. Anthony Grant, a JUCO transfer, had 189 yards and two touchdowns on 23 rushing attempts in Nebraska’s 38-17 win over North Dakota.
It’s tough to make a name for yourself in the Big Ten because of all the history and level of competition, but these newcomers hope to improve on these performances throughout the season and break into the top ranks.
Check out this Roman Hemby game:
Penn State and Purdue left their running game in the locker room.
Speaking of running the ball, not everyone gets the memo. Penn State and Purdue played a game where running success was difficult to find and it wasn’t because of opposing defenses. Penn State won the game 35-31, but finished the game 98 yards on 3.1 carries on one carry. Purdue was somehow worse, finishing the game with 70 rushing yards on 3.0 yards per carry.
Both teams need to look in the mirror and figure out which game to rush into if they hope to have any success, otherwise they will fall in the middle of their respective divisions. Running may not be a focus for many teams, but it is in the Big Ten, where most teams still live in the Midwest and deal with inclement weather. The running game goes a long way in the Big Ten, somehow James Franklin and Jeff Brohm didn’t get the memo.
Poor coaching decisions ruined Week 1
A common thought in Week 1 is that players are prone to mistakes, so anything can happen. We expect missed problems, misunderstandings, and a general lack of cooperation. One thing that doesn’t often get talked about is that coaches aren’t ready for Week 1. Coaches, like players, take a few weeks to get in shape, and in some cases, poor coaches have led to Week 1 losses. Week Zero, if we’re talking Nebraska, but those early season mistakes weren’t. Scott Frost is bad at his job.
Still, his decision to kick an offside when he was on the Northwestern 11 is the epitome of bad coaching. Nebraska did not score again in the game and lost another one-point contest after being up by double digits. Jeff Brohm set his team up for a loss by not going for 4th and short in enemy territory. A turnover and a touchdown would have sealed the game, but instead, Purdue’s decision not to be aggressive cost it.
Game-winning drives in unlikely cases
I’m on the record that the Big Ten is a conference full of mediocre football, and I fully stand behind that statement. But even mediocre pitchers can perform in clutch moments, and that showed twice on the Week 1 slate.
After a rough play and Jeff Brohm’s decision not to go down on fourth down, Sean Clifford went 7-for-7, including a 10-yard pass to running back to lead Penn State on an eight-play, 80-yard drive. Keyvon Lee for the game winning touchdown. Indiana’s Connor Bazalak found some magic in his first game as a Hoosier and led his team past the Fighting Illini on a 75-yard touchdown drive. This drive was even more important because the Illinois defense held the Hoosiers to 70 yards of offense in the second half prior to this game-winning drive.