Iowa Football

Big Ten football: A Saturday of cataclysmic horrors

What in the world happened at Wisconsin, Nebraska, Northwestern ...

South Florida running back Jordan Cronkrite (2) runs for a touchdown against Illinois before an announced crowd of 21,725 Saturday at Chicago's Soldier Field. (Patrick Gorski/USA TODAY Sports)
South Florida running back Jordan Cronkrite (2) runs for a touchdown against Illinois before an announced crowd of 21,725 Saturday at Chicago's Soldier Field. (Patrick Gorski/USA TODAY Sports)

Football-wise, Saturday was an utter disaster for the Big Ten.

Just kidding. We’re talking football, not nuclear war. But Saturday was bad. How bad? It was the first time the league had seven teams lose nonconference games on the same day since Associated Press’ college football rankings debuted in 1936.

Granted, the Big Ten actually was a 10-team conference in 1936 instead of a 14-team conglomeration stretching from New Jersey to Nebraska. But going 6-7 (Michigan State was idle) and playing just one ranked team (TCU, which Ohio State defeated) in doing so? An utter disaster. Of course not. Cataclysmic? Yeah, let’s go with that.

Here are my Cataclysmic Ratings of those seven Big Ten losses on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being nothing resembling a bad loss to 5 being really, really rotten.

First, let me remind you five of these seven losers were beaten in their own stadium and another, Illinois, lost a home game in Chicago. Ohio State was the only one of the 13 Big Ten teams playing last Saturday that left its own state.

Cataclysmic rating: 5

Wisconsin, L 24-21 to BYU

Here was a Badgers team some had doubted as a strong national-playoff contender, maybe even a national-title threat. And it got bopped at Madison by a team that had lost at home the week before to California.

This means the Badgers have to be perfect the rest of the way just to get to the playoffs. Win at Iowa. Win at Michigan. Win the Big Ten title game. That’s not asking much.

Northwestern, L 39-34 to Akron

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OMG. The Wildcats, needing a confidence-rebuilding win after falling at home to Duke the week before, led Akron 21-3 at halftime. Then the Zips went wild, and the Wildcats became zips.

A 36-point second-half for Akron, which lost 52-0 to Penn State and 41-14 to Iowa State last year? Akron, which committed 10 penalties in the first half against Northwestern? Akron, which hadn’t defeated a Big Ten team since 1894? Akron, which got $1.1 million from Northwestern for playing the game?

Yeah, that Akron.

Maryland, L 35-14 to Temple

Was this the same Temple team that began this season with losses to Villanova and Buffalo? Why, yes it was.

Was this the same Maryland team that began this season with two wins, including its second victory over Texas in two years? Why, yes it was.

Before an announced home crowd of 32,057 on a 76-degree, partly cloudy day, the Terrapins fell behind 14-0 and stayed behind. They were outgained 429 yards to 195.

Maryland hosts Minnesota Saturday. Tickets are still available.

Nebraska, L 24-19 to Troy

Other than that, how’d you like the game, Lincoln?

Nobody said Nebraska football would be rebuilt in a day, eh, Scott Frost? Well, maybe many in Nebraska said it when you were hired, but you knew better.

Boise State beat Troy 56-20 at Troy on Sept. 1. Apparently, Nebraska isn’t as good as Boise State. Or Troy, which collected $1.15 million for this visit.

The Huskers have six straight home losses. They have started a season 0-2 for the first time since 1957. They have lost at home to a team from the Sun Belt Conference.

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“We didn’t play great football as we went through the game,” Troy Coach Neal Brown said. Apparently, neither did Nebraska.

Rutgers, L 55-14 at Kansas

It’s hard to think any Rutgers defeat could get a 5, but then this happened.

Kansas. The bottom of the Power Five football ocean, a team that lost at home to Nicholls two weeks earlier. A program that lost to a pair of Mid-American Conference teams last year and one in 2016. A program that is 5-74 in the Big 12 since 2009.

Rutgers not only lost to Kansas, but by 41 points.

Kansas rushed 48 times for 400 yards. Kansas rushed for minus-25 yards at TCU last year.

“We’ve got to get better,” said Rutgers Coach Chris Ash.

“I’ve got to admit it’s getting better, a little better all the time,” Paul McCartney sang in the Beatles’ “Getting Better.” To which John Lennon replied in the background “It can’t get no worse.”

Here is Rutgers’ November schedule: At Wisconsin, Michigan, Penn State, at Michigan State.

It can get worse.

Cataclysmic rating: 4

Illinois, L 25-19 to South Florida

Hey, USF is an excellent football program, 24-4 since the start of the 2016 season.

But this was the Fighting Illini playing in Chicago, wanting to curry some favor with fans in the big city. That didn’t happen.

Illinois led 19-7 going into the fourth quarter. Then it lost, for the 20th time in 27 games under Lovie Smith.

The announced attendance at Soldier Field for this game was 21,725. The Chicago Sun-Times said “vast sections of the stands were entirely empty,” calling that 21,725 “a fanciful number.”

So two Big Ten teams lost in Cook County on the same day. That’s not great.

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Cataclysmic rating: 3, or maybe 2, or maybe 4

Purdue, L 40-37 to Missouri

Last year, the Boilermakers routed Mizzou in Columbia, 35-3, on their way to the Foster Farms Bowl.

This year, Purdue is 0-3 with three home defeats, including one to Eastern Michigan, which followed that with a loss to Buffalo.

The Boilermakers don’t have the defense they did a year ago. And they aren’t going back to a third-tier bowl this season.

Remember when people were insisting the Big Ten was the nation’s toughest football conference this year? That was two weeks ago. Good times.

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