Just four Big Ten teams remain undefeated after the fourth week of the season: Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Maryland.
It was a rollercoaster ride to get there on Saturday between slow starts, overtime thrillers and a top-10 showdown, but the conference is shaping up excitedly as we enter the thick of Big Ten play.
Here are three performances that stood out.
Most vital victory: No. 6 Ohio State 17, No. 9 Notre Dame 14
According to Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day, it’s “Ohio against the world.” That may have come out in the heat of the moment — he also called out Lou Holtz — but Ohio State did prove that it is a legitimate championship contender when it beat Notre Dame on Saturday.
For practically the entire 60 minutes, this was a tightly-contested, mean-spirited defensive slugfest between two top-ranked teams. It’s no secret that Ohio State didn’t look as dominant as some may have expected in its first three games, but the Buckeyes were more than up to the task on the road Saturday night.
First-year starter Kyle McCord did not have a great game, but he was spectacular on Ohio State’s 13-play, 65-yard game-winning drive in the final minute of play. On third-and-19, he found Emeka Egbuka at the 1-yard line with less than 15 seconds to play. And in the final seconds, Chip Trayanum ran it into the end zone, shocking over 70,000 fans at Notre Dame Stadium.
Day and the Buckeyes showed they are, once again, going to be vying for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Statement game: No. 24 Iowa 0, No. 7 Penn State 31
Iowa is a good team, but even good teams sometime falter in front of 100,000 fans during Penn State’s annual whiteout game. The Hawkeyes did not just falter, though — they were embarrassed by a Penn State team that is slowly looking like the team to beat in the Big Ten.
On offense, defense and special teams, the Nittany Lions have been sensational through five games this season. And they did everything right Saturday.
Star quarterback Drew Allar threw for four touchdowns, and the defense held Iowa to 76 total yards.
It was only a 10-point game at halftime, but with Iowa failing to move the ball, the game was never in doubt.
Game of the week: Minnesota 34, Northwestern 37
For Minnesota, this might be one of its worst losses in the past few seasons. Instead of heading into Week 5 with a respectable 3-1 record, the Gophers will host Louisiana next week as a .500 team.
Minnesota was the much better team for three quarters, and took a 31-10 lead into the fourth frame. What happened next was tough to watch for Gopher fans, and a rare sight of encouragement for Northwestern fans.
After a quick score to begin the quarter, Northwestern quarterback Ben Bryant threw for 149 yards and a couple of scores in the final 13 minutes and change. It was on the final play of regulation, a third-and-10, when Bryant found A.J. Henning from 11 yards out to send the game into overtime.
Minnesota could only muster a field goal on the first possession of overtime, and on the Wildcats’ first play from scrimmage in the extra period, Bryant found Charlie Mangieri for the once unfathomable 37-34 victory.