Ohio State has won the last four Big Ten football titles, a stretch that began with Urban Meyer and continued in the first two seasons under his successor, Ryan Day.
But it was a bad weekend for both coaches. Meyer floundered in his NFL debut, as the Jacksonville Jaguars lost 37-21 to the Houston Texans. Day, meanwhile, suffered his first regular-season loss as Ohio State coach, as Oregon knocked off the Buckeyes 35-28 at Ohio Stadium.
Quarterback C.J. Stroud passed for 484 yards and three TDs in his second career start but failed to lead game-tying drives twice in the fourth quarter, even with Oregon playing without its best defensive player, preseason All-American defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux.
Still, much of the ire of Buckeye fans postgame centered on an Ohio State defense that’s surrendered an average of 33 points in its first two games. Oregon moved the ball at will against the Buckeyes with more than 500 yards of total offense, including 269 yards rushing on 7.1 yards per carry. The “Fire Kerry Coombs” crowd took to social media, as the second-year OSU defensive coordinator was unable to devise a good enough gameplan to stop the Ducks.
Day said postgame Ohio State needs more balance on offense after generating just 128 yards rushing to complement Stroud’s big passing day. In Tuesday’s weekly press conference, Day vowed there will be changes on defense and refused to say whether Coombs will continue to call the plays Saturday when the Buckeyes host Tulsa.
"We are all taking a hard look at everything we're doing, from scheme to our structure and all those types of things and what gives us the best chance to ... win the game," Day said. "No hard decisions have been made that way."
With Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State all looking improved offensively early in the 2021 season, Ohio State could find itself facing more disappointing outcomes if it doesn’t get its defensive woes solved.
Iowa secured its fifth straight Cy-Hawk Trophy with a 27-17 win at Iowa State. As a result, the Hawkeyes jumped to No. 5 in this week’s AP poll, the highest ranked of five Big Ten teams in this week’s Top 25.
The Hawkeyes have scored three defensive touchdowns through the first two weeks, including a 6-yard fumble recovery for a TD by linebacker Jack Campbell against Iowa State that put Iowa up 21-10 in the third quarter.
The defensive TDs have hidden some of Iowa’s struggles on offense, as the Hawkeyes rank 125th out of 130 FBS teams in long scrimmage plays, with just eight plays going for more than 10 yards.
“Certainly, we don’t have the consistency we need right now,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “That will come, hopefully. Part of that, too, is certainly a credit to Iowa State. Their defensive ballclub has been really good. They’re a tough group to move the ball against. Consistency is tough to come by when you play them.”
Iowa wasn’t the only Big Ten team to pull off a win over a Power 5 conference opponent in Week 2. Rutgers won 17-7 at Syracuse, and Michigan knocked off Washington 31-10, breaking into the AP Top 25 at No. 25.
Five more cross-conference marquee matchups will take place involving the Big Ten this weekend, including three that kick off at 11 a.m. Michigan State will travel south to play at No. 24 Miami (11 a.m., ABC), Nebraska will play at No. 3 Oklahoma (11 a.m., FOX) in a former Big 8 rivalry matchup and Indiana will host No. 8 Cincinnati (11 a.m., ESPN).
At 1:30 p.m., Purdue will play at No. 12 Notre Dame for the Shillelagh Trophy (NBC). It’s the first matchup between the schools in seven years. Purdue is off to a 2-0 start with wins over Oregon State and Connecticut.
“We've got a great opportunity this week to play a playoff football team that's 2-0 at their place that I know our fans and players and coaches are excited about,” Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said.
At 6:30 p.m., Penn State is hosting Auburn (ABC) in a “whiteout” game in which fans will dress in white t-shirts. Penn State coach James Franklin is calling on fans to pack 107,000-seat Beaver Stadium.
“If you’re a sports fan, you need to have the whiteout on your bucket list,” Franklin said. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, in pretty much every major conference, including the NFL, and this is as good as it gets.”