Big Ten Rundown: Conference Play Is Here, For The Most Part

Rob Christy-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Here's a look at what went down in the Big Ten in week one of conference play.

Conference play is here! Here’s what you may have missed.

B1G Kernels:

Indiana: 29 (2-2, 0-1)
Northwestern : 44 (5-0, 1-0)

Hoosiers: Showed a little pluck in trying to get back into the game after falling into a big 27-0 but this is a different team without Tre Roberson and a promising start is starting to spiral out of control. They had trouble staying on the field despite putting up 425 yards of offense. Indiana just doesn’t have the horses right now. Kevin Wilson still has a very long way to go. Will the administration give him the 5 or 6 years he’s gonna need to get it done?

Wildcats: Kain Colter and the NU offense had a big day, rolling up in excess of 700 yards of offense. It was interesting to note that Colter was not the main quarterback, that role fell to Trevor Siemian as the Wildcats look to get Colter all over the field. Siemian had a fantastic day as well throwing for 308 yards. NU, despite putting up 44 points did not account for any of them on the ground. All five of their touchdowns came on the ground, four of which came from Colter. The Wildcats continue to impress as they get off to a 5-0 start. They face challenges ahead in back-to-back road trips to Penn State and Minnesota before Nebraska comes to town, we’ll find out soon how good these Wildcats really are, but the early returns are promising. They jumped out to a 27-0 lead in the third quarter. They let Indiana back into the game in the second half a bit but were able to hold them off down the stretch.

Penn State: 35 (3-2, 1-0)
Illinois: 7 (2-3, 0-1)

Nittany Lions: Quarterback Matt McGloin had another big day throwing for 211 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for two more. However, this day belonged to linebacker Michael Mauti. Mauti was causing Illini ball carriers fits. The stat sheet only shows he had six tackles, but this game will be remembered for his two interceptions, one of which was returned 99 yards, falling a yard short of the end zone. You may remember Mauti was one of the most vocal critics of the Illini recruiting efforts after the NCAA sanctions were handed down, so it should be no surprise that he had an inspired performance on Saturday. Considering everything Penn State’s been through the past year and all the defections coming into and during the season, the three game winning streak is all the more impressive. PSU hosts Northwestern on Saturday which will be one of the more interesting games in that early slate of games.

Illini: Illinios welcomed back quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase to full time action on Saturday and he fared fairly well but was clearly not 100%. Illinois is clearly struggling and has now been blown out three times this year, twice at home. Things don’t get easier for Illinois with trips to Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio State looming in three of their next four. If Scheelhaase can’t get back to healthy this season, it will be very difficult for them to salvage a bowl trip out of this season.

Minnesota: 13 (4-1, 0-1)
Iowa: 31 (3-2, 1-0)

Gophers: Winning Football: 202 – How to handle prosperity. Minnesota had been one of the feel good stories of the season going into Saturday getting off to a blistering 4-0 start largely on the backs of a much improved defense, despite MarQuies Gray missing the past three games. That all came apart on Saturday in Iowa City as the Hawkeys gashed the Gophers for 374 yards. This should serve as a reminder to Minnesota that they’re not there yet. They’ve made great strides, but there’s more work to do. Minnesota turned the ball over 4 times which torpedoed any shot of a win for UM.

Hawkeyes: Now, isn’t that just like Iowa. Struggling early in the season only to suddenly figure something out when the games really matter. Running back Mark Weisman had his second consecutive big game running for 177 yards and a touchdown. Iowa raced to a 24-0 lead at halftime and held off a tepid Gopher comeback attempt to win convincingly.

Marshall: 41
Purdue: 51 (3-1, 0-0)

Boilermakers: The offense had a big game as quarterback Caleb TerBush threw for 294 yards and four touchdowns, but in a ten point game, it was the two interceptions returned for touchdowns that made the difference. Marshall did try and make a furious comeback in the second half but it wasn’t enough and Purdue gets the win as they head into conference play. Purdue’s fast start has given rise to speculation the Boilers can give Wisconsin a run for a division title. They get their first test when Michigan comes to town on Saturday.

Ohio State: 17 (5-0, 1-0)
Michigan State: 16 (3-2, 0-1)

Buckeyes: Ohio State went into East Lansing and made enough plays to hold off the Spartans. The Spartans battered quarterback Braxton Miller but he was able to stay in the game long enough to pull out the win in Urban Meyer’s Big Ten debut. Running back Jordan Hall was not as fortunate, suffering a PCL tear, putting his status for future games in doubt. There is a bitter rivalry brewing between these two teams since Meyer showed up on the scene. They have already butted heads on the recruiting trail and again after the game as MSU accused the Buckeyes of doctoring the scouting tape. This time, OSU got the better end of the battle. They’re going to have to keep Miller healthy if they want to continue to win as much as they have been this year.

Spartans: Michigan State made no bones about their intentions of playing in the Rose Bowl this year after coming close the past couple of seasons. Games like this will severely hamper their chances at that goal. Losing home games in conference play will do that. Their defense is still very good but until they can figure things out on that side of the ball, that goal will not be realized. They’ve shown some improvement, but not enough to win this conference. This is still a talented team that still has everything in front of them as they haven’t yet faced Michigan, Nebraska or Northwestern.

Wisconsin: 27 (3-2, 0-1)
Nebraska: 30 (4-1, 1-0)

Badgers: Wisconsin put a real scare in to the Huskers taking advantage of turnovers and a sloppy start by Nebraska, but they were not able to make the plays down the stretch as they surrendered a 17 point lead. Stave looked poised early making some big plays downfield silencing the Husker faithful but was not able to escape the relentless Husker pressure in the second half as NU bottled up the Badger running game. They were not able to make plays in the passing game once the Huskers figured out Montee Ball and co. The Badgers are now 1-6 in Big Ten openers on the road under Bret Bielema.

Huskers: Another sloppy start in prime time is concerning. The improved tackling and line play on both sides of the ball is encouraging. Nebraska was able to use a stifling second half defense to shut down the Badgers and give their offense a chance to make some plays to make the comeback a reality. Quarterback Taylor Martinez skipped a few rocks and had a fumble forced by the man that called Martinez’s throwing ability into question. He got the last laugh though making plays down the stretch and capped the second largest comeback in school history. Nebraska fans would like it if they didn’t have to mount big comebacks too much more often. That’s a tough way to make a living.

Michigan: Bye (3-1, 0-0)

Ranking the B1G:

1. Nebraska (1): Hate to play the if game, but if they don’t give Wisconsin 2 very short fields, that game was probably a blowout. If Nebraska can carry over their tackling success, this team suddenly becomes very, very difficult to beat.
2. Ohio State(2): Bucks notched a difficult win on the road and look to atone for an embarrassing collapse last year in Lincoln.
3. Northwestern (4): Wildcats look to go 5-0 for the third time in five seasons but only third time this century. Favorable schedule gives them opportunity for much more.
4. Michigan State (3): Second home loss on the season puts a dent in those Rose Bowl hopes.
5. Michigan (4): Holding steady on the bye week
6. Purdue (6): Purdue looked a little leaky on defense, but the offense seems to be humming right along. We find out how good Purdue is starting Saturday.
7. Penn State (9): Three straight wins and a convincing one in Champagne will do a team good. Can they sustain their run?
8. Iowa (11): If this is the Iowa we see the rest of the year, there may be hope for the Hawkeyes, yet.
9. Wisconsin (7): Wisconsin came into Saturday surrendering less than 90 yards per game on the ground. They gave up nearly three times that vs. Nebraska.
10. Minnesota (9): Bit of a wake-up call for the Gophers vs. Iowa. Hopefully Gray comes back soon.
11. Illinois (10): Illini are struggling right now. Need to find a way to slow teams down if they want to right the ship.
12. Indiana (12): Lack of talent highlights just how far Indiana still has to go.

Player of the Week: Michael Mauti. LB, Penn State. Mauti had inspired effort for Penn State in their demolition of Illinois. Mauti, one of the most outspoken players in his critique of Illinios’ recruiting strategy after the NCAA sanctions were handed down. Mauti "only" recorded six tackles but had much more of an impact on this game than his stat line might indicate. He also recorded two interceptions, including returning one for 99 yards down to the Illinois one yard line.

Final thoughts: - The first (almost) full weekend of Big Ten play came to an end and we should start to see some separation. We did get a few surprises though, like Iowa dominating Minnesota and Wisconsin’s first half surge and Nebraska’s new found defensive soundness. We should have another exciting weekend on tap this weekend as Nebraska visits Ohio State and Northwestern and Purdue start to put their fast starts to the test. Despite the struggles of the conference in non-conference play, this is where the fun begins.- College football in general provides several compelling matchups this week including West Virginia vs. Texas, Georgia vs. South Carolina, LSU vs. Florida and Nebraska vs. Ohio State. Naturally, all but one of those games takes place in prime time. Make sure you have fresh batteries in your remote control.- It was really a sluggish week for top ranked teams. We didn’t see any major upsets but a lot of close calls and one major rain storm in Mississippi. Considering all the potential great games this week, perhaps several teams were peeking ahead a bit.

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