Now that we’ve made it through the second week of the season, at least as far as the Big Ten is concerned, take a look at how everyone came out of the weekend.
Minnesota (2-0) Defeated New Hampshire 44-7 – New Hampshire is a pretty solid FCS squad, but they’re just that, an FCS football team. Big Ten schools are supposed to do this vs. FCS competition (cough *Wisconsin* cough) Minnesota completely controlled the first half leading 30-7 at the break. MarQueis Gray had a solid game rushing for 109 yards including an electric 75 yard TD scamper early. He only had eight passing attempts, completing six for 100 yards. The Gophers held the Wildcats to 68 yards on the ground. Nothing really special about this win, just taking care of business, which hasn’t always been the Gopher’s forte. So, on a sliding scale, we’ll call it a good win. Next week: vs Western Michigan, BTN
Ohio State (2-0) Defeated Central Florida 31-16 – Another solid game from Braxton Miller with a side helping of the spectacular. The Golden Knights, who will be making the transition to the BCS and Big East next year, were a nice test for the Buckeyes. They’ve got some solid talent and OSU was never able to land the knockout punch. 256 yards on the ground will generally get the job done and 18-24 passing from Miller is pretty solid as well. A couple of concerns: 3 turnovers, and UCF converted 7-15 third down attempts. Those are going to have to improve for OSU. Another concern, Carlos Hyde left the game with a knee injury in the second quarter. Just another potentially significant injury for a Big Ten school. Next week: vs. Cal, ABC
Penn State (0-2) – Fell to Virginia 17-16 – Penn St. left a lot of points on the field, at least 13 with an argument for many more than that. This was an unmitigated disaster in the kicking game. This is one Sam Ficken’s going to want to forget. He went 1-5 on field goals and had an extra point blocked. This really was a difficult game to watch between an average Penn St. team that has more issues than just talent vs. a perennial underachiever in Virginia, just hard to watch if you’re not a fan of either school. This is a tough game to swallow for the Lions. If they can’t win these first two, I’m not sure where the wins are going to come from for this team. We’ve got a potentially significant injury watch here, too. QB Mike McGloin took two shots to the elbow and had an ugly tape job. It might not knock him out, but it could hamper his performance and he’s not the most talented QB around, but he’s a football player. Next week: vs. ABC/ESPN2
Michigan State (2-0) – Defeated 41-7. Central Michigan – A pretty complete effort by the Spartans, a Big Ten team that actually took care of business. Andrew Maxwell seemed to figure some things out, throwing for 275 yards and 2 TD’s. Not a whole lot to say about this one, the better team stepped up and didn’t let an inferior team get an opportunity to make a game of it. This is your best team in the conference right now. Next Week: vs. Notre Dame, ABC
Purdue (1-1)– Lost to Notre Dame 20-17 – Purdue did everything but win. They went into South Bend and traded punches with the Irish. They had the game tied at halftime and then marched down the field with the game on the line to tie it up with just over two minutes in the game. But Notre Dame, led by QB Tommy Rees, who had spent most of the day watching from the sidelines, drove it down the field for a game winning field goal as time expired to win the game. Good showing from Purdue, but it wasn’t enough to pull the upset. Next week: vs. Eastern Michigan, BTN
Indiana (2-0) - Defeated UMass 45-6 - Another major injury. QB Tre Roberson was taken away in an ambulance after breaking his leg. Since this isn’t the theatre, that’s a bad thing. Having not watched a down of this game, it will be interesting to see what Indiana does to replace Roberson. Their offense didn’t seem to do much after he went out. It’s going to be tough for IU to make a bowl as it is, but this certainly isn’t going to help things. Next week: vs. Ball St., BTN
Iowa (1-1) – Lost to Iowa St. 9-6 – Iowa, this isn’t how you’re supposed to do it. I know it’s a rivalry game, but when you’ve got them at home with an experienced quarterback you have to find a way to win that game. Iowa’s offense looked completely lost vs a team that likely isn’t going to make a ton of noise in the Big 12. If they don’t get it figured out soon, Iowa City won’t be a fun place to be this fall. Face it Iowa, right now, the Cyclones are better than you. Anyone seen Coach Rhodes’ locker room speech yet? Next week: vs. Northern Iowa, BTN
Michigan (1-1) – Defeated Air Force 31-25 – Air Force went into the Big House and put one heckuva scare into the Michigan faithful. The Falcons gashed the Wolverines for nearly 300 rushing yards and was knocking on the door all day. Michigan struggled to slow down Air Force’s option attack led by QB Connor Dietz, but in the end was able to hold on for the win. All-Everything QB, Denard Robinson paced the Wolverines amassing 426 yards of total offense. Michigan rebounded fairly well after getting trounced on national television and got pushed to the brink. Mighigan still has work to do on defense if they want to be in the mix at the end. Next week: vs. UMASS, BTN
Wisconsin (1-1) – Lost to Oregon State 10-7 – Oyi. Complain all you want about the call at the end, but Wisconsin isn’t going anywhere until they get that offense fixed. That was ugly. It’s not looking good for the Badgers if they can’t right that side of the ball. Credit the Beavers defense that were able to neutralize the Badgers all day and held 2011 Heisman finalist Montee Ball out of the endzone for the first time in 21 games. The Badgers were outgained 354-207. To even have a prayer of winning with that differential is a minor miracle in itself. If Wisconsin wants to three-peat as Big Ten champs, they’ve got to get better and get better in a hurry. At this pace, they may not even be favorites to get to the title game. Next week: vs. Utah St., BTN
Nebraska (1-1) – Lost to UCLA 36-30 (FOX) – Not much to add that hasn’t been said already. This is a Nebraska centric site after all. There are many issues to address. Rex Burkhead needs to get healthy. There’s an edge that’s missing from this team. They play with it at times and seem to be able to get knocked off it fairly easily at times. Nebraska got punched in the mouth in the second half and didn’t respond. If Nebraska wants to win this conference, they need to do the punching. An offensive identity might be a good idea, too, they have the running backs to have a pretty solid one, even without Burkhead. Next week: vs. Arkansas St., ESPN2
Northwestern (2-0) Defeated Vanderbilt23-23 – Wait, did a Big Ten team beat an SEC team? Is that allowed? The Wildcats rallied to outscore the Commodores 17-3 in the fourth quarter to win their home opener 23-13. Quarterback Kain Coulter returned after being banged up in their opener at Syracuse to score the game clinching touchdown after Taylor Scott forced a fumble late as Vandy was driving to tie find a way to tie or go ahead in the game’s final minutes. Running Back, Venric Mark rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown as well. The Wildcats are off to a solid 2-0 start. They have started at least 2-0 every year since 2007. Next Week: vs. Boston College, BTN
Illinois (1-1) – Lost to Arizona State 45-14 – So, Nathan Scheelhasse is pretty important for Illinois, I’d say. Totally different team when he’s not on the field. Illinois actually racked up a decent amount of yards, including 231 on the ground and held the ball for 35 minutes, but their complete in ability to keep Arizona State out of the end zone was their undoing. ASU did the two quarterback thing and between the two of them completed their first 14 passes. Any opportunity Illinios had to get back into the game in the second half was thwarted when QB Reilly O’Toole was intercepted, leading to another ASU touchdown just 1:15 into the half and a 35-7 lead. Not a good defensive effort to be sure for the Illini but they need Scheelhasse back under center ASAP. Next week: vs. Charleston Southern, BTN
Ranking the B1G:
- Michigan State (3): Your most complete team and the offense will only get better, Maxwell looked much more comfortable, though vs. a much inferior opponent. Should be tested vs. Notre Dame.
- Michigan (1): Denard Robinson looked like Denard Robinson. Why didn’t they let him try and be that guy vs. Bama?
- Ohio State(2): A little closer of a game than it probably should have been but that is probably to be expected given the new coaching staff, but a solid win in a week where nearly everyone else didn’t put a good foot forward.
- Nebraska (4): Need to develop an offensive identity and any sort of tackling in the backfield might be a good idea.
- Purdue (5): Valiant effort in South Bend. Solid squad, will give Wisconsin a run for their money.
- Northwestern (7): Solid though not spectacular team that will scare the crap (or worse) out of the big boys.
- Wisconsin (6): Until they figure out how to move the ball and put points on the board, the teams listed above are better. Still lots of season left.
- Minnesota (10): Decent road win and dismantaling of a decent FCS team gives them the nod over the rest. If they can find a couple of wins in conference play, they’ve got a shot to go bowling which would be a significant accomplishment Jerry Kill’s team in year two.
- Illinois (8): This team is going to struggle without Scheelhase.
- Iowa (9): This team should be better. When does the hot seat get cranked up for Ferentz? Or is it there already?
- Penn State (11): Looked more organized this week, perhaps there’s some hope yet for this squad, but all signs are pointing down right now.
- Indiana (12): Gonna take a little more to move them up, losing their quarter back isn’t going to help matters.
Player of the Week: Denard Robinson gets the nod this week. He had a huge game in what turned out to be a tight one vs. Air Force. We saw the player we hoped we’d see last week vs. Alabama and expect to see the rest of the year and Michigan’s going to need him to be that guy, especially if Fitz Touissant has more games like he had vs. the Falcons (8 carries for 7 yards). He had 426 total yards and 4 touchdowns (2 by land, 2 by air). By the way, Michigan had 422 total yards. Denard accounted for 101% of the offense for Michigan. Yes, you read that right.
Final thoughts: - Your 2-0 teams so far are Indiana, Minnesota, Northwestern, Michigan St. and Ohio St. This is football we’re playing, not basketball, right?
- Not a whole lot to look forward to in week three if you’re a Big Ten football fan. A lot of drop down games and everyone plays at home. Northwestern (vs. Boston College), Ohio State (vs. Cal) and Michigan State (vs. Notre Dame) only teams playing opponents you’ve heard of.
- Injuries continue to pile up. Nebraska’s Rex Burkhead and Illinois’ Nathan Scheelhasse both missed their teams games due to week 1 injuries. Indiana lost their starting quarterback, Tre Robison, to injury. Penn St. quarterback also had to miss some time due to injury after getting hit on his elbow twice during the game.
- Wisconsin and Iowa both are having serious issues offensively. Wisconsin’s a little understandable considering they have a new quarterback who hasn’t been on campus very long, but Iowa is throwing out there a senior quarterback who’s been in Iowa City for quite some time now. Considering both are known to be offensive line factories, you’d think that would give them some cushion in figuring things out, but so far that hasn’t proven true.