Now that we've made it through the third week of the season, let's take a look at how everyone came out of the weekend.
Nebraska (2-1) – Defeated Arkansas State 42-13. If you’re a Nebraska fan (and if you’re reading this, you probably are), you’re loving the depth and skill at the wide receiver and I back position. If Burkhead’s injury has helped, it’s been in getting an opportunity to see how good Abdullah, Heard and Cross can be. They all looked solid on Saturday. Bell is turning into perhaps the best receiver in the Big Ten. The defense looked a lot better today. The defense showed some new wrinkles, but they also attacked and blitzed a lot more. Stafford was flying all over the field and Eric Martin had a big day as well. We also got our first look at Zaire Anderson and he made a couple of plays that haven’t been made so far this season. Oh, and they tackling was much improved, as was the pressure on the quarterback. Arkansas St. is respectable offense, so to see the defense hold them under 300 total yards and just two field goals, one of which came on a very short field, is encouraging. Next week: Idaho St, BTN
Ohio State (3-0) Defeated Cal 35-28. Perhaps Ohio St. isn’t going to become the overnight juggernaut we had all feared. They’ll get there, most believe, but they’re not there yet. This game had a very entertaining finish, and one of the best runs you’ll ever see by Cal running back Brendan Bigelow in the third quarter. Cal went into the horse shoe and took every shot the Buckeyes threw at them and had a chance to win the game outright. In the end, it was a busted coverage that did the Bears in (think the end of the Virginia Tech game, you know the one.) Now, we’ve seen every Big Ten team go up vs. a middle of the pack BCS level team, at least all the big boys, and struggle. A lot of this goes to show how very even, and how very mediocre, the middle of the Big Ten is, perhaps the whole conference. Next week: UAB, BTN
Minnesota (3-0) Defeated Western Michigan 28-23. Just another Saturday, just another win for the Gophers. Ok, maybe not. What we did have is another potential significant injury to a Big Ten team. Quarterback MarQueis Gray left the game with an injury to his ankle and spent the second half watching from the sidelines in a boot and on crutches. If he’s out the month they say he might be, it could spell doom for the Gophers season. We got our first significant look at Max Shortell. He had a decent day. 10/17 for 188 and three td’s with only a single interception. Donnell Kirkwood also rushed for 110 yards. That said, Minnesota couldn’t put away Western Michigan and had to hold on for five point win. Next week: Syracuse, BTN
Illinois (2-1) Defeated Charleston Southern 44-0. Nathan Scheelhaase missed his second game with an injured ankle. Reilly O’Toole got the call and only threw for 333 and five TD’s. The defense limited the Buccaneers of 125 yards of total offense. Even without their starting QB, this is what Illinois should have done vs. a team like CSU. We didn’t learn much about the Illini today. Louisiana Tech comes into town next week and should be much more of a challenge. Next week: Louisiana Tech, BTN
Penn State (1-2) –Defeated Navy 35-7. Happy Valley can be again, if for only a day. Penn State took out nearly a year’s worth of frustration and grief and every other emotion imaginable out on Navy Saturday afternoon. Good for McGloin, good for O’Brien. Let them enjoy this win. There’s not going to be many around there the next few years. Next week: Temple, ABC
Purdue (2-1) Defeated Eastern Michigan 54-16. I mean, I think Purdue’s a pretty good squad. They took care of business with Marve on the shelf. Caleb TerBush took the reins all by himself and led the Boilermakers to 576 yards of total offense. Solid job. A little concerning that they gave up over 300 yards of offense, but can’t complain too much about a 38 point win. This team took Notre Dame right down to the wire, and probably should have won that game, the same Notre Dame that just went into East Lansing and punched in the Spartans teeth. This team is good. After 3 weeks, hard to not call them the favorites in the Leaders division. Next week: Bye
Iowa (2-1) Defeated Northern Iowa 27-16. Well, they won, and the last time they had to squeak by Northern Iowa they found their way to the Orange Bowl, so there’s still hope for improvement. Not to mention, 200 yards on the ground is impressive regardless of who is on the other side of the ball. That said, if Iowa keeps putting this product on the field, they’re not going to like the result once conference play starts. Northern Iowa may or may not be a solid FCS team, but a program like Iowa still shouldn’t struggle like this vs. an FCS team. This doesn’t come across as an Orange Bowl team to me. Next week: Central Michigan, BTN
Michigan State (2-1) – Lost to Notre Dame 20-3. Michigan State has Le’Veon Bell. That’s about it on offense. Maxwell didn’t look good, his receivers looked worse. The offensive line had a hard time replacing Fou Fonoti and if they don’t get it figured out quick, it could prove costly in their quest for that elusive Rose Bowl berth they so covet. Notre Dame dominated both lines and frankly, looked like the top ten team on the field. The defense is still very, very good but Everett Golson carved up the Spartans with his arm and legs, something that I’m sure defensive coordinators in Ann Arbor, Columbus and Lincoln took notice of. The Spartans could be facing a critical juncture in their season as they figure out how to handle their offensive issues. Next week: Eastern Michigan, BTN
Indiana (2-1) – Lost to Ball St. 41-39. Oh, Indiana. You were oh-so close to being 3-0. If the Hoosiers had any post season aspirations, they needed this one. Indiana did put up over 500 yards without injured quarterback Tre Roberson, but with the game on the line they couldn’t make the plays the needed to hold on to the lead. They had done a nice job of battling back from a 13 point deficit to take the lead with less than a minute left but a couple of miracle catches from the Cardinals allowed them to line up for the game winning field goal that did Indiana in. Next week: Bye
Michigan (2-1) – Defeated UMASS 63-13. Denard Robinson had another big game. Another 400 yards…almost, 397 to be exact, then he got a rest as they prepare for their chance at redemption from the Dallas Debacle and another shot in the spotlight vs. Notre Dame on Saturday. Another good sign for the Wolverines, Fitz Toussaint rushed for 85 yards on 15 carries. It certainly came against inferior completion, but after the disappointing game he had vs. Air Force, they’ll take the improvement. Next week: at Notre Dame, NBC
Wisconsin (2-1) – Defeated Utah St 16-14. This offense has issues. Like irreconcilable differences sort of issues. O’Brien has been so ineffective they brought in the back-up. He wasn’t any better. This offense has scored one touchdown in the last two games. And it wasn’t like they were playing Sparty’s defense or Alabama. There’s so little threat in the running game that defenses are completely taking Montee Ball out of the picture and daring someone else to beat them, and right now there aren’t many players stepping up. This team is fortunate to have two wins. Next week: UTEP, ESPN2
Northwestern (3-0) Defeated Boston College 22-13. So, let’s get this straight, the Wildcats put up 560 yards of offense and only found the end zone once? How is that possible? Make no mistake, Northwestern can move the ball, but if they can’t punch it in the end zone, they’re going to have trouble winning games, but this team’s got pluck. They’ve played three BCS teams, no other Big Ten team can say that. They’ve beaten all of them. Again, no other team can say that. They’re not playing the top teams in those conferences, but it’s a tougher schedule than anyone else has played and they’ve handled it quite well. Next week: South Dakota, BTN
Ranking the B1G:
- Ohio State(3): Everyone’s had a scare put into them, Ohio State’s the only team that found a way to win it.
- Nebraska (4): This offense has the chance to be very, very good. If Eric Martin can turn his breakout game into a breakout season, the defense could make the team a very good one, too.
- Michigan State (1): That’s not gonna cut it if they want to win the division and now with serious offensive line questions, their Big Ten supremacy is also put into doubt.
- Michigan (2): Michigan has fared well vs. teams that don’t have the athletes to shut down Robinson. Notre Dame has the athletes to shut down Robinson.
- Northwestern (6): One local Big Ten reporter put the Wildcats at #2 in his ratings. I can’t go that far yet, but they’ve got a case.
- Purdue (5): Anyone want to revisit those predictions of the favorite in the Leaders Division? This team looks the part right now with OSU out of the equation.
- Wisconsin (7): The defense looks solid, and it’s going to need to be because that offense can’t get anything going.
- Illinois (9): Hard to give credit for a win over Charleston Southern, but it might have been the right game at the right time as they’re trying to find their way without Scheelhasse.
- Minnesota (8): If Gray is out for a month, could be a death blow to what was shaping up to be a promising season for the gophers.
- Penn State (11): Much needed win for that team, coach and community. Will be interesting to see how they play with that weight lifted.
- Iowa (10): 2-1 is better than 1-2, but there are issues on this team that could take a while to get fixed. Fortunately, other than a date at Michigan State on October 12, the Hawkeyes don’t face their toughest tests until games 11 and 12
- Indiana (12): Midnight Madness is in less than a month. Gonna be a tough go with Tre Roberson out.
Player of the Week: Braxton Miller. Tough to not give this to Denard Robinson for another week, but Michigan’s steamrolling of UMASS was never in doubt. It was tempting to give it to Ameer Abdullah as well who could have run for 200 yards if they had continued to feed him the ball, but Miller turned in a big game in one that they needed a miracle 70 yard touchdown pass to pull this one out vs. Cal. Miller racked up 349 total yards of offense and five touchdowns (four passing, one rushing).
Final thoughts: - After a game that should be a cupcake in South Dakota they open Big Ten play with Indiana, at Penn State and at Minnesota. Not out of the question they could be undefeated when Nebraska rolls into Evanston on October 20.
- Should be a moderately better slate of games next week, but not a ton of games that inspire a lot of excitement. Notre Dame vs. Michigan is of course the headliner, but Syracuse visiting Minnesota should tell us a lot about the Gophers. The ‘Cuse aren’t a great team, but don’t be surprised if you’re flipping on BTN when your twitter feed blows up that the games coming down to a dramatic finish as the game winds down.
- Yet more injuries hamper Big Ten rosters. Minnesota lost QB MarQuies Gray for what could be a month and Michigan State lost Fou Fonoti on their offensive line and it caused all sorts of problems. How those teams handle those situations, could define this season. Minnesota has a chance to get to a bowl game and Michigan St. is probably still the odds on favorite to represent the Legends divison in Indianapolis, but they’ve got to get find an answer to that question first.