After Week One, the Conference Standings look like this:
Michigan State 1-0
#19 Penn State 1-0
#12 Wisconsin 1-0
#9 Iowa 1-0
#2 Ohio State 1-0
First of all: Shame on you, Purdue. Nice try, Illinois. Purdue, you are BETTER than getting pasted 20-3 by Notre Dame. Thankfully, you showed that by scoring some more points, but that game was very underwhelming for both teams. I don't think Notre Dame is as good as people make them out to be (I never do), but Purdue, if this is the Robert Marve I see all season, you are going to be very lucky to reach 5 wins, let alone 7. Let last year's Oregon team inspire you. They, too, lost their season opener in ugly fashion. But they turned things around and won their conference outright. Then Ohio State smacked them. Okay, maybe that's not what you want to happen, but you're better than that blowout I saw Saturday afternoon!
Second of all: Nice work by those teams that started out 1-0. Michigan manhandled UConn (an all too familiar foe for Rich Rodriguez), Michigan State ripped apart Western Michigan, Indiana trashed Towson, Ohio State pasted Marshall, Minnesota escaped Middle Tennessee State, Iowa raced away from Eastern Illinois, Northwestern won ugly against Vandy, Penn State came up with big play after big play to win, and Wisconsin turned a 17-14 halftime lead into a 41-21 throttling.
Extended recaps coming up in no particular order!
Michigan vs. UConn
How on earth did THAT happen? Denard Robinson actually looked pretty good. Michigan looked unstoppable against UConn both on offense and defense. UConn's offensive line, on the other hand...folded repeatedly. The last time I saw an offensive line fold up the way UConn's did was Illinois vs. Tamba Hali. It...didn't work out that well for Illinois at all. In fact, Hali nearly killed their QB.
Back to the game: Denard Robinson SHREDDED the worst tacklers in FBS. It was ridiculous. His completion percentage was off the charts, at 86%. RR did a good job making sure he didn't have to make long, deep bombs downfield, giving Robinson easily makable throws against UConn's defense.
Now, if someone had told me a week ago that Michigan, and particularly, "Shoelaces" Robinson, was going to do this, I'd have rolled my eyes and said, "Only against a WAC defense." This just isn't working out for the Big East. Pitt, UConn, Cincinnati, and Louisville all lost their opener, leaving Rutgers (who blasted a hapless Norfolk State team), West Virginia (who blasted an equally helpless Coastal Carolina team), Syracuse (who miraculously destroyed an Akron team), and South Florida (who annihilated a hopeless Stony Brook team) at the top of the conference.
Not a bad start for Michigan at all, but this one has to be taken with a grain of salt: They started out 4-0 last year and finished 5-7.
Penn State vs. Youngstown State
Bolden's first INT made things seem worse than they actually were. The defense stood firmer than they had in the first quarter, however, and Bolden fired a gorgeous TD pass to hero of the day Brett Brackett. Penn State's defense forced a punt before the end of the half, and then Freshman QB Robert Bolden drove the Lions into field goal range. Wagner hit his third of the day, and Penn State had scored 13 unanswered points to take the lead.
They never surrendered it. Chaz Powell raced from one endzone to another to complete the swing and give the Nittany Lions a 23 to 7 lead. Suddenly, there was no longer reason to panic. But wait! The YSU coach challenged the play (and lost). Bolden drove the field again, finding Brackett for another long TD, and Penn State was firmly entrenched in the lead.
The 4th quarter saw the Lions up 37 to 7 after Stephfon Green blasted up the middle on a 6 yard run. Bolden went to the bench with a standing ovation before backup QB Kevin Newsome reached the endzone on a 1 yard sneak. The defense gave up a TD in garbage time, but the Nittany Lions won the day 44-14.
Aside from early defensive struggles, the team played pretty well. Bolden, in his first career start, threw a pick, but came back to find Brackett and Moye downfield for big gains. Curiously, Graham Zug did not record a reception, but Bolden was able to find other options to spur the Lions onward. Hopefully he can come up big this coming week.
Northwestern at Vanderbilt
This one wasn't pretty at all. Dan Persa's first start could have been worse than it actually was, but he managed just enough offense to help the Wildcats take a critical game in nonconference play.
The Vanderbilt defense (which is the staple of the team given it's decidedly lackluster offense) managed to hold Arby Fields and NU's running game back significantly. Aside from 3 sacks, Persa looked very sharp, passing for three of Northwestern's touchdowns and no interceptions. Most players making their first start in an SEC venue collapse (or so I've been told...), but Persa completed 19 passes on 21 attempts, well over 90% of his passes! Not bad at all.
NU's defense surrendered a trio of touchdowns; fortunately, their special teams blocked a PAT and caused both of Vanderbilt's 2 point conversions to fail. Without those, NU would have easily faced a tie-ball game, and when Northwestern goes into overtime, they haven't had a great track record (except at home against teams named Wisconsin, argh...). Fortunately, they didn't have to go to overtime and came up with a big win over SEC competition.
Purdue at Notre Dame
What happened? I mean, really, what happened? Purdue, you were supposed to have IMPROVED. Instead, you drop your third consecutive game to ND, which is pure idiocy. You don't lose to Notre Dame three years in a row and contend for the Big Ten title...
Robert Marve...did more to kill the Boilermakers than Notre Dame did. Two interceptions. Four sacks. How on earth he managed that against ND's lack of defense, I'll never know. And I don't want to know, so stop throwing this "Brian Kelly wins his home debut" garbage around. You want a headline? I'll give you one: "Robert Marve destroys Purdue, fortunately, no one else on the Boilermakers really joins in."
Purdue was able to record a safety, but that was it. If this Marve is the one we see for most of the season, Purdue will have to be EXTREMELY lucky to reach 5 wins. Thankfully, Western Illinois is on the schedule next week, so Marve should look good against a hopelessly overmatched opponent.
Wisconsin at UNLV
Desperate comments before halftime ensued after Nick Toon's fumble near the UNLV endzone was run back into the Wisconsin redzone. Seriously, WTF? The Badgers were up 17-0 when Scott Tolzien threw an interception for a touchdown (he did it TWICE last year against Ohio State, and boy did that game look worse than it actually was). Toon then "fumbled" near the UNLV end zone, a play I thought should have been challenged. Why? It's an 80 yard, potential 14 point swing. You HAVE to challenge that play, even if you lose a first half timeout (I believe all 3 first half timeouts went to waste.)
Ultimately, it was a 14 point swing as UNLV grabbed a diving touchdown reception to pull back within 3 points.
The patented Badger running attack gashed UNLV's run defense for huge gains again and again. John Clay and Montee Ball each had a pair of rushing touchdowns in the game. As for Wisconsin's defense...
Well, there was some concern that the defense would miss Mike Taylor (who was only the 4th best defensive player last year) but the Badgers didn't have any problems picking up the slack. Last year's Big Ten Freshman of the Year Chris Borland got an early sack, J.J. Watt and Louis Nzegwu both pounded UNLV's QB combination repeatedly, and Aaron Henry recorded a defensive touchdown off a fumble recovery. UNLV at one point had a single play (the 16 yard TD pass that brought the Rebels within 3) that accounted for more than 100% of their total offense (12 yards after that play). The defense played better than anyone expected, and the Badgers got a 41-21 W in Sam Boyd Stadium.
Towson at Indiana
Indiana kicked off their season with a 51-17 W over hapless Towson. Unfortunately, they gave up 123 rushing yards on 16 carries...to the Towson QB. Yikes. The Hoosiers forced 3 INTs, and coasted to the victory. Ben Chappell looked confident (he should ordinarily, but Rodger Saffold is gone to the NFL and must be replaced).
I'm not surprised. Indiana usually schedules a patsy for their opener, and this was no different. They ran away with the game, but they won't be playing Towson every week...
WKU is up this week, and they're terrible. Indiana theoretically should run away with this game also.
Western Michigan at Michigan State
Michigan State ran away with their game. They started off with a Le'Veon Bell 28 yard TD run, before allowing WMU to score a passing TD (surprise surprise). But MSU battled back. After a fumble, Kirk Cousins found former QB Keith Nichol in double coverage for a touchdown, and MSU was up 14-7. The Spartan D forced three consecutive punts, answering one with a 75 yard rush by Bell and a 7 yard TD run by Edwin Baker and another with a 2 yard run by Bell.
MSU overpowered WMU the rest of the way en route to a 38-14 victory. Cousins at one point had a Terrelle Pryor-esque stat line: 2 for 7 for 26 yards and a TD. He finished with 13 completions on 21 attempts for 186 yards and a single touchdown pass. But the Spartans running game was what powered them to victory. They finished with a pair of 100 yard rushers (Le'Veon Bell and Edwin Baker) who both scored 2 touchdowns.
MSU's secondary managed a single INT, but held WMU's starting QB (Alex Carder) to 27 completions on 49 attempts for 224 yards. Carder averaged 4.6 yards per pass attempt, completed 55% of his passes overall, and led the Broncos in rushing with 36 yards on 10 attempts.
Unfortunately, Michigan State has lost Josh Rouse for the entire season to a neck injury. Ouch.
Minnesota at Middle Tennessee State
Minnesota plagiarized Wisconsin, using 3 fullback TDs (Jon Hoese) and fumble off a kick return to defeat the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders 24-17. But they gave up 17 unanswered points at the end of the first half and beginning of the second. The Gophers recorded their FIRST 100 yard rusher since 2008 in the win (Duane Bennett, 187 yards rushing), and dominated time of possession 45:34 to 14:26.
As a Wisconsin fan: holy cr@p. Minnesota' ground game hasn't been this good since the days of Glen Mason. Keeping the erratic Weber from tossing the ball about may have helped Minnesota come from behind to win.
Unfortunately, they may HAVE to let Weber throw the ball against USC in two weeks. The Trojan D comes in having given up 588 yards of offense to Hawaii, and this could easily turn into a "let's see how many offensive records we set against USC" season.
For the record, I won't mind at all if Minnesota torches USC. They're nowhere near the team that went into Ohio Stadium last year.
Ohio State vs. Marshall: Now here comes the dynamite.
The Buckeyes dominated Marshall from the get-go. I understand there was a game played yesterday, but unfortunately, it was overwhelmed by announcers fawning over Terrelle Pryor. He put together a good game (against the 98th ranked pass defense last season) and OSU's D was able to punish the Herd's running backs. Dane Sanzenbacher enabled Pryor to hit the long ball, fighting off a defender inside the Marshall ten after hauling in a long reception for a TD.
On the other hand, the Buckeyes starting corners allowed a ton of completions. Devon Torrence had a BAD pass interference penalty that would have gotten him benched on ten other Big Ten squads, and receivers made catch after catch in Chimdi Chekwa's vicinity. Other than those two, Ohio State's safeties and linebackers did a great job breaking up passes.
The Buckeyes play Miami this week. And to be honest, I don't want the Hurricanes to win. I do want the Buckeyes to sweat a little, but I don't want them to lose. Not yet, anyway. I've also seen Jacory Harris's body of work, and it is impressive...against weak secondaries. Ohio State's secondary is good, not weak. Whether they can hold up their end of the bargain is questionable, though. Keep Harris contained, force him to throw the deep ball into double coverage, and Ohio State wins.
Illinois @/vs. Missouri, game in the Edward Jones Dome
The Illinois Fighting Illini crashed full-speed into the Edward Jones Dome to face the Missouri Tigers. Stunningly, the Illini led 3-0 for most of the first half before Missouri tied them with a Grant Ressel 33 yard field goal. The Illini shocked me when they found the endzone on a Sir Nathan Scheelhaase pass to A.J. Jenkins. After an Illini sack and a Missouri punt, Illinois managed a 52 yard field goal and went into the break with a 13-3 lead.
Missouri came out the gate firing. Blaine Gabbert found T.J. Moe for a 7 yard TD on Missouri's first possession of the second half. After an exchange of punts, Gabbert found another receiver (Michael Egnew) for a 6 yard TD. For the remainder of the game, the Illini were either forced to punt or intercepted. Another Ressel field goal put Missouri put by a touchdown, 20-13. Scheelhaase threw the game away with three costly interceptions, and Missouri tacked on another Ressel field goal. Illinois ran out of time, and lost for the sixth straight time to Missouri in St. Louis.
Zook, your guys tried. I'd insert a John L. Smith rant about how the coaches are killing the efforts of their players, but I have too much respect for myself.
Eastern Illinois at Iowa
Iowa pasted Eastern Illinois 37-7. Aside from a minor injury to Ricky Stanzi, the Hawkeyes marched through their FCS opponent thanks to 3 TDs from Adam Robinson and a blocked punt for a touchdown. The Hawkeyes forced a safety and Stanzi found a receiver late in the game for a 2 yard TD, allowing Iowa to pick up its tenth consecutive season opening win.
The good news for Iowa is that Stanzi's injury is not serious. Oh, and Adam Robinson looked very good out there. The bad news might be that they face an Iowa State team that comes in after a 27-10 win over NIU, and is looking for a huge upset that would instantly end Iowa's MNC chances. It happened in 2002, after all, and that was the best Iowa team in recent memory.
So, after this condensed miniseries, it's it this point that I tell you I won't be able to do it next week (until Sunday) or the following week (until Sunday, also). Why? Ask me in the comments.
And please, give me your thoughts. I must hate Michigan, right?