Sunday Morning Coming Down: Bright Lights, Big House

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The B1G goes 11-1 in a great week for the conference....heck, the one loss was even patriotic. We recap the Saturday action, including big games for Devin Gardner, Nathan Scheelhaase, and the MSU defense.

11-1.  And the loss? A patriotic one.

If week 1 was ugly (particularly MSU's offense, Nebraska's defense, and everything about Purdue), week 2 was pretty damn impressive. 11 wins, a couple dominating performances, and a great performance in primetime with ESPN in the Big House, beating That Team in South Bend.  Hey, Brian Kelly? Maybe you should treat Michigan as a "rivalry" game.  Devin Gardner, Nathan Scheelhaase, Tony Jones, Shilique Calhoun, Allen Robinson, Corey Clement, and Kenny Guiton, among others, all had great performances.

Are there still questions? In West Lafayette, Iowa City, Bloomington, and East Lansing, certainly. Maybe in Madison and Lincoln, too.

Enough preface. Time to polish off this mimosa, and get to the bullet points:

  • If we couldn't have a meteor, that is EXACTLY the outcome we wanted in Ann Arbor.  Devin Gardner made one bad decision (throwing an INT TD instead of taking a safety), but otherwise brought honor to the No. 98 Tom Harmon jersey he wore Saturday with 294 yards passing, 4 TD passes, 82 yards rushing, and a rushing TD.  Jeremy Gallon had a monster game (184 yards receiving and 3 TDs), and Michigan ran for 166 yards against a stout Notre Dame rush defense.  The final score was closer than it needed to be (again: take a safety, Devin), but the Wolverines got the most impressive win of the season for the B1G thus far. I'm very impressed with Michigan thus far. (Personal note: it's impossible not to like Devin Garnder, even if you don't root for him. His interviews post-game were awesome. You can tell he loves football, appreciates Michigan and its history, and is just a great young man. I'm glad we have players like Devin Gardner in this conference, and I'm with Brady Hoke - I'd rather have Gardner than Johnny Football.)

  • Illinois may have gotten a nice thing in offensive coordinator Bill Cubit. I'll admit - the Illini's 45-17 win over Cincinnati was VERY impressive. Nathan Scheelhaase was efficient with 312 yards passing and 4 TDs.  More impressive? Illinois didn't turn the ball over at all (they've had a lengthy streak of games with turnovers), and got 400+ yards of offense in back to back games for the first time since a 3-game streak September 24-October 8, 2011. Keep in mind: that Cincinnati team demolished Purdue by 35 points, and Illinois just manhandled the Bearcats.  Illinois' 2-0 start doubles Tim Beckman's win total from 2012, and I'm beginning to think Illinois might be a bowl team.  (Also: prayers go out to Cincinnati QB Munchie Legaux, who suffered a truly awful leg injury and was carted off the field and spent the night in a hospital.)

  • I was in Evanston for Northwestern's home opener.  What I witnessed? Utter domination. Save for a sluggish third quarter, Northwestern (one of only 8 teams in the country to open with 2 straight BCS conference opponents) just crushed Syracuse 48-27, forcing 4 INTs, jumping out to a 20-0 lead and a 34-7 halftime lead (thanks to an impressive "foot on the pedal" 2-minute drill drive; that was the first time Syracuse had been behind by 27+ at the half since 2009). Trevor Siemian (15/19, 259 yards passing, 3 TDs) and Kain Colter (15/18, 116 yards passing, 1 TD, 87 yards rushing, 1 rushing TD) both had awesome performances, mainly throwing to Tony Jones (185 yards receiving and a TD).  Impressive fact: Northwestern has scored 21+ points in 16 straight games now, the longest such streak in the B1G since Ohio State in 2005-2006.  Even more impressive fact: Northwestern is 2-0 and has scored 40+ points in consecutive games against BCS opponents....and is doing this without Venric Mark, who barely played against Cal and didn't play at all versus Syracuse. I mean, can you imagine Northwestern's offense ADDING an All-American in Venric Mark? Yikes.  Not to look ahead or anything (NU host Western Michigan, Maine, and then has a bye week), but needless to say, October 5th in Evanston is going to be tremendous, when the Buckeyes (and possibly/probably ESPN Gameday?) come to visit.

  • Memo to Wisconsin: play someone. Seriously. You've shut out your first two opponents and rolled....but you played Tennessee Tech and UMass. That's embarrassing. I'm not going to say anything about your team or players until you play someone....which will happen next week when you visit Arizona State.

  • Ohio State fans collectively almost had a heart attack when Braxton Miller got his bell rung and sprained his knee against San Diego State.  The silver lining? Ohio State's offense is still effective with Kenny Guiton (19/28, 152 yards passing, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 83 yards rushing and 1 rushing TD).  Ohio State rolls 42-7.  (And I'm not impressed by your schedule yet, either, Buckeyes, but I'll give you a pass since Vandy chickened out of playing you and Northwestern, thus leading to this embarrassing non-conference slate.)

  • What will Michigan State have more of in 2013: weather delays or offensive TDs? So far, we're tied 2-2 (but thanks to the weather delay, we got an awesome speech by Tom Izzo to the student section, encouraging them to get under cover and pointing out the "putrid yellow that reminds me of Michigan" on the radar). Spartan fans have to be panicking when their offense only scored 7 points against a South Florida defense that gave up 53 points last week against McNeese State (!). Luckily, the Spartan defense is elite, and Shilique Calhoun got 2 defensive TDs. (Note: Shilique Calhoun has out-scored the MSU offense this season. Collin Ellis has as many TDs this season as the MSU offense. In other words, the MSU offense is terrible). If I'm an MSU fan, I'm happy to be 2-0, but terrified that the season with an excellent defense will be derailed once again by an awful offense.  I thought MSU would compete for the Legends....now? That offense is so ugly I'm not sure they're much better than a 7 or 8 win team. And this isn't just the QBs, either: MSU RBs weren't impressive at all. If Sparty wins, it's gonna be ugly all season.

  • Minnesota beat New Mexico State in a game that was allegedly televised.  Last week I wasn't impressed with Minnesota, but I'm starting to see a little bit of friskiness in the Gophers: they got a pair of return TDs for the second week in a row, ran the ball VERY well (even Phillip Nelson had 122 yards rushing), and they won on the road.  Mark my words: Jerry Kill is gonna get an upset this season, and is on track again for his "Success in Year 3" plan.

  • Nebraska beat up on Southern Mississippi, 56-13, and did it (in part) with defense (4 INTs, 2 returned for TDs), which was encouraging for Cornhusker fans.  Then again, it came against Southern Mississippi, which has a 14 game losing streak, so I'm not sure that we can take much from this.  I think we'll know what Nebraska is after next week against UCLA.

  • Christian Hackenberg (23/33, 311 yards passing, 1 TD) is going to have a great career as Penn State's QB, and it was awesome to watch him throttle Eastern Michigan on Saturday in a 45-7 win.  He's obviously developed a good rapport with Allen Robinson, who was on the receiving end of 129 of those passing yards and scored a TD. I was also impressed by an improved PSU rushing attack, as Akeel Lynch and Bill Belton both surpassed 100 yards.  Penn State is going to be a tough opponent, week in and week out, this season.

  • Iowa ended its 7 game losing streak in a 28-14 win over Missouri State.  While Hawkeye fans are probably happy to be in the win column again, this was another rather ugly performance.  I mean, shouldn't Iowa THROTTLE an FCS opponent? However, it was nice to see Mark Weisman running with authority again, as he ran for 180 yards and a TD. 

  • Purdue was also ugly in victory, eeking out a 20-14 win over Indiana State.  Hazell gets his first victory at Purdue, but it was way closer than it should be and was in question until Ricardo Allen (I love that guy) got an INT with 19 second left.  Purdue has to be the bottom of the conference power rankings.

  • Finally, Indiana.....damn it. Navy is a tough team to prepare for, but I was hoping for a much better performance than what we saw Saturday. Allowing 444 yards of rushing? Forcing no turnovers? Only forcing 3 negative rushing plays (and one of those was a kneel down)? I mean, you had ALL OFFSEASON to prepare for that Navy offense. I'll give the Hoosiers some credit for fighting back valiantly (they almost recovered an onside kick that might have allowed them to tie), but that was a disappointing loss and one that might keep them on the outside looking in when bowl season arrives.
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