An 8-2 week against the MAC and a couple of other cupcake schools might seem like a disappointment, especially when you could reasonably expect all ten teams in action to win, but I'm upbeat. When was the last time three Big Ten teams scored over 65 points on the same day? Yes, Purdue looks to be on the verge of a lost season after yesterday, and if Minnesota can't beat South Dakota at home, did we really think that they would beat Northern Illinois? I want to focus on the rest of the conference, and the fact that entering conference play, the Big Ten has 6 undefeated teams, including Michigan State and Northwestern. Iowa has an ugly, but respectable loss against Arizona, and Penn State has a forgivable loss at Alabama. 2010 has been very good to the Big Ten overall, and we'll briefly discuss each game after the jump.
#2 Ohio State 73, E Michigan 20. In the past, Jim Tressel would get a sizable lead on a team, throw the subs in, run the ball and kill the clock and go out of his way not to embarrass the opposition. Not Saturday. Terrelle Pryor continued to demonstrate that he is on the Heisman short list, and the Buckeyes didn't let off of the gas for the entire game. Was it a statement to the rest of the conference and the country that 'just' winning the Big Ten is no longer the benchmark for success in Columbus this season? Well, when you consider that Tressel isn't one to run up the score, I'd say yes.
#11 Wisconsin 70, Austin Peay 3. Although Ohio State's 73 points was the biggest point total in the Jim Tressel era, the most impressive win was Wisconsin's domination of Austin Peay. Wisconsin was clicking on all cylinders; they only had 7 third down attempts all day (they converted 5). This was a big confidence boost for the Badgers after a relatively pedestrian non-conference schedule, and could help propel them through a tough opening slate of conference games: They face Michigan State, Ohio State, and Iowa in 3 of their first 4 games.
#18 Iowa 45, Ball St 0. Iowa needed a big bounce back game after a disappointing loss last week, and they got it. Adam Robinson looked to be the answer at running back, at least for one week, and Ricki Stanzi had a very good game. It remains to be seen whether or not Robinson can carry the running game (heck, since he's an Iowa running back, it remains to be seen whether or not he can even stay healthy), but if he can it will be a big boost to a Hawkeye team that has to run a gauntlet of Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Michigan State to open conference play.
#21 Michigan 65, Bowling Green 21. Michigan fans watched their season hang in the balance for a few excruciating minutes after Denard Robinson left the Bowling Green rout with a knee injury. The good news is that he isn't hurt bad, and could have returned if needed. Robinson's backups, Tate Forcier and Devin Gardner, were almost as impressive, and the Rich Rodriguez spread is in high gear entering Big Ten play. The questions about whether or not Denard Robinson can make it through a Big Ten schedule remain, but at least for a day, Gardner and Forcier were able to keep the offense rolling.
#23 Penn State 22, Temple 13. The good news is that Penn State won. The bad news is that Temple took them to the limit in Happy Valley before the PSU defense came up with some big plays in the second half to get them over the hump. As good of a talent that Robert Bolden is, he can't be considered anything more than a game manager at this point, and Penn State will need to rely on Evan Royster. And that's a good thing, as Royster ran for 187 yards against the Owls. Royster will need to be a horse next week in Iowa City if Penn State hopes to get out of there with a win.
#25 Michigan State 45, N Colorado 7. Michigan State had a scare with Mark Dantonio's mild heart attack, and a lot of people wondered how they would handle the situation as a team. Uh, I'd say okay. Kirk Cousins had his best game of the season as Sparty crushed Northern Colorado. Yes, they were supposed to crush Northern Colorado, but it was nice to see them go out and do it with the Dantonio situation in the forefront. And although Cousins has been inconsistent early on, the running game has not been, as they went for over 200 yards on the ground yet again. Edwin Baker and Le'Veon Bell have been money so far this year, and will need to be again next week with Sparty having to travel to the Big House next week.
Northwestern 30, Central Michigan 25. Northwestern built a big lead and then held off Central Michigan for a win that shouldn't have been that close. The good news is that other than Denard Robinson and Terrelle Pryor, the best QB play in the Big Ten has come from Dan Persa. He's been accurate and consistent, and is a large reason Northwestern went undefeated in non-conference play for the first time since the Kennedy Administration. The running game and defense is becoming worrisome, however. That said, with Minnesota and Purdue the first two conference opponents, Northwestern has a real opportunity to get to 6-0, which is as rare as Halley's Comet.
Indiana 35, Akron 20. Indiana never really struggled as they put away Akron. QB Ben Chappell had a career day, throwing for almost 350 yards and 4 TD's. The defense gave up a lot of yards on the ground, and didn't generate much of a rushing attack, but they didn't really need to. With an undefeated non-conference schedule, the Hoosiers have a realistic chance to make it to a bowl game, but they face Michigan and Ohio State back to back, and then get Arkansas State in their last non-conference game.
Toledo 31, Purdue 20. What seemed like a turnaround season for Purdue really took a wrong turn yesterday. Rob Henry replaced an injured Robert Marve, and was just okay. He rallied Purdue to within 4 points with an opportunity to win the game, but Henry threw a costly pick late that snuffed out any chance Purdue had to win. Injuries and a couple of tough early season losses have made Purdue's chance to make a bowl a longshot at best.
Northern Illinois 34, Minnesota 23. This was, in many ways, the last stand for the 2010 Gophers. This was a must win if they had any realistic chance to make a bowl game, and they...gave up almost 300 rushing yards to Northern Illinois. At home. Ouch. I just can't see Tim Brewster surviving into 2011. After a promising start, this season is pretty much over before conference play begins. Adam Weber had a good game, but that's because the Gophers had to pass as they were playing catch up all night...because the defense couldn't stop anything. Buck up, Dinkytown. It'll be over in November.