So, week 1 happened. How do you all feel?
I'm writing this at 2:37 am ET Sunday at my in-laws, as the Northwestern-Cal game just finished. B1G football kicked off at 7 pm ET on Thursday. That's over 55 hours of football for our conference. So where do we stand?
This is "Sunday Morning Coming Down" - our weekly OTE hangover discussion of what just happened in the B1G. Feel free to share your observations in the comments, but here are mine (in no particular order):
- I'd classify the B1G teams into 4 tiers. Tier 1 are teams that impressed from beginning to end (Michigan, Wisconsin) or exceeded in some way expectations (Indiana...even against an FCS team, they looked good). Tier 2 are teams that won, and relatively convincingly, but didn't really impress too much or impress as much as we'd hope (Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, and Penn State). Tier 3 are teams that won, but their wins were hardly impressive, and exposed some weaknesses (Nebraska giving up 600 yards of offense to Wyoming? MSU only beating Western Michigan by 7? Illinois barely escaping the FCS Southern Illinois Salukis and giving up 34 points to them? And yes, maybe Northwestern should be here, too....that pass defense didn't look good, yet again). And finally....there's Purdue and Iowa, both of whom lost (but at least they were playing good teams, maybe, but this is still gonna be a long season in Iowa City and West Lafayette).
- Let's laugh at the Pac12 (Oregon State), Big 12 (Kansas State), and American (South Florida and UConn)....all of whom pulled a "Michigan" and lost to an FCS team. Frankly, let's also make fun of the SEC a bit (Western Kentucky over Kentucky). At least where our conference lost, we lost to a BCS conference team (Cincinnati) and a BCS bowl team from last year that returned its starting QB (Northern Illinois).
- Indiana scored again.
- In all seriousness, Indiana is a team to watch out for, at least on offense. Yes, they were playing an FCS team, but they're deep at the QB position (Sudfeld and Roberson both can completely make that offense move), they got contributions from the running game (Tevin Coleman with 169 yards rushing and 2 TDs) and special teams (Shane Wynn 58-yard punt return), and....well, the defense is still a work VERY MUCH in progress. But with an exciting offense and solid special teams, you can pull off a few upsets....I'm liking Indiana as a bowl team.
- For whatever reason, though, I'm not as positive about Minnesota. I know this is completely inconsistent with what I wrote about Indiana above, but that win versus UNLV just felt ugly, coming on the back of 2 special teams TDs (Marcus Jones' 98 yard kickoff return and Martez Shabazz's 51 yard return of a blocked FG) and a defensive TD (Briean Boddy-Calhoun's 89 yard INT return). I'm not sure why, but I expected somehow MORE out of Minnesota against what people think will be a pretty bad UNLV team. The Minnesota offense wasn't all that impressive, the defense gave up 419 yards and 23 points....the Magic 8 Ball says "Ask Again Later" on Minnesota.
- Michigan State once again has a great defense. They once again have a train wreck of an offense. Frankly, I think they're even WORSE on offense this year than last (at least last year LeVeon Bell could carry the team occasionally). Maybe the rain/lightning delay took them out of their rhythm....but I'm not sure MSU has the skill position players on offense to do much better than last year. Sparty fans are going to be praying the offense does JUST ENOUGH each week to win....
- I'm legitimately impressed by Michigan. Central Michigan isn't a world beater by any stretch, but the Wolverines did what you have to do when facing a MACrifice - they dominated. Devin Gardner looks comfortable in the offense (although I'm a little concerned by the 2 INTs), and the defense kept the Chippewas out of the end zone. Still not sure Brady Hoke has found his main running back to handle the running game, but an impressive debut.
- Ohio State beat Buffalo, and it wasn't close, but....it wasn't exactly impressive, either. I think the offense is okay (Braxton Miller had a solid day spreading the ball around to a lot of WRs, while Jordan Hall was great at running back racking up 159 yards and 2 TDs), but the defense looked like it has some work to do. Buffalo didn't do anything in particular well, but this was not a dominant defensive effort by the Buckeyes....I'll give them a pass though, because it was pretty damn hot out there and I think some guys were cramping up.
- Bill O'Brien just finds ways to win, and he did it again with the opener win over Syracuse. Despite throwing 2 INTs, Christian Hackenberg still was impressive at QB against a Syracuse team that won the Big East last year (although they lost their coach). Good win....although, again, I'd have liked to see a little more out of the running game. Twitter mentioned some injuries to PSU too (I'm not sure if they were just temporary dings or more longer term), but that's obviously a concern, too, given PSU's reduced depth.
- Most impressive team this week was Wisconsin. Yes, they were playing UMass, but they really played well in all phases. I'm frankly scared of the Badgers, who know seem to have a solid coach in Gary Anderson.
- Purdue, I don't know what to say after your worst opening loss in 17 years. Cincinnati is no slouch as a week 1 opponent, and we knew this was a re-building year in West Lafayette. I'm not sure Rob Henry is the answer at QB though.....and if they are rebuilding, shouldn't Purdue be playing a guy that will be around next year? Anyways, tough loss....but I have confidence Hazell can turn it around. Patience (and improvement) is the key this season.
- Ditto for Iowa. I liked some of what I saw out of Iowa QB Jake Rudock (who was taking his first snaps in college football), and the defense did a respectable job containing an excellent QB in Jordan Lynch. But the talent is lacking in Iowa City (at least at the skill positions), and while Northern Illinois is a good MAC team, that's still a game Iowa should win at home in Kinnick.
- Frankly, I think Illinois might be in WORSE shape than Purdue or Iowa. At least Iowa and Purdue lost to respectable FBS teams. Illinois got taken to the wire by Southern Illinois - the Salukis were at the Illinois 3 yard line, down 42-34, when a 4th down attempt fell incomplete (the Salukis could have tied on a TD and 2 point conversion). The Illini offense was certainly improved (Bill Cubit clearly did a good job with Nathan Scheelhaase, who threw for 416 yards and 2 TDs), but the defense didn't exactly shine against the Salukis, and seem to have regressed from last year (maybe due to losing some good starters to the NFL draft?). The Illini are also in trouble because their next two opponents are Washington (who beat Boise State in an upset) and Cincinnati (who dominated Purdue).
- Nebraska....you just gave up 600+ yards and 35 first downs to WYOMING. Wyoming had a chance to win or tie at the end. You gave up 8.7 yards per pass and 7.3 yards per rush. With that defense, it's a recipe for another 4 loss season.
- And finally, Northwestern won an injury plagued game against Cal. Once again in an opener, the Cats gave up huge passing yards (455 yards passing to true freshman QB Jordan Goff), and the secondary took a major hit when they lost starting CB Daniel Jones to what appeared to be an ACL/knee injury (allegedly and unconfirmed). Worse, Kain Colter left the game in the first offensive series with an "upper body injury" (based on the fact he remained on the sideline the rest of the game, I'm guessing a concussion). Even WORSE, the Cats inexplicably barely played Venric Mark, who had an ineffective 11 carries for 29 yards (I'm surprised he even had 11 carries), and did not return punts or kickoffs for some inexplicable reason. But sometimes you have to win a game ugly, particularly when you're on the road on the West Coast playing a team with a new coach who you have no film on, and when you lose your starting QB in the first series thereby throwing off your whole offensive gameplan. Collin Ellis had 2 INT returns for TDs (just call him "Pick 12" Ellis), Treyvon Green had 129 yards rushing and 2 TDs, Dan Vitale (101 yards) and Christian Jones (94 yards) made contributions, and Trevor Siemian did enough (276 yards passing, 1 TD, 2 INTs) to get a 44-30 win. A lot for Northwestern to practice going forward, and the secondary HAS to improve....but I think Cal is going to end up being/looking a LOT better than the 3-9 they ended up last year. The Bears have a ton of speed, and Sonny Dykes is going to use that speed to win a lot of games.
All right, your turn. What did you think of Week 1?