Big Ten Sampler: Week 1

Gregory Shamus

What happened to the rest of the league

Week 1 was, as usual, more interesting on the field than on paper.

Indiana 73, Indiana State 35

Laugh at allowing 35 to an FCS team all you want; I know I have. Still, Indiana put up 73 in the game, which I'm pretty sure Michigan State couldn't do against an empty field, and led 45-7 with 5 minutes remaining in the first half. Considering that Indiana only beat ISU by 7 last year, this game was a good sign for the Hoosiers.

Minnesota 51, UNLV 23

Like Indiana, Minnesota reprised a bad opponent off their 2012 schedule. Also like Indiana, the Gophers blew out an opponent that they struggled to beat in 2012. There are some serious warning signs for Minnesota, though. UNLV outgained the Gophers 420-319, and Minnesota scored off of a blocked field goal return, kick return, and interception return. Those plays will be hard to come by against the meat of the schedule. Quarterback Phillip Nelson, meanwhile, had a rough day throwing the ball: 10-22, 99 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. 4.5 YPA against UNLV does not inspire confidence.

Michigan State 26, Western Michigan 13

The good: MSU's defense was in fine form, holding the Broncos to 204 yards, recording 4 takeaways, and scoring touchdowns off two of those turnovers. The bad: MSU's offense was back in 2012 form, too, gaining only 297 yards and scoring only 12 points (1 TD and 2 FGs). MSU played two quarterbacks, and both Andrew Maxwell and Connor Cook were awful; Maxwell's 11-21, 74 yards line was the better showing. The running backs still did a respectable job, but MSU will need a quarterback if they want to make noise in conference play.

Ohio State 40, Buffalo 20

If Minnesota and Michigan State had deceptively comfortable margins of victory, Ohio State was just the opposite. OSU gained 460 yards to Buffalo's 258, and it took a Buffalo interception return touchdown to keep the game within three scores. Ohio State won't win a national championship playing like they did on Saturday, but their offense looks plenty powerful to win the Big Ten and their defense was better than the score would indicate.

Wisconsin 45, UMass 0

Nothing to see here but absurd rushing stats.

Illinois 42, Southern Illinois 34

The good news for Illinois is that Nathan Scheelhaase is back; he went 28-36 for 416 yards, 2 TDs, and only one INT. The bad news is that they needed every bit of that performance to beat a FCS opponent. Scheelhaase and the Illinois running backs got little help from their offensive line, and the Illinois defense allowed Kory Faulkner to put together a 25-40, 312 yard, 3 TD day passing.

Cincinatti 45, Purdue 7

There isn't much good for Purdue here, but their defense did record 3 takeaways. Otherwise, this game was an unmitigated disaster; the Boilermakers only gained 226 yards and turned the ball over 4 times on offense, while Cincinatti gained 425 yards evenly split between rushing (221) and passing (204). It's still early, but Purdue may challenge Illinois as the worst team in the conference.

Michigan 59, Central Michigan 9

Michigan did exactly what they were supposed to do to their MACrifice, taking an early lead and never letting up. They did throw three interceptions on only 21 pass attempts, but it's hard to hold that against them after a beatdown like this one.

Penn State 23, Syracuse 17

Though the score reached decent levels, this game was a defensive struggle. Penn State moved the ball well through the air, managing 9.3 YPA, but they struggled on third down (1-16) and turned the ball over 4 times. Syracuse was worse overall at moving the ball and marginally better on third down (6-20), but they turned the ball over 3 times and failed to convert fourth down twice. Syracuse quarterback Drew Allen had a rough day, putting up a 16-37, 189 yard, 2 INT statline; hopefully, Northwestern's defense can match that next week.

Northern Illinois 30, Iowa 27

Iowa lost this in heartbreaking fashion when Jake Rudock threw an interception during a two minute drive, which allowed NIU to kick the winning field goals. While losing to a MAC team is bad, NIU did go to a BCS bowl last year and returned quarterback Jordan Lynch. Somewhat encouragingly, the Iowa offense showed signs of life that were mostly lacking last year; 27 points ties their third highest scoring game from 2012 and is only 4 points short of their best games from that season.

Nebraska 37, Wyoming 34

Giving up 589 yards to Georgia at the end of last season was bad, but at least Georgia was an elite offense. Allowing 602 yards and 8.1 yards per play to Wyoming in the season opener is a good deal less explicable. Last week, I predicted that Nebraska would look like their defensive issues were solved no matter the reality; instead, those problems were worse than ever in this game. Taylor Martinez and the offense put up a pretty good show, gaining 530 yards with 375 coming on the ground, but a Nebraska team that gets in a shootout with Wyoming is unlikely to break through for a conference championship.

Week 2

Lots of terrible games, but one of these things is not like the others.

11:00 AM CT

Michigan State vs. USF

Last week, USF gave up a 40-0 run to McNeese State on the way to a 53-21 loss. I have no idea whether or not McNeese State is a good FCS team, but I'm pretty confident that Sparty can manage at least 20 points against that defense.

Penn State vs. Eastern Michigan

Penn State comes home to play an EMU team fresh off of beating Howard, 34-24. Like Sparty, Penn State should have no problems.

Wisconsin vs. Tennessee Tech

I think the Badgers can break 50 this week. Also worth watching to see if they can remain unscored on.

Illinois vs. Cincinnati

A week after doing bad things to Purdue, Cincinnati will be kind enough to beat down the other frontrunner for the Rick Venturi Trophy. If Nathan Scheelhaase can play well, Illinois might keep this closer than Purdue did.

Iowa vs. Missouri State

Keep an eye out for Kirk Ferentz, whose digestion should be improved; expect Iowa to win by 20 if he is on the sideline and 40 if last week's burrito incident repeats itself.

Purdue vs. Indiana State

Indiana managed to exceed my expectations against ISU. Purdue has set my expectations for their game very, very low. Please don't lose, Boilers.

2:30 CT

#2 Ohio State vs. San Diego State

San Diego State is fresh off a 40-19 loss to Eastern Illinois. OSU should be able to name their score, and Urban Meyer might want to make that a large number.

4:00 CT

Cal vs. Portland State

The Bears should score early and often. Their next two games are against Ohio State and Oregon, so an easy game to build some confidence and get the Bear Raid tuned is a welcome reprieve.

5:00 CT

I hope everyone is watching NU during these games, but here are your other options.

Indiana vs. Navy

This is Navy's season opener, so we know even less about them than the rest of these teams. Indiana looked explosive last week against Indiana State; avenging last year's loss to the Midshipmen is another step on the way to mediocrity for the Hoosiers.

#22 Nebraska vs. Southern Mississippi

Southern Miss turned the ball over 6 times while losing to FCS Texas State last week. In theory, Nebraska should blow them out. This theory depends on the Nebraska defense bouncing back from last week's horrorshow, which is not guaranteed. If Southern Miss makes it close, expect ongoing angst from the Husker fanbase; if they somehow pull out the win, Bo Pelini will be in serious trouble.

6:00 CT

Western Michigan vs. Nicholls State

MAC teams like cupcakes too, you know. Nicholls State should keep it closer than their 66-3 loss against Oregon.

7:00 CT

#17 Michigan vs. #14 Notre Dame

Notre Dame handled Temple in a very civilized fashion last week, pushing their lead to 28-6 before declining to score in the final quarter. This is the first real test for both of these teams (and the only decent B1G game of the day, excepting NU-Syracuse), so any outcome is possible and welcome. Personally, I'm rooting for 70 or so points from the Wolverines.

Minnesota @ New Mexico State

Minnesota is the only Big Ten team to go on the road, and they get another chance to show they can beat down weak opponents. I'm still somewhat skeptical of the Gophers, but they only need to win to keep a second consecutive bowl in sight.

This week's slate may be even weaker than last week's. Michigan-Notre Dame should be worth watching once Northwestern is done with Syracuse, but otherwise it should be a good week to check out other conferences.

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