Where Will Iowa and the Rest of the Big Ten Rank After Week 2?
Finally, college football rocked last Saturday with a full-blown schedule offering some major-hyped games—a few of which lived up to expectation.
Most contests, however, were just glorified practice sessions where the big guys pounded on the little guys trying to score more points than any other team on Saturday—playing the rankings game.
So much money and prestige is attached to those elusive ranking points in college ball these days.
Typical of the non-conference schedule, many lopsided contests were front and center, replayed during numerous sports shows debating their impact.
Games where No. 5 Georgia scored 45 points over Buffalo and No. 18 Ohio State scored 56 points in a contest with Miami of Ohio seemed over the top.
Better yet, No. 7 Florida scored 69 points against Murray State and West Virginia did the same while playing Marshall. But the biggest walloping came when Oklahoma State scored 84 points while shutting out Savannah State? Who?
But onto the truly important matches of the day—what have we learned from week one in the Big 10 and how will that help us to decide the winners in the Big 10?
How will week two affect the Hawkeyes ranking?
Which teams will end week two with an 0-2 record and which will end 2-0? These are the important questions as Saturday nears, and here is the skinny on what happens in week 2.
(Teams to be reshuffled once week two ends).
12. Penn State Nittany Lions
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Penn State was the second of two Big 10 teams to lose their opening game on September 1. They were playing at home against the Ohio Bobcats out of the Mid-American Conference.
Much has changed within the walls of Beaver Stadium. A year ago, coaching legend Joe Paterno was still at the helm leading Penn State to another winning season.
But that was before the Jerry Sandusky scandal brought down Paterno and the football program now suffering under severe sanctions.
New coach Bill O’Brien has much to overcome this season and subsequent seasons to bring the Nittany Lions back into college football’s upper echelons.
The mighty Lions have a steep curve to negotiate. O’Brien was hoping for a win last Saturday to ease the tension. But Penn State failed to maintain their halftime lead, allowing Ohio to overtake them in the third quarter, 17-14.
In the end, the Bobcats won the game 24-17 when Penn State failed to score in the second half.
It promises to be a long season, indeed.
Next week Penn State travels to Scott Stadium to play the Virginia Cavaliers. Virginia won their opener over the Richmond Spiders.
Expect Penn State to suffer their second consecutive loss of the 2012 season, falling to 0-2.
11. Minnesota Golden Gophers
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Coach Jerry Kill, in his second year as the head coach of the Minnesota Gophers, was simply glad for a win against the UNLV Rebels—regardless of how they achieved it.
Action on the football field did not run as smoothly as he had hoped, yet, a win was necessary.
At the end of regulation, the score was tied at 13-13.
In overtime, UNLV scored first—a touchdown, adding seven points to bring the score to 20-13 in their favor. But Minnesota answered with a MarQueis Gray 9-yard pass to John Rabe, and the score was tied once again 20-20.
In the second overtime, Minnesota scored another touchdown with another MarQueis Gray pass to John Rabe, this one for 25 yards.
UNLV countered with a second touchdown of their own. The score tied again at 27-27.
In the third overtime, only the Gophers scored. This time a field goal for three points. But it was enough for the win, 30-27.
This weekend, the Gophers welcome in the New Hampshire Wildcats of the Colonial Athletic Association into TCF Stadium.
Expect the Gophers to win their second consecutive game to begin the 2012 season on a positive note, 2-0.
10. Indiana Hoosiers
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Indiana finally won a game in week one—ending a nine game losing streak.
The Hoosiers defeated in-state rivals the Indiana State Sycamores. The last time Indiana football fans celebrated a win was one year ago on September 17 when the Hoosiers upended South Carolina State 38-21.
The difference from last year?
First, Indiana has a new quarterback strategy—staying in the pocket. Quarterback Tre Roberson threw for 280 yards, scoring one touchdown toss. He ran for another touchdown and watched as the defense did their part to stop the opposing team, 24-17.
It was a good beginning for second year coach Kevin Wilson, hoping to see much more improvement in his football team in 2012.
Next week the Hoosiers hit the road to play at Massachusetts.
The Minutemen out of the Mid-American Conference lost their opener in week one to Connecticut.
Expect Indiana to win their second game in a row in week two; 2-0 to start the year.
9. Iowa Hawkeyes
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Talk about lucky. The win last Saturday was a gift—pure and simple—given by running back Damon Bullock to his team.
For the greater part of the game, Northern Illinois, the 2011 Mid-American Conference champions, seemed the superior team.
Quarterback James Vandenberg was sacked six times on the afternoon and threw for only 129 yards.
Throughout the game, Iowa had numerous chances to score touchdowns, but could not punch it in once inside the red zone.
Instead the Hawkeyes were forced to settle for field goals, with Mike Meyer adding four.
Trailing 17-12 with time running out, Iowa punted and downed the ball on the Northern Illinois one yard line.
From there, the Panthers punted, giving Iowa the ball on the 24 yard line. On the third down, Damon Bullock ran it in from 23 yards out to score, putting Iowa up by one slim point.
The defense held and Iowa escaped Soldier Field 18-17.
This week the Hawkeyes welcome in the Iowa State Cyclones for another rocky in-state battle.
Iowa State won their opener against the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes last Saturday. Both Iowa teams will be seeking a victory to try to stay on a winning track.
Playing at home, give the nod to the Hawkeyes to start the season 2-0.
8. Northwestern Wildcats
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What a game!
This was one of those epic seesaw battles as Northwestern and Syracuse took turns punching it into the end zone.
In the end, it was Northwestern who came up with the final pass to seal the game with 44 seconds left on the clock.
What is more, the Wildcats did it on the road in front of hostile fans who were pulling mightily for the Orangemen.
The win came late. Syracuse had stormed back after being down 35-27 to start the fourth quarter.
The Orange scored a touchdown to bring them within one point with less than six minutes left on the clock. Then they scored again to lead 41-35 with 2:40 left on the clock.
That is when the Wildcats sprang to life as backup quarterback Trevor Siemian completed a nine-yard toss to Demetrius Fields with under a minute to go to win the game.
Perhaps their luck will continue this week as the Wildcats welcome the Vanderbilt Commodores to Evanston. Vanderbilt hails from the SEC. They lost 17-13 to No. 9 South Carolina in week one.
You have to figure that Northwestern will be well prepared for a very good Virginia team in week two.
Playing at home, expect another close win by the Wildcats who will start the year 2-0.
7. Purdue Boilermakers
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Purdue won their opener! If this keeps up, the Boilermakers might just be part of the discussion in the Big 10 in 2012.
With bodies fully healed and ready to do battle, Purdue could be on the inside track for this year’s competition inside the “Leaders” Division.
The action on Saturday came from an unplanned script because quarterback Robert Marve was not supposed to be the starter that day.
He was supposed to be the backup standing on the sidelines. But when fate took a hand and gave him a chance, Marve stepped up big time, throwing three touchdown passes as part of his total 295 yards on the day.
Purdue defeated Eastern Kentucky 48-6 for an excellent start on the season.
Danny Hope, Purdue’s head coach, had to be pleased with the results.
It will be interesting to see who Hope starts in this week’s contest against Notre Dame when the Boilers have to travel to South Bend.
This game, however, will go the way of the Fighting Irish. Purdue will come up short in week two, standing 1-1 when Saturday's action concludes.
6. Illinois Fighting Illini
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The Illini had to tender their enthusiasm over their 24-7 victory because their vaunted quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase left the game injured in the third quarter.
Still, the win had to be a huge relief for new coach Tim Beckman who was signed to pick up the pieces after the Ron Zook era.
The Illini defeated Western Michigan, with little doubt about the outcome except from the gun-shy Illinois faithful used to disappointment after strong beginnings.
Up 17-0 in the first half, trouble reared its ugly head when Scheelhaase injured his ankle late in the third quarter.
Without Scheelhaase, the Illini could not move forward and the offense stalled.
Inspired, the Broncos scored, making it 17-7 going into the fourth quarter.
But linebacker Ashante Williams intercepted the ball on a Bronco pass and ran it back 60 yards to score another touchdown for Illinois, and secure the win.
This week the team from Illinois travels out west to take on Arizona State. The Sun Devils walloped Northern Arizona 63-6 in their opener.
Expect Illinois to come away empty handed from the desert, falling to 1-1 on the season.
5. No. 16 Nebraska Cornhuskers
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The fifth best team in the Big 10 got to play at home in front of thousands of screaming fans who roared for each and every score the Huskers provided.
Nebraska hosted the Southern Miss Golden Eagles out of Conference USA on Saturday, winning 49-20.
The Huskers rolled out 632 yards of offense while the Golden Eagles trailed significantly with 260 yards.
The biggest improvement for the Cornhuskers seemed to be in quarterback Taylor Martinez’s passing proficiency.
He completed 26 of 34 attempts for 364 yards—offering up one touchdown and no interceptions.
Mainly, it was the offensive line, their speed and their anticipation that aided Martinez on the day. Southern Miss had little to stop the Nebraska offensive momentum.
The true measure of this team should be apparent after next week when the Cornhuskers travel to UCLA.
The Bruins defeated Rice 49-24 in their opener. This will be a real football team facing the Huskers who should still prevail.
Expect the Huskers to win in a close one, extending their season record to 2-0.
4. No. 13 Wisconsin Badgers
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The fourth best team in the Big 10, the Wisconsin Badgers, escaped with their lives on Saturday as they welcomed in the always-dangerous Northern Iowa Panthers for an afternoon of fun on the gridiron.
The lesson learned—never underestimate the Panthers.
This is a lesson the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Iowa State Cyclones have learned the hard way over the years.
The game took place in Madison, home of the Badgers. Ultimately, Wisconsin won the contest 26-21, but it felt more like they survived.
The score was modest as was Wisconsin's 387 yards.
In the first half, the Badgers put up two field goals and one touchdown. In the third quarter, Wisconsin scored another touchdown but had their PAT blocked.
The Panthers finally scored a touchdown of their own—putting up seven on the big scoreboard as the third quarter ended.
It was during the fourth quarter, however, when the sweat began to pour—and not just from extreme effort.
When the Badgers scored again, the score stood at 26-7. But Northern Iowa scored two quick touchdowns to close within five points with over seven minutes left on the clock.
As Northern Iowa moved into Badger territory—standing at 4th and 1—the Panther pass was batted down, allowing the Badgers to hold on and win the game.
Next week the Badgers travel to Oregon State, hopefully with more on the ball.
The Beavers will be playing their first game of the season against the Badgers because their game last week against Nicholls State was postponed.
Expect the Badgers to win this game, stretching their season to 2-0.
3. No. 19 Michigan Wolverines
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The third best team in the Big 10 did not have a good afternoon last Saturday; not by a long shot.
Preseason No. 8 Michigan traveled to play the No. 2 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide at Cowboy Stadium in Dallas, Texas.
But it really did not matter “where” they met on Saturday. What mattered was “who” the Wolverines played.
Alabama won 41-14 in a lopsided contest that promised to be the game of the week, according to all the hype coming into the game.
The tenacious Alabama defense rendered the Wolverines impotent on offense. Denard Robinson seemed staked out and defenseless considering the pounding he received.
On offense, Alabama gained 431 yards while Michigan could only muster 269. The Wolverines had three turnovers to the Tide’s one.
The Michigan offense sputtered and never really clicked into gear.
What it shows is that Brady Hoke and his coaching staff have a lot of work ahead of them to salvage another 11-2 season in 2012.
After the beat down at Alabama, Michigan welcomes in Air Force for a week two contest. This team will be a relief after the Crimson Tide.
Expect the Wolverines to win this one to balance their season at 1-1.
2. No. 14 Ohio State Buckeyes
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Maybe the second best team in the Big 10, the Buckeyes won big, but over a lesser opponent.
The Miami of Ohio Redhawks of the MAC were truly outmatched on the afternoon. With literally no rushing yards on the day, the Redhawks relied on the pass to salvage yardage.
Urban Meyer, coaching his first game at the helm of the Ohio State Buckeyes, wanted to quell the anxiety of the fans, boosters and the administrative hierarchy, anxious to put the scandal of 2010 behind them.
The redemption had to come on the gridiron.
But it did not look good at the start of the day. The Buckeyes held a scant 3-0 lead at the start of the second quarter with only 48 yards accumulated in the opening quarter of play.
That was when Devin Smith made a game-changing catch in the end zone, leaping high in the air and grabbing the football in one hand and hitting the ground hard but holding on to score the touchdown.
After that, Ohio State rolled, led by Braxton Miller. The Buckeyes accumulated 538 total yards on Saturday with no turnovers.
At the end, Meyer could breathe a sigh of relief.
Things are looking bright for week two when Ohio State hosts Central Florida out of Conference USA. The Knights defeated Akron in their opener but they will not get past Ohio State.
The Buckeyes will move to 2-0 on the season.
1. No. 11 Michigan State Spartans
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The best team in the Big 10 defeated a ranked opponent when No. 13 Michigan State outlasted No. 24 Boise State 17-13 at home.
Running back Le’Veon Bell earned his stripes on Saturday—carrying the ball 44 times, catching it six and amassing 265 total yards and scoring two touchdowns—all without fumbling the ball once.
The Spartans should put that young man on ice after such a hot performance.
Like all first of the season games, both teams clearly demonstrated their weaknesses.
The football play overall was error-filled and sluggish, but when the chips were down, Michigan State held on the longest and got the victory.
The Spartans travel to Central Michigan in week two to face the Chippewas.
Central Michigan won their opener 38-27 over Southeast Missouri State.
But the Chippewas will not be able to stop the Spartans this Saturday. Michigan State will remain undefeated, standing 2-0, heading into week 3.