What We Learned About the Big Ten in Week 1

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What We Learned About the Big Ten in Week 1
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Hackenberg is the Real Deal. What else did we learn about the Big Ten?

Boy did Week 1 of the college football season fly by, huh? 

For those of us in Big Ten country, there was no shortage of intrigue heading into Week 1, despite a less than stellar slate of games on tap. We had coaching debuts, a 12-game win streak on the line and plenty of quarterback issues heading into the week. 

So, after one look at the Big Ten, what have we learned? Well, let's explore a few lessons we should've learned about the conference and its teams in Week 1.

 

Ohio State Is Different with Jordan Hall Healthy

The Buckeyes offense hummed along pretty well last season thanks in large part to Braxton Miller and more Braxton Miller.

OK, so maybe that's not exactly how it went down, but it sure seemed like he was the only dynamic playmaker on the offensive side of the ball in 2012.

That won't be the case in 2013 as Jordan Hall, who appears healthy finally, showed why everyone hyped him up last season. Hall went for 159 yards on 21 carries with two touchdowns and a two-point conversion to boot

However, this was against Buffalo, folks, so perhaps the other takeaway is let us reserve judgement a bit. But, if you are an Ohio State fan or that coaching staff, you have to be a bit excited in what you saw from Hall. 

With Hall healthy, the Buckeyes aren't just a one-man offense anymore and that's scary for opposing defenses in the conference, most of whom couldn't stop Miller by himself last season.

 

Michigan State's Offense Looks Eerily Familiar to Last Season

Andrew Maxwell starting at quarterback, Michigan State's offensive line having some trouble opening up holes, wide receivers dropping passes—where have we seen that before? 

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of pundits and prognosticators told us that MSU's offense was going to be much better in 2013 and that would make the Spartans a contender. 

Well, after Week 1, we sure didn't see that at all. 

Is it possible they put it together? Sure, there are some potentially nice wide receivers and Jeremy Langford looked good. However, he's no Le'Veon Bell or Javon Ringer and, in order for this offense to even be as good as it was last year, that's what they need from the running game. 

Until Michigan State figures out the quarterback position, finds some wide receivers willing to hang on to the football and learns to stick to one style of play, this team is going to be in the exact same predicament they faced last season—an awesome defense, but a below par offense.

We all know how that worked out for the preseason Big Ten Championship contender last season, now don't we?

The defense can only win you so many games.

 

Penn State and Wisconsin Don't Have QB Battles Anymore

Both of the coaches for these teams refused to publicly name a starter for Week 1 and after the performances of Christian Hackenberg (Penn State) and Joel Stave (Wisconsin), neither gave their head coaches a reason to continue the QB battles any further.

Hackenberg threw for 278 yards and two touchdowns in the Nittany Lions win, while Stave threw for 197 yards and two touchdowns in the Badgers win. 

To be sure, neither of those two debuts were perfect by any means. However, both showed their coaches they were the players that can lead a team to victory with their arm and that, in the Big Ten where you can combine a great running game with a QB that can be dangerous on his own, you have a chance to win against anyone. 

Hackenberg's performance was so impressive he earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors

Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

 

The Big Ten Is Way Better Than the MAC 

OK, who didn't think that already?

After all, the Big Ten came into this season with a 36-4 advantage over their Midwestern brethren in Week 1 matchups over the past decade. 

Make that 40-5 in the past 11 years after the Big Ten went 4-1 against the MAC in Week 1 of this season. 

Having a down Iowa team lose to a Northern Illinois team that featured a Heisman Trophy candidate (Jordan Lynch) and went to the Orange Bowl last season isn't as bad of a loss as some see it and frankly, I saw that loss coming to begin with.

Outside of that though, the Big Ten pretty much pounded the crap out of the rest of the conference in Week 1. In fact, for the week, the Big Ten combined to put a 197-72 beat down on the MAC. 

 

Northwestern's Offense Is LOADED 

Kain Colter gets knocked out early and the Wildcats offense doesn't miss a beat in any way, shape or form. That's scary news because we've never seen Trevor Siemian be the "man" before.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Siemian went 18-29 fro 276 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. It wasn't perfect, but Siemian also wasn't expected to be the only one at QB. That was until Kain Colter went out earlier in the game with a head injury.

Oh, and we didn't even mention the fact that Venric Mark was a complete non-factor, rushing for all of 29 yards for the game. Instead it was Treyvon Green doing the bulk of the work on the ground, rushing for 129 yards and two touchdowns.

Those two pieces of news are very good to know for Northwestern moving forward because it means they aren't just a three-headed monster on offense like so many thought. Instead, they have the depth to beat you any number of ways should they need to offensively, not to mention what they pulled on defense against the "Bear Raid."

 

Wisconsin Is Still Going to Pound the Ball Down Your Throat 

Some fans, national "experts" and even some in the local media in Madison were wondering if the Badgers would change up how they attack opponents in the rushing game. 

Was Wisconsin going to go more spread with some read/option mixed in? After all, that's what Gary Andersen ran at Utah State.

Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

After Saturday, I think we can all put away any thoughts of the Badgers offense looking any different than it has for the past quarter of a century. That's because Wisconsin had not one, not two, but three running backs rush for over 100 yards on the day. 

James White, the named starter went for 143 yards on 11 carries (13.0 average). Melvin Gordon, the "backup," went for 144 yards on 13 carries (11.1 average) and Corey Clement, the true freshman, went for 101 yards on 16 carries (6.3 average).

It was the first time in school history that a trio of runners all went over 100 yards in a season opener but just the second time in the last three games overall for the Badgers. 

So, in other words.... Move on, nothing to see here.

 

The State of Michigan Is Home to the Best Defenses in Big Ten 

Michigan gave up all of nine points, while Michigan State gave up just 13 points to put them at second and third in the scoring defense rankings (trailing only Wisconsin, who blanked UMass).

However, this statement has more to do with the numbers behind those point totals. MSU gave up just 11 yards rushing to Western Michigan and just 204 yards of total offense (2.7 yards per play average).  

The Wolverines gave up 66 yards rushing and just 210 yards of total offense to Central Michigan. 

Sure, the opponents weren't great, but the results and the effort put forth by both of these D's were very impressive to watch overall. MSU's secondary was all over the place and Kurtis Drummond had this crazy INT: 

Michigan didn't allow a single touchdown on defense against the Chippewas, tying Wisconsin on defense for zero touchdowns against for the week in the Big Ten. 

The difference may ultimately be that Michigan has as dangerous an offense as they have a defense and Michigan State doesn't (right now).

 

*Andy Coppens in the lead Big Ten football writer for Bleacher Report, you can follow him on Twitter to join in on the conversation.

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