College Football: 12 Thoughts on Big Ten Week 1 Action (Part 2)

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College Football: 12 Thoughts on Big Ten Week 1 Action (Part 2)
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I covered Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan State, and Minnesota in Part 1.  In this part, I'll cover the rest of the games from week 1 with a final thought to cap it all off.

Without further ado:

7) Indiana 51 - Towson 17: Nice, but don't get too comfortable

Indiana threw a lot of looks at Towson, and steamrolled their wayward opponent with it all.  Ben Chappell had a decent start to the season, completing 16 of 23 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns.  Darius Willis complemented things nicely with a fantastic 14 carry 102 yard day, with two touchdowns thrown in.

The defense did their part as well, picking off three passes.  They did allow two second quarter touchdowns (and a fourth quarter field goal), but by then the game was already firmly within their grasp.

Just don't get too comfortable with this.  With all due respect to Towson, they're nothing compared to what Indiana will face in the coming weeks.  Towson is about as tough as your average community college, or maybe even state high school champion team.  They're good enough for what they do, but they're not up to Big Ten standards.

In a nutshell, this game means absolutely nothing.  It's a notch in the win column - and that could be huge come November - but it says nothing at all about Indiana's chances of winning in the Big Ten.

 

8) Purdue 12 - Notre Dame 23: That's not nearly good enough

Purdue trailed this game right from the start.  Behind 13-3 at the break, the Boilermakers showed a largely one-sided offense through the first half.  Robert Marve showed flashes of greatness, but it seemed like most of his action came on the ground while scrambling from Golden Domer defenders. 

The Boilermakers gave up another touchdown in the third to trail 20-3 going into the fourth.  They turned on the heat (finally) and crawled back into the game with nine unanswered points to make it a 20-12 game.  They couldn't muster a final drive to make it truly interesting though, and surrendered another field goal to seal a Fighting Irish win. 

Marve finished his Purdue debut completing 31 of 42 passes for 220 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.  He added a touchdown on the ground, however.  The run game was mediocre at best.  As a unit, the team only put up 102 yards of total rushing. 

This is a team I was predicting to be a spoiler in the Big Ten.  After that performance, I'm debating whether or not to pick them to fight for the bottom spot.  This is an offense that was supposed to be rejuvenated with Robert Marve at the helm.  The defense was supposed to step up and make them competitive.  Maybe they still will, but the indications so far are that this team is in for a long rebuilding year...again.

9) Michigan 30 - Connecticut 10: I would almost be ready to jump on the bandwagon if...

If UConn didn't beat themselves as much as Michigan beat them.  I'm sorry if that sounds a little disrespectful, Michigan fans, but it's true. 

Michigan's offense looked pretty sharp.  They scored touchdowns on their first two possessions and three of their first four.  They also turned the ball over three times on downs throughout the course of the game. 

UConn had a chance to make this an interesting game, but fumbled the ball inside the five.  It was indicative of the way the day went for the Huskies.  Their first four possessions resulted in three punts and a turnover on downs that never should have happened.  Every opportunity they had to make the game good, they shot themselves in the foot.

All due credit has to be given to the Michigan team, though.  The defense appeared much improved over last year and the offense was every bit as potent as I expected it to be.  Denard Robinson completed 19 of 22 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown.  He also rushed 29 times for 197 yards and another touchdown.  He was a one-man wrecking crew.

Keep in mind though, one-man offenses rarely do well in the Big Ten.  Not long term, at any rate.  Still, this was a very nice win over a quality opponent, and it should send signals to the rest of the league that Michigan is moving forward quickly, and will give anyone on their schedule all they can handle.

10) Northwestern 23 - Vanderbilt 21: Well, it's a win

 

I was pretty harsh on Vanderbilt in my weekly predictions.  It's hard not to be tough on a team that went 0-8 in the SEC, lost to Mississippi State 3-15, and dropped to Army 13-16 en route to a 2-10 season.  Lost in all of that is that the Commodores also held tight with South Carolina (10-14) and put up 31 points against Georgia Tech.  The team actually can play some ball, when they really want to.

Northwestern is a team that went 8-5 a year ago and knocked off both Iowa and Wisconsin.  They shouldn't have had this much trouble with a 2-10 team. 

Dan Persa left no doubt that he's the guy to lead this team.  Completing 19 of 21 passes for 222 yards and three touchdowns, Persa was as accurate as anyone could ask for.  He also rushed 17 times for 82 more yards, making him a real dual threat. 

Jeremy Ebert was the go-to guy, catching five passes for 99 yards and a touchdown.  Persa spread the ball around nicely though, connecting with seven different receivers on the day. 

The defense wasn't horrible either.  They did pick off a pass, and didn't allow any one runner to cross the century mark in yards.  However, there were three Commodore carriers averaging over four yards per carry and the Wildcats gave up two rushing touchdowns to go along with one passing score. 

All-in-all, I was impressed (as always) with Northwestern's grit.  In close games, they'll fight tooth and nail to the very end.  However, I was also disappointed that their defense didn't step up a little better, and that they still don't have a solid rush attack outside of Persa. 

 

It's a win, but in an improved conference, it doesn't give me a ton of confidence that this team will really compete with the tougher teams in the league again this year. 

11) Wisconsin 41 - UNLV 21: Thank goodness for this schedule

Everyone knew John Clay was a beast and he didn't disappoint.  On 17 carries, the tank rumbled for 123 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 7.2 yards per carry. 

Scott Tolzien was a little disappointing though.  The senior QB did complete 15 of 20 passes, but failed to throw for a touchdown and tossed one interception.  David Gilreath and Nick Toon both had decent days, pulling down four catches each.

The real excitement was on the ground, though.  The Badgers had four carriers that averaged over five yards per carry.  That monster offensive line paved the way all day long for anyone and everyone who wanted to carry the ball to find success.

The biggest problem with the opening week game was the 21 points allowed to a 5-7 team that went 3-5 in conference play.  It's not a damning sort of statistic.  Still, it points to continued questions on defense that will have to be addressed.  UNLV isn't as powerful as Ohio State will be, or likely as Iowa will be as well. 

The Badgers' schedule is strongly in their favor, and right now that's a great thing.  Up next is a visit by San Jose State University, followed by a home date with Arizona State.  The out-of-conference schedule ends with a walk in the park against Austin Peay.  Their conference schedule starts on the road at Michigan State - which won't be easy - but they don't face Ohio State until October 16th. 

 

The Badgers could potentially have a shootout on their hands with Arizona State, but there's no reason they shouldn't win.  Michigan State could also be tough, but right now they don't look all that intimidating either.  The Badgers easily could (and maybe should) be undefeated when they host the Buckeyes. 

They've got plenty of time to work out their issues before things start to get really interesting.

12) All things considered, it was a pretty decent opening week

Maybe my expectations were a little too high.  Maybe I'm nitpicking a little too early in the year.  There were a lot of things I found to pick on in week one. 

However, we all do have to remember (myself especially) that this was only the first round of games.  These teams haven't faced anyone other than themselves since December of last year, or January of this year.  That's a lot of time for rust to settle in and these teams had to shake that off and remember how to play against someone new. 

As a conference, the Big Ten went 9-2 in their first week and the two losses came against a decent Missouri team and an equally decent Notre Dame team. 

The four teams mentioned in conjunction with a conference title (Ohio State, Iowa, Penn State, and Wisconsin) all had decisive victories, even if there were moments for concern.  Michigan State, Minnesota, and Michigan all got nice wins over respectable opponents.  Northwestern beat a SEC team (which is always good in Big Ten country), and neither Purdue nor Illinois were thoroughly embarrassed in their matches. 

One thing I came away from Saturday with was that the Big Ten is going to be a very interesting conference to follow this year.  There's a lot of talent out on the field and, more than ever, any team can upset any other on any Saturday.  It should be a lot of fun to watch!

Until next week, HAPPY BOWL HUNTING!

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