The first week of the college football season in the Big Ten is in the books and the conference acquitted itself well, going 9-2. Big Ten fans have reason to be proud of what happened on the field this past weekend.
The teams that were ranked in the Coaches’ preseason poll pummeled their opponents, and the teams that were supposed to win did, and there were no upsets. Hopefully for Big Ten fans, this is the start of a long term trend.
Because there were no surprises this week, the first edition of the Big Ten Football Power Rankings will also have no surprises.
11. Illinois- Thank Goodness the Arch Rivalry with Missouri is Over!
The lllini failed to win a single game in the six game series. Despite being 12 point underdogs, Illinois had to feel good about its chances against Missouri, given that Missouri’s leading rusher the past two seasons, Derrick Washington, had been kicked off the team just before the game.
The script looked good, with the Illini up 13-3 at the half. Missouri, however, woke up and put their collective foot down, holding Ron Zook’s crew to 85 yards and only four first downs in the second half on their way to a 23-13 come from behind victory. The hot seat under Zook just went up a few more degrees.
10. Purdue: Early Derailment in South Bend Hinders Comeback
Turnovers, penalties, and missed assignments caused the Boilermakers to fall behind 20-3 to the Irish. The Boilermakers made it respectable in the fourth quarter, when quarterback transfer Robert Mavre ran for a 23 yard touchdown.
Mavre, unfortunately, decided to show his excitement by diving into the end zone after he had crossed the goal line, resulting in an unsportsmanlike penalty. The resulting poor field position nixed any Purdue miracle, as the Irish went on to win 23-12.
9. Minnesota: A Win is a Win, but...
The Gophers dominated its game with Middle Tennessee by holding the ball for 45:34 minutes to the Blue Raiders 14:26. As promised by the new offensive coordinator, Minnesota returned to the basics by running the ball 67 times for 281 yards.
Winning time of possession by a ratio of 3:1 and nearly compiling 300 yards on the ground would suggest a blow-out by Minnesota, however, the Gophers needed to score 10 points in the fourth quarter to win 24-17.
8. Indiana: Hoosiers Take Care of Business Against Towson
Indiana did what they were supposed to do against Football Championship Division School Towson: score early and put the game away before halftime. The Hoosiers led 38-14 at half on their way to their 51-17 victory.
Indiana’s top receiver, Tandon Doss, missed the game with an injury but is expected to be back quickly in the lineup. Hoosiers took a good first step to repeat last year’s fast start this year.
7. Northwestern: Persa Steps Out of Kafka’s Shadow
Any questions about whether Andy Persa was going to have trouble taking over for Mike Kafka were quickly answered as he was poised in the pocket and did well running the ball. Persa threw three touchdowns and was exceptionally accurate, connecting on 19 of 21 passes for 222 yards.
Persa in leading the Wildcats in rushing was also very effective on the ground, gaining 82 yards on 17 rushes.
6. Michigan: Has Coach Rodriguez Found His Quarterback in Shoelace?
Embattled Michigan Coach Rich Rodriquez may have found the right quarterback for his system in Denard “Shoelace” Robinson. Robinson has incredible speed; he set a school record in rushing for 197 yards and a touchdown against the UConn Huskies in the Wolverines 30-10 win.
Robinson also a good day passing ball, going 19 of 22 for 186 yards and a touchdown. Denard’s performance earned him Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors.
5. Michigan State: True Freshman Le’Veon Bell Makes History
Freshman Le’Veon Bell rushed for 141 yards on 10 carries and two touchdowns to become the first true freshman in Michigan State history to rush for 100 yards or more in his first game. Bell was named Co-Big Ten Freshman Player of the Week. The Spartans easily dispatched of Western Michigan 38-14 for their eighth straight victory in the series; Western Michigan last beat Michigan State in 1919.
4. Penn State: Bolden Shines but Paterno Reluctant to Name Him the Starter
True Freshman Rob Bolden looked poised in the pocket beyond his years, as he had 239 passing yards, two touchdowns, and went 20 for 29. The only interception he threw was due to his wide receiver falling down on the play.
Paterno liked what he saw from Bolden in the 44-14 win over Youngstown State but, wasn’t quite ready to name Bolden the starter against the Tide.
“We’re going to play it week by week, practice by practice and hopefully come up with different situations, and we’ll go from there. Whether that means we’ll have one quarterback all year, or three alternating, or what, I really don’t know right now.”
The Big Ten office was impressed with Bolden, naming him Co-Big Ten Freshman Player of the Week.
3. Wisconsin: Badgers Help Rebels Stay Close in the First Half
The Badgers committed two costly turnovers. Scott Tolzien threw a 19 yard pick six interception, and the Rebels returned a Nick Toon fumble 82 yards to subsequently set up a 16 yard touchdown pass to keep the game close in the first half.
However, Wisconsin’s big, powerful offensive line grounded the Rebels into the ground as the Badgers went on to win 41-21. Returning First Team Big-Ten running back John Clay looked healthy coming off ankle surgery, as he ran for 123 yards on 17 carriers.
2. Iowa: No Nail-Biter to Start the Season in Iowa City
The Hawkeyes posted an easy win against the Eastern Illinois Panthers 37-7, although the game did have a moment or two of drama.
Senior Ricky Stanzi went down awkwardly on a roll out in the senior quarter on his repaired knee, which caused Hawkeye fans to hold their breath. Stanzi, however, did return to the game, showing no ill effects from twisting his knee.
On the subject of players returning to the fold after injuries, Adam Robinson ran for 109 yards and three touchdowns all in the first half.
The Panthers did provide a little drama of their own in the second quarter, by converting a fake punt from their own 20 yard line to keep a drive alive, on which they would ultimately score. Iowa’s Paki O’Meara blocked a punt and returned it 42 yards for a touchdown to earn Big Ten Special Team Player of the Week honors.
1. Ohio State: The Buckeyes Get Ready for the Canes
Marshall was a good tune up game for the Buckeyes, as they came out with a balanced attack using 16 running plays and 16 passing plays in the first half. Nine different Ohio State receivers got involved in the passing game.
Rose Bowl MVP and Heisman hopeful Terrelle Pryor looked the part, throwing three touchdown passes as Ohio State cruised to a 45-7 victory over Marshall. Of course, next week’s opponent, the Miami Hurricanes, look to put up more of a fight than the Thundering Herd.
Ohio State appears to be looking forward to the game. “It’ll be wild to be in that game,” said wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher. “It’s a relief that finally we can talk about Miami.”
Safety Tyler Moeller had seven tackles, two tackles for losses, a sack and a forced fumble on his way to being named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.