Big Ten Football: Ten Thoughts On The Teams After One Week Of Conference Play
The cupcake non conference slates are over for the Big Ten teams and now the first week of conference play is also in the books.
So what did we learn about each team?
We learned plenty after four stellar games, and one not so stellar effort from the fightin' Joe Pas.
So will OSU run the table? Is Sparty poised for a major breakthrough? It's too early to tell now, but let's talk about what we learned about each team that played this weekend.
Ohio State 5-0 (1-0)
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It wasn't an overwhelming victory in Champaigne, but the Buckeyes did get the "W" and get to 5-0 and take the turtle back to Columbus.
What we learned about the Bucks yesterday is that they have the ability of playing down to their opponent. Take nothing away from Illinois who gave them everything they had, but when it is all said and done OSU is the more athletic team.
Give credit to Jim Tressel for coaching them to a win in classic Tressel fashion. The offense was not sharp, and the Bucks allowed the Illini to stay in the game, but Jim Tressel is the guy who is gonna find a way to win—even when his team is sleepwalking through 60 minutes of football.
If the Bucks do this again though, they may not be so fortunate with the heart of their schedule just a few weeks away.
What we take away from the Bucks is that they can go through the motions and still win games.
Up next for OSU is Indiana at home.
Illinois 2-2 (0-1)
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The Fighting Illini gave the Buckeyes all they could chew and then some. If only the offense could have gotten something going, then maybe we would be talking about the second Illini upset of OSU in the last several years.
The Illini has talent, but they are young and inexperienced where it counts, at quarterback.
What we learned is that Nathan Scheelhaase needs some work in the passing game. We also learned that the Illini can play up to their opponents, whereas they looked sluggish in a win over Northern Illinois a week earlier.
Up next for Illinois is a trip to a very un-Happy Valley. This is where we will find out if the performance against OSU was the true Illini, or an imposter.
Northwestern 5-0 (1-0)
After their 29-28 win over Minnesota you can once again call Northwestern the "Cardiac Cats."
Even though they won—Northwestern has a ton of concerns.
Many fans, including myself, are concerned about team discipline, There are simply too many miscues and stupid penalties being committed. Also with cold, bad, snowy weather on the way, they need to find a running game besides Dan Persa.
A kicking game that makes extra points would also be beneficial.
On the positive, they are finding ways to win. The Cats defense has been a bend-but-not-break defense and has found ways to force turnovers. If not for Denard Robinson, Dan Persa may be the talk of the Big Ten at QB.
Up next for the Cats is Purdue at home. A win would mean bowl eligibility for a third straight year. That has never happened in Northwestern history.
Minnesota 1-4 (0-1)
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Heartbreak city in Big Ten country once again resides in Minneapolis.
The Gophers forced several turnovers but were not able to find a way to win the game against Northwestern. The running game pushed the Cats up and down the field, and Adam Weber did all he could to keep the Gophers in it.
What we learned about the Gophers is, no matter what the talent level is in Minnesota, they cannot win with Tim Brewster at the helm. If you watched the game against the Cats, you had to question the play calling on the last drive.
Simply put, there is talent here, but the coaching staff cannot get the most out of it. They need to get MarQueis Gray the ball more. If he played anywhere else in the nation they would find ways to get him the ball.
The Gophers are headed towards a new direction, and for the sake of the overall power of the conference I hope they get a Tony Dungy to replace Brewster.
Up next is a trip to Madison for the Paul Bunyan Ax. A Gopher loss and Brewster may be counting his millions in the unemployment line.
Michigan 5-0 (1-0)
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Michigan is putting up big numbers on offense—I mean Denard Robinson is putting up big numbers. Simply put, he is having a year even Pat White would be jealous of.
We already know the 5-0 Wolverines can score, but they still cannot stop anybody. Greg Robinson's defense is too soft and needs to be more aggressive if they are to make a run at OSU and the Big Ten.
Sure they can win a shootout over Indiana, but the big question will come when they play tougher defenses. So for what we do know about them and their bad defense is small compared to what we will know after they play a better team, a better defense.
Speaking of better teams, they get their bitter in state rivals from East Lansing at home next weekend.
Indiana 4-1 (0-1)
So close were the Hoosiers again at getting a "W" against the Wolverines. But close only counts in hand grenades and horseshoes.
What we learned about the Hoosiers after their loss against Michigan is that they once again cannot win close games. That is simply the difference between being a good team, and being a team that is sitting at home and watching the bowl games.
Ben Chappell has weapons, and they can put up points, which is promising, but the defense again appears to be the weak link.
The defense will be tested this weekend as they head to Columbus to take on the Buckeyes.
Michigan State 5-0 (1-0)
Sparty came up with a nice resume win over Wisconsin on Saturday. Now they are being considered a true contender to make a run at the Big Ten title. But are they?
The Spartans have a pretty good defense, but they benefit most from a running game on offense that can move the ball and take time off of the clock. Between Edwin Baker and Le'Veon Bell the Spartans have one of the best 1-2 punches in the nation.
What concerns many is the passing game. Kirk Cousins threw two picks against Wisconsin. If the Spartans get down early, do they have the fire power to come back?
Sparty may find out as they play at the Big House next.
Wisconsin 4-1 (0-1)
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The Badgers hung tough against Sparty, but couldn't come up with the big road win. The question coming into the season was on the defensive side of the ball, and the defense definitely showed some flaws on Saturday.
The Badger run defense was less than stellar, with a goal line stand being the exception. On offense the passing game could be looked at as a concern, as they appear to be too reliant on a running game that will have to handle the majority of the load.
Is the Big Ten title out of sight after one game?
No, not yet. But they are going to have to improve their run defense and hope that Nick Toon and the receivers can do more to spread the field.
Homecoming against Minnesota is next for Bucky as they look for their first Big Ten conference win.
Iowa 4-1 (1-0)
Iowa is one of those teams that we are not going to learn many new things on.
They play solid defense. They run the ball. They win at home.
Most recently they defeated Penn State 24-3 at home. The defense shut down Evan Royster, the Hawks ran the ball well.
If I were to take one thing away from the season and that game was how good Ricky Stanzi looked throwing the ball. No longer is he just managing the game, he is a guy that can win games on his own.
The Hawks appear poised for another run at the Big Ten title this year and have a week off before heading to The Big House on Oct 16.
Penn State 3-2 (0-1)
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Penn State is 3-0 against non BCS conference opponents, and that's the good news. The bad news is that they are 0-2 against BCS foes.
The Lions are struggling on offense. That's it, you already know that. The real question is what is happening with Evan Royster, who was supposed to help a young Robert Bolden at QB. Bolden has not played horribly thus far, but has had problems in the decision making process, which is always a key for a freshman QB.
On D the Lions are average at best, but look for them and the team to get better as they gain experience and learn how to win together.
The fighting JoePas host Illinois in a must win this weekend.