The Big Ten went 10-1 against nonconference competition last weekend, which looks impressive. But there were some close calls against some teams that, coming into the game, were considered inferior competition.
I have to keep my head on a swivel during the nonconference portion of the season. Thirteen games is a lot to try and keep an eye on. I can’t always get to all of ‘em, but this week I got a good look at most all of ‘em. Certainly the first game doesn’t tell anywhere near the whole story, but it is a much better indicator than preseason speculation. Here’s how the teams I viewed compared to my preseason expectations.
BETTER THAN EXPECTED
Ohio St. – Won vs. Oregon St., 77-31. OK, so the defense had some holes, and I had high expectations to begin with, but what impressed me is the waves of talent the Buckeyes have at their disposal. It’s become cliché’ each preseason to say Ohio St. will “reload” its talent… the reload was pretty obvious in this game.
Maryland – Won vs. Texas, 34-29. The Terrapins did it again. Last season’s upset didn’t translate into a “better than expected” season, though. We’ll have to see about this season. Like last season, Maryland has some playmakers on offense.
Iowa – Won vs. Northern Illinois, 33-7. The final score was better than I expected but the game itself was typical Iowa. I thought the Hawkeyes would get off to their usual slow start to the season and possibly even lose this game. Didn’t happen. The defense was better than I expected the most.
Northwestern– Won vs. Purdue, 31-27. I expected Northwestern to get off to a slow start for one thing, and they actually looked more talented than I expected. This was a very nice road win against an up and coming Purdue team.
Rutgers – Won vs. Texas St., 35-7. The Scarlet Knights looked good in spots; I could almost put ‘em in the “better than expected” category. The new QB appears to be solid and they have a couple of playmakers on offense. Nice win, but as expected, considering the opponent. Texas St. looked small on defense.
Michigan St. – Won vs. Utah St., 38-31. Most would have the Spartans in the “worse than expected” category, and I probably should too, but I’ve been saying all preseason this team isn’t as good as advertised.
Minnesota – Won vs. New Mexico St., 48-10. The Gophers are pretty close to landing in my “better than expected” category as I’ve been projecting bad things for Minnesota this season. But I did expect them to win this game. New Mexico St. ain’t very good.
WORSE THAN EXPECTED
Illinois – Won vs. Kent St., 31-24. I expected Illinois to show signs of improvement on the field, if not in the win-loss column. The Illini looked horrible in the first half. In the second half they simplified their offense and got the W against a lesser opponent, but this was a shaky start at best.
Michigan– Lost to Notre Dame, 17-24. Actually, Notre Dame was much better than I expected. Harbaugh and the Wolverines are going to get some heat for losing yet another high profile game, but honestly, they were up against a pretty good opponent. Which is more than any other team in this conference can say, aside from Purdue and Northwestern. The new QB was OK, but didn’t live up to the hype.
Purdue – Lost vs. Northwestern, 27-31. I expected Purdue to win, so that puts them in this category I guess. I knew the defense lost a lot of starters, and it showed in the first half. But the Boilers did pick it up in the second half. Aside from the defense, I don’t know that Purdue was so much worse than expected as Northwestern was just better than expected.
Penn St. – Won in overtime vs Appalachian St., 45-38. Trace McSorley was able to get it done in this one, but he won’t be able to do it by himself all season. This team appears to be missing Joe Moorhead.
DID NOT SEE
Indiana – Won vs FIU, 38-28. Odd TV station for me.
Nebraska – vs. Akron, Cancelled. It’s been so long ago now I don’t remember exactly when they stopped, but once upon a time they played football in the rain.
Wisconsin – I did pretty good this weekend, but for the most part, I only have time to watch Saturday games. Friday’s are for High School Football.