Kansas, Troy, Akron, BYU, Temple, South Florida,…..these are some of the teams that beat up on the Big Ten last Saturday as the conference went 6-7 in the last week of nonconference play. The Big Ten will most surely be at the bottom of the list of any conference power ratings that come out during the season as many of the teams struggled in the first two weeks of the season as well, although not quite as bad as this past Saturday. Troy, Akron??
Personally, I’m not too concerned about how the conference measures up nationally. I’m looking forward to the conference race. It’ll be easier for me to keep up, too, now that the teams are playing each other. 4 to 7 games a Saturday as opposed to 12 to 14 games is much easier on the eyes.
Illinois – Lost vs. South Florida, 19-25. Well, the good news is the Illini played much better than most would anticipate. They had a three play scoring drive in the first quarter that made me think, “Wow, where did this team come from.” Starting QB A.J. Bush was a scratch due to injury, but his replacement, M.J. Rivers played well. Even the defense played well. The bad news is, the Illini lost this game when they should have won. 19-7 lead minutes into the fourth quarter at home and they give up the game winning TD pass to a wide open receiver on third and 20 from 50 yards out with about two minutes left in the game. Good teams find a way to win and bad teams find a way to lose, I guess.
Indiana– Won vs. Ball St., 38-10. Aside from a slow start on defense, the Hoosiers dominated this MAC opponent like a Big Ten team is supposed to. Indiana got stronger as the game went on to finish the nonconference season 3-0 and with a full head of steam going into conference play. The noncom schedule didn’t feature any monster opponents, but no cupcakes either. All three were quality wins by recent Indiana standards.
Iowa – Won vs. Northern Iowa, 38-14. This was one of four late games. I saw some of it, but for the most part, this was the game that drew the least amount of my attention. I did notice that QB Nate Stanley threw some nice deep balls, something that was a problem last season. I can’t read too much into this victory, as Northern Iowa is an FCS school, but still, a nice win to put the Hawkeyes at 3-0 heading into conference play.
Maryland – Lost vs. Temple, 14-35. Well here we are again with this team. Same scenario as last season—impressive opening victory followed up by another win, and in week 3 we get a clunker. Last season the Terps faded into mediocrity and this season may do the same. The excuse last season was the injured first and second string QBs. They both are back and played in this game but both we’re flat out lousy. For the most part, the defense actually didn’t play that bad. But the offensive playmakers I noticed in the first two games seemed to disappear in this one. Where was Ty Johnson?
Michigan – Won vs. SMU, 45-20. This game got the least of my attention among four afternoon games. Michigan won the game, but still isn’t as impressive as expected.
Michigan St. – Did not play.
Minnesota– Won vs. Miami (Ohio), 26-3. The Gophers were in control pretty much the whole game. Great all-around performance and great nonconference season. Like this season, the Gophers started off last season at 3-0 in nonconference play. Then they didn’t fare so well in conference play. This is a much better Minnesota team than last season.
Nebraska– Lost vs. Troy, 19-24. This was an ugly loss for Nebraska. Starting QB Adrian Martinez was sidelined with an injury but that isn’t why the Cornhuskers lost. His replacement, Andrew Bunch, didn’t play great but played well enough for a Big Ten program to beat the likes of Troy. This isn’t your father’s Nebraska program anymore. The overall talent level is mediocre at best.
Northwestern– Lost vs. Akron, 34-39. Ugly loss for Northwestern as well. QB Clayton Thorson threw 2 pick 6’s, and lost a fumble that resulted in an Akron TD. Thorson isn’t entirely to blame, and he does have a lot on his shoulders, but this is why I’ve never been completely sold on Thorson. Or Northwestern for that matter. You never know when, but you can almost always count on a game like this at some point in the season.
Ohio St. – Won vs. TCU, 40-28. Good win for the Buckeyes. I dunno, I somehow expected them to dominate even more than they did. Ohio St. is loaded with so many talented, explosive players I figured them to possibly be among the best in the country. TCU is top 15, but I don’t know that they’re among the best and they had the Buckeyes on the ropes in the third quarter.
Penn St. – Won vs. Kent St., 63-10. This was one of four 11:00 AM games and three TVs is all I’m watching so something had to give. The other games were more interesting so I never really circled around to this game all that much.
Purdue – Lost vs. Missouri, 37-40. Purdue didn’t return many defensive starters from last season. I thought they’d be ok, but obviously they are not. The Boilermakers are going to have to outscore teams in a shootout or do something to improve on defense. They almost outscored a decent Missouri team here. David Blough started at QB in place of Elijah Sindelar, who was injured in practice, and threw for a Purdue record 572 yards on 39 of 55 passing. As I stated a couple of weeks ago and a few times last season: Even going back to last season I’ve always preferred David Blough over Elijah Sindelar. But I don’t get a vote. Nor should I.
Rutgers – Lost at Kansas, 14-55. I stopped watching this game at halftime it was so bad. He’s just a freshman, so that has to be considered, but may as well inaugurate the kid to the criticism that comes with playing QB at the D-1 level: Artur Sitkowski was awful. 2 pick six’s and Kansas defenders dropped a couple that may have been scores as well. Obviously, it wasn’t just Sitkowski who was awful, though. Have to at least mention the defense since we’re talking about awful. In fact, maybe I shouldn’t have taken the time to write all this out. Shoulda just put down one word: “awful”.
Wisconsin– Lost vs. BYU, 24-21. I remember BTN’s Gerry DiNardo saying Wisconsin appeared overconfident after watching them practice during the preseason bus tour. It appears the Badgers may not be the slam dunk for the West Division most everyone thought they would be. The defense lost a lot of starters from last year and the offensive line wasn’t near as dominant in this game as expected of a unit that returns nine starters. QB Alex Hornibrook had some moments, but for the most part turned in a pedestrian performance.