The first weekend of college football was full of upsets and excitement and the teams of the Big Ten were no exception. There were good, bad, and ugly moments for the powerful conference in Week 1. Who impressed and who left more to be desired? Let’s break it down!
- Wisconsin Badgers. If you’re going to play a cupcake game on opening weekend, you better run away with it, and Wisconsin sure did against UMass. A 45-0 rout where the Badgers had 598 yards of total offense was impressive, but the real takeaway from Saturday’s game was the fact that three tailbacks ran for over 100 yards each. Wisconsin has always prided themselves on their running game, and they didn’t miss a beat when superstar Montee Ball graduated and went to the NFL. If the ground game stays consistent, Wisconsin will be there in the championship conversation.
- Michigan Wolverines. Michigan didn’t let Central Michigan breathe on Saturday, dominating from the start and winning 59-9. Devin Gardner wasn’t particularly impressive passing the ball, but found his way to the end zone twice on the ground. The Wolverines had 242 yards on the ground and had ten more first downs than the Chippewas. Brady Hoke has to be happy with what his team accomplished, but all of his focus in now on the Notre Dame game under the lights on Saturday night.
- Penn State Nittany Lions. Bill O’Brien’s team traveled to Metlife Stadium and beat the Syracuse Orange 23-17. The most impressive part of the Lions’ win was freshman QB Christian Hackenberg. When a freshman is thrown into the fire like Hackenberg was, the question is always going to be about how they will respond. Hackenberg threw two picks, but he also had two touchdown passes and threw for 278 yards. In a game that was pretty even stat-wise, quarterback play was the difference, and Hackenberg outplayed Drew Allen. Penn State deserves a lot of credit for an impressive win.
- Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa led in most statistical categories, but couldn’t hold the lead in the fourth quarter and lost to Northern Illinois 30-27 on a late field goal. Why’d they lose? Turnovers. Jake Rudock threw two picks, including the crucial one with a minute and a half left. Iowa had the ball on their 45 and looked like they were going to get at least a field goal to win the game; instead it was the NIU Huskies picking it off and getting the surprise win. The Hawkeyes need to hold onto the ball if they hope to make it to a bowl game this season.
- Nebraska’s defense. Nebraska-Wyoming. It’s a blowout on paper, right? Well, Nebraska’s defense was so poor on Saturday that the Huskers only beat the Cowboys by three. When you give up 602 yards to a team like Wyoming, you’d be wise to hit the practice fields extra hard this week; Southern Miss is up next.
- Purdue Boilermakers. Purdue got absolutely destroyed by Cincinnati on Saturday, 42-7. They turned the ball over four times, had seven costly penalties, and only had 65 yards on the ground. It may be too early to discount a team, but Illinois, who I picked to be in the basement of the conference, looked far more impressive on offense than the Boilermakers. It may be a long year in West Lafayette.