12 teams, 12 games, and thinks went almost entirely as expected in the Big Ten this week. There isn't much you can learn this week, especially about the teams we will see in conference play. The two teams that are in the MTSU "Must win at any cost" category if we're going to go to a bowl game, lost. Everyone else in the league won comfortably, often against severely overmatched competition.
What follows is the hierarchy that I would currently place the conference's teams in. it's sort of like a good old-fashioned Power Rankings column.
Wisconsin 51, UNLV 17 - A lot of people made a big deal about the Rebels being able to run a bit on the Badgers, but with that Wisconsin offense what does it matter if they give up 20 points per game? They can pound you into submission with James White and Montee Ball, then have Russell Wilson either create something with his feet or hit Nick Toon on a deep ball. Their offense is officially terrifying, especially with their usual stout offensive line.
Nebraska 40, Chattanooga 7 - The Cornhuskers were barely challenged, but that was to be expected. It's going to take me a week or two to get used to seeing their games on Big Ten Network. Taylor Martinez showed Denard Robinson and Nathan Scheelhaase what being a mobile QB is all about. 60 rushing yards on 31 attempts is a nice start for their infamous Blackshirts too.
Ohio State 42, Akron 0 - You can only take so much from blowing out a pretty bad MAC team, but bear in mind this was done without several key players for PSU. The offense had few problems and their defense was essentially perfect. OSU was steady, staid, and probably a little boring behind Joe Bauserman, but it worked.
Penn State 41, Indiana State 7 - The mighty Trees didn't even get to enjoy a tie game for long. They gave up a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and the Nittany Lions never looked back. It's pretty safe to say that if Penn State wins 41-7 in week two they will raise a lot more eyebrows, but this was as it was expected to be: a business-like win over a I-AA team
Michigan 34, Western Michigan 10 - It appears the Wolverines have found the cure for their defensive woes: They need to have the offense build a big lead, then have a hellacious thunderstorm come through and end the game early. After South Florida did the college football world a service it is up to Michigan to keep it going. In reality, they weren't that far off last year. The offense was fine. The defense only needs to improve to awful from putrid.
Northwestern 24, Boston College 17 - The Wildcats get bonus points for going on the road and getting a win to start the year. Only three teams played away from home this week, and Northwestern was the only one that won. They didn't even have to be Persa-strong.
Iowa 34, Tennessee Tech 7 - God not only hates our ACLs. He hates Iowa running backs too. Mika'il McCall is the latest victim as his season is over after a gruesome broken ankle. So far the running back position at Iowa has been a widowmaker since at least 2006. I am betting that McCall's replacement will miss games with beri-beri.
Michigan State 28, Youngstown State 6 - For the longest time it looked like the Spartans were going to have to sit in the corner and think about what they had done. Duke and Oregon State already suffered the indignity of a I-AA loss this week, but Sparty led by only eight at the half and pulled out just a 22 points win. This is after being a Big Ten champion last year. Kirk Cousins is still an excellent reason this team will be good.
Illinois 33, Arkansas State 15 - Huzzah to the Fighting Illini for finally starting a season with a win! Their idea of playing Missouri to begin each of the last four seasons led to four losses in St. Louis. It looks like they needed to look to a state further south in order to get a season opening win. This was a little close at first, but they pulled away for the expected comfortable win over their Sun belt foe.
USC 19, Minnesota 17 - Yeah, the Golden Gophers lost, but credit them for going across the country and playing a solid USC team close in their own building. As expected, The Daily Gopher is trumpeting the moral victory clause. They have a point too. What looks better: A tight loss at USC or a close home win over a Sun Belt team? Wins help you reach bowls, but games like Minnesota show more progress for the long run.
Purdue 27, Middle Tennessee State 24 - Here is your animated drive chart instead of more analysis. At least it was a win.
Animated Drive Chart brought to you by Gameday Depot.
Ball State 27, Indiana 20 - Win? Today? That's your new 2011 Indiana Football slogan. Like us, they had little margin for error in reaching a bowl this year. Losing a game to Ball State, a mediocre at best MAC team from a year ago, was not in the plan. For a coach that talked a big talk and had everyone fawning over him (or fearing his wrath if you're an Indy-arena talkshow host) his team was pretty soft in the opener. Looks like all that talk of coming out of the Big Ten cellar is delayed. Time to "Win when Gunner gets here."
Southern Illinois 38, Southeast Missouri State 10 - Former Iowa running back (and Indianapolis native) Jewel Hampton ran all over the Redhawks, who gave up almost 500 yards of offense. I was a little worried about this game, especially after struggling yesterday, but SEMO isn't as good as last year's 9-3 squad that reached the I-AA playoffs. This gives me hope Ralph Bolden can do as well against them if not better.
Texas 34, Rice 9 - The Owls managed just three field goals as Texas did what it needed to do in the victory. Be pleased that Rice gave up 229 yards on the ground, over 500 yards of total offense, and only got one turnover. Things should be fine if we can make the expected improvement between weeks 1 and 2. There should be a nice pro-Purdue crowd in attendance though.
South Florida 23, Notre Dame 20 - South Florida, you have done the college football world a service. Coming in to yesterday the popular sentiment was that Notre Dame had an easy schedule and could finish 10-2 against a weak slate. I remember reading one article that said they should be judged as Boise State is with their weak schedule. Some domers felts a 5-0 start was a near certainty. Well, let's see what they can't use as an excuse: Weather is out because they were down 16-0 before it hit. The offense isn't their fault because they rolled up over 500 yards and couldn't score. Instead, it was their own dumb mistakes like a fumble at the goal line returned for a touchdown on the opening drive. My favorite moment was Brian Kelly screaming at T.J. Jones for an extended period of time after a pass went off his helmet in the end zone and was intercepted. Stay classy, Kelly, and God bless the South Florida Bulls.