That could have gone better.
The first week of Big Ten football is complete and the conference did not get the elusive 12-0 week. We can thank Purdue and Iowa for that one. A 10-2 week was still good considering few teams played anyone of consequence. There were no major upsets and the two likeliest losses were exactly that: losses.
Let's look back at all 12 games from around SB Nation in order of most impressive team to least impressive:
Michigan 59, Central Michigan 9
While some teams were pushed, Michigan took control early and never let up. The Wolverines started off with a blocked punt returned for a score by Joe Reynolds and the rout was on. They only gave up three field goals.
Michigan fans came into the Central Michigan contest expecting to see a much-improved Devin Gardner, but that didn't seem to be the case-at least at first. Gardner threw an incomplete pass toward Devin Funchess, then misread a simple coverage and threw directly into the hands of a Chippewa corner.
Wisconsin 45, Massachusetts 0
Melvin Gordon, Corey Clement, and James White each rushed for 100 yards as the Badgers did what they always do: run the ball down hapless team's throats. Defensive Wisconsin gave up barely over 200 yards. As Bucky's 5th Quarter states, the offensive line was a big reasons the Badgers were able to get things going:
But the most impressive guy in the running game was Ryan Groy. The Badgers were routinely going left behind big ol' No. 79 and Tyler Marz to start, and then on the two long touchdown runs right, Groy perfectly executed a pull and seal from his left guard position to open up monster holes for White and Gordon.
Northwestern 44, California 30
Heading out to the west coast for a late kickoff against a Pac-12 team is always a dicey proposition from the Big Ten. Time zones and jet lag can not only affect you out there, but the week after. Collin Ellis not only had one pick-six, but two as the Wildcats were able to pick up a nice true road win, which was the only one of the week for the league.
Sippin' On Purple was pleased as this all came without Kain Colter and Venric Mark:
We saw life without Kain Colter and Venric Mark, and it was...OK, I guess. Those guys are obviously very talented players, and Northwestern is better with them on the field; the Trevor Siemian-Treyvon Green backfield, though, was able to move the ball reasonably well.
Indiana 73, Indiana State 35
Thursday night you would have thought that Bobby Knight had returned with Calbert Cheaney in Bloomington. Twitter was abuzz as the Hoosiers blasted the Sycamores and IU fans began to care about their own football team again instead of Notre Dame.
IU was impressive offensively, but the defense has to be a concern. Shakir Bell ran for 100 yards with ease before injuring his shoulder. He is likely out for the game against Purdue. IU also let the Trees back in it with three touchdowns in about a minute of game play before turning the offense back up. They went with the Danny Hope plan as three quarterbacks played extensively. As expected, Indiana will only be as good as its defense because the offense is fine:
Well that went about as good as one could hope. The Hoosiers came out firing and pretty easily scored at will, no matter who was on the field. We finally figured out who was the starting quarterback, kinda, and we now have a little better idea of what kind of defense we'll be seeing this year. Plenty of players got to see the field and the reps were very valuable to the coaching staff to know who's capable of what going into stiffer competition.
Michigan State 26, Western Michigan 13
The Spartans are pretty much the opposite of Indiana. The defense is lights out and contributed 14 of their 26 points. The offense... not so much. The Michigan State defense and Indiana offense combined would be the best team in the country. The MSU offense and IU defense might go 0-12.
As expected, The Only Colors is very concerned:
The whole purpose of the offensive staff shuffling and quarterback and position battles were to avoid a repeat of 2012. One game in, and things have gotten even worse - markedly.
Minnesota 51, UNLV 23
It looked like things were going to be a bit of a disaster early on, but Philip Nelson ran for two scores as the Golden Gophers took care of business against a pretty bad UNLV team. Minnesota scored touchdowns via run, pass, interception return, kickoff return, and blocked punt return. That made for a happy Daily Gopher:
UNLV was able to move the ball racking up 419 yards of total offense, but it took a LOT of plays (85) and finished with a 4.9 per play average. Their first two offensive touchdowns were breakdowns on the defense but for the most part the Gopher D kept things in front of them and waited for their opportunities. A total of 9 pass breakups, 9 tackles for losses, 1 sack, 2 interceptions and a touchdown scored.
Penn State 23, Syracuse 17
The Nittany Lions were involved in a neutral site game and responded well to a challenge from Syracuse. Christian Hackenberg threw for 278 yards and two touchdowns, but the defense sealed the day with a late stop as Syracuse had a chance to win with a final drive. Black Shoe Diaries was pretty pleased with the debut of the true freshman:
The kid can sling it. And with BOB coaching him, we don't have to worry about Hackenberg getting a big head. Asked to describe the beauty of the deep ball Hack completed to Geno Lewis for 54 yards and a score, BOB beat down the beat reporter. "Let's not waltz him into the College Football Hall of Fame, here. All he did was throw the ball - he's on scholarship for that."
Ohio State 40, Buffalo 20
The Buckeyes won, but were hardly impressive as this game was much closer than many expected. Jordan Hall had 159 yards rushing and two touchdowns, but Braxton Miller was pick-sixed and Buffalo hung around much longer than expected. Land-Grant Holyland was relatively pleased overall:
Despite the unbelievable high expectations, there are plenty of great takeaways for these Buckeyes. The defense held the Bulls to 3-14 on third down, and only 240 yards on the day, a good portion of that while the injury bug was biting. Jordan Hall could end up being the most important cog in the offense, after his impressive display of between-the-tackles and open-field running. And Miller has certainly improved his arm, and still has an incredibly high ceiling.
Nebraska 37, Wyoming 34
Joe Tiller's old team nearly sprung a surprise on the Cornhuskers in Lincoln, but came up only three points short. Brett Smith threw for 383 yards and four touchdowns, which was lousy defense according to Corn Nation:
Other than the 2008 Oklahoma game against a team that had one of the most prolific offenses in modern college football history and played Florida for the National Championship, all of these games have something in common. They happened in 2007, or within the last year. Perhaps most distressing is the fact that the last three games Nebraska has played are on these charts.
Northern Illinois 30, Iowa 27
NIU finished what it started last year by finally knocking off the Hawkeyes in Iowa City. Jordan Lynch was much better this season with 275 yards and three touchdowns, but led two drive for 10 points in the final six minutes to get the win. It was all doom and gloom as expected at Black Heart Gold Pants:
For a while, things were different. For a while, the Iowa offense looked not just competent, but dangerous. For a while, the Iowa defense was actually able to shut down Jordan Lynch and the Northern Illinois offense. For a while.
Unfortunately, "for a while" is not the entire game and ultimately things weren't different enough in this game for Iowa to get a different result than the result that we saw again and again and again last year.
Cincinnati 42, Purdue 7
Yeah, it was bad. Purdue's offense was completely out of sync in all facets. The defense wilted in the heat and third down conversions were a major issue. Special teams set up the only touchdown on a booming punt by Cody Webster, but Paul Griggs also missed a field goal. Down the Drive saw a lot of good from a very good Bearcats team:
This game was simultaneously a dominating win, and a sloppy performance. Whatever questions existed about the potential ceiling of this team should be answered. UC is perfectly capable of running the table going into the season ending game with Louisville. I am not predicting that, but it is clearly on the table because this team is only going to get better.
Illinois 42, Southern Illinois 34
The Fighting Illini may have won, but they nearly crapped the bed in a game against an FCS team. Nathan Scheelhaase threw for over 400 yards, but the Salukis scored the last 10 points of the game and were first and goal in the final minute away from potentially tying the game with a TD and a deuce. The Champaign Room thinks that things did not get better for Tim Beckman, especially with tough non-conference games against Cincinnati and Washington coming up:
Did you know that this is the first Day After column I've written here at The Champaign Room that follows an Illinois win? It is. The Champaign Room didn't make its debut until late October last season when the Illini were already in the midst of their nine-game losing streak to finish the season.
So, here I am, writing my first post-victory football recap, and yet for some reason I still feel as though the Illini are coming off a loss. I guess that sums up life as an Illini football fan pretty well.