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Big Ten Week 1 in review

It has to be rough this morning to be a Michigan fan. Everyone who laid an egg in week one needs to write a big thank you note and send a fruit basket to the Wolverines for taking the attention away from them. Appalachian State had absolutely nothing to lose and they played like it. It's not like they got a cheap win on a fluke play, weather conditions, or anything else. They flat out-played the Wolverines the entire game and earned this win. I really don't know if it was a case of Michigan not taking them seriously or not, because no one told Appalachian State they were supposed to lose and they certainly played like it. I applaud their attitude of, "hey, they're keeping score, so we're playing to win." They had a bit of luck in deciding to kick the final field goal on first down, but they made a play on Michigan's game winning attempt.

I think this game shows that Michigan was just grossly overrated and got beat by a team that was grossly underestimated. It's not like the Mountaineers were Sisters of the Poor and Blind or anything. They were a very, very good team that played a nearly flawless game and got the job done. Not only that, but because they have won back-to-back national titles in a four game playoff each time they are certainly not afraid of a little pressure. In turn, their strengths exposed Michigan's weaknesses and many of the Wolverines' opponents have to be smelling blood in the water.


The rest of the Big Ten saw things go pretty much go as planned. Purdue, Penn State, Ohio State, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Michigan State all rolled to predictable wins. The margins in the Michigan State and Purdue games were surprisingly large, as both teams looked very good in dominating opponents they should have dominated, but it wouldn't have been a surprise if the game was a struggle. Ohio State seemed to go through the motions against Youngstown State, but they got the job done. Iowa certainly didn't look impressive against Northern Illinois, but a win is a win.


The two biggest surprises, other than Michigan's loss, were Illinois and Minnesota. I will address those losses as I go through this week's Big Ten Power Rankings.

1. Wisconsin (1-0)

I am putting the Badgers here ahead of the Nittany Lions only because they beat a stronger opponent to start the year, and they had little problem in doing it. The Cougars were able to hang around for a quarter in Madison, but Tyler Donovan had a strong debut at quarterback in passing for three scores and 284 yards. Washington State could have been a tricky opponent to start the season and Wisconsin handled them very smoothly. This is a bad sign for the rest of the conference as Tyler Donovan appears ready to step in and is in sync with a good crop of receivers.

P.J. Hill also had a fairly light day, racking up only 84 yards but finding the end zone twice. The defense also played fairly well giving the Badgers the most impressive win on the top half of the conference to date. With Michigan falling by the wayside the Badgers look to be the most complete team so far. They should have another easy time this week in Vegas against UNLV.

2. Penn State (1-0)

That was quite a beating handed out by Penn State in Happy Valley on Saturday, but it was to be expected as Florida International was pretty dismal in going winless last year. The Nittany Lions got to do a little bit of everything both offensively and defensively in a rather dominating win. Anthony Morrelli had three touchdown passes and the defense allowed only 114 yards in the win.


This game was a total mismatch and there is not a lot we can see about the Nittany Lions because they were facing an inferior opponent. Notre Dame coming to Happy Valley this week should provide a more difficult test, but they struggled mightily this week against a team that has a worse defense and worse offense than Penn State does. It looks like Penn State could be out for a little revenge.

3. Ohio State (1-0)

Ohio State didn't do a whole lot in beating Youngstown State, but they did just enough to pull out a convincing win. They also have bragging rights against their rivals to the north as they were able to beat a top 5 1-AA team quite easily. Brian Robiskie had a solid day with 153 yards on nine receptions and Todd Boeckman only had six incompletions on the day.

The Buckeyes suddenly don't have as easy of a pre-conference schedule as expected, as Washington looked pretty good in thumping Syracuse on the road. A long road trip to Seattle to play a team that is hungry for a big win could prove to be dangerous, but that is a week from now. Instead, expect another tune up against Akron this week in the Horseshoe.

4. Purdue (1-0)

I still think that Michigan is the better team on paper, but they have some serious issues at the moment and not a ton of time to get them taken care of. This past weekend the Boilermakers did the unexpected for them, but expected for everyone else. They actually went on the road and dominated an opponent they should have dominated. This is something they have not done in several years, and was quite impressive as they had the only true road win of the weekend for the conference. Toledo is still Toledo, but as a Purdue fan it was more impressive than it appears on paper because Purdue easily could have struggled on the road.

Suddenly the Boilers also are looking at a very good chance at being 5-0 before hosting Ohio State. Central Michigan, Minnesota, and Notre Dame all looked bad in losses, especially considering each team had a good shot to win. Purdue actually showed they had a bit of defense, stopping the Rockets on multiple drives and generating pressure from all parts of the defense. The fact they held a running back that could be playing on Sundays soon to less than 100 yards is cause for celebration in the streets of West Lafayette.

5. Michigan State (1-0)

The biggest jump from my pre-season rankings comes from the Spartans, who ran all over UAB in a very impressive 55-18 win. I am not ready to give them the Outback Bowl like the ESPN Bowl projections have already given, but I am willing to admit the Spartans are certainly going to be a better team than many people thought. If you have a running game that can move the chains like that then you're going to be in a ton of games.

This week they face a very chippy Bowling Green team that has already beaten a Big Ten opponent this season. It should be a great game in East Lansing as a win by the Spartans can get them thinking about making a bowl game this year. It is also looking like the Spartans have a better shot of making it out of the non-conference season 4-0, meaning a bowl trip will be likely.

6. Michigan (0-1)

And this is a provisional ranking, as the Wolverines have a ton of problems right now. It is based more on their vast potential than actual results. I don't want to take away from Mountaineers did, because they outplayed Michigan all day long. Still, Michigan never asserted itself and its depth on either side of the ball because it was forced to play from behind most of the day. They delivered a comeuppance to a team that will not only feel this loss for a long time, but their fans will be reminded of it for even longer (especially in Columbus and South Bend).

Michigan's defense was horrible, and a team like Oregon will not be a step down for them to face this week. They also have a host other good offensive teams coming up that will exploit that defense if it doesn't get better. The best case scenario will be that Michigan comes out pissed off and starts dominating like they were expected to. At worst it will be a long season as the mystique has been shattered and no one will be afraid of them ever again. If Michigan drops the game to Oregon this week they are suddenly in even more trouble.

7. Iowa (1-0)

Much like the Buckeyes, Iowa wasn't terribly impressive in its win over Northern Illinois in Chicago. Albert Young had a 144 yard game with a touchdown, but it seems like they did just enough to ensure the win and that is all. Damian Sims also cracked the century mark in rushing yards, but the passing game will need to be better to provide more balance.

Fortunately this week the Hawkeyes open their home schedule with Syracuse, allowing them to work on things against a BCS conference opponent and develop options for their suspended receivers. Both the Orange and Iowa State will give the Hawkeyes plenty of time to work on things before they go to Wisconsin to start the Big Ten season.

8. Indiana (1-0)

Indiana is another team that did exactly what it was supposed to do against Indiana State, but you can't really measure them on their performance because the Sycamores at the exact opposite from Appalachian State in Division 1-AA. They still didn't debut much of a running game, but they didn't have to. At least the Hoosiers were able to harness their emotions and get a game under their belts since the Terry Hoeppner tragedy. We will know about them this week when they go to Western Michigan.

9. Illinois (0-1)

It wasn't a win, but it was an impressive showing for the Illini against a very good team. Illinois lost by only six to Missouri and showed they may be turning a corner in the process. Once again though turnovers proved costly, as a 100 yard fumble return for a touchdown was huge for Missouri. Juice Williams also had to leave with an injury and that is not a good sign for them.

The next three weeks are critical, as games against Western Illinois and Syracuse need to be wins before a big game at Indiana that will be important to both team's bowl hopes.

10. Northwestern (1-0)

Northwestern is another team you can't really judge from week 1, as they are battling Indiana for the rights to the weakest non-conference schedule in the conference. A 27-0 shutout of Northeastern is expected, but some have to be disappointed that it wasn't more. Next up they get a home game against Nevada after the Wolfpack beat them last season in Reno. It's a better game, but it still should be manageable for a Wildcat team that needs this win.

11. Minnesota (0-1)

The MAC did get another victim Saturday night as Bowling Green went for the glory and the win in overtime. One two point conversion later and the Gophers suffered a severe blow to their postseason hopes by losing a game they could not afford to lose. They now must win at least three games in the conference to get to a bowl game, and their easiest games in the conference are still on the road. They also have a game against another good 1-AA team that nearly knocked them off last year.

Amir Pinnix did look promising though in running for 168 yards and two touchdowns.

NATIONAL NOTES:

Excuse me while I laugh heartily at the number of Notre Dame fans who thought I was a complete idiot for suggesting they could possibly start 1-7 this year. Georgia Tech 33, Notre Dame 3 was one of the highlights of the weekend. I also want to laugh at those who thought I was stupid for saying Darius Walker would have been a great addition for this year, not that a running game is important or anything. While nothing is guaranteed in this life and they could be infinitely better this week against Penn State, it was nice to see them bomb that badly in week one. I am far from guaranteeing a win by the Boilers on September 29th, but it's looking a little more possible today than it did on Friday. The Irish will be good in a few years, but now let us all bask in the glory of a team that needs to realize that 21 other guys need to play even when the savior of the program steps on the field.

Not much else happened this week as most of the top teams played lesser foes for a nice tune-up. I am already looking forward to this week's Oklahoma-Miami game in Norman as the Canes have a punishing defense while the Sooners have the best offense in the country after one week. Something will give though, and I actually kind of like the Canes and the two-headed monster they are developing at tailback. Both Javarris James and Graig Cooper looked very good on Saturday afternoon, and if they can get rolling Miami will be a lot better than anyone will give them credit. Don't be shocked if they are able to spring the upset this week.

As far as my rankings go I am going to eschew until next week and everyone has had a chance to play at least two games. After that it will be easier to tell who has it and who doesn't.