I like to think of this as a paint by numbers kit. We just saw the first color in week 1, so now we have a better idea of how the overall picture will look. The nice thing is that several team have a great chance to move up or down with a good performance in week 2. Here are my rankings for the The Rivalry, Esq.'s poll going into that second week.
•1. Penn State (1) (1-0) - The Nittany Lions did exactly what they needed to do without running up the score too badly. Now they get a better than advertised Syracuse team at home that challenge Minnesota last week. Sadly, it is probably their best non-conference game.
•2. Ohio State (2) (1-0) - This is a shaky number 2 at best, as Ohio State was not sharp as usual in its opener. Navy is a team that you have to be sharp against too. Sadly, we will never know how an overtime might have turned out. Credit needs to be given to OSU for making the plays it needed to make defensively. I wonder if Ohio State has a big name to improve their stock against this week?
•3. Michigan State (5) (1-0) - I was very impressed by Sparty as the offense hummed and the defense gave up nothing. Now the defense gets a true test as a very good Central Michigan team comes to East Lansing. It should be fun to see that offense take on one of the best Big Ten defenses.
•4. Northwestern (4) - (1-0) - Virtually no one saw the Wildcats blast Towson, and the same is likely true with a bad Eastern Michigan team coming to Evanston this week. That's okay, as Northwestern will just continue to collect wins and experience.
•5. Michigan (10) - (1-0) - Please, please please play that well this week when Notre Dame comes to town. Remember, we need four Irish losses to insure they don't get another undeserved BCS bid. This can be #1. Western Michigan was a good team with an experienced quarterback and Michigan owned them. I was officially wrong in my pick for this game, and I apologize.
•6. Purdue (8) - (1-0) - And yes, I know it was only against Toledo, but it was still damned impressive to see the offense have very little trouble moving the ball. We could have scored 70 if not for three interceptions that can be easily fixed. A David Pender pick that wasn't also would have stopped another Toledo score. Ralph Bolden rightfully won Big Ten Player of the Week honors on offense and got a helmet sticker from Adam Rittenberg. This ranking is based solely how the teams looked in week one, and those below (except maybe Wisconsin) looked bad. Purdue can make a huge move with a no winnable game at Oregon Saturday night. The defense does need to tighten up to stay here, but I blame a defensive line that had zero pass rush since they were all in the locker room getting IV's
•7. Wisconsin (7) (1-0) - I would probably have the Badgers and Boilers about dead even right now. Wisconsin's defense struggled to close the deal, while Purdue's offense looked better. Both teams had a lot of good, but we still saw room for improvement. In two weeks we'll have a better idea as Purdue hosts the same Northern Illinois team. Fresno State is always dangerous and they come to Madison this week.
•8. Minnesota (9) (1-0) - The Gophers won, but barely. Is it good that they overcame adversity on the road, or bad that they struggled against a quarterback who hadn't played football in four years? Now they have to stop a team that hung 72 points last week, though the home opener at TCF Bank Stadium will still be very impressive.
•9. Iowa (3) (1-0) - and the only reason they are not lower is because they blocked two field goals and won the game. Seriously, whatever happened to just falling on a loose ball? Northern Iowa is a good 1-AA team, but they are still a 1-AA team. Thanks for saving us the embarrassment of being the only conference to have two ranked teams lose to 1-AA teams.
•10. Illinois (6) (0-1) - This was supposed to be the game where Illinois finally got Missouri, and they got rolled instead. They get Illinois State at home in a bye this week, but something has to give. This is one of the few easy ones on Illinois' schedule.
•11. Indiana (11) (1-0) - Thank goodness for fumbles at the five yard line. What happens if a downhill running team can't run against a mediocre 1-AA defense with a new defensive coordinator? Can Indiana become the first Big Ten team to finish with negative rushing yardage in Big Ten play? The Hoosiers looked a step behind everyone else even though they won. At least the new stadium addition looked very nice.
What our non-conference opponents did:
Toledo - Well, we all saw that.
Oregon - I stayed up and watched all of this one Thursday night. Oregon's playcalling was very confusing. They are a running team, yet they only committed to the run for one drive (their scoring drive) despite being relatively close the whole game. It is like they fell behind and panicked, thining they had to pass to catch up. The loss of Blount hurts, but I felt LaMichael James had a much better game anyway. According to Addicted to Quack, there was team dissension and grumbling at coach Chip Kelly. Also, Mike Belotti apparently was on the sidelines overshadowing Kelly as well. There is some serious tension in Eugene this week. Oregon certainly has the talent to beat us with ease, but they have got a ton of issues they need to fix first.
The Duck's defense actually kept them in the game by forcing four field goal attempts (of which Boise converted just one) and stopping a two point conversion. They were helped by four Boise turnovers as well. It was a sloppy game in which a sharper Boise offense would have blown them away.
Northern Illinois - This was a feisty team that fell behind big but nearly pulled off an epic comeback in Madison. Fortunately, I think we learned from the Toledo game that we have to completely finish teams off. That is why I think the goal line stand at the end was good. It reminded me of the Indiana State game in 2006. In that game, we couldn't stop a meaningless late touchdown that the Trees were trying to score with all their worth. Against Toledo we did get the stop. I think that lesson will carry over to the Northern Illinois game as we try to close things out earlier.
Notre Dame - <Pauses to hold back bile> The Irish were our only non-conference opponent to win in week one and they looked legitimately good in doing it. Yes, it was only Nevada, but the Wolfpack put a lot of points on the board last year. Do not discredit the Notre Dame defense for pitching a shutout. Jimmy Montana has some really good receivers to throw to as well, which can make him look even better. Michael Floyd can catch the ball very well in traffic while Golden Tate did own us last year. They also had plenty of running game for balance. I still don't think they are national title good, but this Irish team is legitimately good. The position has switched in that I feel we have a better shot against Oregon than Notre Dame.