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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 1 in the Big Ten

It was a rough week to open the season for the Big Ten.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

In short, it sucked. Penn State saw the winning streak in the country over a single opponent end (for a second year in a row). Michigan didn't have enough HARBAUGH. Minnesota was too one dimensional at home. Indiana barely beat an FCS team because their opponent missed an extra point. Purdue gacked up a winnable game on the road. The best win might have been Iowa's convincing win over a really good Illinois State team, and that was an FBS over FCS win. Yeah, in the eyes of the media the Big Ten sucks again, but it is home. So let's get to the Whistlestop Tour:

Utah 24, Michigan 17

On paper, this went as expected, but with all the offseason hype Jim Harbaugh was supposed to raise the dead, cure the sick, and walk on water. Much of the ire, therefore, was directed at Jake Rudock:

Now, this new Maize n Brew feature is meant to recap some of the 'turning points' from a given week's Michigan game. This will aim to include both obvious and overlooked plays. Plays that changed the momentum and others that maintained it. However, this week leans towards the 'obvious' side thanks to Jake Rudock's right arm swinging the momentum by slinging the pigskin.

TCU 23, Minnesota 17

Minnesota played well in this one, but you felt like TCU was in complete control the whole way. The Horned Frogs knew they had a tricky road game to start the season, on an unusual Thursday night now less, and they went out to earn a very business-like win:

I found it strange when people complained about Mitch Leidner. He had 1 turnover that wasn't really his fault and completed around 54% of his passes against a high quality defense. Considering we left 7 points on the board to a goal line fumble and the offensive line was mass chaos due to the injury of it's most essential member, I thought Mitch played well despite his strange and unfortunate circumstances.

Michigan State 37, Western Michigan 24

I have to give credit to the Spartans for going on the road and facing an in-state team that was going to be as hyped up as possible going in. The Broncos also appear to be a pretty good MAC team too. WMU ended up giving MSU a bit of a game:

You can only learn so much in the first week. Western could end up winning the MAC West and making this game look like a decent win on the road. Or, they could be a middling MAC team and this game still doesn't look too shaky, given the 13-point final spread.

There are positives, too. The running back trio of Madre LondonL.J. Scott, and Gerald Holmes looked terrific. Vayante Copeland looked like a starting corner and made the game-clinching interception in the end zone. Both the offensive lines appeared to as good as advertised, especially in the passing game (a 7 sack differential is something special). Also, Jake Hartbarger had a solid day punting the ball.

Northwestern 16, Stanford 6

This is one of the best wins of the week for the conference as Stanford pretty much played like they were on Ambien throughout. The Northwestern defense gave up only 240 yards and Justin Jackson ran for 134. The passing game is still a concern for the Wildcats, but a win over a ranked team is a win, and the fans like Clayton Thorson:

After months of indecision regarding Northwestern's quarterback competition in the offseason, Fitzgerald officially announced that the redshirt freshman had won the competition over redshirt sophomore Matt Alviti and senior Zack Oliver on Aug. 26. And on Saturday, the Chicago-area native seemed to prove his head coach right.

Iowa 31, Illinois State 14

I was really surprised by this one. I thought Illinois State would keep it close throughout, but Iowa played a really good game and had a solid ground game from Leshun Daniels. Even Iowa fans were surprised at how easy the win was:

The ifs came true. Perhaps the most striking thing about Iowa's victory Saturday is how, well, easy it all looked. Yes, Illinois State is an FCS program, but it's one of the best, and FCS teams have been putting scares in teams for years now—nine FBS-FCS games ended in one-possession margins last week. Illinois State-Iowa was, uh, not one of them.

There were plenty of reasons to be cautious (or outright pessimistic) coming into the season, question marks peppering the depth chart. Sometimes these things work themselves into strengths, but often they don't. Here's a look at a few of them.

Maryland 50, Richmond 21

This si another relatively easy win over a solid FCS team, even though it was closer than anticipated at halftime. The Terps rolled in the second half to blow open a one-possession game at the break:

The game started in a quintessentially Maryland way. Likely ripped off an opening kickoff return to his team's 46-yard line, and Maryland's offense stalled out in time for a Brad Craddock 34-yarder. That field position prowess benefited Maryland throughout the day. They didn't start a drive from behind their own 40 until 20 minutes had already been played and Maryland had scored 13 points from optimal starting position.

Rutgers 63, Norfolk 13

Rutgers has the highest-scoring offense in the Big Ten after one week! Of course, they didn't play anybody. Their Fulmer Cup win was likely the more surprising victory:

No matter how you feel about Flood, great moment to start the game with the team walking out arm-in-arm. Say what you will about this team and this coaching staff, but they have circled the wagons and rallied around each other during the turmoil of the past few weeks.

Illinois 52, Kent State 3

Kent State must be really, really bad, as an Illinois team in complete disarray rolled to a huge victory:

Through 20 minutes of the first half of the first game of the season Saturday afternoon against Kent State, the Illini had matched their season total from two years prior with three interceptions-- one by senior corner Eaton Spence, one by junior safety Taylor Barton, and one by senior linebacker Mason Monheim.

Two of the interceptions, Spence's and Barton's, were tipped balls off the hands of somewhat open receivers that fell neatly into the secondary's breadbaskets. But when it comes to turnovers in football, you have to make some of your own luck.

Temple 27, Penn State 10

What on earth did Christian Hackenberg do to piss off his offensive line? He was sacked 10 times as temple, of all teams, got a dominant win over Penn State, their first over the Nittany Lions in 74 years:

The underlying theme here is the young man charged with leading this offense on the field. That, of course, is your former Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Christian Hackenberg. Two years ago, as a true freshman, Hackenberg looked every part the former 5-star quarterback prodigy, and future NFL first-round draft pick. Just 14 games later, he has become a shell of that player. No doubt the 40 something sacks, and at least that many big hits suffered in 2014, played a part. But after eight and a half minutes yesterday, any confidence he had was gone. By the time it was over, and Temple (TEMPLE!) had sacked him 10 times, he looked like most of the fan base.

BYU 33, Nebraska 28

Mormon God hears all prayers, as the cougars stunned Nebraska with a hail mary on the final play:

It appeared that the Nebraska Cornhuskers had the game in hand, with a 28-27 lead and one second left on the clock, but the BYU Cougars had something else in mind. With BYU starting quarterback Taysom Hill out of the game, backup Tanner Magnum threw a 42-yard hail mary pass to Mitch Mathews for a touchdown to seal the victory for the Cougars.

Indiana 48, Southern Illinois 47

The Hoosiers suspended nine players, including four key defenders, before the game, but it still should not have mattered. Indiana avoided disaster because SIU missed an extra point early in the fourth quarter. Had the kick been good, all the Salukis would have needed at the end was a PAT kick to win. Instead, they rightfully went for two and failed to convert:

Somehow, IU's defense appeared to get worse from last year. Obviously, there's a lot of uncertainty right now as nine Hoosier suspensions were revealed moments before the game, including key defenders Darius Latham and Tegray Scales.

Still, Indiana's defense resembled that of a high school team who was more focused on the Homecoming dance after the game. Broken tackles, missed assignments, and blown coverages galore. The Hoosiers made the Salukis look like the greatest show on turf, giving up 659 yards of offense and 517 yards to quarterback Mark Iannotti alone.

Alabama 35, Wisconsin 17

Alabama is really, really good y'all. I mean really good:

The running game was stifled by Alabama's front seven, which wasn't unexpected, but the loss of junior running back Clement further dampened any chance of a productive rushing attack. Last season, the Badgers averaged over 320.1 yards per contest. Saturday night, Wisconsin could only muster 40 on 21 carries, a 1.9 yards-per-carry average behind a patchwork offensive line still looking to gel after a rash of injuries during fall camp.

Clement left the game due to a left groin injury and admitted afterward there was a tweak that occurred Tuesday. After the adrenaline of the game wore off, his legs felt "awkward" and the decision was made to limit the Badgers' starting running back. On the evening, he gained only 16 yards on eight carries.

Marshall 41, Purdue 31

I haven't said much on this one, as I didn't get to see the actual game and was listening to the radio fed. I let Juan and Andrew, who actually watched, handle most of the thoughts. That said, this was frustrating. On the one hand, at least Purdue has improved enough to piss away games like this as opposed to simply getting drilled by 30 points. That's good. On the other, the fourth quarter could not have gone worse. A Leroy Clark interception with a one point lead should have netted points, but Purdue gained little and missed a field goal. Later, up one again, Purdue was first and goal inside the 10, but failed to punch the ball in and settled for a field goal.

After another defensive stop Purdue went three and out and couldn't gain traction on the ground with a worn down defense. That is where the game was lost. With 9 minute left Purdue gained 6 yards on three plays. The defense then went prevent with a four point lead, which only prevents you from winning.

There is still hope for the season. Purdue showed me enough that I know a bowl is still possible. Purdue has enough to be in every game now except for maybe against Wisconsin and Michigan State. Those are sharpie losses. Did they learn enough to get six wins, however? Indiana State should be an easy win. Va Tech has a backup QB, Bowling Green lacks a defense, and teams like Nebraska, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, and even Northwestern look to have serious flaws.

Yes, it sucks to lose, especially in typical Purdue fashion (be dominant most of the day only to lose in the end), but if lessons are learned, this loss can be forgotten.

But it is all about perspective.

Ohio State 42, Virginia Tech 24

Thank goodness we do not play Ohio State. The biggest development from this game is that Virginia Tech lost quarterback Michael brewer, making an already limited offense even worse. Backup Brendan Motley was only 4 of 9 for 36 yards, a touchdown (with 1:55 left in a 42-17 game) and a pick. Since Purdue plays the Hokies in 2 weeks we now have an excellent chance at the elusive big win. For Ohio State, they are just really damn good:

Braxton Miller is every team's worst nightmare. Another one of the top storylines of the season was how Braxton Miller would transition from star quarterback to H-back and wide receiver. After tonight, it's safe to say that Miller is still going to be heavily involved in Ohio State's gameplan and even safer to say he'll be making his fair share of highlight plays - like the one where he hit the 'B' button. The versatile athlete lined up at several different positions, including quarterback for the Buckeyes and although he didn't throw any passes, the mere possibility and threat of that play could be important later on in the season.

Non-conference opponents:

Indiana State 52, Butler 17

Lamonte Booker ran for 137 yards and 3 TDs as the Trees rolled in their in-state FCS rivalry game, though Butler is technically a non-scholarship FCS team.

Tennessee 59, Bowling Green 30

Expect a shootout when the Falcons come to West Lafayette. Matt Johnson threw for 424 yards for Bowling Green, but they gave up 399 yards and 6 TDs on the ground.