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Week 1 Whistlestop Tour of the Big Ten

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Some won big, others escaped embarrassment, while some fell in the first week of the season.

Texas v Maryland Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

For some B1G teams, this weekend was huge as they faced off against Power-5 teams and renewed rivalries. For others, it was just another day in the office. And for a couple of teams, it was nearly a disaster. So let’s get going on this week’s Whistlestop Tour:

Minnesota 48, New Mexico State 10

Under their freshman walk-on QB, Minnesota struggled early in the game. But they were able to overcome these early mistakes against a weak NMSU team and roll into a victory to begin Fleck’s second season in the Twin Cities:

Quietly, Terell Smith has a really nice game. The true-freshman corner led the team in tackles and had 3 pass breakups. But really so many young guys played well tonight, living up to some of the hype.

There are concerns to be had. There were plenty of mistakes made that need to be cleaned up. But all in all there is no complaining about a 38-point win in your opener.

The Gophers put up 524 yards of offense, scored nearly 50 points while holding their opponent to one touchdown, which came following a fumble giving them the ball with just 12 yards to go.

Northwestern 31, Purdue 27

Northwestern capitalized on Purdue’s first half mistakes and were able to hold on for the win:

Northwestern found itself on the board first thanks to a JR Pace interception around the Purdue 20-yard line, returned 26 yards. The Wildcats quickly made light work of the Boilermaker defense with a mix or slants and runs. The 64-yard drive finished with a 1-yard touchdown run from Jeremy Larkin.

Northwestern’s defense brought the same energy back onto the field following the touchdown, forcing Purdue to a three-and-out. On second and four, Larkin took off, ending an explosive run with a flat-out rude stiff arm before finally being brought down at the Purdue 13. An 11-yard pass to Riley Lees and two-yard John Moten IV rush later, it was 14-0 Northwestern.

While the loss hurts, and Purdue’s margin for error has shrunk, all hope is not lost yet in West Lafayette:

After seeing last night’s game we’re clearly a work in progress and it almost feels like this is a gap year. We’re waiting for a dynamite recruiting class to come in next season and there are some good pieces like Moore, Sparks, Markus Bailey, and others that will be around, but little things like inexperience, penalties, and silly mistakes cost us. This is a team that can still win 7-8 games. The margin for error, like last season, is very thin, however.

In the end, the game is what I thought it would be: a true toss-up. Purdue had the football twice in the fourth quarter with a chance to go win the game. It went three-and-out both times. That can happen though. Northwestern is a good team and their defense really played well after Moore burned them twice. I think most people would take having the ball down 4 in the fourth quarter at home against a 10 win team. It was an opportunity, a lost one, but there will be others.

#4 Wisconsin 34, Western Kentucky 3

Badgers roll against Brohm’s old squad:

The 2018 season started off on a winning note for the No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers, rudely welcoming a Western Kentucky program to Camp Randall Stadium with a 34-3 victory on Friday night.

A defense led by inside linebackers T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly suffocated a WKU offense in the first half while holding in some tough situations in the final two quarters. On the other side of the ball, the UW offense smoothly churned in the second quarter to put distance between itself and the Conference USA foe.

#11 Michigan State 38, Utah State 31

This should have been an easy win for Michigan State, but Utah State had other ideas and challenged the Spartans for four quarters on Friday night:

Mark Dantonio entered the post-game press conference and was clearly unhappy with his teams performance after almost losing their first home opener in the last 11 years. “Coach Perles used to always say ‘they all count as one’ and that’s what I’m basically building on this one. We’ll take steps to try and correct some of the problems but hey, we’re 1-0 right now.”

The Michigan State Spartans entered Friday’s game as heavy favorites (-23.5 according to ESPN) and yet they struggled to pull away from, what most people thought of as an inferior Utah State team. Jordan Love, the Aggies quarterback, tore the MSU defense apart for what seemed like large portions of the game.

#5 Ohio State 77, Oregon State 31

Urban Meyer’s suspension really hurt the Buckeyes as they faced a team that went 1-11 last year. The recap for this game has been covered up.

Illinois 31, Kent State 24

While this was Illinois, this was the second almost-upset in the Big Ten this weekend. But they managed to sneak out with the win behind a 21-point 3rd quarter:

After a sluggish first half, the Illini offense finally began to click in the third quarter, getting three touchdowns from three different running backs. Junior running back Reggie Corbin led the backfield corps with 79 yards rushing and two touchdowns, including this 39-yard score in the third quarter that tied it up.

#10 Penn State 45, App. State 38, OT

This was the biggest almost-upset in the Big Ten this weekend, and nearly saw a repeat of App. State’s historic win in 2007 against Michigan. But in the shootout, Penn State escaped with a win:

To say Penn State got off to a slow start on Saturday would be putting it nicely. The Lions offense never got it going on the first half until their final true drive and was reminiscent of 2016 and the team’s famous slow starts. The special teams in the first half was pretty bad in the first half including a kickoff return for a touchdown on App State’s first kick return of the afternoon. The defense had it’s shaky moments throughout the game while also looking rather impressive in other moments. If the game is any indication of how the season is going to be a whirlwind for the Lions.

Maryland 34, #23 Texas 29

TeXaS iS bAcK. Okay, we were obligated to say that. Now that we got that out of the way...

This was a HUGE win for Maryland, as the players continue to fight after losing their teammate this offseason.

Maryland is still grieving the loss of McNair, and the questions surrounding head coach DJ Durkin and other university officials still linger. That all still matters more than this. But the Terps were able to rally together and knock off Texas again, and that’s something fans can be proud of.

Rutgers 35, Texas State 7

Rutgers wins big in their opener.

Yes, it was Texas State, a program who is coming off two consecutive two win campaigns. However, it was great to see Rutgers assert control early in the game and never look back. There were mistakes made along the way (4 turnovers, 7 penalties), but overall it was a solid opening game performance. They looked clearly improved in most areas. It was the first time Rutgers held an FBS opponent under 200 total yards since joining the Big Ten. We won’t know a lot about this team until next week when they face top five Ohio State, but what we did see today is a step forward at the start of Chris Ash’s third season.

Iowa 33, NIU 7

Iowa almost got the shutout, and Kirk Ferentz is now the winningest coach in Iowa history:

Because if there’s one thing Kirk Ferentz has always cared about as a coach, it’s the people around him. His family, his coaches, his players and his community. This is a man that’s always tried to do the right thing but doesn’t seek credit when he does.

You don’t get awful scandals with Kirk, nor do you get unnecessary drama. He’s kind in person, willing to talk to people and doesn’t hold himself aloof. He’s not fake or a phony or a clown.

He’s not cruel or rude nor willing to slip around rules and he’s always taken accountability for anything that’s ever happened. He’s not someone that dances around things (unless you include a couple position battles and injuries over the years, but I think that’s fair).

Kirk Ferentz also happens to be a pretty damn good football coach. In case you live under Patrick’s rock, he won his 144th game at Iowa on Saturday afternoon as the Hawkeyes topped Northern Illinois 33-7.

TSiB 38, FIU 28

That School in Bloomington went into halftime with a 28-14 lead and didn’t look back. Crimson Quarry did not have a recap up at the time of writing this.

#14 Michigan 17, #12 Notre Dame 24

Harbaugh’s fourth season at Michigan is not off to the start he hoped for, and it’s obvious the honeymoon phase is over in Ann Arbor. Michigan made a push after going down 21-3, but they could not overcome the deficit, and have not defeated a ranked team on the road since 2006.

Undisciplined and unprepared. Again. At some point, being “so close” just is not enough. This team program lacks a killer instinct when it faces its biggest obstacles. It is a tough environment to come into, but that is the name of the game and a lot of guys are being paid handsomely to lead the charge. Nobody can sit there and objectively say that they are happy about where things have gone, but there are plenty of more opportunities to shut people up this season. This was not a loss to a cupcake. Notre Dame is a hell of a football team that proved it is better than we thought they were, especially at quarterback. If Michigan is going to be anything more than a brand name that wins 8-9 games a season, they just have to find a way. They cannot really be given the benefit of the doubt to go out and make a statement until we see it.

Nebraska 0, Mother Nature 1

The Scott Frost era began with a bang...literally, as lightning and thunder prevented the Huskers from hosting Akron.

It was also found out via social media that Akron had already checked out of their hotel and were planning to take a flight back to Ohio after the game tonight. With no hotels available due to the demand of a Husker game, the Zips had no where to stay in case of a delay.

After initial reports came out of Fox that the game had been delayed until Sunday morning, the athletic department said that the information being given by Fox was incorrect. First credit goes out to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Police Department for tweeting that the game was cancelled.

Non-Conference Opponents:

Eastern Michigan 51, Monmouth 17: The Emus Eagles had no trouble in their Friday night home opener.

Missouri 51, UT Martin 14: Mizzou rolled in their home opener without any doubts.

Boston College 55, UMass 21: And just like the first two, BC rolled in their opener and lived up to their expectations.