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Big 10 Week 1 – Recap

The Big 10 had a solid week going 9-2 in the opening games of the 2010 season. The only losses were the 23-12 loss Purdue took at the hands of Notre Dame in South Bend & Illinois losing 23-13 to Missouri in St. Louis. I don’t think either game was one in which the Big 10 team thought they’d come out ahead. Let’s take a look at how the conference did.

Ohio St. 45, Marshall 7

About as perfect a game as you could expect from Ohio St. Every phase of the offense & defense were clicking en route to a 45-7 shellacking of Marshall. The best part of this game is my wife coming during the 1st half & asking, “Is that we are Marshall?” I told that it was indeed Marshall, but I don’t think it’s called “We Are Marshall University.” If you really wanted to complain you could point to Ohio St.’s defense generating just one sack or the offense’s 3rd down conversion percentage of just 33%, but that’s nitpicking. Terrelle Pryor’s Heisman candidacy got off to a hot start going 17/25 for 247-yards & 3TD. He only rushed for 17 yards, but it’s hard to quibble seeing how Ohio St. rushed for 280-yards as a team.

Iowa 37, Eastern Illinois 7

Not quite the thriller last year’s opener was when Iowa needed two blocked FGs at the end of regulation to preserve a 17-16 victory over Northern Iowa! I’m sure Kirk Ferentz & the Iowa Faithful don’t mind the lack of drama on opening Saturday! Iowa jumped out to a 21-0 lead after the first quarter & coasted from that point forward. Adam Robinson had a big day rushing for 109-yards & 3TD on 24 carries. Ricky Stanzi was in top form. EIU did a good job containing DE Adrian Clayborn. Clayborn didn’t have a sack all game while Iowa only had 2 total. I wondered who was going to take Tony Moeaki’s spot at TE coming into the season. Stanzi used both Allen Reisner & Brad Herman, hitting them 7 times for 96-yards. Eastern Illinois didn’t have a bad game throwing the football against the Hawkeyes. That will certainly be worth watching next week against Iowa St.

Wisconsin 41, UNLV 21

The Badgers were up 17-14 at halftime, but came out and scored 24 unanswered points in the 3rd quarter, extending the lead to 41-14 which would end 41-21 with a garbage time TD by the Rebels. John Clay was a beast rushing for 123 yards & 2TD on 17 carries. Wisconsin also got a lot out of RBs Montee Ball & James White. That duo rushed for 138 yards on 27 carries w/2TD. LB Chris Borland had a great game getting a couple of tackles for loss with a sack. It took the Badgers a little while to get warmed up, but HC Bret Bielema & his staff made some amazing adjustments at halftime to come out and blow UNLV out of the game quick. If I had to complain you could possibly argue that Wisconsin’s rush defense could have played a bit better. I would have liked to have seen DE JJ Watt hamer the QB a few times maybe. Again, nitpicking.

Penn St. 44, Youngstown St. 14

The big story here is that Joe Paterno went with true freshman QB Robert Bolden and he played very well. Bolden ended the day passing for 239 yards on 20 of 29 throwing including 2TD & 1INT. There are a few questions here. The first is what QB Kevin Newsome might do. Newsome was thought to be the starting QB when the spring game rolled around, but obviously things have changed. Newsome is just a true sophomore & was very highly touted coming out of HS. I’m not sure he wants to be a backup for the next 3 years. I suppose he could possibly change positions, but who knows at this point? Penn St. has some outstanding receivers! Brett Brackett was the leading receiver with 8 catches for 98 yards & 2TD. Derek Moye was 2nd with 5 catches for 61 yards while Justin Brown was 3rd with 3 catches for 35 yards. Brackett is 6’6/232lbs, Moye is 6’5/200lbs & Brown is 6’3/210lbs. Talk about match-up nightmares! With receivers like that, it’s going to be hard for any PSU QB to fail! On the other hand, RB Evan Royster ran for only 40 yards on 11 carries. This was one of the Big 10 games I didn’t get a chance to see so I wonder if YSU was concentrating heavily on PSU’s rushing game or whether the running game couldn’t quite get on track? The other interesting thing about this game is that YSU had a solid passing offense against Penn St. I thought PSU would be a little weak in their front-7, but that the secondary could help it out. That wasn’t the case on Saturday. Frankly, I think this game is extremely bad news for Penn St. when it travels to Alabama next week. That game could get extremely ugly as I think PSU’s good rush defense showing was more a product of playing an inferior opponent than any great strides in the front-7. If YSU’s passing game could get down the field on Penn St.’s secondary, I shudder the thought of what Greg McElroy is going to do to them.

Michigan St. 38, Western Michigan 14

The story of this game was MSU true freshman Le’Veon Bell having an amazing debut rushing for 141 yards & 2TD on 10 carries. Not a bad way to start for the 6’2/230lbs beast of a running back. Helping out was true sophomore Edwin Baker who rushed for 117 yards & 2TD on 17 carries. It certainly looks like Sparty is pretty set at tailback for the foreseeable future! The Spartans got up big 28-7 at halftime which forced WMU to go to the air early & often which inflates their passing stats a bit. Kirk Cousins could have possibly had a better game under center, but when your runners are averaging 8.0ypc you tend to just keep getting the rock in their hands. TE Charlie Gantt had 2 catches for 49 yards. I think he could be a huge weapon for Michigan St. this season. Hopefully he’ll get more balls thrown his way. If he keeps averaging 25ypc then I think HC Mark Dantonio will figure a way to get him more targets. This was cruise control for Michigan St.

Michigan 30, Connecticut 10

HELLO Denard Robinson! Good bye Tate Forcier! Getting the chance at QB1 to start the season this year, Robinson didn’t take any snap for granted. Robinson ran for 197 yards & 1TD on 29 carries while also passing for 186 yards & 1TD on 19 of 22 passing. I don’t think there could have been a more perfect day for the Michigan QB which has to have Rich Rodriguez thinking what could have been last season if he chose Robinson instead of Forcier when the season began? It’ll be interesting to see Michigan moving forward. Robinson is surely now conjuring up the Pat White comparisons & now we have to wait for RB Vincent Smith to have a huge game so we can get in our Steve Slaton/Noel Devin comparisons as well. A lot of people thought Michigan’s corners were going to be a significant problem, but they did a wonderful job against the UConn passing game. I really thought this was going to be a much more interesting game than it showed out to be. Another very impressive stat was the 2nd half score of Michigan 9, UConn 0. Michigan got out to a 21-0 lead before Connecticut scored the last 10 points of the 2nd half to cut the lead to 11. Rodriguez & his staff made the necessary adjustments & the Huskies scored again. UConn is a bowl team. Mark it down. The 2010 season couldn’t have gotten off to a better start than it did for the Wolverines on Saturday.

Northwestern 23, Vanderbilt 21

A win is a win, but Northwestern needed a perfect game from QB Dan Persa & a solid defensive stop of a 2-pt conversion to seal the deal. Persa passed for 222 yards on 19 of 21 throwing including 3TD. He also rushed for 82 yards on 17 carries which led the team. I can’t see how this winds up good for Northwestern. Vanderbilt is probably the worst team in the SEC by a significant margin (well……Ole’ Miss might have something to say about that) and Northwestern was outgained by 67-yards! NW also allowed Vandy to rush for almost 200 yards & 5.1ypc. Sure it was a road SEC game, but the Wildcats defense looked atrocious to the point of them having to be considered down with Minnesota now as far as the future of the Big 10 in 2010 is concerned. Northwestern has Illinois St., Rice, Central Michigan & Minnesota in the next 4 weeks so I suppose they could start the year 5-0, but this wasn’t a great start for HC Pat Fitzgerald and the boys.

Missouri 23, Illinois 13

A couple of thoughts here. The first is that when you start a rFR QB against a quality team like Missouri, you are going to have to learn to deal with the consequences. Nathan Scheelhaase looks like a very nice duel threat QB but throwing 3 picks to Mizzou defenders doesn’t exactly help the cause. Scheelhaase also had trouble completing passes going 9 of 23 for 81 yards. I don’t remember Juice Williams’s stats right off hand, but this sort of reminds me of him going forward in that Williams didn’t complete a ton of passes and oftentimes made some questionable decisions, but he was a dual threat QB which I suppose has its advantages. The 2nd thought here is that Illinois had a 13-3 lead going into halftime, but managed to lose the 2nd half by the score of 20-0 en route to losing the game 23-13! HC Ron Zook simply got hammered after Missouri made some adjustments and had no answers for them. This was a great opportunity for Illinois to score a win with Mizzou star RB Derrick Washington suspended, but instead QB Blaine Gabbert carved up the Illinois secondary like a Christmas turkey. A tough ending for a game that Illinois could have won.

Notre Dame 23, Purdue 12

This could have been a lot worse for Purdue than it was. ND failed to score TDs on a couple of red zone opportunities that ended in FGs & they also ran the clock out. Frankly this could have easily been 38-12 Irish which would have been an awful start for the Boilermakers. I don’t think QB Robert Marve looked good at all. After his first pick I thought he’d throw at least 2 more. He did wind up with another one which I thought was a pretty big victory. His scrambling ability allowed him to extend some plays that would have otherwise went for losses. You have to think that when Purdue faces DEs like Cameron Heyward & JJ Watt then Marve might be in for a beating. Frankly it was an awful game for the Boilermakers. DE Ryan Kerrigan had a great game but that was about it. They didn’t do much to stop ND’s passing or rushing attack while they themselves had a tough time running the football. There was a lot of hype around Marve heading into the season, but I didn’t see it. Oddly enough, Purdue has quite a bit of time to figure it all out. They have 3 OOC game against poor teams followed by their first two Big 10 games against Northwestern & Minnesota. Purdue could be 5-1 when they travel to Columbus to take on Ohio St. Marve had to get comfortable by then.

Indiana 51, Towson St. 17

No Hoosier is ever going to complain about putting up a 50-burger en route to a 51-17 pasting of an opponent even if it was an FCS school coming off a 2-9 record, but there were plenty of reasons to be concerned about this Indiana team. Indiana had no pass rush from their defensive line allowing Towson to move the ball at will. Towson rushed for over 200 yards and outgained the Hoosiers by 32 yards for the game. What might be even more fundamentally worse is that Indiana passed the ball more than it ran it despite blowing out Towson St. which could point towards a fundamental flaw in football philosophy as Indiana seemingly chose to not run clock despite a big lead. For anyone who watched the game, they know that if IU isn’t +3 in TO margin because of those 3 interceptions by Towson St. QB Chris Hart, Indiana could be the 3rd team in FBS to lose to an FCS school (Mississippi & Kansas both did) on opening weekend. I really thought IU could be a 7-5/8-4 team coming into the season, but after seeing the first weekend unfold, I’m not sure this isn’t a 3-9/4-8 squad.

Minnesota 24, Middle Tennessee St. 17

A lot of people might bang on Minnesota for this “close” win, but I’m not going to. There were quite a few things I liked about this game. The first is that Minnesota won the game. Phil Steele picked MTSU to win the Sun Belt. While the Sun Belt isn’t exactly the SEC, the top team from the Sun Belt probably should be competitive with the worst Big 10 squad who had only 2 starters returning on defense. Add this to the fact the game was on the road for Minnesota and simply getting a win was a positive. The other thing I really liked about this game for the Gophers is that HC Tim Brewster simply kept pounding the rock. Minnesota RB Duane Bennett rushed for 187 yards on 30 carries while the Gophers as a team rushed for 281. Minny ran the ball 67 times compared to passing it just 17 which led to domination of time of possession. Minnesota had the the ball for over 45 minutes! QB Adam Weber also had a great game going 10 of 17 for 150 yards. MTSU’s offense LIT UP Minnesota’s defense & the Gophers were lucky to be +2 in TO margin, but they’ll take it. Frankly this was a game I thought Minnesota would lose. Now they might start 3-1 or 4-1. They won’t get to 6-wins, but 4-8 with this team would be amazing considering I predicted them to go 1-11 to start the year. Now they might wind up 2-10/3-9.

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September 6, 2010 - Posted by | Big 10

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