It was a 10-2 start for the Big Ten, although both losses were high profile: Michigan was obliterated by defending national champion Alabama in prime time and Penn State lost to Ohio University in its first game of Bill O'Brien's tenure as coach. Still, the weekend wasn't without its positives: Michigan State and Northwestern both came back to win against major or quasi-major opponents.
Michigan State 17, Boise State 13:
The Spartans strangled the Broncos' BCS aspirations even before the first Saturday of the season with an impressive comeback victory. MSU running back Leveon Bell is very, very good. The Only Colors:
Any win over Boise State is a good win, plain and simple. When you look at the stats, the game shouldn't have even been close, but that's how critical some of MSU's offensive mistakes were. A national title is a longshot and Friday's game likely didn't have any affect on #P4RB, but it was big win for the program in front of a national audience, and got an exciting season off to a great start
Alabama 41, Michigan 14:
Things weren't so pretty for the Spartans' rivals. Michigan fell behind 31-0 and never threatened the Crimson Tide. Maize n Brew:
Let's get a couple things out of the way. First, the team that Michigan played on Saturday night was that good. Ask practically every team that has gone up against the Tide in the Nick Saban era and they will confirm this before asking, seized by a paroxysm of panic, "WAIT WHAT IS ALABAMA HERE RIGHT NOW I'M OUT MAN." Ask Tyler Wilson, Kirk Cousins, Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Tyrod Taylor, and many, many others. There is no shame in losing to such a team--even to lose that badly--when you survey the excellent teams (many of them much better than this Michigan team) that Alabama has dispatched in recent years. It's still very early in the season, but Michigan probably just lost to the best team in the country, and it might not be all that close.
Northwestern 42 , Syracuse 41:
In what seems to be a yearly ritual, Northwestern flirted with disaster, but the Wildcats' charmed existence in close games during the Pat Fitzgerald era continues. A very questionable personal foul was the key to Northwestern's winning drive. Sippin' On Purple:
Well, I had been hoping Northwestern's season opener would tell us a lot about a team that was difficult to gauge this offseason. Would a young, talented team be good this year, or bad? There's no worse way to answer that question than a one-point victory. Northwestern was massively outgained and earned a dubious penalty to keep the decisive drive alive, but got the W. The win is very, very nice, but the game leaves NU's fanbase with just as many question marks as we had going in.
Ohio State 56 , Miami (OH) 10:
The Urban Meyer era began with a beatdown of an in-state foe. Land-Grant Holy Land:
The Urban Meyer era in Columbus got off to a sluggish start, at least by the oft impossible to live up to standards of the Ohio State faithful. But with one unimaginable, brilliant one-armed Devin Smith grab, the Buckeye team those in central Ohio (and beyond) expected to see slowly began to become a reality. With an aggregate afternoon that would make Heisman year Tim Tebow jealous, Braxton Miller and company came back from an early 0-3 deficit to take down the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks, 56-10.
Ohio 24, Penn State 14:
It was a day of chance for Penn State: new head coach, new staff, names on the jerseys, etc., and while the loss to Ohio was not unprecedented (I know the Nittany Lions lost to Toledo at some point in the last decade), it certainly was not a positive sign for the immediate future. Penn State blew a 14-3 lead. Black Shoe Diaries
With the obvious turmoil and issues surrounding the program heading into the game, actual college football was a welcomed change of pace for many, none moreso than Bill O'Brien who was anxious to get on the field in his first game as a head coach. After 30 minutes, he was calm, cool, and collected. Unfortunately, the game lasts 60 minutes.
Illinois 24, Western Michigan 7
The Illini began the coaching tenure of Tim Beckman with a dominant defensive performance. SB Nation currently is without an Illini blog, but here is a quick recap from the Chicago Tribune:
Illinois intercepted Broncos quarterback Alex Carder three times, the third of which Ashante Williams returned 60 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. It killed a possible momentum shift in Western Michigan's favor after Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase left the game with a left ankle injury midway through the third quarter.
Nebraska 49, Southern Miss 20:
The blowout win over Southern Miss wasn't a shock, but the Cornhuskers may be better than expected if QB Taylor Martinez is as improved a passer as he looked Saturday. Corn Nation:
We read story after story about Taylor Martinez's work with quarterback guru Steve Calhoun in the spring and summer. Some believed it, some dismissed it. Some insisted it was too late and ridiculed the whole notion. Now after game one, it's not just talk anymore. It's absolutely real. Sure Martinez has had good games throwing the ball before: see the Oklahoma State in 2010 or Northwestern in 2011. But this one was different; in past games, the passes sometimes were caught despite themselves. Against Southern Miss, the accuracy was improved and more importantly, the touch was there. Yes, it's just one game, but it is more substantial than talk. We'll see if Martinez can do it again, but for now, we have to give the man credit.
Wisconsin 26, Northern Iowa 21:
The Badgers are the overwhelming favorite in the Leaders Division, but looked a bit vulnerable against a foe from FCS. Bucky's 5th Quarter:
In front of 79,568 at Camp Randall Stadium Saturday afternoon for the season opener, Wisconsin held off a furious charge from Northern Iowa and secured a 26-21 victory. The Badgers came into the day heavy favorites over the Panthers who play at the FCS level, but certainly didn't look like it. Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema noted after the game that Northern Iowa wasn't going to be a pushover.
Iowa 18, Northern Illinois 17:
The Hawkeyes trailed throughout against against NIU at Soldier Field, but pulled out a win at the last minute. Here' briefly, is Black Heart Gold Pants
Iowa escapes 18-17. I'm not sure how they did it, either.
Purdue 48, Eastern Kentucky 6:
The Boilermakers have struggled with low level FBS programs under Danny Hope, but not at all against FCS foes. Purdue made easy work of Hope's former team, Eastern Kentucky. Hammer and Rails:
It was still everything you want out of an opening season game. It was a convincing win. Almost everybody who is going to play at time this year got to play an extensive amount. There were no major injuries, as I think even O.J. Ross went off with just a pretty bad cramp. The real test is next week against an opponent that will truly show where this team is at.
Minnesota 30 , UNLV 27:
Few saw the Gophers' game, which was played in Las Vegas at 11 p.m. Thursday, but they prevailed over UNLV in overtime. The Daily Gopher:
On paper we sort of dominated. But the Gophers continually got in their own way. Gray's numbers look good on paper but he had two beautiful opportunities to hit wide open receivers for easy touchdowns, one to Rabe on the first possession and the one to McDonald when the DB fell down. Complete one of those and we don't play OT, complete them both and I would have gone to bed an hour earlier. Troy Stoudermire bobbles a punt and follows that up with a PI penalty that gives UNLV their lone regulation touchdown. Add to those plays 11 penalties, Gray's interception, TERRIBLE punting, lack of contain defensively and you created an environment for UNLV to stick around and nearly win that game.
IU's next opponent, Massachusetts, lost its FCS debut 37-0 to Connecticut. If the Minutemen light up the Hoosier defense, that's a very bad sign. UMass gained only 59 yards and had 3 first downs against UConn.
Finally, Navy lost 50-10 to Notre Dame in Dublin, Ireland. I'm not sure the game provides all that much insight. ND has the talent to overpower the Midshipmen to a degree that IU doesn't. But the Navy program appears to be well below where it was under Paul Johnson a few years ago. We may know more after we see the Midshipmen play Penn State.