Big Ten programs took a variety of approaches to the opening weekend. Some, like IU, warmed up with FCS opponents, while others played major programs. Here's a look at the outcomes and what SB Nation had to say about it, as well as the scores of IU's non-conference opponents.
Notre Dame 23, Purdue, 12:
In a game that was, to me, very difficult to read beforehand, Notre Dame won Brian Kelly's debut as the Irish coach. Kelly wasn't the only newcomer. Both Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist and Purdue QB Robert Marve were starting their first games for their respective schools. Marve, who ran into disciplinary and academic trouble before leaving Miami (yes, that Miami), played reasonably well, completing over 70 percent of his passes, but enhanced his "million dollar arm, ten cent head" reputation by doing a Kellen Lewis-style flip into the end zone when Purdue still was down by nine points (Lewis, who was a head case, at least was ahead 20-0 when he pulled that one against Iowa in 2007). Travis Miller, proprietor of Purdue site Hammer and Rails, was in the pressbox in South Bend for the matchup. Notre Dame Stadium has been a house of horrors for Purdue, where the Boilers now have lost 16 of their last 17, but Travis was happy with how his Boilers hung in:
At two points in the second half it looked like we were done. The overturned fumble six would have ended the game had the call stood. Notre Dame's drive that resulted in Michael Floyd's fumble would have started a rout had he not fumbled. Instead, we somehow withstood the storm and still had a chance to win. Coach Hope cited this numerous times in the post-game presser.
The first half was awful, but we were still down only 10 with the ball to start the second half. The third quarter was a near disaster, but after the safety and touchdown the defense was playing inspired football again and got us the ball and a chance to tie. Cortez Smith and Siller each just missed catching deep passes that would have turned the game around. I would absolutely throw those passes again.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame's SB Nation site, Rakes of Mallow, was cautiously optimistic about ND's performance:
As far as debut games go, I think that the 23-12 victory over Purdue was a perfect start for the Kelly Era. I wouldn't have complained if it was 35-7 at the half (like Weis) or a shutout (like Willingham), but we saw competent, solid play in all phases of the game. The defense tackled, the offense blocked and the special teams were special in a good way. There were still some shadows of the Weis Era lingering in the Stadium, as the whole sequence following Michael Floyd's fumble - the safety to the Marve run to Cierre Wood fumbling the kickoff return - had me ready to turn to the heavy stuff in the liquor cabinet. However, a funny happened on the way to the collapse: The team calmly rallied, it made the stops it needed to and then set up the field goal to make it a two-score game. Not flashy, but not bad for an afternoon's work.
Michigan 30, Connecticut 10:
Partly because of last year's nailbiter at the Big House and party because Michigan has struggled so in Rich Rodriguez's first two seasons, many IU fans consider the Big Ten opener against the Wolverines a key opportunity. Michigan's 20-point win over Connecticut makes clear that the Hoosiers won't have an easy task when Denard Robinson and the Wolverines visit Bloomington on October 2. Robinson, who split time with Tate Forcier last season, played the entire game and was simply incredible: he ran for 197 yards on 29 carries and completed 18 of 22 passes for 186 yards. Maize n Brew voiced the relief of Michigan fans:
And so following a three and out that was the best kind of medicine for a Maize and Blue soul, a beleaguered, battered, and kicked-when-down Michigan program limped out to its own four yardline, 96 yards away from a goal that for two seasons has largely eluded the Wolverines. You could almost sense the crowd collectively thinking "again?" when Connecticut downed that punt on the four. To say that we were anxious would be an understatement. After all, Michigan faced a "more talented" squad on the other side of the field, and yet somehow, someway, yesterday was different. The Wolverines took the opening drive and hammered it down the field with an emphasis that would've made all of the Michigan legends from yesteryear grin from ear to ear. The new all-time record crowd of 113,090 sat with jaws agape as Denard Robinson did things that, until now, we've only watched opposing quarterbacks do to our defenses. He tore Connecticut apart, and he did it with his arm AND his legs.
The UConn Blog was philosophical:
Proponents of college football's bowl system love to point to the fact that the current system means every regular season game matters. Their theory is basically that one loss can derail a season and wreck national title hopes. So sorry, UConn fans, I don't think UConn is winning it all this year. Of course, the flip-side of that theory is that it really only applies to the top 10 or so teams in the country and UConn, as yesterday made painfully clear, is not one of those teams. As such, in the long run, yesterday's game is little more than a three-hour disappointment. The good news is that the Huskies are still 0-0 in the Big East and still have a few weeks to tune-up for a run to the Big East title.
Missouri 23, Illinois 13:
In the last game, for the foreseeable future, of this neutral site matchup in St. Louis, the Illini blew a big lead and lost to Missouri again. Joe at Hail to the Orange tried to emphasize the positive:
There plenty of different ways we can interpret the Illini's loss to Missouri on Saturday. On the one hand we could say that the Illini, at least for one half, looked poised and took Mizzou off guard with a remarkably balanced offensive and defensive effort. On the other hand, it could simply be an entirely new way for the Illini to lose to their supposed "Arch Rivals." Dwell on what good you can, I suppose. Despite his three interceptions, Scheelhaase looked like he has a real future in college football. He only passed for 81 yards, but he ended up running for 76, and considering he had never seen real live college football action before, I will take that as a net positive. In the first half, the "good half" for the Illini racked up about 200 yards of total offense something that we can at least look to later as proof that the offense has the ability to be successful.
Meanwhile, Rock M Nation crunched the numbers and suggested that the Illini were lucky it was so close:
Mizzou should have won by much more. The projected scoring margin was approximately three touchdowns, not just ten points. This is what happens when a) you miss a field goal, b) the other team makes an improbable field goal, c) big penalties go your opponent's way (namely, two iffy roughing penalties and two iffy pass interference penalties), and d) you struggle nearer to the opponent's end zone. You leave points on the board.
Northwestern 23, Vanderbilt 21:
In a battle between the only private schools in their respective conferences, NU held on for a win over the Commodores in Nashville. Lake the Posts was close on the final score but not how the Wildcats got there:
I expected a slow start. Instead, Dan Persa was everything I dreamed of and more and threw me a curveball leading NU to a quick 10-0 lead in the first quarter. No worries, the ‘Cats disappeared for two quarters thanks in part to one major game-changing moment (Persa’s fumble). Let’s break it down with The Great, The Good and The Disappointing. The Vandy fans are still booing over the final key play of the game – a personal foul helmet-to-helmet hit on Persa that seemed relatively cut and dry. I’m shaking my head after chewing off my nails saying this is EXACTLY what I expected. A road win in SEC territory? Take it and run.
Sippin on Purple has a different take on the decisive penalty:
In an essence, the way I feel about the game is just about the same way I feel about the absurdly poor penalty on Northwestern that gave them a first down that allowed them to run out the clock for the victory: sometimes, you're not sure why things happen in your favor. I'm not quite sure how Northwestern won the game, and I'm not quite sure how a referee saw that hit and decided to get all penalty up on Vanderbilt. But I'm not complaining.
Ohio State 45, Marshall 7:
The Buckeyes made quick work of Marshall, which is a long way from its dominance of a decade ago. Even given the disparity between the teams, new Ohio State SB Nation site Along the Oletangy was happy with the result:
Dominance. Very few people believed Marshall to be a serious competitor in this game, but the level of disparity between the two teams tonight was stunning. Ohio State came out fired up and ready to go, causing a fumble on the very first kickoff, and then putting the ball in the end zone on the fourth play of the drive with a Terrelle Pryor to DeVier Posey touchdown pass. The offensive fireworks continued with three more touchdowns being delivered before halftime, along with a defensive pick six by Brian Rolle, who had a veritable convoy of blockers paving his path to the end zone. That play was a defensive coaches' dream, proving that all those tip drills they do in practice pay off.
Minnesota 24, Middle Tennessee State 17:
The Gophers went on the road to open the season, and Minnesota has made yet another coordinator change. The Daily Gopher was happy with the new offense:
We saw it. Boy, did we see it! 11 runs for 79 yards and a TD on the opening drive. I loved the "Hey, Blue Raiders, we're going to run... try to stop us" mentality of the play calling. Reminded me of the Michigan game at the Metrodome in 2006 when the Wolverines sent Mike Hart off-tackle left 6 of the first 8 plays of the game in what amounted to Michigan exerting its will on the Gophers. We found out that the Gophers could control the line of scrimmage, run the ball in short yardage situations, and had a glimpse of the home-run capability of Bennett. Now look, I realize MTSU isn't USC or Ohio State and maybe isn't even on par with the Northwesterns & Michigan States of the Big Ten Conference. But you cannot argue with the production of the running game.
Wisconsin 41, UNLV 21:
The Badgers made a trip to Las Vegas to open the season and beat the Rebels in a blowout. Bucky's Fifth Quarter wasn't pleased with the points the Badgers allowed off turnovers, but thinks the overall outlook is good:
Fans in Las Vegas who had Wisconsin covering the 20 points couldn't have felt too happy about the mistakes that led to two UNLV touchdowns in UW's season opening 41-21 win Saturday night. But even fans who didn't have money on the game have good reason to be unhappy about Scott Tolzien's interception that was returned for a touchdown and Nick Toon's fumble at the five yard line that was returned 82 yards to set up another Rebels score. Those two mistakes made the Badgers look a lot like last year's team -- a group with a very potent offense that unfortunately slipped up at times on the road and handed the opposition free points. The good news is that there was plenty of other evidence -- specifically on defense -- that points to Wisconsin being an even better team than the 2009 squad that won 10 games.
Michigan State 38, Western Michigan 14:
The Spartans flirted with another MAC upset, but found their footing in the second quarter, says The Only Colors:
On a beautiful (if windy) day in East Lansing, Your Spartans started the 2010 season on the right foot by defeating the Western Michigan Broncos, 38-14. After MSU took an early 7-0 lead, WMU clearly was the better team during the rest of the first quarter and the opening 3 minutes of the second quarter. But, when ESPN started showing highlights (lowlights?) of last year's CMU debacle, MSU, as if on cue, started on a 3-play 99-yard drive, including a 75-yard run by Le'Veon Bell and Edwin Baker's 7-yard touchdown scamper. State added another touchdown before halftime and never looked back
Penn State 44, Youngstown State 14:
The Nittany Lions introduced their true freshman quarterback, Robert Bolden, who excelled against Youngstown State, although Black Shoe Diaries thinks he has more game that the playcalling showed:
Robert Bolden was everything we could have imagined and then some. Although the play calling didn't show case his running ability (one carry for one yard), his passing was something to admire, especially for an 18 year old true freshman QB. Bolden finished the day 20-29 for 239 yards 2 TDs and one INT. Brett Brackett, who had the game of his life, was on the receiving end of Bolden's first career completion; a 12 yard strike that Brackett seemed surprised to be on the receiving end of.
Iowa 37, Eastern Illinois 7:
Iowa thrashed Eastern Illinois, and Black Heart Gold Pants thinks Iowa fans gained some insight on who will get playing time at running back:
The star of the show, especially in the first half, was tailback Adam Robinson, who has a knack for making the most of the opportunities given to him. Last season, the prevailing wisdom was that Brandon Wegher would win the RB duel and take on a featured role over Robinson. But Robinson showed more of a knack for grinding out yards and breaking tackles, and he earned the starter designation he held for the rest of the year. Likewise, this year, the thinking is that Jewel Hampton has the physical gifts to overtake Robinson, and the coaches are certainly going to use him in the platoon starting next week. And maybe Hampton will shine and leave Kirk Ferentz no choice but to give him 20 carries. It's possible.
Syracuse 29, Akron 3:
In their first game under coach Rob Ianello, the Zips really struggled to move the ball, managing only 156 yards of offense and 2.8 yards per play. IU hosts Akron on September 25.
Auburn 52, Arkansas State 26:
It was the opposite story for Arkansas State. The Red Wolves gained 366 yards against Auburn, but gave up an incredible 608 yards and nearly 10 yards per play. ASU quarterback Ryan Aplin threw for 278 yards and a touchdown.
Nebraska 49, Western Kentucky 10:
The Hilltoppers never really had a chance against Nebraska, but they weren't as ineffective as the final score would suggest. WKU gained 179 yards on the ground and averaged 4.5 yards per carry. Of course, Nebraska gained over 536 yards, so IU's September 18 visit to Bowling Green, Ky. may well be a shootout.