This is the first in a weekly series that I began last year. SB Nation's Big Ten and other sites have some excellent writers, and it's always worth a look at what they are saying as the football season transpires. And yes, I know it's Thursday. It's a short week, and I was out of town until Monday night. If I can post my game review on Tuesday, then I can post this on Thursday. Hopefully, as the season transpires, I'll be posting this by Tuesday morning.
This week, IU plays a mjaor conference opponent, and so we will start with Virginia.
Virginia 40, William & Mary 3: After a 4-8 season in Mike London's first year, the Cavaliers, IU's week 2 opponent, looked much improved. W&M is a very good FCS program, and UVa lost to the Tribe in 2009. I'll be exchanging some Q&A with UVa site Streaking the Lawn tomorrow, but here is what they had to say about the impressive opener:
Okay, we could all breathe a sigh of relief. We didn't lose to William and Mary. The season could go on as planned. Going into tonight, I thought of this as a no-win game, one from which no positives could possibly come out of. I was clearly wrong, as the Hoos dominated all phases of the game and showed plenty of promise in a 40-3 romp of the Tribe at Scott Stadium tonight.
Wisconsin 51, UNLV 17: The Badgers spent the second half of last season looking like the most fearsome team in the Big Ten (hung 83 on someone, but I can't remember which team that was), and picked up where they left off, under the leadership of senior quarterback Russell Wilson, a transfer from NC State. Here is Bucky's Fifth Quarter:
The statsheet doesn't look much different than it did when Scott Tolzien was quarterback last year. Wisconsin ran the ball 38 times and only threw it 15 times. Wilson finished the game 10-for-13 -- very Tolzien-esque. Oh, except that he racked up 255 yards in those 10 completions, good for 25.5 yards per completion. Oh, and he ran for 63 yards on two rushing attempts, one of which was a ridiculous 46-yard touchdown run in which he went into second, and then third gear.
Michigan State 28, Youngstown State 6: The Spartans, fresh off their first conference title in a couple of decades, took a little to long to pull away from their overmatched FCS opponent, says MSU site The Only Colors:
Too many missed tackles in the first half. Youngstown State was able to get four yards almost every play on their early drives, and our front seven got swallowed up by the offensive line far too often for a game that should have been a mismatch. Pass coverage downfield was a bit better, and once Kurt Hess was forced to go to the air more often his inaccuracy made things easy for the defense.
Northwestern 24, Boston College 17: NU quarterback Dan Persa is considered a Heisman candidate by the same sort of people who think college football was invented in 1995. Still, the Wilcats played very well at Boston College even though Persa missed the game because of a nagging Achilles tendon injury. Here's Sippin' On Purple:
Kain Colter was all we'd hoped from him and completed 70 percent of his passes en route to an NU victory. Colter wasn't the deciding factor by any means, as the Cats won the game in the trenches: Northwestern's offensive line opened up massive holes up front for Colter as well as Mike Trumpy and Adonis Smith, who put up 227 yards against last year's best run defense in the NCAA. And on the other side of the ball, a reinvigorated defensive line held Andre Williams to 53 yards on 21 carries (not including his 69-yard romp that got stopped short of a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage) and brutalized Chase Rettig, sacking him three times, forcing him to throw the ball away before/while getting popped other times, and of course, Vince Browne blindsiding him for no gain on the final play of the game.
Ohio State 42, Akron 0: The Luke Fickell era looked much like the Jim Tressel era. Ohio State dominated an intrastate opponent from the MAC. While a shutout is always impressive, most eyes were on new quarterback Joe Bauserman. Along The Olentangy:
Finishing 12/16 (75%) for 163 yards passing, Bauserman's day was a mild but clear success. Three touchdowns, zero interceptions, and a 10.2 yards-per-attempt average eased the fear that Bauserman's offense would devolve into a series of dump-offs and floated balls. By no means a gunslinger, Bauserman showcased enough as a passer to legitimize Fickell's decision to name him starter, even with a freshman phenom breathing down his back. Concern remains over his imminent performance against better opponents, but Bauserman proved that he at least belonged on the field.
Penn State 41, Indiana State 7: Larry Bird wasn't walking through that door. The Nittany Lions made quick work of the Sycamores, who typically struggle in FCS, let alone against Big Ten competition. Black Shoe Diaries is one of the oldest Big Ten sites on SB Nation, but its founder, Mike Hubbell, has moved on. Here are the new guys:
McGloin looks like the same quarterback as last year. He's perfectly capable of piecing together drives with simple, timely throws. This is not an insult. However, that near pick-six should be a giant red flag to the coaching staff. Ridiculous by any standard. McGloin's continued playing time should absolutely be attached to the notion that he doesn't do anything egregiously careless with the football. He's a constant man-on-a-wire routine.
Purdue 27, Middle Tennessee 24: In year three of the Hope era, Purdue struggled for much of the day, but came back twice in the second half to avoid a tough season-opening loss. Better to learn lessons in a win than in a loss. Hammer and Rails:
The Boilers faced a motivated opponent in the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, but instead of folding under pressure, we answered. The game was decided by a last-second blocked field goal, but credit is due to both sides for the exciting conclusion. Middle Tennessee State played extremely well and controlled the pace for most of the day. Purdue, on the other hand, showed a lot of grit and determination while making their comeback. If the Boilers choose to learn from the mistakes made, and build on the positive elements, the game can be a very valuable experience.
James Vandenberg sure looked like he belonged under center for this team. At the very least, he showed why there was never any quarterback controversy in Iowa City, not even with OMG AJ DERBY backing him up, not even for one day. That's a major accomplishment for a kid who was a middling prospect out of Keokuk who got offers from Iowa, Nebraska... and some directionals and that's about it. Iowa State passed on him. Yes, the team currently starting Steele Jantz at QB, who my ISU-doting brother described as "flat out untalented in running and especially throwing (and decision making)--other than that, a hell of a qb" after watching him play UNI last week. Yeah, that team looked at JVB and said "no thanks." So he's proven a lot of people wrong since he stepped foot in Iowa City.
USC 19, Minnesota 17: The Jerry Kill era began with a near-miss for the Gophers, a tough loss to Southern Cal at the Coliseum. Of course, don't remind exuberant Minnesota fans that the overmatched Tim Brewster game the Trojans a scare last year, too. The Daily Gopher:
Nobody really likes moral victories. Players see no value in them, coaches hate them and fans know they shouldn't every say those two words. So why am I bringing it up? Well, that is exactly what this game WAS. Not what I wanted it to be this way and I'm not happy we lost. I would rather have been USC who played sloppy, made mistakes and still came away with the actual victory than being a Gopher fan today who outplayed the more talented home team in the second half nearly pulling off the upset of the weekend.
Illinois 33, Arkansas State 15: The Illini handled the Red Wolves, a pesky team that nearly beat IU last year. The Illini are just happy that the Labor Day tradition of getting stomped by Missouri is over. Hail to the Orange:
For a while there, everything could have been awful. Jason Ford was stopped at the goal line (the wrong one) for a safety, the Illinois offense had stalled in general, and the Arkansas State Redwolves had taken the lead off of two field goals. Then, a simple short pass from Nathan Scheelhaase to Darius Milines changed the flow of the game. A spin move led to a missed tackle, and Milines wasn't touched again until the end zone. The Illini retook the lead at 14-8 and would pour it on from then, scoring 33 points, and keeping ASU out of the end zone until garbage time.
Michigan 34, Western Michigan 14: Brady Hoke's debut at Michigan was weather-shortened, but still a comfortable win. The shortness of the game and two defensive touchdowns by Michigan made it a tough game to evaluate. Maize n Brew:
The bottom line is that our sample size of evidence is small, and made even smaller by the unlikely way in which this game went down. There are things that happened positively. The defensive adjustments were great, the fundamentals were there, and Denard looked fairly comfortable. There were also bad things, like the 3-out, the WMU opening march down the field, general confusion on the defense, and kick coverage. It was an incomplete game in more ways than just the minutes. I feel that it was incomplete as a means to judge this team or reset expectations as well. Next week we go back into the breach against Notre Dame. We'll have a much better picture after that one. Final grade: incomplete.
Nebraska 40, Chattanooga 7: Finally, the Cornhuskers made their debut as a Big Ten program, and made quick work of the Mocs. Corn Nation:
Nebraska wins 40-7. I went through the entire game without having a beer for the first time in a while, so this isn't as deranged as it normally is. Unless it is, of course, maybe it's just me and not the alcohol. The game started about as badly as it could - with a muffed kickoff return resulting in Nebraska falling on the ball deep in their own territory. The first play of the game was a fullback dive with Tyler Legate that gained a yard. From my perspective it was called so that Husker fans all over the world who have a fullback fetish would shut up about the fullback never getting a carry. The next two plays were poorly executed debacles and the Huskers went three and out. It wouldn't matter much, of course, because Nebraska has a pretty good defense, despite losing great players from last season and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard for the game. Once it got to 10 points Nebraska, did you really think the Huskers would lose, or were you just worried about style?
Central Michigan 21, South Carolina State 6: IU's upcoming FCS opponent lost comfortably to CMU of the MAC.
Florida International 41, North Texas 16: Dan McCarney's debut as North Texas coach did not go well. The Mean Green play IU in week 4.