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Big Ten Review: Week 1

An unspectacular opening week of football from an unspectacular week 1 schedule for the Big Ten. Purdue and Illinois were the only two teams to lose, and both lost by roughly what the guys in the desert expected.

This Week in Things Joe Paterno Wouldn't Do

Give a player a "mulligan" after he receives an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for unnecessarily diving into the end zone on a touchdown run. On Saturday, Purdue QB Robert Marve scrambled for a 23-yard touchdown with about 12:00 remaining in the game to bring Purdue within 8 of the Irish.  Marve showed me everything I need to know about him by dive rolling into the endzone and letting the Boilermakers kick off from their own 15-yard line due to his selfish stupidity.

According to the NBC broadcast, Purdue coach Danny Hope let Marve--who has NFL-level mechanics, but JV level decision-making ability--have a "mulligan" for that idiotic play. Joe Pa probably wouldn't pull his QB in that position, but he certainly would let him hear about it. 

Divisional State University Sweepstakes Standings

We've only seen Western Michigan and Eastern Illinois so far, but WMU has to get the nod at this stage. (Big Ten teams will face Western Illinois, Southern Illinois, Northern Illinois, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, and Northern Colorado later in the spectacular September schedule).  Even though the WMU Broncos lost by 24 to Sparty (EIU lost by 30 to Iowa), they stayed with MSU through most of the first half.  Meanwhile, the Panthers of EIU were down by three TDs by the end of the first quarter against the Hawkeyes, and as a FCS team, were never a serious threat to win the Divisional State University Sweepstakes Trophy. Second place is a set of steak knives. Third place is you're fired.


Exceeded Expectations

Every part of the Michigan team might deserve this honor, but Denard Robinson, who ran for 197 yards and was 19-22 for 186 yards through the air, definitely looked a lot better than someone who was in a serious three-way QB battle through August.  The bigger surprise might have actually been the Greg Robinson-led defense, which was agile, mobile, and hostile throughout the game, though it's hard to take too much away from the win against an unproven Connecticut team. Robert Bolden and Chaz Powell deserve mention in this group, as does Northwestern‘s QB Dan Persa, who was 19-21 for 222 yards and three TDs to go with 82 yards on the ground.

Met Expectations

Terrelle Pryor looked polished against Marsahll, which was more or less what I expected. Same with Indiana's Ben Chappell  (16-23, 182 yards, 2 TDs), Wisconsin's John Clay (17 carries for 123 yards and 2 TDs), and the 0-1 Fighting Zooks.

Failed to Meet Expectations

Even though they're outside the scope of this review, I think we have to put the Southeastern Conference here. Vanderbilt's close loss to Northwestern in Nashville is one thing, but Ole Miss being flat outperformed by the 1-aa Gamecocks of Jacksonville State is another. Of course, it's unlikely that this loss coincides with a deteriorating national reputation for the SEC a la Michigan's loss to the Happy Appies in 2007. But the two SEC losses on Saturday underscore the fact that the SEC is a top-heavy conference. Florida and Alabama might be perennially among the best in the country, but the rest of the SEC is nothing to get excited about. 

Iowa's special teams deserve a mention here. Even though Paki O'Meara's blocked punt return for a TD earned him Special Teams Player of the Week honors, that same unit set up EIU's only TD after being deceived by a fake punt early in the second quarter.   

Gotta also mention Randy Edsall's Connecticut Huskies, whose 20 point loss ruined my parlay with them +3 and ND -10.5.