The Big Ten had some exciting games across the board this weekend, with some teams performing well above expectations, and others not so much. Purdue and Rutgers, wildly believed to be the bottom two teams in the league this season, both played competitively against overmatched opponents. On the other hand, Northwestern, Minnesota, and Nebraska, but played closer games than expected against teams they should have been overmatched against.
No. 2 Ohio State 49, Indiana 21
Indiana came out swinging in their biggest home opener in recent memory, and took a 14-13 lead to the half. Their pace, lack of depth, and Ohio State’s talent (and their own depth) proved to be too much as the game wore on, and the Buckeyes were able to pull away late. Even in a loss, Indiana looked like they’d be competent this season against level competition, and will put another scare onto another top Big Ten team down the road. On the Buckeye side, we still saw some issues with JT Barret and his receivers, which for now we’ll chalk up to early season jitters. The running game, however, looks to be in good hands with J.K. Dobbins doing his best Saquon Barkley impression.
What this means for Ohio State: They saw their deficiencies on offense and get a week to shore those up before Oklahoma comes to town. If they start as slow as they did against Indiana on Saturday, they won’t be down just one point at halftime.
Up Next: vs Oklahoma Sooners
What this means for Indiana: Moral victories are always hard to swallow. However, Indiana has a lot of material to work with after this game. Not many defenses will be able to stop their aerial attack this season, so as long a they don’t tire themselves out the rest of the way, they should be alight.
Up Next: at Virginia
Minnesota 17, Buffalo 7
The chatter in the offseason was the Minnesota wasn’t yet where P.J. Fleck wanted them to be. It showed against a Buffalo Bulls team that went 2-10 last season. The Bull may be much improved this season, but they shouldn’t have looked this good. Minnesota’s defense was not the problem at all, as they held Buffalo to 262 yards of offense (51 of those on the ground). It was the Gopher offense that didn’t seem to get going al night. Both Connor Rhoda and Demry Croft played, as we knew they would, but, in my opinion, Rhoda looked better and should get the playing time going forward. Having two good running backs on the team, with neither going for over 100 yards, should be concerning.
What this means for Minnesota: I hope one game is good enough for Fleck to make his decision, because the quarterback carousel isn’t going to do them any favors moving forward. They need to pick one, and the sooner they do that, the better.
Up Next: at Oregon State
No. 8 Washington 30, Rutgers 14
The line went down steadily in this game, opening at nearly 40 points, then closing at a mere 27.5 in comparison. Rutgers was still able to cover that, and played Washington really close for most of the game. Not only that, they actually scored points against a top 10 opponent, something they didn’t do even once last season. It looked like the lag had an effect on Washington in the first half, but they came out swinging in the second —in what would prove to be the theme of the weekend with top teams, and put Rutgers away for good.
What this means for Rutgers: Like Indiana, they have some positives to take away from this game. They were down 10-7 at halftime, and were able to have enough success to be efficient against comparable teams.
Up Next: vs Eastern Michigan
No. 9 Wisconsin 59, Utah State 10
Utah State scored the first 10 points of the game, and Wisconsin scored the other 59. The Badgers were actually down 10-0 after the first quarter, and at the time, it looked like they’d be in a dogfight with the Aggies. Wisconsin found their groove in the second quarter, however, and after the defense turned up the heat (getting a defensive score in the process), it was all over for Utah State. This was yet another game where the hands down favorite struggled at the beginning of the game, only to turn it up in the second half.
What this means for Wisconsin: Outside of the first quarter, nothing really. They’ll have to make sure they don’t do that against a decent team, but realistically, not many teams on their schedule are going to be able to take advantage of such a slow start.
Up Next: vs Florida Atlantic
Illinois 24, Ball State 21
Wow, what a weird game. Illinois opened up the scoring, but a missed PAT made the game 7-6 Ball State early. Illinois scored the next 10, and Ball state responded with the next 14. Down five with a little under four minutes to play, the Fighting Illini drove all the way down for a touchdown, and the two-point conversion made it a three point game for Illinois. Ball State responded right back, and as time expired, Illinois blocked Ball State’s field goal attempt to tie the game. What’s up with all these teams flukily block field goals all of the sudden?
What this means for Illinois: This is a game they had to have, and they delivered. The schedule gets substantially harder from here on out, so beating teams you’re favored against is always a good thing.
Up Next: vs Western Kentucky
Iowa 24, Wyoming 3
Wyoming was one of the trendy upset picks this weekend, with NFL draft darling Josh Allen leading the Cowboy offense. Iowa had other ideas in mind. Allen threw zero touchdowns and two interceptions, and the Hawkeyes controlled the game from start to finish. Akrum Wadley had 116 yards on the ground, and Nevada transfer James Butler had 47 of his own. Nathan Stanley only threw the ball 15 times, but three of those were for touchdowns. Iowa did what Iowa loves to do in games: run the ball, eat clock*, and let the other team make mistakes. It worked to perfection.
What this means for Iowa: The defense looks good and the offense looks methodical. If they’re able to build on this game moving forward, they’ll be able to challenge for the West.
Up Next: at Iowa State
Michigan State 35, Bowling Green 10
When Bowling Green opened up the scoring with a field goal, it looked like we’d have a redux of 2016 for Michigan State. The Falcons wouldn't score again until the fourth quarter, while the Spartans poured 35 on their end. Brian Lewerke threw for 250 yards and three touchdowns, and the running back by committee approach amassed another 215 yards.
What this means for Michigan State: It must have felt really good to put an overmatched opponent away early. Bowling Green was not a good team last season, but it’s still something the Spartans can build upon.
Up Next: vs Western Michigan
Maryland 51, No. 23 Texas 41
Texas may end up being a mediocre team when it’s all said and done, but they’re still not bad enough to let Maryland drop 51 on them at home. On the other side, Maryland may also turn out to be a mediocre team after season’s end, but going out to Austin and hanging half a hundred on Tom Herman is no small feat. It’s still early, and UCF is coming to town in two weeks, but there should be little debate on whether D.J. Durkin has the Terps going in the right direction. Oh, by the way, this game featured not one, but two block-sixes. Fluky!
What this means for Maryland: 19-point underdogs coming in, nobody expected Maryland to actually win. This is a huge boost for the Terps, and makes reaching bowl eligibility a realistic goal.
Up Next: vs Towson
Northwestern 31, Nevada 20
Don’t let the score fool you. Northwestern was down 20-17 with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. A win’s a win, but this Nevada team is expected to be one of the worst in the nation. Like Minnesota earlier, Northwestern had no business being in a dogfight with the Wolfpack, needing a score with five minutes left in the game to avoid the upset. The Wildcats added another score with 52 seconds left in the game for good measure, but all in all, they were lucky to have survived this game. As has been the theme all weekend, they let a lesser opponent hang around too long, and almost paid for it. They will definitely pay for it if it happens against anyone of note.
What this means for Northwestern: It’s better than actually losing these types of games, which they did last season, but it’s not encouraging to see this kind of performance right off the bat. They’ll need to do better next week, or they might lose.
Up Next: at Duke
No. 11 Michigan 33, No. 17 Florida 17
This is a tale of two sides for Michigan. The defense looks like it hasn’t skipped a beat with all the departures, but the offense looks like it’s going to need a lot of work. Wilton Speight gave Florida its only touchdowns of the game via two pick sixes, which had the Gators up 17-10 at some point. Michigan stopped handing gifts to Florida after the half, and cruised to a victory by holding the Gators scoreless in the second half.
What this means for Michigan: Yes, Florida had 10 suspended players, but this was still a neutral site game against a team that’s not bad, all things considered. This was their biggest roadblock for a while, so it should be smooth sailing for at least a couple of weeks.
Up Next: vs Cincinnati
Nebraska 43, Arkansas State 36
Looks like Bob Diaco’s defense is going to need some time to adjust in Lincoln, as Nebraska allowed 36 points to Arkansas State in their game. In fairness to the Huskers, the Red Wolves have won the Sun Belt the past two seasons, so they aren’t a pushover. On the other side of the ball, Tanner Lee had as good an opener as you could have expected of him. Going 19 of 32 for 238 yards and two touchdowns, it looks like Mike Riley finally has the quarterback he’s been waiting for. Oh, and Tre Bryant’s 31 carries for 192 yards were good too.
What this means for Nebraska: They saw some good things on offense, but need to make sure their defense is on point, as they face a stiff test right away.
Up Next: at Oregon
No. 16 Louisville 35, Purdue 28
You read that right folks. Purdue hung with Louisville for the full game, and, if not for a late interception in Louisville territory, could have sent the game to overtime at minimum. This is yet another game where the overmatched Big Ten opponent was supposed to be out of it early, but it turned out to be just the opposite. Looks like Jeff Brohm’s system is taking shape sooner than expected in West Lafayette, so more performances like this could mean a more successful Purdue than we all anticipated.
What this means for Purdue: Their schedule is not exactly a cakewalk, but at the very worst, Purdue will find itself in a bunch of shootouts this season.
Up Next: vs Ohio