Sports Q&A Big Ten Quick Hits Week 1

Big Ten East Division:

Indiana Hoosiers 0-1 (0-1)

For one-half, it looked as if the Indiana Hoosiers were primed for an opening-week upset of the Ohio State Buckeyes… Unfortunately, football is a game of two-halves and the Hoosiers were overwhelmed in the final 30 minutes of the game to lose 49-21. Richard Lagow finished the game with 421 yards and three touchdowns but he also had two interceptions — one of which was in the redzone — and seemed to struggle with the pass rush of the Buckeyes. It looks like the Indiana offense will be fine without head coach Kevin Wilson, but will have to finish the season without top receiver Nick Westbrook, who was lost for the year with a torn ACL.

Maryland Terrapins 1-0 (0-0)

National observers wondered why Maryland was willing to head to Austin to face the Texas Longhorns despite still being in the transition phase for head coach DJ Durkin. After the 51-41 upset of the Longhorns, maybe the athletic department, knew something the rest of the nation did not. After quarterback Tyrell Pigrome’s interception was returned for a touchdown, Maryland scored the next 27 points and seized control of the game with a mixture of long runs and passes. Pigrome finished the game with 239 total yards and three touchdowns but was lost for the year due to a torn ACL. The offense will look to true freshman quarterback Kasim Hill and the running back duo of Ty Johnson (132 yards on 12 carries) and Lorenzo Harrison (11 carries for 45 yards) to stabilize the offense. Defensively, the Terrapins harassed the Texas offense all afternoon forcing two turnovers and collecting five sacks — two from linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr.

Michigan Wolverines 1-0 (0-0)

They’re young, inexperienced, and won’t be able to handle the big stage. Those were some of the things said about the Michigan Wolverines defense and rather than sulk about the comments, the unit went out and did something In the 33-17 victory the Wolverines defense finished the day with 11 tackles-for-loss, six sacks, a fumble recovery for a touchdown and a persona that resembled last year’s upperclassmen laden unit. Sophomore linebacker Devin Bush Jr. led the way with seven tackles and two sacks but it seemed as if everyone played a factor in limiting Florida to 11 yards rushing and 192 total yards. The offense still looked to be in neutral as returning starting quarterback Wilton Speight had more bad moments than good as he only completed 44% of his passes for 181 yards and had two interceptions returned for touchdowns. The run game looked improved and faster as the trio of Chris Evans, Ty Isaac, and Karan Higdon combined for 220 yards on 40 carries.

Michigan St. Spartans 1-0 (0-0) 

The first drive against the Bowling Green Eagles was reminiscent of the forgettable 2016 season; the Spartans drove down the field only to see running back LJ Scott fumble on the goal line. Fortunately, this is a new season and MSU bounced back in a big way with a 35-10 win. With Scott struggling — 15 carries for only 39 yards and two fumbles — the other two running backs, Madre London (10 carries, 54 yards) and Gerald Holmes (nine carries,40 yards) picked up the slack. Even though the Spartans defense limited Bowling Green to 212 yards of offense it still only had one sack and three tackles for loss which means that side of the ball still has some things to sort out. Sophomore linebacker Joe Bachie lead the way with 10 tackles.

Ohio St. Buckeyes 1-0 (1-0) 

New season, same expectations for the Ohio St. Buckeyes — Championship or bust. The Buckeyes took the first step in achieving only its second Big Ten championship under Urban Meyer with a 49-21 win over the Indiana Hoosiers. Maybe it was the Thursday kickoff or playing a conference opponent to start the season but Ohio St. seemed lethargic in the first half and trailed 14-10 at the half. But the more talented Buckeyes, led by super freshman running back J.K. Dobbins (29 carries,181 yards) and quarterback JT Barrett (20-of-35 for 304 yards, three touchdowns.) The defense took advantage of three Hoosiers turnovers and also sacked Richard Lagow five times — two by defensive end Tyquan Lewis — on the evening. Urban Meyer will take the victory but he cannot be happy with the first half performance with such a huge game in Week 2 looming.

Penn State Nittany Lions 1-0 (0-0)

Expectations are high in Happy Valley coming off head coach James Franklin’s first Big Ten Championship and the 52-0 victory over the Akron Zips showed that PSU is looking for a repeat. Everyone knows about Saquon Barkley (14 carries, 172 yards, two touchdowns) and Trace McSorley (280 passing yards, 48 rushing yards, three total touchdowns) but the name that stood out on Saturday was junior receiver, Juwan Johnson. Johnson surpassed his 2016 statistical output with a four catch, 84-yard performance on Saturday and his 6’4 225lb frame provides McSorley a big body target. Last season the defense was the talk of the team as injuries hampered production but so far that side of the ball looks healthy and aggressive as the unit finished the day with 14 tackles for loss — three by Tyrell Chavis — and three sacks. You still have to consider the opponent — a lowly MAC school — so I won’t anoint this Nittany Lions team a lock for Indianapolis, but they do look good to start the season.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights 0-1 (0-0)

Year two for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights under head coach Chris Ash may not have started like he hoped, a 30-14 loss to the Washington Huskies, but the team looks a lot better than the squad that lost to Washington in 2016 by35. The offense outrushed the Huskies 131-84 and the defense limited the potent Washington offense to only 17 first downs. That was the good but there was also some bad things from the game. Quarterback Kyle Bolin had two costly interceptions and still struggles to find accuracy downfield and the defense only had two tackles for loss. Coach Ash may still be 1-2 seasons away from competing in the conference, but this game is one that will be a nice building block for a program that has yet to find any success since joining the conference.

Big Ten West Division:

Illinois Fighting Illini 1-0 (0-0)

The Illinois Fighting Illini got the 24-21 win over the Ball St. Cardinals, but this is a game where the final score doesn’t tell the entire story. On Saturday the Illini were completely outplayed on both sides of the ball — the offense only generated 216 total yards, while the defense allowed 171 yards rushing and 58% conversion rate on third-down. But the team got the victory. Seeing receiver Mike Dudek back on the field after missing most of the last two seasons due to injuries has to be inspiring for an offense that saw its best player, Kendrick Foster only muster 15 yards on eight carries. One player, you won’t have to worry about on the defensive side of the ball is junior linebacker, Tre Watson. The Florida native finished the game with 12 tackles and one interception. It’s a reason why he is on a billboard in Champaign and hopefully, more players will play up to his level as the season progresses.

Iowa Hawkeyes 1-0 (0-0)

The Iowa Hawkeyes started the 2017 season with what many would consider a trap game against the Wyoming Cowboys, but the team was focused and walked away with an easy 24-3 victory to start the season. Outside of running back Akrum Wadley’s 116 yards on 24 carries and linebacker Josey Jewell having 14 tackles two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss, the stat sheet for the Hawkeyes wasn’t too impressive. But through the course of the year, you will have games like this from time to time and it’s always better to win ugly than have a lot of stats but lose the game. Quarterback Nathan Stanley has to do a better job of protecting the ball — two fumbles and one interception — if Iowa wants to be a serious contender for the Big Ten West Division.

Minnesota Golden Gophers 1-0 (0-0)

New head coach PJ Fleck hopes to row the boat better as the season goes, but a win is a win as the Minnesota Golden Gophers defeated the Buffalo Bulls 17-7. With new starting quarterback, Conor Rhoda under center, the Gophers decided to try to lean more on the running back duo of Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks. Unfortunately, the Bulls knew that and stacked the box on the way to limiting those two to only 145 yards on 41 carries. Because of that the Minnesota quarterbacks — Demry Croft also saw action in the game — found some success in the passing game as sophomore receiver Tyler Johnson had a great day with 141 yards on six catches. Jacob Huff finished the day with one interception for a Gophers defense that limited Buffalo to 262 total yards and only 13 first downs. It may not have been the results that Coach Fleck was hoping for, but it is a win and something to build upon as the season progresses.

Nebraska Cornhuskers 1-0 (0-0)

The trio of Tanner Lee (238 passing yards, two touchdowns), running back Tre Bryant (192 yards) and receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. (five catches, 102 yards) made sure the start to the 2017 season was successful as the Nebraska Cornhuskers defeated the Arkansas St. Red Wolves 43-36. Lee, a transfer from Tulane, played well in his debut for Nebraska as he completed 59% of his passes and had no turnovers. Despite the win, head coach Mike Riley has a lot to work on defensively as that side of the ball surrendered 497 total yards and 32 first downs. The Cornhuskers have to find some way of generating a pass rush as well. The defense only had one sack and two tackles for loss. Defensive back Joshua Kaulu and linebacker Tyrin Ferguson did have one interception each, so there is potential for playmakers on that side of the ball.

Northwestern Wildcats 1-0 (0-0)

It is the third year in the program for quarterback Clayton Thorson and the Northwestern Wildcats needed him to play like a veteran in the 31-20 comeback victory over the Nevada Wolfpack. After scoring first to start the game it wasn’t until the one-yard touchdown run by Thorson in the fourth quarter that the Wildcats recaptured the lead. Just looking at the stats, it’s hard to figure out what happened on Saturday. The Wildcats outgained the Wolfpack 508-341, won the time of possession by 17 minutes, and had seven more first downs but the game wasn’t decided until the very end. Outside of the interception by safety Kyle Quiero, the Northwestern defense was pretty pedestrian and against a more quality opponent could find itself in a lot of trouble.

Purdue Boilermakers 0-1 (0-1)

New year, new coach, same issues for the Purdue Boilermakers in the 35-28 loss to the Louisville Cardinals on Saturday. Last season Purdue struggled with turning the ball over — starting quarterback David Blough had 21 interceptions in 2016 and two interceptions against Louisville — and even his backup Elijah Sindelar got in on the turnover fun with one himself. But when you ask your quarterback to throw the ball 57 times, turnovers and mishaps are bound to happen — the most crippling mishap being a third quarter interception that was returned for a touchdown which allowed Louisville to take the 25-21 lead. Conversely, the run game was non-existent as leading rusher Tario Fuller only had eight carries for 29 carries. New head coach Jeff Brohm will quickly learn that the high octane offense that brought him success as Western Kentucky could get him ran up out of the conference quickly if he doesn’t find balance.

Wisconsin Badgers 1-0 (0-0)

It was a tale of two halves for the Wisconsin Badgers in the 59-10 victory over Utah St. In the first half it looked as if the Badgers were prime for a Week 1 upset, but halftime adjustments were made and a different team came out of that tunnel in the second half. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook doesn’t have to look over his shoulder for Bart Houston and he played like it, throwing for 244 yards and three touchdowns. The running back duo of Jonathan Taylor and Bradrick Shaw combined for 171 yards and two touchdowns and the offensive line looks primed for a huge season clearing the way. Safety Joe Ferguson only had two tackles on the night, but his 99-yard interception return for a touchdown was one of three interceptions by the Badgers defense

Sports Q&A Big 10 Player of the week:

J.K. Dobbins RB- Ohio State It may have been the first game for the LeGrande, TX native but Dobbins’ 181-yard performance against Indiana shows that he may be ready for the big time. Many were wondering who was going to fill Curtis Samuels’ role in the one-two punch for the Buckeyes and it looks like Dobbins may be looking to make it a one man show. It’s still a long season and there will be plenty of freshman moments for the youngster, but he is off to a great start to his Ohio St. career.

 

Game of the Week:

Oklahoma vs. Ohio St.

Last season, this game wasn’t even close as the Buckeyes totally dominated the Sooners in Norman, OK. This year’s game is in Columbus, OH and while I don’t expect a 21 point victory for Ohio St. this year, the Buckeyes have too much firepower on the defensive side of the ball. I’m seeing at least five sacks from the defensive line and two turnovers which will lead to a comfortable win for the Buckeyes. Ohio State 38 Oklahoma 21

Week 2 Picks: 

Purdue over Ohio

Michigan over Cincinnati

Rutgers over Eastern Michigan

Wisconsin over Florida Atlantic

Northwestern over Duke

Iowa over Iowa St.

Maryland over Towson

Penn St. over Pitt

Indiana over Virginia

Western Michigan over MSU (upset special)

Oregon over Nebraska

Western Kentucky over Illinois

Oregon St. over Minnesota

 

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