LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 1: Quarterback Taylor Martinez #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers gets rid of the ball before being brought down by defensive lineman Khalid Wilson #95 of the Southern Miss Golden Eagles during their game at Memorial Stadium on September 1, 2012 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Sadly, Michigan State doesn't have the Big Ten all to itself (yet). The Spartans share the conference with 11 other schools, and in the interest of keeping you well-informed of their doings, we at TOC proudly present The Big Ten in Review, because clever titles take time to invent. Each week we'll run down the week's action in the B1G, in order from most impressive to least impressive; your order can and will vary. Here we go:
GOOD PERFORMANCES AGAINST GOOD OPPONENTS
Michigan State 17, Boise State 13
Already covered, but the TL;DR version -- Le'Veon Bell and the defense are beastly, Andrew Maxwell had a rough 1st half but a decent 2nd, the wide receivers need an industrial sized can of Stickum stat.
Nebraska 49, Southern Miss 20
No Rex Burkhead, no problem. The Cornhusker running back went out early against the Golden Eagles, and Taylor Martinez had no issue picking up the slack, going 26/34 for 354 yards and 5 scores. Burkhead's replacements had no issue either with the Southern Miss front seven, as Ameer Abdullah and Imani Cross combined for 143 yards on 26 rushes. Nebraska's only concern from this game is its special teams, as they allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown and normally stalwart kicker Brett Maher missed both his field goal attempts.
DECENT PERFORMANCE AGAINST DECENT OPPONENT
Northwestern 42, Syracuse 41
Northwestern had this game well in hand midway through the 3rd quarter, up 35-13. A reason exists for the Cardiac 'Cats moniker though, and four unanswered touchdown passes from Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib put the Orangemen up 41-35. The Wildcats' backup QB, Trevor Siemian (starting QB Kain Colter was a bit nicked up but will be fine for Saturday), came to the rescue and delivered a 9 yard pass to Demetrius Fields to get the win. Things to take from this game:Northwestern's Venric Mark will be a terror on kick returns (two punt returns for 134 yards and a touchdown), and the 'Cats pass defense is insubstantial at this point, as Nassib passed for over 450 yards on Chicago's Big Ten team.
BLOWOUTS OF LESSER TEAMS
Ohio State 56, Miami (Ohio) 10
The Urban Meyer era in Columbus began shaky, but Ohio State's first game under their new head coach ended as expected. Braxton Miller had a fine performance passing for over 200 and running for over 150 yards. Devin Smith did this. The Buckeyes did give up over 300 passing yards to Miami's Zac Dysert, but he needed 53 attempts to get there. In short, a good, predictable start.
Purdue 49, Eastern Kentucky 6
Purdue didn't punt once in this game, as the Boilermakers tallied 547 yards of offense and gave up 190. Robert Marve is the quarterback barring intervention from Angry Purdue ACL-Hating God, and his stats (30/38, 295 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT) show why Purdue's a dark horse in the Big Ten this year.
A GOOD WIN WITH QUESTIONS DOWN THE LINE
Illinois 24, Western Michigan 7
Like Rex Burkhead, Illini QB Nathan Scheelhaase had to exit the game early with an injury, but it looks like he won't miss a game. Instead of outscoring their opponent like the Cornhuskers did, the Illini clamped down and forced four turnovers from the Broncos, including an interception that was returned for a score. It's concerning that Illinois could only manage 248 yards of offense at home against a MAC team, though.
WHY SCHEDULING A GAME IN LAS VEGAS IN AUGUST IS A BAD IDEA
Minnesota 30, UNLV 27
Matt Hinton over at CBS Sports called this the worst game of the week, and while any Minnesota win at this point may be cause for a team celebration, it's UNLV, picked to finish at or near the bottom of the Mountain West, and a 13-13 game heading into overtime doesn't exactly scream entertainment. MarQueis Gray threw both of his touchdown passes in overtime, and while the Golden Gophers did out gain the Runnin' Rebels by 203 yards, Minnesota's going to need to do better if they want to be a bowl team this season.
ONE STEP AT A TIME
Indiana 24, Indiana State 17
And the first team to equal their win total from last season is...Indiana! Congrats, guys! Sure, the Hoosier running game couldn't do a whole lot (Averaged 3.7 yards a carry on 47 carries), and allowing 387 yards to 1-AA Indiana State is probably a bit much, but Tre Robertson looked like a Big Ten quarterback, and a win's a win. Next step -- beat an FBS team for the first time since 2010.
ALMOST LOST TO THE MAC
Iowa 18, Northern Illinois 17
The good news: the Hawkeye defense looked up to the task at Soldier Field, as they allowed 201 yards to the Huskies, with 73 of those coming on a run to put Northern Illinois up 17-9 in the third quarter. The bad news: James Vandenberg seemed incapable of finding receivers down field, averaging less than 4 yards a attempt. However, Iowa running back Damon Bullock averaged 5.0 yards a rushing attempt though, and his 23-yard touchdown run on 3rd and 8 (?) with less than three minutes left got Iowa the win. Bullock is an Iowa running back though, so he will most likely leave the team next week to *spins wheel* sell Amway products.
ALMOST LOST TO 1-AA
Wisconsin 26, Northern Iowa 21
I had a theory going into the season that Montee Ball's effectiveness would be diminished this season due to defenses not being scared crapless of Russell Wilson's ability to run and throw. One game in and that theory hasn't been disproven yet, as Ball ran for 120 yards on 32 carries. Wilson's replacement, Danny O'Brien, had a much better game as only four of his 23 passes were incompletions, and he found Jared Abbrederis twice for touchdowns. The pass defense might be a concern, as Northern Iowa completed two 30+ yard touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to take the score from a leisurely 26-7 to a sphincter-tightening 26-21. Maybe Bret Bielema had the second string in, but seeing as how it's Bielema I'm just going to assume that's not the case.
Alabama 41, Michigan 14
You've probably read a lot about this game as well. For a moment in the third quarter Michigan did manage to move the ball against the Crimson Tide, and it looked like the Wolverines might cover the 14-point spread. The rest of this game however is the 2011 Capital One Bowl once again -- 'Bama grinds a team from Michigan into a nutritious paste. It was a beating, but Michigan can take solace that only one of their players (CB Blake Countess) is out for the season. Moral victories, y'all.
Ohio 24, Penn State 14
The Bill O'Brien era is going to be very long for Penn State fans, or very short, depending on the administration's patience. Defense was supposed to be the strength of the Nittany Lions this season, and the word "supposed" is in this sentence because the Bobcats blasted Penn State to the tune of 499 yards, with 324 of those coming through the air. Matt McGloin didn't play badly (27/48, 260 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT), but considering Penn State was -3 in the turnover margin and gave up the amount of yardage they did, it's a minor miracle the game was this close. Sorry sane Nittany Lion fans, it's going to get worse before it get better, and the first drink's on me.