If you are a fan of a Big Ten team , the time it probably took for you to go from unbridled optimism to crushed under reality's density took about one half. That is to say, a few teams performed up to and beyond expectations, but many, many more did not. Let's review Thursday-Saturday's action.
Michigan 59, Central Michigan 9 -- Devin Gardner's two interceptions were the only blemish on an otherwise dominating victory. Well, two blemishes if you take into account Michigan only punted once the whole game. I'm pretty sure they'll be getting a letter from Jim Delany about that one -- ONE PUNT PER QUARTER AT LEAST WOLVERINES, OR ELSE.
Wisconsin 45, Massachusetts 0 -- Jared Abbrederis had two TD receptions of 50+ yards for an utterly expected victory in Gary Andersen's debut with the Badgers. I'm fairly sure Wisconsin hired him in part because he almost has the same name as this guy.
Minnesota 51, UNLV 23 -- This game was 16-13 Gophers at the half, but Minnesota scored touchdowns off a kickoff return, interception, and a blocked field goal. In related news, please return the Spartans' offensive playbook to East Lansing Minnesota, we're going to need it.
Indiana 73, Indiana State 35 -- When I ran track in high school, in a dual meet a team needed to score 69 points (NO JOKES PLEASE) to guarantee a win. This is relevant to Indiana football because one, they are the B1G's equivalent of a track team in football uniforms, and two, they will probably need to score 69 points each week to be assured of victory.
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Northwestern 44, California 30 -- Big Ten teams are spreading the "defense is the new offense" philosophy from coast to coast, and linebacker Collin Ellis did his part with two interception returns for touchdowns in the victory at Cal. The victory could have come at a heavy cost though: starting CB Daniel Jones is out for the season with a knee injury, Kain Colter (concussion) is day-to-day, as is Venric Mark, albeit with an injury suffered before the game.
Ohio State 40, Buffalo 20 -- The offense was fine, as Braxton Miller did Braxton Miller things (178 yds passing, 77 yds running), and Jordan Hall more than filled the shoes of Carlos Hyde (159 yds, 2 TDs). Even though the Buckeye defense only allowed 258 yards, they gifted the Bulls 94 yards on nine penalties. It's a young front seven in Columbus, and they'll need to get smarter come November.
Penn State 23, Syracuse 17 -- The Nittany Lions have their quarterback, as Christian Hackenberg threw for 278 yards, 2 TDs and 2 picks on 22/31 passes. The defense is still good in Happy Valley, and they have an all-Big Ten receiver in Allen Robinson. Now all that remains is to stay healthy.
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Illinois 42, Southern Illinois 34 -- Nathan Scheelhaase threw for 416 yards and two scores on 28 of 36 passes to ensure there'll be a nonzero digit in the Illini's win column come season's end. Granted they had to hold off a late Saluki charge to get the victory, but according to a motto Tim Beckman might have posted in the Illinois locker room, "beggars can't be choosers".
MAJOR RESERVATIONS REMAIN
Michigan State 26, Western Michigan 13 -- We've wrung our hands enough on this one, but if we're scoring this game on offense only MSU loses 13-12. Luckily, basketball is still a sport that exists.
Nebraska 39, Wyoming 36 -- The defensive analog to MSU's woeful offense, the Cornhuskers gave up over 600 yards of offense to a Wyoming team that finished 76th in the nation last year in yards per play. Four Nebraska players running for more than 75 yards saved a good size embarrassment from turning into a total one.
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Northern Illinois 30, Iowa 27 -- I turned this game on with Iowa having a 1st and 10 at its own 45 with 1:30 left. Sure enough, Jake Rudock throws an interception, and the Huskies kick a field goal with four seconds left for the upset in Iowa City. The good news is that the Hawkeye offense had 458 yards on the day and that Rudock can be a Big Ten QB, the bad news is almost everything else.
Cincinnati 42, Purdue 7 -- Imagine MSU without the defense, and that's essentially Purdue right now. The offense had only 226 total yards in a loss at Cincinnati, with QB Rob Henry averaging 4.6 yards an attempt. Hopefully they get the win against Indiana State next week, because they might not be favored in another game all season - their next easiest games are against Northern Illinois (just beat Iowa) and Illinois (maybe Scheelhaase can stay healthy this year?)