Last Week's Results
This time we'll sort them by relative degrees of quality.
Comfortable Wins That Are Still Slightly Worrying
Rutgers 38, Howard 25
Howard struck first, but Rutgers ran off 31 straight in the first half after that to take a 24-point lead into the break. I'm not entirely sure Rutgers realized there was a second half, though, as Howard outscored the Scarlet Knights 18-7 in the second half (one missed PAT, two failed two-point attempts) to cut the deficit down. Why worry? They were outgained by 40 yards, including a 269-125 (sack-adjusted) rushing deficit.
Wisconsin 37, Western Illinois 3
It only took one second for the Badgers to get on the board (a safety on a mishandled kickoff). It was nearly 28 more minutes before they found the end zone offensively. The good news: Tanner McEvoy looked far more competent than he did against LSU, putting up a 23/28, 283 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT line, and the defense held WIU to only 162 yards of total offense. The bad news: 4.3 yards per carry against a 1-AA defense is ominous, considering what Wisconsin usually does to such teams.
Minnesota 35, Middle Tennessee 24
This one was 28-0 at the half, so to some extent one can excuse the Gophers for backing off (much as with Rutgers). Getting the lead cut to 35-17 with 17 minutes left, though, has to be concerning (although the final touchdown for MTSU didn't come until the dying seconds). Other reasons to worry: Mitch Leidner connected on less than half of his pass attempts (5 for 11), and MTSU outgained Minnesota 445-351.
Penn State 21, Akron 3
The good news: Penn State's defense forced five three-and-outs and only allowed Akron across midfield three times (not counting turnovers setting them up already in PSU territory), resulting in a missed FG, the Dumb Punt of the Week (4th and 5 from the PSU 34), and a turnover on downs on the final desperation drive. The bad: this was a one-score game until a Jesse James touchdown catch with less than 3 minutes left in the third quarter, and PSU could not establish an effective running game (less than 4 yards per carry, even sack-adjusted) or keep control of the ball (three turnovers, one of which set up Akron's only score).
You Won, But Never Speak of That Again
Illinois 42, Western Kentucky 34
The Illini continue to be Wonderful Terry putting WKU back in the lead late in the third quarter before Illinois rattled off 21 straight in the fourth (including a long defensive touchdown of their own, a 77-yard pick-six for Taylor Barton). Illinois's rushing game was not very good, at 81 yards on 32 attempts (sack-adjusted, 2.5 ypc), but Wes Lunt threw for 456 yards (35/50, 3 TD, 1 INT).of almost getting beat by not-very-good teams. This one went back and forth for a while, with a 95-yard fumble return by the immaculately-named
Nebraska 31, McNeese State 24
McNeese State hung around in this one all game, never trailing by more than 10 and tying the game at 24 with a field goal with just 4:21 to go. This one looked headed for OT after the teams traded three-and-outs. Then Ameer Abdullah did this:
Maryland 24, South Florida 17
After the teams traded touchdowns early, a FG at the halftime whistle put South Florida ahead 17-14. It stayed that way until a blocked punt by Maryland, recovered in the end zone, put the Terps in front with 12 minutes left. Maryland's sloppiness nearly came back to bite them, as they fumbled an incredible seven times (losing four, one of which went directly for a touchdown) and added two interceptions. However, South Florida's inept offense could not cash in (40% completion rate and under 3 yards per carry sack-adjusted).
Iowa 17, Ball State 13
Inability to finish drives nearly cost Iowa this one. The defense did their job just fine, with Ball State's touchdown on a fumble return and one field goal set up by another turnover. Iowa more than doubled Ball State's yardage total for the day (455 to 219), but on 5 trips into Ball State territory in the first 54 minutes, they punted once and attempted four field goals (missing three of them). That isn't even counting three punts from beyond the Iowa 40-yard line, two in the fourth quarter with a multiple-score deficit. Then Iowa spared themselves the embarrassment of a MAC loss with two Jake Rudock TD passes in the final three minutes.
Losses That Aren't All That Bad
Oregon 46, Michigan State 27
All things considered, this isn't a disaster. The national narrative seems to be more along the lines of "MSU hung in there for three quarters and looked very good doing it" and "please, please schedule more home-and-home series like this" than treating this as any sort of embarrassment.
Virginia Tech 35, Ohio State 21
Another deceptive final score, as VT added a 63-yard interception return TD in the final minute. VT led 21-7 at halftime, but the Buckeyes came back to tie it early in the fourth. The biggest points of concern have to be the pass blocking (seven sacks allowed) and J.T. Barrett's accuracy (9/29 with three picks, although when he did connect it went a long way - more than 24 yards per completion).
Losses That Are That Bad, But We Expected That
Northern Illinois 23, Northwestern 15
Chicago's MAC Team defeated Chicago's B1G Team in a much lower-scoring game than expected: it was scoreless at half, and the total of 38 points is hard to believe given the teams combined for nearly 800 yards of offense and only one turnover. With the exception of one drive midway through the third which gave Northwestern a brief 7-3 lead, every time the Wildcats got near field goal range, a sack or penalty would push them back out.
Central Michigan 38, Purdue 17
The yardage battle was near even (333-326), but turnovers and penalties killed Purdue. Central was not especially efficient (a respectable 4.7 ypc on the ground and 7.7 ypa through the air, sack-adjusted), but Purdue was spectacularly inefficient in the passing game (52 attempts for 198 yards, counting sacks, a paltry 3.8 ypa).
The Unexpected Disaster
Notre Dame 31, Michigan 0
I expected Michigan to be competitive in this game - they always are against Notre Dame. In terms of yardage, it was close (with Michigan actually coming out ahead, 289 to 280). But Michigan squandered its first-half opportunities with two missed field goals and squandered its second-half opportunities with four turnovers (and another on downs after the game was well out of hand). I didn't get to see any of this one, but the drive summary suggests an alarming lack of urgency, as Michigan's possessions averaged about 30 seconds per play despite Michigan trailing for almost the entire game. (For perspective, MSU averaged 24.3 seconds per play in possession against Oregon, and Oregon was slightly under 21 prior to the final game-killing drive.)
This Week's Games
Conference Play? Already?
Yes, but just one game: Penn State at Rutgers (8:00 ET, BTN). It was originally scheduled for this season as a non-conference game, which explains the timing. Rutgers is hard to figure so far on defense: Washington State had little difficulty airing it out against them and Howard had surprising success running the ball, but neither opponent was effective at the opposite (although that may be, in part, because Mike Leach teams tend to view running the football as blasphemy). Meanwhile, Christian Hackenberg has put up some impressive yardage numbers through the air for Penn State, but the Nittany Lions have had trouble converting those yards into points and have been rather sloppy with the ball (-5 turnover ratio so far on the season). If the turnover bug persists, Rutgers has a decent shot at a win in their conference debut.
West Virginia at Maryland (Noon ET, BTN)
Given that West Virginia managed to keep it within 10 against Alabama in their opener, I think it's safe to say that Maryland won't survive another six-turnover game. Clint Trickett will provide a much stiffer test for the Maryland secondary than either James Madison or South Florida's QBs did, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the Mountaineers escape with a win - but at home, I think Maryland's probably the favorite.
Indiana at Bowling Green (Noon, ESPNU)
Bowling Green has allowed an average of 445 yards passing to Western Kentucky and VMI so far. Despite Indiana's low point output against Indiana State in the opener (and most of their yards coming on the ground), I can't imagine that being a good sign for the Falcons' chances here. Indiana is going to score a lot of points; the question is whether the defense can continue to show signs of improvement over last year after holding Indiana State to just 10 points (compared to 35 last year).
Kent State at Ohio State (Noon, ABC/ESPN2)
Kent State lost their first two to Ohio and South Alabama, neither of whom is all that good (although South Alabama is possibly at least halfway decent). With OSU looking to take out frustrations from the VT game, this probably isn't going to be pretty.
Iowa State at Iowa (3:30, ESPN)
This in-state rivalry series is usually pretty interesting, even when it seems like one team (usually Iowa) should run over the other easily. ISU actually leads since 1998, 9 games to 7, thanks to a 5-game streak around the turn of the millennium. Weird things happen here, but not quite as often when the game is in Iowa City.
Miami (Ohio) at Michigan (3:30, BTN)
The RedHawks (yes, they capitalize it that way) are coming off a 15-point loss to Marshall (not terribly embarrassing in the grand scheme of things, for a MAC school at least) and a 7-point loss to Eastern Kentucky (substantially more embarrassing). Even Michigan's pathetic effort at South Bend might have been enough to handle Miami, and I'm not sure they can play much worse than that. Brady Hoke's seat is already nice and toasty; if he manages the nearly impossible and loses this one, it may spontaneously combust.
Minnesota at TCU (4:00, Fox Sports 1)
TCU throttled Sam Houston State in their opener and then had a bye week, so we don't really know much about them yet. Minnesota has two wins but hasn't been especially impressive yet, getting outgained by both Eastern Illinois and Middle Tennessee. In Fort Worth, I can't help but think the Horned Frogs take this one.
Illinois at Washington (4:00, FOX)
Two 2-0 teams that have been very underwhelming so far - Illinois has a pair of comeback wins against Youngstown State and Western Kentucky, while Washington survived a scare at Hawaii and a crazy shootout with Eastern Washington. This will probably be a close game, if not necessarily a good one.
Purdue vs. Notre Dame (Indianapolis, 7:30, NBC)
The only reason at all to pay attention to this game is that Purdue has a remarkable tendency to play the Irish close even when - perhaps especially when - there is no rational reason to believe it will happen. There's certainly no rational reason to think a team that lost by three scores to a Directional Michigan school should have any chance against Notre Dame this time.
Nebraska at Fresno State (10:30, CBS Sports Network)
Last year, Fresno State got into all sorts of silly shootouts, winning most of them. So far this year, the defense has remained in shootout mode while the offense has stepped back, and the result is two blowout losses to Utah and USC. Nebraska should similarly run amok on the Fresno defense.
Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Northwestern all have the week off.
Conference Race Projections
Still too early for this (I plan to start these next week), but the margin projections for this week's games (including preseason bias, which still has a significant effect with only two games played):
- Penn State by 1.5 over Rutgers
- Maryland by 10 over West Virginia
- Bowling Green by 6.5 over Indiana
- Ohio State by 22.5 over Kent State
- Iowa by 18.5 over Iowa State
- Michigan by 29.5 over Miami (Ohio)
- TCU by 1 over Minnesota
- Washington by 12.5 over Illinois
- Notre Dame by 23 over Purdue
- Fresno State by 0.5 over Nebraska