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Around the B1G: Football Week 1 Recap, Week 2 Preview

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2015’s first games are in the books. Here’s what happened and what to watch around the conference on MSU’s off week.

Furman v Michigan State Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Week 1 Results

Quality Win

Wisconsin 16, LSU 14

The Badgers did an excellent job of shutting down LSU’s offense, particularly the passing game (which earned a net of 116 yards on 25 attempts, including sacks). Wisconsin had a slight edge in yardage, 339-257, but struggled to finish drives, with a turnover on downs and an interception in LSU territory in the first half and two more field goals on drives starting in LSU territory. After two quick turnovers in the third quarter, one of which was returned directly for a touchdown by Tre’Davious White, it looked like that might come back to haunt them as a 13-0 lead disappeared in just over a minute. With 4 minutes left, though, Rafael Gaglianone hit a 47-yard field goal to put the Badgers back in front, and a late interception sealed the win.

Win Over Somebody With a Pulse

Ohio State 77, Bowling Green 10

Slim pickings for the first week here, if Bowling Green is the second-best team anyone in the conference beat. That’s not a knock on them (the Falcons are, after all, the defending MAC champions), but of the remaining FBS teams beaten by Big Ten opponents, the highest ranked in last year’s final margin-aware ratings is ... Florida International at #99. Bowling Green actually opened the scoring with a 63-yard pick-six by Brandon Harris. This appears to have just made Ohio State mad. The Buckeyes’ 776 total yards broke the school record, and only two drives the rest of the way failed to reach the end zone.

Cupcake Wins of Various Degrees of Convincingness

Michigan 63, Hawaii 3

The Rainbow Warriors are the first team to play two games this season (Cal took the week off after the Down Under opener), and the absurd travel schedule made this one even more of a foregone conclusion than the usual cupcake game. Michigan’s 306 rushing yards at nearly 8 per carry beat Hawaii’s total yardage for the day. The Wolverines were only stopped short of the end zone twice, once by an interception on their first play of the day and once by the clock at the end of the game.

Nebraska 43, Fresno State 10

A somber opener for the Huskers after the offseason death of punter Sam Foltz (who was honored with a 10-man formation prior to Nebraska’s first punt) was close until early in the fourth quarter. A field goal as the clock expired in the first half cut Nebraska’s lead down to just 14-10, but the Huskers’ first drive of the second half finished with a 9-yard touchdown from Tommy Armstrong to extend the lead, and they added three more touchdowns in the fourth quarter to close out the win.

Illinois 52, Murray State (FCS) 3

You knew it wasn’t the Racers’ day when their first two drives ended in interceptions and Illinois scored touchdowns on each of the ensuing drives. It could have been much worse: Kendrick Foster had only four carries for Illinois, and two of them went for 56-yard touchdowns. Thanks to sacks and a “team” rush for a loss of 22 (likely a fumbled snap), Murray State finished the day with negative rushing yards. In terms of total yardage, the Illini more than tripled the Racers’ total, 515-165.

Iowa 45, Miami-Ohio 21

The Hawkeyes jumped out to a very quick 21-0 lead thanks to two fumbles by the Redhawks; everything after that was more or less academic. Three turnovers by Miami more than negated their slight edge in total yardage (424-404). Iowa running backs Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels Jr. combined for 204 yards and four touchdowns on only 22 carries.

Maryland 52, Howard (FCS) 13

This one was over early. Maryland scored touchdowns on their first four drives (not even including a blocked punt for touchdown that occurred in the middle of that sequence) and came close to doubling up the Bison on yardage, 519-269. That yardage included six different players with at least 40 rushing yards and a touchdown each; nobody got even as many as ten carries.

Indiana 34, Florida International 13

#CHAOSTEAM won with ... defense? It’s true, and thoroughly confusing: the Hoosiers’ defense scored 16 of their 34 points on the day (a safety and two interception returns). At the start of the fourth quarter, Indiana trailed 13-12 and their offense had not yet found the end zone, but a quick 5-play drive put the Hoosiers in front for good, another touchdown drive padded the lead out to a comfortable 14, and two interceptions (one brought back for a touchdown) sealed the win.

Penn State 33, Kent State 13

This was a close one for the first half, as Kent State opened the scoring with a field goal and tied it at 13 with a 20-yard fumble return in the middle of the second quarter. The Nittany Lions took the lead back with a field goal before halftime and extended it with a defensive touchdown of their own, a 30-yard interception return by Amani Oruwariye, in the first minute of the third quarter.

Purdue 45, Eastern Kentucky (FCS) 24

A horrific start for the Colonels saw their first three drives end in turnovers, including a 78-yard pick-six by Gelen Robinson. With the aid of an interception of their own, Eastern Kentucky managed to cut the lead back down from 21-0 to 28-18 by halftime and kept it there for the entire third quarter, but a late surge (fueled in part by EKU’s fourth turnover) by Purdue put the game out of reach.

Michigan State 28, Furman (FCS) 13

A sloppy win with two turnovers and far too many penalties, but it was a win. The defense came up with the stops when needed, keeping the Paladins out of the end zone on two goal-to-go situations and coming up with an interception immediately in response to MSU’s fourth-quarter turnover.

Minnesota 30, Oregon State 23

Like Indiana, Minnesota trailed entering the fourth quarter against a team that was not very good last year, to put it mildly (according to my own rankings, only Kansas was a worse Power 5 team). The Gophers were actually outgained on the night but won the turnover battle 2-1. Both fumble recoveries led to first-half touchdowns for the Gophers, and their own turnover (a muffed punt) led to the Beavers’ go-ahead score in the third quarter. Minnesota answered with an 80-yard touchdown drive to retake the lead and iced it with a minute and a half to go.

Game theory note of interest: Leading by 1 prior to the final touchdown, the Gophers went for two to try to pad the lead out to 9. While I generally approve of aggressive decision-making, I’m not convinced this was a wise call. Leaving aside the possibility that Oregon State would go for two and a regulation win if they scored (most teams don’t, but it’s not unheard of, especially for major underdogs), you have a choice of either taking a two-point try or stopping one to win in regulation; since the success rate on those is under 50%, you’re usually better off trying to stop one. Additionally, the extra information benefits the trailing team: down 9, they know they need miracles and plan accordingly (although with this little time left, it probably doesn’t matter as much as it would with 4-5 minutes), but down 8 they will usually play for one score and find themselves in a hopeless situation if they fail the two-point conversion.

Wait, Weren’t You Good Last Year?

Western Michigan 22, Northwestern 21

A year after a closer-than-comfortable loss to Michigan State to open the year, the Broncos knocked off last year’s surprise 10-win team. The Wildcats led 7-6 at halftime, but the teams spent much of the second half trading scores (apart from a pair of 3-and-outs early in the third quarter). WMU took the lead for good with a 4th-and-goal touchdown run by Jamauri Bogan with under six minutes left, but failed the two-point conversion that would have put them up 3. Northwestern looked about to answer before falling victim to the dumb “fumble out of the end zone is a turnover” rule with three minutes to go - a rule which WMU’s Davontae Ginwright apparently didn’t know, as he tried to save the ball but (luckily for him) stepped out of bounds in the process.

Welp.

Washington 48, Rutgers 13

Even this score seems somewhat merciful - it was 48-3 at the end of the third quarter. The Huskies scored on their first four drives, didn’t punt in the first half (a turnover on downs inside the Rutgers 10 and a missed field goal accounted for the two failed drives), and had two special teams touchdowns just to add insult to injury. The kickoff and punt return touchdowns kept the yardage differential looking respectable (Washington’s advantage there was only 380-304), but make no mistake: this was a demolition.

Week 2 Games

All games Saturday unless otherwise specified; all times ET.

Friday Night Lights

Maryland at Florida International (7:30 PM Friday, CBS Sports Network)

How did FIU manage to wrangle hosting not one, but two Big Ten teams to start the season this year? In any event, a team whose offense comes out net negative in scoring against Indiana is probably not good.

Noon Slate

Wyoming at Nebraska (Noon, ESPN2)

The Cowboys opened the season with a surprising 3OT win over perennial MAC contender Northern Illinois. Nebraska should win this, but if last week is any indication, Wyoming could make things more interesting than I would have guessed before the season.

Penn State at Pitt (Noon, ESPN)

The return of the Keystone State rivalry also brings Pat Narduzzi back to face a Big Ten opponent for the second time since taking over at Pitt. The Panthers opened with a 28-7 win over FCS Villanova. This has “defensive slugfest” written all over it.

Central Florida at Michigan (Noon, ABC)

The Knights, 0-12 last year, are off to a better start this year with a 38-0 win over South Carolina State (FCS). Michigan is a bit of a step up in competition level, though; this game shouldn’t be interesting beyond halftime.

Cincinnati at Purdue (Noon, BTN)

The Bearcats let FCS Tennessee-Martin hang around for a surprisingly long time last weekend, trailing 7-6 as late as 18 minutes to go in the game before pulling away to win 28-7 in a turnover-filled game. If you seek high-quality football, look elsewhere, but this could be entertaining for other reasons.

Howard (FCS) at Rutgers (Noon, BTN)

Howard got smoked by Maryland last week, but Rutgers also got blown out (albeit by a team that’s probably a lot better than Maryland). It would be a surprise if the Scarlet Knights failed to win this one, but (like Cincinnati-Purdue) it’s probably going to be a less-than-aesthetically-pleasing game.

Indiana State (FCS) at Minnesota (Noon, ESPN News)

The Sycamores started their season with a 41-25 win over fellow FCS member Butler, and that score is somewhat deceptive - it was 38-6 late in the 3rd quarter and 41-12 until almost midway through the 4th, and the final touchdown allowed was as the clock expired. The Gophers will have to play better than they did against the Beavers if they want this to be a comfortable win.

Second Shift

Illinois State (FCS) at Northwestern (3:30, BTN)

The Redbirds destroyed Valparaiso (also FCS) last week, holding them to only 130 total yards in a 50-13 win. Northwestern will have their hands full with one of last year’s FCS quarterfinalists.

Tulsa at Ohio State (3:30, ABC)

Tulsa got off to a good start last week, beating San Jose State 45-10 with two defensive touchdowns. Of course, Ohio State looks at that score and laughs. Tulsa may keep it close for a while, but I doubt they’ll give the Buckeyes a real scare.

Akron at Wisconsin (3:30, BTN)

Akron’s season-opening 47-24 win over VMI (FCS) sounds routine enough, but it was only 26-24 after three quarters. Something else to keep an eye on: the Zips’ kicker Tom O’Leary had one extra point blocked and missed another in that game. Wisconsin will have to be on guard against a possible letdown after the big win over LSU, but they should be able to handle Akron without too much difficulty.

Ball State at Indiana (4:00, ESPN News)

The Cardinals held off Georgia State 31-21 last week, rushing for 325 yards but struggling to convert a massive yardage advantage to points (missing one field goal and turning the ball over on downs at the 1-yard line). If Indiana reverts to their usual form, expect fireworks from both sides.

Prime Time

North Carolina at Illinois (7:30, BTN)

The Tar Heels led against Georgia with as little as six minutes left, but couldn’t hang on in the end, falling 33-24. They will present a much tougher test for Illinois than Murray State did.

Iowa State at Iowa (7:30, BTN)

Iowa State will be looking to avoid an 0-2 in-state start after falling to FCS Northern Iowa 25-20 last week. If you need an excuse to watch this rivalry game, here’s what EDSBS’s Spencer Hall wrote about it last year. Kirk Ferentz somehow has a losing record against the Cyclones, so it’s pure folly to try to predict this game.

Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Week

Michigan State has an early bye, the only Big Ten team off this week.