Around the Big Ten: Week 2
Week 1 was not the best week for the Big Ten. Yes the conference was 12-2 on the week but many wins were not very convincing and the two losses were tough to swallow. My predictions last week had me go 12-1, the only blunder being Rutgers who was able to down Washington State in a shootout. Many other teams are happy just to be 1-0 but there are plenty of tests to look forward to in Week 2.
Eastern Illinois @ Minnesota
My Prediction: Minnesota over Eastern Illinois
Result: Eastern Illinois 20, Minnesota 42
Rutgers @ Washington State
My Prediction: Washington State over Rutgers
Result: Rutgers 41, Washington 38
Jacksonville St @ 8 Michigan State
My Prediction: Michigan State over Jacksonville St
Result: Michigan State 45, Jacksonville St 7
Penn State vs UCF in Dublin
My Prediction: Penn State over UCF
Result: Penn State 26, UCF 24
Indiana State @ Indiana
My Prediction: Indiana over Indiana State
Result: Indiana State 10, Indiana 28
Northern Iowa @ Iowa
My Prediction: Iowa over Northern Iowa
Result: Northern Iowa 23, Iowa 31
Appalachian St @ Michigan
My Prediction: Michigan over Appalachian St
Result: Appalachian St 14, Michigan 52
5 Ohio State @ Navy
My Prediction: Ohio State over Navy
Result: Ohio State 34, Navy 17
Western Michigan @ Purdue
My Prediction: Purdue over Western Michigan
Result: Western Michigan 34, Purdue 43
Youngstown St @ Illinois
My Prediction: Illinois over Youngstown St
Result: Youngstown St 17, Illinois 28
James Madison @ Maryland
My Prediction: Maryland over James Madison
Result: James Madison 7, Maryland 52
Florida Atlantic @ 22 Nebraska
My Prediction: Nebraska over Florida Atlantic
Result: Florida Atlantic 7, Nebraska 55
14 Wisconsin vs 13 LSU in Houston
My Prediction: LSU over Wisconsin
Result: Wisconsin 24, LSU 28
Some Big Ten teams just took care of business the way you expect them too in week 1. Nebraska set a Big Ten record for total offensive yards in its rout of Florida Atlantic and Michigan avenged an embarrassing loss to Appalachian State. Michigan State and Maryland also cruised to convincing wins. Although they won, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and Purdue did not exactly inspire a lot of confidence. Purdue fans have the least to be worried about out of this group because it has already equaled its win total from last year and it was the only team out of the aforementioned group to beat an FBS team (even if it was a 1-11 FBS team in 2013.) As for Wisconsin, the one team not named Northwestern to lose in the Big Ten, the loss hurts because they were outscored 15-0 in the fourth quarter against an LSU team they dominated for 3 quarters. Melvin Gordon proved he is one of the nation’s elite RB with a 140 yard performance but QB play proved it will be an issue for the Badgers throughout this season.
It was not all negative though. I was among many who thought Rutgers would not be up to the task going out west and playing a Washington State team that should be desperate. That type of win should build confidence and now Rutgers could be in a position to be undefeated heading into league play. Even though the play on Saturday was not convincing, Ohio State is going to get better as the season goes on and QB JT Barrett gets more reps with the first team offense. Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg became the first signal caller from Happy Valley to surpass the 400 yard mark in passing yardage. Brightest spot for the Nittany Lions might have been their kicker Sam Ficken going 4 for 4 including the 36 yard game winning kick as time expired.
This Week (All games on Saturday, September 6th)
Bye Week: Indiana
Western Kentucky @ Illinois
Illinois’s season opener left a lot to be desired. Although they had a strong second half against Youngstown State, their slow start to the game left many, including myself, wonder just how good this team would really be. Sophomore QB Wes Lunt tossed four TDs but the running game only managed to rack up 78 total yards. Even worse, they allowed over 200 yards on the ground to Youngstown State. Meanwhile the Hilltopper’s signal caller Brandon Doughty led the country with 569 yards and also threw 6 TDs against the defending MAC champion last week. A win this week sets the Illini up nice for their trip out west in Week 3 against Washington, but slowing down the potent Western Kentucky offense is no small task.
Prediction: Western Kentucky over Illinois
McNeese State @ 19 Nebraska
A lot of talk for Nebraska coming into the season was focused on new QB Tommy Armstrong Jr, but once the game began last week, the running backs took over. Ameer Abdullah averaged 11 yards per carry on his way to 232 yards rushing. Terrell Newby added 107 yards and a couple of touchdowns and helped the Cornhuskers amass an astonishing 498 yards on the ground in week one. Look for this to continue as Armstrong continues to get comfortable with the offense and Nebraska moves into the meat of its schedule.
Prediction: Nebraska over McNeese State
Akron @ Penn State
One of the more impressive performances of the week came from James Franklins’ crew as Penn State rallied to win an exciting game in Dublin. Next is an Akron team that pitched a 41-0 shutout over Howard. Christian Hackenberg overcame a couple of interceptions to throw for 454 yards and a GW scoring drive but the running game was disastrous for the Nittany Lions. Zach Zwinak and Bill Belton combined for 22 carries for a meager 28 yards. The running game has to get better, but luckily for Penn State, Hackenberg can probably carry the team through some weaker competition.
Prediction: Penn State over Akron
Central Michigan @ Purdue
Purdue is the first Big Ten team to match its win total from last year. They also only won a single game last year. Regardless, winning a shootout with Western Michigan helped the team get a monkey off its back and now they face another MAC opponent. QB Danny Etling only managed to complete half of his passes, but still accounted for three total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing.) Etling will have to play much better against an opportunistic Chippewa defense rallied from a 16-0 deficit and intercepted four passes against Chattanooga last week. If Etling protects the ball, Purdue could double last year’s win total in the first two weeks.
Prediction: Purdue over Central Michigan
Howard @ Rutgers
The most surprising result of the weekend had to be Rutgers going out west and knocking off Washington State. Junior RB Paul James turned in a 173 yard, three-touchdown performance for the Scarlet Knights and senior QB Gary Nova did an above average job managing the game. It gets much easier for Rutgers as they play in High Point Solutions Stadium for the first time and welcome a Howard team coming off a 41-0 drubbing from Akron. Rutgers will be looking for massive improvement from the secondary after than unit gave up 532 yards passing last week.
Prediction: Rutgers over Howard
Western Illinois @ 18 Wisconsin
Wisconsin knows it gave one away in Houston. A fourth quarter implosion cost the Badgers (and the Big Ten as a whole) a huge non-conference victory. This week is a good week to rebound for Wisconsin. While the Joel Stave situation (is he hurt? Is he ready? No one has an answer for either) will hover over the team for the foreseeable future, QB Tanner McEvoy has to play much better than his 8-24 with 50 yards and two interception performance against LSU. Gary Anderson will also be watching the strained hip flexor of Melvin Gordon very closely, though it is unlikely to matter this week.
Prediction: Wisconsin over Western Illinois
Middle Tennessee @ Minnesota
Minnesota’s final score does not entirely tell the story of their game. Through three quarters, they had thoroughly dominated Eastern Illinois, and the game took on more of a shootout tone only in the 4th quarter. Middle Tennessee’s 61-7 romp of Savannah State says all you really need to know about the Blue Raiders’ opening matchup. This game will be two teams seeing comparable competition for the first time. Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner was helped out by the running game that amassed 182 yards and four touchdowns. Like several QB in the Big Ten, his accuracy was a problem and will have to improve as the season goes on. Middle Tennessee QB Austin Grammer, meanwhile, completed all but two of his passes and had 14.7 yards per attempt. This game could very well come down to who has the ball last.
Prediction: Middle Tennessee over Minnesota
Ball State @ Iowa
Iowa learned the hard way last week that just because a game looks easy on paper, does not mean they will be easy W’s on the field. A large reason for the Hawkeyes dreadful play was the less than stellar run game. Although Iowa racked up 151 rushing yards, it only did so with 4.2 yards per carry. Junior QB Jake Rudock took on much of the load going 31 for 41 with 250 yards and a couple touchdowns. Improving the running game is especially important against a Ball State team that had not one but two one hundred yard rushers in week 1. Kirk Ferentz and crew will want to keep the Cardinal rushing attack on the sidelines for as long as possible.
Prediction: Iowa over Ball State
Maryland @ South Florida
Maryland jumped on James Madison early and often in Week 1 and wants that momentum to continue into their first road trip of the season. While QB play was average with CJ Brown and Caleb Rowe combining to go 18 for 35 with 186 yards and two touchdowns, the rushing attack was relentless. 6 players had at least 3 carries and the Terrapins rushed for 285 yards and 5 touchdowns. On the other side, however, South Florida true freshman RB Marlon Mack racked up 275 yards and four touchdowns by his lonesome. When you throw in his 11.5 yards per carry, it’s easy to say that kid is going to be pretty good. Since South Florida QB’s only completed 37 percent of their passes, Mack is going to see plenty of eight and nine man fronts from Maryland that will make it very difficult to replicate his week 1 performance.
Prediction: Maryland over South Florida
7 Michigan State @ 3 Oregon
This is not only the marquee matchup of the Big Ten’s non-conference schedule, but the most anticipated non-conference game in the country. Gameday will be on hand, as the Spartans attempt to legitimize themselves to the national media. Connor Cook proved the end of last season was no fluke as he effortlessly guided the MSU offense to over 550 yards of total offense while completely 12 of his 13 passes. The defense was just as stifling with three interceptions and five sacks. Oregon will be more than up to the task. The Marcus Mariota led offense racked up 62 points and 673 yards of offense while their defense only surrendered 13 points. If MSU RB Jeremy Langford can find space and help the Spartans keep the Ducks off the field, Michigan State could leave Eugene as a top five or top three team.
Prediction: Michigan State over Oregon (I said in my preseason preview of MSU that they would lose, but I am a believer after week 1)
Michigan @ 16 Notre Dame
This familiar matchup between Midwest powers is currently not on the schedule past the 2014 season, making the matchup between the Wolverines and Fighting Irish extra special. Michigan avoided a second loss to Appalachian State as QB Devin Gardner and WR Devin Funchess connected for three first quarter TD’s. Notre Dame QB Everett, coming off a year away from football, racked up five total touchdowns as the Irish silenced critic who said the academic suspensions of five players would hold the team back. Michigan will need Gardner to be on top of his game again and Notre Dame will rely on its defense to turn in another shut down performance. Bragging rights have never been a bigger motivator in this rivalry.
Prediction: Notre Dame over Michigan
Virginia Tech @ 8 Ohio State
Even though the Buckeyes looked dominant in the second half against Navy, their first half struggles are impossible to ignore. This is simply not the same team without Braxton Miller calling the plays. The defense also had a tough time containing Navy’s triple option attack, surrendering 370 yards on the ground. These two together will undoubtedly lead to a much more focused Ohio State team who will look to help Barrett continue to build confidence. The Hokies will be a formidable opponent, but the talent disparity of the two teams should have Ohio Stadium rocking in support of the home team.
Prediction: Ohio State over Virginia Tech
My predictions year to date: 11-2
Big Ten Week 2 record (w/o NU): 9-3