Clearing the Dust: Week One Big Ten Football Capsule

September 6, 2009

Written by Jon Miller

Best of the Big Ten:  That team was probably Michigan.  One could argue that the Wolverines played the best opponent of any team in the league.  Western Michigan won nine games last year and returned the majority of those players, including quarterback Tim Hiller, who may be a first day selection in next April’s NFL draft.   The Wolverines went out and led 31-0 at halftime.  Tate Forcier and Dennard Robinson wowed at quarterback, the former with his arm and the latter with his jet speed.  They also held WMU’s offense in check on the day.  While Michigan won’t be back to being Meeechigan this year, they are better than I thought they would be after week one.  I also wondered to myself, ‘If Rich Rod survives this year, what is his offense going to look like with the talent that he will be able to bring to Michigan?’

Second Best: Michigan State in their 44-3 rout over Montana State.   The Spartans racked up nearly 500 yards, over 300 through the air with two quarterbacks getting significant playing time and an audition outside of the practice field.  They also racked up more than 170 yards on the ground and avoided the serious injury bug.  This was about as ‘best case’ scenario as the Spartans could have hoped for.  It was also their first ever game against a 1-AA opponent in school history.

Worst of the Big Ten: There was just one loser in the league this week, in the loss column that is, and that was Illinois.  They were destroyed 37-9 by a Missouri team that had lost three all time offensive players from last year’s team.  I felt Illinois would crush the Tigers, believing that the Illini had the best skill position talent in all of the league.  Granted, Arrelious Benn was nicked up early in this game, but there is no way that the loss of one receiver should implode an entire offense.  Juice Williams still had Fayson, Cumberland and others to throw to and they have several solid running backs.  Mizzou’s defense is not great, but the offseason question for the Illini would be if theirs could be average.  So far, it’s not looking good, and it would appear that the loss of offensive coordinator Mike Locksley will be much more problematic than expected.  Illinois had better turn things around, or I believe this could be the beginning of the end of the Ron Zook era.

Worst of the Big Ten, Part II: Everyone else except Penn State, Northwestern and Purdue and the two teams mentioned above.  We all know about Iowa’s game on Saturday.  How about Ohio State beating Navy by four, needing to intercept and return a potential game tying two point conversion late to beat the Middies at home?  Navy was even -2 in the turnover department, and had a chance to win the game late in the fourth quarter.  How many teams have been able to say that the last few years coming into the Shoe?  Not many, and this underscores the talent drain on the OSU program the past few years.  They are not going to be able to reload this year the way they have in other years.  They still have enough talent to win the Big Ten, but that says everything about the quality of the league this year.  Ohio State’s offensive line ha its struggles, and if they didn’t have Terrelle Pryor on the field, they would have lost that game.  If he goes down this year, they are an above average football team on the national scale.

Indiana couldn’t run on Eastern Kentucky…that’s not a good sign.   Minnesota had to go to overtime to beat Syracuse, who started a Duke point guard at quarterback…that’s not a good sign.  Wisconsin let Northern Illinois creep back into it late, allowed an onside kick to set up a potential game tying drive in the fourth quarter…that’s not a good sign.

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But, it’s week (weak?) one.  Many of these teams can get a lot better over the next few weeks, but I no longer expect Ohio State to beat USC this coming week.  I think Michigan has more of a shot against Notre Dame than I did in the out of season, but the Irish had an impressive 35-0 win against Nevada and their talented dual threat quarterback.

Question of the Week: Why did Penn State need Darryl Clark to throw the ball 40 times in their 31-7 pasting of Akron?   He was an impressive 29 of 40 for 353 yards, and Evan Royster didnt need more than 14 carries against a team PSU was expected to handle.  Is it because JoePa knows that he is going to have to rely on Clark’s arm more this year, because the offensive line will be nowhere near where it was a year ago?  Or did they just take what the Zips gave them?  I guess we’ll have the answer to that as the season wears on, just like we will to the question of whether Iowa’s week one struggles will be an aberration, came against a pretty salty team, or was a harbinger of things to come for the entire year.

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Conference Reset:  Jon Miller’s Power Poll After Week One

1-Penn State:  Somebody has to be here
2-Michigan State: Got more out of game one than any team
3-Michigan:  Three feet high and rising
4-Ohio State:  No Pryor, No Chance
5-Northwestern:  12-17 on third downs, allowed just 65 rushing yards
6-Wisconsin:  The beginning of the murky middle
7-Iowa:  Less than inspiring performance; in state rival up next
8-Minnesota:  Downhill running game just 112 yards against Syracuse
9-Illinois: Didn’t help Big 10’s beleaguered reputation at all
10-Purdue:  Impressive stats, but still not a believer
11-Indiana:  Bill Lynch should get to know dice.com

Iowa Football:  What We Know After Week One (Also to be referred to as ‘What Jon Thinks He Knows)

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-Paki O’Meara is a great teammate, a tough kid, and as Kirk Ferentz has said, he does a lot of things well.  However, I don’t think he is a starting tailback in the Big Ten, meaning he is not a 15 to 20 carry back.  Perhaps that was just one game, perhaps his footwork can improve, along with his patience and speed burst.  But that seems like asking a guy to be a lot of things he just may not be.
-The offensive line will get better this week, with the addition of Kyle Calloway at right tackle and Dace Richardson moving to one of the guard positions
-This team has its best collection of passing game players since the 2002 Iowa team; if they can’t get a solid ground game going, will they revamp things a bit?  No, I am not talking about going to a spread, either.
-The defensive line has the makings of being another outstanding group.  The entire defense will be just fine
-Ryan Donahue is going to win Iowa some games this year.  He may have on Saturday.
-This is the deepest collection of capable and competent wide receivers Iowa has had at any time in the Ferentz era.
-The game in Ames will be a dogfight, and I will be glad when it’s over.

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