Harrison: 5 B1G Things We Learned – Week One
What did we learn about the league after all the action in the Big Ten post week one?
A lot of the Big Ten games went according to script, but there were definitely some surprise moments to take note of. Here are the five biggest things we can take from week one’s actions:
5. Purdue and Rutgers Have Gotten Better
Yeah, it’s only one week, and yeah they both lost, but the compete level of both Purdue and Rutgers was much, much better. Both were expected to get whitewashed, and both put up a fairly decent fight against what was thought to be much superior opponents.
Rutgers provided far better resistance than a wet tissue against a CFP caliber Washington squad at home, losing 30-14. It was far from a flag-planting game, but the Scarlet Knights more than held their own for the majority of the game.
Purdue was a wee-bit better. In a turn of fortune from recent years past, the Boilermakers had Louisville on the ropes the entire game before finally succumbing to Lamar Jackson and company 35-28. If only for the INTs …
Either way, both programs look like they might be getting up off the mat.
4. The Top of the League, Looked the Part
Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin all rolled to victory as expected.
The Nittany Lions made the Akron Zips look like a high school team in route to 52-0 flogging, with both Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley having big days. In Big D, at Jerry’s World, Michigan appears to have reloaded and beat an athletic Florida team 33-17 — the score was probably closer than the actual game.
Wisconsin was every bit as impressive as we thought with a 59-10 pasting of Utah State with the trio of talented running backs getting involved. And Ohio State — despite some early sweaty palms — ended up throttling Indiana 49-21 with an impressive second half. True freshman running back J.K. Dobbins went for 181 yards to break the all-time freshman single-game rushing record at OSU.
Every one of the big four covered the spread easily. Duly noted for you gambling types.
3. Hello Michigan State
I’m not quite ready to put the Spartans in the conversation with the big four of the league just yet, but they did show the potential of bouncing back from a disastrous 3-9 season.
QB Brian Lewerke looked like he could do more than hand the ball off, the defense found a bit of its former self, and the running game chipped in by committee.
There’s still a long way to go, and beating up on Bowling Green is a lot different than going toe-to-toe with Michigan. However, there’s reason to be optimistic in East Lansing. But remember, the Spartans started off 2-0 last year before only collecting one more win the rest of the way.
So far so good though.
2. Iowa and Northwestern Continue to Confound
I thought I had it all figured out. Northwestern has so much talent back, there’s no way it can stumble against Nevada right? It has to be a contender in the West Division. Likewise, Iowa would surely have trouble against a talented NFL-type QB in Josh Allen of Wyoming.
Nope, nope, nope. Time to remember that we can never truly figure out both Iowa and Northwestern.
The Wildcats did end up winning, but not without wiggling out of a tight spot against the Wolf Pack. The offense had a day with QB Clayton Thorson throwing for 352 yards and scoring four TDs, but the defense needs to play much better.
Iowa … well, it had absolutely no problem keeping Allen and Wyoming in check. Josey Jewell had himself a day on defense, and the offense just did what it needed to do in order to beat the Cowboys slowly and methodically 24-3.
I cry Uncle! on trying to determine the fate of these two teams. It’ll likely be different next week so stay tuned and get the popcorn ready.
1. The Terps’ Statement
Many thought there was a good shot at a competitive game in Austin, but few saw Maryland winning the contest by ten points.
Look, the jury is still out on just how good Texas is, but last year D.J. Durkin’s crew had a rough time hanging with the more athletic teams in the league. Let’s look back at the scores from last year. At Penn State, the Terps lost 38-14. At Michigan? Yep, another loss 59-3. And what about Ohio State? Maryland took it on the chin again 62-3 — at home.
Again, Texas is not Ohio State, Michigan or Penn State, but it has recruited similar athletes. Maryland seems to be closing the gap, but we’ll reserve judgement for the upcoming weeks. We’ll get a much better gauge when the Terps travel to Columbus on October 7.
Regardless, no matter how you slice and dice it, this is a big win for the program. Especially considering the alternative.
Phil Harrison is the lead Big Ten writer for College Football News. Get his opinion and analysis all year long. Follow him on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFB