Mmmm... College football. It sure felt good to finally soak in its glory this weekend. From dawn until well past dusk, there was quality football on TV; games from one side of the country all the way to a different country. (In fact, it takes 20 hours and 10 minutes to fly from Ireland to Hawaii). Now we process the sensory overload.
It needs to be pointed out that college football is a mystery. Teams change every year, so the teams that were thought to be good might turn out to be bad, and vice versa. This deeply applies to Week 1. So Alabama didn't breeze past West Virginia, maybe the Mountaineers are better than everyone thought; maybe Youngstown State is really good too. We just don't know yet. As the weeks go on, the context will be created.
The Spartans looked good, but they were not at the same level as they were during last year's Rose Bowl. It's the first game and they're surely looking forward to playing the Oregon Ducks in Week 2, so I'm not going to take much away from a solid performance. At the end of the third quarter, MSU had held Jacksonville State to negative rushing yards, letting us know that they're still one of the best units in college football.
Nebraska had the most dominant performance by any B1G team in Week 1. Ameer Abdullah rushed for a Heisman-worthy 232 yards (11.0 average yards per rush) and one touchdown, and most of that happened in the first half. The Huskers produced an outstanding 784 yards and allowed only 200 -- the difference, 584 yards, is more than any B1G team had all weekend. Bo Pelini is on fire right now.
Freshmen quarterback T.J. Barrett was thrown in the maelstrom of the Ohio State offense. The Buckeyes allowed a good Navy team to stick around for quite a long time. It wasn't until the second half before things started to click. Barrett hit Devin Smith for an 80-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter, and the rest was pretty much vanilla. Ohio State's back to its pious pompousness.
A demon was slain this weekend that never should have existed in the first place. Michigan made sure to get its point across that 2007 was a mistake. Devin Gardner threw three touchdown passes to All-B1G tight end Devin Funchess in the first half and it was clear that it was a blowout. The offense looked better than last year, which is a key to their competitive hopes in 2014. They averaged 10.2 yards per play, the second highest average of any BCS team.
It's fairly difficult to rank the Badgers. If their game against LSU had ended at halftime, or even two minutes into the second half, Wisconsin would be in the top three of this list. Melvin Gordon was running all over the place, and the defense was holding the run-heavy LSU offense to nearly nothing. Then the second half started, Gordan ran for 63-yards on the first play -- then he disappeared from the game. Gordon had two more carries the rest of the game, and no one knows why. He wasn't injured, he hadn't done anything wrong; coach Gary Andersen just forgot he was there. Injuries to the defense and quarterback/receiver confusion also played a role in the downfall of the Badgers, but not using one of the best players in the nation is inexcusable.
UCF was nearly too much, UCF was also a good defensive team last year that brought back most of its roster, and yet, Christen Hackenburg took another giant leap forward to prove his value. He threw for 454 yards (a Penn State record) with one touchdown and two interceptions. There were several moments when they nearly lost, but the Nittany Lions fought for all 60 minutes, winning on a last second field goal. In a purely entertaining aspect, this was the best B1G game of the weekend.
It was a nice day for the Terps. They woke up Saturday morning, rolled out of their bed made of money, and proceeded to sit in front of the TV. They searched through the local channels, trying to set the DVR to record their game, when realization struck that they were no longer relegated to the depths of ESPN3 and had now moved on to the more prevalent Big Ten Network. A deep sense of success descended. Then they played a football game. The end.
Hype has been building for the Hawkeyes for the past seven months, and so, as to not let their fans down, they decided to keep this game closer than it should have been.The game was filled with highlights on the offense and futility from the defense. There's going to be growing pains with this team and even it it doesn't turn out great this year, the 2015 defense should be quite formidable.
Week 1 wasn't really set up for many upsets, but of all B1G wins, Rutgers got the biggest one. Washington State should have been able to put it away quickly with its high octane passing attack. Rutgers was one of the worst in pass defense last year, and they weren't much better last Thursday as they allowed over 500 yards through the air. Running back Paul James let it be known that the WSU defense could not keep up with him. Head coach Kyle Flood was reportedly seen wiping away tears after the win -- it was a big win for the new members.
At one point in their game this weekend, the Hoosiers ran on 11 straight plays. Tell you something? Running back Tevin Coleman is going to be the cornerstone of 2014 Indiana, but most of us already expected that. What Indiana needs for their first bowl game since 2007 is defense. Yes, the opposition wasn't exactly stout, but they allowed only 170 yards of offense. Only 30 of that was on the ground. If, like the Illini, the Hoosiers can grow a defense, they'll likely get to that mythical bowl game.
It took awhile for the Gophers offense to get going, but once they did it wasn't much. They produced 338 offensive yards--the second lowest output of any B1G game this weekend. Their defense was only slightly better. The run defense allowed 2.5 yards per rush, but the pass defense gave up 310 total yards. It was a scarily average performance; one that was neither good or terrible.
Don't worry, guys, even Batman nearly lost to Penguins. The first three quarters would have put the Illini in 14th place on this list; the fourth quarter alone would have put them mid-table. The defense looked better than 2013 overall, allowing 3.4 yards per rush (5.6 last year) and sacking the YSU quarterback three times, all while being on the field for near 40 minutes. The offensive line got pushed around too easily causing our running game to be fairly nonexistent. But all was not lost -- the rise of Wes Lunt came to save the day. Four touchdown passes brought the Illini from the brink of horrible. They showed that they can play, but also that they can make some bad mistakes. We'll all be watching to see which version they are as the season progresses.
The Boilermakers were outgained in yardage, 456 to 407, against a Western Michigan that went 1-11 last year and played several true freshmen this weekend. The defense gave up 456 yards, which is the second worst of any B1G team, however Rutgers, who gave up 538 yards mostly through the air, gets a reasonable excuse because they played Washington State. Purdue's two running backs, Raheem Morstert and Akeem Hunt, averaged 5.9 yards a rush and was the major factor in their win. They still have some work to do, but this is the best win of the Darrell Hazell era.