One week of Big Ten football is in the books! Most of what happened was expected, but we had some surprises like Maryland beating No. 23 Texas. Here’s a rundown of what kind of shape each Big Ten team is in heading into week two.
Big Ten East
No. 2 Ohio State
- Last week: beat Indiana, 49-21
- This week: hosting No. 5 Oklahoma
- Key injuries: none
The Buckeyes will be even better off against the Sooners now that Mike Weber returns from injury, as he and breakout freshman J.K. Dobbins will form a heck of a tandem. J.T. Barrett is still a very good quarterback, and their defense played well against Indiana. This week will be an early test of their playoff pedigree.
No. 4 Penn State
- Last week: beat Akron, 52-0
- This week: hosting Pittsburgh
- Key injuries: defensive back John Reid (out for season)
The Nittany Lions flexed all over Akron on Saturday and showed just why they are seen as a playoff contender. In past years, they’ve struggled against lesser opponents, but shutting the Zips out showed they are a different animal this year. Handing it to Pitt would be a good way to continue showing that.
No. 8 Michigan
- Last week: beat Florida, 33-17
- This week: hosting Cincinnati
- Key injuries: defensive backs David Long and Brandon Watson (day-to-day)
Other than: the potentially thinning secondary (which Jim Harbaugh seemed to think would be ok), the Wolverines are in good shape, having handed Florida a solid beating. Wilton Speight appears to have locked down the starting quarterback role and a defense that graduated a ton of talent doesn’t seem to have missed a beat.
- Last week: beat Bowling Green, 35-10
- This week: hosting Western Michigan
- Key injuries: wide receiver Brandon Sowards (out for season)
The Spartans stumbled early but eventually ran away from Bowling Green on Saturday as they look to get back on track. Last season’s 3-9 finish will likely just be an anomaly, but they’ve still got work to do. Western Michigan is no slouch, so it’ll be a tougher task than it may look like on paper.
- Last week: beat Texas, 51-41
- This week: hosting Towson
- Key injuries: quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome (out for season), linebacker Jesse Aniebonam (out indefinitely)
How about those Terps? They marched into Austin and silenced the crowd, but took some big lumps along the way. Pigrome looked really good against the Longhorns while Aniebonam is one of the better pass rushers in the Big Ten. The Terps can be happy with a hot start, but have some holes to fill before the meat of their schedule.
- Last week: lost to Ohio State, 49-21
- This week: at Virginia
- Key injuries: wide receiver Nick Westbrook (out for season)
The Hoosiers gave it their all and really looked capable of giving the Buckeyes a game, but it fell apart for them as time wore on. It’s a tough way to start the season, facing a playoff contender, but we learned that Simmie Cobbs and co. are not going quietly. However, Westbrook’s torn ACL is a major bummer for a team looking to pull some upsets.
- Last week: lost to Washington, 30-14
- This week: hosting Eastern Michigan
- Key injuries: wide receiver Ahmir Mitchell (out for season)
Rutgers is a rebuilding program, and while the loss to Washington wasn’t pretty, it was a good experience for a young squad. You’ve got to take some hits before you start dishing them out, and they have a really good chance to get a win against Eastern Michigan. Wideout Jawuan Harris returns from suspension, which will be huge.
Big Ten West
No. 9 Wisconsin
- Last week: beat Utah State, 59-10
- This week: hosting Florida Atlantic
- Key injuries: linebacker Jack Cichy (out for season), running back Bradrick Shaw (questionable for FAU game)
The Badgers left no doubt when crushing the Aggies—ok, maybe a little doubt early on. But still, they ended up looking really good. We know their defense will be staunch even without Cichy, it’s just about whether or not they can move the ball. Against offensive-minded Lane Kiffin and his Owls, that probably won’t be an issue.
- Last week: beat Arkansas State, 43-36
- This week: at Oregon
- Key injuries: cornerback Chris Jones (out indefinitely)
The Huskers nearly let one slip against Arkansas State, but alas, they sit pretty at 1-0. However, facing an Oregon team back on the come-up will be tough for a team who is still figuring itself out under third-year coach Mike Riley. Tanner Lee needs a little polishing at quarterback, but Tre Bryant looked very good carrying the ball.
- Last week: beat Nevada, 31-20
- This week: at Duke
- Key injuries: defensive back Keith Watkins (out for season)
Yuck. Consider it the curse of Darren Rovell, because that was not the Northwestern everyone is picking as the Big Ten sleeper this year. Clayton Thorson is a good quarterback and they have a great running back in Justin Jackson, so they should be ok despite a scare. Plus, Duke is still a basketball school.
- Last week: beat Wyoming, 24-3
- This week: at Iowa State
- Key injuries: none
Two seasons ago, Iowa was ready to shock everybody before falling short in the Big Ten Championship game. They aren’t at that level, and probably won’t reach it this year, but got a good start against Wyoming. They won’t dazzle you with offense, but their stingy defense shut down a potential first-round NFL pick in quarterback Josh Allen.
- Last week: beat Ball State, 24-21
- This week: hosting Western Kentucky
- Key injuries: linebacker Jake Hanson (out for season), defensive back Jaylen Dunlap (return unknown), running back Reggie Corbin (return unknown)
The Illini may have an NFL coach at the helm in Lovie Smith, but they truly looked like a college team on Saturday, barely squeaking out a win over Ball State. However, that’s not a bad thing. Smith gave a ton of freshmen looks on the field and showed his faith in the players he’s brought into the program. It’s not so good now, but it’s a real start.
- Last week: beat Buffalo, 17-7
- This week: at Oregon State
- Key injuries: wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell (out indefinitely)
Minnesota was one of the surprises of the weekend, and it wasn’t in a good way. P.J. Fleck will no doubt have a positive impact on this program, but they came out flat against a Buffalo team not even close to their level. Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks should have combined for 400 yards on the ground, but neither got over 100. Oregon State will be an actual test of what this Gophers team is made of.
- Last week: lost to Louisville, 35-28
- This week: hosting Ohio
- Key injuries: running back Markell Jones (out indefinitely)
Purdue is opposite Minnesota on the other end of the spectrum. Their project looked like it would take some more time, but they came out and nearly beat a Heisman winner. If not for a couple of mistakes, they certainly would have. David Blough is a true gunslinger, and that wins and loses games depending on the opportunism of the opposing defense. But, expect Purdue to keep growing, starting with Ohio.
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