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Around the Big Ten, Week 1: Michigan falters, favorites avoid disaster

It was a crazy weekend.

NCAA Football: Appalachian State at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Every Sunday, after an entire Saturday’s worth of college football, we’ll take a look around the Big Ten. As the conference as a whole fights as respectability in the non-conference, or as its power dynamics shift on a week-to-week basis this fall, we’ll follow every team and try to piece togather the puzzle that is the 13-week-long season all the way up until Indianapolis.

Here are the top storylines from Week 1:

1. Michigan State holds on against Utah State

No. 11 Michigan State’s home-opener did not go as expected, with the Spartans barely holding off the Utah State Aggies to prevent a disastrous upset. While the Spartans had a slow start and fell behind early, they were able to quickly command the lead. The Aggies’ persistence led to five lead changes and kept them within reach of the Spartans throughout the entire game, even after going down by two scores early in the second half.

After trailing since late in the second quarter, the Aggies drove down field and took a 31-30 lead with only five minutes left in the game. A few sizable pass plays from MSU QB Brian Lewerke set up the game-winning 13-yard rushing TD from Connor Heyward. With two minutes to go, USU had the ball and the chance to tie or win, but a big play from the MSU defense resulted in LB Joe Bachie coming up with an interception and the 38-31 win.

2. Michigan looks flat in South Bend

The No. 14 Wolverines were tasked with one of their toughest games of the season this week. With one of the hardest schedules in the Big Ten, Michigan has to face five ranked teams and now has an uphill battle after losing to No. 12 Notre Dame 24-17.

The Wolverines have not beaten a ranked team in a true road game since 2006 but were hopeful that this time would be different with Ole Miss-transfer QB Shea Patterson. The Fighting Irish controlled the game, and Michigan could not produce offensively with its new signal-caller, especially on the ground. The Notre Dame defensive line dominated Michigan’s offensive line, allowing only 58 rushing yards. Notre Dame scored touchdowns on three of the first four drives, but only tallied a field goal in the second half. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, their offense was unable to adjust until late in the game, coming up short. While Patterson is definitely an improvement from what Michigan had at the QB position last year in terms of confidence and athleticism, his first showing was still not enough to overcome a high-level defense. By the time Michigan finally put together a cohesive drive, there wasn’t enough time remaining, and a Patterson fumble on the potential game-tying drive handed the Fighting Irish the win.

3. Penn State dodges another App State scare

Despite being favored to win by 23 points, Penn State barely survived an upset by Appalachian State, a team well-known for its infamous field goal block to beat Michigan exactly 11 years ago. While Appalachian State was able to hang tight in the first half, it appeared that an upset would soon be out of reach after PSU started to pull away. The Mountaineers trailed by 14 early in the fourth but were able to put up a fight and tie the game at 31 with six minutes to go.

A 16-yard TD from Jalin Moore gave the Mountaineers the lead with just under two minutes remaining, but too much time remained for star senior QB Trace McSorley, who responded with a near-perfect drive and 15-yard TD pass to KJ Hamler to tie the game with under a minute to go. Appalachian State received the ball back with 42 seconds left and drove down field, but missed a 56-yard field goal at the end of regulation. In overtime, Miles Sanders took control and single-handedly rushed 25-yards to score the game winning touchdown. In an attempted response by Appalachian State, Zac Thomas’s pass was intercepted by Amani Oruwariye, securing the win for the Nittany Lions.

4. After scandal, Maryland tops N0. 23 Texas

UPSET ALERT! For the second year in a row, Maryland upset Texas. The Terrapins are now 2-22 against ranked teams since 2011, with both wins coming against the Longhorns. They Terps built a commanding a 24-7 lead midway through the second quarter, but, characteristically, Maryland began to crumble, and UT had a huge second quarter, scoring 15 unanswered points to end the half. A couple key turnovers towards the end of the game kept the ball in Terps’ hands. With under three minutes remaining, UT had the ball and the potential for a game winning drive, but yet another interception gave the ball back to Maryland and allowed them to run out the clock.

The star of the day was Maryland freshman Jeshaun Jones, who was everywhere during his first career game. He had 2 TDs on the day — one receiving, one rushing — and a 20-yard TD pass to Taivon Jacobs in the first half. Overall, Maryland had a great showing led by interim head coach Matt Canada. They also got the opportunity to honor O-Lineman Jordan McNair, who passed away this offseason due to a heatstroke suffered during a football workout.

Other Games

New Mexico State 10, Minnesota 48

After falling behind 10-7 in the second quarter, Minnesota was off to a slow start offensively, despite being favored by 21 points. The first half proved somewhat nerve-wracking for Gophers fans, who were relying on true freshman quarterback Zach Annexstad. Annexstad ended up exceeding expectations against an inferior opponent, finishing 16-of-33 for 220 yards and 2 TDs. The Gophers’ success dominated the run game, rushing 257 more yards than NMSU. Rodney Smith and Mohamed Ibrahim both rushed for over 100 yards a piece, and Seth Green led the pack with two rushing TDs.

Western Kentucky 3, No. 4 Wisconsin 34

The Badgers looked good in their season opener Friday night against the Hilltoppers. The Wisconsin defense suffocated the WKU offense, only allowing three total points and holding the Hilltoppers to 5-of-16 on third down conversions. The star of the game offensively was Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor, a Heisman candidate and the leading freshman rusher last year. Taylor led the team with 18 carries for 145 yards and two touchdowns, both off runs 30 yards or more.

Oregon State 31, No. 5 Ohio State 77

Ohio State’s first game without Urban Meyer could not have gone much better. Favored by about 40 points, the Buckeyes exceeded expectations, tying the school record for most points scored in a season opener. In his first career start, QB Dwayne Haskins Jr. had quite the day, going 22-of-33 for 313 yards and five touchdowns.

Kent State 24, Illinois 31

This game was a lot more interesting than it should have been, as Illinois had a 94 percent of winning, according to ESPN’s Power Index. It may be hard to remember the last time that Illinois was favored to win a game by 16 points, but hopes were high for the home-opener against Kent State who also finished 2-10 last season and had one of the worst defenses in the country. Kent State took a 17-3 lead in the first half, but Illinois fought back and tied the game by the end of the third. A 1-yard touchdown run from Reggie Corbin early in the fourth was enough to hold off Kent State and secure the win.

Texas State 7, Rutgers 35

Rutgers also delivered in Saturday’s matchup against Texas State. The Scarlet Knights more than doubled Texas State’s all-purpose yards and were dominant both in the air and on the ground. Despite three interceptions from freshman QB Artur Sitkowski, he finished 20-of-29 for 205 yards and a touchdown, which was ultimately enough to take down the Bobcats.

Northern Illinois 7, Iowa 33

After almost a scoreless first half, Iowa came alive in the second half scoring 30 of their 33 points in the last two quarters. Iowa controlled the momentum for the entire second half and was able to smother the Northern Illinois offense, allowing only 3-of-12 third down conversions. More importantly, Iowa brought back the best tradition in college football this season.

Indiana 38, Florida International 28

Indiana began its season with an all-around solid performance and decisive win over the Florida International Golden Panthers. After FIU struck first, Indiana quickly responded with back-to-back-to-back touchdowns. From there, it was smooth sailing for the Hoosiers, who controlled the momentum and held the lead for the duration of the game.

Akron, Nebraska

After the opening kickoff that resulted in a Nebraska touchback, storms struck, and the game was put on hold. Three hours into the delay, the teams decided to call it with no rescheduled date. Looks like the Cornhusker fans will have to wait a little longer for the debut of the Scott Frost era.