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Big Ten Sampler: Week 2

Sampling Northwestern's opponents and conference mates

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten went 11-1 on Saturday, including Michigan beating a ranked Notre Dame team.

Michigan State 21, South Florida 6

For the second week in a row, MSU's defense scored two touchdowns while their offense sputtered. This week, they tried three quarterbacks: Andrew Maxwell, Connor Cook, and Tyler O'Connor. Only Cook (6-11) completed more than half of his passes, and only O'Connor (22 yards on 4 attempts) managed over 5 yards per attempt. As bad as Maxwell was last year, he at least managed to surpass those marks on the season (52.5%, 5.8 YPA). MSU's schedule has enough bad teams to find 6 wins without the offense doing much, but this team has shown no signs of being able to compete for a championship so far.

Penn State 45, Eastern Michigan 7

Eastern Michigan took a 7-0 lead with 4 minutes remaining in the first quarter, but from there on out Penn State dominated. Christian Hackenberg threw for 311 yards, both Akeel Lynch and Bill Belton rushed for over 100, and Allen Robinson caught passes for over 100. The only negative for Penn State was a 1-10 day on third down.

Wisconsin 48, Tennessee Tech 0

After beating a team that should be in the FCS in week 1, Wisconsin's week 2 opponent was an actual FCS team. The result was the same: three running backs over 100 yards and a shutout from the defense.

Illinois 45, Cincinnati 17

This game was the surprise of the week. Cincinnati demolished a bad B1G team last week, leaving me scratching my head over why they were only favored by 8. The Illinois came out, took a 21-0 lead in the second quarter, and never looked back. Nathan Scheelhaase appears to be back (26-37, 312 yards, 4 TDs), and the Illini defense was tough on third and fourth downs (3-13 on third, 0-2 on fourth). Illinois appears to have put some distance between themselves and the bottom of the conference.

Iowa 28, Missouri State 14

Iowa's defense played pretty well, holding Missouri State to only 197 yards and recording 2 takeaways. Their offense was also fairly good, gaining a total of 489 yards including 296 on the ground. They still only managed to win by 14, though. Part of the reason was an interception return touchdown off of Iowa's only giveaway, but the Hawkeyes shouldn't be satisfied with this one.

Purdue 20, Indiana State 14

Speaking of unsatisfying, Purdue needed a kickoff return touchdown (off of a well-executed trick play) and a late interception to squeak past FCS Indiana State. We already knew Purdue was awful on offense after last week's shellacking by Cincinnati, but mustering only 284 yards and 13 offensive points against an FCS team brought home just how bad they are. With Illinois showing signs of potential mediocrity, Purdue is a strong candidate for the Rick Venturi Trophy.

Ohio State 42, San Diego State 7

Ohio State scored 21 points in the first quarter and kept San Diego State off the scoreboard until the third. I could repeat the usual litany of lopsided stats, but the big story from this game was Braxton Miller's injury on an early run. With Miller out, Kenny Guiton ran the offense for most of the day, with obvious success. Miller spent most of the day on the sideline in a knee brace, and the injury has been called a sprained MCL.

Navy 41, Indiana 35

For the second year in a row, Indiana lost a close game to Navy. The Hoosiers took until the second quarter to get on the board, but once their offense got rolling it was extremely effective, gaining 481 yards and only turning the ball over once. Their defense, however, was gashed for 444 rushing yards by Navy's option attack, and they couldn't get within a single score until there was 3:53 remaining in the game, at which point Navy was able to run out the clock. I currently have Purdue as the worst team in the conference, but Indiana could challenge the Boilermakers if the Hoosier defense has more days like Saturday.

Nebraska 56, Southern Miss 13

Nebraska's defense, coming off of a disastrous day against Wyoming, scored touchdowns on 2 of their 4 interceptions and held the Golden Eagles to only 284 total yards. The Cornhusker offense was relatively boring, rushing for 285 and passing for 194 and three touchdowns.

Michigan 41, Notre Dame 30

Michigan took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and, though Notre Dame managed to tie the game early in the second quarter, the Wolverines never trailed. Devin Gardner went 21-33 for 294 yards and 4 touchdowns, though his lone interception was an ugly attempt to avoid a safety that was caught by a defender in the endzone. The Michigan run game struggled a bit, as Fitzgerald Toussaint managed only 71 yards on 22 carries. This game was Michigan's only test in the non-con, so they should enter conference play at 4-0.

Minnesota 44, New Mexico State 21

Minnesota continued to show progress, blowing out a cupcake for the second week in a row. The Gophers absolutely shut down NMSU's rushing attack (41 carries for 103 yards), and their offense rolled up 342 rushing yards on 43 carries. Phillip Nelson remains a concern, as he completed only 8 of 15 passes for 127 yards and 1 interception, but between the defense, special teams, and rushing attack Minnesota should make a bowl for the second year in a row.

Cal 37, Portland State 30

Sonny Dykes must have spent a bit too much time watching tape of Northwestern injuries instead of preparing for the game, as Portland State gained 553 yards, including 245 on the ground; the Cal defense is not, I think, very good. The Bears did record two takeaways, but their real savior was Jared Goff, who went 33-51 for 485 yards and 2 TDs in his second start. Cal's defense seems like it will prevent them doing much this year, but they should have the offense to threaten better teams.

Nicholls State 27, Western Michigan 23

The Broncos fell behind early, then rallied to take a 23-21 lead at the end of the third quarter before a pair of late field goals sealed the game for Nicholls State. Western Michigan struggled to stop the Colonels, giving up 447 yards, though they did record 3 takeaways. The WMU offense was solid on the ground (44 carries, 231 yards), but quarterback Tyler Van Tubbergen was inefficient, posting a 24-43, 254 yard, 2 INT line through the air. Northwestern should be able to keep the ground game in check and force Van Tubbergen to carry the offense, which looks like a winning strategy.

Next Week

11:00 AM CT

Indiana vs. Bowling Green

Bowling Green took care of business in their first two games, blowing Tulsa out 34-7 and beating Kent State 41-22. Still, they play in the MAC and Big Ten teams are supposed to win these games. Indiana looked more or less like a Big Ten team in week 1, much less so in week 2; the Hoosiers need to score early and often to overcome last week's bad impression.

#11 Michigan vs. Akron

To Michigan's credit, they scheduled a tough Notre Dame game and no FCS opponent. Neither Akron this week nor UConn next week are likely to threaten them, though. This should be a good game to try working out the kinks in Michigan's run offense.

Minnesota vs. Western Illinois

The Leathernecks beat down their first two opponents, but Minnesota is a lot better than Hampton and Quincy. Expect another Gopher blowout.

#23 Nebraska vs. #16 UCLA

Unlike last week, we don't have to wait until the night games for a good matchup. Last year, Nebraska's defense fell apart on the road in a game that foreshadowed UCLA's unexpected rise and Nebraska's defensive struggles against quality opponents. UCLA won't sneak up on anyone this year, and now Nebraska has home field advantage. The Huskers should have no problem scoring points, so the question is whether their defense can hold a decent opponent in check.

1:00 PM CT

Michigan State vs. Youngstown State

MSU needs to figure out their quarterback situation; FCS opponents are great for talent evaluation. Meanwhile, the defense will try to extend their scoring lead on the offense.

3:00 PM CT

Syracuse vs. Wagner

Syracuse sits at 0-2 in Big Ten play; fortunately, they play in the ACC. Wagner is the first of two easier non-conference games before they host Clemson on October 5; the Orange need to win both to preserve any chance of bowl eligibility.

5:00 PM CT

Iowa @ Iowa State

Iowa State lost to Northern Iowa in week 1; Iowa hopes not to give UNI a transitive property state championship. Iowa's offense has looked more alive in the last two games than it did all last year, which should give them an edge. The Hawkeyes also have a miserable 9-6 defeat from last season to avenge. I think the score will reach the double digits this time.

Penn State vs. Central Florida

Both teams are unbeaten but neither has faced a serious test. UCF has put up absurd passing numbers in their wins over Akron and FIU; Penn State should stop that trend. The PSU offense, on the other hand, should be able to count on Allen Robinson catching passes but may or may not have much else going on. Overall, this game seems like the best game in its slot and yet somehow the least interesting.

Illinois vs. #19 Washington

This game got much more interesting after last week's Illini win. Washington blasted Boise State two weeks ago and hasn't played since; they opened as a touchdown favorite and have seen the line move in their favor, which might not be that reassuring after what happened to Cincinnati. Scoring their second upset in as many weeks would (in addition to exceeding last year's win total) make the Illini look like a potential bowl team.

6:00 PM CT

#4 Ohio State @ California

This game has been circled on Cal's schedule for some time as their chance to make a statement by upsetting a big-time opponent early in the year. Their defensive struggles against Portland State and Northwestern, however, have made that prospect appear unlikely. Braxton Miller is day-to-day with his knee injury; expect lots of points from the Buckeyes whether or not he plays. If OSU can hold Cal under 400 yards passing, they should have this in the bag by halftime; if not, they should still win by a couple of scores.

7:00 PM CT

Purdue vs. #21 Notre Dame

Notre Dame is a good but not great team; they are a 20.5 point road favorite. It's going to be a long year in West Lafayette.

9:30 PM CT

#20 Wisconsin @ Arizona State

After rolling two awful opponents, the Badgers get their first real test by going on the road to play in the nightcap game. Arizona State has only played one game, 55-0 shutout of Sacramento State, so they are no more of a known quantity. Still, a win here would not only help Wisconsin prove they belong in the polls but also help the Big Ten shed its reputation for dropping PAC-12 road games (you're welcome, B1G).