Thoughts on Penn State’s 31-7 win over Akron in a few. First what did we learn from the Big Ten in the opening week of the season. I’ll admit, I tanked on picks, but honestly, who expected Illinois to flatline (outside of Missouri), who expected Michigan to be as focused as they were (besides Michigan)…who figured that Iowa would sweat against UNI (outside of UNI fans).
If one week painted a portrait of a conference, then the Big Ten is a blueprint that is being ripped up and redesigned at the moment.
A very unimpressive weekend all around.
Indiana 19, EKU 13, (Thursday)
What we learned: IU is serious about making offensive changes with that pistol attack, and while it will take some time to work out the kinks, it looks like it will be successful behind QB Ben Chappel.
Verdict: Is EKU good, or is IU just so far down that the rebuilding took a bit of a detour this week? Call it inconclusive, but I think IU will have some success in due time.
Iowa 17, Northern Iowa 16
What we learned: If your opponent is kicking a field goal on first down late in the game and you are on defense, and you block it, it doesn’t matter how much time is on the clock, fall on the ball, OK? Should be common sense.
Verdict: No way Iowa should have struggled, so I think that talk they can compete for the Big Ten title is a little premature right now. This was the son of most unimpressive showing from a conference team of the weekend, which leads me to….
Missouri 37, Illinois 9
What we learned: Ron Zook can recruit, but coach in big spots right now? No. and Juice Williams, though he may have taken two steps forward in the
Juice Williams, shown here against Ohio State in 2007, was not loose against Missouri yesterday as Illinois was blown out 37-9/SI Photo
preseason, he just took five backward. Still a work in progress. A big one.
Verdict: Total flatline. And now that Rejus Benn is down with an ankle injury, which may or may not linger, this offense is taking a major hit. If they don’t rebound next week with a huge performance, questions will hang over this team all year.
Purdue 52, Toledo 31
What we learned: Whoever steps into Purdue’s offense can seemingly take the offense that is already in place and pick up right where the previous team left off. Might be the only team in the country you can say that about.
Verdict: Purdue still doesn’t have a defense (31 points to Toledo? Even if they turn out to be good, still…), so if they are content to win games like this all season then it will be a success.
Ohio State 31, Navy 27
What we learned: You never, ever, EVER, schedule Navy for a season opener if you are a top notch team. Ever. Especially when USC is game number two.
Verdict: I am not on the side thinking that this was bad for Ohio State because Navy is a very tricky opponent, always, with that nasty option game. Was Ohio State lucky? Yep. Did this prepare them for USC? Mentally, it might have.
Northwestern 47, Towson 14
What we learned: If you don’t care about RPI and SOS rankings and want an easy win while paying an opponent to take a beatdown, then this was perfect for Northwestern. How much it helps long term, well it doesn’t.
Verdict: Very inconclusive. It’s not even worth trying to gauge how the ‘Cats are after this game.
Wisconsin 28, Northern Illinois 20
What we learned: Wisconsin can’t take anything lightly these days, up 28-6 at one point they nearly lost that lead. Memo to the Badgers, you aren’t Ohio State, or Penn State or maybe even Wisconsin yet.
Verdict: When you have to rebuild it’s never good to let teams like NIU hang around like that. Mentally, where are the Badgers right now? This is a sign that they may let things snowball like they did last year if they get down in a game.
Michigan 31, Western Michigan 7
What we learned: Michigan, finally, was able to avoid distractions, win a home opener and look impressive in doing so. This was supposed to be a test for them with all of the off-field issues, and plus WMU has a good offense. Michigan put that to rest early.
Verdict: If the Wolverines can play as focused every week as they did this one, they will be back near the top of the Big 12. This was valuable as they prepare for rival Notre Dame next week.
Minnesota 23, Syracuse 20, OT
What we learned: Minnesota still has the best QB-WR combo in the conference right now and that they probably underestimated Greg Paulus and a retooled ‘Cuse offense but they rallied.
Verdict: I think the game said more about Syracuse’s improvement (and believe me, any sign of improvement for that team is a major one right now), than it did where Minnesota is at. But the Gophers took some body blows and responded in the later rounds and that is all that matters in the end. Decent, not great comeback.
Michigan State 44, Montana State 3
What we learned: This was as expected and where some conference teams stubbed their toe against similar teams like Montana State this week, Michigan State didn’t mess around and did what it needed to do to win.
Verdict: Inconclusive. Talk to me in three weeks after they play (BCS bound) Notre Dame.
Penn State 31, Akron 7
What we learned: The talk about PSU’s new receivers was bunk as Daryll Clark didn’t miss a beat. But you can still throw on PSU and the offensive line isn’t where it needs to be right now. Younger players need to learn how to play a full game. There is a lot of depth at receiver and PSU played a lot of young guys who showed promise.
Verdict: They didn’t put together a complete performance, at all, but sometimes when a team doesn’t play its best and they can still win with ease, that’s important.
RISE AND FALL
+ Michigan: I can’t stress how important I think it was that this team dusted aside all of the problems off the field and made short work of a team that should have caused them problems. This was Michgian’s best performance under Rich Rodriguez.
– Illinois: Wow. All that talk and hype about the offense (and I believed it too) was for not. And with Rejus Benn hurt, and Juice Williams back to being Juice Williams circa two years ago, it’s not good right now.
BEST PERFORMANCE NATIONALLY
Alabama, easily. Overrated, no way. Underrated maybe. ‘Bama’s defense is lightning fast, strong, they hawk to the ball, the offense has a game manager at quarterback and depth in the backfield. Plus the receivers are tight. This team is going to stay in the top five as long as it wants to this season.
MORE PSU THOUGHTS
- If the offensive line believes it’s one or two “small things” away from being really good, then they have to show that next week against Syracuse.
- Kevin Newsome should have been in the game sooner. They need to understand that he must get snaps these next two weeks just in case.
- Was anyone really surprised that Devon Smith saw the field? Nope. My question is at 5’7, he will not be that over the middle guy, he’s going to be more gimmick than anything this year, so how do they develop him. I wonder outloud how he’d look in the Wildcat?
- I think that the secondary got the message it can’t take anyone lightly and they better learn quickly that desptie 31-0 leads, you can’t let up.
- I also think that Paulus and Williams will challenge them next week more so than Akron did.
- How different will the receiving corps be if Clark gets into a flow with one guy (Derek Moye?)…as opposed to spreading the wealth among the Big Three like last year.
- That said….I also liked how they got several different players the ball.
- If Daryll Clark keeps playing like this, he will no longer be a Darkhorse with the Heisman talk. ESPN is already pimping him a little bit this morning.
- Clark just looked more at ease in his second season opening start, he has so much command, pocket presence, he needs to adjust to throwing to taller receivers, but man he just looked poised and ready to be the man from the start. Did you notice how he looked off two-three receivers just about every time yesterday?