Well the first week is in the books and now we're on to the second week of the college football season. I mentioned last week that the Big Ten had an underwhelming opening to the season schedule wise and that will once again continue through week two, with the Hawkeyes rivalry showdown with the Cyclones being the highlight of the week. Either way, let's take a look at what's set to take place throughout the day.
Thankful for some FCS Action
Several Big Ten teams will square off against FCS opponents this week as they were essentially grandfathered in as these games were scheduled prior to the Big Ten banning said games. In all three scenarios the Big Ten school will be looking forward to some lesser competition and a chance to bounce back from a poor start last weekend.
Kicking things off first will be Minnesota and Rutgers, who will host Indiana State and Howard respectively. The Gophers are in an interesting situation because their decision to make Tracy Claeys their head coach was met with a bit of pessimism across the conference, though the reasoning was understandable. Regardless of the slightly lackluster reaction to his hiring, the Gophers more or less became a sleeper pick in the Big Ten West and their quarterback Mitch Leidner has started to garner some serious hype for the 2017 draft.
Needless to say things didn't go as anticipated as they almost lost to bottom dwelling PAC-12 opponent Oregon State at home, with Leidner completing 50% of his 26 passes for 130 yards and the team being held to 3.2 yards per carry on 47 attempts. The offense looked tepid, the defense struggled and this looked like a middle of the pack team at best (honestly, they looked quite a bit worse). Luckily the Gophers will host FCS foe Indiana State before having a bye and then a home game against Colorado State, giving them plenty of time to correct things before conference play begins in October.
As for Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights did play a strong Washington team that was expected to win, but not to the extent that they did. The Rutgers offense was stagnant throughout the day, scoring 10 of their 13 points in the fourth quarter after the game was already well out of reach. At one point the Huskies actually held a 45 point lead, so Rutgers will look forward to a lowly Howard team as a way to try to regain some momentum after last weeks dud.
Also playing a FCS squad is Northwestern, though there opponent (Illinois State) is actually one of the better sub level programs. Could that mean another upset is on the way? Well, while Illinois State could be capable of following up what Western Michigan did, one has to think the Wildcats will get things up and running just enough to take care of business here. Northwestern's issues with finding a consistent offense, however, is the main reason they might need to be a bit more cautious today.
Badgers the highlight of Week One
Easily the biggest highlight for the Big Ten in the first week of the season was the Badgers, who knocked off LSU in a de facto home game for Wisconsin. It wasn't pretty and you can argue that the Badgers would have lost if LSU had anything resembling a passing offense (interestingly enough, former Purdue starting quarterback Danny Etling is the back up for the Tigers), but a win is a win and it was a strong one on opening weekend. Past that there wasn't much in the form of highlights for the Big Ten, however.
Sure, Michigan and Ohio State absolutely walloped their opponents, while teams like Maryland, Purdue, Illinois and Nebraska all took care of business versus weaker competition. But that being said, anyone watching the Big Ten during the first two days saw Indiana struggling with FIU heading into the fourth quarter, Minnesota barely get past Oregon State and Michigan State looking flat against FCS opponent Furman. Mix that with Penn State struggling with Kent State in the first half, the Rutgers beatdown and Northwestern losing at home to Western Michigan and you have an underwhelming open to the season.
It definitely came off like Michigan and Ohio State are the cream of the crop here, with people waiting to see what Iowa and Michigan State can do. However, with Wisconsin (and their difficult schedule) knocking off a top five SEC school in the first week, it's safe to say the Badgers are officially entering the mix.
Big Ten Network will host two games in primetime tonight, offering up either North Carolina and Illinois or Iowa versus Iowa State. The Illinois game could be somewhat interesting, as this is usually a game the Illini have struggled with considerably in the past. However, there has been an increase in optimism surrounding the program thanks to the hiring of Lovie Smith, so a win against the Tar Heels would go a long way and could help Illinois get closer to turning things around. Of course if they get blown out by their ACC opponent it could be a deflating experience that makes things look more or less how they did throughout the Tim Beckman era.
That makes the Iowa State and Iowa game the more interesting affair tonight. It's funny because Iowa State has been terrible for quite some time, winning a combined eight games the last three years of Paul Rhoads tenure here and losing their season opener against a FCS school in Matt Campbell's debut. It's not just a recent downturn, either, as Iowa State hasn't won more than seven games in a season since 2000 when Sage Rosenfels was their quarterback.
As bad as the Cyclones have been, however, their outings against Iowa have been extremely tight the last several seasons. Since 2011 the Cyclones actually hold a 3-2 edge over Iowa and they've even knocked off Iowa the last two times they've came to Iowa City, winning 9-6 in 2012 and 20-17 in 2014. Regardless of how bad State has been (and how good Iowa has been), these outings have been close affairs and all logic can essentially go out the window. On paper this should be a laugher for Iowa, but the reality is we're likely set for an ugly, beat 'em up showdown between two schools that straight up do not like each other. Or in other words, entertaining football. And with the big game this week being an increasingly lackluster (besides the location) game between Tennessee and Virginia Tech, it's hard to not want to watch the Hawkeyes later on tonight.
|12:00||ABC||UCF at Michigan||Michigan 49 UCF 13|
|ESPN News||Indiana State at Minnesota||Minnesota 34 Indiana State 10|
|ESPN2||Wyoming at Nebraska||Nebraska 31 Wyoming 16|
|ESPN||Penn State at Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh 20 Penn State 17|
|BTN||Cincinnati at Purdue||Cincinnati 34 Purdue 24|
|BTN||Howard at Rutgers||Rutgers 38 Howard 10|
|03:30||BTN||Illinois State at Northwestern||Northwestern 31 Illinois State 20|
|ABC||Tulsa at Ohio State||Ohio State 59 Tulsa 14|
|BTN||Akron at Wisconsin||Wisconsin 31 Akron 10|
|04:00||ESPN News||Ball State at Indiana||Indiana 27 Ball State 13|
|07:30||BTN||North Carolina at Illinois||North Carolina 31 Illinois 24|
|BTN||Iowa State at Iowa||Iowa 27 Iowa State 16|