Hot Reads: Recapping Week 2 in the Big Ten
Photo Credit: Jesse Johnson - USA TODAY Sports

Hot Reads: Recapping Week 2 in the Big Ten

September 10, 2018

Big Ten teams went 8-4 in nonconference play in Week 2, which is convenient for traditional narrative building. You could focus on two nice wins over in-state rivals (Iowa, Penn State), or you could look at the Pac-12 going 2-0 (Nebraska, Michigan State). Wins are wins and losses are losses, but if you're interested in how those teams actually played, we're here to help with a close inspection of all the box scores.

As we did last week, we’ll look at these results through a Impressive/Fair/Deceptive prism.

Michigan 49 Western Michigan 3: Not a whole lot to see here. The Wolverines got right after a season-opening loss to Notre Dame in the classic Harbaugh Era way –– run the ball (8.8 yards per carry), stop the run (3.1 yards per carry). Transfer quarterback Shea Patterson only attempted 17 passes for a relatively pedestrian 125 yards. | Fair

Duke 21 Northwestern 7: Yards per play were about even (and ugly both ways), success rate was about even, field position was about even. So how did Northwestern lose by two touchdowns at home to Duke? Going -2 in turnovers didn’t help, but the larger problem was four Wildcats drives that ended inside the Blue Devil 40 without any points. Northwestern didn’t play very well against what looks like another solid Duke team. | Fair

Eastern Michigan 20 Purdue 19: How does a team average 8.1 yards per carry, avoid any turnovers, spend most of the day in the opponent’s backfield (9.5 TFLs) and lose? It squanders scoring opportunities, of course. Two of Purdue’s three in the second half ended in no points and Eastern Michigan cashed in its four on the game. At 2-0, EMU is on its way to bowl eligibility and looks like a good team. Purdue? At 0-2 there’ll be some hand-wringing coming off a breakout 2017, but this loss is a little deceptive. The Boilermakers played well enough to win ugly, but not so well for me to call this result anything but . . . | Fair

Wisconsin 45 New Mexico 14: It was only 10-7, Wisconsin, at halftime but the Badgers have erosion power. Per Football Study Hall’s calculation Wisconsin posted an absurd 69.4 percent success rate while putting up 568 yards, 426 of them on the ground. If a team can’t force the Badgers to throw there are going to be problems. The opponents are nothing to write home about, but Wisconsin has looked the part of a top-five team with two blowouts. | Impressive

Colorado 33 Nebraska 28: I’ve already written at length about how the Huskers impressed me in their first game under Scott Frost, but here’s a number Nebraska fans won’t soon forget. Per Football Study Hall, again, the Huskers could’ve expected to win Saturday’s game 93.3 percent of the time based on the stats of both teams. That’s infuriating for Husker fans, but still . . . | Impressive

Ohio State 52 Rutgers 3: The Scarlet Knights scored this time, something they hadn’t done in the previous two meetings with Ohio State, so that’s something. Otherwise this one played out exactly to form. One might say, “the Buckeyes crushed Rutgers, so what?” I say never take blowouts for granted. | Ohio State: Impressive, Rutgers: Fair

Iowa 13 Iowa State 3: I thought these kind of games were extinct from modern college football. The two teams combined for 487 yards in punts and 459 yards of offense. The Hawkeyes missed two field goals, so the final score might be obscuring just how heavily Iowa leaned on its in-state rival here. Iowa has yet to give up more than one score in a game this season, and that’s against Northern Illinois and Iowa State. | Impressive, even if the game was ugly

Maryland 45 Bowling Green 14: Eight Terrapins carried the ball in this game as Maryland averaged 8.4 yards per carry. You don’t need to know much more about this one than that, but under the take-no-blowouts-for-granted theory, I remain impressed by Maryland after two games. The Terps should’ve smoked Bowling Green and did. With home games against Temple and Minnesota up next, there’s a good chance Maryland goes into its bye week at the end of September 4-0. | Impressive

Illinois 34 Western Illinois 14 | The Illini were without quarterback AJ Bush after the first quarter (injury), and still came away with a 20-point win but this one wasn’t as impressive as the score may indicate. Illinois was a little lucky on the turnover front and even in terms of yards and first downs. The Illini still don’t look very good, something that probably shows up in Chicago this week when Illinois faces a South Florida team that just beat Georgia Tech. | Deceptive

Indiana 20 Virginia 16: Each first down in this rain-soaked affair ended up being worth about 1 point. The Hoosiers had 21, Cavaliers 15. A good, gut-it-out win for Indiana, the Hoosiers did a lot of things well here. They had a big edge in success rate and deserved a little better on the turnover front than simply ending up even. This Indiana team hasn’t looked bad through two games. Conference wins might still be tough to come by, but one step at a time and the Hoosiers took a nice step on Saturday. | Impressive

Minnesota 21 Fresno State 14: I did not expect Minnesota to beat Fresno State and neither did Vegas, making the Gophers a pick ‘em at home. Win Minnesota did, however, and that’s impressive (and the only result that matters). But Fresno State actually had a positive win probability based on the stats. The Bulldogs were a little more efficient, a little more explosive and had a nearly 10-yard edge in average field position. Credit to the Gophers for making the plays they had to make, but I can’t quite give them full credit here. | Slightly Deceptive

Pennsylvania State 51 Pittsburgh 6: Don’t write off the post-Moorhead Penn State offense just yet. Don’t assume everything’s fine yet, either. The Nittany Lions averaged 6.1 yards per play but quarterback Trace McSorley was only 14-of-30 passing for 145 yards. The biggest thing in this one was Penn State’s average starting field position just short of their own 40. Based on that, a 51-6 score feels a little less surprising, but the Nittany Lions defense showed up big with an efficient performance. | Impressive

Arizona State 16 Michigan State 13: The stats say this should’ve been a coin flip and the game basically was. Michigan State was a little unfortunate here as the Spartans held an edge in success rate and made a little more of their scoring opportunities, on average. Given that field position and turnovers were about even, the Spartans could’ve expected a close win. For a team with a preseason top-15 ranking, however, that’s sort of the larger story here –– Michigan State and Arizona State were dead even. | Fair

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