Photo Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Impressive, Fair or Deceptive? Recapping Week 1 in the Big Ten

September 02, 2018

Nebraska football didn’t get a game in, but every other Big Ten team did. If we didn’t learn anything about the Huskers on Saturday, we at least got one of 12 (minimum) data points for the rest of league. It’s tough to draw any conclusions from one game –– though it’s rarely stopped anyone before –– but we can at least take a close look at the box scores to see what we can see.

To give this roundup some order, let’s classify each result for a Big Ten team as Impressive, Fair or Deceptive based on the stats.

Northwestern 31 Purdue 27: I expected the Wildcats to win this one, but I came away thinking Purdue may have proven more. The Boilermakers had a ton to replace on defense against a team that won 10 games a year ago. Yet Purdue out-yarded Northwestern 472-401, but lost the turnover battle 3-0 and was a little unlucky on that front with the Wildcats picking off three-of-nine passes defended (expected rate is about 20 percent). This backed up any preseason thoughts that the West has the potential to get wild in 2018. | Northwestern: Fair, Purdue: Impressive

Minnesota 48 New Mexico State 10: Nothing like being 0-2 before the first real weekend of college football kicked off. That was New Mexico State’s fate, and the Aggies might not be real good in 2018. Minnesota hammered them on the ground, but the Gophers’ true freshman quarterback Zack Annexstad was just 16-of-33 (though he did avoid any interceptions). I don’t think I know anything more about Minnesota after this one. | Fair

No. 11 Michigan State 38 Utah State 31: It was a lackluster win, but don’t bury Michigan State just yet. First downs were equal, yards were in favor of the Spartans. Michigan State had a lower expected turnover number –– 1.6-2.2 –– and a lower actual turnover count, 2-3. I didn't come into the season buying the Spartans as a top 15 team so this result struck me as . . . | Fair

No. 4 Wisconsin 34 Western Kentucky 3: The Badgers rolled over a Western Kentucky team that has faded a bit since the departure of Jeff Brohm. Wisconsin was pretty balanced between run and pass, never in danger and looked the part of a preseason top-five team. That's easier said than done. | Impressive

Illinois 31 Kent State 24: Illinois came back twice in this game, once from down 17-3 and then from down 24-17. The Illini also needed a late red-zone stop to make the final score hold up. First downs and yards were about equal, turnovers about as expected. And that’s the problem for Illinois. Kent State was 2-10 a year ago. One-time Nebraska quarterback AJ Bush was 13-of-23 through the air for 190 yards and was sacked three times, but he rushed for 139 yards on 21 carries. | Fair (but that's bad)

Maryland 34 No. 23 Texas 29: It’s good not to be Longhorns coach Tom Herman right nowGet this: Maryland had one more first down than Texas on Saturday, one more rushing yard and one more passing yard. The Longhorns got a little unlucky with their interception rate, but this box score was about as even as they come. And that, given all that Maryland went through in August remains . . . | Impressive

No. 5 Ohio State 77 Oregon State 31: I don’t care who it’s against, putting up 77 points is impressive. For some reason there is no box score of this game on either Ohio State’s or Oregon State’s websites. Maybe box scores were suspended. I watched the beginning of this game and what I remember is Oregon State starting a nice drive to open, turning it over and Ohio State going down the field for a touchdown in, like, four plays. At that point I turned to my friend and said, this game is going to go exactly like it’s supposed to go. And that, given all the stuff surrounding Ohio State in August, remains . . . | Impressive

Rutgers 35 Texas State 7: The Bobcats had been bad for three straight seasons entering this one, but so had the Scarlet Knights. All that being said, Rutgers hammered Texas State here. True freshman quarterback Artur Sitkowski was good with his completion rate (20-of-29), bad with interceptions (3), though the latter involved a little good fortune on the part of the Bobcats. Probably why the margin was only 28 points. If Rutgers is to get closer to being “good,” it first has to beat up on “bad” teams. Box checked. Pretty emphatically. | Impressive

Iowa 33 Northern Illinois 7: I, too, raised an eyebrow when I saw Iowa only leading Northern Illinois 3-0 at halftime. A closer look at the box score made me happy I didn’t watch this game. (Representative drive-ended sample: punt, field goal miss, punt, punt, interception, downs.) The Hawkeyes did eventually find some breathing room and Northern Illinois is no cakewalk, as Husker fans learned last year. Shoulda-been-a-Husker Noah Fant was held in check (3 catches, 10 yards) but did have a touchdown. | Fair

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Good job, good effort Appalachian State.

No. 10 Penn State 45 Appalachian State 38 (OT): If I ever had to just pick a random college football team to root for it would be Appalachian State. I’m drawn to that program for reasons I can’t adequately explain, and it has nothing to do with a game against Michigan. This box score was about dead even, meaning the result is true and your one-game impressions of the Nittany Lions may be fair. But I thought Penn State wouldn’t feel the loss of former offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead too much. This result gives me pause. | Fair

Indiana 38 Florida International 28: The Hoosiers had nine more first downs, 138 more yards and one more takeaway. My favorite Big Ten quarterback nobody cares about, Peyton Ramsey, was pretty good (20-for-27, three touchdowns, one interception). FIU had a little bit of luck with the takeaways, which might explain the 10-point spread. | Impressive

No. 11 Notre Dame 24 No. 14 Michigan 17: I was barely home from Nebraska’s non-game when I saw my first “Jim Harbaugh is running out of excuses” column on Twitter. I wouldn’t do that based on this game at this point in the season. Michigan couldn’t run the ball at all (1.8 yards per carry), but neither could Notre Dame (2.8). The Wolverines had better passing numbers and one more turnover. While this result doesn’t inspire confidence in what was a shaky offensive line last year, don’t write Michigan off just yet. It played even, essentially, with Notre Dame on the road, so let’s see how good the Irish are first. | Fair

Nebraska 0 Akron 0: Still can’t believe it. | Unfair

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