Week 1 of the College Football season got off to a great start for the teams that call the Big Ten Conference home. Fourteen teams combined to go 12-2. Wisconsin took the "best win" award for defeating National Championship hopeful (LSU) by a 16-14 score. They were able to hold the Tigers in check for the entire game and got some clutch QB play when they needed it the most.
In the 12 wins, Big Ten teams outscored their opponents by a whopping 518-160. From the two losses, Northwestern lost by a single point to Western Michigan (22-21) and Rutgers was blown out on the road by Washington (48-13). I expected the Rutgers' result, but I was shocked to see Northwestern fall flat at home after their big season-opening win last year against Stanford.
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Looking ahead to Week 2 of Big Ten action, there are some very interesting games on the schedule. Illinois will look to go to 2-0 under Lovie Smith, but they will face a very talented North Carolina team that will be looking to avenge their opening-week loss to Georgia. Penn State travels to Pittsburgh to do battle with the 1-0 Panthers. This Big Ten-ACC matchup hasn't been played since 2000.
Moving forward, on a weekly basis I will be breaking down the weekly Big Ten slate. I will share with you my Game of the Week, teams trending up and down, key player matchups, best value line and the top underdog to watch, just to name a few. Let's get to it.
Key Game of the Week
Iowa State Cyclones @ Iowa Hawkeyes (-15 @ Bovada)
Two of the highest-scoring teams from Week 1 (Michigan and Ohio State) are playing severely inferior opponents, and the spreads tell the story. Michigan is -35.5 against the University of Central Florida and Ohio State is laying 28.5 against Tulsa. Because of that, my key game of the week takes place in Iowa where the Hawkeyes are hosting the Iowa State Cyclones in a battle of the Hawkeye State.
Iowa prevailed last season in this spot by a 31-17 score. Iowa leads the all-time series with a 41-22 record. They have won six of the last nine meetings, but the teams have split this game 2-2 dating back to 2012. Iowa is hell-bent on proving that last year's season was no fluke and that the 45-16 dismantling at the hands of Stanford in the Rose Bowl was but a mere off day.
Iowa is led by the 1-2 punch of running backs Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels. They combined for 212 yards on the ground, and both scored two rushing touchdowns in the first half. They will definitely be the ones to watch going up against an Iowa State defense that was gashed for 232 yards rushing against FCS opponent Northern Iowa.
Iowa State comes into this matchup with a 0-1 record after losing to the previously-mentioned FCS opponent. The only positive that the Cyclones can take out of that loss is that QB Joel Lanning threw for 256 yards and three touchdowns.
Getting off to a 2-0 start is paramount for the Hawkeyes if they want to make any noise this year in the Big Ten. They are going to need to rack up as many wins as possible before coming up against Michigan on Nov. 12.
Trending Up or Down
It has been only one week, but the trending up or down column could include at least four or five teams. I will keep it short and simple and limit this column to two teams trending in the opposite direction.
Up- Wisconsin. Wisconsin had the best performance and result in the conference, and because of that they jumped to No.10 in the AP Poll after being unranked to start the season. Thanks to their unexpected opening season win against LSU they have the opportunity to start the season 3-0 before starting Big Ten conference play. Once that begins, they must run the gauntlet of the best Big Ten Teams. Over a five-week span (with a bye week in the middle) they will play Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa. That will be tough sledding, but should the defense continue to play well then anything can happen on any given day.
Down- Northwestern fans were on cloud nine last season after a 10-win campaign propelled the Wildcats into their first Bowl game since 2012. Unfortunately, they were dismantled in that game by Tennessee, and the hangover seemingly carried over into this year. Northwestern has always been reliant on their dominant defense, with the offence struggling at times. In Week 1, both sides of the ball struggled and they were beaten by a middle-of-the-pack mid-major team despite returning several key cogs from last year's 10-win team.It will be tough for them to finish above .500 in Big Ten play this year as they have to play Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue and Minnesota, all on the road.
Underdog to Watch
I have been closely monitoring the Week 2 line between the Cincinnati Bearcats and the Purdue Boilermakers. It opened at Cincinnati -6 and it has held steady ever since. I love Purdue in this spot.
Purdue opened up the season with a 45-24 win over Eastern Kentucky. All aspects of their game were executed to near perfection. They look to be a much-improved team compared to last years 2-10 showing. They were led last week by Markell Jones, who rushed for 145 and one touchdown. As a team the Boilermakers put up 512 yards of offense, and there is no reason to think they can't do the same against Cincinnati.
The Bearcats come into this game after scraping by FCS opponent UT-Martin. They trailed 7-6 at the half before waking up and scoring the final 22 points of the game. Should they fall into the same pattern again this week, they will find themselves trailing by more than just one point. I expect quarterback Hayden Moore to find his time in the pocket a little more difficult against a Boilermakers defense that already has three interceptions (two returned for TDs) under their belt.
This definitely won't be the most entertaining game of the week, but there is plenty of value with this home underdog considering Cincinnati is just 3-14 SU in its last 17 games against Big Ten opponents
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