(We know you can go anywhere to find your typical game recap, so we’re changing things up a bit here at the Big Ten OT. Each week we will give you a look at the best, the worst and of course the most viral moments of the Big Ten. So let’s take a look at the biggest talking points coming out of each weekend.)
Big Ten football got off to an amazing start, going 3-0 to open the season thanks to an expected win by Michigan State and two mild surprise wins by Rutgers and Penn State. However, once the regular time slot games began it felt all to eerily familiar for those of us in Big Ten country.
So, while Week 1 may have been more of a struggle than we thought at first, it wasn’t all bad. Let’s take a look at the best, worst and everything you need to know from the first week of action.
Biggest Winner: Michigan
Say what you want about the narrative about Appalachian State returning to the scene of its biggest win in program history. The important part of this football game was that we saw Michigan come out and throttle an opponent it should’ve. Last season that didn’t happen against Akron or UConn.
Additionally, we saw an amazing connection between Devin Gardner (13-14, 173 yards, 3 touchdowns) and tight end turned wide receiver, Devin Funchess. He was on the receiving end of all three of Gardner’s touchdown passes and finished his day with seven receptions for 95 yards and three touchdowns.
While Appalachian State is nowhere near as good as they were in that 2007 matchup (back-to-back national champs in FCS football), Michigan did what it needed to do and that was a huge way to start off the season. Any sign of weakness or lack of jumping on an inferior opponent would’ve sent that sparsely populated Michigan Stadium crowd home even earlier.
Biggest Loser: Northwestern
Getting Cal in your backyard should be a W…if you want to be taken seriously as a contender for the Big Ten West division title. Instead, Northwestern couldn’t plan around what Cal was doing and digging itself a 24-point hole it couldn’t get out of.
Needless to say that losing 31-24 to a team you beat by 20-plus points a season a go is a step in the wrong direction.
Standout Player: Tevin Coleman, RB (Indiana)
247 yards, two touchdowns — no we aren’t talking about the first half of Nate Sudfeld’s day against Indiana State.
Instead, the Hoosiers proved they didn’t need to throw the football to beat a team, and that’s all because of the leadership of Tevin Coleman. He put up 247 yards with two touchdowns on 23 carries (10.7 average).
Even more impressive than that, Coleman hit for a 73-yard touchdown run where he was never touched and his second TD was just a 13-yarder.
Coleman’s performance was only part of the story for the Hoosiers though, as D’Angelo Roberts had 129 yards on 24 carries himself. Overall, Indiana put up a ridiculous 455 yards on the ground, never really needing something special from Sudfeld in the pass game.
Wow. Michigan State totaled 210 passing yards and 0 TDs in the first 2 games last season. Already have 189 passing yards and 3 TDs tonight.
— Sean Merriman (@BTNSean) August 30, 2014
Michigan State struggled in the passing game early on last season, but that never was the case against Jacksonville State. Instead, MSU amassed 354 yards passing as a team and Connor Cook went 12-of-13 passing for 285 yards and three touchdowns in the only half he saw action in.
What a difference a year makes, huh?
Best TD: Tevaun Smith’s one-handed grab against Northern Iowa
There were two under consideration for this honor, including the 73-yard untouched TD run by Indiana’s Tevin Coleman. But, for pure ability and degree of difficulty, Smith wins out with his one-handed grab.
Biggest Surprise: Rutgers winning in Seattle against Washington State & J.T. Barrett, QB (Ohio State)
Apparently Rutgers’ football staff lost the memo about losing out West to Pac-12 teams…cause they did the most un-Big Ten thing ever this week and actually won a game against a Pac-12 team in Pac-12 territory. Sure, it wasn’t a win in Pullman, but a win is a win…is a win.
Few that saw Rutgers a season ago saw them winning this one, but Rutgers also did the most Big Ten-like thing ever in running the ball right down the throat of the Cougars defense. The Scarlet Knights racked up 215 yards on 43 carries to help control the clock once Wazzu’s passing attack started to get going.
There are still plenty of question marks, including the play of quarterback Gary Nova, but for one night Nova was good enough to allow this team to win a football game. He finished 16-of-27 for 281 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
It was easily just as surprising to see J.T. Barrett do what he did in the second half of a really tight game against the Naval Academy. All Barrett did was lead his team to
Barrett went 12-of-15 passing for 228 yards and had two touchdowns with just one interception. He also added 50 yards on nine carries in the run game to boot.
Doing that against Navy is about as good a debut as anyone in the conference, and if that’s the starting point for Barrett, that’s a scary thought for the rest of the conference. He’ll undoubtedly have his struggles, but in leading OSU to a comeback victory he proved his mettle enough to satisfy us.
Best Moment: Jeff Heuerman honoring Braxton Miller by wearing his number
Senior tight end Jeff Heuerman wearing No. 5 in honor of injured teammate Braxton Miller pic.twitter.com/n8hCVR9LQs
— Lantern Sports (@LanternSports) August 30, 2014