Week 1 of the season is in the books, and it could’ve been the best week of the regular season for the conference in a long time. Thanks a lot for nothing Northwestern and Wisconsin. After going 12-2 in the first week there was plenty for Big Ten football coaches to talk about.
Headlining the talk was quarterbacks — whether injuries and bad play at Wisconsin, or a freshman stepping up at Ohio State or even some issues in the pass game at Minnesota. All were topics of discussion in the first few days following Saturday’s action.
Week 2 provides some interesting matchups, highlighted by Michigan State vs. Oregon and Ohio State vs. Virginia Tech on Saturday night.
On Tuesday during the Big Ten’s weekly coaches teleconference all of those topics were covered and more.
Michigan State Ready to Carry Big Ten Banner
There’s no doubt that Saturday night’s contest (or mid-afternoon if you’re traveling out to Eugene, Ore) between Michigan State and Oregon will mean a lot to both teams. A win likely firmly cements that team in the national picture until the first College Football Playoff rankings come out.
However this game is bigger than just the two combatants, especially after how Week 1 played out for each conference on the national stage. Wisconsin losing to LSU was a huge lost opportunity to do some rebuilding of the Big Ten’s street cred, while UCLA and Washington struggled with teams that struggled to put anything good together over the last few years.
The Big Ten pride is something not lost on head coach Mark Dantonio either, as he didn’t shy away from the importance of this game for the conference during Tuesday’s coach’s teleconference.
Dantonio on whether a win Saturday could change perception of the Big Ten: "We won the Rose Bowl last year."
— ESPN Big Ten (@ESPN_BigTen) September 2, 2014
One of the more interesting bits to this game is the fact that Michigan State appears to still not be getting respect on the national level. How else do you explain being a 13-point underdog? Dantonio had a simple response for those doubters:
Mark Dantonio asked about winning this weekend against Oregon to change perception: "We won the Rose Bowl last year."
— Austin Ward (@AWardESPN) September 2, 2014
Dantonio: We played in big games. Won in every stadium in this conference. Won our last 3 bowl games. We've been on the big stage.
— Spartan Football (@MSU_Football) September 2, 2014
Winning a game against a ranked opponent when the Big Ten hasn’t won but a handful of games against Pac-12 opposition out West would go a long way towards shutting up the critics of Michigan State (again) and help the Big Ten move up a notch on the totem poll.
Ohio State’s Biggest Recruiting Weekend On Tap
Night games are a special thing in Columbus, Ohio and on Saturday THE Ohio State University has the biggest recruiting game of the season. It’s also arguably the biggest of the Urban Meyer era, something which Meyer commented on during the weekly coaches teleconference.
How big is this weekend for Ohio State recruiting? Meyer: "Probably the biggest of the year." Night games always a big draw …
— ESPN Big Ten (@ESPN_BigTen) September 2, 2014
Having four 5-star players on campus including the No. 1 and No. 2-ranked running backs in the country will make it seem that way, that’s for sure. Damien Harris and Jacques Patrick are the No. 1 and No. 2-ranked running backs according to the latest 247sports composite rankings.
Ohio State will also host the nation’s No. 1-ranked player in defensive end Josh Sweat. It will be an interesting visit for Sweat because OSU is hosting one of the schools in his top 5. Va Tech is also a school that will get an official visit (next week), so winning and putting on a good show for Sweat is hugely important.
He’ll be visiting Florida State, Georgia and Oregon along with OSU and Va Tech, so getting the first crack at the official visit puts a lot on the plate for OSU.
Finally there is 5-star cornerback Kevin Toliver II, who comes in to this visit as a verbal commit to the LSU Tigers. Needless to say if Ohio State is going to get him to flip it will have a lot to do with this next weekend. Coming on campus with three other nationally important recruits can go a long way.
OSU has a top 15 national ranking for the 2015 class already, but adding any or all of these would make this class truly special.
Wisconsin Badgers QB Depth Takes a Hit
As the fourth quarter progressed and Badger fans could feel the school’s biggest non-conference victory ever slipping away, it was full panic mode on Twitter. People who were burying former starting quarterback Joel Stave just last season were suddenly thinking he was the savior of Wisconsin’s hops of beating LSU.
However, Stave never showed up to rescue a victory from the jaws of defeat, and now we know why. Stave wasn’t coming in to that game, or any game anytime soon thanks to a flare up of an injury in his throwing shoulder. To some it seemed strange that he wouldn’t have just announced it…yet, Andersen thought announcing it before the game wouldn’t have been right.
Gary Andersen says he did not think it was the right thing to announce Stave's status before the LSU game.
— Mitch Sherman (@mitchsherman) September 2, 2014
An interesting dilemma indeed.
In his stead, Wisconsin has moved former 4th stringer and redshirt sophomore Bart Houston up to the backup roll ahead of freshman D.J. Gillins. It gives the Badgers someone who was at least a full year under his belt with this offense and someone who’s arm isn’t the issue at all.
Northwestern’s Not Changing Quarterbacks
One of the most shocking results was what took place at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. as Northwestern decided to spot Cal a 24-point lead that it couldn’t come back from. Northwestern gave it the old college try to be sure, but that only counts in…well, movies made about college football.
In real life, Northwestern seemed not to fire on full cylinders and a lot of the chatter centered around the pass game. In the first season of life without Kain Colter and with only Trevor Siemian there’s bound to be some growing pains, and that was evident on Saturday afternoon.
Siemian went just 23-of-44 for 229 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions. That’s not going to cut it for a team that needs the pass game to get going to win the majority of its games. It was a performance that led some to want a change in direction at quarterback (I know…Week 1 overreaction much?).
Northwestern blog InsideNU.com had a simple answer to those wanting Siemian replaced:
All y'all wanting to start someone other than Siemian clearly haven't been to practice. He's far and away the best right now. Not close.
— Inside NU (@insidenu) August 31, 2014
There’s your answer folks. It ain’t happening anytime soon.