Wow. Last week didn’t go so well. It was a not a pretty scene, as we sat, mouths agape, in the BTN green room and watched the Big Ten Conference suffer through a difficult Saturday. And that wasn’t just because Gerry DiNardo was drooling. Sorry, too easy. Not true. Though he did pull out his ubiquitous hankie a few times.
Anyway, I know that when we launched back in 2007 there was a fear that we might be the TV equivalent of Pravda circulating only the positive spin on the news out of the Kremlin. I hope we’ve shown over the past five years that’s not the case. It was a bad day, pure and simple. There’s no getting around it.
Of all of the games, the two that really stood out to me were the losses by Wisconsin and Nebraska. We take great pride in getting accurate reads of all twelve teams on our training camp tour, and I don’t think Gerry, Howard or I saw these particular issues coming for either team. Wisconsin was clearly going to be a bit worse on offense. You don’t lose the most efficient single season passer in the history of FBS football and just move on as if nothing has happened. But I certainly thought they’d still be able to move the ball.
And Nebraska? Well, here was what I said on Twitter on Aug. 9, as I stood watching a Huskers practice: “Just based on drill observation, hard to see how this won’t be a really good D. Very impressive talent, size and depth. #Huskers.” Whoops.
Perhaps I should just stick with my specialty – the Numbers.
653: The Huskers gave up 653 yards against UCLA. That is the second most yards ever allowed by a Nebraska defense, trailing only the 656 they gave up in a 54-6 loss to Oklahoma in 1956. Now they get to deal with a Gus Malzahn offense this week, as Arkansas State comes to town – averaging almost 575 yards of total offense so far this season.
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As for the Badgers, the one number that has really blown me away the last few years has been their touchdown to punt ratio. It’s been amazing, particularly when you consider that they were tied for the fewest turnovers in the nation last year. So it’s not as if a lot of drives were ending that way. Basically, when they got the ball, it usually ended up in the end zone, but that’s not the case this season.
1.46/0.36: Last year, the Badgers tallied 82 offensive TDs and 46 punts, a ratio of 1.46 TDs for every one punt. Through two games this season, Wisconsin has four offensive TDs and 11 punts, a ratio of 0.36 offensive TDs for every punt.
Less surprising giving the personnel, but equally as troubling for the fan base, are Iowa’s offensive struggles this season.
0 for 6: The Hawkeyes have scored 0 TDs in 6 trips into their opponents’ red zone this season. That is the most in the nation for any team without reaching the end zone at least once.
Illinois’ offense started the season well. Nate Scheelhaase’s first completion of the season went for a 64-yard touchdown to Ryan Lankford. Hasn’t been so good since then.
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4: The Illini have just four pass plays of ten or more yards so far. That is the fourth-fewest nationally.
The good news is, it’s bound to get better this week. In my research each week, I try to get a feel for each team’s opponent, no matter how obscure. You never know when an “Appalachian State against Michigan” type game might happen, and my job is to be prepared and know about the opponent.
I will venture to say that, in the six years I’ve been doing this, no Big Ten foe has looked worse on paper than the Charleston Southern Buccaneers, who will visit Memorial Stadium on Saturday. They gave up 62 points in both of their games against FBS teams last year (UCF and Florida State) and have allowed at least 49 in six straight games when “playing up.” But, they don’t just struggle on defense. They were also 111th out of 120 FCS teams in total offense last year. You begin to understand why they’ve lost 14 games in a row.
Michigan gets a UMass team which is transitioning from FCS to FBS this year – and not so smoothly. They had 59 yards of total offense in their opener against UConn – meaning this run is likely to continue.
9-0: Brady Hoke is 9-0 at home as Michigan’s head coach, and that’s the second best start in a home tenure in Wolverines’ history. He has a ways to go to reach the all-time record, though. Fielding Yost won his first 50 home games in Ann Arbor.
Speaking of streaks…
11: Northwestern has won 11 straight non-conference home games heading into their battle with Boston College on Saturday. That ties the all-time school record set in 1897 and 1898. I think it’s fair to say this run is a tad more impressive. That win streak included four wins over high school teams.
In fact, no one in the Big Ten has knocked off two teams at the level of the two NU has beaten this year, at least in terms of conference affiliation. In fact, no one else has even knocked off one.
2-0, 0-7: Northwestern is 2-0 against teams from automatic qualifying BCS conferences so far this season. If you include Notre Dame, the rest of the Big Ten is 0-7.
That includes Penn State’s loss to Virginia last week, which gave us this ugly factoid.
2 of 18, 2: Penn State had lost just two of its last 18 non-conference games coming into this year (this would be before the vacated wins development, of course). Now the Nittany Lions have lost two straight.
At this point, I’m even depressing myself. So let us go positive from here on out starting with what may just be the conference’s best team in Michigan State.
3: The Spartans have held their first two opponents (Boise State and Central Michigan) without an offensive touchdown. They are one of just three teams nationally that can make that claim two weeks into the season. The other two are TCU and Florida State.
Minnesota, Purdue and Ohio State have also put together some impressive defensive numbers early on.
275: The Gophers have allowed 275 yards or fewer in each of their first two games. They accomplished that just once all of last season.
7: Purdue has already recorded seven sacks through two games. It took them seven games to hit that total last year.
Ohio State has been good defensively as well, as one of just 13 teams nationally that has yet to allow a fourth quarter point this season.
The Buckeyes have also put up some good numbers on offense.
410: Ohio State has piled up 410 or more yards in each of its first two games. They had just one such game all of last season.
And, as long as we began with numbers I didn’t see coming, let’s end with one as well. When we were at Indiana camp, they were throwing the ball all over the place. My sense was that they were headed in the direction of a Texas Tech-type offense. Turns out I was wrong – at least so far.
502, 555: The Hoosiers have shown good offensive balance by rushing for 502 yards and passing for 555 yards. The problem is 133 of those yards have come from Tre Roberson, who’s now out for the year. My sense from watching him at practice is that Cam Coffman, the new starter, won’t be quite as comfortable running the read option stuff that Roberson excelled in. It’ll be interesting to see how this offense evolves.
We have the Hoosiers in action against Ball State Saturday night on BTN – one of eight (yes, eight) Big Ten games on our air Saturday. We’ll see you at 11 a.m. ET for the “Big Ten Football Pregame Show” presented by Auto Owners Insurance.
|BTN’s Dave Revsine hosts a number of TV shows, including our Big Ten Football Pregame show every Saturday at 11 a.m. ET. His popular Big Ten football stats column “Numbers” runs Thursdays during the football season. Find previous columns here, subscribe to his “Numbers” RSS feed, and follow him on Twitter @BTNDaveRevsine.|