What did Tom Dienhart learn about Big Ten in Week 1? Here's what!

B1G HIGHLIGHT - Akeem Hunt seals the deal with late 38-yard touchdown.

So many games—14 in all. The Big Ten went 12-2, but was so close to making it 13-1 had LSU not rallied past Wisconsin in the opening week’s biggest game. There’s so much to take in and process after the first week. Here are 10 things I learned.

Get our latest Week 1 coverage:

1. Ohio State isn’t going to get tremendous rushing production from J.T. Barrett. He’s no Braxton Miller afoot. But, who is? So, the Buckeyes will need to rely more on running backs like Curtis Samuel and Ezekiel Elliott, among others. Barrett looked good as a passer, hitting 12-of-15 attempts for 226 yards and two touchdowns and an interception. The redshirt freshman is gonna be OK.

[ MORE: Ohio State is going to be A-OK without Braxton Miller ]

2. The Big Ten missed a chance at a super-special opening week. If Wisconsin holds off LSU, which scored the game’s final 21 points, the Big Ten would have made a big-time statement. Alas, the Badgers lost and reaffirmed concerns about their ability to pass. Is Tanner McEvoy really the answer at quarterback? Any big-play receivers? Don’t bet against Gary Andersen and Co., figuring it out.

3. If Christian Hackenberg doesn’t lead the Big Ten in passing yards, I’ll be shocked. We got a preview of things to come in Penn State’s 26-24 win over Central Florida, as “Hack” threw for a school single-game record 454 yards. Chucking the rock figures to be the Nittany Lions’ best chance for victory this fall, so they figure to ride Hackenberg’s right arm as far as it will take Penn State. Good idea.

4. Michigan State is gonna have one of the top offenses in the Big Ten. This time last year, the unit was littered with questions. Not now. Connor Cook is a confident signal-caller who has an array of weapons at his disposal, including a deep collection of receivers and one of the top running backs in the Big Ten in Jeremy Langford. The Spartans will need all the points they can get next week when they play at Oregon.

5. Speaking of Oregon … If Michigan State can return from Eugene with a victory, it figures to have a good shot to run the table. In fact, the Spartans should be favored in every game the rest of the way. MSU looks like the league’s best hope for a playoff team.

[ MORE: Michigan State tops Dienhart's latest Big Ten Power Rankings ]

6. Tevin Coleman is one of the most underrated running backs in the Big Ten—if not the nation. The Hoosier ran for a career-high 247 yards in a win vs. Indiana State. Coleman too often gets lost amid a collection of Big Ten backs that includes Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah, Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford and Minnesota’s David Cobb, among others.

7. Yes, it was just Appalachian State, but Michigan’s offense looks better. Time and again, the Wolverines knocked the Mountaineers off the ball in the running game. Michigan rushed 36 times for 350 yards with Derrick Green (170) and De’Veon Smith (115) each eclipsing the century mark. This needs to continue. A trip to Notre Dame is next.

8. Purdue has found an offensive identity. It’s running the ball with Raheem Mostert and Akeem Hunt. The speedy backs combined to rush 37 times for 224 and two scores in an opening win vs. Western Michigan. I just wonder if each can endure a heavy workload over 12 games.

9. Minnesota’s offense still needs big-play explosiveness. There wasn’t enough in the opener vs. Eastern Illinois—especially in the passing game. Unless the Golden Gophers can strike quickly with more frequency, they may have trouble improving on last year’s eight-win total.

10. Illinois’ defensive line needs to play better. Coordinator Tim Banks has made no bones about it: His unit will rise and fall with how the front plays. The talent is better than last year; and depth has improved. Now, the results need to amp up after Youngstown State ran for 203 yards. The Illinois defense—and team fortunes, for the most part–will rise or fall depending on how the line plays.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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15 Comments

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (15 Comments)
Tommy on 8/31/2014 @ 12:55pm EDT Said:

Seriously? Nothing about Nebraska’s all time single game yardage in Big Ten history?

Dave on 8/31/2014 @ 2:05pm EDT Said:

Really? Not one word on Iowa?

bigtengrad on 8/31/2014 @ 2:36pm EDT Said:

Tommy, that would have taken up precious space about MSU having a great offense because they beat up Jacksonville State. You know 784 yds against an FBS team means nothing to Dienhart if its not Iowa, MSU, or OSU. Hell, the first thing he had to do last night was start making excuses for Iowa squeaking by UNI. BTN REALLY needs to get another writer on staff to offset this hack.

Mike on 8/31/2014 @ 2:49pm EDT Said:

^^^ What he said….

Luke P. on 8/31/2014 @ 2:57pm EDT Said:

“Michigan State is going to have one of the top offenses in the Big Ten” – After Sparty hangs 45 on an FCS team.

*crickets* – after Nebraska breaks the all time Big Ten offense record against an FBS team that was bowl eligible last year.

I’m not asking you guys to declare Nebraska the odds on favorite to win the league or anything, but utterly ignoring the hands down most impressive offensive showing in week one is getting a little old.

Reuben Adkins on 8/31/2014 @ 3:04pm EDT Said:

What the hell, you didn’t say anything about Ameer Abdullah’s career high 232 yards of rushing or the records that Nebraska set or the once in a lifetime, never before seen behind the back catch courtesy of the unbelievable Jordan Westerkamp A little biased against Nebraska much?? Honestly, you’re irrelevant and an overall bad reporter.

Paul rugby on 8/31/2014 @ 3:06pm EDT Said:

^^^what he said

Brian on 8/31/2014 @ 3:19pm EDT Said:

Really, Tom. You have knowledgable Nebraska fans in the conference now. Time to pick up YOUR game.

Brent Yarina, BTN.com Senior Editor on 8/31/2014 @ 4:00pm EDT Said:

Jordan Westerkamp’s catch and Ameer Abdullah’s career day on the ground were spotlighted in Tom’s Saturday night post (http://btn.com/2014/08/31/toms-take-week-1-big-ten-honors-grades-stock-reports-more/), in addition to several other BTN.com posts.

The Westerkamp catch, of course, took Dienhart’s Best Play of the Week.

Best play: It can only be the miraculous, stupendous, behind-the-back catch by Nebraska’s Jordan Westerkamp. How did he do that? Never mind. Just enjoy … and marvel.

“I ran a corner route and saw the ball get tipped,” Westerkamp said. “I put my hands back and the ball landed perfectly. It was a crazy play.”

Said Bo Pelini: “I’ve coached a lot of football, and I’ve never seen that one. Even to have the wherewithal to throw your hands back there. I always say he catches anything that’s near him. He showed that right there.”

And Abdullah’s big day was included in the “Stock Up” portion of his post.

Ameer Abdullah. The Nebraska back came back to school for days like this. The nation’s leading returning rusher romped for a career-high 232 yards and a TD before leaving midway through the third quarter. The Cornhuskers finished with 498 yards rushing and a Big Ten-record 784 overall in winning the program’s 29th consecutive opener.

Moonunit on 8/31/2014 @ 5:53pm EDT Said:

Brent, The point here is what Tom learned after this first week, and as usual with him, he starts his article with Ohio state, which looked average against a navy team, then he follows with Wisconsin, who lost to LSU then Penn St., the whole time not spotlighting one of the best performances your liable to see in the BIG all year with what the Huskers did. I have no problem with highlighting Sparty or even Illinois’ performance, but to mention these others over the Husker performance just proves that Tom has a man crush on the old Big ten and cannot report without bias which makes what he writes a JOKE, and if BTN is in support of his dribble, what does that make them?
In an Adjacent article, he has the Huskers as the 4th or 5th best team in the Big behind, guess who? Could they all be from the “OLD BIG TEN”? BTN needs to find some reporters who can actually report on facts and not on their own Biases……….THE END

Paul rugby on 8/31/2014 @ 5:57pm EDT Said:

^^^^what he said

caseysbro on 8/31/2014 @ 8:30pm EDT Said:

PSU had a quality opponent, no home field advantage, an O line with only one veteran player and Hackenberg still passed for a record-setting 454 yards

victorerojo on 8/31/2014 @ 11:07pm EDT Said:

What I learned in week 1 is that Tom Dienhart is a slow learner.

Greg Zyntek on 9/1/2014 @ 11:56am EDT Said:

Brent Yarina. Thanks for the patronizing followup.
But you should realize, the overall tone of the above comments are very telling. People are getting tired of the biases here. It’s so transparent it’s laughable.

Tom F on 9/1/2014 @ 12:09pm EDT Said:

The only thing learned this week is that BTN’s expert is not very expert!