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The opening week of the 2016 college football season was a success for the Big Ten, which went 12-2. Wisconsin carried the flag with a scintillating 16-14 comeback win over No. 5 LSU.
Other teams made statements in the opening week, too. The Big Ten’s highest-ranked teams, No. 5 Ohio State and No. 8 Michigan, rolled to 77-10 and 63-3 victories over Bowling Green and Hawaii, respectively, while Illinois and Maryland dazzled in Lovie Smith and DJ Durkin’s coaching debuts.
Here is a look at Week 1 of the Big Ten season.
Biggest surprise: Wisconsin dumping No. 5 LSU was a shock. Many didn’t think the Badgers could ease past the Bayou Bengals in iconic Lambeau Field. The triumph ended LSU’s 52-game non-conference win streak which was the longest in FBS. The last time UW beat a top-five team as an unranked squad was in 1985. Credit the defense of new coordinator Justin Wilcox, as UW allowed just 257 yards and caused three turnovers.
Biggest disappointment: Northwestern. The Wildcats tied a school record with 10 wins last season. And many key veterans were back. So, many in Evanston were thinking big. But NU got dumped at home by Western Michigan, 22-21. Last year, Northwestern was the master at winning close games, taking eight games by 10 points or fewer.
Play this again: The LSU-Wisconsin game in Green Bay lived up to its hype. It was a tough, low-scoring tilt that featured strong defense and rugged ground games. The Badgers took a 13-0 lead in the third quarter before the Tigers roared back to take a 14-13 lead by turning back-to-back UW turnovers into touchdowns in a 67-second period. Wisconsin took a late lead on a 48-yard Rafael Gaglianone field goal. Then, the Badgers iced it with a game-sealing interception to down the No. 5 Bayou Bengals.
Never play this again: Take your pick between Michigan’s 63-3 romp over Hawaii or Ohio State’s 77-10 demolition of Bowling Green. Michigan’s 60-point margin was its largest since beating Northwestern by 69 points in 1975. The 77 points were the most by OSU since 1950. These were classic tune-up games that did their purpose of serving as de facto exhibition games.
Best play: Eastern Kentucky attempted a throwback pass to its quarterback in the first quarter. But Purdue defensive end Gelen Robinson–son of Purdue hoop legend Glenn Robinson–stepped in front of the aerial and rumbled 78 yards for a TD to give the Boilers a 21-0 lead.
Best moment: Nebraska honored late punter Sam Foltz by sending out a punter-less punt team after its first drive went three-and-out. The Huskers got a delay-of-game penalty, but Fresno State declined.
Weirdest moment: When the Gophers scored in the last 90 seconds to take a seven-point lead, Tracy Claeys elected to go for two to try to make it a two-score game. An extra point would have made it impossible for the Beavers to win the game in regulation.
“My opinion is 95 percent of the time those teams go down and score late, they’re going to kick the extra point and go to overtime,” Claeys said. “So I would rather take the chance on getting three yards and ending the game.”
Did you see this? Penn State K Joey Julius checks in at 258 pounds, not the weight of your average kicker. Turns out, Julius doesn’t hit like your average kicker, either. The leveling blow he delivered on a Penn State kickoff vs. Kent State is the proof.
WEEK 1 GRADES
Michigan State: C+
Ohio State: A
Penn State: B+
WEEK 1 SUPERLATIVES
Offensive Player of the Week
Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett looked to be in midseason form, hitting 21-of-31 passes for 349 yards with six TDs passes, which tied Kenny Guiton’s single-game program record. His seven combined TDs were a school single-game standard.
Ohio State HB Curtis Samuel amassed 261 total yards and three touchdowns to help lead Ohio State’s prolific offense in a 77-10 route of Bowling Green.
Defensive Player of the Week
Ohio State CB Malik Hooker recorded two interceptions, including a silly #BTNStandout pick, and added four tackles in Ohio State’s route of Bowling Green.
Minnesota DE Tai’yon Devers notched a pair of sack-fumbles, both of which led to Minnesota scoring drives in Thursday night’s win vs. Oregon State. Not bad for a freshman, huh?
Special Teams Player of the Week
Wisconsin K Rafael Gaglianone drilled three field goals (30, 48 & 47 yards), the final one serving as the game-winner, in Wisconsin comeback win vs. LSU at Lambeau Field.
Wisconsin. Much was made about the Badgers’ brutal schedule this season. But Wisconsin passed its first big test with a 16-14 win over No. 5 LSU.
Wilton Speight. He emerged as the chosen one in Ann Arbor, winning a training camp battle with John O’Korn to quarterback the Wolverines. And, he didn’t disappoint. Speight’s first pass attempt ended in a pick. But it was all positive after that. He hit 10-of-13 passes for 145 yards with three touchdowns in leading Michigan to 512 yards of offense.
Ohio State. The Buckeyes didn’t win the Big Ten East in 2015. But they sent a big message today with a dominating win even with 12 NFL draft picks gone. OSU is back!
Maryland’s DJ Durkin and Illinois’ Lovie Smith. The new coaches won their debuts in dominating fashion vs. FCS foes. A good way to start their tenures.
Minnesota. The Gophers opened with a big home win vs. Oregon State in what could be a Cinderella season.
Northwestern. Coming off a 10-win season and buoyed by big expectations, Northwestern lost at home to Western Michigan, 22-21. WMU dominated time of possession, 39:04 to 20:56. NU QB Clayton Thorson’s late fumble that resulted in a touchback was devastating.
Rutgers. Look, few expected Rutgers to win at Washington. But a 48-13 whipping hurt in Chris Ash’s debut. UW led 34-3 at the half and never looked back.
WEEK 1 TOP NUMBERS
261, combined yards receiving and rushing for Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel. He ran 13 times for 84 yards and a TD and caught a team-high nine passes for 177 yards and two scores.
0, turnovers for Maryland after finishing with a minus-18 turnover differential last year.
6, players Indiana had suspended for its opener at FIU.
10, penalties for 120 yards by Michigan State in its lackluster 28-13 win vs. Furman.
2, interception returns for TDs for Michigan.
7, wins for Darrell Hazell in his Purdue tenure after opening with a victory vs. FCS Eastern Kentucky. It was Hazell’s fourth win vs. a FCS squad.
3, field goals on three attempts for Wisconsin’s Rafael Gaglianone. His 48-yarder late in the fourth quarter provided the winning points in a 16-14 victory vs. LSU.
135, yards rushing for Indiana’s Devine Redding and Nebraska’s Devine Ozigbo.
29.5, yards per carry for Illinois’ Kendrick Foster, who carried four times with two TDs, both of the 56-yard variety.
776, yards for Ohio State vs. Bowling Green, a school single-game record that dated to 1930. Eight Buckeyes scored TDs.
136, rushing yards in the debut for Ohio State’s Mike Weber.
2, interceptions for TDs for Indiana. The last time the Hoosiers did that in a game was 1966.
3, Minnesota players ejected for targeting vs. Oregon State.
-10, yards rushing Illinois held Murray State to.
292, yards rushing by Nebraska.