Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, August 31, 2014

The first week of action is in our rear-view mirror. There were some surprising wins-and surprising losses. It was a very good week, as the Big Ten went 12-2. It would have been a spectacular week if Wisconsin had held on vs. LSU and Northwestern?s rally vs. Cal had not come up short.

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1. Michigan State (1-0). Offense? Check. Defense? Check. Special teams? Check. The Spartans picked up where they left off last season in a dominating debut. Good thing, because a huge trip to Oregon looms. Win that, and start dreaming big.
Last week: 1
Up next: at Oregon

2. Ohio State (1-0). No Braxton Miller, no problem. J.T. Barrett showed promise and helped the Buckeyes pull away late vs. Navy in his debut. This still could be a very special season in Columbus, as the Buckeyes rally around adversity.
Last week: 2
Up next: Virginia Tech

3. Iowa (1-0). Winning ugly. That?s what the Hawkeyes did vs. Northern Iowa. Who cares? A win is a win. Like a fine wine, Iowa will only get better with time.
Last week: 3
Up next: Ball State

4. Nebraska (1-0). Florida Atlantic was a glorified speed bump for the Cornhuskers, who racked up 763 yards of offense, a Big Ten modern-era record. Ameer Abdullah showed why he?s one of the nation?s best backs, too, chipping in with a career-high 232 yards rushing. This had to make the kinder, gentler Bo Pelini smile.
Last week: 4
Up next: McNeese State

5. Michigan (1-0). Revenge is even sweeter after time. And that?s just what the Wolverines exacted from Appalachian State. Michigan needs to bottle this performance. Can Devin Funchess be stopped?
Last week: 6
Up next: at Notre Dame

6. Wisconsin (0-1). The quarterback position and passing game were big concerns a week ago. They still are, as the Badgers suffered an epic meltdown vs. LSU. Oh-by-the-way: How could Wiscy had not known a fake punt was coming?
Last week: 5
Up next: Western Illinois

7. Maryland (1-0). No sense in watching the film of the opener vs. James Madison. Everything worked. Take my word for it. My opinion of the Terps hasn?t changed: This team is a sleeper.
Last week: 7
Up next: at South Florida

8. Minnesota (1-0). The defense is strong. The offense? Concerns persist. Unless the passing game improves, matching last year?s eight-win total may be difficult.
Last week: 8
Up next: Middle Tennessee

9. Penn State (1-0). The James Franklin era couldn?t have opened any other way: with the dramatic flash of a game-winning field goal as time expired. Perfect. Yes, depth is thin. But confidence is high. And that?s a good thing.
Last week: 9
Up next: Akron

10. Rutgers (1-0). No team had a more inspiring opening win. The Scarlet Knights overcame a long trip west, defensive struggles and a deficit to win at Washington State. This team is tough. This team has grit. This team is better than you think.
Last week: 13
Up next: Howard

11. Indiana (1-0). The Hoosiers took an unconventional path to victory in their opener-they ran, ran, ran. Hey, it worked. The best thing, however, was the fact the often-maligned defense yielded just 10 points.
Last week: 10
Up next: off

12. Illinois (1-0). It wasn?t pretty and took a second-half rally to ease past a FCS team. Still, the Illini showed grit with 21 fourth-quarter points. Even better-it looks like QB Wes Lunt is as good as advertised.
Last week: 12
Up next: Western Kentucky

13. Northwestern (0-1). The good news: Northwestern rallied from a 31-7 hole to lose 31-24. The bad news: Northwestern crawled into such a hole to begin with.
Last week: 11
Up next: Northern Illinois

14. Purdue (1-0). It wasn?t always pretty. And the defense has some big issues. Forget all of that: The Boilermakers won, beating a FBS team for the first time since Nov. 2012 behind an offense that showed life after a listless 2013.
Last week: 14
Up next: Central Michigan

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, 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.