Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, September 7, 2014
It was not a good Saturday for the Big Ten. In fact, it was a forgettable one, as the conference missed some big opportunities to score some impressive victories. It also suffered some dubious losses-and looked unimpressive in several wins vs. lesser foes.
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Here?s what I learned in Week 2.
1. Don?t read too much into Michigan State?s 46-27 loss at Oregon. This is still the best team in the Big Ten. The Spartans just happened to face one of the nation?s best squads in their home stadium. Oregon looks like a legit playoff team with Marcus Mariota healthy. Don?t be shocked if MSU doesn?t lose again. In fact, it should be favored in every remaining game. Hold your head high, Sparty!
2. Ameer Abdullah means business. We knew Abdullah was one of the best backs in the Big Ten, if not the nation, before Saturday's incredible game-winning touchdown. After the 58-yard touchdown reception that saw the senior star break five tackles and take on pretty much the entire McNeese State defense, it's clear he is going to do whatever it takes to make his final season a memorable one for himself and Nebraska. Hop on his shoulders, Huskers.
3. Ohio State?s offensive line remains a work in progress. The unit, which has four new starters, struggled for a second week in succession. The unit allowed seven sacks and paved the way for just 108 yards rushing on 40 carries (2.7 ypc) vs. the Hokies. The Buckeyes had 194 on 40 totes (4.8 ypc) in the opener vs. Navy. An issue: QB J.T. Barrett has led the team in rushing both games with 50 and 70 yards, respectively. The backs need to step up.
4. Michigan may be in trouble. Anything good done in the opener vs. Appalachian State was undone in a 31-0 loss at Notre Dame. There was little positive to take back to Ann Arbor, as the offense again is facing huge questions after the Wolverines mustered only 289 yards. And the beleaguered rushing game? There were 35 carries for 100 yards (2.9 ypc). QB Devin Gardner also struggled, tossing three picks. Michigan's NCAA-record streak of scoring in 365 straight games that dated to 1984 is finished.
5. The Minnesota passing game remains a big concern. Two games vs. lesser foes have proven nothing. If Mitch Leidner can?t pass well vs. FCS Eastern Illinois and Middle Tennessee, how will he do vs. quality foes? A trip to TCU looms next. Leidner hit just 5-of-11 passes for 67 yards with a touchdown and pick this week. He completed 9-of-17 for 144 yards and a TD vs. EIU.
6. Two weeks into the season, and Northwestern already is at a crossroads. The Wildcats are out of synch. Is it a chemistry issue? Talent? Toughness? Coaching? A 23-15 home loss to Northern Illinois followed a 31-24 home defeat to Cal. Plus, QB Trevor Siemian got hurt on Saturday. The defense allowed 401 yards. The NU ground game struggled with 72 yards on 37 carries (1.9 ypc) ? on and on it goes.
7. I still don?t know what to make of Wisconsin QB Tanner McEvoy. He hit just 8-of-24 passes for 50 yards and two picks last week vs. rugged LSU. McEvoy looked like a pro on Saturday, completing 23-of-28 passes for 283 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. He also ran nine times for 55 yards and a score in the 37-3 victory. This was vs. FCS Western Illinois. So, what is it, McEvoy? Probably something in between.
8. The Iowa rushing attack must improve. This was supposed to be the team strength with Mark Weisman, Jordan Canzeri et al. Alas, it has struggled the first two weeks. In the opener vs. FCS Northern Iowa, the Hawkeyes ran 36 times for 151 yards (4.2 ypc). Vs. Ball State of the MAC, Iowa had 29 carries for 113 yards (3.9 ypc). More dubious info: Jake Rudock was the leading rusher (7 carries/36 yards) vs. the Cardinals. Wideout Tevaun Smith led Iowa in rushing in the opener (1 carry/35 yards). Where are the running backs?
9. Illinois may be 0-2 without Wes Lunt under center. He hit 35-of-50 passes for 456 yards and three TDs vs. WKU, as Illinois was plagued with nine penalties and three turnovers. Still, Lunt saved the day after doing so in the opener vs. FCS Youngstown State. Lunt is 59-of-88 passing for 741 yards with seven touchdowns and a pick through two games in 2014.
10. Purdue may have a quarterback controversy. Danny Etling was pulled for Austin Appleby in the fourth quarter during a horrific afternoon in Ross-Ade Stadium. For the second week in a row, Etling didn?t impress. Why not give Appleby a try? He did throw a touchdown in relief Saturday. The Boilermakers have absolutely nothing to lose. If I?m Darrell Hazell, all options are on the table as I stare at the potential for another one-win season.
|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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