Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, September 9, 2016
Here is what I think I know as we enter the second week of the season.
1. Ohio State means business. The Buckeyes looked like an elite team in dispatching Bowling Green, 77-10. The offense rolled up 776 yards. And QB J.T. Barrett looked every bit like a Heisman contender in accounting for a school record seven TDs en route to hitting 21-of-31 passes for 349 yards and running for 30. Barrett and Co., look like the team to beat in the Big Ten. Who is gonna topple this bunch?
2. Michigan is going to buzz saw its way to a 4-0 start. The Wolverines looked vicious in eviscerating Hawaii, 63-3. The next speed bump is a visit from UCF. Then Colorado before Penn State comes to Ann Arbor. The fifth game just got a whole lot more interesting, as Wisconsin will come to the Big House on Oct. 1 fueled by that win vs. LSU. The issue for the Badgers? The week before, they play at Michigan State. Long story short, Michigan has a good chance to be not just 4-0 ? but 7-0 when it treks to East Lansing on Oct. 29 in what could be a clash of top 10 teams.
3. Wisconsin may not be buried by the brutal schedule it has been dealt. Time and again, preseason prognosticators chronicled the litany of difficult games that the Badgers faced in 2016, which began with LSU. The Big Ten slate begins thusly: at Michigan State; at Michigan; Ohio State; at Iowa; Nebraska. How would Wisconsin survive? Well, the Badgers got a terrific start by dumping No. 5 LSU, 16-14, in the opener. Look for UW to waltz to 3-0 with Akron and Georgia State next. By then, Wisconsin will have some mojo and could go 3-2 to start the Big Ten slate. If the Badgers are 6-2 heading to Northwestern on Nov. 5, it will be very impressive-and it just may happen.
4. Michigan State didn?t look sharp in dispatching FCS Furman in the opener, 28-13. But I?m not worried. The Spartans will round into shape. This off week will help. And, no doubt, the players will be VERY coachable coming off the sleepy effort in the opener and with the next game being at Notre Dame.
5. Minnesota?s needs more from Mitch Leidner. He was a bit erratic in the opener, hitting just 50 percent of his passes (13-of-26) for 130 yards in a win vs. Oregon State. The long pass play? It was 25 yards. Yes, it was just the first game for Leidner piloting the new offense. But, this sure looked a lot like the old plodding Gopher offense.
6. It?s difficult to call a second game of the season a ?must win.? But, that?s what Purdue may be facing when it welcomes Cincinnati this Saturday. Darrell Hazell needs to take advantage of opening at home with three games and three opponents that are beatable. The Boilermakers dispatched FCS Eastern Kentucky last week. After Cincinnati comes a visit from Nevada. Everyone knows Hazell needs a good season to impress new Purdue A.D. Mike Bobinski. A 3-0 start would be a dream.
7. Northwestern needs more from QB Clayton Thorson. He was a redshirt freshman last year when he help engineer a 10-win season. Thorson had holes in his game as a passer in 2015. And, it looks like some of those holes still exist. He hit 15-of-22 passes for 196 yards in a season-opening 22-21 clunker loss to Western Michigan. He also committed a huge fumble late in the game. NU can?t expect to win as many close games as it did last year. To flip the script, this offense needs more from the pass game.
8. Don?t judge Rutgers on its opening 48-13 loss at Washington. The Huskies are a Top 25 team poised for a good season. Having to open the season across the country vs. the Huskies was a brutal first draw for Scarlet Knights coach Chris Ash. I still think this RU squad has bowl potential.
9. I wasn?t too sure about Richard Lagow when I saw him in camp. But, the JC transfer looked pretty good in his Indiana debut last week. He hit 18-of-27 passes for 240 yards with a TD. And he also had no picks. That was huge. Lagow can make this talented offense go as Nate Sudfeld?s replacement.
10. Fear Iowa. That?s all. Just, fear Iowa.