Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, Alex Roux, BTN.com editor, September 6, 2017
Dot Commentary is back after Week 1, and the topic this week fits the theme on the field from last weekend. It was an impressive showing for the Big Ten in Week 1, so Tom Dienhart and Alex Roux of BTN.com discuss which team impressed them most.
Hear more of BTN.com's Week 1 analysis, including input from Bleacher Report's Matt Hayes on this week's BTN Take Ten Podcast.
Dienhart: Penn State
Colleges have no exhibition games. So, you never really know what you are going to get from a school on the opening weekend. Many of the scores from the Big Ten and across reflect that. Maryland dumped No. 23 Texas. Baylor lost to FCS Liberty. UCLA shocked Texas A&M, which blew a 44-10 lead.
But Penn State experienced no such hiccups. In fact, the No. 6 Nittany Lions were the most impressive team in the Big Ten in the opening weekend of action. In case you were under a rock, Penn State did exactly what it was supposed to do as the defending Big Ten champs and heavy favorite vs. a team from the MAC: It smashed Akron, 52-0.
"Most consistent camp that we've had," Penn State coach James Franklin said in the postgame. "Which equates to probably the most complete game since we've been here."
I couldn?t agree more. The numbers were impressive. The Nittany Lions notched 569 yards and allowed just 159. Trace McSorley showed why he arguably is the best quarterback in the Big Ten, hitting 18-of-25 passes for 280 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. And McSorley also ran 12 times for 48 yards and a touchdown. One of this top targets was tight end Mike Gesicki, who made six catches for 58 yards and two TDs.
And then there was running back Saquon Barkley, who carried 14 times for 172 yards and two scores while also catching three passes for 54 yards for an attack that scored on five of its seven first-half possessions in building a 35-0 lead at intermission.
"We have so many playmakers," Barkley told reporters afterward. "Some games are going to be my game, some are going to be (quarterback) Trace (McSorley)'s game, some games it's going to be (tight end) Mike (Gesicki) and obviously others on the offensive side of the ball."
This team already is rolling and picked up where it left off last year. Check this out: Penn State has scored 35 or more points in eight straight games, which is the longest active streak among Power 5 teams and tops in program history.
The defense is supposed to be the unit with the most to prove, but it looked strong in the opener as it forced 11 Akron punts. LB Jarvis Miller, DT Tyrell Chavis, LB Manny Bowen and DE Ryan Buchholz led the charge for Penn State, which limited Akron to 86 yards passing and 73 yards rushing.
Delivering an opening salvo of this magnitude gives Penn State confidence as it heads into a showdown with Pitt, a team that beat the Nittany Lions last year. It will be interesting to see if Penn State can keep its mojo rolling and pay back the Panthers.
The Big Boys in the Big Ten did what they were supposed to do in Week 1 in impressive fashion, but I'm a sucker for underdogs. I was captivated by the entire Purdue game, right up until Elijah Sindelar's interception sealed the game for No. 16 Louisville Saturday night. If the Boilers had pulled off the upset, they'd probably be my pick for this segment considering how rough they looked last year. Plus, I don't think Louisville was overrated. Was Texas overrated at No. 23 heading into last weekend? Of course. But Maryland still had to go on the road and pull the rug out from under 88,000 strong in Austin, and that's what they did.
?You try to measure these things and you like to say you know where your team is, but you don?t really know until get out there and get in the fire,? Maryland head coach DJ Durkin told the Baltimore Sun after the game. ?It was good to see our guys respond that way."
The Terps beat a ranked opponent on the road for the first time in nine years, and they even had a 20-point lead over Texas at one point before absorbing the Longhorns' counter-punch to hang on for a 51-41 win. Many expected Maryland to take a step forward in Year 2 under Durkin, but to do it on such a big stage in a game where the starting QB was lost to a season-ending injury? Come on. Freshman Kasim Hill slid in seamlessly when QB Tyrell Pigrome went down, and the Terps used two special teams touchdowns to snatch the soul of a restless Longhorns fan base in Texas' first game under Tom Herman. Very impressive.