BRO HUGS ALL AROUND (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Wha Happened? is the weekly round-up of the rest of the games that were in the Big Ten -- you know, the ones that were going on while you were shotgunning that beer, or watching Iowa, or sleeping off that early-morning tailgating. Who won? Who lost? Who made us quiver with fear? Who made us laugh hysterically? In short... Wha Happened?
just Northwestern 24, Boston College 17
There aren't a whole lot of rules that govern Wha Happened?, but when you're the only B1G team to beat a team from a BCS conference and you do it (1) on the road, (2) without your all-conference quarterback, and (3) with a heretofore-unheard of running game... well, you're guaranteed to take home "Win" honors. Mike Trumpy led the way for jNW on the ground with 85 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, though he was ably assisted by fill-in QB Kain Colter (71 yards and a touchdown on 23 touches) and fellow RB Adonis Smith (53 carries and a touchdown on 11 carries). In all, Northwestern ran the ball 54 times (!) for 227 yards (!!). By themselves, those stats would have been very weird, what with the Wildcats' offensive attack being predicated on short, quick passes for so long. But the fact that they did it against Boston College, possessors of one of the country's best rush defenses a year ago, was truly remarkable. Next to Baylor shredding TCU's formerly-vaunted pass defense on Friday night, it may have been the most shocking defensive result of the weekend. Either B.C.'s 2k11 run defense isn't on par with their 2010 incarnation or jNW has developed an actual functioning running game... which would make them an even more terrifying offense to defend. Oh, and Colter was the latest absurdly accurate Northwestern passer: 17/24, for 197 yards. Maybe we'll find out in the weeks ahead that B.C. is just Yet Another Lousy ACC Team, but for now this is a nice feather in jNW's cap. (Ugh.)
#18 Ohio State 42, Akron 0
Really, once you get past the Northwestern win, distinguishing between the remaining Big Ten wins in week one is difficult. No one else bested a BCS foe, so you're left parsing the differences between blowout wins over MAC/Sun Belt/FCS foes. In that regard, margin of victory seems as good a measure of differentiation as anything else. So kudos to Ohio State: their 42-point margin of victory was the best in the league and they were the only team to shutout their opponent. Oh, and they did it in in their first game with a new coach and with a handful of key players suspended. Sure, Akron may not be any good... but it's not like many of the teams on the Big Ten slate this week were any good and the Big Ten squads playing them didn't pitch shutouts or hold their foes to 90 total yards of offense like Ohio State did. So a tip of the hat to the Buckeyes.
(tie) : Penn State 41, Indiana State 7 / #11 Wisconsin 51, UNLV 17
Rounding out the Win/Place/Show categories are Penn State and Wisconsin, who each pulverized their cupcake opponents by 34 points. The superiority of one performance over the other is largely in the eye of the beholder. Wisconsin cracked 50 points and displayed a wickedly balanced and prolific offense (51 points, 258 yards passing, 241 yards rushing) with offensive stars galore: Russell Wilson (10/13, 255 yards, 2 TD; 2 carries, 62 yards, 1 TD), Montee Ball (12 total touches, 117 total yards, 2 TD), Jason White (12 total touches, 104 total yards, 1 TD) all had standout days. On the other hand, they also gave up almost 300 yards of offense and 17 points to the UNLV offense and that wasn't all garbage production. Conversely, Penn State's defense was far more stout (170 total yards, a late garbage-time TD), but their offense was less explosive (359 total yards, 34 points plus a kickoff return TD). The passing game was notably limp: The Ginger Avenger and Bobert Bolden combined to go 12/20 for 114 yards and 0 TD (although no turnovers, either). Still, there wasn't much need to dig into the passing playbook when they could run for 245 yards and 5 TDs. But if you think either team's performance was significantly better than the other one, chances are you bow to altars of JoePa or Bielema.
#25 USC 19, Minnesota 17
As noted above, there aren't a lot of rules that govern Wha Happened?, but actually winning the game is a requirement to make the Win/Place/Show categories. No moral victories allowed. That said, Minnesota's road loss to USC was certainly one of the more "feel good" losses in some time. They went on the road to USC, lost their starting QB during the game... and still only lost by two points and had a chance to win at the end. Hell, if they hadn't missed two field goals earlier in the game, they probably actually win the game and Jerry Kill is the belle of the Big Ten. Two things were particularly encouraging for the Gophers: true freshman QB Max Shortell came in off the bench and nearly guided the Gophers to the comeback win (7/13, 98 yards passing, 1/1 TD/INT) and the defense looked far better than expected. They shut down the USC running game throughout and after getting dissected by Matt Barkley and Robert Woods in the first half, locked things down in the passing game in the second half. Maybe this was all a mirage, but for one week the Gophers looked ahead of schedule in the Jerry Kill Era.
Michigan 34, Western Michigan 10
Not one, but TWO defensive touchdowns? An offense highlighted by running backs? Yep, looks like MANBALL is thriving in Ann Arbor already. The Denard had a quiet day at the office (9/13, 98 yards; 8 carries, 46 yards rushing; 0 TD), but it didn't matter since Fitzgerald Toussaint and Michael Shaw combined for 134 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 15 carries. Defender Brandon Herron chipped in a 94-yard pick six and a 28-yard fumble return TD to help Michigan build a 34-10 lead before the weather got downright Biblical and the game was called in the third quarter. But we still know very little about this Michigan team or how improved they are from a year ago. The question of how Denard fits into Al Borges' offense is still mostly unanswered, given the weather and the quality of the opposition, and the GERG-free defense did concede 279 yards of total offense in just under three quarters of work. But hey, baby steps, right?
#10 Nebraska 40 Chattanooga 7
Taylor Martinez appears to be healthy and fully back to his 2010 form, which has good and bad implications for Nebraska. The good news is that he can again run circles around lower-level competition (19 attempts, 135 rushing yards, 3 TD). The bad news is that he apparently still can't pass, even against the Chattanoogas of the world: 11/22, 116 yards, 0 TD. So once again the effectiveness of Nebraska's offense may rest on Martinez's magic feet. Good luck with that.
#17 Michigan State 28, Youngstown State 6
You mess with the Penguins, you get the, uh, flippers? Cute scarf and stocking cap? Of all the teams with legitimate Big Ten title aspirations (NOTE: Purdue, Indiana, and Minnesota need not apply), Michigan State had the most unimpressive season debut. They won comfortably and put up perfectly fine stats (Kirk Cousins went 18/22 for 222 yards and 1 TD, while Edwin Baker and Le'Veon Capers combined 131 yards rushing and 2 TD on 24 carries), but anyone who watched the game could attest to Sparty's lack of sharpness. Youngstown State squandered a few opportunities to get more points and it wasn't until MSU scored their third touchdown of the night late in the third quarter that the game really felt locked up.
Illinois 33, Arkansas State 15
With almost three minutes to go before halftime, Arkansas State actually led The Fightin' Zookers 8-7, thanks to a safety and a pair of field goals and a schadenfreude-loving Big Ten football fan could start to dream of the possibility of yet another epic Zooking. Then Illinois rattled off ten points before half and re-established a lead they would never come close to relinquishing. Schadenfreude... denied. Nathan Scheelhaase had a fine day at the office, passing-wise (16/23, 267 passing yards, 2/0 TD/INT) and did nothing to dissuade anyone from thinking that he could be the next great Big Ten quarterback. Jason Ford had a solid day as well (86 yards rushing and 2 TD on 22 carries) as the new lead dog in the Illinois rushing game. In fact, in an alternate universe Scheelhaase (an Iowa legacy recruit) and Ford (a one-time Iowa verbal commit) comprise the Iowa backfield, which wouldn't be too shabby. The other star performers were Illini receivers A.J. Jenkins and Darius Millines; Jenkins served as the workhorse (11 catches, 148 yards, 1 TD), while Millines was the big play threat (5 catches, 119 yards, 1 TD).
Purdue 27, Middle Tennessee State 24
Obviously, we're the last school that should be throwing stones at a team for needing a blocked field goal at the end of the game to pull out a week one victory. In fact, if recent history is any indication, we should be getting ahead of the curve and congratulating Purdue on being the 2012 Orange Bowl champions. For the second-straight year, MTSU came achingly close to claiming a B1G scalp (Minnesota was their almost got 'im last year), only to be thwarted by a late touchdown. On the bright side, Purdue fans could be encouraged by the bright play of RBs Ralph Bolden and Akeem Shavers (24 carries, 162 rushing yards, 1 TD)... you know, if there was any chance of them still having their ACLs in one piece by the end of September.
Ball State 27, Indiana 20
I told you Indiana was going to suck. The most troubling aspect of this loss for Indiana might be the fact that it didn't a superhuman effort from Ball State or a particularly atrocious effort from Indiana to swing things into the "W" category for Ball State. Indiana wasn't especially careless with the football (no turnovers, in fact) and Ball State didn't have a boffo day offensively (383 total yards, just eight more than Indiana). No, they simply looked like two relatively evenly matched teams... which either means that Ball State is much better than their recent MAC cellar-dweller incarnations or Indiana is in bad, bad shape this year. Also, the listed attendance of this game was 40,224. Where the hell were they all hiding?