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Wha' Happened? 2012 Week One Around The Big Ten

Just Le'Veon Bell wearing his Bronco cape. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Just Le'Veon Bell wearing his Bronco cape. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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?


#13 Michigan State 17, #24 Boise State 13
Heading into the season, the book on Michigan State was that they would have to lean on their defense and their running game, especially early in the season while they worked in a new quarterback and several new receivers. One week in and... nothing's changed. The Sparty defense held up their end of the bargain: they held Boise to 206 total yards of offense, including just 37 yards rushing, and Boise's only touchdown came on a pick-six. Boise's inability to hold onto the ball and build on their 13-10 lead in the second half ended up dooming them -- and a big part of that was down to the MSU defense.

As far the Sparty offense... it was the Le'Veon Bell Show; no one else need apply. Bell had FIFTY OFFENSIVE TOUCHES in this game. FIFTY! He had 44 carries for 210 yards and 2 touchdowns... and also added six receptions for 55 yards. That's absurd. Completely, utterly, undeniably absurd. Right now, Bell is on pace for SIX HUNDRED OFFENSIVE TOUCHES this year... and that's without even factoring in a possible B1G Championship Game appearance or a bowl game. That pace won't hold (or Bell will be dead or crippled by October), but it does highlight MSU's reliance on Bell right now. Andrew Maxwell, MSU's replacement for Kirk Cousins at QB, had possibly the quietest and ugliest 248-yard passing performance in recent memory. He had 3 interceptions and frequently looked out-of-sync. He'll get better, I'm sure, but it's clear that Sparty isn't going to just replace a QB as good as Cousins without skipping a beat.


#18 Ohio State 56, Miami (OH) 10
After one quarter, Miami (OH) was up 3-0. Then Devin Smith did his best Marquise Walker impression (see the clip above) and the floodgates opened up. OSU went on a 35-0 run, then added on three more touchdowns in the fourth quarter to put an exclamation point on Urban Meyer's first win at OSU. QB Braxton Miller was the star of the show, going 14/24 for 207 yards and 2 TDs through the air and adding 161 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries on the ground. I think he likes Urb's offense. I suppose Meyer could grumble about the 303 yards passing his defense gave up to Zac Dysert, but for the most part this was a perfect debut.


just Northwestern 42, Syracuse 41
My general rule with this feature is to give teams more credit for wins over BCS-level opponents than wins over non-BCS foes. And jNW did pick up the Big Ten's lone win over a BCS opponent this weekend (to be fair, there were only two opportunities for B1G teams to claim a BCS scalp -- and the other game involved beating Alabama). However, when you give up 28 straight points and blow a 35-13 lead halfway through the third quarter and need a slightly dubious late hit penalty to bail you out on your game-winning touchdown drive... well, you get dinged for that a little. Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian tag teamed the QB position to generally good effect for jNW -- 22/32, 213 yards, 3 TD/0 INT -- but the running game wasn't great (124 yards on 40 carries, although Venric Mark had 82 yards on 14 carries for a very respectable 5.9 ypc) and the defense was (again) a tire fire -- they gave up 596 total yards of offense, including 470 yards passing). So, basically, business as usual for jNW.


Illinois 24, Western Michigan 7
Illinois averaged 2.8 yards per carry and was outgained by Western Michigan... and still won by 17. I guess that's one way to win ugly. The Illinois defense forced four turnovers, including a game-icing pick-six in the fourth quarter. Nathan Scheelhaase left the game with an ankle injury; if he's forced to miss any time, Illinois will be in big trouble.

#17 Nebraska 49, Southern Miss 20
26/34, 354 passing yards, 5 TD/0 INT, 6 rushes, 10 yards.

That was Taylor Martinez's stat line for this game. His real stat line, not his stats from an NCAA '13 game set on Junior Varsity. I... don't know how to process that stat line. There were all kinds of stories this off-season discussing how much time Martinez had spent working on his passing game and how much improvement he had made, but I dismissed them as the usual off-season hot hair. You don't go from one of the game's premier arm punters to a deadly passer overnight, right? (Checks stat line again.) Uh... right? Well, we'll see -- this one game isn't enough of a sample for us to draw conclusions. But if Martinez has become a dangerous passer -- yikes. (And Nebraska might need him to make that leap, too; last year's offensive lynchpin, RB Rex Burkhead, suffered an MCL injury in this game and could miss some time.)

#12 Wisconsin 26, UNI 21
Playing UNI in the season opener is just not a good idea, I guess. The Badger offense took a long time to get on track in this game -- they opened up a 19-0 lead, but it took them 35 minutes of game-time to get there. Their defense responded to that healthy lead by collapsing down the stretch -- UNI scored 21 points in the final 15 minutes (and change) of the game and only another Wisconsin touchdown and a late turnover on downs secured the win for Wisco. The Badgers' latest ACC transfer, Danny O'Brien, was fine (19/23, 219 yards, 2 TD/0 INT), but Montee Ball struggled -- he needed 32 carries to get 120 yards and a touchdown here. Maybe Wisconsin's offensive linemen aren't just interchangeable cogs. And for our sake, let's hope UNI isn't quite as good as they looked here.

Purdue 48, Eastern Kentucky 6
Robert Marve had 295 yards passing and 3 TD, Akeem Shavers added 74 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, and Purdue had 547 yards of total offense. They did pretty much whatever they wanted in this one. The defense bottled up Eastern Kentucky (190 yards of total offense); this game was effectively out of reach after Purdue ran back an interception for a touchdown in the first quarter to put them up 13-0.

Minnesota 30, UNLV 27 (3OT)
My takeaway from this game: if either team had an accurate quarterback, this would have been a rout. UNLV's Nick Sherry out-DERPed MarQueis Gray (16/35, 116 yards, 1 TD/3 INT vs. 17/30, 269 yards, 2 TD/1 INT), which is the main reason Minnesota escaped Sin City with a scrappy win.

Indiana 24, Indiana State 17
Indiana won one game last year, so with this win they've already equaled their win total from a year ago. That's good. QB Tre Roberson had a strong game (26/36, 280 yards, 1 TD/0 INT), which is also good. Let's just stop there; Indiana probably won't have too many opportunities to celebrate a win this year.


#2 Alabama 41, #8 Michigan 14
"Reload but rebuild" is a cliche, but at least where Alabama is concerned, it seems to be true. They lost multiple starters from last year's BCS national champion team... but it doesn't look like they've skipped a beat. They dismantled Michigan -- they might as well have put this game on a running clock after Alabama went 31-0. The odds of a Saban-led Alabama team with this much talent choking away a 31-point lead are... well, they can't be calculated. Michigan was revealed for what we all thought they were: a team with one spell-binding player and a whole lot of holes. The good news for Big Blue? They won't play another team as good as Bama all year.

Ohio 24, Penn State 14

The general consensus about Penn State had been that they're in store for several lean years when the NCAA sanctions really kick in, but that they might still be able to field a solid team this year. Ohio was the preseason favorite to win the MAC, so losing to them isn't the worst loss ever, but... losing to Ohio at home is not how solid seasons are made. I don't think it necessarily means that the aforementioned "lean years" are starting a year earlier than expected, but it's definitely not a good start. Having Matt McGloin throw the ball 48 times, giving up almost 500 yards of offense... these are not good omens.