Around the Big Ten Week 2
Tom Shively, Bryan Monetsano, Will Desautelle and Matt Harvey break down this week's action around the Big Ten.
In what was arguably the biggest opening week in college football history, the Big Ten made an authoritative statement and proved that they are among the top conferences in the nation.
The Big Ten posted a 12-2 record during the opening weekend of the 2016 season, marking the second time in three years the conference accumulated 12 wins on the first week. Four Big Ten teams also scored at least 50 points last weekend for the first time since 2007.
Despite recent improvement, the Big Ten has still been heavily scrutinized for the last several years for not performing well against teams from the other power five conferences, particularly the SEC. Last week, unranked Wisconsin had an answer for those critics by knocking off No. 5 LSU, who many picked to win the SEC. Not only was this a huge victory for head coach Paul Chryst and the Badgers, but the win also further narrowed the gap between college football’s top conference and the Big Ten.
Wisconsin, which was unranked to start the season for the first time since 2009, climbed all the way to No. 10 in this week’s AP Poll and showed they are not to be overlooked.
Elsewhere in the Big Ten West, Illinois looks rejuvenated under new head coach Lovie Smith and is led by quarterback Wes Lunt, one of the most prolific passers in the conference. The Illini looked impressive in their win against Murray State last week, and they have a good chance to upset ACC contender North Carolina in week two.
In addition to Wisconsin, the Big Ten boasts four other teams in the AP Top 25 this week. No. 16 ranked Iowa, coming off a highly successful 2015 campaign, was steady in its week one win against Miami (Ohio) and could yet again be a sleeper in the Big Ten this season. This week the Hawkeyes will take on in state rival Iowa State, but the West champs should put this one away early.
No. 12 ranked Michigan State struggled in their victory against Furman last week, but Mark Dantonio and the Spartans are always quietly one of the Big Ten’s best and should still be a contender in the Big Ten East.
Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan team was as dominant as expected defensively and showed terrific offensive efficiency in a blowout win against Hawaii, moving them up to No. 5 in the latest poll.
Meanwhile, Ohio State set a school record 776 yards of total offense in its win over Bowling Green, registering the third-highest single game total offense yardage in Big Ten history. The Buckeyes climbed to No. 4 in this week’s poll, marking the eleventh time in the last 12 seasons an Ohio State team has been ranked in the top five for at least one week.
This week, Michigan and Ohio State will take on UCF and Tulsa, respectively, in what should be easy victories for both teams. One of the hottest topics in Big Ten football this week is the debate over whether Ohio State or Michigan is the Big Ten’s best. This is one that will persist all year long, and college football fans around the country will unfortunately have to wait until their matchup on November 26th to find out for sure.
As of now, it seems Ohio State has a slight edge. Both teams looked superb on defense in their season openers and are well coached. However, I think Ohio State’s explosiveness on offense, led by Heisman-contending quarterback J.T. Barrett, poses a very difficult matchup. Not only that, but Urban Meyer still believes that his team has a lot to improve upon.
If Meyer is correct, this could be one scary team to match up against by the end of the year. Either way, there is no doubt that both teams have the talent to compete with the best in college football and will lead a very strong Big Ten conference this season. The Big Ten’s five ranked teams in the latest AP Poll are the second most among Power 5 conferences behind only the SEC with six.
It is still early, but right now it appears the Big Ten could be in for a really successful year.
Will Desautelle is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org