Welcome to Big Ten Blast!
Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez barks out calls vs. Southern Miss
This will be a regular weekly column where we will provide some news and notes from around the conference.
In some regards, this will be the make or break week for the Big Ten in nonconference play. The 12 Big Ten teams will tackle a combined seven opponents from BCS conferences or Notre Dame. That is by far the most of any single week this year. (Big Ten teams played two BCS opponents last weekend and will play three in each of the next two weekends.)
Five of those seven games against BCS teams/Notre Dame will be road games as well, including three Big Ten teams going to the West Coast to play Pac-12 teams.
Here goes this week’s Big Ten Blast:
Huskers Headed To Rose Bowl … To Play UCLA
It is the goal of every Big Ten team to spend Jan. 1 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. (Well, unless they can be selected to play in the BCS National Championship Game instead.)
Nebraska will get a little taste of what it will be like to play on the hallowed ground of the Rose Bowl on Saturday as it visits UCLA (7:30 p.m. Eastern, FOX). The Huskers moved up from 17th to 16th in this week’s AP poll after their 49-20 rout of Southern Miss. UCLA, coming off a 6-8 season, opened with a nice win at Rice (49-24).
“We have a lot of things to clean up and get better at,” said Nebraska coach Bo Pelini. “Saturday provides us an opportunity to go on the road and do that. We are looking forward to that challenge.”
Pelini talked about the challenge of going on the road early in the season.
“Most of our guys have been there and done that and been in some tough environments,” he said. “That experience always help. We’ve had some good success on the road. We’re going to be challenged and we know we will have to play well against a well coached and talented football team.
“They have good speed and good athleticism. They put stress on you. They give you multiple looks on both sides of the ball.”
This game will be the home debut for first-year UCLA coach Jim Mora Jr.
“Jimmy is a guy I’ve known a long time,” Pelini said. “I have a lot of respect for him and I know he will do a good job with that program. He’s had success everywhere he’s been and in different roles. He will have success there and I’ve already seen it. They are improved from where they were last year.”
It’s unclear whether Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead will be available. He left the USM game with a strained medial collateral ligament in his knee.
“That (clearance) comes from the doctors,” Burkhead said. “He knows what his body feels like. He may have more say than most. But we will proceed with caution. If our doctors don’t feel it’s right, he isn’t going to play. Right now, we’re planning on taking him and seeing how the week progresses. I don’t think anybody would know where it is yet.”
Click here for more coverage from Huskers Illustrated.
Hoke: Michigan Must Bounce Back
After a 41-14 loss to No. 2 Alabama outside Dallas on Saturday, Michigan coach Brady Hoke wanted to see how his team would respond.
“We had a great practice last night,” Hoke said on Tuesday’s Big Ten teleconference. “I thought we had a good mentality. We had a good tempo. I think our guys are mature enough to understand that was one of 12 guaranteed opportunities that we have. We have 11 left.
“Our seniors have been through seasons and understand you have to get ready every week. I think they will do a great job.”
Michigan, 8-0 at The Big House last year, opens the home schedule by hosting Air Force Saturday (3:30 p.m., ABC). Air Force, of course, specializes in the option offense. Hoke talked about the difficulty in playing against the option.
“The timing of everything from your (scout) teams to how you have to play blocks differently … the misdirection and the window dressing the option teams give you … the kids really have to focus in on what’s important and that’s their key and what it tells them to do and doing a good job with that,” he said.
Hoke’s San Diego State teams split their two games with Air Force between 2009-10.
“There are some wrinkles that you see from when we were there two years ago in that offense,” he said. “We saw some of that when we were at San Diego State. You have to be a disciplined defense and do your job against a team like this.”
The Wolverines dropped 11 spots from eighth to 19th in the AP poll after the loss to Alabama, which moved up to No. 1 this week.
Click here for more coverage of Michigan from Wolverine 247.
O’Brien Preps PSU For Virginia
Penn State coach Bill O’Brien was also in damage control mode after the Nittany Lions dropped their opener to visiting Ohio 24-14 in his head coaching debut. The Nittany Lions travel to Virginia on Saturday (noon, ABC).
“Judging by yesterday, the guys came out ready to go,” O’Brien said. “We had a good practice for a Monday. It’s about playing the next play and next game. It’s a long season. We have to learn from our mistakes on the Ohio game and try to improve on those.”
Against Ohio, Penn State ran the ball just 22 times while quarterback Matt McGloin attempted 48 passes.
“You’re always trying to achieve balance,” O’Brien said. “Would you like to have a 50/50 run/pass balance? Sure. But ultimately you are trying to do what it takes to win the game.”
Starting running back Bill Belton left the opener with an ankle injury. He was listed as “possible” for the game at Virginia.
“If Billy can’t go, somebody else will step up,” O’Brien said.
Click here for more coverage of Penn State from Lions 247.
Trap Game For Spartans At CMU?
Michigan State will make a rare road trip to an instate MAC school on Saturday as the Spartans visit Central Michigan (3:30 p.m., ESPNU). Some have said this will be the biggest home game ever for CMU.
Coach Mark Dantonio’s Spartans moved up from 13th to 11th in this week’s AP poll after a 17-13 win over then-No. 24 Boise State last Friday in East Lansing. MSU blasted Central Michigan 45-7 at home last year, but Dantonio recalls the Chippewas taking a 29-27 upset win over MSU in 2009. Central opened this season with a 38-27 win over I-AA Southeast Missouri State.
“It’s going to be a historic event up there,” Dantonio said. “Michigan State comes up to Mount Pleasant. We’re looking forward to that opportunity. There is a history here. They beat us in 2009. There is a history of us having to play well to come away with the win.”
Dantonio said he had two reasons for agreeing to play a home game at CMU, which seats 30,255 at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
“We want to do something for the commerce of Michigan and the state of Michigan for this series,” he said. “We saw it as a positive to reach out to other programs and communities in the state.
“The other factor for me was I knew we would have a new starting quarterback (Andrew Maxwell). If we’re going to play a road game at some point, I’d rather play the first one 60 miles away in our own state and learn from that.”
Maxwell was 22 of 38 passing for 248 yards, although he threw three interceptions.
“He was calm and collected,” Dantonio said. “He showed some great leadership skills. He had to handle some adversity, which is always key. I thought he threw the ball decisively. He had a couple of balls that were tipped (and intercepted). I thought he played well in his first big game. I liked what I saw when I looked into his eyes and what he showed as a competitor.”
The Spartans rode the hard running of RB Le’Veon Bell to the win. Bell carried 44 times for 210 yards and two touchdowns and also had six catches for MSU. Dantonio was asked how Bell’s body responded to that night with 50 touches.
“He’s feeling great,” Dantonio said. “He’s practicing today. There weren’t any more bumps and bruises than what he would normally have. If anything, I think it created some excitement for him that he was able to do and build some confidence in him.
“We’re always going to ride the hot back here. That’s what we’ve always done here.”
Click here for more MSU coverage from Spartan Tailgate.
TerBush, Off Suspension, Will Start Vs. ND
It is kind of a curious situation at Purdue, where coach Danny Hope has announced that Caleb TerBush will start Saturday’s game at No. 22 Notre Dame (3:30 p.m., NBC) despite missing the opener due to a suspension for a violation of team rules.
In his place, Robert Marve threw for a career-high 295 yards and matched his career best with three touchdowns.
“I don’t think it was anything Robert did or didn’t do,” Hope said. “Caleb has 13 games as a starter under his belt. I thought during the course of training camp he outperformed the other quarterbacks hands down from an execution standpoint.”
Hope noted that TerBush did not throw an interception over the final 4-1/2 games a year ago.
Purdue will have its hands full trying to slow down a Notre Dame offense that put up 50 points and 490 yards last week against Navy in a game played at Dublin, Ireland. The Fighting Irish rushed for 293 yards in that win.
Asked where ND had the advantage, Hope said, “It was across the line of scrimmage. They are big across the front with their offensive line. They are big and strong. They are athletic and mature. They handled Navy’s defensive front.
“On the other side of the ball, they have one of the top defensive front sevens in college football. They have the defensive scheme down to a science. Their middle linebacker (Manti Te’o) is outstanding, certainly one of the top players at his position in the country.”
The prevailing trends do not look good for Purdue. The Boilers have lost their last 14 road games against ranked opponents, dating to a 2004 win at Notre Dame. Purdue has also lost four straight overall in the series and three straight road games at Notre Dame overall.
“A win could potentially project our program in some ways,” Hope said. “It would catch the attention of recruits and energize our fans and be a confidence builder for our team.”
Meyer Tweaks Orlando Columnist
On Tuesday’s Big Ten teleconference, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer came in contact with one of his biggest antagonists – Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi.
Bianchi has authored various pieces criticizing Meyer for leaving Florida, sitting out a matter of months and showing up at Ohio State late last November. Meyer, you may recall, won two of Florida’s three all-time national championships during his six-year stay in Gainesville.
Of course, Ohio State hosts Central Florida – a school based in Orlando -- on Saturday (noon, ESPN2).
Here was their priceless exchange:
Bianchi: “Coach, there are some Gator fans down here who are a little disappointed you left. They say they might be rooting for UCF on Saturday. Do you think it’s natural for fans to be mad at a coach when he leaves one school for another and do you understand that disappointment?”
Meyer: “Well, I think your facts, not surprisingly, are incorrect. I didn’t leave a school for another school. I’m always going to be a Gator. I have great friends (in Florida) whether a few people try and hurt that down there.
“I love Florida. I always will love Florida. I have a great relationship with people there and I look forward to always remaining friends with those people.”
In other notables on Tuesday, Meyer said that tailback Jordan Hall is unlikely to play against UCF as he continues his rehab from an off-season foot injury. The coach said OSU’s 86 plays in the hurry-up offense for the season opener against Miami (Ohio) was “about where they want to be.”
Meyer was glad to see QB Braxton Miller settled down after a slow start against Miami. Miller ended up accounting for 368 yards total offense and three touchdowns in that 56-10 win.
"He was so excited to play and so fired up to electrify the crowd,” Meyer said. “He just has to play his position."
Ohio State inched up four spots from 18th to 14th in the new AP poll after defeating Miami. Click here for more Ohio State coverage from Bucknuts.com.
Hawkeye State Rivalry This Week
Iowa will host Iowa State this Saturday for the 35th renewal of the Cy-Hawk Trophy rivalry (3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network).
Iowa leads the Cy-Hawk rivalry by a margin of 23-12 since it began in 1977. That includes a mark of 6-7 under coach Kirk Ferentz, although the Hawkeyes have won four of the last six.
Ferentz was glad to see his team rally for an 18-17 win over Northern Illinois at Chicago’s Soldier Field. Iowa State opened with a 38-23 win over Tulsa.
“We need to improve fast or we will be disappointed after Saturday’s game,” Ferentz said. “They played well in their opener and my guess is they will be a better team than what we saw on film.”
The Cyclones stunned Iowa 44-41 in triple overtime last year in Ames, giving ISU coach Paul Rhodes his first win in the Cy-Hawk series.
“They’ve done a great job there,” Ferentz said of Rhodes’ staff. “They have an identity offensively, defensively and on special teams. They have improved their personnel.
“Everybody involved in this game is ready to play. Typically, both teams are motivated to play. This is a big game in our state. We don’t have a professional team in our state.”
Iowa got a big lift from sophomore Damon Bullock in the win over Northern Illinois. Bullock's 150 rushing yards were the most by an Iowa player in an opener since Fred Russell's 167 yards in 2003.
“He finished the game,” Ferentz said of Bullock, who logged 30 carries in the opener after having just 10 attempts all last season. “That’s the biggest accomplishment. We weren’t sure what to expect. That was the first time he played for a whole game. He performed pretty well. There are some things he can continue to improve upon. But the biggest thing was he played the whole game and did a good job.”
Asked if he expects Bullock to be the lead back going forward, Ferentz said, “We’ll see how it plays out going forward. That’s just the way it turned out. We’ll take it a week at a time. But I know it’s a long season and we will have to play other backs.”
Click here for coverage of Iowa athletics from Voice of The Hawkeyes.
Bielema Critiques O’Brien’s Work
Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien made his debut as Wisconsin’s starting quarterback, completing 19 of 23 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns in the Badgers’ 26-21 home win over I-AA Northern Iowa. Both of those scoring strikes went to WR Jared Abbrederis, who ended up with six catches for 84 yards.
“We’re perfectionists around here,” said UW coach Bret Bielema. “I know there were several plays that Danny wished he could have had back. We will continue to work with him as coaches and help him to succeed. Hopefully, our offense will be rewarded.”
Running back Montee Ball, the top returning Heisman vote getter from 2011, passed up a chance to go to the NFL to return for his senior season. He had 120 yards on 32 carries, averaging just 3.8 yards per tote. He had a 1-yard TD run. Bielema bristled at the notion it was a rough debut for his senior star.
"If that’s an off day, we’ll take an off day every day,” Bielema said.
The Badgers won their 33rd straight nonconference regular season game, and although the margin did not match up to past UW blowouts against outmanned competition, Bielema was fine with the result. Wisconsin did drop a spot from 12th to 13th in this week’s AP poll.
“I’m not a rocket scientist, but half the teams in college football lose every weekend,” said Bielema, whose Badgers visit Oregon State this Saturday (4 p.m., FX). “To walk out as a winner, that’s a step in the right direction.”
For more coverage of Wisconsin football, click here.
Wilson In Search Of First I-A Win
Indiana coach Kevin Wilson is not going to look a gifthorse in the mouth. His Hoosiers defeated I-AA Indiana State 24-17 in their opener on Saturday. That win matched IU’s win total from a year ago, when the Hoosiers were a dismal 1-11 with the lone win coming at the expense of I-AA South Carolina State (38-21).
The Hoosiers will visit new MAC member and Massachusetts on Saturday (3:30 p.m., ESPN3.com). Wilson reflected on the win over Indiana State.
“That game got close and we didn’t panic,” Wilson said. “We had a chance to make it a two- or three-score game. We left some points out there. But our defense wouldn’t let them score down the stretch. We had five good stops.”
“It wasn’t a bad game for us. It wasn’t perfect. We need the offense to be a little cleaner and the kicking game has to pick up. But to get a W when it wasn’t easy was important for us.”
Indiana missed on some red zone opportunities against the Sycamores.
“Some of it was play calling,” Wilson said. “We missed a few things. We were trying to not be foolish with our play calling. That may have hindered our production.”
Click here for coverage of IU athletics from Inside Indiana.
Dramatic Win Spurs Wildcats
Northwestern led host Syracuse 35-13 in the third quarter before the Orange surged into the lead. The Wildcats needed a late rally – led by backup quarterback Trevor Siemian, no less – to pull out a 42-41 win. Siemian hit Demetrius Fields for the game-winning 9-yard TD with just 44 seconds left.
Siemian went 6 for 7 for 62 yards on the game-winning drive. He replaced Kain Colter, who left the game with a shoulder injury. NU coach Pat Fitzgerald recalled the scenario.
“Kain got dinged up in the game,” Fitzgerald said. “Toward the end of the game, I went on the headphones and Kain said, ‘I want to be out there, but I think right now Trevor might give us a better chance based on how I’m feeling.’
“That’s about as unselfish of an act as I’ve ever heard of from a teammate. That talks about the confidence Kain has in himself and the trust he has in Trevor. That was why the decision was made to go like we did.”
Northwestern will host Vanderbilt Saturday (8 p.m., Big Ten Network). The Commodores come in off a tough home loss to No. 9 South Carolina (17-13). Fitzgerald said it seems like Colter will be able to start against Vandy.
“I thought they both played well enough for us to win,” he said. “Kain practiced full today, so there were no ill effects from it.”
Northwestern got a big lift from speedy Venric Mark, who had 281 all-purpose yards (82 rushing, 16 receiving, 49 on kick returns and 134 on punt returns with an 82-yard TD).
“V has played for us for two years, primarily in the kicking game and the wide receiver,” Fitzgerald said. “We made a decision to move him back to the backfield. He had a great summer. He put on some weight and strength. His opening game performance was very positive.”
Beckman Basks After First Win At Illinois
Illinois got out of the gates strong with a 24-7 win over Western Michigan. The Illini rolled despite losing starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase to an ankle injury.
“It’s always evenly repped,” Beckman said. “Reilly and Miles were getting sufficient reps during preseason to get them ready to play. Right now, those are the two are getting reps. But Nathan was on the field and working on rehab and trying to get the ankle prepared. We hope to get him on the field (Wednesday).”
Western Michigan was held to minus-6 rushing yards by Illinois’ stingy defense. Ashante Williams returned an interception 60 yards for a score for the Illini.
“I was proud of them,” Beckman said. “We responded without having two of our safeties not starting and one of our defensive ends, Justin Staples. I was proud of the seniors and the way those guys stepped in. The challenge will be again this week.”
There will be a lot of unknowns for Illinois visiting Arizona State, led by new coach Todd Graham. The Sun Devils opened with a 63-6 win over I-AA Northern Arizona.
“This is the hand we were dealt and we will go down and do the best we can,” Beckman said.
Minnesota Looks For 2-0 Start
Minnesota will be going for its first 2-0 start since 2009 as it hosts I-AA New Hampshire on Saturday (noon, Big Ten Network).
The Golden Gophers gutted out a 30-27 triple overtime win at UNLV last Thursday.
“For our football team and our kids, they have worked hard in the off-season to do what we’ve asked them to do,” said UM coach Jerry Kill. “They have prepared hard and some things didn’t go our way. But we hung in there. I was very impressed. It was 95-plus degrees and we played a whole lot of football. I don’t think we really wore down.”
Quarterback MarQueis Gray threw for 269 yards in the win over UNLV. That was the second-highest total of his career.
“Mentally, it was a different approach than it was last year,” Kill said. “I don’t think our kids panicked. They stayed persistent and stayed with what we did. Then we had some guys step up. Derek Wells made some great plays down the stretch and MarQueis made some good throws down the stretch.
“It was great to see us make a play to win a game.”
* At the beginning of his remarks on Tuesday’s teleconference, NU’s Fitzgerald sent well wishes to his former assistant Mike Dunbar who is dealing with treatment for cancer.
“We would like to express our thoughts and prayers to Mike Dunbar at Northern Illinois,” Fitzgerald said. “He is looking at a battle here. He has a great wife, Linda, and we just wanted to express our thoughts and prayers.”
* It seems that some Michigan State players got loose on Twitter after rival Michigan’s lopsided loss to Alabama on Saturday night. Their comments led MSU’s Dantonio to apologize for their actions.
"Our guys need to keep their mouths shut,” Dantonio said. “(Is) that blunt enough? … Especially the ones not even playing.
"I'll address that with our football team. I think that's disrespectful."
Illinois’ Beckman was asked for his social media policy for his players.
“We have them sign a release form that states we can take their Twitter away if necessary,” Beckman said. “Our players are very mature and they try to handle things responsibly.”
* Speaking of Twitter, Ohio State had enacted a Twitter ban during Meyer’s press conference. But that ban was lifted late last week when an Akron Beacon Journal columnist questioned the legality of such a ban.
OSU’s Meyer was asked about it Tuesday and said that was a policy enacted by his school’s sports information department. He said he knew nothing about it until his wife, Shelley, mentioned it to him.
"That has nothing to do with us winning a game,” Meyer said. “I don't care what anybody does in that room"
* Against Boise State, Michigan State turned down a chance to earn some “style points” late in the game. MSU drove as close at the Boise 4-yard line before the Broncos used their last timeout with 1:03 left. The Spartans fell on the ball twice to end the game.
Dantonio was asked if he considered punching one more score in for a double-digit win.
“They all count as one (win),” Dantonio said. “We feel fortunate to have won the way we did the other night. That’s what’s important to me – how we perform and improve. I’m not looking around the country at other teams. Everybody takes care of their own program.”
* UW’s Bielema confirmed that the Badgers did not send Oregon State a copy of his team’s opening win over Northern Iowa. That’s because Oregon State’s opener against Nicholls State was postponed due to Hurricane Isaac and the Beavers had no film to send.
“For us to exchange film with Oregon State, they’d have to have something to give back,” Bielema said. “That wasn’t going to benefit Wisconsin in any way, shape or form. I don’t think that was anything unusual.”
Bielema did say that the schools exchanged all tapes from last year’s games.
* Penn State’s O’Brien said he intended for his team to sing the school’s alma mater with the band after his first game. But instead, the coaches and players left the Beaver Stadium field after their 10-point loss to Ohio.
“Yeah, I messed that up,” O’Brien said. “That’s completely my fault. We will do that the next home game.”
O’Brien was asked if that was because he was upset over the loss.
“Nah, it was just a product of memory loss,” he said. “I just forgot.”
* The Big Ten won 10 games in the first weekend of play for the seventh time in eight seasons. Big Ten teams also won 10 games in 2005, 2007 and 2009 and went 11-0 in 2006 and 2008.
* Weekly award winners from the Big Ten included:
Co-Offensive Players of the Week: MSU RB Le’Veon Bell and Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez.
Defensive Player of the Week: Minnesota DB Derrick Wells.
Co-Special Teams Players of the Week: Iowa K Mike Meyer and Northwestern PR/KR Venric Mark.
Freshman of the Week: Purdue DB Frankie Williams.
Big Ten Standings
Illinois (1-0 overall, 0-0 Big Ten)
Ohio State (1-0, 0-0)
Purdue (1-0, 0-0)
Wisconsin (1-0, 0-0)
Indiana (1-0, 0-0)
Penn State (0-1, 0-0)
Iowa (1-0, 0-0)
Michigan State (1-0, 0-0)
Nebraska (1-0, 0-0)
Northwestern (1-0, 0-0)
Minnesota (1-0, 0-0)
Michigan (0-1, 0-0)
Aug. 30 Game
Minnesota 30, UNLV 27, 3 OT
Aug. 31 Game
Michigan State (13) 17, Boise State (24) 13
Sept. 1 Games
Ohio State (18) 56, Miami (Ohio) 10
Alabama (2) 41, Michigan (8) 14
Wisconsin (12) 26, Northern Iowa 21
Nebraska (17) 49, Southern Miss 20
Ohio 24, Penn State 14
Northwestern 42, Syracuse 41
Illinois 24, Western Michigan 7
Iowa 18, Northern Illinois 17
Purdue 48, Eastern Kentucky 6
Indiana 24, Indiana State 17
Sept. 8 Games (All times Eastern)
New Hampshire at Minnesota, noon (Big Ten Network)
Central Florida at Ohio State (14), noon (ESPN2)
Penn State at Virginia, noon (ABC)
Iowa State at Iowa, 3:30 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Air Force at Michigan (19), 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
Michigan State (11) at Central Michigan, 3:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
Indiana at Massachusetts, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN3.com)
Purdue at Notre Dame (22), 3:30 p.m. (NBC)
Wisconsin (13) at Oregon State, 4 p.m. (FX)
Nebraska (16) at UCLA, 7:30 p.m. (FOX)
Vanderbilt at Northwestern, 8 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Illinois at Arizona State, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN)
On Thursday, I made my picks for Week 1.
I ended up 25-5 straight-up and 13-14 against-the-spread with my picks. I nailed the Clemson-Auburn game on the head, picking Clemson to win 26-19.
In Big Ten games, I was 10-2 straight-up and 3-6 against-the-spread (Egads).
Stay tuned this week for our Picks for week 2 on Thursday and a Chat either Thursday or Friday.