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Quick thoughts on the Big Ten early games

9/19/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The Big Ten could have used a win against No. 8 Cal, but the league got strong performances from its top teams Saturday. Then there was Purdue sliding back to earth.

Michigan 45, Eastern Michigan 17 -- Senior Carlos Brown should be in the mix for Michigan's top running back spot after a terrific performance in this one (187 rush yards, 2 TDs). The Eagles stayed around for a while, but Michigan's running attack was simply too strong despite an injury to Brandon Minor. Rich Rodriguez wisely used a lot of personnel, including backup quarterback Denard Robinson, who rushed for two scores. The Wolverines offense seems to be opening up every week, which bodes well with Big Ten play approaching.

Northern Illinois 28, Purdue 21 -- What to make of this Purdue team? The Boilers' offense surged in the first two weeks behind running back Ralph Bolden, but they couldn't get going against NIU. It's never a good sign when quarterback Joey Elliott outrushes Bolden (68-64). Purdue simply had no big-play ability against NIU, which ran all over the Boilers defense with Me'co Brown and Chad Spann. Very tough loss for Danny Hope's crew.

Penn State 31, Temple 6 -- The Lions can breathe a bit easier about their run game after Evan Royster went for 134 yards and a touchdown against the Owls. Quarterback Daryll Clark wasn't as sharp as the first two games, but the running game helped him out. Penn State's defensive front seven continues to shut down the run despite Navorro Bowman's absence. The Lions will need Bowman back for the Big Ten opener against Iowa.

Ohio State 38, Toledo 0 -- Jim Tressel and his team really needed this, a convincing win against a hot Toledo team coming off a win against a Big 12 opponent. The Buckeyes offense took control from the onset, and though Terrelle Pryor threw two interceptions, he made a ton of plays with his arm and his feet. Pryor's rushing performance (110 yards) is especially encouraging. He needs to keep it up. Ohio State's defense looks extremely solid right now.

Wisconsin 44, Wofford 14 -- The Badgers had little trouble improving to 3-0 as they got tons of personnel involved in this one. Quarterback Scott Tolzien turned in another efficient performance, and the run game got going behind Zach Brown, John Clay and backup quarterback Curt Phillips. Wisconsin should continue to get Phillips involved when Big Ten play begins next week against Michigan State.