Sunday, September 5, 2010
What we learned in the Big Ten
By Adam Rittenberg
Five lessons from the week that was in Big Ten football.
Denard Robinson threw for 186 yards and added another 197 on the ground in Michigan's win over Connecticut.
1. Shoelace is the answer in Ann Arbor: So that's what Rich Rodriguez's offense is supposed to look like. Denard Robinson made Rodriguez look like a genius in a critical game against Connecticut, as he dazzled with both his feet and with his arm. Robinson made a decent Connecticut defense look bad throughout a 30-10 win, and his speed will be tough for Big Ten defenses to handle, especially now that he can throw the ball accurately. Michigan needs to be a bit more careful with his touches after he took several big hits Saturday, but if Robinson continues to grow and his offensive line stays healthy, the Wolverines will put up a lot of points.
2. Bolden continues rapid rise: Rob Bolden has been playing college football for less than a month, but he's already making a big impression in Happy Valley. Bolden had an impressive debut Saturday against Youngstown State, completing 20 of 29 passes for 239 yards with two touchdown passes and an interception that wasn't his fault. After some freshman mistakes early on, Bolden settled down nicely and threw two touchdown passes to Brett Brackett on intermediate routes. He'll likely have a rough time next week at defending national champ Alabama, but this kid looks like he'll only get better for the Lions.
3. Ohio State's offense will be fun to watch: Defense and special teams remain hallmarks of Tresselball, but Ohio State's offense gives you another reason to tune in this season. The Buckeyes displayed good balance in their opener but got more players involved, particularly in the passing game. Terrelle Pryor had an impressive debut (17-25 passing, 247 yards, 3 TDs), and he got help from running back Brandon Saine (9 carries, 103 rush yards, 2 TDs) and wide receivers Dane Sanzenbacher (3 receptions, 113 yards, 1 TD) and DeVier Posey (4 catches, 41 yards, 2 TDs). Ohio State displayed perfect balance in the first half -- 16 rushes, 16 passes -- but it just felt the reins had been loosened a bit. Ohio State had nine different players record a reception.
4. Purdue, Illinois still works in progress: The only Big Ten squads to lose Saturday showed why they're still figuring things out. Purdue started slow, made mistakes at the wrong times and couldn't generate much of a run game at Notre Dame. Illinois' offense disappeared after halftime, and a shorthanded defense couldn't hold Missouri's Blaine Gabbert in check. But there were some positives for both squads, as Purdue controlled the clock and received a big performance from defensive end Ryan Kerrigan. Illinois' defense performed better than expected, and freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase showed some promise despite an ugly stat line. Not the ideal start for either squad, but don't be surprised if things turn around soon.
5. Run games revealed: We learned quite a bit about the rushing attacks in the Big Ten in Week 1. Teams like Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan State and Indiana that struggled at times on the ground in 2009 received strong opening performances from Duane Bennett, Adam Robinson, Darius Willis, Le'Veon Bell and Edwin Baker. Ohio State, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan continued to do their thing on the ground. On the flip side, Northwestern continued to struggle to generate a rushing attack, and Penn State's offensive line couldn't spark Evan Royster against FCS Youngstown State. Purdue missed Ralph Bolden in its loss to Notre Dame and needs to find an answer in the backfield.