Sunday, September 12, 2010
What we learned in the Big Ten: Week 2
By Adam Rittenberg
Five lessons from the week that was in the Big Ten.
Denard Robinson threw for 244 yards and had two rushing touchdowns in Michigan's win over Notre Dame.
1. Denard Robinson isn't a one-hit wonder. If and when Michigan starts the season 4-0, many will compare the quick start to 2009, when Tate Forcier led the Wolverines to four consecutive victories to open the year. We all know what happened next. Is this simply a rerun? It's possible, but Robinson and the Wolverines look more legit this season. Robinson followed a huge Week 1 performance with an even better effort in Week 2 at Notre Dame. He broke records again, but more important, he showed tremendous poise in the clutch, leading the game-winning drive. Robinson's speed is the real deal, and he's making all this happen within the confines of Rich Rodriguez's offense. Michigan still has to make strides to challenge the Big Ten's best, but if Shoelace can stay healthy, the Wolverines will win in league play.
2. Iowa isn't messing around this year. It's not merely enough to win in today's college football. Style points matter. Iowa learned this lesson in 2009, when it got virtually no national respect for a Houdini-like 9-0 start. So far this season, the Hawkeyes aren't letting their opponents hang around. After crushing Eastern Illinois last week, Iowa dominated in-state rival Iowa State, building a 35-0 lead behind running back Adam Robinson, quarterback Ricky Stanzi and a stingy defense. Iowa doesn't expect things to be easy this week on the road against Arizona, but the Hawkeyes head to the desert with a ton of confidence.
3. Ohio State can hang with speed again. Fairly or unfairly, the Buckeyes became the poster boys for the slow Big Ten after back-to-back losses to SEC teams in the BCS championship game. After convincing wins against Oregon in the Rose Bowl and Miami on Saturday, it's clear that Ohio State has cleared its speed bump. The 2010 defense not only is fast, but extremely opportunistic and physical. Cornerback Chimdi Chekwa and safety C.J. Barnett were among the Buckeyes' defenders who stood out against Miami. Ohio State also boasts speed on offense, starting with Terrelle Pryor at quarterback. The Buckeyes aren't a perfect team right now -- the special teams issues must be corrected -- but they're not a slow one, either.
4. Minnesota could be in big trouble. After a fairly encouraging performance in the opener, Minnesota backslid in a big way Saturday. Losing to FCS South Dakota is bad enough, but Minnesota simply couldn't stop quarterback Dante Warren and the Coyotes offense. The Gophers did a nice job of keeping their defense off the field in Week 1, but there clearly are some major problems with a new-look unit. Making matters worse, Matt Barkley and the USC Trojans come to town next week. Minnesota coach Tim Brewster's seat cooled down a bit after Week 1. This is the type of loss that really turns up the heat.
5. The Big Ten looks like a deeper league. The top still looks very strong with Ohio State and Iowa, while Wisconsin isn't far away despite two somewhat worrisome performances. But through two weeks, the middle of the league has been better than most folks believed. Michigan's rise certainly helps, and Michigan State has looked good so far as well. Despite Penn State's loss at No. 1 Alabama, the Nittany Lions should win at least eight games, and Northwestern turned in a very good performance Saturday. There's still a long way to go, but the league has more than just the big three (Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin).