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Saturday, September 18, 2010
Wrapping up the early Big Ten games

By Adam Rittenberg

As play gets started here in Madison and in Minneapolis, here's my take on what has happened so far around the Big Ten today.

The league boasts a perfect 5-0 record, although there are some concerns in several places.

Ohio State 43, Ohio 7: The Buckeyes continued to look like one of the nation's best teams Saturday. Then again, Ohio made it pretty easy for the Scarlet and Gray, committing five turnovers to give itself absolutely no chance in this one. There are a ton of positives for Ohio State right now, but the best is the fact the Buckeyes' defense has maintained its opportunistic play from 2009, when it tied for third nationally in takeaways (35). Ohio State has forced 12 turnovers in the first three games and committed only two of its own. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor had an efficient first half (17-for-20 passing, 2 TDs) but threw his first two interceptions of the season.

Michigan 42, Massachusetts 37: It looked really dicey for a while as Massachusetts built a 17-7 lead late in the first half and rallied late, but the Michigan offense made sure this wouldn't be Appalachian State Part II. Denard Robinson committed his first turnover of the season early on but did little else wrong, putting up more insane offensive numbers (241 passing, 105 rushing, 3 total TDs). He got big lifts from running back Michael Shaw (12 carries, 126 rush yards, 3 TDs) and wide receiver Darryl Stonum (3 receptions, 121 receiving yards, 2 TDs). For all the good news on offense, Michigan's defense looks very vulnerable and likely will cost the Wolverines several games once Big Ten play begins. Massachusetts racked up 26 first downs and 439 yards against the Wolverines, who are really struggling in the back end.

Penn State 24, Kent State 0: The shutout is nice, Penn State fans should be a little worried now. Something is wrong with All-Big Ten running back Evan Royster. The senior had another pedestrian performance (11 carries, 38 yards, 1 TD) against a good run defense, but teammate Stephfon Green (11 carries, 59 rush yards) found some room to roam. After scoring two touchdowns in the first 11 minutes, Penn State couldn't find the end zone until midway through the fourth quarter. Quarterback Rob Bolden, looking a bit like a freshman these days, tossed two interceptions and Royster fumbled early in the second half.

Purdue 24, Ball State 13: Purdue survived its first game without All-Big Ten wideout Keith Smith, but starting quarterback Robert Marve left today's game with an apparent left leg injury. Cortez Smith stepped up nicely in place of Smith against Ball State, recording five receptions for 117 yards and two touchdowns. Backup quarterback Rob Henry provided a nice lift with a touchdown pass and 65 rushing yards and a touchdown, but the injury bug keeps hitting Purdue hard this season. Purdue's defense did a nice job, as Ricardo Allen and Jason Werner recorded interceptions and Ball State finished with only 106 pass yards.

Illinois 28, Northern Illinois 22: You can't underestimate the importance of this win for Ron Zook's squad. The Illini didn't want to head into the bye week at 1-2, especially with a daunting stretch to open Big Ten play (Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State). Northern Illinois took a first-quarter lead behind talented quarterback Chandler Harnish, but the Illini rallied and then held off the Huskies. It's about time people start giving Mikel LeShoure some credit. He has been one of the nation's best running backs since late last season and put up more big numbers today (24 carries, 180 rush yards, 1 TD). Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase struggled with his passing but contributed 115 rush yards and a touchdown. Although Harnish gave Illinois fits with his legs and his arm, Vic Koenning's defense did enough to secure the victory.