Week 3 didn’t provide many surprises in the Big Ten -- other than Nebraska falling 21-17 to MAC opponent Northern Illinois. The Huskers clearly have some issues to figure out on offense.
Penn State rolled to a win against Georgia State; Ohio State and Wisconsin took care of business against Army and BYU, respectively; and Rutgers shut out Morgan State in a 65-0 win.
Michigan still has some problems on offense, especially in the red zone, but the Wolverines are 3-0 after their home win against Air Force. A few teams either had a bye or a game canceled, but for the most part, the conference performed well this weekend.
Here's how the Big Ten power rankings stand after Week 3:
1. Penn State (previous ranking: 1): The Nittany Lions' offense is hitting its stride and has yet to encounter many speed bumps this season. Beating Georgia State 56-0 on Saturday was another sign that Penn State deserves to be No. 1 in the Big Ten power rankings so far this season. The reigning conference champs will have a test against Iowa next week but will be tough to stop.
2. Wisconsin (2): Wisconsin was on the road against BYU, but it didn’t impact the team much as quarterback Alex Hornibrook threw for 256 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions in a 40-6 win. The Badgers' defense held BYU to just six points and made two interceptions on the day.
3. Ohio State (3): The Buckeyes' offense varied its playcalling in a 38-7 victory over Army, giving quarterback J.T. Barrett some different pass looks to help improve his stats. Barrett finished the day with 270 yards passing and two touchdowns through the air, as well as one TD on the ground. Running back J.K. Dobbins had 172 yards rushing and two scores of his own.
4. Michigan (4): Michigan’s offense still has questions as it heads to Purdue next weekend. The Wolverines beat Air Force 29-13 on Saturday, with the defense once again carrying its weight. Michigan only scored two touchdowns on the day, one of which came on a punt return from freshman Donovan Peoples-Jones. The other came from running back Karan Higdon on a 36-yard run. The defense will help against Purdue, but the offense will need to figure out its issues.
5. Maryland (5): Maryland had a bye this week, so it remains in the No. 5 spot after beating Towson 63-17 in Week 2. The Terps play UCF at home next week and should be able to come out on top in that game as well.
6. Iowa (6): The Hawkeyes didn’t have running back Akrum Wadley for a portion of the second half, but it didn’t stop the offense from scoring 21 points after halftime. Iowa won 31-14 against North Texas with quarterback Nate Stanley throwing for 197 yards and two touchdowns. North Texas led 14-10 at the half, but Iowa eventually pulled away and secured a 3-0 start to the season.
7. Michigan State (7): Similar to Maryland, the Spartans had a bye this week, so they won’t move from the No. 7 spot. Michigan State takes on Notre Dame at home next week in what should be a good test. The Irish have been emphasizing the run, and Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush had four rushing touchdowns in a 49-20 win against Boston College on Saturday. The Spartans' offense ranks No. 24 nationally in rushing yards per game, so it should be an interesting matchup in East Lansing.
8. Purdue (11): The Boilermakers are among the biggest movers from Week 2 to 3 after an outstanding 35-3 win against Missouri. Purdue coach Jeff Brohm has this team improving week after week, and his team held Missouri to 203 total yards on offense after the Tigers gained 815 yards against Missouri State and 423 against South Carolina. Purdue is now 2-1, with its lone loss coming by seven points to Louisville in Week 1.
9. Indiana (8): We noted above that Maryland and Michigan State maintained their previous rankings following byes this week, but Indiana drops a spot after its game against FIU was canceled. The reason: Purdue is simply playing so well that the Boilermakers needed to move up. The Hoosiers are 1-1 on the season and have Georgia Southern coming to Bloomington next week.
10. Minnesota (10): Minnesota could see its stock rise after its 3-0 start, but the game against Maryland in two weeks could tell us where the Gophers really are in the power index. Minnesota beat Middle Tennessee 34-3 on Saturday, and while it seems as though coach P.J. Fleck has this team ahead of schedule, conference play could prove to be a big test for the Gophers.
11. Northwestern (12): Northwestern beat Bowling Green 49-7 with quarterback Clayton Thorson throwing for 370 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Justin Jackson had 121 yards on the ground with three touchdowns of his own. The Wildcats got blown out by Duke last week, so a convincing win against Bowling Green is a good sign for this team.
12. Rutgers (14): Rutgers moves out of the bottom spot after a 65-0 win over Morgan State. The Scarlet Knights lost to Eastern Michigan in Week 2, so an emphatic victory -- even if it was against Morgan State -- was necessary to show this team can improve. Freshman quarterback Johnathan Lewis ran for four touchdowns and threw for one in the win, with Kyle Bolin also throwing a touchdown of his own. This was a much-needed victory for the Rutgers program.
13. Nebraska (9): The Huskers had the biggest fall this week after a devastating 21-17 loss to Northern Illinois. Quarterback Tanner Lee threw three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Lee has thrown seven interceptions in Nebraska’s first three games. The offensive line wasn’t much help, either, and Nebraska now has some major questions going forward with this offense.
14. Illinois (13): The Illini find themselves in the bottom spot this week after a 47-23 loss to South Florida. Illinois is now 2-1 on the season and faces Nebraska in two weeks. The Illini have a bye to prepare for the Huskers as they try to rebound after this weekend's loss.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Wilton Speight threw his arms up in the air out in front of his face as another scoring opportunity crumbled at his feet. The usually unflappable Michigan quarterback seemed to be flapping late in the third quarter Saturday while an equally flummoxed home crowd booed the Wolverines offense for the second straight week.
No. 7 Michigan escaped a scare from Air Force 29-13 to stay unbeaten three games into the regular season. The final score belies the fact that the Falcons stayed within striking distance late into the fourth quarter and left the crowd in Ann Arbor concerned for an offense that has lacked creativity, explosive plays and the ability to finish drives. Michigan entered the game dead last among Power 5 schools in the percentage of red-zone trips that ended in touchdowns and was shut out on its four attempts inside the 20 Saturday.
Speight's exasperation showed after a wave of Air Force tacklers swallowed up a handoff to Ty Isaac in the Michigan backfield on a third-down play 8 yards from the end zone. That sent rookie kicker Quinn Nordin trotting from the sideline for the fourth of his record-tying five field goals on the afternoon. Nordin's 10 field goals through three games will probably be the most in college football when the weekend comes to a close. That is not the type of first-place spot that Michigan and an offense that pushed the creative envelope a year ago were hoping to hold as they get set for Big Ten play.
"Obviously, the frustration built up a little bit," Speight said. "But it was one of things where it was like, 'Ah, they fooled us.'"
Speight and coach Jim Harbaugh said Air Force's defense disguised its blitzes well throughout the game, especially in the red zone, to get the better of them on several occasions. Harbaugh said that while of course his team would like to be finishing those drives with touchdowns, he's confident that those will come as they continue to progress.
In the meantime, youth has helped the Wolverines plow ahead. Nordin and the rest of his underclassmen brethren were viewed as a liability this summer, as outsiders wondered how Harbaugh's fresh-faced recruits would handle the pressure of stepping into starring roles. Right now they are carrying the offense through its sluggish start.
Sophomore linebacker Devin Bush led the defense with 11 tackles and on two occasions smothered a rare pass attempt before Air Force's Arion Worthman had a chance to look downfield. Freshman Donovan Peoples-Jones scored one of the team's two touchdowns with his effortless 79-yard weaving run on a punt return in the third quarter. He finished the game with 156 all-purpose yards. Then there was Nordin, who comfortably made all five of his kicks, including a 49-yard attempt to give Michigan a 9-6 lead in the closing seconds of the first half.
Speight's performance came under fire last week and will likely draw a fresh batch of criticism. He completed 14 of his 23 attempts for 169 yards through the air, at times overlooking open targets or missing them when he did spot them.
Responsibility for the inconsistency in getting the ball to the Wolverines' young playmakers, though, should fall as much on the coaching staff. Michigan struggled to find any rhythm in its calls. Harbaugh, offensive coordinator Tim Drevno and passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton share those duties. While former coordinator Jedd Fisch was breaking out the 11-man "snake" I-formation at his new gig at UCLA, the Wolverines lacked the type of ingenuity that inspired those types of interesting looks and the Big Ten's most productive offense (40.3 points per game) last fall.
Michigan doesn't need to put up 40 points on most weekends to keep its title hopes alive. The defense remains fierce and entertaining -- holding the Falcons to 232 yards and only one touchdown on a busted coverage. That side of the ball has still made as many trips to the end zone as it has allowed this season.
The Wolverines will need to be more opportunistic, though. Trading field goals for would-be touchdowns is enough to beat smaller teams from smaller conferences. It won't be enough to make it through the upcoming Big Ten slate unscathed.
"We'll keep forging ahead, keep making improvements. I like where our team is right now," Harbaugh said. "... Our team is moving the ball. That's a fact. I think the red-zone touchdowns will come."
Harbaugh added: "It's good to be Wilton Speight right now," pointing out that the junior was the quarterback of the No. 7 team in the country with an unbeaten record. Speight's frustrations won't boil away, though, until those touchdowns start to come.
The Big Ten had another week on the positive side of the win column, going 10-4 overall. Ohio State was on the main stage and lost to Oklahoma in dramatic fashion, but Penn State avenged last season’s loss to Pitt by winning 33-14 while Iowa came out on top of Iowa State in overtime.
Week 3 shouldn't be as dramatic -- Wisconsin-BYU is the biggest matchup involving the conference -- but there could be an upset or two brewing.
Visit our college football PickCenter page for additional information on these games and many more. Here's our forecast for Week 3.
Air Force at Michigan, Saturday, noon, BTN
Dan Murphy: Defensive coordinator Don Brown says he's been preparing to stop Air Force's triple option since April. Thanks to a 62-0 win to start the year, the Falcons currently have the No. 1-ranked offense and No. 1-ranked defense in college football. That will change at the Big House. Michigan 31, Air Force 10
Mitch Sherman: Don’t put much stock in the Falcons’ opening game win over VMI. It was 62-0 and really not a fair fight. Look hard, though, at Michigan’s lackluster showing in a Week 2 win over Cincinnati. The Wolverines will be ready to play well this week. Michigan 35, Air Force 10
Tom VanHaaren: I’m with you guys, I think Michigan’s defense will be prepared for Air Force’s ground attack on Saturday. Michigan’s offense has been the center of attention, so this is probably a good bounce-back game to get everyone in sync and settled in. Michigan 42, Air Force 13
Wisconsin at BYU, Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ABC
Sherman: BYU continues its annual tradition of loading up on power programs in September. Losses to LSU and Utah ought to embolden the Cougars, but Wisconsin freshman running back Jonathan Taylor will extend his early-season success in Provo. Wisconsin 28, BYU 20
Murphy: The Badgers' first road test of the season comes in what would normally be an upset-alert environment at BYU. With quarterback Tanner Mangum dealing with an injured ankle and the rest of the Cougar offense struggling, though, Wisconsin should be just fine finishing its nonconference slate. Wisconsin 34, BYU 21
VanHaaren: Taylor is No. 7 in rushing yards among FBS backs through the first two games, and BYU ranks No. 88 in rushing yards allowed per game. Wisconsin should be able to get its offense rolling even though this is a road game. Wisconsin 31, BYU 17
Purdue at Missouri, Saturday, 4 p.m., SEC Network
Murphy: This may wind up as the most entertaining Big Ten game of the week. There should be a lot of points and a lot of big plays, but the Boilermakers will come up just shy of beating a Power 5 opponent for the second time in September. Missouri 42, Purdue 39
VanHaaren: I am boilering up, boiling up, boiled up? I don’t know, but coach Jeff Brohm already has made Purdue more exciting in two weeks than it has been in two seasons. I’m going to overreact and say Purdue wins this game. Missouri gave up 43 points to Missouri State, lost to South Carolina 31-13 and then fired the defensive coordinator. Purdue 38, Missouri 35
Sherman: Here arrives an early chance for Brohm to make a big statement with the Boilermakers and throw a scare into upcoming Big Ten foes. The setup is perfect, with quarterback David Blough starring in his role off the bench last week and Mizzou reeling after the ousting of defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross. Purdue 38, Missouri 31
Army at Ohio State, Saturday, 4:30 p.m., Fox
VanHaaren: It’s tough to think an Urban Meyer-led team sees the same problems persist for more than a few weeks in a row. Unfortunately for Army, the Buckeyes are probably looking to right the ship in a big way. This one will be lopsided in Ohio State’s favor. Ohio State 42, Army 10
Sherman: All is not well in Columbus. But you won’t see much trouble brewing this week. The Buckeyes’ dominant D-line will handle Army’s ground game. Offensively for Ohio State, look for J.T. Barrett to bounce back. Most interesting, perhaps, will be the play of backup quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Ohio State 42, Army 7
Murphy: The Black Knights (2-0) have completed a grand total of two passes for 17 yards so far this season. That should be a welcome break for the Buckeyes' beleaguered secondary, and a bad matchup for Army. Ohio State 45, Army 3
- USF over Illinois
- Nebraska over NIU
- Minnesota over Middle Tennessee
- Iowa over North Texas
- Penn State over Georgia State
- Northwestern over Bowling Green
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Entering the season, it was easy to think that Michigan might struggle on defense after losing nearly every starter from last season. Through two games, though, it's the offense that requires further examination.
Junior quarterback Wilton Speight's accuracy issues and tendency to overthrow receivers have garnered the most criticism. And sent him back to basics.
"What it comes down to is, when there's something going on in my face, I've got to, when I avoid the pressure, I've got to keep my base," Speight said.
Facing blitzes, Speight completed just over 33 percent of his throws, as opposed to completing 61.1 percent with no pressure. On the season, he's completing just over 51.9 percent of his passes, with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
The main concern has come from passes that have sailed over the heads of Speight's receivers. In the game against Florida, those overthrows landed in defenders' hands and were turned into two pick-sixes.
Those overthrows persisted against Cincinnati on Saturday, when Speight missed Donovan Peoples-Jones in the first quarter. It happened again when Speight tried to connect with Peoples-Jones in the third quarter, after the wide receiver found a pocket on second down, but he couldn't reel in a pass that flew over his head.
Despite the 2-0 record, the concerning thing for the Wolverines is that these problems become the blueprint for disrupting Michigan's offense. Blitz Speight or force him out of the pocket and you can beat Michigan's offense.
Through two games when Speight is passing in the middle of the field between the numbers, he has completed 76.4 percent of his passes for 396 yards. Outside the numbers on the left and right side of the field, when out of the pocket, Speight only has completed 10 percent of his passes for 6 yards.
The Michigan coaches think Speight can fix these issues with fundamentals. By keeping his feet steady, underneath him and in a stable throwing position, Speight can be on target with his throws.
"Coach Pep [Hamilton] is big on keeping my base loaded," the junior quarterback said. "Sometimes I just, when I avoid or move around in the pocket, I get a little sloppy with my feet, which causes the ball to sail or to go a little low."
Speight wasn't bad overall against Cincinnati, completing 17 of his 29 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns. He hit his receivers on the numbers several times, including on a 43-yard touchdown pass to Kekoa Crawford early in the first quarter, and he avoided the turnovers that hurt him in Michigan's first game against Florida.
Speight's inaccuracy wasn't all that led to a sputtering performance against Cincinnati. Crawford fumbled a handoff on a fly sweep in the second quarter, and the team suffered several special-teams gaffes.
But Michigan is 2-0, and head coach Jim Harbaugh doesn't seem too concerned with the mistakes the offense has made. As for Speight's mechanics and overthrows, Harbaugh brushed it off as something that will work itself out, with Speight eventually finding his way.
"You're not going to be perfect," Harbaugh said. "Could be better, and we'll keep striving for that perfection. I don't know exactly what his mechanics were on that, but people throw how they throw; he's done it enough where he's going to hit most of them, in my mind."
That's fine for now. Speight just might need to hit on a few more passing attempts, and accurately, when it's time for the Big Ten's powerhouses.
Big things happened in the Big Ten in Week 2, headlined by disappointment at the Horseshoe as No. 2 Ohio State fell to No. 5 Oklahoma in a premier Saturday night clash. The lowlights extended to Northwestern, Nebraska and Rutgers, which allowed a program from the MAC to reach a new high.
Ohio State's loss means Penn State is now secure atop the power rankings after dispatching Pitt, followed by an unclear picture at the next three spots as Wisconsin and Michigan played sluggishly at times in victories on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Maryland and Michigan State held serve. Minnesota, Indiana, Purdue and Illinois impressed, creating chaos in the bottom half of these rankings. And Iowa provided the most entertaining performance of the week.
1. Penn State (previous ranking: 2): The defending Big Ten champ is back on top after a 33-14 win over bitter rival Pitt in which Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley simply did their thing. Nothing spectacular was necessary in this win, though tight end Mike Gesicki caught a pair of touchdowns in the first quarter and the Nittany Lions benefited from three Pitt turnovers.
2. Wisconsin (3): Visiting Florida Atlantic hung around long enough to keep things interesting before freshman Jonathan Taylor’s third touchdown provided the final margin in a 31-14 win for the Badgers. Taylor rushed for 223 yards and Wisconsin held Lane Kiffin’s Owls to less than 250 yards in total offense.
3. Ohio State (1): The Buckeyes fell apart in the second half at home as Oklahoma rolled to a 31-16 win to avenge last year's loss to Ohio State in Norman. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield used Ohio Stadium as a platform to bolster his Heisman campaign, then planted the OU flag at midfield before the Sooners danced on the vaunted “O.” Ouch. Ohio State’s margin for error in 2017 is all but gone.
4. Michigan (4): The Wolverines led by just a field goal late in the third quarter before a decisive finish cemented a 36-14 win over Cincinnati at the Big House. Ty Isaac gained a career-high 133 yards on the ground, but expect coach Jim Harbaugh to work his team especially hard before a Week 3 visit from Air Force.
5. Maryland (5): There's not much to take away from a 63-17 rout of Towson, the Terps’ highest point total since 1954. If nothing else, they’re taking care of business under second-year coach D.J. Durkin. No letdown here after the upset win to open the season at Texas as freshman QB Kasim Hill played well in his starting debut and D.J. Moore scored three touchdowns.
6. Iowa (6): The Hawkeyes escaped Ames with a thrilling 44-41 overtime win over rival Iowa State. Iowa came back from 10 points down in the fourth quarter for its fourth victory in the past five games of the Cy-Hawk series. Defensive end Parker Hesse came up with a big interception late, and first-year QB Nathan Stanley threw for 333 yards and five scores.
7. Michigan State (9): The Spartans haven’t surrendered an offensive touchdown in eight quarters after a 28-14 win over Western Michigan, which found the end zone in East Lansing on a 67-yard fumble return and a 100-yard kickoff return. Michigan State QB Brian Lewerke threw for 161 yards and rushed for 81. The Spartans, one win from matching their 2016 total, get an open date before hosting Notre Dame in Week 4.
8. Indiana (10): Redshirt freshman QB Peyton Ramsey replaced struggling starter Richard Lagow in the second quarter and completed 16 of 20 passes for 173 yards and two scores as the Hoosiers rolled past host Virginia 34-17. Indiana was solid in all phases, scoring on a punt return by J-Shun Harris and holding the Cavaliers to 314 total yards.
9. Nebraska (8): Future performances will tell us if the Cornhuskers found themselves in the second half, nearly rallying from a 28-point deficit before falling 42-35 at Oregon. Nebraska held the Ducks scoreless after halftime, but Cornhuskers QB Tanner Lee threw the last of his four interceptions with two minutes to play after getting the chance to drive for a touchdown to force overtime.
10. Minnesota (11) The Golden Gophers routed Oregon State 48-14 on the road, an impressive feat despite the Beavers’ status among the worst teams in the Power 5. Minnesota forced three turnovers and rushed for 253 yards, led by Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks, who combined to run for four touchdowns. In addition, Conor Rhoda appeared to take control of the quarterback spot.
11. Purdue (12): Purdue got a nice 44-21 win -- coach Jeff Brohm’s first with the Boilermakers -- over MAC contender Ohio on Friday night. David Blough took over for Elijah Sindelar at quarterback in the second quarter and led Purdue to points on four consecutive possessions en route to a 558-yard team offensive output.
12. Northwestern (7): Well, the Wildcats’ struggles with Nevada in Week 1 were apparently no fluke. Duke dominated Northwestern in a 41-17 win in Durham behind 305 yards passing and 108 rushing from QB Daniel Jones. The problems appear to run deep for Northwestern as Clayton Thorson threw a pair of interceptions and Justin Jackson rushed for just 18 yards on seven carries.
13. Illinois (14): Progress, for sure, from the Illini, who moved to 2-0 with a 20-7 win over favored Western Kentucky out of Conference USA. Illinois held the high-powered WKU offense, which led the nation in scoring last season, to 244 total yards and got 111 rushing yards from freshman Mike Epstein and an interception returned for a touchdown by Julian Jones.
14. Rutgers (13): If you needed confirmation that the Scarlet Knights aren’t progressing like other programs in the Big Ten, look no further than a 16-13 loss to Eastern Michigan on Saturday -- the Eagles' first win over a Power 5 foe in 59 tries, including 39 against Big Ten competition. EMU took the lead on a 24-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter and staged two defensive stands to secure the win.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- First-year Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley, who turned 34 years old on Tuesday as the youngest head coach in the FBS, won the first road game of his career, a convincing 31-16 win on No. 2 Ohio State's home turf -- and its impact will last as long as the season.
In a game that pitted a rookie coach against a veteran in Ohio State's Urban Meyer and showcased two of the nation's top quarterbacks in Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield and Ohio State's J.T. Barrett, the Sooners came out on top with youth in every corner.
With tight end Mark Andrews knocked out of Saturday's game with an apparent knee injury, Oklahoma turned to a walk-on, redshirt sophomore receiver Lee Morris, and a true freshman, Trey Sermon, to help earn what could arguably be the best nonconference win of the season.
Oklahoma took a 17-13 lead in the third quarter after Mayfield threw a 42-yard pass to sophomore Mykel Jones, setting up an 18-yard touchdown pass to Morris, whose first career reception came against UTEP last week. In the fourth quarter, Mayfield connected with Sermon for a 10-yard touchdown reception that put OU ahead 24-13.
It wasn't until Barrett was intercepted, though, with 11:06 remaining, that the game seemed to be entirely in Oklahoma's control.
It's a vastly different position for the Sooners from this time a year ago, when their loss to the Buckeyes essentially eliminated them from the CFP conversation in the third week of the season.
Since the College Football Playoff began in 2014, the 10-team Big 12 has struggled to find its place. TCU dropped from No. 3 to No. 6 in the first year. Oklahoma was a semifinalist in 2015 but couldn't overcome a 1-2 start last year, despite going on to run the table and win the Big 12.
Should OU win the league again, this is the kind of nonconference game that could help separate the Sooners from another Power 5 conference champion on Dec. 3, when the 13 members of the CFP selection committee determine the top four teams in the country.
Oklahoma now has won 12 straight games since last year's loss to Ohio State. It's the nation's longest current winning streak and the first time the Sooners have won that many games consecutively since the 2004 season.
Saturday's contest was tied 3-3 at the half, but it felt as if Oklahoma should have had a lead that reflected its 222-92 edge in total yardage. The Sooners failed to get into the Buckeyes' territory on just one drive.
For all of the talk about Ohio State's defensive line heading into the game, it was Oklahoma's defense that had the edge. The Buckeyes can certainly overcome the loss if they go on to run the table and win the Big Ten, but their margin for error has been drastically diminished.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Courtney Maholtz laughed when her fiance Chad suggested they get married in the parking lot outside Beaver Stadium before a Penn State football game. She must be a keeper, though, because he managed to talk her into tailgating for the reception.
The Maholtzs were married Friday night at the Eisenhower Chapel on Penn State's campus. On Saturday, they drove Chad's blue-and-white RV on the same four-mile trek it makes most Saturdays in the fall. This time they packed a wedding cake and invited a band to join them. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 friends and family joined the party, but Chad was happy to be part of a bigger crowd.
"We couldn't think of a better place to do it," he said. "We're celebrating with 107,000 of our closest friends and family."
Maholtz graduated from Penn State in 1993 and has been attending Nittany Lions games since the '70s. His new bride is a State College native and has been at Chad's side at every football, basketball and hockey game Penn State has played for the past several years. She said she wasn't quite sure how her family would react when she mentioned their reception idea, but they immediately loved it.
"This is just perfectly fitting for us," she said, wearing a veil and a tiara with a Nittany Lions logo in the center. "We're definitely unique."
The honeymoon, of course, will have to wait until football season finishes. They are planning to head to the Caribbean, but Chad has plans to work in a stop along the way to the bowl game where Penn State lands.
The Big Ten enjoyed a successful opening week, with 10 wins in 12 nonconference games, losing by only respectable margins to returning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson of Louisville (Purdue) and 2016 College Football Playoff participant Washington (Rutgers).
The stakes rise a bit in Week 2, headlined, of course, by a visit from Oklahoma to face Ohio State on Saturday night (7:30 ET, ABC) and rivalries are rekindled in Pennsylvania and Iowa.
Visit our college football PickCenter page for additional information on these games and many more. Here’s our forecast for Week 2.
Northwestern at Duke, Saturday, noon, ESPNU
Dan Murphy: Had to pick at least one upset this week, and this is the best candidate. Northwestern looked shaky at times in its opening win over Nevada. Duke quarterback Daniel Jones can go toe-to-toe with Clayton Thorson in what should be a fun one in Durham, North Carolina. Duke 35, Northwestern 31
Mitch Sherman: Don’t put too much stock into the details of an opener. Remember two years ago, when the Wildcats beat Christian McCaffrey and Stanford in early September? Teams change, and they change fast at this time of year. I still believe in the Cats as a serious contender in the Big Ten West. Northwestern 35, Duke 24
Tom VanHaaren: This one is tough because I thought Northwestern was going to surprise a lot of people this season. Week 1 against Nevada was a win, but it wasn’t very convincing. Duke just threw up 60 on N.C. Central and had a relaxing time doing it. I’m George Costanza when it comes to predicting things; the opposite usually happens, but I’m sticking with the Wildcats. Northwestern 31, Duke 24
Iowa at Iowa State, Saturday, noon, ESPN2
Sherman: This series often defies logic. And sometimes it defines seasons, such as in 2012, when Iowa State last played in a bowl game. The Cyclones won that CyHawk thriller 9-6 en route to a magical 6-7 finish, while the Hawkeyes dipped to 4-8. There’s more magic in store for the Cyclones this year. Iowa State 17, Iowa 14
VanHaaren: I underestimated the Hawkeyes' defense in Week 1 and chose Wyoming over Iowa. Hawkeyes fans let me know about it, so I’m not making the same mistake twice. I’ll take Iowa on the road as long as the turnovers are minimal. Iowa 24, Iowa State 13
Murphy: The Hawkeyes' defense showed last week that there is a legitimate reason to believe in Iowa this season. They'll hold the Cyclones to 100 or so yards on the ground and provide plenty of cushion for the offense to bring home a win. Iowa 20, Iowa State 9
Pittsburgh at No. 4 Penn State, Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ABC
Murphy: Nothing in State College feels the same as it did a year ago, when the pitchforks were pointed at James Franklin after a loss to Pitt. The Nittany Lions are now the most entertaining offense in the Big Ten and have the firepower to blow past Pitt. Penn State 42, Pitt 24
VanHaaren: The last three home teams have won this game, and the last three teams with the most rushing yards have also won. Pitt won last season running behind James Conner. This season, it’s the Saquon Barkley show. The Nittany Lions are out to avenge last season’s loss. Penn State 38, Pitt 21
Sherman: Penn State is so much better than it was at this time last year. I have nothing else to add. Penn State 45, Pitt 17
Nebraska at Oregon, Saturday, 4:30 p.m., Fox
Sherman: Nebraska tried to play it safe last week, guarding against the big Arkansas State plays. Do that against the Ducks and Oregon will turn those short receptions into long touchdowns. I think Nebraska coach Bob Diaco’s defense will show up to play, but first-year QB Tanner Lee will wobble at a raucous Autzen Stadium. Oregon 37, Nebraska 27
VanHaaren: Oregon put up 77 on Southern Utah in the first week. I know it’s Southern Utah, but 77 is a lot of points. Nebraska won 43-36 against Arkansas State in its first game, so there are still some kinks to work out. This game is happening too early in the season for Nebraska. Oregon 52, Nebraska 41
Murphy: No need to overthink the math here. Oregon gained more than 700 yards in its season opener. The Huskers gave up 497. Lee won't be able to help them solve that problem. Oregon 44, Nebraska 36
No. 5 Oklahoma at No. 2 Ohio State, Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ABC
VanHaaren: Indiana attacked Ohio State’s corners last week, passing outside the hashes on 86 percent of QB Richard Lagow’s throws. Baker Mayfield ranks first in completion percentage, yards per attempt and touchdown percentage on throws outside the hashes, but I think Ohio State is going to learn from the first game and win this matchup with Oklahoma. Ohio State 42, Oklahoma 31
Murphy: The Buckeyes won this monster matchup a year ago thanks to their best deep-passing performance of the year. And while that's been a focus all offseason, it will be the uber-athletic front seven that helps them beat the Sooners this time around, doing just enough to contain Mayfield. Ohio State 30, Oklahoma 28
Sherman: The Sooners haven’t lost since Ohio State stormed Norman a year ago. Look for Oklahoma to start strong this time around. You might not see a college game this year that features better play in the trenches, especially when Oklahoma possesses the ball. Watch that matchup. I agree with Dan that the Buckeyes will eventually get to Mayfield. Ohio State 34, Oklahoma 31
- Purdue over Ohio
- Maryland over Towson
- No. 9 Wisconsin over Florida Atlantic
- No. 8 Michigan over Cincinnati
- Michigan State over Western Michigan
- Rutgers over Eastern Michigan
- Indiana over Virginia
- Western Kentucky over Illinois
- Minnesota over Oregon State
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- The headaches were the worst part for Tyson Smith. That's what he thought about Friday night at Michigan State's team hotel: the headaches, all he'd been through in the past nine months and maybe making a tackle the next afternoon against Bowling Green. If he were really lucky, maybe he could make an interception.
He didn't let his imagination run free enough to see himself sprinting 38 yards to the end zone at Spartan Stadium less than 24 hours later, celebrating his first college touchdown and turning into one of a handful of semi-viral moments of inspiration from college football's opening weekend.
"I didn't think I was ever even going to be back in the [team] hotel," he said. "So I just sat there and thought about everything and thought about the game. As a cornerback you picture yourself making plays all the time, so that's really all I did. I didn't see a pick-six."
The headaches were brutal, the worst pain the junior defensive back said he had ever felt. They were worse than the three invasive heart procedures -- one through the mouth, one through the chest and one through an artery in his upper leg -- that he had to endure while remaining conscious. The headaches were even worse than the stroke that started the whole mess in the first place. Of course, he didn't realize it was a stroke at the time. Why would that thought occur to any healthy 19-year-old?
He knew something was wrong on the Monday after last Thanksgiving, but he didn't feel the need to see a doctor until nearly two weeks later, when his head was still pounding. The ear-splitting pain, Smith said, started Nov. 28 and faded away sometime in February. Doctors aren't sure exactly what caused it, but a blood clot temporarily blocked oxygen from a small section in the right, front section of his brain.
"I remember I was out recruiting when this happened," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "... We really didn't know what would happen. I did not believe he would be able to come back."
Playing football again seemed unlikely even to Smith last winter. He was angry about it. He spent the next three months pushing people away from him and avoiding his teammates and the football facility on campus whenever he could.
"My attitude at first was terrible," he said. "I was against everybody, wondering, 'Why did this happen? How did this happen?'"
In April, Smith decided there was no sense in continuing to pout and he started seeking ways to make the most of his college experience without football. He thought about working in the football team's recruiting office and wished he could go back and study neurology. What was nagging at him, though, was that none of the doctors had given him a definite "no" when he asked about returning to the field. They had never seen anyone in his situation suffer a stroke before.
Smith flew to Boston to see an expert and had a few tests done. He got a call two days later saying, "You're cleared to play." The stroke, as far as anyone has told him, won't have any lasting effects on his health.
"I think it blew everybody's mind," said captain and linebacker Chris Frey. "That's crazy. I think it threw everybody for a loop. We're just excited that he's back on the team and he's working with us."
Smith worked his way back into shape and rejoined his teammates in July. By the middle of training camp, Dantonio said no one thought of him any differently than anyone else on the field. There was still a little doubt about how exactly Smith would perform in a game.
He worked into the rotation at cornerback during the first half of the Spartans' home opener against Bowling Green. In the third quarter, he jumped a comeback route and saw nothing but daylight, putting the final touches on a 35-10 victory.
"He plays fearless," Dantonio said. "I think [the interception] just quantifies a little bit of his abilities for him and helps his confidence. He played throughout the game. It was great to have him."
Smith said he has received a steady flow of congratulations since Saturday afternoon. His teammates have reminded him a few times that they've seen enough of him on their phones and laptops. Some messages have come from parents of kids who have had strokes, or from folks who have had similar medical issues. He said he's doing his best to return all of the messages and talk for a few minutes.
"Just to see how much people care and how many people are interested is really exciting," he said.
Smith is happy to play an inspirational role if he can help others. He's happy to be playing football again. Most of all, he's happy to report he has been headache-free for months.
LINCOLN, Neb. -- The intrinsic question around Nebraska football camp last month -- dating to the final hours of last year, in fact, after the Cornhuskers completed a flat finish to Mike Riley’s second season -- involves the quality that every coach, player and fan demands from their program.
Progress. In a competitive industry, if you’re not progressing, you’re regressing.
So just where does Nebraska, bound Saturday for an intersectional clash at Oregon, stand after 27 games under Riley?
It’s a question that requires a deeper look than the three-game improvement in victories from 2015 to 2016 at this once dominant program now seeking its first conference title since 1999.
Adding to the complexity is a 43-36 Nebraska victory over Arkansas State last week that required the Huskers to defend two end zone passes from the 11-yard line in the final 9 seconds at Memorial Stadium.
Nebraska in 2017 has endured significant turnover and tumult within segments of the roster and coaching staff. It replaced quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr., a 44-game starter and the school's career leader in passing yardage and total offense, with Tanner Lee, who flashed brilliance in throwing for 238 yards and two scores in his debut.
The Huskers reconfigured the defense with the arrival of Bob Diaco, who replaced Riley’s longtime coordinator Mark Banker, fired in January. Growing pains were evident in Week 1 as Diaco’s defense allowed 497 yards and 32 first downs to a Sun Belt front-runner.
So is Nebraska on the cusp of a total rebuild with a first-year QB and a new defensive scheme, or is it churning ahead and buoyed by the movement forward -- progress, you might call it -- of the past 24 months?
The answers will determine if the Huskers can contend in the Big Ten this year.
“There’s no question we’re building,” offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh said after a preseason practice. “We are not changing the things that we’ve done.”
Nebraska, despite the apparent progress of last season that included a 35-32 win over the Ducks in Lincoln and a climb to No. 7 in the AP rankings, lost four of its final six games by a combined 109 points. In Riley’s first two seasons, the Huskers' 60.0 QBR ranked 50th nationally. Banker’s defense over two seasons allowed 5.71 yards per play, 73rd among FBS programs.
Riley has replaced four of his original assistants at Nebraska, building a flashier defensive staff led by Diaco, the former UConn coach of three seasons schooled in toughness as a linebacker at Iowa and accomplished Notre Dame coordinator from 2010 to 2013.
The staff appears to fit nicely behind Riley, who spent 14 years at Oregon State before this unanticipated venture to the Big Ten in December 2014.
“He’s a real football guy,” Diaco said recently of Riley. “He’s a nuts-and-bolts guy. He’s a tough guy, and he’s a kind man. And he has great character and class. I’m learning a lot from him on how to behave, how to have patience, how to listen.”
Lee, after one game at the helm, looks like a strong fit, too, providing Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf with the tools to operate the offense they created back in Corvallis.
The 22-year-old Lee, who began his career at Tulane, is 6-foot-4 with pocket presence, a smooth delivery and a strong arm. He said he saw in himself a bit of Sean Mannion, the third-round pick of the Rams in 2015 out of Oregon State.
He sings the same song as Riley, Cavanaugh, Langsdorf and the rest, emphasizing the Huskers have not had to hit reset in 2017.
“We’re picking up where we left off,” said Lee, who sat out last season. “The playbook is the same. The playcalling might be a little different, just because Tommy’s skill set was so diverse. He could run and throw. It’s going to change in that way. Other than that, it’s a testament to Coach Riley and Coach Langsdorf, being able to adapt to their personnel.”
Langsdorf, who returned to work alongside Riley in 2015 after coaching quarterbacks for one season with the New York Giants, said the Huskers are “definitely trending upward.”
“We have some guys who have been through it now and endured some pretty drastic change,” Langsdorf said, “but they are really starting to get it. There’s a learning progression that’s taken place.”
That Nebraska relies on a first-year quarterback this fall, in a season seemingly critical to the direction of the program, remains “a little bit scary,” Riley said in August.
“The most important to me is establishing the foundation,” the 64-year-old coach said. “I’m somewhat of a firm believer that what you establish through spring and summer in the football camp -- the things that you do and do well -- are going to be your identity.
“You’re not going to reinvent the wheel during the season.”
So what you saw Saturday, with a few tweaks and anticipated improvement, is what you’ve got at Nebraska over the next four months.
“Part of what we go through in life is the world of cycles,” Riley said.
He believes the Huskers are cycling forward.
Progress presents a variety of looks. It’s time to learn if Riley’s version of progress is painted against a backdrop of offseason change.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa opened the season in nondescript fashion with a 24-3 win over Wyoming on Saturday, after which Kirk Ferentz, the Hawkeyes’ 19th-year coach, somewhat joyfully announced that the flood of NFL scouts at Kinnick Stadium arrived to watch a visiting player over anyone from his team.
Josh Allen, the Cowboys’ dynamic quarterback considered among the potential headliners in the NFL draft next spring, threw for just 174 yards. Iowa intercepted him twice, and Wyoming did not penetrate the Iowa 20-yard line.
“We just couldn’t get our run game going,” said Allen, who was right but surely could have done more to hurt the Hawkeyes if they had given him time to operate and room to throw downfield.
Iowa had four turnovers but minimized the damage with otherwise smart, physical play.
Somewhere in a faraway region, where observers of this game don’t identify Iowa’s lack of flash as a badge of honor, a skeptic saw these Hawkeyes and squinted in annoying recognition.
Yes, it was only two years ago that Iowa thoroughly unimpressed much of the nation en route to a 12-0 start and the doorstep of the College Football Playoff.
The Hawkeyes this year bear a fuzzy resemblance to their 2015 brethren. Expectations dipped after a five-loss finish last season, but this is when Iowa typically thrives. At first glance, the defense -- the backbone of any Iowa team with championship aspirations -- looks as good as two years ago.
But for all of the football public positioned outside of this state, rest easy. You likely won’t have to talk to your kids about Iowa this season.
Why? Take note of the Hawkeyes’ schedule.
Iowa visits fellow Big Ten West contenders Wisconsin, Northwestern and Nebraska, just as in 2015, when it ran the regular-season table before losing 16-13 to Michigan State en route to a Rose Bowl bid. Instead of Maryland and Purdue out of the East, Iowa gets Penn State and Ohio State -- both in Iowa City -- in addition to a trip to Michigan State.
It’s favored by less than a field goal at rival Iowa State on Saturday (noon ET, ESPN2).
If first-year QB Nathan Stanley helps Iowa eliminate the turnovers (and that defense continues to be strong), don’t entirely forget Iowa. Hey, the formula nearly worked in 2015 against the fifth-ranked Spartans, who needed a late, 22-play, nine-minute drive to finally beat the Hawkeyes.
(Note that Stanford then exposed Ferentz’s team with a 45-16 rout in Pasadena.)
Common sense says the Iowa may have visions of Christian McCaffrey when it meets Saquon Barkley or the Buckeyes’ stacked backfield this year. For now, though, Iowa is 1-for-1 in stifling elite offensive talents.
The Hawkeyes’ defensive effort on Saturday started with linebackers Josey Jewell, Ben Niemann and Bo Bower. The senior trio combined to make 38 tackles. Jewell, the Walter Camp national player of the week, collected 14 stops, including two sacks and forced a game-shaping, intentional-grounding call against Allen in the second quarter.
“We lead the defense,” Niemann said. “We control the front.”
To prepare for this opener, Iowa watched film of its 23-21 loss in September 2016 to North Dakota State -- seemingly a harsh homework assignment. But Wyoming coach Craig Bohl largely constructed NDSU’s FBS juggernaut, and he took the blueprints to Laramie four years ago.
Bohl, a former defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Nebraska on two championship teams in the 1990s, left Iowa City with a strong impression of the Hawkeyes’ front seven on defense.
“It harkens to some of the defenses that I was around,” Bohl said. “They’re well-schooled. They’re in the gaps, and they tackle well.”
A finalist last year for the Butkus Award, Jewell no doubt impressed the scouts on hand to study Allen.
“He’s a pretty good player,” Ferentz said of his star linebacker.
There he goes again, gushing.
Look, fans from the ACC and SEC got their fill of Iowa talk two years ago. If somehow Penn State and Ohio State fail to take care of matters this year, remember that in 2015, Iowa ranked among the top four in the Big Ten in QBR, yards per play, third-down conversion rate, goal-to-go efficiency, rushing yards allowed per game and interception rate.
Last year, it repeated the feat in none of those categories.
As for the Hawkeyes in 2017, they’ve got a fresh start and enjoyed a fruitful first step.
Don’t tell your kids yet.
There was an air of youthful defiance floating through the Michigan locker room Saturday night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, after the Wolverines took No. 17 Florida behind one of the world’s fanciest woodsheds and handed them what Jim McElwain declared to be a “whooping.”
McElwain and his team caught the brunt of Michigan’s ire on Saturday, but the Wolverines don’t appear to have exhausted their supply of prove-you-wrong exuberance yet. Michigan’s defense spent an offseason stewing in a broth of doubt. Members of the group took note of questions about their ability to replace 10 starters without taking a step backward. They took note of the pregame slights coming out of Gainesville and talk of Florida’s expectations for the season opener. They took them to heart.
“Being told you’re too young is an insult,” defensive tackle Lawrence Marshall said Monday afternoon in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “I can play college football just like anyone else can play college football. We got to prove on a bigger stage that we’re here, and we are meant to be here.”
Marshall wasn’t the only one who said he felt insulted in the lead-up to Saturday’s debut. He and his teammates turned that into a performance that included as many tackles for loss (11) as Florida had rushing yards. There seemed to be plenty left in the tank to help fuel the early makings of a new identity for a group that shouldn’t have to take a step backward after consecutive 10-win seasons to start Harbaugh’s tenure. This Michigan team may be unseasoned, but it sure is salty.
No fresh face embodied that attitude better than middle linebacker Devin Bush. With a team-high seven tackles and two sacks in his first career start, the sophomore blossomed into a leader on the field despite almost being ejected for targeting on the first play of the game.
“That’s just what I do. If they want to eject me, eject me,” Bush said Saturday night in the clipped tone of someone who still had plenty of adrenaline flowing through him. What did he make of all this talk about his pack of underclassmen not having the goods to take over for the star-studded, veteran group from last year?
“Young don’t mean nothing,” he said.
Part way through August’s camp, a couple of members of Michigan’s famed Fab Five basketball team visited to share some pearls of wisdom. After that day’s practice, Bush said he knew all about what the hoops stars did as freshmen and sophomores even though he wasn't even born when they took college basketball by storm in the early 1990s. He certainly knows how to channel their confidence.
“We’re a confident unit,” Harbaugh said Monday. “We thought we were going to be good, and we were good.”
Exactly how good they can be still is far from answered. Florida’s history of ineptitude on offense makes them an unreliable measuring stick. Don’t confuse that mention of the Fab Five with a comparison. Right now, the only thing the football team has proven it has in common with the legendary Wolverines from a generation ago is that it’s unafraid of its own age.
Harbaugh found plenty of faults to highlight after reviewing the season’s first bit of film. He called the effort by Michigan’s offense to stop two interceptions returned for touchdowns in the second quarter “atrocious.” He addressed some areas that need improvement in the running game and on special teams.
Quinn Nordin, for example, set a school record by kicking two field goals of 50-plus yards in his first college game, yet missed two other attempts. His impressive, imperfect day was a good microcosm for what we know about this team so far.
“I think he responds to the moment and to the pressure. I think he’s got that wonderful quality about him,” Harbaugh said of Nordin before noting the misses. “That’s a bit of a theme that we have. It wasn’t perfect. There are definitely things to coach and we’ll see if we can improve.”
The Wolverines have a little leg room to get better after getting past the lone Power 5 opponent on their nonconference schedule. They are a four-plus-touchdown favorite in their home opener against Cincinnati this weekend and should be laying comfortable point spreads for the next several weeks while working out the kinks of inexperience.
Harbuagh said he’s looking for “a season of increases.” That applies, he said, to everyone on the roster -- the coaching staff, the starting quarterback, players on both sides of the ball and even the rookie kicker who carved a zig-zag pattern into the back of his hair last week as an ode to the closer mentality of Rick Vaughn.
Yes, that would be Charlie Sheen’s heartthrob, fire-throwing, near-sighted ex-con character from "Major League" -- yet another reference that predates the referencer’s existence on this planet. Nordin said he had to show YouTube clips to a couple of his teammates for them to understand what he was going for. When asked Saturday if the similarities between him and Vaughn stretch beyond their hairstyles, Nordin smiled. “Yeah, I think so,” he said. Then he turned and walked back into the locker room.
An almost universally strong week for the Big Ten ended with only three losses. One was Indiana’s Thursday night home loss to the Buckeyes. The other two may have been two of the conference’s more encouraging performances of the weekend, with Rutgers holding its own against a top-10 opponent and Purdue putting a serious scare into Lamar Jackson and Louisville.
The upper crust had its share of scares. Most of the conference’s title contenders held their breath through some hiccups before pulling away from their first opponents of the year. All 14 teams have something positive to talk about after getting the season started, but that doesn’t mean that our preseason power rankings didn’t need a bit of adjusting after a first look at what the Big Ten has to offer.
1. Ohio State: The Buckeyes put up 49 points on Thursday night and still looked like they weren’t quite in gear. That speaks to their top-end talent – hello there, J.K. Dobbins – and explains why many folks see a playoff bid in this team’s future. The secondary needs to take a step forward this week with Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma coming to town.
2. Penn State: No rust removal necessary in Happy Valley. Saquon Barkley was electric and Trace McSorley was efficient in a blowout of Akron to start the year. The Nittany Lions' defense was equally dominant in giving up only 159 total yards – the second fewest allowed during James Franklin’s tenure.
3. Wisconsin: The receivers had a shaky start to the season and contributed to the 10-0 hole that the Badgers dug against Utah State in the first half. On the plus side, Troy Fumagalli, the Wisconsin running backs and a still-ball-hawking secondary made that hole look like little more than a divot very quickly in the second half.
4. Michigan: Beyond the back-to-back interceptions that Florida returned for touchdowns in the second quarter, Michigan dominated a Power 5 opponent. The fresh-faced defensive front allowed a grand total of 11 rushing yards and sacked the Gators six times. This won’t be a rebuilding year for the Wolverines.
5. Maryland: The most notable upset of the weekend came in Austin, where D.J. Durkin’s Terps ruined Tom Herman’s Texas-sized welcome party. Maryland still has plenty to prove and to improve, but two capable quarterbacks and a physical defensive performance provide reasons to be excited.
6. Iowa: The defense was up to the challenge of stopping Wyoming’s Josh Allen in his first game of the season. Led by 14 tackles from Josey Jewell and a couple of late interceptions, Iowa’s defense looked good enough to carry a heavy load. The offense avoided the kind of mistakes committed by most of the teams below them in this week’s rankings.
7. Northwestern: The Wildcats are off to a better start than a year ago, which is to say they won despite showing some flaws against Nevada on Saturday. Quarterback Clayton Thorson put up impressive numbers, but it wasn’t until his touchdown dive more than halfway through the fourth quarter that Northwestern could feel comfortable about avoiding an 0-1 start.
8. Nebraska: The Cornhuskers are another team that should feel lucky to start the year with a 1-0 record. They won, but giving up nearly 500 yards to Arkansas State while giving the state of Nebraska a free nail-trimming is cause for concern. The newly installed 3-4 defense will face a stiff test next week at Oregon.
9. Michigan State: A rocky start smoothed itself out for a Spartans team that has been looking for a reason to celebrate for almost a full year now. Brian Lewerke appeared to be the steadying presence Michigan State needs at quarterback. We’ll learn a lot more about the talent level in East Lansing next week when Western Michigan visits.
10. Indiana: The passing attack in Bloomington is reason enough to believe the Hoosiers will climb higher in these rankings as the year moves forward. The up-tempo pace remains despite Kevin Wilson’s departure, but as one of only three teams to lose this week, Indiana takes a slight dip.
11. Minnesota: There is work to be done in Minnesota despite starting off with a win against Buffalo. The Gophers’ linemen didn’t look as in control as one might expect on either side of the ball against a weaker opponent, and neither quarterback blew anyone’s hair back. A win, nonetheless, is still a win.
12. Purdue: Jeff Brohm’s debut lacked a fairy-tale ending but should give the Boilermakers plenty of reason to believe change is coming. Quarterback David Blough and his receivers kept pace with a Heisman winner for four quarters, and the Purdue defense made several big plays.
13. Rutgers: The cupboards are not yet stocked in New Jersey, but a handful of impactful transfers (starting with quarterback Kyle Bolin and running back Gus Edwards) helped the Scarlet Knights compete with a top-10 team this weekend. Washington was bigger, faster and stronger. Rutgers didn’t look out of place, which is a step in the right direction.
14. Illinois: Let's start with the positive: Mike Dudek and Mike Epstein are two good offensive weapons for the Illini. The negative: Illinois lost most statistical categories to Ball State, a middle-of-the-pack MAC team, and needed to block a last-second field goal to avoid overtime.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The youngest team in college football has the goods to defend against some growing pains.
Not one of the 11 defenders who started Michigan’s first game in 2016 was on the field for Saturday’s first snap at AT&T Stadium. The defense’s only returning starter, captain Mike McCray, missed the first series, but he and the rest of the Wolverines’ front seven picked up right where the Big Ten’s best defense left off last year. They held No. 17 Florida to 192 total yards (only 11 on the ground) and kept the Gators' offense from scoring after an opening-drive field goal.
Senior Chase Winovich provided an exclamation point in the final two minutes with Michigan's fifth sack of the day. His hit popped the ball loose from quarterback Malik Zaire's hands, and linebacker Noah Furbush flopped on it in the end zone to cap a 33-17 win for the 11th-ranked Wolverines.
"Young don't mean nothing," said sophomore linebacker Devin Bush, who had a team-high seven tackles and two sacks. "Football is still football."
The limited sample size makes it hard to say whether those ugly numbers should be credited more to a defense that to the naked eye looked maybe even a step faster than last year’s group or to the ineptitude of Florida’s first attempt at offense this year. It might be both.
Beyond a two-play stretch in the second quarter, the Gators never presented a real threat to breaching the goal line -- or the first-down line with any regularity, for that matter. Florida moved the sticks twice in its first three plays, and then only five times until the final drive of the game.
The Gators' offense, as it has many times in recent history, came from the defense. Senior Duke Dawson snatched one ball that deflected off the hands of Michigan receiver Kekoa Crawford and returned it 48 yards for a score -- the third pick-six of his career. Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight overthrew his very next pass and Florida freshman CJ Henderson picked it off and streaked down the sideline for another score.
Speight, like the rest of the Wolverines, took his lumps in Arlington but did enough to establish himself as the clear leader of Michigan’s offense. He finished 11-of-25 with 181 yards and one long touchdown throw to freshman Tarik Black. Along with the interceptions, he also missed Crawford for what should have been an easy touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Florida made its share of opening-day mistakes, too, notably fumbling twice to even up the turnover battle in the third quarter. Both of those were converted into field goals for the Wolverines. The biggest mistakes for the Gators, though, came before they arrived in Texas. Suspensions cost them 10 players for Saturday’s game, including top playmakers Antonio Callaway and Jordan Scarlett. Their absence took the teeth out of Florida’s offense no matter who was under center.
Michigan's youth showed itself at times, but the concerns that it could hold Jim Harbaugh & Co. back from competing with the top tier of the Big Ten this season should be all but quelled. The Wolverines should be at least a touchdown favorite in each of their next five games before heading to Happy Valley in October. By then, promising young receivers and defensive backs should be hitting their stride at the college level and handing out more pain than they're feeling.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, whose profile exploded over the past year as a potential top pick in the 2018 NFL draft, struggled Saturday in his second career opportunity to exploit a Power 5 defense.
Allen threw for 174 yards on 23-of-40 passing with two fourth-quarter interceptions as Iowa beat the outmanned Cowboys 24-3 at Kinnick Stadium.
“There’s no excuses,” Allen said. “It sucks.”
The 6-foot-5 junior from Firebaugh, California, often showed the arm strength and physicality that has bolstered his professional stock and earned Allen strong reviews at the offseason Manning Passing Academy.
“He’s a great player,” Iowa linebacker Ben Niemann said. “Got an unreal arm. Can fit balls in some tight places.”
A bevy of NFL scouts watched in person Saturday as he failed to connect with Wyoming receivers downfield. When he did find an open man, the Cowboys didn’t always catch the ball. A 36-yard strike to C.J. Johnson in the third quarter was ruled a touchdown before replay review overturned the score because the receiver bobbled the ball as he slid through the end zone.
Iowa cornerback Joshua Jackson knocked down a well-thrown Allen pass in the third quarter to Johnson in the end zone. Jackson also recorded the Hawkeyes’ first interception, a red zone pick early in the fourth that he returned 41 yards.
The Hawkeyes sacked Allen three times, including a second-quarter stop credited to linebacker Josey Jewell as Allen ran through a hard hit and displayed impressive footwork before several Hawkeyes converged to bring him down.
Allen said he expected an inspired effort from Iowa.
“I wouldn’t say there’s a target on my back,” he said, “but whenever an opposing team comes in with a player who gets talked about a lot, you want to come in and shut him down.
“Opposing defenses should thrive off that.”
The Hawkeyes, in fact, did.
“If you’re a competitor and you get to go against someone who’s highly touted,” defensive end Parker Hesse said, “someone who people respect, who you respect, you’ve got to look forward to that challenge and that opportunity to limit him.”
The QB performed better Saturday than in a 52-17 Wyoming loss last year at Nebraska, in which he threw five interceptions in his only other start against a major-conference foe.
The Cowboys, 8-6 last year and Mountain Division champion of the Mountain West, host Oregon in Week 3.
Allen was responsible for 36 touchdowns as a sophomore, one off the school record, while throwing for 3,203 yards.
Mel Kiper Jr.'s take: "You can’t evaluate Wyoming QB Josh Allen, who’s No. 2 on my preseason Big Board, on this game at Iowa alone. You have to take into account every game. In fact, Ben Roethlisberger had a four-interception game against the Hawkeyes to open the season in 2003. Allen has showed he has an NFL arm, but that offense just lost too many weapons to compete against a front seven as good as Iowa’s. I want to see Allen improve from week to week this season."