How Full Are the BIG Glasses?
I’m going to take a view of the BIG opening week in football by using the glass half-full/half-empty analogy, but before that…..
HOW ‘BOUTH THEM TERPS!!! I have been annoyed that the vast majority of national coverage of this memorable win has focused on how Texas lost the game. The Longhorns certainly contributed to their own demise with plenty of mistakes, but I feel very strongly that this was more about Maryland making plays, not Texas screwing up. The Terps made some serious plays, the kind that have been so lacking against quality competition for several years. They also showed resiliency when momentum shifted away from them in the third quarter, again, a trait we have not seen much of recently.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
Texas was clearly overrated coming into this game, but it’s just as clear that Maryland was underrated. My goal for this season was to see the Terps compete against the beasts of the BIG 10 East. After this game, that seems less hopeful and more realistic.
Now let’s cruise through the conference and see how the other teams made out.
Glass full to the brim-Penn State
Everything worked just like it was supposed to in their 52-0 whipping of Akron (the Zips? Really?). They host Pitt next week and are well positioned to avenge their loss to the Panthers last year. Pitt had to go to overtime to beat FCS school Youngstown State, so I expect the Nittany Lions should continue to cruise.
Glass almost full-Ohio State
It took about 40 minutes for the Buckeyes to get it in gear, but once they did they were off to the races in their 49-21 win at Indiana. The first half looked too much like last year’s limited offense, something they will not be able to afford when they host the high octane offense of Oklahoma and Heisman candidate QB Baker Mayfield. I like Ohio State at home, but I could easily see a Sooner upset if the Buckeyes offense sputters again.
Glass half full and filling up-Maryland
See above. Things are clearly looking up for the Terps, and they should roll over Towson in their home opener. This could be a team worth showing up and cheering for at Maryland Stadium.
Glass half full-Wisconsin, Michigan State
It was hard to get a read on either of these teams. It took the Badgers a while to wake up against Utah State, but their 49-0 second half sealed a 59-10 win. They could probably get by with a similar effort next week when Lane Kiffin brings his Florida Atlantic team in to Camp Randall Stadium. Michigan State got what they needed to try and get past the recent negativity surrounding the program, beating Bowling Green 35-10. The Spartans should be on high alert when they host Western Michigan next week after the Broncos put the fear of God into Southern Cal this week.
Glass half full even after a loss-Rutgers, Purdue and Indiana
The Scarlet Knights and Boilermakers were the only BIG teams to lose out of conference games, but they were both more competitive than expected. Purdue in particular had a real chance to upset a sloppy Louisville team but fell 35-28. Rutgers (God bless ‘em) trailed Washington only 10-7 at the half before losing 30-14. When you suffered beatdowns as often as they did last year, you take hope where you can get it. I like Purdue to get in the win column hosting Ohio (not Ohio State, that’s later) Friday night, and Rutgers should win at home against Eastern Michigan.
Indiana looked impressive in their first half against Ohio State on both sides of the ball, even though they were overwhelmed in the 4th quarter. No one expected them to compete with the top BIG teams, but they look like they can hang with everyone else. They travel to rebuilding Virginia next week with an excellent chance to post a road win.
Glass half empty even after a win-Nebraska, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern
None of these teams played well on both sides of the ball this week. Remember when Nebraska used to play defense? Their fans do, and they are none too happy their team had to fight for a 43-36 win over Arkansas State. They travel to Oregon next week in a game that could be a real shootout-you don’t want to play the Ducks’ offense when you’re defense is already struggling-Oregon dropped 77 points on Southern Utah in their opener.
Michigan’s defense looked good against Florida’a inept offense in their 33-17 win, but that was a given. QB Wilson Speight was erratic, and he’ll have to play better against Cincinnati next week or else the Big House crowd could turn on him quickly.
Iowa posted a workmanlike 24-3 win over Wyoming (so much for the Josh Allen hype) and looked pretty much like they did last year-controlling both lines of scrimmage but not really making many plays on offense. Workmanlike will not win a championship in this year’s Big 10, but it should be enough to beat Iowa State on the road next week.
Minnesota beat Buffalo 17-7 in P. J. Fleck’s debut as Gopher head coach. The game was kind of like having a picnic in the rain. You’ll stay long enough to eat the food, but you won’t enjoy it. They travel to Oregon State next week in a game they should win, but only if their offense comes alive.
Northwestern got by Nevada at home 31-20, putting it away late in the 4th quarter. The Wildcats lost the battle on both lines of scrimmage, and star running back Justin Jackson was held to just over three yards per carry. They should be on track to avoid a repeat of last year’s 1-3 start by winning at Duke next week, but their line play will need to improve dramatically if they are to compete with the best of the Big 10.
Glass near empty with a hole in the bottom-Illinois.
The Illini had to block a last-second field goal to hold on at home to beat Ball State 24-21. I would not be surprised if this is their only win of the season. They host Western Kentucky next week, and I doubt they wlll be able to keep up with the Hilltoppers’ offense.
Iowa’s senior linebacker Josey Jewell was named Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the week after making 14 tackles and two sacks against Wyoming.
Why does Maryland have players with the same jersey numbers? I’ve never seen a penalty for two players lining up with the same number before, and the Terps have two sets of them. They’re not dressing 99 players, so it seems there should be no need for multiple players to share a number. It wasn’t a mistake either-they were identified that way in the pre-game media notes. A real head scratcher.
To close the loop from last week, Purdue and Iowa came up just short in their quests for gold at the World University Games, bringing home silver medals in men’s basketball and baseball-still a nice accomplishment for an international competition.
You probably haven’t noticed, but it’s been an outstanding start to the fall season all-around for Maryland sports. Men’s soccer has won their first two games, and women’s soccer is also undefeated with a 4-0-1 record, and women’s volleyball is 6-0. A big men’s soccer game is coming up Friday night when Indiana visits Ludwig Field to take on the Terps-this game will go a long way toward determining the regular season BIG champion.
Don’t forget, you can follow me on Twitter @The_BIGBlog and reach me by e-mail at [email protected] I also hang out on the message boards, mostly in the University of Maryland & NCAA sections, where I periodically post links to BIG news stories you might find interesting. You can also go there to find the Deified Dozen football national rankings by the experts (?) here at BSL.
My next column will review what additional lessons we learn from 14 non-conference games in week 2, highlighted by the Oklahoma-Ohio State mega-game, and see if I can find anything interesting in a weak slate of games coming up in week 3. That is, unless Maryland loses to Towson, in which case I’ll be hiding under a rock, a spot that would probably be crowded with Terrapin supporters. Until then, live large and have a BIG week everyone!