Taking Stock After a Not So BIG Week
Opening week of college football season saw the Big 10 stake a claim to the title of the best conference in the land. This past week, however, brought to mind the favorite line of that renowned philosopher of the sport, Lee Corso—not so fast my friend! Yeesh, there were some really ugly results. I’ll take a run through some of the more notable ones using a stock up/stock down approach.
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Maryland-Stock Up! Yes, I know it was only Towson (no offense, Tiger fans/alum) but wow! To put the Terps’ 63-14 shellacking of Towson in perspective, it was the most points Maryland had scored in a game since 1954, the first time they ever started a season by scoring over 50 points in their first two games, and the first time doing it in any back-to-back games since 1951.
I keep coming back to one word when I think of the 2017 Terps so far-playmakers. Ty Johnson, D. J. Moore, and add Kasim Hill to that group. The true freshman had a pretty smooth first voyage at the helm of Maryland’s offense. Too bad they’re off next week-when things are going this well, you want to keep playing. They will host a solid Central Florida team in two weeks-I’d love to see 50,000 fans there supporting this exciting team.
Ohio State-Stock Down. I wrote earlier that the loser of the Oklahoma-Ohio State game was still alive for the playoffs, and I’ll stand by that. If the Buckeyes don’t get some juice in their passing game and improve their pass coverage, however, they will not be a serious threat. In the Sooner’s 31-16 win in Columbus, Heisman candidate Baker Mayfield solidified his status by shredding Ohio State’s defense for 386 yards passing. To add more context to their secondary woes, the Indiana QB that threw for 410 yards against them last week, Richard Lagow, was BENCHED against Virginia on Saturday. Hmmm.
Even if things improve somewhat, the Buckeye’s offense (and I don’t think benching QB J. T. Barrett is the answer-Coach Meyer is unwavering in his support), they are not designed to win a shootout. It helps that there aren’t many BIG teams designed to get into a shootout, but Penn State is one and the Buckeyes will have to defend their home field when the Nittany Lions visit on October 28. No way they get a sniff of the playoffs with two home losses, even to likely Top 10 teams.
Purdue-Stock Up. The Boilermakers followed up a surprisingly close loss to Louisville with a 44-21 thumping of Ohio in Coach Jeff Brohm’s home debut as head coach. Purdue hired Brohm to bring the offense alive, and the Boilermakers racked up 558 yards against the Bobcats. For a program that has gone 9-39 the last four seasons, there is legitimate hope that they are trending up. They will face a test at Missouri next week in their first true road game of the season-I like their chances.
Northwestern-Stock Down. Then again, why should you listen to the guy who told you that the Wildcats could challenge Wisconsin for the West Division title this year? Their 41-10 loss at Duke was the most disappointing result of this young season. They again lost the battle on both sides of the line of scrimmage, something any team serious about contending in the BIG just can’t do to Duke.
I know Northwestern bounced back from a 1-3 start last season, and they’re going to need a big bounce following this debacle. They need to thump Bowling Green at home next week to cleanse themselves at least somewhat from the stench of this loss.
Nebraska-Stock Down, Then Up, Then Back Down. It was that kind of day for the Cornhuskers. Oregon jumped out to a 42-14 halftime lead, gaining 409 yards-in the first half, people! Nebraska’s first-year defensive coordinator Bob Diaco called it a “sequential mess.” I bet Husker fans had much, much more colorful language to describe it, but reports after the game said that Diaco and his assistants focused on fixing things rather than yelling at the players, an approach that clearly made a huge difference. Ultimately, Nebraska’s final gasp in their 42-34 loss was thwarted by QB Tanner Lee’s fourth interception, when his arm was hit while throwing late in the game. Lee completed only 4 of 13 passes in the fourth quarter, and the Cornhuskers only converted two first downs the entire game.
Nebraska needs to win their next three games, home vs. Northern Illinois and Rutgers, then at Illinois, to be ready for back-to-back visits from Wisconsin and Ohio State.
Illinois-Stock Up. I know a BIG team beating a Conference USA team shouldn’t be that big a deal. But the Illini showed a staunch defense in their 20-7 victory over Western Kentucky, holding a good offense to 244 total yards. A good defense can keep a team competitive, which should be quickly challenged. They are scheduled to travel to Tampa to play the tough South Florida Bulls on Friday, which could change depending on the damage Hurricane Irma does.
Rutgers-Stock Down. Oh, Scarlet Knights (God bless ‘em), you teased us with a decent showing against Washington, then lay a dinosaur-sized egg by losing to Eastern Michigan AT HOME. Yes, I know this was a historic win for the Eagles-the Detroit Free Press called it their “biggest regular-season win in 126 years of football.” It was the first time they beat a BIG team in 39 tries, and their first win against a Power 5 conference school in 59 tries. God bless ‘em too.
Morgan State travels to Piscataway next Saturday. Rugters, you absolutely have to win that game or else spend the rest of the season staring down the barrel of an 0-12 record.
One of those schools unlikely to get into a shootout is Iowa, but they won one this week, beating Iowa State 44-41 in overtime. Hawkeye QB Nate Stanley threw for 333 yards and 5 TDs-did not see that coming.
Coach James Franklin doesn’t seem interested in Penn State playing Pitt again any time soon, judging by his “the same as beating Akron” postgame comment following the Nittany Lions’ 33-14 win over the Panthers. One of my best friends is a Pitt alum (and, regrettably, a Steelers’ fan) and can attest to what a great rivalry that used to be. It saddens me how many good college sports rivalries have been lost in the days of mega-conferences-looks like this one will again be relegated to that group.
I watched most of the men’s soccer match between Indiana and Maryland Friday night before another packed Ludwig Field in College Park. I have seen exciting 0-0 soccer games (really) but this did not strike me as one of them. Indiana seemed to get the best of the play, and Maryland was in a very conservative, defensive posture most of the game. Disappointing, but still two very good teams and the BTN did a good job of coverage with knowledgeable announcers and good camera work.
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 the final full week of non-conference games in week 3, and look ahead to a light slate of games, including three conference matchups in week 4. Until then, live large and have a BIG week everyone!