Big Ten Football: What We Learned In Week 1
Big Ten football teams went 10-2 this weekend with several performances that impressed. There were a few close games by teams that lack the ability to score, some who couldn’t hold a lead, one who isn’t among the elite just yet, and two teams whose quarterbacks significantly improved over the offseason.
Here are a few things we learned around the conference…
1. Michigan isn’t there yet by any means: Denard Robinson showed us once again he cannot handle top tier defenses. We’ll give him a little credit here just because it was against the brutal Alabama defense, but Robinson gave the ball away twice (one for a pick six) and was a complete non-factor running the football. The Wolverines were completely outmatched up front on both size of the ball and could not keep up with the athleticism of the Tide.
It was obvious Michigan didn’t belong on the same field with Bama’ but very few do. Nick Saban‘s squad is on another level than almost every team in the country and it will take Michigan a few more years to develop a more competitive team.
2. Le’Veon Bell can play: We knew Bell was going to be the workhorse in East Lansing this season, but did we know he would be that good? At 250-pounds, Bell hurdled, spun around and ran through the Boise State defense on Friday night putting on a dazzling performance that was Heisman worthy. He carried the ball 44 times for 210 yards with a pair of touchdowns. He also added 55 yards through the air. The Bronco’s defense was better then expected, but they were no match for the Spartans offensive line and Bell. If he continues to stay healthy, Bell could become a sure Heisman candidate in the coming weeks.
3. Northwestern still can’t close out a game: Pat Fitzgerald‘s team was up on Syracuse 35-13 in the third quarter with new starting quarterback Kain Colter under center. The Wildcat’s were well in control until they decided to take their foot of the gas. The Orange significantly outgained Northwestern in the second half and came back to take the lead late in the fourth quarter. If it weren’t for a perfect throw from backup QB Trevor Siemian to Demetrius Fields, the Cats would have yet again blown a huge lead. The offense has loads of skill and potential and the defense line is much improved. But if they continue not to finish out games, another sub par season is on the way in Evanston.
4. Taylor Martinez learned how to throw the football: After heavy criticism about his throwing motion and mechanics, Taylor Martinez showed us what he’d been working so hard on during the offseason. Martinez completed 26/34 of his passes for 354 yards and five touchdowns. That’s right, five touchdowns. He did a nice job of spreading the ball around to different receivers and stayed in the pocket keeping his eyes down the field. Of course we need to keep in mind the competition he was going against in Southern Miss, but it’s an encouraging sign to see the improvement in Martinez. If he continues to throw the ball like he did Saturday, Nebraska could surprise some people this year.
These are just a few things we learned this weekend and we’ll know even more by the end of next weekend. Once Big Ten play starts, that’s where we’ll get the best feel for each team.
Will Wilson is a writer for Rant Sports covering College Football and the Big Ten Conference.