Week two in the Big Ten will offer the conference a chance to make up for a winning, but still rocky opening week. The conference went 10-2 during the first week of college football, but as I’ve already written, many of those wins were in close games that shouldn’t have been close and the two losses were in the two games involving the Big Ten that got the most national attention. With that in mind, there are a few things that teams within the Big Ten could do this coming Saturday to improve themselves and the perception of the conference as this season starts to get rolling.
More effective results from the Wisconsin Badgers, Michigan St. Spartans, and Michigan Wolverines. If these are the three teams that everyone believes will be vying for the Big Ten title as the season winds down, there needs to be better examples of why people should think that than what was given last weekend. The Wolverine’s fortunes should improve this weekend with Fitzgerald Toussaint and Frank Clark being reinstated from suspension and the team being in the friendly confines of The Big House. The Spartans and Badgers both have road games, but both of them should be victories with little or no trouble, precisely what both teams could use.
Taylor Martinez’s passing must remain crisp and productive. The Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback’s passing has never looked as good or has been as effective as it was in last weekend’s slaughter of the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles. This week, the Cornhuskers visit the UCLA Bruins and the Bruins provide the Cornhuskers with their final real test before conference play as games against Arkansas St. and Idaho St. follow. Martinez’s passing needs to remain consistently good from here on out if he doesn’t want Saturday night to be his only appearance inside The Rose Bowl this season.
The Northwestern Wildcats’ secondary can’t get lit up by Jordan Rodgers. The Wildcats’ 42-41 win over the Syracuse Orangemen last week was an instant classic, but it also showed all too clearly the weak spot that this team has: pass defense. In giving up nearly 500 yards through the air last week to the Orangemen, they exhausted their defense and the only thing that kept them from losing the game was the fact that the Orangemen were no better at defending the pass. Fast forward to this week and the Wildcats have the Vanderbilt Commodores and Jordan Rodgers, brother to NFL superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Jordan showed a lot of positives against the usually good South Carolina Gamecocks defense and trust me, there is no argument that I can get behind that has the Wildcats’ defense close to the Gamecocks’ defense. Something has to change because if this week is anything like last week for the Wildcats’ pass defense, they will lose bad.
No slip-ups. Last week in the Big Ten featured many games that were closer than they had any right to be. We can chalk that up to it being opening weekend, the first game of the year, etc., but it can’t continue. The Iowa Hawkeyes get their in-state rival, the Iowa St. Cyclones, on the road with the opportunity being to stabilize things after nearly blowing it against the Northern Illinois Huskies. Ditto for the Indiana Hoosiers, who had their issues with the Indiana St. Sycamores last week, but now get the University of Massachusetts Minutemen in their second ever game as an FBS team. Another game that could become a slip-up would be the Minnesota Golden Gophers‘ home opener against the New Hampshire Wildcats. Of course the Wildcats shouldn’t be a threat even to a lower-tier Big Ten team, but the Gophers did have their issues on defense with the UNLV Rebels last weekend in a three-overtime offensive shootout.