Takeaways from Week 1 in the Big Ten
I was only able to finish one of my previews on the two conferences starting the 2020 season this weekend before kickoff on Saturday. So, instead of a full Big Ten preview, I will just talk about some of what I saw in the conference's first week of action.
Preseason favorites (mostly) hold up
The preseason favorites (Ohio State and Wisconsin) rolled over their opening opponents, each putting up at least 45 points. Ohio State looked like an even more well-oiled machine with an improved Justin Fields, and Graham Mertz was fantastic for the Badgers. We've all heard the Michigan preseason hype that rarely actually comes true, but the Wolverines demolished a Minnesota team expected to challenge Wisconsin in the West Division. The Wolverines defense (especially the front seven) appears to be filled with NFL talent and will make it difficult on opposing offenses this year. Penn State was the only contender that didn't deliver. They didn't look bad, but they took a while to get going against an Indiana team that could cause some trouble.
Indiana seems poised to take the next step
Indiana finally got the signature win that Tom Allen has been looking for. It was far from perfect as the offense struggled to move the ball most of the day, but the defense caused some timely turnovers, and they took advantage of their chances. Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was up and down all day, but shined on the game-tying drive and in overtime. I'm still not sure he was in on the two-point attempt, but the Hoosiers still pulled out an impressive win against an elite team.
Rutgers is better
Let's start with the offense. For the first time in a while, the Scarlett Knights seem to have a competent quarterback to lead their team in Nebraska transfer Noah Vedral. Vedral showed poise in the pocket and even made plays with his legs. Wisconsin transfer Aron Cruikshank proved to be a pretty good weapon to have in the passing game alongside Bo Melton. On defense, several transfers made immediate impacts. Michigan transfer Michael Dwumfour was a disruptive force on the defensive line, as was fellow transfer Malik Barrow to a lesser extent. . Ohio State transfer Brendon White also had an interception in the fourth quarter. With LBs Tyshon Fogg and Olakunle Fatukasi returning, the Rutgers defense is very much improved from a year ago. Now that teams have game tape on them, we'll have to see how well they actually do.
Michigan State still has no offensive line
The Spartans o-line has been abysmal for the past two seasons. In their good years, they would throw people around and flat out dominate teams on the line of scrimmage. Now, they seem tame. They're getting beat off the ball and out leveraged. I even saw center Matt Allen pull on one play and run past two defenders without touching them. Those defenders then made the tackle. There are a couple serviceable players. Kevin Jarvis was forced to play right tackle but is much better suited for guard. The play was a little better when younger players like JD Duplain and Nick Samac got in the game. The Spartans might want to add some more younger players to the rotation to improve up front.
No one's beating Ohio State
The Buckeyes rolled over Nebraska and didn't seem even remotely challenged in the last three quarters. An improved Justin Fields is bad news for the rest of the conference, who already struggled to stop him. They will need to show that dominance against better teams and need more out of their running game, but it's hard to see anyone beating these guys.