The first three Big Ten teams to take the field Saturday all cruised to blowout victories.
Here are my thoughts on the wins by Iowa, Penn State and Michigan State.
Iowa 37, Eastern Illinois 7: Aside from the few plays Ricky Stanzi missed because of a leg injury, Iowa had a pretty ideal opener. Stanzi, who returned for the next series after the injury, delivered a near spotless performance, completing 19 of 24 passes for 243 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. Sure, it was Eastern Illinois, but any pick-free game for Stanzi is a good sign, especially with two more challenging contests coming up against Iowa State (looked great against Northern Illinois) and Arizona (looked great against Toledo). Stanzi did a great job of spreading the ball around, getting his tight ends involved and finding fullback Brett Morse for a touchdown. Adam Robinson made a strong case to be the starting running back with 109 rush yards and three touchdowns. Paki O'Meara came up with a big play on special teams, and Iowa's defense shut down EIU aside from one drive. Iowa needs to secure the ball better after twice fumbling.
Penn State 44, Youngstown State 14: It's only one game, but Rob Bolden (he prefers Rob to Robert) looks like the real deal. After some freshman mistakes early, Bolden settled down nicely and put up some good numbers (20-for-29 passing, 239 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) in a rout of Youngstown State. His lone interception wasn't his fault, as receiver Derek Moye slipped, and he formed good chemistry with both Moye and Brett Brackett (8 catches, 99 yards, 2 TDs). Bolden's rapid rise is really something, considering he didn't enroll early and was considered a likely redshirt candidate when camp opened. Things get much, much tougher next week at Alabama, and you can't expect Bolden to avoid mistakes. But poise shouldn't be a problem for this guy. Penn State's inability to get Evan Royster going in the run game concerns me, and the defense struggled early before shutting down Youngstown after halftime.
Michigan State 38, Western Michigan 14: The Spartans ranked second in the Big Ten in passing a year ago, but they returned to their running roots in a big way today. Freshman Le'Veon Bell carried over his practice performance to the game field, rushing for 141 yards and two scores. Sophomore Edwin Baker started in place of the injured Larry Caper (hand) and racked up 117 rush yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. Add Caper to the mix at running back, and Michigan State should be excited about the group. Michigan State's offensive line looked like a question mark entering the fall, and today's 297-yard rushing performance is a good sign. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was decent and his receivers weren't great, but it didn't matter. Greg Jones and the Spartans' defense looked good overall.