Five lessons from the opening weekend of the Big Ten football season.
1. One QB situation settled, another not so much: We came into the weekend with three true quarterback competitions still raging. Now it looks like one. Ohio State's Joe Bauserman established himself as the starter over true freshman Braxton Miller with a strong performance against Akron. Bauserman made good decisions and showed off more athleticism than expected. Miller, though, will continue to take some reps. Ed Wright-Baker was the only Indiana quarterback to play against Ball State, and despite the loss, he passed the ball decently. At Penn State, the Rob Bolden vs. Matt McGloin debate continues. Bolden started against Indiana State, but McGloin played a lot. The offense seemed to move better at times with McGloin, but neither threw a touchdown or an interception, and the competition was much weaker than what they'll face next week against No. 2 Alabama.
2. Northwestern can win without Dan Persa: Pat Fitzgerald's squad fell apart late last season after star quarterback Dan Persa ruptured his Achilles tendon. The news that Persa wouldn't even dress for Saturday's opener at Boston College didn't bode well, but the Wildcats picked up the flag, as Fitzgerald likes to say. Kain Colter delivered a solid performance in his first career start at quarterback and received help from a veteran offensive line. The defense performed well in the second half and stifled Boston College on the ground. There were some tense moments late, but Northwestern found a way to record a big road win.
3. Wisconsin's offense looks more explosive: The Badgers shattered the team scoring record in 2010, averaging 41.5 points a game and racking up 70 points or more three times. Despite some significant personnel losses, the unit might be just as productive and most likely more explosive this season. Wisconsin scored on its first eight possessions in Thursday night's blowout win against UNLV, and five drives took four plays or fewer. Quarterback Russell Wilson boosts Wisconsin's vertical passing attack, and running backs Montee Ball and James White can take it the distance every time they touch the football.
4. Minnesota could be a tough out: We didn't know quite what to expect from the Gophers under new head coach Jerry Kill. After a rough first half in which they fell behind USC 19-3, they turned things around in the second half and a had a chance to win late before falling 19-17. And that was with starting quarterback MarQueis Gray unable to play in the fourth quarter, forcing true freshman Max Shortell into duty. If Kill and his team can build on that second-half performance, the Gophers could prove to be a factor in the Big Ten Legends Division this year after all.
5. It might be another rough season in the Hoosier State: Purdue and Indiana both are off to shaky starts. The Hoosiers fell to Ball State in coach Kevin Wilson's debut, and the Boilers needed a furious fourth-quarter rally to edge Middle Tennessee at home. Both teams had problems on defense, and both struggled to get going offensively against teams that ranked 69th (Middle Tennessee) and 88th (Ball State) nationally in points allowed a year ago. Purdue's favorable early season schedule should help the team build confidence around quarterback Caleb TerBush. Indiana, meanwhile, got manhandled at the line of scrimmage by a MAC squad. If we don't see significant improvement from both squads, the Bucket game could once again be played strictly for bragging rights.