A much-anticipated first week is behind us, and the return to the field played out largely as expected for most teams in the Big Ten.
No. 1 Ohio State ran away from Virginia Tech, 42-24, after a tight first half. All three Buckeyes quarterbacks – Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller -- scored touchdowns for an offense that is going to be hard to slow down.
Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan debut ended in an anticipated loss, but the Wolverines showed signs of picking up their coach’s personality in Utah. It was a rough week for first-year coaches in the league. Harbaugh, Paul Chryst and Mike Riley all lost on big stages. There were plenty of highlights elsewhere in the conference, though. Let’s take a look:
Team of the week: Northwestern. The Wildcats became the only unranked team to beat a ranked team this weekend by making No. 21 Stanford look like it was playing offense in a jar of molasses. The Cardinal couldn’t reach the end zone. Northwestern redshirt freshman quarterback Clayton Thorson showed enough giddy-up in his debut to scratch out one touchdown in the 16-6 win. His legs make Northwestern’s offense far more interesting, and after strong performances against weak competition from Iowa and Illinois on Saturday the Big Ten West is looking a little more interesting than originally thought.
Big man on campus (offense): How long will it take Miller to adjust to his new role with the Buckeyes? About one half, apparently. Miller, the former All-Big Ten quarterback, scored one touchdown through the air and another on the ground while helping No. 1 Ohio State pull away from Virginia Tech in the second half Monday night. He finished with 140 all-purpose yards (62 rushing) and a spin move that made the rest of his body look like the spirals he used to throw.
Big man on campus (defense): Northwestern linebacker Anthony Walker filled up the stat sheet in the Wildcats’ win over Stanford. He led the team with 10 tackles, three tackles for loss and a half of a sack. The sophomore also recovered a fumble in the second quarter and broke up a pair of Kevin Hogan pass attempts.
Big man on campus (special teams): The easiest category to pick in Week 1 goes to Maryland’s William Likely. The junior picked up 233 yards while returning punts in the Terrapins’ 50-21 win over Richmond on Saturday, including a 67-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. The new Big Ten record is more than all but 22 returners had for the entire 2014 season. He smashed the record formerly held by Iowa’s Nile Kinnick that had stood since 1939. Even crazier is the fact that Richmond kept kicking him the ball. He returned eight punts, and even he was surprised when the ball kept coming his way in the second half.
Top play: Seven Nebraska defenders were in the end zone of the final play of their 33-28 loss to BYU, but none could break up the 42-yard Hail Mary pass from back-up quarterback Tanner Mangum. The cherry on top was BYU receiver Terenn Houk giving a bear hug to the side judge after the official signaled for a touchdown. Houk probably should have made his way to the Nebraska sideline; first-year head coach Mike Riley probably could have used a hug, too.
Best locker room celebration: On a weekend that featured old men crowd-surfing and break dancing in football locker rooms, Bill Cubit and Illinois get the nod for their new take of the Gatorade bath. The Fighting Illini, who dismantled Kent State Saturday afternoon, understandably needed to blow off some steam after the summer they’ve had in Champaign.
— Illini Football (@IlliniFootball) September 7, 2015
Biggest faceplant: Penn State’s offensive line was shaky on a good day in 2014, and didn’t start 2015 with a good day. The Nittany Lions gave up 10 sacks to Temple, a team it should be able to push around, in a 27-10 loss. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg rarely had time to throw anything down the field, and the coaching staff didn’t adjust its play-calling to help him out. The result was Temple’s first win over its in-state rival since Franklin D. Roosevelt was in office and a very dim outlook for James Franklin’s team.
Numbers to know: How did Rutgers quarterback Hayden Rettig lose his starting spot after going 9-for-11 for 110 yards in the first half against Norfolk State? Well, his replacement, Chris Laviano, completed all four of his attempts in the second half. Three of them went for touchdowns, giving Laviano a perfect 100.0 QBR. Nebraska’s loss to BYU snapped a 29-year streak of starting the season with a win for the Cornhuskers. Urban Meyer’s personal streak is still in place after Ohio State’s win Monday night. He’s 14-0 in his first game of the year as a head coach.