Sunday, September 30, 2012

Big Ten season opens with Iowa bringing home the Bacon; while Nebraska overcomes 17 point deficit to beat Wisconsin 30-27

The 2012 Big Ten season kicked off with five conference games, including the battle for the Floyd of Rosedale in Iowa City.  The Iowa Hawkeyes defeated the Minnesota Golden Gophers 31-13 at Kinnick Stadium to bring home Floyd, after back to back losses in Minneapolis the last two seasons.

Iowa improved play in all three phases of the game, in the Big Ten opener to improve to 3-2 on the season, 1-0 in the Big Ten Legends division.  Iowa, Northwestern and Nebraska open with wins to take a 1-0 early lead in the Legends division.  Minnesota falls to 4-1, 0-1 in the Legends division.

"The credit goes to our players, they did a great job coming to the game ready to play, and played really well in all three phases, particularly in the first half," said UI head coach Kirk Ferentz. "Today is one of those days where it finally felt like we were working in all areas together. When that happens, that's a good thing."

Iowa made a first-half statement, storming out to a 24-0 lead and outgaining Minnesota, 328-75. For the game, the Hawkeyes finished with a balanced 374 yards of total offense with 182 on the ground and 192 through the air.

"Clearly in the first half, that is the best 30 minutes of football that we've played," said Ferentz. "Second half wasn't terrible, but the first 30 minutes is what we're looking for."

Welcome Home Floyd

Iowa will enjoy a bye week in Week 6 of the College Football season.  Time to get rested up and healthy for the final seven game stretch ahead in Big Ten play.  The Hawkeyes will travel to East Lansing on October 13th to face the Michigan State Spartans.

"You don't want to go into a bye week off a loss, or back-to-back losses," said Ferentz. "We still have a lot of things we need to work on. With this team in particular, at this point in the season, it's (having a bye) is probably an advantage for us."

Ranking the Big Ten, after one weekend of conference play:

1. Ohio State (5-0, 1-0 Leaders) - The Urban Meyer era opens with a solid 17-16 road win @ Michigan State, as the Buckeyes will take their undefeated record back to Columbus for the Big Ten home opener vs. Nebraska in Week 6.

2. Michigan State (3-2, 0-1 Legends) - The Spartans are the defending champ in the Legends division.  Despite the loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten opener, they remain the team to beat in the Legends division.  Mark Dantonio and the Spartans travel to Bloomington for a game @ Indiana in Week 6.

3. Nebraska (4-1, 1-0 Legends) - The Cornhuskers didn't open the Big Ten very well in the first half of the game with the Wisconsin Badgers, but after trailing 17 points early in the second half, the Cornhuskers ran off 20 unanswered points to defeat Wisconsin 30-27.  Bo Pelini has to be happy with the end result, as his team heads to Columbus in Week 6 @ Ohio State.

4. Michigan (2-2) - The Wolverines enjoyed a bye week ahead of opening Big Ten play @ Purdue in Week 6.  The run defense at 182 yards per game is suspect, ranked #11 among Big Ten teams, after Week 5.  The two losses came from #1 Alabama and Notre Dame, as the Brady Hoke era opens Year 2.

5. Northwestern (5-0, 1-0 Legends) - The Wildcats are off to a great start, but if their defense could become as well regards as their offense has been playing, then coach Pat Fitzgerald may have a team geared for a Big Ten title run.  Northwestern opened Big Ten play with a 44-29 over Indiana.  The Wildcats take the undefeated record on the road to Happy Valley in Week 6 to face Penn State, who beat Northwestern 34-24 last season.

6. Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1 Leaders) - The Badgers are the two-time defending champs in the Big Ten, but the Badgers missed a golden opportunity in Lincoln, after taking a 27-10 lead at the 11:50 mark of the third quarter.  But, the offense was bottled up by the Cornhuskers and the run defense went from Munster to Swiss.  Still, we have the Badgers the team to beat in the Leaders, since Ohio State and Penn State are both on probation and ineligible for the title game.  Bret Bielema will circle the wagons for Illinois in Week 5 in Madison.

7. Iowa (3-2, 1-0 Legends) - The Hawkeyes played the best football of the year in the first half vs. Minnesota, as coach Ferentz indicated.  Like the New England Patriots under Bill Belecheck Iowa often plays up to competition, but teams, like Central Michigan and Minnesota the past two seasons, can pull off a win, as well vs. Iowa.

8. Purdue (3-1) - The Boilermakers played the final tune-up game prior to Big Ten play in Week 5.  Purdue downed Marshall 51-41, as they get ready to host Michigan in the Big Ten opener in West Lafayette in Week 6.  The Danny Hope era begins Year 4 of Big Ten play.

9. Penn State (3-2, 1-0 Leaders) - The Nittany Lions pick up a nice B1G win @ Illinois 35-7, as the Bill O'Brien era kicks off conference play.  Losses came earlier in the season from Ohio U at home and @ Virginia.

10. Minnesota (4-1, 0-1 Legends) - The Golden Gophers are in Year 2 of the Jerry Kill era.  After two years of enjoying Floyd up North, they opened to a motivated Hawkeye team that had other plans in mind.  The Golden Gophers will enjoy a bye week and then hit the road for another tough Legends game @ Northwestern on October 13th.

11. Illinois (2-3, 0-1 Leaders) - The Fighting Illini have been pasted three out of four weeks, losing @ Arizona State 45-14, vs. Louisiana Tech last week 52-24 and now 35-7 at home to open Big Ten play vs. Penn State.  A tough start to the Tim Beckman era and now the Fighting Illini must hit road @ Wisconsin, to face a Badger team that missed a golden opportunity in Lincoln.

12. Indiana (2-2, 0-1 Leaders) - The Hoosiers are 0-9 in Big Ten play in the Kevin Wilson era.  Next up, the Hoosiers will face the Spartans at Bloomington.

Notre Dame finished 3-0 vs. the Big Ten this season.  But, the rivalries are on the decline, as the Fighting Irish will move to five games annually with ACC teams, as all the Irish's non-football sports leave the Big East for the ACC, after this year.

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