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Sunday Debriefing: Outside of Ohio State, the Big Ten East didn’t look so good

While the Buckeyes stacked 77 points on the Beavers, Michigan State and Penn State struggled against non-power 5 teams in Week 1.

NCAA Football: Oregon State at Ohio State Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Folks, college football is officially back! While games technically got underway last Saturday with Week 0, my personal checklist was to whether the sport is back involves only the following:

  • Ohio State winning their opening game.
  • Michigan finding a way to disappoint everyone, even when the bar was set low.

Both happened in Week 1. The Ohio State Buckeyes got their 19th straight season-opening victory, and they got it in glorious fashion: by racking up 11 total touchdowns en route to a 77-31 win against the Pac-12’s Oregon State Beavers. While the Bucks covered the 39-point spread that sportsbooks had on them, the Beavers’ ability to score that many points shows that they’ve come a long way compared to last season— in which they went 1-11 and had their head coach bail on them halfway through the season.

There were some kinks that need to be ironed out before Ohio State tackles the big games, like TCU and Penn State, but there is some serious promise in this team.

The same cannot be said about other teams in the Big Ten East.

Let’s start on Friday night with Michigan State. Sparty had all sorts of problems with the Utah State Aggies, and needed a late, tipped interception to survive a potential overtime. This isn’t entirely out of character for a Mark Dantonio team. Maybe they were respected too much in the initial AP Poll—they were ranked No. 11—and needed to get a sprinkling of #disrespkt on their name before they go out and catch the rest of the Big Ten by surprise. Either way, if I were a gambling man, watching what MSU assembled on Friday night would have me nervous—and looking elsewhere to place my money.

Maybe No. 10 Penn State would be a good bet? Prior to Saturday, that seemed to be the case; yes, they were a team that lost star running back Saquon Barkley to the NFL Draft, and their offensive coordinator to the head coaching position at Mississippi State. But. with a returning quarterback in Trace McSorley, they certainly have the ability to glide into a playoff berth, right? Well, they were very close to being App State’d at home.

Eleven years to the day that Michigan fell victim to the most shocking upset ever in college football, Appalachian State had their sights set on another Big Ten program. Needing to answer with a late fourth down conversion and eventual touchdown, as well as needing a missed Mountaineers field goal, the Nittany Lions were fortunate to even get this game to overtime.

App State was forced to answer a Penn State touchdown in the first stanza of OT. After barely sneaking across the line on a fourth-and-1, the rebuttal drive (and game) ended with an interception in the end zone. The fact that PSU eked out a 45-38 win in OT in Week 1 against the Sun Belt’s defending champions is concerning.

Both the Spartans and Nittany Lions were seen as true contenders in the Big Ten East. Both had the aura of pretenders when the final whistles blew in their respective games.

NCAA Football: Appalachian State at Penn State
An Appy Valley: It took an interception to save Penn State from all the Appalachian State jokes.
Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

But, they both won. In fact, the Big Ten East did very well in the win-loss column. Maryland upset No. 23 Texas, proving that the Longhorns were, in fact, not back. Like the Ohio State game, a weather delay interrupted the Terps-Horns at FedEx field. While Maryland made miscues in second half, swamp-like conditions, they got the win against a ranked team for the second year in a row. Also, Rutgers handled their business with Texas State.

The only B1G East team not to finish the weekend with a W was the same team that had the only Big Ten bowl loss last season: Michigan.

The Wolverines thought that they had found their quarterback savior in transfer Shea Patterson. While the jury is still out on that, the “vaunted defense” gave up a big touchdown early in the game—and the Wolverines spent the rest of the contest playing catch-up. By no stretch of the imagination did Notre Dame set the world on fire, or make me a believer that they are a College Football Playoff team, but they looked better than Michigan did.

Patterson struggled at times, but that’s mostly due to his offensive line giving him as much protection as tin foil gives you in a hail storm. He was under duress the whole game, and, unfortunately, got injured in the waning drives. He fought his way back onto the field and got the Wolverines within a touchdown, but on the final drive, fumbled (and lost) the ball after his pocket collapsed like a house of cards.

Harbaugh has gone 9-9 in his last 18 games, and, somehow, his teams are looking worse and worse. If this team doesn’t get its act together, it could become Scott Frost’s first signature win as head coach of Nebraska. Then, they could become “upset” on the road against Northwestern, before getting blown out by Wisconsin. With Michigan, it’s no longer funny seeing them struggle; it has just become sad. But, then again, seeing Michigan go 7-5 and getting blown out in the San Francisco Bowl by UCLA might be a nice holiday gift.

What did you see in the first real week of college football? Let us know in the comments.