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Big Thoughts: New year, new coach, same Nebraska

Week 1 was worth the wait! Jordan gives 10 thoughts on the action, including Nebraska’s heartbreaking loss

Nebraska v Minnesota Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Every week after the Big Ten slate of games, I will bring you some B1G thoughts on everything that happened! This will include analysis, stats, key players, moments, and maybe a joke. With the Big Ten expanding from 14 teams to 18 teams in 2024, will also include the newest members — Oregon, UCLA, USC, and Washington.

Check out the I-80 Football Show in the Land-Grant Holy Land podcast feed for more in-depth analysis, and to preview the next week of B1G games.

New year, new coach, same Nebraska!

Entering the Minnesota game, Nebraska had 25 losses in one-score games, including 16 second-half leads lost in the last five seasons. They fired Scott Frost and hired Matt Rhule to fix this issue, but it turns out the Frost stench couldn’t be removed that easily.

Nebraska’s defense had a dominant showing against Minnesota, allowing just 55 yards rushing on 25 carries and only 196 yards through the air. Despite making Minnesota’s offense inept, they couldn’t overcome their offensive issues, starting with new quarterback Jeff Sims. Nebraska ran the ball well, rushing for 181 yards and 4.9 yards per carry behind 91 yards from Sims, but that wasn’t enough to offset Sims’ three interceptions.

Despite leading in the fourth quarter — tell me if you’ve heard this story before — Sims threw a late interception, allowing Minnesota to win the game on a last-second field goal. Rhule will eventually turn Nebraska around, but I expect 2023 to be another rough season for the Cornhuskers.

Catch of the year in Week 1?

Minnesota wide receiver Daniel Jackson may have the catch of the year already in Week 1. Down 10-3 against Nebraska, Jackson made a super athletic catch on 4th-and-10 to tie the game. Jackson finished the game with nine catches for 68 yards and a touchdown, including the best catch of his career.

The catch itself is spectacular, but when you add in the stakes, 4th-and-10 down seven points, it makes the catch that much more special.

Nubin Island!

Tyler Nubin is one of the best safeties in the country. If you did not know his name before this game, where have you been? Even if you’ve been living under a rock, you know his name now after Nubin recorded two interceptions to go along with three tackles to help Minnesota defeat Nebraska.

Nubin is an easy contender for All-Big Ten honors, and if he keeps this up he could end up on a few All-American teams at season’s end.

Drew Allar, are you kidding me?

Penn State’s quarterback had about as well of a debut as you could ask for against West Virginia. Allar showed the arm talent that made Nittany Lions fans excited about him and their chances to win the Big Ten and make the College Football Playoff this season.

Allar finished the game 21-of-29 for 325 yards and three touchdowns. While Allar has some room to grow like all young quarterbacks, he is a special talent and Penn State fans should cherish him regardless of the outcome this season.

Braelon & Chez Fusion

When new head coach Luke Fickell hired former North Carolina offensive coordinator Phil Longo to the same position at Wisconsin, there were concerns that the Badgers would go away from their bread and butter: running the ball. If Week 1 is any indication, Badger fans had nothing to be concerned about, as their two-headed monster Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi combined for 298 yards and four touchdowns on 30 carries.

While it may not be realistic for this output weekly, Wisconsin fans should be encouraged by their willingness to run the ball, and the rest of Wisconsin’s opponents better be prepared for this Dragon Ball Z style fusion from these two talented running backs.

Michigan did what?

The University of Michigan decided to self-impose a three-week suspension on head coach Jim Harbaugh after failing to reach an agreement with the NCAA on a four-game suspension due to recruiting violations and lying to the NCAA. I guess the Michigan players did not get the memo, as they chose to wear ‘Free Harbaugh’ shirts in pregame and started the game in the train formation holding up the No. 4 to show support for their head coach.

The problem is that Jim Harbaugh is not being persecuted. He is paying for his stupidity. This is honestly just a poor look for a program at the top of the sport. Everyone involved should be embarrassed of themselves.

The locomotive is off the tracks

Purdue, under first-year head coach Ryan Walters, was hoping to start a new era with a nice win over a Group of Five program Fresno State. The Bulldogs were no slouch, and came into West Lafayette with one goal in mind: upsetting a Big Ten program.

Purdue managed to maintain some offensive explosion with transfer quarterback Hudson Card and breakout receiver Deion Burks, but Walters will need some time to fix the Purdue defense. Despite scoring 35 points, the Boilermakers lost 39-35.

There are some positive takeaways for the Boilermakers, but they have a long way to go before reclaiming the Big Ten West crown.

Reminder, Marvin Harrison Jr. exists

Hey, Ryan Day… in case you weren’t aware, you have the best wide receiver in the country on your team. There is no reason in the world that Harrison Jr. should play a full game and only have two catches for 18 yards.

Sure, some of it rests on the shoulders of quarterback Kyle McCord, who at times chose to throw short instead of throwing it to Harrison Jr. on deeper routes, but Day also did not call enough plays for Marv. Harrison Jr.’s stats would have looked better, but he had a touchdown called back after stepping out of bounds.

Day has to be more intentional with getting Harrison involved. Ohio State has no chance to win the Big Ten if it doesn’t utilize its most talented player. Let Week 1 be the only time he isn’t a major part of the game plan.

Are the Silver Bullets back?

Ohio State’s defense hasn’t lived up to the Silver Buller moniker since the 2019 season, but under second-year defensive coordinator Jim Knowles they may be working their way back. The Ohio State defense only allowed 153 total yards against Indiana, as their quarterbacks combined to go 9-of-20 for 82 yards and the Hoosiers as a team ran for 71 yards on 33 carries.

Now before you say, “It’s Indiana, Ohio State should dominate them,” Indiana has scored 21, 26, and 35 points against Ohio State in three of the last six matchups. On top of that, this was the first time Ohio State has held a team to three points or less since 2019. You can choose to ignore it if you want, but this was a dominant performance by the Buckeyes — one Ohio State fans haven’t seen in a long time.

Pac-(B1G)-12 quarterbacks are unfair

The Pac-12 in its final year has three or four of the best quarterbacks in the country. New Big Ten members Oregon, Washington, UCLA and USC all have great quarterbacks who showed out in Week 1.

Oregon’s Bo Nix led Oregon to 81 points going 23-for-27 with 287 yards and three touchdowns. UCLA’s former five-star freshman didn’t start the game, but came in and went 7-for-12 with 143 yards and two touchdowns. He should be the starting quarterback going forward. Washington’s Michael Penix entered his name into early Heisman conversations with 450 yards and five touchdowns on 29-of-40 passing. The reigning Heisman trophy winner Caleb Williams went 18-of-24 with 319 yards and five touchdowns.

The Pac-12 is going to be fun to watch this season, and the four teams in contention are all trying to win the Pac-12 in its final year before entering the Big Ten. The Pac-12 is going to be a knockout brawl to the top, and each team will be relying on their star quarterbacks to lead the way.

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