Football is back, and back with a bang! As the 2022 season gets underway, I will be changing up the format of my weekly Big 10 reviews. With game highlights quickly available for you to catch up on the action, I will focus on the key talking points from each game, rather than running through the game scripts. Let’s dive into week 1 of the 2022 season!
Game Of The Week
Notre Dame 10 Ohio State 21
These two college football juggernauts took to the field in Columbus ready for a titanic battle. Notre Dame, famed for producing top-quality linemen on both sides of the ball, are always a tough, physical, nasty opponent. A big question going into Saturday’s opener centred on Ohio State’s ability to stop the run. In 2021 they absolutely could not, allowing Oregon, Michigan and Minnesota to name a few, to stomp all over them. Jim Knowles was brought in as defensive coordinator to revamp the defense. The Buckeyes have a championship calibre offense, but need the defense to hold up their end of the deal.
On Saturday night, Jim Knowles showed that he is worth whatever Ohio State are paying him! The Buckeyes D took over in the second half, right when they needed to in a tight game. #51 Mike Hall was wreaking havoc all over the defensive line, shedding blockers and getting into the backfield on multiple occasions. The Fighting Irish had just 72 yards of offense in the second half as Ohio State shut the door on new starting QB Tyler Buchner, having already eliminated the Notre Dame running game.
Jaxson Smith-Njigba got hurt on the opening series of the game. CJ Stroud’s favourite target came back into the game a couple of times but didn’t look comfortable at all. The Buckeyes will need him to reach their lofty ambitions this year, but in the short term Emeka Egbuka stepped up to the plate. Egbuka caught 9 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown in a performance that could earn him a regular starting spot alongside JSN and Marvin Harrison Jr. We also saw a bigger role than expected for running back Miyan Williams. Treveyon Henderson is the starter and a stud RB, but with the game on the line Ryan Day turned to the bigger, more physical back in Williams. It was exactly what the moment required, with the Notre Dame defense tired from being on the field so long, Williams was able to take advantage. He featured heavily throughout the long drive, and was rewarded with the opportunity to cash in the game-sealing touchdown. He duly obliged, crashing over the goal line to the delight of those in Scarlet and Grey.
The loss won’t hurt Notre Dame too much, after a strong showing under new coach Marcus Freeman. They lost a tightly fought, physical battle against the #2 team in the country. Notre Dame have multiple other chances to prove their worth on the schedule as they take on Clemson, BYU and USC among others. If they are who they believe they are, we’ll see them pick up some impressive wins. That would also be a good thing for the Buckeyes, making this victory a little shinier than the press are currently making it out to be. Harsh when you’ve just beaten the #5 ranked team, and completely controlled the second half. Ohio State won’t mind proving how good they are though, look out if you’re on their schedule!
Penn State 35 Purdue 31
Quarterback Sean Clifford sure takes Penn State fans on a ride each week! The 3 year starter is back for his sixth and final season. The signal caller had an up and down day on Thursday against Purdue, with some fans calling for freshman Drew Allar. That’s a bit premature – Clifford is inconsistent and won’t ever be a ‘lights out’ quarterback, but he is an experienced passer, strong leader and has plenty of wins under his belt. The grass isn’t always greener and Allar needs time to acclimatise to college football. Nevertheless, Clifford cannot afford too many mistakes or there’ll be a quarterback controversy brewing at Beaver Stadium.
Penn State’s running game will need to take a serious step up in coming games. Throughout 2021 they struggled to run the ball – and this is a school that has produced elite college and NFL runners. The running back room has a superstar prospect in Nick Singleton, and if the committee continues to struggle we could see Singleton take over in a similar way to Treveyon Henderson at Ohio State last season.
As for Purdue, we have the answer to the question ‘who will replace David Bell?’ It’s Iowa transfer Charlie Jones! What a contrast that must be for Jones, coming from the turgid, receiver-killing Hawkeye offense to Jeff Brohm’s pass-happy approach! With Aidan O’Connell looking for Jones early and often to the tune of 19 targets (19!) Jones has clearly cemented himself as the QBs favourite option. He turned those passes into 153 yards and a touchdown – a matchup winner for anyone playing college fantasy football!
This loss will sting for the Boilermakers, especially with how tight the game and score line was. The West is wide open, leaving the season very much alive for Purdue.
Rutgers 22 Boston College 21
The Scarlet Knights ended a run of 11 straight defeats in matchups against Boston College in style this weekend. The Eagles were clear favourites, but Rutgers aren’t the punching bag of the Big Ten anymore and threw some jabs of their own throughout the contest, eventually landing the knockout blow with a masterful 96 yard drive.
In direct contrast to Penn State, this team can run the ball. In fact, it’s nearly all they can do on offense. Evan Simon and Gavin Wimsatt both took significant snaps under centre, but neither inspired much confidence. Greg Schiano needs to figure out which one of them is his starting QB, because chopping and changing in this manner won’t bring success to the passing game.
The scoring drive that ultimately won the game started on Rutgers own 4 yard line. The Scarlet Knights threw 1 incomplete pass in the series, as they abandoned the air attack and ran the ball down Boston College’s throat. Al-Shadee Salaam punched the ball into the endzone and Schiano asked his defense to see out the game. They duly did, refusing to give up a single point from the mid-third quarter, even against a devastating QB-WR duo of Phil Jerkovic and Zay Flowers.
If they can sort out the QB battle, Rutgers can continue their upward trajectory and be a real threat week after week.
Colorado State 7 Michigan 51
As expected, Michigan rolled over Colorado State. Cade McNamara was given the nod to lead the offense this week, with JJ McCarthy promised the start in week 2. I don’t personally agree with this strategy of Jim Harbaugh’s, and McNamara clearly doesn’t either based on his post-game press comments. Cade didn’t do anything to win the job though, and that could be his biggest problem. McCarthy has a level of athleticism and upside that McNamara can’t reach, and if JJ balls out next week he may have done enough to steal the job.
The Wolverine defense was great last year, and appears to have picked up where they left off. 7 sacks, an interception and a fumble returned 45 yards to the end zone equals happy days. On to Hawaii.
New Mexico State 0 Minnesota 38
Minnesota had to win this one, and they fully satisfied the brief with ease. The Golden Gophers did what they really want to do all the time – run the ball over and over. It was great to see Mo Ibrahim back out on the field after a horrible injury last time out. He smashed, rumbled and bulldozed his way to 132 rushing yards and a touchdown against New Mexico State, and even caught a very rare pass thrown his way! Minnesota dominated the game through their rushing attack, registering 5 touchdowns and ticking off their first assignment of 2022. There will be much more challenging games ahead, so having Ibrahim rolling is a fantastic sign for the year ahead.
Western Michigan 13 Michigan State 35
UNLV transfer Jacoby Windmon had a day! He registered a seasons-worth of sacks in one game, getting four of Michigan State’s seven sacks. What a way to endear yourself to your new fanbase!
Michigan State won the game but let Western Michigan hang around until well into the 3rd quarter. Mel Tucker has his mega bucks contract to live up to, and even though they’re 1-0 he will want to see improvements all round.
The heir apparent to Kenneth Walker III looks like he has crowned himself. Jalen Berger, once of Wisconsin, put some distance between himself and the rest of the RB room with his best game to date. Berger rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown on 16 attempts. If he can continue to average near 7.5 yards a carry he will resurrect his NFL potential that had been tarnished at Wisconsin. He only needs to look at his predecessor for inspiration.
Illinois 20 Indiana 23
Connor Bazelak had the perfect start to his Indiana career, leading what turned out to be a game winning drive in the 4th quarter. The Hoosiers are moving on in a post-Penix world, and Bazelak is the man chosen by Tom Allen to lead them. He drove Indiana down the field for the winning score, showing poise and a level head to engineer a score and leave just 23 seconds on the clock, pretty much eliminating any chance of a response from the run-first Illinois offense.
Chase Brown did his thing for the second week running. He clocked up 199 yards (must hurt to not have that extra 1!) and carried the Fighting Illini. He did have a couple of fumbles which he cannot allow to become a regular occurrence, but also allowed Illinois to control time of possession and dominate total yardage in the game. In fact, if you saw the box score you’d struggle to believe Illinois lost this game! The defense limited Indiana to just 32 rush yards, and played pretty well throughout the contest. A goal-line stand from the Hoosiers helped them set up Bazelak with the chance to win the game, and the rest is history.
On the back of this game, Illinois and Indiana looked pretty good. Repeat performances will bring wins for both sides, but consistency hasn’t been these teams’ game in recent years.
South Dakota State 3 Iowa 7
Ew. There are some games that have absolutely everything. Well this one had absolutely nothing! 0 touchdowns, 2 field goals and 2 safeties in a game that Iowa really should have won at a canter. The Hawkeyes were missing their top 3 wide receivers, but even so this scoreline and performance is not acceptable. There’s embracing being a defensive-minded team, and then there’s this. There were calls of ‘Torey Taylor for Heisman’ during the game. Torey Taylor is the punter. Enough said.
Buffalo 10 Maryland 31
Maryland won in the way we expected against an inferior opponent. It was a solid, well-rounded performance from the Terps on offense, defense and special teams. They dominated as expected, were efficient in attack and welcomed Dontay Demus Jr back from his horror injury which will put smiles on the faces of Terrapin fans everywhere.
Roman Hemby put his name on the radar with an impressive 70 yard touchdown run to open the second half. The redshirt freshman exploded through a pretty large gap and out-ran the secondary down the left sideline. If Hemby can put in another 114 yard display, Maryland might have the running game to balance their intimidating passing attack. One to watch in the coming weeks.
North Dakota 17 Nebraska 38
Nebraska got their first win in 11 months – woohoo! Scott Frost will take it, but needs to build on a victory that took longer than it should have to be sealed. North Dakota were still in this game into the 4th quarter, but were eventually put away. The brightest spark is the emergence of running back Anthony Grant who led the team with 189 ground yards and 2 touchdowns. The Cornhuskers desperately want to run the ball, and may have discovered their new major weapon to do so.
Illinois State 0 Wisconsin 38
The Wisconsin Badgers got the job done professionally. They kept the scoreboard ticking over regularly and shut out Illinois State, securing their first donut of the season. Braelon Allen went for over 100 yards yet again, and the offense will go as he goes this year. That’s because of three things; firstly Wisconsin run the ball. That is who they are, that is what they do. Secondly, Allen is really, really good! The third thing is less positive for Wisconsin fans – it’s Graham Mertz. The quarterback burst onto the scene this time last year with a monster 5 passing touchdown performance, but has prove to not be that guy on a consistent basis. There are question marks around Mertz and his longevity as the Wisconsin QB.