Tailgating, marching bands, school pride and spirit were all on display this past weekend as college football returned and fans across the nation rejoiced.
All 12 Big Ten teams were in action over the span of three days as the 2012 season got underway with upsets, nail biters and routs. This season could prove to be highly unpredictable if the final results of most contests from the opening weekend are any indication.
With the entire season beginning this past weekend, the Big Ten had a lot to prove and get past as Michigan accepted the challenge from reigning national champion Alabama and Penn State moved closer to leaving their dismal past few months behind.
However, other programs in the conference showed why they can be contenders for a championship in December while another player became an unlikely hero for his team to avoid a potential upset. The Big Ten may not get the love that the SEC gets but there’s no denying that this is a tough conference.
Week 1 of football action had plenty of excitement for any fan and disappointment as well, but it will take more time to see which team has the potential to win this conference.
Minnesota 30 – UNLV 27 OT (August 30)
Jerry Kill’s Golden Gophers aren’t expected to compete for anything more than respect this season but this win helps the program get off to a great start in 2012. Minnesota came into their game with the Rebels with an 8-2 mark in season openers over the past 10 years. Quarterback MarQueis Gray had a solid game against UNLV with 269 passing yards to go along with two passing touchdowns. The Golden Gophers however, must take momentum from this win as they’ve failed to have a winning season since 2009.
No. 13 Michigan State 17 – No. 24 Boise State 13 (August 31)
Boise State once again opened its season on the road against a top-ranked opponent but this time, the Broncos immaturity appeared in a defeat to the Spartans. Michigan State who was led by junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell, managed to hold off Boise State for a decisive victory at home. Maxwell had 248 yards passing but threw three interceptions. Junior running back Le’ Von Bell rushed for a game-high 210 yards and two touchdowns.
Ohio 24 – Penn State 14
In one of the first big upset of Saturday, the Bill O’brien regime began with a loss to the Bobcats of the Mid-American Conference at home. The Nittany Lions who were embroiled in an ugly scandal over the past year, began its new chapter with a deflating defeat at the hands of a team that nearly won its conference championship a year ago. Ohio was led by quarterback Tyler Tettleton who had 324 passing yards and two touchdowns, one rushing and one passing.
No. 18 Ohio State 56 – Miami (Ohio) 10
This contest between the Buckeyes and Redhawks was done before it started. In head coach Urban Meyer’s first game with Ohio State, his team looked nearly flawless against a MAC opponent. The Buckeyes are ineligible for postseason play but more victories like this one couid have the players feeling like champions.
Northwestern 42 – Syracuse 41
Northwestern could’ve began the season on a sour note after giving up 28 points to Syracuse after leading 35-13 in the third quarter. Backup quarterback Trevor Siemian led the Wildcats on a game-winning scoring drive capped off by Demtrius Fields’ touchdown reception with :44 seconds remaining.
Illinois 24 – Western Michigan 7
The Fighting Illini picked up where they left off last season following their bowl victory over UCLA. Illinois played its first game under new head coach Tim Beckman and were solid on defense. The Fighting Illini were led by quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. Illinois needed to have a positive start to the season and will need to have more quality wins like this win to erase the bad memory of losing six consecutive games last season after starting 6-0.
No. 12 Wisconsin 26 – Northern Iowa 21
The final score should be an indicator that Wisconsin could be flawed this season. The Badgers have a tough time closing out against a FCS opponent in Northern Iowa and barely managed to escape a horrific upset at home on Saturday. Wisconsin got off to a quick lead from touchdowns by Montee Ball and Jared Abbrederis but allowed the Panthers to stage a comeback before holding them off in final two minutes of the game.
Iowa 18 – Northern Illinois 17
For much of this game, the Hawkeyes trailed the Huskies in front of 52,117 at Soldier Field. Iowa couldn’t protect quarterback James Vandenberg and their offense was stagnant. However, kicker Mike Meyer had a record-tying game as he kept the Hawkeyes within striking distance with his four field goals, an Iowa single-game record. Meyer connected on a 50-yard field goal in the second half and Damon Bullock scored the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter on a 22-yard run.
Meyer was playing in his first game at historic Soldier Field and was thankful for helping his team remain in the game. “It was awesome,” Meyer said. “I have actually never been here and just to be here was amazing.”
No. 17 Nebraska 49 – Southern Mississippi 20
The Cornhuskers quickly erased their bowl loss to South Carolina with a opening game victory over Conference USA opponent Southern Mississippi. Nebraska benefitted from Taylor Martinez’s five touchdowns in a rout of the Golden Eagles.
Purdue 48 – Eastern Kentucky 6
Danny Hope’s squad managed to keep Eastern Kentucky from scoring a touchdown in its first game of 2012. The Boilermakers were led by Robert Marve who had 295 passing yards and three touchdowns on the day. QB Caleb TerBush and TE Sterling Carter were suspended for one game due to violation of team rules.
Indiana 24 – Indiana State 17
The Hoosiers nearly lost to the Sycamores at home on Saturday but were able to win its opening contest of the season. State running back Shakir Bell ran for 104 yards in the first half, but Indiana held State scoreless in the fourth quarter to preserve the victory.
No. 2 Alabama 41 – No. 8 Michigan 14
This game may have proved what Big Ten fans already know, the SEC is better. The Crimson Tide showed Michigan that they’re in a different class with their victory on Saturday. Alabama wasted no time pressuring Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson and did a good job of containing him. Robinson threw three interceptions against Alabama with one of them being returned for a touchdown by C.J. Mosley.
Photo courtesy of Ting Shen