Who knew that a kid named after Green Bay Packers QB Bart Starr would make his first collegiate start at 23, when he was older than Starr was when he made his first NFL start, with such poise?
Who knew that with Bart Houston under center, Wisconsin would stun LSU 16-14 before a raucous crowd at Starr’s old Lambeau Field stomping grounds?
Who knew that with a bevy of Badgers playing inspired football, Wisconsin would send the Tigers back to the Bayou with an upset loss that looks like a statement game for both programs?
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LSU’s Les Miles, who narrowly avoided being fired last fall, now finds himself on an awfully hot seat. It isn’t just that the immensely talented Tigers, a 10-point favorite, barely managed double digits in their opener. The way Wisconsin flustered LSU quarterback Brandon Harris, it appears that Miles has given himself a car without a steering wheel.
With one good old-fashioned grinding performance, the Badgers have announced that, despite one of the nation’s most imposing schedules, they intend to be a major player in the Big Ten West.
Beginning Sept. 24, Wisconsin faces four straight ranked teams—Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa. After giving second-year coach Paul Chryst a signature win vs. LSU, the Badgers have announced that they have the potential to survive and advance.
The one thing we don’t know. . . How good of a team did Wisconsin beat? LSU looked awfully challenged offensively for a pre-season No. 5.
The Badgers will find out as time goes on. But meanwhile, what a way to start.
DID YOU SAY 140-13? Yup. That’s your combined margin of victory for Ohio State and Michigan. The Wolverines shrugged off an early interception to pummel Hawaii 63-3. The Rainbow Warriors, who were pounded 51-31 by Cal in Australia, are in the midst of a 19,000-mile journey. Hope the paydays are worth the turbulence.
Not to be outdone, Ohio State whomped Bowling Green 77-10. C’mon, Urban. Is that any way to treat the program that gave you your first head coaching job?
Yes, it’s possible that the Falcons are that lame. Another theory: Maybe we have a little arms race going on here.
Jim Harbaugh gets all the attention for his zany ways. But Meyer, who certainly was tightly wound at Florida, may not like all the hype being given to The School Up North.
Scoring an even more obscene number of points than Michigan may be a response.
Or not. It’s just a possible explanation for treating guests so rudely.
SO FAR, SO GOOD: Kudos to Lovie Smith for rewarding an announced crowd of nearly 50,000 with a tidy 52-3 romp past Murray State in his Illini coaching debut.
Illinois will play a barometer game this week against North Carolina, which blew a 24-14 lead in a 33-24 loss to Georgia. It was a game in which a nearly apoplectic Larry Fedora could not believe some of the officiating—and the ESPN crew seemed sympathetic to the UNC coach.
Illinois doesn’t have to win. But it would be good if it could hang around.
TARGET-ING: Minnesota’s Golden Gophers, who happen to hail from the same metropolitan area as the corporate home of Target, received three ejections for targeting in their 30-23 win over Oregon State.
We’ve heard of ridiculous marketing tie-ins, but this is right up there.
MILDCATS: A year ago, Northwestern was basking in the glow of an opening win over Stanford. Now the Wildcats are trying to regroup after a tough 22-21 upset loss to Western Michigan.
This will be viewed as a surprise around the nation, but the Broncos are one of those under-appreciated, but dangerous Mid-American Conference teams that play with an especially large chip on their shoulder against Big Ten teams. MAC rosters are loaded with players eager to prove that Big Ten coaches missed the boat by not recruiting them.
Western Michigan will have another opportunity when it travels to Illinois on Sept. 17.
Beware, Illini. Lovie Smith won’t get the credit he deserves if Illinois handles the Broncos. He will hear about it, though, if Western Michigan wins the Land of Lincoln Trophy.
One thing for sure. Keep an eye on scrappy Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck. He’ll be in line for a better job if the Broncos enjoy the kind of season they seem poised for.
BIG TEN POWER RANKINGS
THE HAVES. . .
1, Michigan: Wolverines debut their new line of Nike wear, which comes in sizes 63-3.
1a, Ohio State: Bowled over Bowling Green, 77-10. Seventy-seven was the number of Illinois legend Red Grange, who did his best work against. . . Michigan.
THE LURKERS. . .
3, Wisconsin: With the best opening win in the Big Ten, and maybe the best in the nation beyond Houston over Oklahoma, the Badgers look like the real deal.
4, Iowa: Next up is Iowa State, coming off a loss to Northern Iowa in new coach Matt Campbell’s debut. Fun times in Iowa City.
5, Michigan State: 28-13 yawner over Furman doesn’t matter. Next two, at Notre Dame on Sept. 17 and vs. Wisconsin on Sept. 24, will tell the tale of the Green & White tape.
THE WHO-KNOWS TRIO. . .
6, Nebraska: How the West was won. After handling Fresno State, the Huskers now take on Wyoming, which is coming off a good triple-OT win vs. Northern Illinois. It’s that time of year. Just take care of business.
7, Minnesota: Entertaining and positive 30-23 win over Oregon State for Tracy Claeys and his Gophers. Next up is Indiana State, which hasn’t been the same since Larry Bird matriculated.
8, Penn State: Nittany Lions renew hostilities with Pitt this week for the first time since 2000. No pitfalls allowed.
OOPS. . .
9, Northwestern: There were two TDs—one scored by Western Michigan, one not scored by NU—in the Wildcats’ 22-21 loss that could have gone the other way with a kind replay official. You know what? Nobody cares now. Time for Pat Fitzgerald to right the ship before a perilous October.
THE TRADITIONAL NON-POWERS. . .
10, Indiana: The Hoosiers finished strong and played good defense in opening 34-13 win over Florida International. Unusual trends for IU, but good ones to keep up.
11, Illinois: Heart-warming opening win. Will confidence continue in tough matchup with North Carolina and sneaky-tough matchup with Western Michigan?
12, Maryland: Opening win over Howard. Florida International up next. At least the Terps know how to schedule.
13, Purdue: Enjoying the win over Eastern Kentucky. . .
14, Rutgers: Howard comes to Piscataway for Chris Ash’s first career victory..[/membership]