Sunday Morning QB: Big Ten's Best Flex Muscles

We look back at the weekend that was in college football. Big Ten play opened with a flourish with four of the conference's top teams producing impressive victories. Plus, we look at the top games nationally, begin our Heisman Watch and have much more.

Welcome to Sunday Morning Quarterback, a column I intend to stand each week as a quick read on the news, notes and opinion on Ohio State's weekly game as well as the Big Ten and the college football nation at large.

With no OSU game this week, we will go straight to the Big Ten:

* No. 18 Michigan avenged back-to-back losses to Iowa with a 30-17 in the Big Ten opener for both teams. Michigan won its 23rd consecutive Big Ten opener and got its 12th straight victory at Michigan Stadium.

Braylon Edwards caught six passes for 150 yards and a touchdown and Michigan turned four turnovers into 27 points. Freshman QB Chad Henne was 16-of-26 for 236 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Meanwhile, Drew Tate, Iowa's first-year starter, kept the Hawkeyes in it. He 24 of 32 for 270 yards with two TDs and two interceptions.

What We Learned: Michigan's defense, at times, can be dominant … Last week's lopsided loss at Arizona State was an aberration and Iowa – and more specifically Tate – is going to be all right.

* No. 20 Wisconsin knocked two Penn State quarterbacks out of the game en route to a 16-3 win in Madison.

UW defensive lineman Erasmus James put PSU starter Zack Mills on the shelf with a shoulder injury. Then, a short while later, a helmet-on-helmet collision sent Michael Robinson to the hospital in an ambulance with a concussion. Third-string quarterback Chris Ganter came into the game and finished 6 of 23 for 32 yards.

Meanwhile, UW turned to Matt Bernstein to run the ball after Booker Stanley was ineffective. Bernstein, who fasted for Yom Kippur and took an IV before the game, had 123 yards on 27 carries for the Badgers. UW held the ball for more than 37 minutes.

Wisconsin has held each of its four opponents this season to 7 points or less. The last time a Badger team accomplished that feat was the last four games of the 1951 season.

What We Learned: Wisconsin's defense, at times, can be downright dominant … Quarterbacks must be aware of Erasmus James at all times … This thing is not headed toward a good conclusion for Penn State or Joe Paterno.

* No. 19 Minnesota cruised to a 43-17 win over Northwestern at the Metrodome. Laurence Maroney had 145 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, while running mate Marion Barber III had 85 yards on 22 carries.

The city of Columbus was well represented here as Eastmoor's Justin Valentine scored three touchdowns for Minnesota and Upper Arlington's Jeff Backes returned a kick 97 yards for a score. Reynoldsburg's Mark Philmore had five catches for NU, while Walnut Ridge's Ernest Wheelwright had one grab for the Gophers.

What We Learned: Nobody seems to have an answer for Minnesota's running game … The Gophers will be hard to beat in the Metrodome … Northwestern is at least plucky.

We also learned that NU coach Randy Walker probably will not send Glen Mason a Christmas card this year. With the Gophers up 36-17 with three minutes left, Mason signed off on a halfback option pass. Barber dialed up Jared Ellerson for the 21-yard touchdown, causing Walker to smirk and clap on the NU sideline.

* No. 15 Purdue was a heavy favorite at Illinois. But the Illini stayed right with the Boilers in a 38-30 loss. Purdue QB Kyle Orton passed for 366 yards and four touchdowns.

What We Learned: After allowing just seven points in its first two games, Purdue's defense is not invincible … Orton and his receivers are pretty good … There is some light at the end of the tunnel for Illinois … Next week's Notre Dame-Purdue game at South Bend should be a barnburner.

* Michigan State rallied from a 20-7 deficit to take a 30-20 win at Indiana.

Quarterback Drew Stanton made his starting debut for Michigan State and became the first Michigan State quarterback to rush for more than 100 yards in a game since Charlie Baggett had 120 yards on Nov. 15, 1975. His 134 yards in Saturday's 30-20 win over Indiana were the most by a Spartans quarterback since Baggett had 151 against Indiana in 1974.

What We Learned: MSU may finally have a quarterback … Indiana's win at Oregon must have been an aberration.

And a glance at headlines nationally

* The Game of the Week was at Palo Alto, Calif., where Stanford took top-ranked USC down to the wire before falling 31-28.

The Cardinal had the Trojans on the ropes after J.R. Lemon ripped off an 82-yard touchdown run on the final play of the first half to put Stanford up 28-17. But the Trojans roared back and took the lead for good on LenDale White's 2-yard TD run with 6:15 left.

Matt Leinhart completed 24 of 30 passes for 308 yards and a touchdown, while Steve Smith had eight grabs for 153 yards for USC. Somebody named Fred Davis had one catch for 15 yards for the Trojans.

What We Learned: USC is tough to stop on offense, but if the defense doesn't play much better than this (291 yards allowed in the first half) the Trojans could be in for seven more Pac-10 games just like this one.

* Florida and Kentucky moved their game at Gainesville up 6-1/2 hours in an effort to avoid oncoming Hurricane Jeanne. Gators RB Ciatrick Fason's ripped off a career-high 210 yards rushing and two touchdowns in his team's 20-3 win.

* Pittsburgh QB Tyler Palko completed 30 of 36 passes for 380 yards and three touchdowns as the Panthers beat Division I-AA Furman 41-38 in overtime.

* No. 13 LSU rolled up 594 yards and held Mississippi State to seven first downs and 130 yards in a 51-0 rout. The Tigers' defense had four interceptions, recovered a fumble, and scored a touchdown against the Bulldogs.

* The Bowden Bowl went to No. 8 Florida State and coach Bobby Bowden over Clemson and coach Tommy Bowden 41-22. Bobby Bowden extended his Division I-A coaching record to 344 wins. He also improved to 5-1 against his son Tommy.

QB Wyatt Sexton came off the bench and threw for 162 yards and a touchdown after replacing an injured Chris Rix. Justin Miller matched a school record with two kickoff return touchdowns for Clemson, which dropped its third straight.

What We Learned: Father truly does know best.

* Navy beat Vanderbilt 29-26 to improve to 4-0 for the first time since the Midshipmen opened the 1979 season with six straight wins.

* In the Mountain West, Utah's Marty Johnson tied a school record with four rushing touchdowns as the 14th-ranked Utes turned back Air Force 49-35 for its first 4-0 start since 1994.

* Army's run of misery continued with a 40-3 loss to Connecticut, extending the nation's longest losing streak to 18 games. Bobby Ross, the former NFL coach who was coaxed out of retirement after the Black Knights went 0-13 last season, apologized to the cadet corps, fans and U.S. troops for his team's performance.

* No. 12 Virginia blasted visiting Syracuse 31-10. QB Marques Hagans had 283 total yards with two touchdown runs and a TD pass to lead Virginia.

* Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn completed 15 of 23 passes for 196 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-3 laugher over Washington. UW, which has not had a losing season since 1976, has opened 0-3 for the first time since 1969.

It marked the first time ND coach Tyrone Willingham has defeated the Huskies. Willingham's Stanford teams were 0-5 against Washington. The Huskies are now 0-5 against the Irish, losing by combined scored of 194-51.

"Tyrone has a really good looking football team in a lot of ways," said UW coach Keith Gilbertson said. "I think at this point they are going to be tough to beat."

* N.C. State dealt Virginia Tech its first-ever ACC defeat with a 17-16 thriller in Blacksburg. The Wolfpack registered 10 quarterback sacks and held on for dear life as Brandon Pace's would-be game-winning 43-yard field goal sailed wide right for the Hokies on the game's final play.

* South Florida knocked off TCU 45-44 in double overtime when the Horned Frogs fumbled the snap on their PAT kick in the second OT.

* Heisman Watch: No order yet, but some guys you have to take serious for this race would be Oklahoma QB Jason White (call him the incumbent, I guess), Texas RB Cedric Benson, Arizona State QB Andrew Walter, Georgia QB David Greene, USC QB Matt Leinhart, USC RB Reggie Bush and Purdue QB Kyle Orton.

* My new top 15: Oklahoma, USC, Georgia, Texas, Ohio State, Miami (Fla.), Tennessee, West Virginia, Auburn, Florida State, Florida, Michigan, LSU, California, Virginia. My only change is at the top, where I am flipping Oklahoma and USC. Everybody else in my top 15 either won or they had the week off.

* Games to watch next week: Miami (Ohio)-Marshall (Wednesday), Texas Tech-Oklahoma, West Virginia-Virginia Tech, Arkansas-Florida, Purdue-Notre Dame, LSU-Georgia, Auburn-Tennessee, Penn State-Minnesota, Wake Forest-N.C. State.

We will wrap up each week with a look at how OSU's opponents fared and check out who they face next week.

Date (Time, TV), Opponent (Record), This Week's Result, Next Week's Game

Sept. 4, Cincinnati (2-2), beat East Carolina 30-19, Sept. 25; vs. UAB, Oct. 2.

Sept. 11, Marshall (0-3), idle, Sept. 25; vs. Miami (Ohio), Sept. 29.

Sept. 18, at N.C. State (2-1), beat Virginia Tech 17-16, Sept. 25; vs. Wake Forest, Oct. 2.

Sept. 25, idle

Oct. 2 (9 p.m., ESPN2), at Northwestern (1-3), lost to Minnesota 43-17, Sept. 25; vs. Ohio State, Oct. 2.

Oct. 9 (3:30 p.m., ABC), Wisconsin (4-0), beat Penn State 16-3, Sept. 25; vs. Illinois, Oct. 2.

Oct. 16 (TBA), at Iowa (2-2), lost to Michigan 30-17, Sept. 25; vs. Michigan State, Oct. 2.

Oct. 23 (TBA), Indiana (2-2), lost to Michigan State 30-20, Sept. 25; vs. Michigan, Oct. 2.

Oct. 30 (TBA), Penn State (2-2), lost to Wisconsin 16-3, Sept. 25; at Minnesota, Oct. 2.

Nov. 6 (TBA), at Michigan State (2-2), beat Indiana 30-20, Sept. 25; at Iowa, Oct. 2.

Nov. 13 (TBA), Purdue (2-0), Illinois, Sept. 25; at Notre Dame, Oct. 2.

Nov. 20 (1 p.m., ABC), Michigan (3-1), beat Iowa 30-17, Sept. 25; at Indiana, Oct. 2.

Big Ten Standings

Team (Overall, Big Ten)

Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0)

Minnesota (4-0, 1-0)

Purdue (3-0, 1-0)

Michigan (3-1, 1-0)

Michigan State (2-2, 1-0)

Ohio State (3-0, 0-0)

Iowa (2-2, 0-1)

Indiana (2-2, 0-1)

Illinois (2-2, 0-1)

Penn State (2-2, 0-1)

Northwestern (1-3, 0-1)

Sept. 25 Results

Purdue 38, Illinois 30

Michigan State 30, Indiana 20

Michigan 30, Iowa 17

Wisconsin 16, Penn State 3

Minnesota 43, Northwestern 17

Oct. 2 Schedule

Michigan State at Iowa, noon (ESPN-Plus)

Illinois at Wisconsin, 2 p.m.

Purdue at Notre Dame, 2:30 p.m. (NBC)

Michigan at Indiana, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)

Penn State at Minnesota, 8 p.m. (ESPN-Plus)

Ohio State at Northwestern, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)

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