Photo: Maryland Athletics
Welcome to the Big Five! This is my weekly column discussing and take-ing on the top five headlines, news items, storylines, etc. of the week. Feel free to comment on my thoughts either below, on Twitter, on Facebook, or…shoot us an email – firstname.lastname@example.org – We’ll make sure to bring your comments up on the next podcast!
1. Michael’s DJ Durkin crush is a good one
Whether you’ve been listening to the Interns Podcast since day one or day 365, you’ve heard enthusiastic praise for Maryland coach DJ Durkin at some point, and usually not from my side of the mic.
The texts I received on Saturday from Michael were entertaining, and the more I watched Maryland against Texas, the more I realized the Terps are a force to be reckoned with. Granted, it was week one and we have no idea how good Texas is, but the Terps dominated on the offensive front. Ty Johnson is an absolute stud in Maryland’s backfield and Tyrrell Pigrome played an efficient QB on Saturday.
What impressed me the most, however, was Maryland’s run defense. The Terrapins gave up 217.9 yards per game on the ground last season, ranking 101st in the FBS. On Saturday, they held the Longhorns to under 100. In a running back-heavy Big Ten, an improved run defense gives Maryland a solid chance at competing with opponents they couldn’t have competed with last year.
Hats off to DJ.
2. Illinois may be the worst team in the Big Ten
Of the Big Ten’s three lower-tiered teams (Rutgers, Illinois and Purdue), two won and one lost in week one. And the winning team had the most disappointing performance of the three. That would be Illinois. The Illini barely scraped by a lower-level MAC team, the Ball State Cardinals.
Meanwhile, Purdue went back-and-forth with 16th-ranked Louisville. And whether they played well or Louisville simply underwhelmed, the fact that Purdue came within a score of the Cardinals displays significant improvement over last year’s performances.
Rutgers put together a solid showing against 8th-ranked Washington, only losing by two scores. In the world of moral victories, the Boilermakers and Scarlet Knights earned pats on the back last weekend. Illinois did not.
Photo: Ohio State Athletics
3. Ohio State vs. Oklahoma in prime time
The out-of-conference early season matchups between powerhouse football programs have been such a fun development over the last couple of years in college football. In week two, we get one of the coolest series’ schedulers have created this decade: Ohio State vs. Oklahoma, under the lights in Columbus.
This is just a matchup between the uber talented and I’m all for it. Neither team will seriously hurt its playoff chances with a defeat here, so long that they run the table for the rest of the regular season, a strong possibility on either side.
I’ll be interested to see how Ohio State’s secondary can attempt to limit Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. This will also be a chance for J.T. Barrett to take the next step as Ohio State’s leader. The Sooners ranked 117th among FBS teams in passing defense last season. This contest could be a shootout, but I’d like to see J.T. Barrett show the nation that he’s an elite quarterback, and in Michael’s words, not a liability for the Buckeyes.
4. The Huskers travel out west
While we’re on the theme of bad passing defenses, Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee has a chance to prove himself against a subpar Oregon passing defense this upcoming weekend. The Ducks ranked 111th among FBS team in passing defense in 2016. On the other hand, Oregon’s always-speedy offense will take their crack at a Huskers defense which allowed 36 points to Arkansas State in week one.
Nebraska and Oregon played one hell of a game last year, so let’s hope for the same this time around.
5. Northwestern faces a nonconference test
Northwestern can’t seem to avoid early season scares, despite what Fitz and company have to say about the team’s preparation. Following a close victory over Nevada, the ‘Cats will travel to Durham, North Carolina, to take on Duke, which hung 60 points on North Carolina Central last week.
The Blue Devils are a bottom-level ACC team, but they’re still a step up in competition from Nevada. Northwestern should win this game, but a full 48-minute performance would be a reassuring sign to ‘Cats fans.