Sports Q&A: Big Ten Quick Hits – Week 5

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Conference play has started but it seems as if there are more questions about teams this week than when the season started.

BIG TEN EASTERN DIVISION:

Indiana Hoosiers 4-1 (0-1)

Valiant effort in the 34-27 loss to OSU considering the offense lost starting quarterback Nate Sudfeld and star running back Jordan Howard during the game. Zander Diamont tried his best to pull the upset — his 79 yard run got IU within seven — but a botched snap on fourth and goal killed the comeback attempt. The real question now becomes can head coach Kevin Wilson build on this good performance and finally get the Hoosiers over the hump in conference play?

Maryland Terrapins 2-3 (0-1)

Another game, another poor performance out of the quarterback position. Its baffling that despite his poor play that head coach Randy Edsell still continues to give Caleb Rowe opportunities at quarterback. In the 28-0 loss to Michigan, Rowe only completed 8-of-27 passes for 47 yards and had three more interceptions. It has to be frustrating for a Terrapins defense that limited the Wolverines to six points in the first half and forced three turnovers of its own including an interception by defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson.

Michigan State Spartans 5-0 (1-0)

I know Spartan fans are glad for the victory, but they can’t be satisfied seeing the offense bog down after racing out to a 21-0 lead in the first half. Give credit to Purdue for fighting through but there is no reason why the final score should have been 24-21 when your lead back LJ Scott runs for 146 yards and his back up Madre London had 97 yards himself. There are some that feel that Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio is keeping the offense under wraps, well its time to open that gift or risk sliding further down the polls despite winning.

Michigan Wolverines 4-1 (1-0)

For one half it seemed as if the hype machine lifting up the Wolverines had developed premature as the offense couldn’t get anything going and there were multiple turnovers. But a 31 yard screen pass for a touchdown to running back Drake Johnson woke up the Michigan offense in the second half and they were able to get past a bad Maryland team  28-0 thanks to another great performance by its defense. Jordan Lewis, Desmond Morgan and Jeremy Clark all had interceptions as U-M posted its second consecutive shutout.

Ohio State Buckeyes 5-0 (1-0)

I guess Urban Meyer finally learned that the success of this team rests on the shoulders of running back Ezekiel Elliott. Even though the 34-27 score was close, it seemed as if any time the Buckeyes gave the ball to Elliott he made a big play as he finished the day with 274 yards on 23 carries and  touchdown runs of 55, 65, and 75 that kept the momentum on Ohio State side. Cardale Jones had a good game, 18-of-27 for 245 yards but something still seems like it is missing when the team tries to run the offense through him. And it things only got worse in the passing game with the announcement of a broken leg for receiver Corey Smith.

Penn State Nittany Lions 4-1 (1-0)

The only team still in non-conference play Penn State held off a late surge from Army to get the 20-13 win. He may not have had the gaudy stats but quarterback Christian Hackenberg made the key throws when needed — including a 33 yard touchdown to tight end Mike Gesicki to seal the victory. The Nittany Lions defense did its job by forcing three turnovers and limiting the Black Knights to 293 yards.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights 2-2 (0-1)

no scheduled game

BIG TEN WESTERN DIVISION

Illinois Fighting Illini 4-1 (1-0)

Can the people at Illinois just go ahead and name Bill Cubit the permanent head coach. Outside of the UNC game the fighting Illini have been playing with more passion and energy and it showed in the 14-13 win over Nebraska. Ke’Shawn Vaughn ran for 98 yards and Wes Lunt passed for 251 yards and two touchdowns, including the one yard touchdown to Geronimo Allison with 18 seconds remaining. Allison finished the game with 91 yard on eight catches. The Illinois defense limited Nebraska to 12 first downs and only 4-of-17 third-down conversions while forcing two turnovers.

Iowa Hawkeyes 5-0 (1-0)

Looking for a signature win, the Hawkeyes went into Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, WI and stole one in the 10-6 win over the Badgers. The low scoring game was filled with multiple turnovers on both sides — including two interceptions by cornerback Desmond King. But it was a key forced fumble on the goal line that gave Iowa the win. C.J Beathard had an off game — 9-of-21 for 77 yards — but running back Jordan Canzeri gave the offense a lift with 125 yards on 26 carries

Minnesota Golden Gophers 3-2 (0-1)

 I guess the Gophers left their offense in Minneapolis — and depending on who you ask, maybe the 2014 season — as the team was shut out 27-0 against northwestern. On the season the offense is only scoring 15.4 ppg and this cannot be good for a team that only has an ok defense. 173 total yards 4-of-16 third-down conversions and 11 first downs will not win you many games. Mitch Leidner (10-of-21 72 yards) was pulled for Demry Croft but he didn’t fare much better as he was sacked three times and only completed five of 11 attempts for 27 yards.

Nebraska Cornhuskers 2-3 (0-1)

The Cornhuskers sure know how to steal defeat out of the jaws of victory. This time it was a last second touchdown allowed by Illinois in the 14-13 loss. Some are already questioning the fit of new head coach Mike Riley, but he isn’t the one on the field. Tommy Armstrong Jr. only completed 30% of his passes for 105 yards and made the costly decision to pass the ball on third and fourth down leaving Illinois 51 seconds to make their eventual comeback. One bright spot was the emergence of running back Devine Ozigbo. The true freshman back finished the game with 71 yards on only seven carries including a 19 yard touchdown that started the scoring for the Cornhuskers.

Northwestern Wildcats 5-0 (1-0)

When you win, it doesn’t matter how its done and that’s how the Wildcats are operating. While the final score, 27-0 over Minnesota, seems dominating it was a methodical victory for Northwestern. Clayton Thorson only attempted 19 passes in throwing for 128 yards but he wasn’t asked to do much as running back Justin Jackson ran for 120 yards on 20 carries. Northwestern defense also got in on the scoring as linebacker Anthony Walker scored on a 13 yard fumble recovery. The Wildcats also did a great job limiting Minnesota to only 173 total yards.

Purdue Boilermakers 1-4 (0-1)

Purdue spotted MSU a first half 21-0 lead before fighting back only to come up short 24-21. Markell Jones rushed for 157 yards and two touchdowns — including a tough 68 yard run that kept Purdue within striking distance. David Blough showed his inexperience by only completing 48% of his passes and throwing an interception. Head coach Darrell Hazell is trying to get the team on track, but will the Boilermaker faithful be patient enough to allow him to lead the turnaround?

Wisconsin Badgers 3-2 (0-1)

Four turnovers, including a fumble on the goal line sent the Badgers to a 10-6 defeat against Iowa. In all the years I’ve watched Wisconsin I’ve never seen them look this unstable offensively. Not having running back Cory Clement seems to have caught up with them as the rush offense was essentially non-existent (86 yards on 34 carries) Without that Joel Stave was forced to pass more than he is comfortable with and it showed as he had two costly interceptions to go along with his 234 yards. Despite playing so poorly the Badgers were in position to win, so this could just be a blip on the radar and not a developing pattern.

Sports Q&A Big 10 Player of the week:

Ezekiel Elliott running back Ohio St: The best player on the “best team” (heavy sarcasm) was a no brainer this week. Without Elliott we could be talking about a OSU upset defeat but with him, this team could once again be in contention for a college football playoff berth. Urban Meyer just needs to get out of his own damn way. 

Game of Week 6:

Northwestern vs. Michigan

This game could very well come down to which offense is able to establish itself against a great defense. Both teams are coming off of shut outs and are playing with a lot of confidence defensively so this could very well be a low scoring game. You have to ask yourself who do you trust more to handle to the pressure: a 5th year senior quarterback or a redshirt freshman making his second road start. Even though Jake Rudock has had his issues with turnovers, I think being in the confines of the Big House will energize both sides of the U-M team to a close victory. Michgan 24 Northwestern 13

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