Week 7 of the Big Ten schedule had its share of dramatics: a last second upset one and a surprisingly high-scoring victory. As we continue to progress through the conference schedule, outside of Iowa being the West Division frontrunner, there are still a lot of unknowns.
BIG TEN EASTERN DIVISION:
Indiana Hoosiers 4-3 (0-3)
This was the big worry for those wanting to support the Hoosiers this season; they played OSU tough but have since fallen on hard times. The 55-52 shoot-out loss to Rutgers shows that this team still isn’t where it needs to be and that head coach Kevin Wilson could be in danger of losing his job. The team squandered a 25 point lead in the second half and you would think that the coach’s seat is warming up. Nate Sudfeld did all he could to keep the team in the game by passing for 464 yards and four touchdowns. And a trio of Hoosier receivers; Mitchell Paige (eight catches 126 yards), Ricky Jones (six catches 119 yards) and Simmie Cobbs Jr. ( seven catches 109 yards) finished with at least 100 yards.
Maryland Terrapins 2-4 (0-2)
no game scheduled
Michigan State Spartans 7-0 (3-0)
For 59:50 it looked like the Spartans were going to fall from the ranks of the unbeaten at the hands of its bitter rivals Michigan. But a fumbled punt in the waning seconds of the game was returned by Jalen Watts-Jackson to give MSU the 27-23 victory over Michigan. Despite a pro-level performance from quarterback Connor Cook (328 yards on 18-of-39 passes) and his new favorite target for 2015, Aaron Burbridge (nine catches 132 yards) it seemed as if the great game was going to be wasted until the unforeseen specials team miracle. Defensive end Shilique Calhoun led the defense with five tackles, two sacks and three tackles-for-loss.
Michigan Wolverines 5-2 (2-1)
It looked as if Michigan was on its way to getting a huge monkey off its back — the burden of playing second fiddle to in-state rival MSU, but there is a reason that you play the game until the clock reads 0:00. A return for a touchdown after a fumble by punter Blake O’Neill allowed MSU escape out of Ann Arbor with an improbable victory. Fullback Sione Houma had his best game as a Wolverine with three carries for 30 yards and two touchdowns but the offense reverted back to its past struggles as Jake Rudock (15-of-25 168 yards) was not able to connect with the U-M receivers when it mattered the most. Defensive tackle Willie Henry led another strong performance from the Michigan defense with five tackles two sacks and three tackles-for-loss.
Ohio State Buckeyes 7-0 (3-0)
Led by Ezekiel Elliot’s 153 yards and J.T Barrett’s 102 yards, it was the Ohio St rush offense (315 yards and three touchdowns) that led to the comfortable 38-10 victory over Penn St. As he had previously done, Barrett — four total touchdowns and 30 yards passing on 4-of-4 attempts — entered the game to replace starter Cardale Jones, and the Buckeye offense instantly responded. The Buckeye defense, led by Joey Bosa’s seven tackles and three tackles-for-loss, kept PSU off balance throughout the night and only allowed 1-of-12 third-down conversions.
Penn State Nittany Lions 5-2 (2-1)
When playing the no. 1 team in the nation you have to almost play a perfect game. Unfortunately for the Nittany Lions that did not happen and they came up short in the 38-10 defeat. True freshman Saquon Barkley and his 196 yards on 26 carries seemed to be the only thing working for the PSU offense, but in the end he couldn’t do it alone. Christian Hackenberg was sacked five times and only completed seven passes for 120 yards. Chris Godwin was the primary benefactor of those minuscule stats as he finished the game with three catches for 103 yards and the Nittany Lions only touchdown.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights 3-3 (1-2)
With all that is going on with the Rutgers team to see the team fight back from a four-touchdown deficit in the second half to defeat Indiana 55-52 on the road has to give the Scarlet Knight fanbase finally something positive to look forward to. Passing for a career-high 386 yards and three touchdowns sophomore Chris Laviano once again showed that Rutgers will be in good hands at the quarterback position for the next few seasons. His favorite target, Leonte Carroo, continued to show why he could be one of the top receivers in the conference with a seven catch 157 yard and three touchdown performance. Completing the offensive trio was sophomore running back Robert Martin. The talented back finished the day with 124 yards on 17 carries and three touchdowns.
BIG TEN WESTERN DIVISION
Illinois Fighting Illini 4-2 (1-1)
no game scheduled
Iowa Hawkeyes 7-0 (3-0)
Not too many teams could lose its starting running back in the first half and still have the rushing output that Iowa did in the 40-10 victory over Northwestern. After losing Jordan Canzeri to injury early in the game, his replacement Akrum Wadley did not miss a beat on the way to a 26 carry 206 yard and four touchdown output. With the Hawkeye rush offense still operating at optimal level without Canzeri, the team was able to offset a lackluster performance from quarterback C.J. Beathard (176 yards and one interception.) Linebacker Cole Fisher (10 tackles) and the Iowa defense imposed its will on the Northwestern offense that seemed to still be shell-shocked from last week’s shutout against Michigan.
Minnesota Golden Gophers 4-3 (1-2)
The identity of the Golden Gopher offense has to be centered around its rushing attack and it seems that when the team struggles to run the ball, everything else falls apart. That was evident in the 48-25 loss to Nebraska where Minnesota only rushed for 65 yards on 26 carries. You would think that with Mitch Leidner passing for 301 yards, that there would have been enough balance to stay in the game… I guess not. Receiver K.J Maye finished the day with 11 catches for 94 yards.
Nebraska Cornhuskers 3-4 (1-2)
Nebraska is turning into the Jason Voorhies of the Big Ten. Just when you think they are dead in the water after a series of heartbreaking defeats, they come out and blow out Minnesota 48-25. Tommy Armstrong Jr. was efficient passing for 261 yards and three touchdowns and running back Terrell Newby had two touchdowns to go with 116 yards. Joshua Kalu sparked the defense with a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Northwestern Wildcats 5-2 (1-2)
Apparently still hung over from the shutout loss to Michigan the previous week, Northwestern laid another egg in the 40-10 loss to Iowa. Clayton Thorson completed 17 passes but for only 125 yards as the Hawkeye defense limited his ability to consistently connect with any of his receivers deep the entire afternoon. Justin Jackson had another rough outing as he only rushed for 30 yards and never seemed to get into any rhythm offensively. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald has to find a way of stabilizing the offense or a once promising season may end up going up in smoke quickly.
Purdue Boilermakers 1-6 (0-3)
191 total yards won’t win you many games, regardless of opponent, and against a quality opponent like Wisconsin most teams don’t stand a chance. And Purdue didn’t as it lost 24-7 to the Badgers to remain winless in conference. Leroy Clark’s interception was the only bright spot in another dismal weekend that saw running back Markell Jones (46 yards on 12 carries) and quarterback David Blough (136 yards passing) stymied all game.
Wisconsin Badgers 5-2 (2-1)
Outside of not having a passing touchdown Joel Stave had a productive game as he completed 30-of-39 passes for 322 yards as Wisconsin defeated Purdue 24-7. Linebacker turned running back freshman Alec Ingold scored two touchdowns to give the Badgers a cushion it didn’t really need. T.J Edwards was the defensive star as he finished the game with 16 tackles and one tackle-for-loss.
Sports Q&A Big 10 Player of the week:
Akrum Wadley: Running back Iowa – It’s not often that you get two players from the same team winning consecutive player of the week awards — and even more rare that they play the same position. But after standing in for Jordan Canzeri, Wadley and his 204 yards showcase showed that he is just as much of a weapon as the starter. With these two in the backfield, it will be hard press to find anyone remaining on the Hawkeye schedule that will be able to deter them from a spot in the Big Ten Championship game.
Game of Week 8:
Northwestern vs. Nebraska
These two teams are trending in the wrong direction and it’s not the way many would have thought two weeks ago. Nebraska is looking that the competitive team that many expected to start the 2015 season and its starting to look like the start to the season for Northwestern may have been “fools gold”, as the Wildcats have struggled mightily the past two weeks. The team that gets the victory this Saturday will be the one that operates its offense at an optimal level. Yes, Northwestern has played two top defenses in recent defeats, but I sense a broken team and the Cornhuskers will use its home field advantage to keep the Wildcats reeling. Nebraska 34 Northwestern 16