Sports Q&A: Big Ten Quick Hits – Week 9

 Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Week 9 of the Big Ten was thought to be a ho-hum week with the two best teams having bye weeks, but there were actually a couple of good games — including one that went down to the final play. The rest of the scheduled games involved high scoring affairs, including one by a Purdue team that many did not see coming.

BIG TEN EASTERN DIVISION:

Indiana Hoosiers 4-4 (0-4)

no game scheduled

Maryland Terrapins 2-6 (0-4)

Another week… another game full of turnovers for the Terrapins. It doesn’t matter who they play at the position he seems to struggle. Perry Hills had three interceptions in the 31-15 loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes. The team kept the game close statistically and limited the Hawkeyes to a season-low 293 yards, but the inability to not give the ball away continues to haunt the team. William Likely continues to show how dangerous he is as a returner with a 100-yard kickoff return to cut into the lead midway through the fourth quarter.

Michigan State Spartans 8-0 (4-0)

no game scheduled

Michigan Wolverines 6-2 (3-1)

After a last-second heartbreaking defeat at the hands of MSU, many assumed that the Wolverines would come out inspired. But according to many of its players, the team was flat early on and Michigan needed a last-second goal-line stand to escape out of Minneapolis with the Little Brown Jug.  Jabrill Peppers showed his versatility by playing 92 snaps in the game and scoring his first offensive touchdown on a six-yard run in the third quarter. When Jake Rudock went down with an abdomen injury in the third quarter, backup Wilton Speight led the offense to victory. Unfortunately, he also showed that he may not be the long-term answer at the position as he only completed 3-of-6 passes for 29 yards.

Ohio State Buckeyes 8-0 (4-0)

no game scheduled

Penn State Nittany Lions 6-2 (3-1)

The Nittany Lions played its most complete game of the season in the 39-0 blowout of Illinois on Saturday. The offense put up 400 yards of total offense while the defense limited the Fighting Illini to 167. Christian Hackenberg had two touchdowns and 266 yards on 21-of-29 completions and Saquon Barkley ran for 84 yards on 20 carries. The only thing one could nitpick about the game is the team’s two turnovers and the offense inability to convert third-down conversions (5-of-13 conversions.) Outside of that, it will hard to argue that the team is playing like the third best team in the East Division — which isn’t a bad consolation prize when you realize the top two teams are ranked in the Top 10 in the nation.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights 3-5 (1-4)

Not much can be said about the 48-10 loss to Wisconsin… The offense was terrible — only 165 total yards, 2-of-15 third-down conversions, two turnovers, and eight first downs — the defense wasn’t any better — 426 total yards allowed and three touchdown plays of over 20 yards. The only touchdown scored by the Scarlet Knights came on a 50-yard interception return by Blessuan Austin when the game was already out of hand.

BIG TEN WESTERN DIVISION

Illinois Fighting Illini 4-4 (1-3)

When things go wrong… they tend to snowball. In the 39-0 blowout loss to Penn St. it seemed as if nothing went right for Illinois. Quarterback Wes Lunt was sacked four times and only completed 43% of his passes. The lack of a run game didn’t help either as Illinois only had 78 yards rushing — 37 if you subtract the sack yards. The defense did do some things well as it forced two turnovers and sacked PSU quarterbacks three times — including the first by freshman linebacker Tre Watson.  But because the offense could not sustain long drives — it only converted 6-of-21 third-down attempts — the defense eventually wore down.

Iowa Hawkeyes 8-0 (4-0)

Not every game will be pretty, but the Hawkeyes showed that the only thing that matters is the win. Akrum Wadley, LeShun Daniels Jr., and Derrick Mitchell Jr. all scored rushing touchdowns in the 31-15 victory for Iowa. Corner Desmond King is making a lot of teams in the Big Ten — especially the home state teams in Michigan — regret not recruiting him as he collected his seventh interception, an 88 yard interception return for a touchdown, to seal the victory for the Hawkeyes.

Minnesota Golden Gophers 4-4 (1-3)

The playcalling in the last 20 seconds of the 29-26 loss to Michigan was peculiar for a Minnesota team that was playing inspired ball after the sudden retirement of head coach Jerry Kill. Quarterback Mitch Leidner had a second consecutive 300+ yard game and gave the Wolverine defenders fits as he also rushed 37 yards. Receivers Brandon Lingen (five catches 111 yards), Rashad Still (two catches 69 yards), and KJ Maye (six catches 58 yards) gave the top ranked U-M defense fits all night but when it mattered the most — on the one yard line the offense couldnt get it done. Still not sure why they allowed so much time to run off on the first down play and then not go for the field goal to send it into overtime against a U-M offense that was without its starting quarterback.

Nebraska Cornhuskers 3-6 (1-4)

Yes, they were playing without starting quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr., but you would think that Nebraska had enough talent to get past a hapless Purdue team… I guess not as the Cornhuskers lost on the road to the Boilermakers 55-45. Replacement quarterback Ryker Fyfe passed for 404 yards and four touchdowns, but he also had four interceptions. Not sure why Nebraska head coach Mike Riley didn’t rely more on the run game with an inexperienced quarterback. The duo of Terrell Newby and Imani Cross combined for only 95 yards on 18 carries. There are some that say that Coach Riley is not making any fans in Lincoln and his stay there could be short… this type of loss did not help his cause at all.

Northwestern Wildcats 6-2 (2-2)

no game scheduled

Purdue Boilermakers 2-6 (1-3)

A much needed 55-45 win for head coach Darrell Hazell — his first conference home win — over the Nebraska Cornhuskers… unfortunately only 31,351 fans were in attendance to witness the feat. Quarterback David Blough had previously shown glimpses of potential in his previous five starts, but he had his best game of his short career as he passed for 274 yards and four touchdowns — he also added 82 yards rushing, including a 56-yard run to give Purdue the early lead. After a rough two-game stretch that saw him only have 53 total yards running back, Markell Jones bounced back with 92 yards on 23 carries. Despite the 45 points allowed the defense played better as well, as Anthony Brown had a career-high three interceptions on the day. This victory still doesn’t take Hazzell off the hot-seat, but it’s good to get a win any way you can.

Wisconsin Badgers 7-2 (4-1)

Even though he was still limping noticeably the return of running back Corey Clement (115 yards three touchdowns) sparked the Wisconsin offense in the 48-10 victory over Rutgers. The star back had missed the previous seven games with a leg injury and even though he was hobbled he couldn’t be stopped. Joel Stave benefitted from the return of clement as he had an off game with two interceptions and a completion rate of only 52%. Alex Erickson posted his second 100+ yard game of the season and is turning into the go-to guy for Stave. The defense, led by Vince Biegel’s two sacks and Tanner McEvoy’s interception, limited the Rutgers offense to only 165 total yards.

 

Sports Q&A Big 10 Player of the week:

Anthony Brown Cornerback Purdue: While the offense will get a lot of the praise for the victory over Nebraska, it was defense, and specifically Brown with his three interceptions that kept momentum on the Boilermakers side.

Game of Week 9:

Penn St. vs. Northwestern

After a two-game slide, the Wildcats who bounced back with a victory over hapless Nebraska are coming off a much-needed bye in preparation for their game against Penn St. Clayton Thorson put Northwestern on his back against the Cornhuskers but against the stout Nittany Lions defense, he will need a lot of help. The same can be said for Christian Hackenberg as he goes up against a stout Wildcat defense — the only other good defensive team he played, OSU, limited PSU to 10 points. The x-factor will be the team that is able to establish the run game and while Justin Jackson came into the season more heralded, he has been struggling recently while freshman Saquon Barkley has had his name already mentioned amongst the PSU great running backs.  Because of that I give the slight edge to the Nittany Lions. Penn St. 30 Northwestern 26

Big Ten Conference Power Rankings:

  1. Ohio State Buckeyes- Hard to slight the No. 1 team in the nation, and they won’t need Barrett against the Gophers
  2. Michigan State Spartans- The bye week will help heal a team that was playing better even without key players
  3. Iowa Hawkeyes- Beating Maryland the way they did shows this team can win games a myriad of ways
  4. Penn St. Nittany Lions- Yes its against inferior competition but Hackenberg is finally catching up to his stout defense
  5. Michigan Wolverines- The health of Jake Rudock is key for the rest of the season. Should handle Rutgers even without him, beyond that???
  6. Wisconsin Badgers- The defense will have to carry the team as long as Clement is hobbled and Stave continues to be inconsistent
  7. Northwestern Wildcats- Can Justin Jackson get back to his early season form. If so, it will help Clayton Thorson a lot
  8. Indiana Hoosiers- The bye week should help get Jordan Howard back to full strength. Because of that, IU still has a shot at a winning season
  9. Illinois Fighting Illini- Looking at the stats its hard to figure out why the Illini are struggling, they have the talent but somethings missing
  10. Minnesota Golden Gophers– They must prove that the performance against Michigan was more than just playing hard for Coach Kill
  11. Nebraska Cornhuskers- Is Mike Riley already in trouble in Lincoln? Missing Armstrong Jr. last week hurt, but he doesn’t play defense
  12. Purdue Boilermakers- Good win at home, sad that it took Coach Hazzell so long to get it. Can the team build from it?
  13. Maryland Terrapins- If they can learn to cut down the turnovers they could be a competitive team, just don’t think that will happen though
  14. Rutgers Scarlet Knights- They already struggle to find consistency on either side of the ball, if Carroo is out much longer they have no chance
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