Sports Q&A: Big Ten Quick Hits – Week 10

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Week 10 saw one of the conference favorites in Michigan State go down on a last second touchdown and a handful of other teams exert themselves as candidates for “good” postseason bowl games. 2015 surprise, Iowa even got love from the college football playoff committee as it was voted into the Top 6

BIG TEN EASTERN DIVISION:

Indiana Hoosiers 4-5 (0-5)

The slide continues as the Hoosiers have lost its last five games after starting 4-0 and those who were claiming that this was a new IU are starting to backtrack. One would have to think that despite the close 35-27 loss to an undefeated Iowa team, that seat in head coach Kevin Wilson has to be warming up. Or maybe the powers that be recognize that the Indiana is a basketball school and as long as the football program avoids any major scandal or turmoil they mediocrity is acceptable. After being hobbled for the last three games, running back Jordan Howard looked to be fully healed after an impressive 174-yard and two touchdown performance. Looking at the total stats, the Hoosiers were right there with Iowa, but just couldn’t get over the hump.

Maryland Terrapins 2-7 (0-5)

It has to be frustrating for a Maryland team to struggle because of the ineptitude of one position — quarterback. All season this team has fought hard only to see drives and games derailed due to poor quarterback play and the 31-24 loss to Wisconsin was no different. Collectively Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe combined for 204 yards on 13-of-34 passing and two more interceptions. The defense played well limiting the Badgers offense to 21 points and only 306 yards, but the offense could not hold up its end. Two-way star Will Likely was the team’s leading rusher with 56 yards on three carries, but he did not get much help from the rest of the offense.

Michigan State Spartans 8-1 (4-1)

The no-fly zone turned into the friendly skies as the Spartans lost 39-38 on a controversial touchdown in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter. Everyone wants to point to the bad call made on the out-of-bounds play, but what has happened to the once vaunted MSU defense. Four of the final five Nebraska drives resulted in touchdowns — and it took a Riley Bullough interception in the endzone to end that drive– and the team surrendered 10 “chunk plays”, including three on the final drive. While Connor Cook’s stat line was still impressive, 23-of-37 for 335 and four touchdowns) he wasn’t as accurate as we have come to expect from him. With Madre London still out and LJ Shelton not getting many carries, Gerald Holmes showed the depth of the MSU running backs by running for 117 yards. The Spartans had been playing with fire all season and they finally got burned, even though the call was crap.

Michigan Wolverines 7-2 (4-1)

Many wondered if Jake Rudock would be healthy enough to face Rutgers, but his 337 yards and two touchdown performance showed that he was fully recovered and capable of being the quarterback that many Wolverine fans hoped he would be when he transferred from Iowa. Led by Jake Butt’s four catches for 102 yards, 10 Michigan receivers caught a ball from Rudock which shows he is starting to see more of the field. After being unleashed against MSU, it looks like Jabrill Peppers is going to be a mainstay on the offensive side of the ball as he scored his first offensive touchdown on an impressive 18-yard run. The defense continued its stellar play by only allowing 225 total yards with the lone Scarlet Knights touchdown coming on a kickoff return.

Ohio State Buckeyes 9-0 (5-0)

If the nation did not realize that OSU operates much better with JT Barrett it was confirmed in the 28-14 victory over Minnesota. With Cardale Jones forced back into the starting role, the Buckeyes offense went back to being stagnant as he only passed for 187 yards and one touchdown. If not for Ezekiel Elliott’s 114 yards and one touchdown combined with Von Bell’s 16-yard interception return we could very well be talking about how the two best teams in the Big Ten were upset in the same weekend.

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

There are some harsh rumors about head coach James Franklin sabotaging Christian Hackenberg, and while that’s far fetched its hard not to think something is amiss with the PSU offense after the 23-21 loss to Northwestern. When your only passing touchdown comes on a wide receiver pass by Geno Lewis, you have to wonder if PSU is putting Hackenberg in the best situation to succeed. He only completed 52% of 40 pass attempts for 205 yards. The offense also only played one running back as well. And despite Saquon Barkley finding success with 120 yards on 25 carries, you have to do better utilizing more of your reserves on offense.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights 3-6 (1-5)

Three straight games of allowing over 40 points continued as Rutgers was blown out 49-16 by Michigan. The offense was limited to only 225 total yards while the defense surrendered 487.  On a positive note, the Scarlet Knights run game was fairly productive considering the lack of support from the passing game as Robert Martin ran for 81 yards on 10 carries — including a 54-yard run. The lone touchdown came on special teams as Janarion Grant ran a second quarter kickoff 98 yards for the touchdown to cut the deficit to 21-10, but the team did not do much offensively outside of two Kyle Federico field goals.

BIG TEN WESTERN DIVISION

Illinois Fighting Illini 5-4 (2-3)

Illinois had a great bounce back performance in the 48-14 victory over Purdue. And while Wes Lunt wasn’t at his best, he wasn’t needed for the victory as Ke’Shawn Vaughn (16 carries 180 yards) and Josh Ferguson carried the offensive load (133 yards on 12 carries) as the Fighting Illini ran the ball for  382 yards and had 592 total yards. Clayton Fejedelem led the Illinois defense with 13 tackles and only allowed 263 total yards and forced two interceptions.

Iowa Hawkeyes 9-0 (5-0)

Iowa continues to grind things out and show the conference that the West Division does have a legitimate title contender. In the 35-27 victory over Indiana, the Hawkeyes continued to make the key plays on both sides of the ball to get the win. Akrum Wadley continues to fill in nicely for the injured Jordan Canzeri as he rushed for 120 yards on only 10 carries — including a 65-yard touchdown run. Defensively Desmond King continues to make the case for being the best corner in the nation as he intercepted another pass to give him eight on the season.

Minnesota Golden Gophers 4-5 (1-4)

Defensively the Gophers did a great job in limiting the OSU offense in the 28-14 loss unfortunately, the offense was limited more by the Buckeye defense as it only tallied 314 total yards and did not score until the second quarter. The lack of a run game severely hurt the Gophers desire to keep OSU off balance and because of that the passing game was slow to get going as three of the first five possessions resulted in punts — with one resulting in an interception and the other a missed field goal. Eventually, Mitch Leidner was able to lead the offense to two second half touchdowns to cut the deficit in half but by then it was too late. Receiver KJ Maye had another good game with 10 catches for 116 yards and a touchdown

Nebraska Cornhuskers 4-6 (2-4)

Nebraska has always given MSU fits, but no one expected what we witnessed on Saturday in the 39-38 upset victory. In a season that has had the Cornhuskers seen its share of last second heartache, it was poetic justice for them to finally have things go their way in the end — even though it was highly controversial.  Tommy Armstrong Jr. had a game that epitomized the Nebraska season… some highs and some lows. Two of the lows were ill-advised interceptions that derailed momentum. But his ability to lead the last minute comeback showed his resiliency. Receiver Jordan Westerkamp showed great toughness being able to come back from an early injury to finish the game with nine catches for 143 yards — including 51 in the final drive.

Northwestern Wildcats 7-2 (3-2)

Being able to pull out the 23-21 upset over Penn State was a great feat when you consider that they had to play most of the game with a backup quarterback in Zack Oliver. One thing that helped the offense was the return to form of running back Justin Jackson who rushed for 186 yards on 28 carries. His performance galvanized the entire team including the defense that limited the Nittany Lions offense to 362 yards and two turnovers. The special teams contributed as well as Solomon Vault had a 96-yard kickoff return and kicker Jack Mitchell was able to make the game-winning field goal despite missing two earlier in the game.

Purdue Boilermakers 2-7 (1-4)

Coming off the first home win in the Darrell Hazell era, Purdue turned around and laid an egg in the 48-14 loss to Illinois. The things that went right last week went totally wrong against the Fighting Illini as Purdue only had 263 total yards while giving up 595. David Blough is better when he doesn’t have to shoulder the load but for some reason he was forced to on Saturday as he attempted 47 passes while the team only had 28 total rushes — and you cannot win playing that way. What makes that imbalance maddening is that running back Markell Jones found success in limited attempts as he ran for 84 yards on just 16 carries.

Wisconsin Badgers 8-2 (5-1)

If you are going to have a sub-par game, have it against a bad team. That’s exactly what happened for the Badgers in the 31-24 victory over Maryland. Outside of the 98-yard kickoff return by Natrell Jamerson, the Badgers seemed to sleep walk through the game that was closer than expected. With Corey Clement still nursing a lower body injury, the Wisconsin run game dipped a lot (117 total yards with a 2.9 ypc average) and Joel Stave was average at best as he passed for only 188 yards on 15-of-24 pass attempts. Tanner McEvoy took advantage of Maryland quarterback’s inability to not turn the ball over and finished the game with two interceptions.

Sports Q&A Big 10 Player of the week:

Ke’Shawn Vaughn running back Illinois: In a much-needed game Vaugh set the pace for the Illinois running game that racked up 382 yards. The 180 yards he accumulated against the Boilermakers was more than the yards he had in the previous three games (160) so it’s apparent that the role for the freshman needs to increase.

Game of Week 11:

 

Ohio St. vs. Illinois

The Buckeyes are looking to find more continuity to an offense that will have JT Barrett back in the lineup while the Illinois looks to build on the momentum generated from the blowout victory over Purdue. This is a game that OSU has to exert its will in and show the college football playoff committee that it is still the best team in the country despite how it has played at points in the season. Illinois will need another total team effort to not only slow down the OSU offense, specifically Ezekiel Elliott but keep the game within striking distance in order to still utilize the run game. Unfortunately, Urban Meyer will be looking to prove something this Saturday and will unleash the Buckeyes. Ohio State 45 Illinois 27

Big Ten Conference Power Rankings: (last week’s ranking)

  1. Ohio State Buckeyes- Hard to slight the No. 1 team in the nation, and they won’t need Barrett against the Gophers
  2. Iowa Hawkeyes (3) – The college football playoff committee is starting to drink the hawkeye kool-aid and has Iowa now ranked No. 6 in the nation and in prime position for a playoff bid if things go right.
  3. Michigan Wolverines (5) If Jake Rudock can play like that on a more consistent basis the Wolverines could be real dangerous as the season comes to an end.
  4. Michigan State Spartans (2) If Coach Dantonio doesn’t fix the issues with the “friendly skies” defensive backfield, what was once a season filled with championship dreams could turn into a nightmare.
  5. Wisconsin Badgers (6) They got the win over Maryland, but the running game struggled without Cory Clement in the backfield.
  6. Northwestern Wildcats (7) Northwestern was able to get the win without Clayton Thorson thanks to an exceptional game from Justin Jackson. He needs to keep playing that way.
  7. Penn State Nittany Lions (4) The PSU offense is so inconsistent and not many people know why since they have talent at every level. Hopefully, the defense can carry them through this lull?
  8. Illinois Fighting Illini (9)- A great game from the rush offense helps to end a two-game losing streak can they continue to let the run game lead the way, if so, they should ok the rest of the season.
  9. Nebraska Cornhuskers (11)– A last second play goes the way for the Cornhuskers and you have to ask yourself will this be the win needed to turn the season around for Nebraska
  10. Indiana Hoosiers (8)- Jordan Howard returned to the lineup, but that was the only positive in a frustrating week for a team trying to get bowl eligible.
  11. Minnesota Golden Gophers (10)– The slow start doomed Minnesota against the top team in the conference. This team has the talent to be good, but it has to be more consistent early
  12. Purdue Boilermakers (12)- Purdue laid an egg… plain and simple. Hazell cannot abandon the run game so early if he wants to keep his job.
  13. Maryland Terrapins (13)- The team still turns the ball over at the worst times but even still  they gave Wisconsin all it wanted.
  14. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (14)- The did run back a kickoff for a touchdown… that’s all I got LOL
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