Sports Q&A: Big Ten Quick Hits – Week 12

 Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Week 12 of the Big Ten conference play revealed what many national pundits had been saying for weeks; OSU was an overrated team that was hanging on a playoff thread because it hadn’t played a quality opponent. Well MSU was that team that cut the string that not only put them in the driver seat for the East Division crown but also in the conversation for a College Football Playoffs berth.

BIG TEN EASTERN DIVISION:

Indiana Hoosiers 5-6 (1-6)

The Hoosiers finally got a conference victory with the 47-28 victory over Maryland, but it wasn’t easy as they trailed 21-3 in the first quarter. Led by Nate Sudfeld’s 385 yards passing and four touchdowns, the IU offense eventually woke up in the second quarter and put up 27 consecutive points in the second quarter to take a lead they would never relinquish. Devine Redding filled in nicely at running back and rushed for 130 yards on 24 carries and continued to be a suitable backup for the always dinged up Jordan Howard. Receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr. had a career day with 192 yards on nine catches.

Maryland Terrapins 2-9 (0-7)

Despite losing to Indiana 47-28, Maryland showed how viable an opponent it can be if it doesn’t turn the ball over. For the first time, all season the Maryland offense did not hand the ball over to the opposing defense and in turn it thrived with 494 total yards. The quarterback play was still shaky as Caleb Rowe and Shane Cockerille completed only 50% of their pass attempts, but the offense still was able to move the ball. Brandon Ross had a career day rushing for 250 yards and three touchdowns — including a long 79-yard run– but he needed more help from  his defense that allowed scoring runs of 27 and 17 to keep the game out of reach.

Michigan State Spartans 10-1 (6-1)

The 14-10 victory over Ohio State proves that when this team is focused, regardless of the adversity it faces, it’s a tough team to beat. With Connor Cook unable to go due to a shoulder injury, Tyler O’Connor and Damion Terry did just enough to lead the MSU offense to victory. While the offense was not spectacular (only 294 total yards) the defense embodied the Coach Dantonio toughness and limited the OSU offense to only 132 yards. The MVP of the game was kicker Matt Geiger who made the game-winning 41-yard field goal as time expired after having missed a 43-yarder earlier in the game.

Michigan Wolverines 9-2 (6-1)

The Wolverines just continue to find ways to get it done. In the 28-16 victory over Penn State, it was the defense that led the charge by limiting the PSU offense to 207 total yards and forced one turnover. Defensive end Taco Charlton had two sacks and three tackles for loss as the Michigan defense harassed Christian Hackenberg all afternoon. Jake Rudock passed for 256 yards to lead the offense, but there still are some questions about the rush offense as the team only ran for 80 total yards —  20 of that coming on a run from receiver Jehu Chesson.

Ohio State Buckeyes 10-1 (6-1)

Despite being ranked in the Top 4 in the polls, OSU struggled to live up to the high championship expectations and in the 17-14 loss to MSU it finally caught up to them. The offense was inept, to put it nicely, as it only tallied 132 total yards. The biggest point of contention was the fact that Ezekiel Elliott only had 12 carries for 33 yards and seemed more of a blocking back for JT Barrett rather than the offensive focal point that he should be. Barret was limited to only 44 yards and struggled even more as a passer as he finished with only 46 yards passing on 9-of-16 pass attempts. You know it’s bad when Cameron Johnston, the OSU punter, has twice as many punt yards (308) as the team has total. Joshua Perry finished with 15 tackles defensively.

Penn State Nittany Lions 7-4 (4-3)

In the 28-16 loss to Michigan, the Nittany Lions once again are unable to take advantage of big plays and turn them into more than three points. Saquon Barkley had a 56-yard run (he finished the day with only 68 total yards) in the opening drive for PSU but the drive stalled on the six-yard line and they had to settle for three. Now some have brought into question the lack of execution on the field but you have to wonder if head coach James Franklin and his offensive staff are calling the right plays to put the team in position for success. The team not only struggled scoring touchdowns in the red zone — three other drives resulted in field goals of less than 25 yards — but converting third-down drives to sustain drives. On the day, they only converted 3-of-14 attempts and this has been an issue all season. Christian Hackenberg continued his inconsistent play with only 137 yards on 41% completions percentage.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights 4-7 (1-6)

Rutgers ventured out of conference to get a 31-21 non-conference win against the Army Black Knights. Still having struggles with the passing game — Chris Laviano passed for 105 yards on 13-of-21 attempts — the Scarlet Knights relied heavily on the run and it worked. Paul James rushed for 116 yards and three touchdowns on only 18 carries and Robert Martin contributed 99 yards and one touchdown on 17 carries. Looking towards next season, the Rutgers defense will need some major upgrades after allowing 401 yards — 261 of that coming on the ground — to a struggling Army program that has two wins on the season. Maybe the new coach will hire a defensive coordinator that can fix that issue.

BIG TEN WESTERN DIVISION

Illinois Fighting Illini 5-6 (2-5)

Illinois let an opportunity to become bowl eligible slip through its fingers with the 32-23 loss to Minnesota on Saturday. If you look at the stats, the Fighting Illini controlled every aspect of the game, but it was the little things… and the inability to slow down the Minnesota rush offense that cost them the game. In addition to the three turnovers, the Fighting Illini had four drives of more than five plays that ended up with no points. Wes Lunt continued a good season as he passed for 279 yards and two touchdowns.

Iowa Hawkeyes 11-0 (7-0)

It looks like the three-headed rushing attack is healthy as starter Jordan Canzeri led the way with 95 yards in the 40-20 route of Purdue. This Iowa team was already tough to slow down with each back carrying the load by himself but when you now consider that they can roll out Akrum Wadley (four carries for 23 yards) and LeShun Daniels Jr. (eight carries for 31 yards and two touchdowns) along with Canzeri, the Big Ten title aspirations look bright for the Hawkeyes. Despite not having to do much, quarterback CJ Beathard also had a good game passing for 213 yards and three touchdowns. Not to be overlooked the Iowa defense limited Purdue to only 22% conversion rate on third-down.

Minnesota Golden Gophers 5-6 (2-5)

Running back Shannon Brooks carried the load in the 32-23 victory over Illinois as he rushed for 174 yards and a had a season-high three touchdowns. The Gophers were outplayed statistically but still found a way to end up with the victory. A fumble recovery by Julian Huff late in the fourth quarter sealed the victory for a Minnesota program that is trying to get bowl eligible in a season that has been a rollercoaster all year. Somehow the 88 yards passing from quarterback Mitch Leidner was enough to get the job done and it shows how impactful the defense was in the game.

Nebraska Cornhuskers 5-6 (3-4)

no game scheduled

Northwestern Wildcats 9-2 (5-2)

They say cats have nine lives but in the 13-7 victory over Wisconsin the Wildcats used at least three of them to escape with the victory. Three controversial plays worked in Northwestern favor to get the victory and call it what you want, a win is a win. Maybe Northwestern needed all the help it could get because the passing offense was awful as Clayton Thorson only completed 9-of-20 passes for 60 yards. If it were not for Justin Jackson and his 139-yard performance we could be talking about how this game ended in defeat for the Wildcats. The defense did force five turnovers and sacked Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave five times, but outside of that, it was an ugly game… but sometimes you have to win these type of games as a program.

Purdue Boilermakers 2-9 (1-6)

After an apparent head injury to quarterback David Blough, the Boilermakers were forced to play Austin Appleby in the 40-20 loss to Iowa. And while Appleby played well, 240 yards and one touchdown, he didn’t make the necessary plays when it counted as the team struggled on third down. Purdue actually outgained the Hawkeyes 405-387 and had 24 extra plays, but they couldn’t take advantage. The team only had one actual turnover, but turned the ball over on downs three times and killed any momentum that it was building towards the upset. Markell Jones finished with 87 yards and one touchdown and DeAngelo Yancey had his best game of the season as he caught nine balls for 117 yards.

Wisconsin Badgers 8-3 (5-2)

Shenanigans is the best way to put the 13-7 loss if you are a Badgers fan. First the infamous “complete the process” call notorious for ruining many NFL games came into play as receiver Jazz Peavy was ruled out-of-bounds despite catching the ball. Then tight end Troy Fumagalli was marked down on the one after it appeared that he scored. And perhaps the most egregious call of the night came when a 78-yard punt return by Alex Erickson was negated after the referees ruled that he signaled fair catch — even though it appeared that he was signaling for his teammates to get away. Yes, the refs had an unfortunate input in the game but they weren’t the cause of an inept offense that had only 203 total yards, five turnovers, and allowed their quarterback to be sacked five times — with him leaving the game on the last one.

Sports Q&A Big 10 Player of the week:

Brandon Ross: running back Maryland The highlight of another loss for the Terrapins was the senior running back who made the Indiana defense look like swiss cheese early in the contest. Ross finished the afternoon with five “chunk plays” including two runs over 70 yards that resulted in touchdowns. The senior from Newark, DE played went out with a bang in his last home game and should garner some looks in the NFL as a late-round selection.

Game of Week 13:

Ohio State vs. Michigan

The GAME! The best rivalry in college football, and in sports depending on who you ask, has been one-sided lately with the Buckeyes dominating the Wolverines. But with the hiring of Jim Harbaugh, the Wolverines have a toughness within the program that has been lacking for years. The Buckeyes are reeling from a disappointing loss to MSU where contrary to what many have said, boiled down to MSU kicking their butt, NOT OSU losing the game. You have to expect Urban Meyer to put the offensive focus back on Ezekiel Elliot which could be a gift or a curse — considering that the U-M defense knows he will be getting the ball more. The game will be decided solely on how Michigan handles the run game, offensively and defensively. If they can generate at least 100 yards in any shape or fashion and limit Elliot to under 150 yards they have a good chance to get the victory. Harbaugh has his guys ready for this moment and we aren’t sure how OSU will respond so the I have to go with U-M to fuel OSU’s hate for the state of Michigan. U-M 27 OSU 24

 

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

  1. Iowa Hawkeyes (2)- As the season comes to a close it looks like the Hawkeyes are getting stronger and are looking towards a CFP berth
  2. Michigan Sate Spartans(4)– Not many people gave them a chance against OSU, but this is typical Dantonio, as he uses that hate to fuel his squad to victory
  3. Michigan Wolverines (3)– Going 4-0 on the road in the Big Ten is no easy feat and the passing game is getting better, can the rush offense join it?
  4. Ohio State Buckeyes (1)- The Buckeyes have issues on and off the field and this has to be a disappointment for OSU fans hoping for a repeat.
  5. Northwestern Wildcats (6)- When you force five turnovers and have five sacks you get the benefits of questionable calls.
  6. Wisconsin Badgers (5)  You can’t turn the ball over five times and expect to win — even the zebras make it hard on you.
  7. Penn State Nittany Lions (7) PSU couldn’t take advantage of the porous U-M rush defense and it cost them, maybe they can upset MSU for the MI split 
  8. Nebraska Cornhuskers (8) After a week off, the Cornhuskers look to end Iowa’s national championship hopes with a rivalry win on “Black Friday”
  9. Indiana Hoosiers (9)- The Hoosiers finally get a conference win, now can they get another to become bowl eligible and save Kevin Wilson’s job?
  10. Minnesota Golden Gophers(11) – The Gophers used an effective run game to get one game closer to being bowl eligible, Can they get it for Coach Kill?
  11. Illinois Fighting Illini (10)- Illinois had a chance to get bowl eligible but squandered too many opportunities, they have to pull off the in-state upset to get it now
  12. Purdue Boilermakers (12)- The Boilermakers hung tough with Iowa but couldn’t stop the run and it cost them.
  13. Maryland Terrapins (13)- No turnovers against the Hoosiers but another loss on the board. Brandon Ross career day ruined in his last home game
  14. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (14)- The Scarlet Knights get a win over one of the few teams worse off than them in the nation, Can they end Big 10 season with one?
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