Sports Q&A Big 10 Quick Hits: Week 3

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

 

The Big 10 did a good job of establishing itself as a top conference this week as arguably the two best teams, Michigan St. and Ohio St, handled its business on the national stage against quality opponents. Unfortunately, there was a major hiccup as Western Division favorite, Iowa, took one on the chin against FCS powerhouse North Dakota St.

Big Ten Eastern Division:

Indiana Hoosiers 2-0 (0-0)

no game scheduled

Maryland Terrapins 3-0 (0-0)

The upset special almost came true as the Terrapins needed double overtime to get past the pesky UCF Knights 30-24. Despite being out gained 455-373, Maryland’s defense kept the game close by forcing four Golden Knights turnovers — including a fumble in the second overtime which eventually led to the victory. Offensively, Maryland was able to keep its streak of no turnovers and continues to show how dangerous this team can be if it doesn’t give the ball away. Led by Lorenzo Harrison’s 77 yards on 15 carries, seven Terrapins’ players contributed to the 246 yards rushing on the day. Every yard was needed as senior quarterback Perry Hills suffered a shoulder injury and only completed 43% of his passes for 127 yards.

Michigan Wolverines 3-0 (0-0)

For 29 minutes and 27 seconds, it looked as if the Michigan Wolverines dream season was going to become a nightmare. But a 45-yard catch and run by Amara Darboh gave Michigan its first lead against the Colorado Buffaloes and the Wolverines never looked back in the 45-28 victory. With the defense and offense struggling most of the afternoon, it was big plays from the special teams — a blocked punt return for a touchdown by receiver Grant Perry and a 54-yard punt return for a touchdown by Jabrill Peppers —  that sparked the comeback and eventual win. The offense only mustered 397 total yards — 168 of that on the ground —  and If the team wants to contend for the East Division title, Coach Harbaugh must be proactive in jumpstarting that average running game.

Michigan St. Spartans 2-0 (0-0) 

The bye week didn’t hurt the Michigan St. Spartans as expected and MSU cruised to an easy 36-28 victory over Notre Dame. Multiple miscues by Notre Dame allowed MSU to take advantage through the air and on the ground. Freshman Donnie Corley had four catches for 88 yards — including a spectacular catch for a touchdown where he took the ball from the Fighting Irish defender — and senior RJ Shelton had a good game with eight catches for 80 yards. But it was the 72-yard run by Gerald Holmes that broke the back of the Notre Dame defense as it pushed the score to 36-7 midway through the third quarter. Holmes finished the day with 100 yards on 13 carries and was almost joined in the one hundred yard club by LJ Scott who finished the day with 98 yards on 22 carries. One point of concern for the Spartans defense is that the team didn’t finish strong as it allowed Notre Dame to score 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to make the final score look closer than it was.

Ohio St. Buckeyes 3-0 (0-0) 

The Ohio St. Buckeyes had something to prove to the nation and did it convincing fashion as it easily defeated Oklahoma 45-24. Many wondered how the young OSU players would respond to a real road test and they passed it with flying colors. Mike Weber rushed for 123 yards and is starting to show that he is ready to follow in the footsteps of Carlos Hyde and Ezekiel Elliot as top OSU backs under Urban Meyer. Receiver Noah Brown who stole the show with four touchdowns — including a highlight reel catch that had him reaching around the Oklahoma defender to secure the score — and provided quarterback JT Barrett with a go-to option that he will need later in the season. It wasn’t just the offense that starred in the primetime win. The defense harassed the Oklahoma quarterback all evening and forced him into two interceptions — including one that was returned 68 yards by Jerome Baker early in the game. If there is a better team in the nation it has yet to be reveal as the Buckeyes seem to be operating at optimal level on both sides of the ball.

Penn State Nittany Lions 2-1 (0-0)

The implementation of this high octane offense in Happy Valley must be a slow process. Despite defeating Temple 35-27, the offense leaves a lot to be desired from fans and maybe even its own coaches. The offense finished with 403 yards on the afternoon, but only 116 of that came from rushing the ball. Saquon Barkley finished the game with only 68 yards but 55 of that came on the game clinching touchdown run after he returned from a lower leg injury. Trace McSorley does appear to be finding his comfort zone as a passer as he completed 18-of-24 passes for 287 yards. Receiver Chris Godwin — seven catches 117 yards — appears to be his favorite receiver and that’s a good thing as the junior receiver is becoming one of the most reliable wide outs in the conference. Penn State rush defense must have seen the criticism from last week and decided to do something about it as it limited the Owls to only 38 yards on 28 carries.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights 2-1 (0-0)

After surrendering 21 unanswered points to start the game, Rutgers had a choice, fight or lay down. It chose the latter and went on a 28 point run itself as it defeated New Mexico 37-28. Janarion Grant showed his versatility as he had 174 total yards and two touchdowns — including a 21-yard pass to Andre Patton. The Scarlet Knights must continue to find unique ways to use Grant because the rest of the offense — specifically the quarterback position–  is a work in progress. Running back Robert Martin is another guy that head coach Chris Ash needs to utilize more. Martin didn’t play in the loss to Washington but in the two Scarlet Knights victories he rushed for 252 yards — including 169 against the Lobos.

Big Ten West Division:

Illinois Fighting Illini 1-2 (0-0)

The honeymoon is over for Lovie Smith and his staff as Illinois were embarrassed at home by Western Michigan 34-10. Sack yardage played a factor, but how does a Power 5 school only rush for THREE yards. Ke’Shawn Vaughn has shown the ability to be a go-to running back but against the Broncos he only had eight carries for 22 yards. His backup Kendrick Foster fared much worse as he only gained three yards on two carries. With NFL experience littered throughout the Fighting Illini coaching staff, you would think that this team would be far better prepared, but it’s not. The defense allowed 437 yards and five plays of 30+ yards. Wes Lunt passed for 312 yards but he still has issues with knowing when to go for the bigger play over checking down.

Iowa Hawkeyes 2-1 (0-0)

Taking on an FCS program with a championship pedigree is a lose-lose situation — ask Michigan. If you win, fans figure  that’s what you were supposed to d. But if you lose, you will end up being the lead story on Sportscenter that night. Unfortunately for the Iowa Hawkeyes, the football team will be the butt of the Big Ten jokes as it lost a heartbreaker to North Dakota St. 23-21. For most of the game it was hard to tell which team with the FSC program and which one was the Big Ten Power. The Hawkeyes were limited to 231 total yards and were out of sync. The most surprising number in the loss was 34 — the total number of rushing yards as a team. The normally steady duo of Arkum Wadley (four carries 20 yards) and LeShun Daniels Jr. (14 carries 29 yards) was held in check all afternoon and it impacted the team on both ends of the ball. Tight End George Kittle was the only Iowa player that showed up offensively as he caught five balls for 110 yards — including a 51-yard reception. Contending for a college football playoff berth may be out of the question for the Hawkeyes, but they still should be one of the favorites to win the West Division of the conference.

Minnesota Golden Gophers 2-0 (0-0)

no game scheduled

Nebraska Cornhuskers 3-0 (0-0)

Nebraska continued its trend upwards to being a legit contender in the conference with the 35-32 win over Oregon on Saturday. Offensively the Cornhuskers are proving that it can hang with just about any team in the nation as long as it limits the turnovers. Tommy Armstrong Jr. had another stellar performance as he passed for 200 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 95 yards and getting a score on the ground. His decision-making skills as a quarterback have improved tremendously which allows the rest of the team to shine as well. Running back Devine Ozigbo had another productive game and rushed for 95 yards on 21 carries. Despite giving up 336 yards on the ground, the Nebraska defense forced the Ducks into seven empty possessions — including Oregon’s final drive of the game which was slowed by an offensive holding call and a sack by Kevin Maurice

Northwestern Wildcats 1-2 (0-0)

After only scoring seven points the entire game in the loss to Illinois St., it only took the first drive to get on the scoreboard for Northwestern in the 24-7 win over Duke. Clayton Thorson — 329 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions — connected with Austin Carr for 26 yards and it was the early spark that the Wildcats needed to end a two-game losing streak. Justin Jackson continued to be a force as a running back as he rushed for 94 yards on 28 carries. You would like to see some of those carries given to other Northwestern backs because you cannot expect Jackson to carry the load once conference play begins. Duke was the right team for a program that was looking to avoid its first 0-3 start since 1992.

Purdue Boilermakers 1-1 (0-0)

no game scheduled

Wisconsin Badgers 3-0 (0-0)

It seemed as if the Badgers were still reading the press clippings from the win over LSU and struggled to get past Georgia St. 23-17. If not for the quarterback change — replacing starter Bart Houston with Alex Horbibrook — it appeared that Wisconsin would be joining Iowa and Illinois as teams who lost to opponents it had no business losing to. Hornibrook — 8-of-12 for 122 yards and one touchdown  —  came in and took command of the Badgers offense and led it to two scores in the fourth quarter which sealed the comeback. With Corey Clement out due to an ankle injury, Dare Ogunbowale and Bradrick Shaw combined for 127 yards. If Hornibrook is going to be the long-term answer at quarterback he will need help from his running backs — regardless of who it is lining up behind him.

Sports Q&A Big 10 Player of the week:

Gerald Holmes RB Michigan St.

After not seeing any action against Furman, the junior from Flint, MI made his presence known against the Fighting Irish. It was his 73-yard run that helped to seal the victory for the Spartans. LJ Scott may be the starter, but if the Spartans want to continue their success this season, they will have to find ways of getting this talented back the ball more.

Game of the Week:

Wisconsin vs. Michigan St.

This is a game of two teams looking at itself in the mirror. Both are led by tough-minded defenses and have a bevy of running backs that can be used to wear opponents down. The key in this game will be at the quarterback position. Tyler O’Connor has more experience and because of that and the fact that the game is in East Lansing, As I said on the show Thursday before the game I give the edge to the Spartans.

 

 

Week 4 Predictions: (Week 3 record 6-5)

no predictions this week due to the late posting

 

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