Sports Q&A Big Ten Quick Hits: Week 7

Sports Q&A, Justin Jackson

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

 

Big Ten East Division:

Indiana Hoosiers 3-3 (1-2)

It’s not always how you start but how you finish and unfortunately in the 27-22 loss to Nebraska, Indiana struggled with both and  missed an opportunity to pull off an upset over a Top 10 ranked team. Despite overcoming an early 15 point deficit to make the score 17-15 in the fourth quarter, it seemed as if whenever the Hoosiers needed a big play — on offense or defense — they couldn’t get the job done. Kevin Wilson and his staff have done a better job keeping the team focused this season but if they want to take the next step as a legitimate contender in the East Division and the conference, the team has to win games like this. Richard Lagow (196 yards, one touchdown) must work on his decision making as his two interceptions — one that was returned for a touchdown and the other ended a last-ditch comeback drive — helped decide the outcome. After facing three consecutive ranked opponents, the back end of the Hoosiers’ schedule is light as it only faces one more ranked team. This should allow defensive star Tegray Scales to continue his hot play. Scales posted his fourth consecutive double-digit tackles game as he finished with 12 tackles and two tackles-for-loss.

Maryland Terrapins 4-2 (1-2)

After having not turned the ball over in its first three games of the season, the Terrapins have turned it over at least once in the past three games and are 1-2 after losing to the Minnesota Golden Gophers 31-10. Standing in for the injured Perry Hills, quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome struggled on the afternoon as he completed only 18-of-37 attempts for 161 yards and had three turnovers on the day. Prior to this loss, head coach DJ Durkin had done a good job of rotating running backs but against Minnesota, he allowed Pigrome too much freedom as a runner and it cost the team. Pigrome ran the ball 25 times compared to 10 carries for the Terrapins’ running backs. If the team is going to be without Hills for an extended period, it must find a way to be more balance, if not the defense will continue to suffer.

Michigan Wolverines 6-0 (3-0)

no game scheduled.

Michigan St. Spartans 2-4 (0-3) 

This is getting embarrassing… It is one thing to lose but it’s another thing to give up 50+ points in the process. Something isn’t right in East Lansing and the 54-40 loss to Northwestern exposed more issues to a team that is sinking fast. Everyone keeps pointing to the offense as the reason why MSU has now lost four straight games — its longest losing streak since 2006 — but the defense is just as culpable as it allowed 490 total yards and 26 consecutive points in a two-quarter span that saw a 17-7 lead get transformed into a 33-17 deficit. Desperate for a spark head coach Mark Dantonio started redshirt freshman Brian Lewerke and it seemed to work but things quickly fell apart in the second half and he made the switch back to previous starter Tyler O’Connor. His focus on the quarterbacks may be misguided as the running backs continue to disappoint. Lewerke was the team’s leading rusher with 30 yards and LJ Scott only had three carries for 25 yards. The defense is getting no pressure on the quarterback and had only one sack. If this team is going to salvage the season something more drastic than an ill-advised quarterback change needs to happen.

Ohio St. Buckeyes 6-0 (3-0) 

So much for seeing what its rival did and besting that. The Buckeyes couldn’t match the defensive domination of the “team up north” and needed overtime to get past the pesky Wisconsin Badgers 30-23. In the first half, it appeared that the Buckeyes college football playoff hopes were going to be dashed as the OSU offense struggled to get any traction against the first real defense its played all season. But a one-yard run by JT Barrett (226 yards passing, 92 yards rushing and three total touchdowns) cut the deficit to 16-13 in the second half and the score seemed to galvanize the offense and defense. Defensively this was the worst game for a Buckeyes defense that saw its aggressiveness be used against them as the Badgers ran multiple misdirection plays for big yardage. Fortunately for OSU fans the speed came up big when it mattered — in overtime — as Tyquon Lewis had a key sack to end the drive for the Badgers in overtime.

Penn State Nittany Lions 4-2 (2-1)

no game scheduled

Rutgers Scarlet Knights 2-5 (0-4)

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights finally scored… Too bad it was only one touchdown as Illinois handed Rutgers its fourth consecutive loss 24-7. They say that you have to celebrate the small things but after a five-turnover performance, the good things that came out of this loss were minuscule. Rutgers may have found the quarterback of its future as Gio Rescigno completed 10-18 passes for 120 yards and threw the lone touchdown. Coach Ash is noncommittal to starting him in the next game, but he can’t be any worse than Chris Laviano, who has been struggling over the past three weeks. Blessuan Austin was the defensive bright spot as he intercepted a pass to go along with two tackles. At some point, Coach Ash has to turn the corner with the team, hopefully, it’s sooner than later.

Big Ten West Division:

Illinois Fighting Illini 2-4 (1-2)

When you are struggling to get a win it is always good to play a team worse off than you. That’s exactly what happened as the Fighting Illini defeated the Rutgers Scarlet Knights  24-7 to end a four-game losing streak. With sophomore Chayse Crouch making the first start of his collegiate career, head coach Lovie Smith looked to the run game to take the pressure off the youngster and it worked as running backs Kendrick Foster and Reggie Corbin combined for 198 yards. Even though it allowed Rutgers to score for the first time in three weeks, the defense played a major factor as well. The unit forced the Rutgers offense into five turnovers — including the 72-yard interception return for a touchdown by Darius Mosely that sealed the victory. “Winning cures all” maybe this is the jolt that the team needs to get back to its winning ways the rest of the season.

Iowa Hawkeyes 5-2 (3-1)

Where has this Iowa team been all season? After sleepwalking through two of its previous three games, the Hawkeyes offense exploded in the 49-35 win over the Purdue Boilermakers. Akrum Wadley (15 carries for 176 yards) and LeShun Daniels Jr. (23 carries for 150 yards) showed the big ten that these two could be the most prolific tandem in the conference this season IF they get the opportunities. Struggling to find continuity on that side of the ball head coach Kirk Ferentz went back to what he has done well over the past 10 years in Iowa City… run the ball. Even with the victory, there are things to fix for the Hawkeyes as the defense surrendered 35 points and  505 yards to a Purdue offense that had been struggling during conference play. Jim Thorpe winner Desmond King recorded his first interception of the season and made the most of it as he returned it 41 yards for the score.

Minnesota Golden Gophers 4-2 (1-2)

In a game featuring two backup quarterbacks Minnesota did the better job of surrounding its stand in with enough help to get the 31-10 victory. With Mitch Leidner out due to injury, Conor Rhoda stepped in and guided the team to its first conference win of the season. Rhoda’s stats weren’t gaudy — 7-of-15 for 82 yards — but the Gophers didn’t need him to pass for a lot of yards when it has the talent in the backfield that it does. Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks combined for 240 yards and two scores — including a 70-yard run by Smith that gave Minesota a 24-3 lead. With them running the ball well, it allowed the defense to be fresh — which allowed them to force Maryland into four turnovers. Antoine Winfield Jr. was one of the Gophers that took advantage as he returned an interception 82 yards for a touchdown to cap the scoring. Its unsure how long Leidner will be out, but if Minnesota can continue to rely on Brooks and Smith they should be fine over the next few games.

Nebraska Cornhuskers 6-0 (3-0)

The Cornhuskers escaped out of Bloomington, IN with the 27-22 win over the Hoosiers despite not playing one of its better games of the  season. After jumping out to a 17-0 lead in the first half, Nebraska benefitted from a defensive mishap by the Hoosiers that led to a 72-yard catch and run from Stanley Morgan Jr. But it wasn’t until Aaron Williams intercepted with 30 seconds remaining that the game was decided. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. had his worst statistical game of conference play, but at the end of the day the team got the victory and no one will care that he only rushed for 38 yards and he had two interceptions. With injuries piling up on both sides of the ball head coach Mike Riley will take an ugly win over a pretty loss any day.

Northwestern Wildcats 3-3 (2-1)

Coming off a bye week the Wildcats looked to put in a great performance and that’s what its fans got as they soundly defeated the MSU Spartans 54-40. Quarterback Clayton Thorson had his most efficient game of the season completing 77% of his passes for three touchdowns. Thorson had a great game but it was running back Justin Jackson that made the difference as he rushed for 188 yards on 34 carries. Jackson may not be the fastest or biggest back, but he finds a way to get the job done when it matters most. The Wildcats defense surrendered a lot of points but that could be attributed to a handful of big plays. Ifeadi Odenigbo led the way with two of the team’s four sacks and continues to be a force. The team still has its eyes set on that West Division title but will need some help.

Purdue Boilermakers 3-3 (1-2)

Someone should have let the Boilermakers know that football is a game of four quarters and not two. In the 49-35 loss to Iowa, it was a stark contrast to the team that came out of the tunnel to start the game versus the one that exited after halftime. Purdue trailed 35-7 after two quarters and looked like it didnt want to play anymore as it allowed multiple big plays by the Iowa offense. Head coach Darrell Hazzell must have had one spirited of a halftime speech because the team outscored the Hawkeyes 28-14 in the last two periods. David Blough had a career day as he passed for 458 yards, five touchdowns and only one interception. Led by Cole Herdman’s seven catches for 104 yards three Purdue receivers had at least 80 yards receiving but it wasnt enough to pull off the comeback. And we later found out that the halftime turnaround wasnt enough to save Hazzell from being fired a few days later. Purdue seemed to never find its footing under the former MAC head coach and now the program is onto another coach.

Wisconsin Badgers 4-2 (1-2)

The Wisconsin Badgers showed the nation how to take down the OSU Buckeyes — have a tough nosed defense and be able to run the ball — it’s just too bad that they weren’t the team to hand them their first loss as they dropped a tough one 30-23 in overtime. After struggling to move the ball against Michigan it seemed as if the Badgers were playing a team with no talent as it rattled off 450 total yards — 236 of that coming from the rush offense. Running back Cory Clement finished the game with 164 yards — tying a career high — but he was unable to get into the endzone. Against the Buckeyes starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook had moments where he looked like an all-big ten quarterback, but he also had moments where he looked like a freshman signal caller as well. Still playing without its defensive leader in Vince Biegel, the defense did not miss a beat as Jack Cichy stepped up and led the team with 15 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and one sack.Even with the loss, the Badgers are looking towards a potential rematch with the two teams they lost to in the conference championship.

Sports Q&A Big 10 Player of the week:

Justin Jackson running back Northwestern

The Wildcats have had some bad losses on the season but they are a good enough team to win a few games in the conference.The best player on the roster is Jackson who has shown the ability to carry the load and not wear down. Against the Spartans Jackson’s 34 carries seemed more appropriate for a back bigger than the 193lb back. If the Wildcats are going to finish the season on a highnote, it will be because they hitched their perverbial wagon to this bigger than life back and he carried them to the promise land

Game of the Week:

Wisconsin vs. Iowa

 The gauntlet continues for the Wisconsin Badgers as they head to Iowa City to face a Hawkeyes team that looks to have found its mojo offensively. The strength of both of these teams are headed for a collision course as the Badgers front seven look to slow down the running back tandem of Wadley and Daniels Jr. The Badgers have showed the ability to slow the best run games in the conference and that continues this week as Iowa struggles to reach the 125 yard plateau as a team and Alex Hornibrook exploits the Iowa defense like he did MSU four weeks ago. Wisconsin 31 Iowa 20 

Week 8 Picks: (Week 7 record: 3-3 )

Michigan over Illinois

Minnesota over Rutgers

Northwestern over Indiana

Nebraska over Purdue

Michigan St. over Maryland

Ohio St. over Penn St.

 

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