Sports Q&A Big Ten Quick Hits: Week 9

Jabrill Peppers Heisman Hopeful Sports Q&A

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

 

Big Ten East Division:

Indiana Hoosiers 4-4 (2-3)

Looking for an offensive boost head coach Kevin Wilson went to the two-quarterback system of Richard Lagow and Zander Diamont to pull off the 42-36 win over the Maryland Terrapins. Lagow was the primary passer in the offense and completed 16-of-25 yards for 205 yards but lining Diamont up as the quarterback allowed a unique advantage as he rushed for 104 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. Putting a larger premium on the rushing attack Devine Redding and Tyler Natee ran wild for 130 and 111 yards respectively. On the day the team rushed for a season-high 414 yards and with this success you would think that this becomes a focal point of the Hoosiers offense rather than risk having Lagow pass the ball 30+ times a game. As good as the Hoosiers offense was, the defense had its struggles. It allowed over 500 total yards almost gave the game away when it was flagged with a roughing the passer penalty with 1 second remaining in the game with Maryland on the ten-yard line.

Maryland Terrapins 5-3 (2-3)

When you are a successful rushing team it has to be frustrating to watch your defense not be able to stop the run and that’s exactly what happened as the Terrapins lost to the Indiana Hoosiers 42-36. If you were to tell Maryland fans that the team would rush for 269 yards, it would be safe to assume that the team won fairly easy, but not so when you have a defense surrendering 414 rushing yards. Ty Johnson (142 yards on 13 carries) and Lorenzo Harrison (17 carries for 73 yards) did what they could to control the clock but two turnovers by quarterback Perry Hills (22-of-33 for 248 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, and one fumble) proved to be costly in the end — especially when the defense isn’t forcing any turnovers themselves. This has been a productive turnaround season for head coach DJ Durkin and the Maryland program but in order elevate itself into the upper tier of the Big Ten, the team must do better with protecting the ball

Michigan Wolverines 8-0 (5-0)

It wasn’t the dominating blowout that many — including myself — expected but the Wolverines made it out of East Lansing with a 32-23 win over the Michigan St. Spartans nonetheless. After jumping out to a commanding 27-10 halftime lead, it seemed as if the team lost focus which allowed MSU to make the score closer than what it appeared. Led by Wilton Speight’s 244 yards on 16-of-attempts, the Michigan offense exerted its will scoring on the first four drives of the game. Senior receiver Amara Darboh was his favorite target on the afternoon as he finished the game with 165 yards on eight catches and seemed to always find an open crease in the MSU defense. The defense still had issues applying pressure to the MSU quarterbacks and only finished with two sacks and seven tackles for losses but when the team needed a stop the unit found a way to get it done. Heisman hopeful Jabrill Peppers made an impact in the game as he finished with seven tackles, one sack, one rushing touchdown and a two-point conversion return at the end of the game. It wasn’t a pretty victory but it was much needed as the Wolverines look swing the pendulum back towards its way in this one-sided rivalry.

Michigan St. Spartans 2-6 (0-5) 

Where has this effort been the past five weeks?  Despite losing to the Michigan Wolverines 32-23, MSU fans witnessed something that it hadn’t seen out of its team in weeks… FIGHT. Taking the opening drive down the field for a touchdown it seemed as if the old Michigan St. fight had returned but the momentum dissipated and the struggles returned. Inconsistency at quarterback continues to plague the Spartans as Tyler O’Connor struggled to generate any offense. Damion Terry replaced O’Connor but didn’t last long and suffered an injury — which actually served as a blessing for the offense — as Brian Lewerke replaced him and led the team in passing with 100 yards and a touchdown. Many are still wondering why MSU head coach Mark Dantonio did not start Lewerke, but you have to think it was a good reason. Defensively the team continues to struggle to apply pressure to the opposing quarterback and did not generate a sack. The highlight of the afternoon was an interception by cornerback Darian Hicks who did a great job baiting the Michigan quarterback into a bad throw. At some point, the Spartans have to end the streak and luckily for the fans the next couple of games are against teams worse off than their beleaguered Spartans.

Ohio St. Buckeyes 7-1 (4-1) 

Is it the level of competition or the fact that the Buckeyes aren’t as great as many believe them to be. Whatever it is, the 24-20 win over the Northwestern Wildcats put Buckeye nation on notice that something is quite right in Columbus. For the first time in 14 games, JT Barrett did not have a touchdown and struggled with passing the ball down the field as he didn’t complete a pass over 19-yards until the fourth quarter. Fortunately for the Buckeyes running backs Curtis Samuel and Mike Weber continue to shine. The duo picked up the touchdown slack as Weber contributed two on his way to 87 yards rushing on 14 carries and Samuel had one to go along with 99 total yards of offense. Safety Malik Hooker continues to lead the defense and he finished with 14 tackles and 1/2 tackle for loss. College football is a grind and it’s tough to maintain 100% effectiveness but the sluggishness from OSU has been lingering over the past three weeks so when do we admit that this is who the team really is?

Penn State Nittany Lions 6-2 (4-1)

In the first half, it looked as if the Nittany Lions were still celebrating the win over OSU last weekend but the team came out with more energy in the second half and finished strong with the 62-24 drubbing of the Purdue Boilermakers.Scoring on seven of its final eight drives Penn St gave a glimpse to the Big Ten how potent this team can be when healthy. Saquon Barkley is easily the best running back in the conference and showed again Saturday as he rushed for 201 yards on 18 carries. It was the second 200+ yard game for the sophomore running back and with him leading the way running the ball, quarterback Trace McSorley is finding things a lot easier as a passer. Even though he only passed for 223 yards, McSorley had three passing touchdowns and no turnovers — key for a young quarterback. The defense took advantage of Purdue’s history of turning the ball over as linebacker Brandon Smith and cornerback Christian Campbell both had interceptions and the team forced two fumbles as well. Penn St. has made a rise in the polls but with only one remaining opportunity for a quality win, will it be enough to sneak them into the college football playoffs… maybe not but that still won’t diminish a great season that the team is having.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights 2-5 (0-5)

no game scheduled

Big Ten West Division:

Illinois Fighting Illini 2-6 (1-4)

Still forced to rely on its third-string quarterback the Fighting Illini were not much of a match in the 40-17 loss to the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Saturday. With Wes Lunt still unavailable and Chayse Crouch ruled out for the season due to shoulder surgery, Jeff George Jr. was called on again to start for Illinois and this time he performed better than his opening start. Completing 16-of-34 passes for 156 yards and one touchdown George Jr. showed the arm strength to fight through the windy weather to connect with his Illinois receivers. Unfortunately, he struggled with holding onto the ball as he fumbled four times — losing two — which put the team at a major disadvantage all afternoon. Normally a strong unit, the Illini rushing attack provided no support for the young quarterback as the team only rushed for 89 yards on 34 carries. Reggie Corbin led the way with 83 but when the sack yardage was subtracted it diminished the gains of him as well as Kendrick Foster (seven carries for 21 yards) and Ke’Shawn Vaughn (seven carries for 34 yards.) The Illinois defense did what it could by limiting the Minnesota offense to only 283 total yards and 15 first downs, but when your offense is just as anemic, not even an eight tackle and one sack performance by defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot could lead your team to victory.

Iowa Hawkeyes 5-3 (3-2)

no game scheduled

Minnesota Golden Gophers 6-2 (3-2)

On a windy day like it was in Minneapolis — 20 MPH gusts — it helps to have a dominant running game and a team that likes to turn the ball over. Those two variables led to the Gophers easily defeating the Illinois Fighting Illini 40-17 to become bowl eligible on the season. With Mitch Leidner struggling to connect with the Minnesota receivers — he only attempted 19 passes on the afternoon — running back Rodney Smith led the team to the victory with 20 carries for 100 yards and two touchdowns. Shannon Brooks and Kobe McCrary also contributed 73 yards and two touchdowns making it easier for the team to find other ways to move the ball. While he did have one fumble recovery, it has to be concerning that Antoine Winfield Jr. led the team in tackles with seven.

Nebraska Cornhuskers 7-1 (4-1)

As Tommy Armstrong Jr. goes, so does the Nebraska Cornhuskers and in the 23-17 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers, Armstrong Jr. went far left as he completed only 12-of-31 passes for 153 yards and two interceptions. Normally when you have questionable quarterback play, teams tend to rely on their running game for a lift and that’s what head coach Mike Riley and his staff did as six Nebraska players ran the ball 44 times — it just wasn’t enough to get the win. Terrell Newby finished the day with 77 yards on 17 carries but struggled to find the rhythm most backs need to have a sustained impact in the game. Defensively the Cornhuskers did what they had to in order to make the game competitive as that side of the ball forced Wisconsin into four empty drives in the second half. The blackshirts, specifically safety Nathan Gerry (seven tackles and two interceptions), did its part to win but until the offense finds a way of not turning the ball over in key moments, the team will continue to fall short of expectations.

Northwestern Wildcats 4-4 (3-2)

Record does not always reflect quality and for the Wildcats that is true after the 24-20 loss to the Ohio St. Buckeyes. Two unforseen losses in the non-conference have put the Wildcats at .500 but after seeing this team compete with one of the best in the nation, obvservers realize that this is a quality program. Wide receiver Austin Carr continued to prove why he could be considered one of the best receivers in the nation as he had eight catches for 158 yards. Despite the Buckeyes gameplanning for the senior receiver, there was nothing the defense could do to slow him down. In addition to Carr playing well Justin Jackson finished the day with 17 carries for 76 yards and 4.5 ypc average shows that he should have been getting the ball a lot more in such a pivotal game. Godwin Igwebuike and Anthony Walker Jr. led a defense that held the Buckeys to seven points in the second half. This was a tough loss for the Wildcats but the team still should be able to bounce back and finish strong

Purdue Boilermakers 3-5 (1-4)

The Boilermakers once again played well for half of the game but were unable to sustain it as they loset 62-24 to the Penn St. Nittany Lions. It was a tale of two halves as Purdue started off well, scoring on three of its first four drives but just as well as the first half went the second half went that bad. The team only scored on one of its eight drives in the second half which also included four turnovers. Two of those mishaps came from quarterback David Blough who finished the day with 281 yards on 34-of-50 attempts and two touchdowns. As said before, Blough has the potential to be a very good quarterback in the Big Ten but he struggles with not turning the ball over — on the season he has 12 interceptions. The lack of a consistent run game isnt helping the young quarterback either. As a team Purdue rushed for only 46 yards on 26 carries — Markel Jones had 46 yards on 7 carries by himself — as most of the yards gained were subtracted due to sack yardage. When your offense is struggling you have to over-rely on your defense to make plays and against PSU it didnt happen. The Purdue defense had zero turnovers and only one sack on the day. The team plays hard in spurts but it just doesnt have enough talent to go to the next level… maybe the next coach can rectify that problem through recruiting.

Wisconsin Badgers 6-2 (3-2)

Wisconsin continued to stake its claim as the best two-loss team in the country as it defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers 23-17 in overtime on Saturday evening.  For the second consecutive week, head coach Paul Chryst used the two-quarterback system of Alex Hornibrook and Bart Houston. This week it wasnt as successful as Houston came in and had one of the team’s two turnovers, but thought of having to prepare for two quarterbacks makes it difficult for any team to prepare for. With the passing offense struggling, this was a game that the running backs stepped to the forefront as Dare Ogunbowale and Corey Clement combined for 202 yards on 30 carries. One thing about this Badgers defense is that when one guy goes down another steps up. Linebackers Leon James and Ryan Connelly led the way with 11 tackles each as both have been called on to expand their role with the injury to Jack Cichy.

Sports Q&A Big 10 Player of the week:

Jabrill Peppers linebacker Michigan: Peppers continues to stay around the ball and in a key game against MSU he made his presence felt by scoring on offense and on defense. The redshirt sophomore is climbing up the list of many Heisman voting list and if he can continue to make an impact like he did on Saturday, he will be receiving an invite to New York in December

 

Game of the Week:

Iowa vs. Penn St.

Both teams have a lot to prove coming into this game. For the Hawkeyes, the team has to show the conference that they still are a player in the West Division despite losing to Wisconsin two weeks ago. For Penn St. everyone wants to see if the Nittany Lions are legit or did the team ride the wave of the white out to an upset victory over OSU two weeks ago. Penn St .will be tested by Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels Jr. but if they can force CJ Beathard to beat them, it could be a joyous evening in Happy Valley. Trace McSorley does enough to keep the up-and-down Iowa defense honest as Saquon Barkley runs wild for another week. Penn St. 38 Iowa 27 

Week 10 Picks: (Week 9 record: 5-1)

Michigan over Maryland

Michigan St. over Illinois

Indiana over Rutgers

Wisconsin over Northwestern

Minnesota over Purdue

Ohio St. over Nebraska

 

Sports Q&A Power Rankings 

  1. Michigan Wolverines
  2. Ohio St. Buckeyes
  3. Wisconsin Badgers
  4. Penn St. Nittany Lions
  5. Nebraska Cornhuskers
  6. Northwestern Wildcats
  7. Iowa Hawkeyes
  8. Minnesota Golden Gophers
  9. Indiana Hoosiers
  10. Maryland Terrapins
  11. Michigan St. Spartans
  12. Illinois Fighting Illini
  13. Purdue Boilermakers
  14. Rutgers Scarlet Knights 

 

 

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