Sports Q&A Big Ten Quick Hits: Week 3

Big Ten East Division:

Indiana Hoosiers 1-1 (0-1)

Game canceled due to weather

Maryland Terrapins 2-0 (0-0)

no game scheduled

Michigan Wolverines 3-0 (0-0)

Different week… the same situation. A strong defensive performance once again carries the Wolverines as it defeated the Air Force Falcons 29-13. This week the Michigan offense continued to struggle within the red zone as it had multiple opportunities on Saturday but came up empty. The lone offensive touchdown came on a 36-yard touchdown by running back Karan Higdon when the game was already decided. Quarterback Wilton Speight still has not found his mojo and now will be without his favorite receiver freshman, Tarik Black, who broke his foot and will be out for the remainder of the year. Fellow freshman receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones already made an impact on the team — a 79-yard punt return for a touchdown — but will be expected to step up his game as a receiver. Devin Bush continues to impose his will as a linebacker with another double-digit tackle game (11) and one sack. Some are hoping that head coach Jim Harbaugh unleashes the real Wolverines offense as conference play starts this week if not, it could be a disappointing season for the Maize and Blue.

Michigan St. Spartans 2-0 (0-0) 

no game scheduled this week

Ohio St. Buckeyes 2-1 (1-0) 

OSU fans should be able to breathe a sigh of relief after the 38-7 win over Army. Led by JT Barrett’s 270 yards and two touchdowns on 25-of-33 attempts, the offense finally looked to have continuity and flow. Seven receivers caught passes and J.K Dobbins seems to solidify himself as the lead back with a 172-yard performance on only 13 carries. Any other week, you might be worried about the defense not having any sacks but Army is a run-first team that only had eight passing attempts on the afternoon so I wouldn’t be too concerned. Linebacker Tuff Boreland led the way with 12 tackles and Kendell Sheffield had a fumble recovery for a defense that surrendered 259 yards rushing.  The Buckeyes still have a few weeks before they are really tested so the only thing OSU fans can hope for is to avoid any major injuries during this stretch of cupcake games.JT Barrett’s 270 yards and two touchdowns on 25-of-33 attempts, the offense finally looked to have continuity and flow. Seven receivers caught passes and running back J.K Dobbins seems to solidify himself as the lead back with a 172-yard performance on only 13 carries. Any other week, you might be worried about the defense not having any sacks but Army is a run-first team that only had eight passing attempts on the afternoon so I wouldn’t be too concerned. Linebacker Tuff Boreland led the way with 12 tackles and Kendell Sheffield had a fumble recovery for a defense that surrendered 259 yards rushing. The Buckeyes still have a few weeks before they are really tested so the only thing OSU fans can hope for is to avoid any major injuries during this stretch of cupcake games.

Penn State Nittany Lions 3-0 (0-0)

Most of the season it has been the Saquon Barkley show for the Nittany Lions but the 59-0 win over Georgia St. allowed quarterback Trace McSorley to showcase his skills passing for 309 yards and four touchdowns. There were questions about McSorley’s ability to lead the team with his arm and against Georgia St. he proved his naysayers wrong. While Barkley may have had an atypical day rushing the ball — only 42 yards on 10 carries — he proved that he was a capable receiver as he caught four balls for 142 yards. If teams now have to worry about him out of the backfield, it makes the Nittany Lions offense that much more dangerous. Daniel Joseph had 1.5 sacks and led a PSU defense to its second shutout of the season. As with most teams, the non-conference schedule has proven to be softer than expected and we should get a better gauge of the team as it faces its toughest opponent this week.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights 1-2 (0-0)

Nothing helps a struggling team more than facing an FCS team. Rutgers took out its frustrations of losing a winnable game the week before on the lowly Morgan St. Bears to the tune of a 65-0 beatdown. Offensively, the Scarlet Knights may have found a new offensive star in freshman quarterback Jonathan Lewis; who made the most of his limited opportunities. Not only did one of his two passes go for a touchdown but in the 11 carries, he had as a runner FOUR went for touchdowns. You have to consider the opponent but for a team that has looked for a spark at that position, it has to be a promising situation for head coach Chris Ash. Freshman running back Raheem Blackshear also had his coming out party in the victory as he rushed for 102 of the team’s 326 total rushing yards. Not wanting to be outdone by the offense, freshman linebacker Tyshon Fogg and defensive back Jonathan Lewis; who made the most of his limited opportunities. Not only did one of his two passes go for a touchdown but FOUR of his eleven rushes went for touchdowns. You have to consider the opponent but for a team that has looked for a spark at that position, it has to be a promising situation for head coach Chris Ash. Freshman running back Raheem Blackshear also had his coming out party in the victory as he rushed for 102 of the team’s 326 total rushing yards. Not wanting to be outdone by the offense, freshman linebacker Tyshon Fogg and defensive back Kly Hester collected their first interceptions of their careers. Rebuilding a program is a tough undertaking maybe Coach Ash figures that if you’re going to be a bad team, you might as well be bad with the younger guys getting experience.

Big Ten West Division:

Illinois Fighting Illini 2-1 (0-0)

In the wake of the 47-23 loss to South Florida, Illinois head coach Lovie Smith has to realize that the team still has a long way to go before it’s competitive in the Big Ten and nationally. The upset over Western Kentucky was a band-aid that was quickly ripped off against the Bulls. Offensively Illinois has yet to find stability at the quarterback position as both Chayse Crouch and Jeff George Jr. struggled on Saturday. After going 8-for-18 for only 76 yards and an interception, Crouch was pulled for George Jr. who went on to pass for 211 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. The staff is trying to find the lesser of the two evils at the position and right now both are equally bad. Running back Mike Epstein had another productive day — eight carries for 56 yards — unfortunately, Illinois was playing catch-up all afternoon and had to ditch the running game. For him to be a defensive coach it has to be offensive for Coach Smith to see the defense play so poorly. Not only did it surrender 376 yards rushing — USF had three one-hundred-yard rushers — but it allowed USF quarterback Quinton Flowers to have a great game.

Iowa Hawkeyes 3-0 (0-0)

This had the makings of a trap game as North Texas held a 14-10 halftime lead, but the faster, stronger, better coached Iowa team eventually took control on its way to a 31-14 victory. Even after Akrum Wadley went down with a leg injury, the Hawkeyes offense continued to run the ball and finished the game with 238 yards. Toren Young (19 carries, 78 yards) and Ivory Kelly-Martin (11 carries, 74 yards) add depth to an already strong position group and probably will be called on more as the season progresses. Because of the strong rushing attack, quarterback Nathan Stanley was able to fly under the radar and finished the day with 197 yards and two touchdowns. The Hawkeyes defense did a great job containing a strong North Texas rush attack limiting it to 112 yards while forcing two turnovers. The health of Wadley heading into this week’s game against PSU will be key but unlike last year, Iowa will be the team primed for an upset.

Minnesota Golden Gophers 2-0 (0-0)

The Gophers defeated Middle Tennessee St. in dominating fashion 34-3 and continues to show why it could be a darkhorse candidate for the Big Ten West Division. Without Shannon Brooks — who was injured during the Oregon St. game — Minnesota still found a way to have two 100-yard rushers in Rodney Smith (16 carries, 107 yards) and Kobe McCray (23 carries, 107 yards, three touchdowns.) Defensively the Gophers did a great job limiting the run as it only allowed 46 yards and it forced two interceptions in the process — including a 67-yard interception return for a touchdown by Jacob Huff. Coach PJ Fleck may not like the fact that the defense only had one sack but the potential for pressure is there up front.

Nebraska Cornhuskers 1-1 (0-0)

Last week it was the defense, this week it was the offense that cost the Cornhuskers in the 21-17 loss to the Northern Illinois Huskies. Quarterback Tanner Lee transferred to Nebraska with hopes of a renewed career but it seems as if he still is a victim of his own habits. On Saturday he had two costly interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. Lee had another interception late in the fourth quarter which ended the comeback and despite throwing for 299 yards, it seems as if Lee may not be the answer at quarterback. Head coach Mike Riley did his best to not Rely on the struggling Lee — running back Mikale Wilbon rushed for 90 yards on 23 carries — but with the offense forced into constant third-and-long situations Lee had to do something and it backfired. The defense did its best to limit the NIU offense — only 213 total yards allowed and three third-down conversions allowed in 13 attempts — but eventually the floodgates opened and the Huskers allowed a six-play 75-yard touchdown drive that was the last score of the afternoon. The heat is on for Coach Riley and it is not much he can do to put out the fire.

Northwestern Wildcats 1-1 (0-0)

After a poor showing against Duke, the Wildcats bounced by with a great offensive performance in the 49-7 win over Bowling Green. Quarterback Clayton Thorson passed for 370 yards and two touchdowns while running back Justin Jackson looked like the all-conference running back that many expected him to be as he rushed for 121 yards and three touchdowns. It may not be a top-flight opponent but it’s good to see the offense operating at a level that many expected at the start of the season. The offense still may have its own share of issues but if the offensive line can play as well as it did Saturday, it’s a start in the right direction. True freshman linebacker Paddy Fisher continues to channel his inner Pat Fitzgerald and led the team in tackles with seven.

Purdue Boilermakers 1-1 (0-1)

It normally takes a coach a while to get his signature win, but Jeff Brohm got his three weeks into his tenure as Purdue coach as the Boilermakers easily defeated the Missouri Tigers 35-3. Using a two-quarterback system David Blough and Elijah Sindelar combined for 272 yards and two touchdowns. The two completed passes to 12 different Purdue players — a testament to the high-powered offense that Brohm is instituting in West Lafayette, IN — with receiver Jackson Anthrop being the favorite target catching six passes for 36 yards. It may not have been overpowering but the Purdue defense did a great job limiting Missouri to 203 yards and forcing three turnovers. Senior linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley led the way with eight tackles and was integral in limiting Missouri to 70 yards on 24 carries. Coach Brohm has done a great job installing his system at Purdue but things are expected to get a little tougher as conference play opens this week.

Wisconsin Badgers 2-0 (0-0)

The Badgers handled its first road game in style with the 40-6 win over BYU. With the Cougars focused on slowing down running back Jonathan Taylor— which it didn’t do a good job of; he ran for 128 yards on 18 carries — quarterback Alex Hornibrook had his best performance as the Wisconsin quarterback completing 18-of-19 passes for 256 yards and four touchdowns. Linebacker TJ Edwards and cornerback Dontye Carriere-Williams each had interceptions for a Badgers defense that limited BYU to only 192 total yards. With conference play on the horizon, there may not be a better playing team in the Big Ten than the Badgers and it will be exciting to see how they fare against better competition.

 

Sports Q&A Big 10 Player of the week:

Alex Hornibrook-QB Wisconsin: For a second week, another Badgers player is the player of the week. Hornibrook is growing into the quarterback that many Wisconsin players have been hoping for since Russell Wilson made a pit stop in Madison, WI a few years back. If Hornibrook can continue to play at this high of a level there aren’t too many teams in the country — let alone the Big Ten — that will be able to hang with the balanced Badgers offense.

 

Game of the Week:

Penn St. vs Iowa 

Penn St. heads to Iowa City, IA to face the Hawkeyes in the first primetime conference game of the season. Both offenses have shown the ability to move the ball through the air and the ground, so the outcome may be decided by the team that can slow down the other the most. Penn St. fans spent most of last season speaking highly of the defensive players that were hurt in the losses to Michigan and Pitt, but now with that side of the ball relatively healthy, here is an opportunity to show how complete of a team the Nittany Lions really are. Saquon Barkley solidifies his place as a Heisman candidate with a great game and Penn St. escapes with the victory. Penn St. 30 Iowa 24

Week 3 Picks: (Week 2 record: 8-6)

UCF over Maryland (upset of the week)

Michigan over Purdue

Ohio St. over UNLV

Nebraska over Rutgers

Indiana over Georgia Southern

Notre Dame over Michigan St.

 

BYE WEEK: Northwestern, Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin

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