Sports Q&A Big Ten Quick Hits: Week 7

Big Ten East Division:

Indiana Hoosiers 3-3 (0-3)

The conference woes continue for the Hoosiers as they lost in overtime to the Michigan Wolverines 27-20. In the loss, they may have found their quarterback of the future with Peyton Ramsey. Ramsey’s numbers may not look impressive( 20-of-41 for 178 yards and one touchdown, but he made some good decisions and got the ball to the Hoosiers break out receiver Luke Timian numerous times. The tough start to conference play continues this weekend against MSU. If anything the team will be battled tested by the time the schedule loosens up.

Maryland Terrapins 3-3 (1-2)

The 37-21 loss to the Northwestern Wildcats is a perfect example of your good not being good enough. Looking at the stat sheet, the Terrapins had one of its most productive games on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Max Bortenschlager passed for 255 yards and three touchdowns, wide receiver DJ Moore caught 12 balls for 210 yards and two touchdowns and the defense forced two interceptions but the team still lost by 16 points. There are no moral victories in losses but head coach DJ Durkin has to see this game as a positive considering all that has happened during the year.

Michigan Wolverines 5-1 (2-1)

The passing game continues to be a problem for the Wolverines but they found a way to get it done in the 27-20 win over the Indiana Hoosiers. John O’Korn completed 50% of his passes for only 58 yards but he wasn’t needed as much as running back Karan Higdon rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries. Another point of concern for Michigan fans was the 16 penalties. That has to be cleaned up because the offense isn’t good enough to play behind the yardsticks.

Michigan St. Spartans 5-1 (3-0) 

It was a tale of two halves in the 30-27 victory over the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The first half resembled the MSU team that dominated the Big 10 from 2007 until 2015 but the second half was full of mistakes and it seemed as if the 2016 team was going to resurface. MSU will live and die by its run game and on Saturday it lived a great life as LJ Scott rushed for 194 yards and two touchdowns.  Spartans fans have to breathe a sigh of relief for having multiple options in the backfield because this is the second straight game that quarterback Brian Lewerke looked average. The defense has to fix some things because there is no reason why that unit should allow 21 points in a quarter.

Ohio St. Buckeyes 6-1 (3-0) 

If Ohio State continues to play this well, Buckeyes fans can punch their tickets for Indianapolis and the college football playoff… but we know they wont. The biggest frustration coming out of the 56-14 victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers is the fact that Ohio State struggles to keep up this high level of play against real competition — and no Nebraska isn’t a good team. Quarterback JT Barrett continues to pad his stats, 325 yards and five touchdowns in the air but I need to see him do it against a defense with a pulse. Runningback JK Dobbins (12 carries, 102 yards, one touchdown) continues to be the second-best freshman in the conference (behind Wisconsin’s Johnathan Taylor) and is Mike Weber (18 carries, 82 yards) finally out of Urban Meyer’s doghouse? OSU’s defense has played well all year but the lack of a sack and allowing Tanner Lee to pass for over 300 yards without a turnover has to raise some eyebrows in Columbus, OH.

Penn State Nittany Lions 6-0 (3-0)

No game scheduled

Rutgers Scarlet Knights 2-4 (1-2)

The Scarlet Knights rushed its way to a 35-24 win over the Illinois Fighting Illini on Saturday. With uncertainty at the quarterback position, both Giovanni Rescigno and Kyle Bolin played, head coach Chris Ashe decided to let the backs shoulder the load and it worked. Gus Edwards (21 carries, 91 yards, two touchdowns) and Raheem Blackshear (six carries, 87 yards) led the way and this should be the way how the offense operates moving forward.  Jawuan Harris had 11 tackles and forced one of the three turnovers. There’s still a long way to go before we can start talking about bowl games but this is a step in the right direction for a team that hasnt won a conference game since 2015.

 

Big Ten West Division:

Illinois Fighting Illini 2-4 (0-3)

The struggles continue for the Fighting Illini and they may have hit rock bottom after losing to the lowly Rutgers Scarlet Knights 35-24 at home. This was a total team loss as both sides of the ball struggled to do anything worth a damn. Quarterback Jeff George Jr. passed for 308 yards and two touchdowns but also had two interceptions. Running back Mike Epstein went down with a season-ending injury and Ra’Von Bonner did his best in relief but there is a big gap between the two in talent at this stage. A defense that was already struggling got worse as it lost linebackers Tre Watson and Dele Harding to injuries. This is a crossroad moment for head coach Lovie Smith and there doesn’t look like another winnable game on the schedule.

Iowa Hawkeyes 4-2 (1-2)

no game scheduled

Minnesota Golden Gophers 3-3 (0-3)

Do the Gophers have a quarterback controversy? Despite losing to the Michigan St. Spartans 30-23 head coach PJ Fleck has to see the good that came from the game. Quarterback Conor Rhoda struggled early on and was replaced by Demry Croft who provided an instant spark. Croft, a sophomore from Illinois, came in and passed for 163 yards and three touchdowns in relief. My biggest question with the offense is where was Shannon Brooks and Rodney Smith? The talented running back duo combined for 51 yards on only 17 carries and because of the struggles at the quarterback position, you would expect more from those two. Led by linebacker Thomas Barber’s 16 tackles and one forced fumble, the defense had its moments but couldn’t slow down the MSU offense enough to pull off the upset.

Nebraska Cornhuskers 3-4 (2-2)

The lopsided 56-14 loss to Nebraska has to be frustrating for Cornhuskers fans but there were some positive takeaways in the victory. One has to be the improving play of quarterback Tanner Lee. It was the first 300+ yard game for the Tulane transfer. Not only did he look more comfortable in the pocket but he may have found a new favorite receiver. With the focus being on Stanley Morgan Jr., JD Spielman took advantage and caught 11 balls for 200 yards. The defense continues to show me why I refuse to give it back the moniker of the “black shirts.” The defense struggled to stop Ohio St all evening and luckily for fans they won’t face another offense this good the rest of the season.

Northwestern Wildcats 3-3 (1-2)

It’s no coincidence that the first conference game that running back Justin Jackson rushes for over 100 yards, the Wildcats win. Jackson’s 171 yards on 28 carries in the 37-21 win over the Maryland Terrapins proves that he needs to be the focal point of the Northwestern offense moving forward. So what defenses are keying him… give him the ball. After two turnover-filled games, Northwestern fans have to be losing confidence in quarterback Clayton Thorson. His 293 yards were impressive but there is no reason why he should be throwing the ball FORTY-NINE times — especially when the Wildcats led from the beginning to the end of the game. Against a team known for turning over the ball, one has to expect at least one turnover from the Northwestern defense, but not the case on Saturday.

Purdue Boilermakers 3-3 (1-2)

The Boilermakers continue to be a work in process but despite losing to the Wisconsin Badgers 17-9 took a step in the right direction. This was the first game that head coach Jeff Brohm did not rotate quarterbacks and it gave Elijah Sindelar (13-of-29, 155 yards, one interception) an opportunity to find some continuity in the pocket. His numbers may not look like a winner but the more he sticks it out the better things will be for him. His growth could be helped by a bigger commitment to the run game. there is no reason why DJ Knox and Markell Jones combine to rush for 51 yards on only 15 carries. Linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley is starting to become one of the better linebackers in the conference and finished the game with 12 tackles.

Wisconsin Badgers 6-0 (3-0)

Johnathan Taylor is beastly. The talented freshman had one touchdown to go along with 219 yards — his second 200+ yard game of the season — in the 17-9 victory over the Purdue Boilermakers. Good thing Taylor played well because the rest of the Badgers offense seemed sluggish. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook was meh on the afternoon (199 yards passing, one touchdown but two interceptions) and has to be glad that he can hand the ball off to Taylor when he has days like this. The Wisconsin defense also did a good job of holding the fort sacking the Purdue quarterback three times and allowing only 221 total yards. Looking at the rest of the schedule the Badgers should be on cruise control until the second weekend of November.

 

Sports Q&A Big 10 Player of the week: 

Kran Higdon-RB: Michigan

With the offense struggling as bad as it has this season, the Wolverines needed someone to take the bull by the horn and win the game and thats exactly what Higdon did Saturday. Someone will look at the 200 yards and think that was impressive, which it was, but Higdon earned brownie points with Michigan fans by being able to grind out tough yards to continue drives when the Indiana defense knew he was going to get the ball. It helped to finally see a U-M back that was able to make the first guy miss.

Game of the Week

Michigan vs. Penn St.

  Because of its inconsistency on the offensive side of the ball, no one is giving the Wolverines a chance against the No. 2 ranked team in the nation and I don’t blame them. Michigan’s defense is good enough to slow down Saquon Barkley — meaning holding him to less than 100 yards — but I do not see the Wolverines offense being able to generate enough through the air to keep up with Trace McSorley. The whiteout overtakes the Wolverines. Penn St. 24 Michigan 13

 

Week 7 Picks: (Week 6 record 5-1)

 

Wisconsin over Maryland

Iowa over Northwestern

Purdue over Rutgers

Michigan St. over Indiana

Minnesota over Illinois

BYE WEEK: Ohio St, Nebraska

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