Sports Q&A Big Ten Quick Hits: Week 8

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Big Ten East Division:

Indiana Hoosiers 3-4 (0-4)

The string of tough conference losses piled up as the Hoosiers lost to the Michigan St. Spartans 17-9. For three quarters it looked as if the Hoosiers would steal its first conference win but the Indiana failed to take advantage of opportunities and had to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns… and it cost them. Quarterback Peyton Ramsey completed 22 passes but only threw for 158 yards. Indiana has to take advantage of the wide receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr. and Luke Timian. Defensively linebacker Chris Covington played well, but the team needs at least 2-3 more of him if they expect to become real contenders in the East Division.

Maryland Terrapins 3-4 (1-3)

Already facing an uphill battle, the Terrapins got off to a bad start — a 54-yard interception return for a touchdown — and the team never was able to recover in the 38-18 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers. Even in defeat, the offense ran the ball well — Ty Johnson 83 yards and Lorenzo Harrison 64 — but its hard to run the ball when you are down 25 points. The defense even forced two turnovers but it still wasn’t enough. Head coach DJ Durkin still has to figure some things out offensively but Maryland fans have to be excited about the direction of the program.

Michigan Wolverines 5-2 (2-2)

The problems for the Wolverines all came to a head in the 42-13 beatdown at the hands of the Penn St. Nittany Lions. The offensive struggles have been well documented but on Saturday night the defense was exposed as well. The defense thrives on pressuring the quarterback and unfortunately against PSU that means one-on-one coverage for the corners and linebackers. Mike McCray for some reason was asked to cover Saquon Barkley in pass defense and that didn’t end well. Despite not throwing a touchdown John O’Korn was ok statistically — 16-of-28 for 166 yards — but that shows how far the offense has fallen off when you are excited for those type of numbers.

Michigan St. Spartans 6-1 (4-0) 

For three quarters it looked as if the Spartans would suffer its first conference loss of the season but quarterback Brian Lewerke connected with receiver Felton Davis III for a 10-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter. The offense only managed 274 total yards but the defense held the fort by only allowing 252 total yards and three field goals.True freshman receiver Cody White came on big and caught six passes for 99 yards. That unit has potential to be dominant but Lewerke has to be better as a quarterback.

Ohio St. Buckeyes 6-1 (3-0) 

no game scheduled

Penn State Nittany Lions 7-0 (4-0)

The Nittany Lions exerted its will in the 42-13 win over the Michigan Wolverines in all three phases of the game and look like a serious championship contender. Running back Saquon Barkley took the first step to having his name etched on that Heisman Trophy as he rushed for 108 yards, caught three balls for 53 yards and had three total touchdowns. Michigan’s defense had all the hype but it was the Nittany Lions defense that dominated as it finished the game with seven sacks and recovered one fumble. This domination has to be gratifying for PSU fans who were wallowing from last years butt whooping.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights 3-4 (2-2)

The word for the day is TWO. Two big offensive plays — a 74-yard touchdown run by Gus Edwards and a 35-yard touchdown pass from Gio Rescigno to Raheem Blackshear — and two forced turnovers led to the Scarlet Knights two consecutive wins in conference play, a 14-12 win over the Purdue Boilermakers. This is definitely a situation where the numbers lie as Rutgers lost every statistical category except the most important one, the final score. There still is a lot to work on in Piscataway, NJ but it has to be satisfying to see the growth of the program under head coach Chris Ashe.

 

Big Ten West Division:

Illinois Fighting Illini 2-5 (0-4)

After the tough 24-17 loss, the Fighting Illini are still looking for its first conference win in 2017. Head coach Lovie Smith is on his third quarterback, Cam Thomas, and saw mixed results on Saturday. Thomas is a dual-threat option who rushed for 79 yards but also threw a costly interception. Being one of the youngest teams in college football is proving to be tougher than many expected in Champaign, IL but you have to hope that fans and those in charge have patience with Smith and his staff because the talent is there. Cornerback Stanley Green and Cameron Watkins are part of that youth movement on the defensive side of the ball and are growing on the job. Both grabbed their first career interceptions against Minnesota and look for more as the season progresses.

Iowa Hawkeyes 4-3 (1-3)

Looking at the stat sheet it’s hard to figure out why the Hawkeyes lost to the Northwestern Wildcats 17-10. 200+ yard passer, 90-yard rusher, and 90-yard receiver all seem like numbers that would result in a victory but not for an Iowa team that has lost two out the last three games. Running back Akrum Wadley is doing the best to lead the team but in years past Iowa had another running back to divide carries with him but not this season. In the few moments he is not carrying the ball — he had 26 versus Northwestern — it seems as if the offense goes stale and cold. Nathan Stanley has potential to be a big-time quarterback but he isn’t that now. The defense was also without its heart and soul as linebacker Josey Jewell missed the divisional match-up with a sore shoulder. Not having him in the lineup hurt an already thin unit.

Minnesota Golden Gophers 4-3 (1-3)

After seeing the offense struggle through the air head coach PJ Fleck turned to the run game to lead the offense, it worked and resulted in the 24-17 win over the Illinois Fighting Illini. 292 total rushing yards, two running backs over 100-yards and renewed confidence in a unit that had been struggling recently. Kobe McCrary led the way with 24 carries for 152 yards and I had been wondering where the senior running back was. The last game he received a lot of carries resulted in a 100-yard game, so why hasn’t he been playing more? The luster of quarterback Demry Croft’s performance versus MSU wore off quickly as he only passed for 47 yards and threw two interceptions. Linebacker Jonathan Celestin was the defensive star as his 31-yard interception return for a touchdown sealed the victory.

Nebraska Cornhuskers 3-4 (2-2)

no game scheduled

Northwestern Wildcats 4-3 (2-2)

The Wildcats finally won a game in which it didn’t play its best. The 17-10 overtime victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes was a slugfest between two evenly matched opponents. I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face but when running back Justin Jackson plays well, the Wildcats normally win. Against the Hawkeyes, the talented back ran for 93 yards on 17 carries which allowed the Northwestern offense to control the ball. Quarterback Clayton Thorson wasn’t great — only 192 yards passing on 21 completions — but he wasn’t bad either. Against teams that are stout against the run, he will have to do more as a thrower and it remains to be seen if he can do that. Sophomore defensive lineman Joe Gaziano had two sacks and will be key to helping the team generate pressure up front.

Purdue Boilermakers 3-4 (1-3)

How do you win just about every statistical category and still lose? Its hard to comprehend but somehow the Boilermakers figured it on losing to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights 14-12. I get that head coach Jeff Brohm is still trying to establish things offensively but you’d think he would have scrapped the two-quarterback system after seeing Elijah Sindelar lead the team to victory by himself last week. NOPE! Coach Brohm went back to the multiple quarterback rotation and you cant tell me it didn’t have an impact on the flow of the offense. Sure Sindelar threw two interceptions but his replacement David Blough didn’t fare much better passing for 57 yards. Even with the inconsistency at quarterback, Coach Brohm may have learned that he has to lean on the run game more. DJ Knox led the way with 84 yards and six other players contributed to 279 yards rushing. Maybe Purdue will learn its lesson this week and focus on running the ball and not play carousel with the quarterbacks.

Wisconsin Badgers 7-0 (4-0)

Wisconsin just continues to roll along. Last weekend the 38-13 victory over the Maryland Terrapins keeps them undefeated and on top of the West Division of the conference. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook took advantage of a Maryland defense focused on stopping fab freshman running back Johnathan Taylor and passed for 225 yards and two touchdowns. As teams focus on stopping Taylor, Hornibrook will have more opportunities like he did Saturday, but will he have the same success. As good as the offense played it was an interception return for a touchdown by linebacker TJ Edwards that set the tone early. The Badgers still have a lot to prove — many look at their schedule with a major side-eye — but all the team can do is handle its business on the field.

 

Sports Q&A Big 10 Player of the week: 

Trace McSorley QB- Penn St.

Last season many only saw McSorley as a jump ball quarterback that took advantage of his big-play receivers. Against the Wolverines, McSorley attacked the Michigan defense every way possible. Not only did he pass for 282 yards but he also rushed for 76 yards and three touchdowns. Much of the attention in Happy Valley, PA has been directed towards Saquon Barkley but you can’t deny the season that McSorley is having.

Game of the Week

Penn St. vs. Ohio St.

The gauntlet continues for Penn St. as it travels to Columbus, OH to face an Ohio St. team looking for revenge. The Nittany Lions did a great job attacking Michigan’s aggressive defense last week, can it do it two weeks in a row? Unlike Michigan, OSU has an offense and I think the fact that the Buckeyes can use its own offense to slow down McSorley and Barkley proves to be the deciding factor. Ohio St. 34 Penn St. 28

 

Week 7 Picks: (Week 6 record 4-2)

Michigan over Rutgers

Wisconsin over Illinois

Michigan St. over Northwestern

Indiana over Maryland

Iowa over Minnesota

 

Nebraska over Purdue

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