Sports Q&A Big Ten Quick Hits: Week 9

Joe Maiorana USA Today Sports

 

Big Ten East Division:

Indiana Hoosiers 3-5 (0-5)

This has to be a frustrating season for the Indiana Hoosiers when you consider all the close losses. You can add another one to the docket as the Hoosiers lost to the Maryland Terrapins 42-39. Because of injury, Indiana had to use both Peyton Ramsey (279 yards, three touchdowns) and Richard Lagow (131 yards, two touchdowns) at quarterback on Saturday. Both played well but the Hoosiers defense couldn’t hold the lead. There is not much solace for an Indiana program that is still searching for its first conference win… maybe it will come sooner than later

Maryland Terrapins 4-4 (2-3)

If you look at only the stat sheet there is nothing that says that Maryland had enough of an advantage to defeat the Indiana Hoosiers except for in one stat and that’s the score — 42-39. Quarterback Max Bortenschlager had his most efficient game as the starting quarterback passing for 171 yards and two touchdowns on 10-of-16 completions. With a talented rush duo of Ty Johnson (13 carries, 91 yards) and Lorenzo Harrison III (12 carries, 66 yards), the expectation for Bortenschlager to carry the team isn’t there, but he has to make plays, and he did versus the Hoosiers. The pass defense needs to be tightened up — it surrendered 410 yards — but this was a much-needed win for a team that had lost its previous three games.

Michigan Wolverines 6-2 (3-2)

The Wolverines used the 35-14 victory over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights to not only get the ugly taste of that Penn St. butt whooping out of its mouth but to also maybe find a new quarterback. After John O’Korn struggled in the first quarter, head coach Jim Harbaugh replaced him with redshirt freshman quarterback Brandon Peters and Peters went on to lead the team to three consecutive scoring drives. Even though Peters finished the game with only 124 yards and one touchdown it was hard to overlook the renewed energy that his teammates and the Wolverines fans felt when he entered the game. Its only one game but if Peters continues to grow as a quarterback, Michigan is in good hands.

Michigan St. Spartans 6-2 (4-1) 

The Spartans lost a 39-31 double overtime thriller to the Northwestern Wildcats, but it should have never gotten to that point. MSU held a 10-0 lead midway through the second quarter and it looked as if it would remain undefeated in conference play but the offense went into a scoring rut. The team amassed 540 total yards — 445 yards courtesy of quarterback Brian Lewerke — but costly mistakes stopped the team from scoring more points in regulation. People will get excited seeing those passing yards but MSU is more effective when it has balance and 95 yards rushing as a team — Lewerke led the team with 30 yards — is not good enough to win in the Big Ten.

Ohio St. Buckeyes 7-1 (4-0) 

For three quarters it seemed as if the Buckeyes were going to suffer a tough home loss but something clicked offensively and OSU stormed back to upset the Penn St. Nittany Lions 39-38. On the arm of JT Barrett (328 yards, four touchdowns) the Buckeyes used three touchdown drives to turn a 15-point deficit into a victory that kept its national championship hopes alive. The defense also did its job by limiting the potent PSU offense to 283 yards and had 13 tackles for loss. If OSU is able to keep this level of play up for the final four regular-season games, there is no reason why they won’t easily win the Big Ten Championship and represent the conference in the CFP… but will they?

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

Up 15 points in the second half, the Penn St. Nittany Lions could sense another big win in the tenure of head coach James Franklin, but something happened and the Nittany Lions were outscored 19-3 by the Ohio St. Buckeyes to lose the first game of the season. Outside of the 97-yard kickoff return, this was the first game that running back Saquon Barkley looked mortal. He finished the game with only 44 yards on 21 carries — 36 of those yards came on one play. The season isn’t over for the Nittany Lions but this has to be a disappointing loss for PSU fans because they had the game in control most of the evening.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights 3-5 (2-3)

The Scarlet Knights went into Ann Arbor, MI looking to pull off an upset over the Michigan Wolverines and despite coming up short in the 35-14 defeat, the team continues to have its moments. Mr. Swiss-Army-Knight receiver Janarion Grant was the leading rusher with 71 yards on five carries — including a 65-yard wildcat run for a touchdown. Not having runningback  Raheem Blacksheer hurt but senior running back Gus Edwards did what he could to punish the Wolverines defenders. He only finished the day with 34 yards, but every yard he made sure to inflict pain on the opposing player. Head coach Chris Ash is still assembling talent but he has a few diamonds in the rough on the roster that will be glad to have stuck it out once things turn around.

 

Big Ten West Division:

Illinois Fighting Illini 2-6 (0-5)

Another conference game, another loss. This time it was a 24-10 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers and as with the previous six losses, this team struggles with overcoming mistakes and turnovers. This time it was two interceptions by quarterback Cam Thomas and a fumble by Jeff George Jr. The offense did rush for 134 yards on 33 carries but when you are down by 14 at half its hard to stick with the run game. The defense also can hang its hat on limiting one of the most dangerous running backs in the country to 75 yards below his per game average but until the offense figures out the quarterback situation, the team will continue to struggle.

Iowa Hawkeyes 5-3 (2-3)

The Hawkeyes may not have had its best game of the season but it doesn’t matter when you still get the victory, and that’s what happened as Iowa defeated the Minnesota Golden Gophers 17-10. Quarterback Nathan Stanley had an average game but it was the field goal drive of 11 plays and 59-yards that not only gave Iowa a 10-point lead but overpowered a Minnesota defense that been playing well all day. Linebacker Josey Jewell continues to show why he may be the runaway candidate for Big Ten Defensive Player of the year as he finished with 11 tackles and two quarterback hurries.

Minnesota Golden Gophers 4-4 (1-4)

The Gophers are experiencing growing pains as it lost a tough one to the Iowa Hawkeyes 17-10. Whenever you switch quarterbacks you don’t know what you will end up with from week-to-week. When head coach PJ Fleck initially went with quarterback Demry Croft, the youngster provided a spark that almost led to an upset but the past two weeks have been the ugly part of having an inexperienced signal caller lead them. Against Iowa, he only completed 9-of-29 passes for 139 yards. With talented running backs like Shannon Brooks, Rodney Smith, and Kobe McCrary, why is Croft throwing the ball that much? As much as Croft is learning how to be a Big Ten quarterback, Coach Fleck is learning the ins and outs of the conference as well and it’s resulting in some questionable decisions.

Nebraska Cornhuskers 4-4 (3-2)

The Cornhuskers might finally have a quarterback in Tanner Lee and they needed his late heroics to defeat the Purdue Boilermakers 25-24. Lee passed for 431 yards, two touchdowns, and ZERO interceptions and looked comfortable in the pocket on Saturday. I get sometimes you need to scrap your plan but I don’t know how many Nebraska fans feel comfortable with him throwing the ball 50 times, especially when you have a talented running back like Devine Ozigbo — who only had seven carries on the afternoon. Despite the great game from Lee, Nebraska still needed a last-second touchdown to win, so things aren’t all good in Lincoln.

Northwestern Wildcats 5-3 (3-2)

Northwestern seems to have found its bearings in conference play and the 39-31 victory over the Michigan St. Spartans will go a long way to salvaging this season. Quarterback Clayton Thorson had the best game of the 2017 season as he passed for 356 yards and two touchdowns. This was a typical Coach Fitzgerald win for the Wildcats – gritty and tough. Northwestern may not be able to catch Wisconsin for the division title but the next four opponents on its schedule may definitely do not want to face this Wildcats team.

Purdue Boilermakers 3-5 (1-4)

You never want to lose on a last-second play but that’s what happened to the Boilermakers in the 25-24 loss to the Nebraska Cornhuskers. This will be a tough game to swallow for Purdue fans as the Boilermakers took the lead in the second quarter and led until Nebraska scored with 14 seconds remaining in the game. Quarterback David Blough played the entire game and may not have put up gaudy stats but kept the team in position to win up until the very end. Running backs Richie Worship and DJ Knox combined for 155 of the team’s 199 yards and should have been used more to eat up the clock, but you live and you learn as a young coach.

Wisconsin Badgers 8-0 (5-0)

The Badgers got the 24-10 win over the Illinois Fighting Illini, but it had the feel of an uninspired team going through the motions. The team only had 303 total yards and freshman superstar running back Jonathan Taylor was limited to 72 yards rushing. If not for the defense forcing three turnovers — two interceptions and one forced fumble — this game would have been a lot closer. The lethargic play could be an example of a team that hasn’t been challenged all season, but what happens when they do face a team that forces it to play, will it be able to flip that switch?

 

Sports Q&A Big 10 Player of the week: 

JT Barrett-QB: Ohio St.

The last two drives in the epic OSU vs. PSU game were moments that you see on the big screen and as Barrett continues to play on another level without turning the ball over its hard to not see him being invited to New York as a Heisman Finalist.

Game of the Week

Penn St. vs. Michigan St.

The last leg of the three-week gauntlet has the Nittany Lions traveling to East Lansing, MI to face a Michigan St. team looking to bounce back from a disappointing loss to Northwestern. Both teams have a lot to prove this week and I think because of the potency of the Nittany Lions offense they will be able to get in the end zone while MSU sleepwalks the first two quarters. Penn St. 27 Michigan St. 16

Week 9 Picks: (Week 8 record 5-2)

Wisconsin over Indiana

Purdue over Illinois

Ohio St. over Iowa

Rutgers over Maryland

Northwestern over Nebraska

Michigan over Minnesota

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