As we get deeper into conference play, we are starting to separate the pretenders from the contenders. This week two marquee matchups will go a long way to determining who wins the conference.
Big Ten East Division:
Indiana Hoosiers 3-2 (0-2)
The Hoosiers did a lot of good things in the 40-31 loss to the Michigan State Spartans, but they still cannot stop the pass to save their lives. Too often, receivers were left wide open, and the MSU offense took advantage. And when they weren’t letting MSU receivers run wild, they were being penalized nine times for 85 total yards.
Key Players: Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (20 consecutive completions, 286 yards passing) Receiver Whop Philyor (14 catches, 142 yards, two touchdowns)
Maryland Terrapins 2-2 (0-1)
The scene was set for the Terrapins to show the conference it was ready to hang with the big boys. Classes canceled, and a raucous crowd was ready for an upset. Unfortunately, the players didn’t get the memo in the 59-0 loss to the Penn State Nittany Lions. Considering the hype, this has to be the worst loss in the tenure of Maryland being a member of the Big Ten.
Key Players: Defensive Back Nick Cross (one interception)
Michigan Wolverines 3-1 (1-1)
The 52-0 win over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights has to be the largest ho-hum victory for the Wolverines in years. Yes, the team played a lot better than it did versus Wisconsin, but it still left a lot to be desired. The team still is suffering from the inability to get to the passer (only two sacks), and the offensive line is struggling to create rush lanes for the running back. Until head coach Jim Harbaugh beats a team worth a damn, these victories over lesser teams will always seem hollow.
Key Players: Quarterback Shea Patterson (276 yards passing, 4 total touchdowns) Defensive End Kwity Paye (six tackles,1.5 sacks)
Michigan St. Spartans 4-1 (2-0)
The offense seemed to get back on track as the Spartans defeated the Indiana Hoosiers 40-31, but was this a matter of team turning the corner or a favorable matchup versus an overmatched opponent? These Jekyll and Hyde performances by the MSU offense has to be frustrating for a fanbase that doesn’t know which team will show up from week to week. It also cant be a good look that your leading rusher is also your quarterback.
Key Players: Quarterback Brian Lewerke (300 yards passing, three touchdowns, 78 yards rushing), Darrell Stweart Jr. (five receptions, 117 yards, two touchdowns) Linebacker Antjuan Simmons (nine tackles, 2.5 tackles-for-loss)
Ohio St. Buckeyes 5-0 (2-0)
The biggest road game of the season for the Buckeyes proved to be a minor obstacle as OSU easily defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers 48-7. Despite a new head coach and a new starting quarterback, things seem to be status-quo for a Buckeyes team that has its sights set on the College Football Playoff. We have yet to see how this team will respond in a tight game, so it still may be too soon for OSU fans to book tickets to Indianapolis and beyond.
Key Players: Quarterback Justin Fields (212 yards passing, four total touchdowns, 72 yards rushing), Running back JK Dobbins ( 177 yards rushing), Cornerback Jeffrey Okudah (two tackles, two interceptions)
Penn State Nittany Lions 4-0 (1-0)
With the nation expecting a letdown, the Nittany Lions came out and proved a significant point in the 59-0 blowout over the Maryland Terrapins on Friday night. There will be some who are still skeptical of the success of Penn State this season, but you cannot deny the Nittany Lions’ ability to feast on lesser talent.
Key Players: Quarterback Sean Clifford (358 yards passing, four total touchdowns) Receiver KJ Hamler (six receptions, 108 yards, one touchdown) Linebacker Ellis Brooks (2.5 sacks)
Rutgers Scarlet Knights 1-3 (0-2)
The Scarlet Knights hit rock bottom after the 52-0 loss to the Michigan Wolverines. Not only did the team look listless Saturday, but the powers-that-be at the University finally became tired of watching a team not be competitive under head coach Chris Ash, who was fired. Big Ten fans have questioned the addition of the New Jersey-based school for years, and it doesn’t look like those jeers will be subsiding any time soon.
Key Players: Running back Raheem Blackshear (seven receptions, 55 yards) Defensive back Damon Hayes (one interception)
Big Ten West Division:
Illinois Fighting Illini 2-1 (0-0)
no game scheduled
Iowa Hawkeyes 4-0 (1-0)
Unlike the other Big Ten team that faced Middle Tennessee State, the Hawkeyes quickly dismantled the Blue Raiders 48-3. Iowa has flown under the radar much of the season and looks to be a darkhorse candidate for the West Division Crown if Wisconsin stumbles. Having a balanced offense and an opportunistic defense. It will be hard to beat this Iowa team, no matter the opponent.
Key Players: Running back Toren Young (11 carries, 131 yards), running back Mekhi Sargent ( 14 carries, 91 yards, one touchdown) Defensive Tackle Daviyon Nixon (seven tackles, one sack, 2.5 tackles-for-loss)
Minnesota Golden Gophers 3-0 (0-0)
The Gophers are a team that no one is paying attention to, and they may want to keep it that way. Head coach PJ Fleck has found a way to rally the troops at Minnesota, and they are looking to be a legitimate contender in the Big Ten West. Against the Boilermakers, Minnesota took advantage of an injury-laden Purdue team to hold on for a 38-31 victory.
Key Players: Quarterback Tanner Morgan (396 passing yards, four touchdowns), Receiver Rashod Bateman (177 yards receiving, two touchdowns), linebacker Kamal Martin (six tackles, two interceptions)
Nebraska Cornhuskers 3-2 (1-1)
There were hopes of pulling off a major upset for the Cornhuskers. But they only walked away disappointed and dejected in the 48-7 loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes. You can’t have the mistakes that Nebraska did (three turnovers, six penalties) and expect to pull off a major upset. To be the team many “experts” projected the Cornhuskers to be at the beginning of the season, there has to be a more considerable improvement on both sides of the ball.
Key Players: Quarterback Adrian Martinez (81 yards rushing) Running back Dedrick Mills (11 carries, 67 yards, one touchdown)
Northwestern Wildcats 1-3 (0-2)
The Wildcats are a good program but one without a quarterback, which makes them a team currently in disarray. In the 24-15 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers, the issues at that position put them behind early, which made the eventual comeback an insurmountable. If head coach Pat Fitzgerald is ever able to settle on a competent QB, this team could play spoiler late in the season, if not, maybe next year.
Key Players: Running back Drake Anderson (68 yards rushing, one touchdown) receiver JJ Jefferson (38 yards receiving, one touchdown, one interception)
Purdue Boilermakers 1-3 (0-1)
Injuries are a part of the game, but when you lose your starting quarterback and your all-world receiver, that’s a lot to overcome. Even with those losses, the Boilermakers fought back and made the 38-31 loss to the Minnesota Golden Gophers a lot closer than expected. When healthy, this is a dangerous team for any opponent; unfortunately, this has been an issue for the team for years, so will they ever be able to overcome it?
Key Players: Running back King Doerue (94 yards rushing, three total touchdowns), Receiver David Bell (eight receptions, 114 yards), Defensive end George Karlaftis (five tackles, 1.5 sacks)
Wisconsin Badgers 4-0 (2-0)
Maybe it was the letdown coming off of a huge home win the week before, but something was off with the Badgers offense. Luckily in the 24-15 win over the Northwestern Wildcats, the defense picked up the slack and led the way. Champions find ways to win games even when they aren’t playing its best, and maybe this was a sign for the Badgers as it heads into a pivotal stretch of games in two weeks.
Key Players: Running back Jonathan Taylor (25 carries, 119 yards, one touchdown), Linebacker Noah Burks (four tackles, one interception, one touchdown), Defensive end Matt Henningsen (three tackles, one sack, one fumble recovery, one touchdown)
Sports Q&A Big 10 Player of the week:
Sean Clifford Penn State – QB
Clifford is still out to prove that the Penn State offense is in good hands under his leadership, and the game he had against Maryland will go a long way in confirming that.
Game of the Week
Michigan State vs. Ohio State
This will be the first REAL test for the Buckeyes ad they face an MSU team that is stout defensively and has the tools to put up a fight offensively. The question becomes which offense shows up for MSU, the unit that struggled versus Arizona State or the one that exploded against Indiana last week? Unfortunately for the Spartans, we will see more of the ASU Michigan state team this week, and it will cost them.
Ohio State 31 Michigan State 17
Week 6 Picks: (Week 4 record 5-1)
Iowa over Michigan
Wisconsin over Kent State
Penn State over Purdue
Maryland over Rutgers
Minnesota over Illinois
Nebraska over Northwestern
BYE WEEK: Indiana