photo AnnArborGIFHeader_zps02670880.gif

Posts Tagged ‘Big Ten’

Big Ten power rankings: Week 12

Thursday, November 20th, 2014


Power Rankings_header

East Division
1. Ohio State (9-1, 6-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat #25 Minnesota 31-24 This Week: Sat vs Indiana (3-7, 0-6), 12pm, Big Ten Network

Ohio State maintained the inside track to the Big Ten title game by outlasting a scrappy Minnesota team in the snowy conditions of Minneapolis. The Buckeyes have their eyes on a Big Ten championship and a spot in the first college football playoff.

2. Michigan State (8-2, 5-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Maryland 37-15 This Week: Sat vs Rutgers (6-4, 2-4), 12pm, Big Ten Network

A night game on the road after a disappointing loss could have turned into a disaster for the Spartans, but they took care of Maryland with ease and kept their slim hopes at a title alive.

3. Michigan (5-5, 3-3) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Maryland (6-4, 3-3), 3:30pm, Big Ten Network

During the bye week, Michigan watched its in-state rival draw up a perfect script for beating Maryland. If the Wolverines can take care of the Terps on Senior Day, it’ll mean a trip to a bowl game next month.

4. Maryland (6-4, 3-3) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #12 Michigan State 15-37 This Week: Sat at Michigan (5-5, 3-3), 3:30pm, Big Ten Network

Maryland blew its final chance to pick up a statement win Saturday, when they were handled by the Spartans during a black out in their own stadium. Now third place in the East is up for grabs in Ann Arbor.

5. Penn State (6-4, 2-4) – Even
Last Week: Beat Temple 30-13 This Week: Sat at Illinois (4-6, 1-5), 12pm, ESPN2

Penn State finally qualified for a bowl game with a second straight win Saturday, beating Temple to move to 6-4. The Nittany Lions will count on their defense to assure themselves a winning record against Illinois this weekend.

6. Rutgers (6-4, 2-4) – Even
Last Week: Beat Indiana 45-23 This Week: Sat at #11 Michigan State (8-2, 5-1), 12pm, Big Ten Network

Fans of the Scarlett Knights were starting to get a little uncomfortable after the team’s three-game losing streak put their bowl chances in jeopardy. But a win over Indiana but those worries at bay as Rutgers draws the unenviable Week 13 task of traveling to East Lansing.

7. Indiana (3-7, 0-6) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Rutgers 23-45 This Week: Sat at #6 Ohio State (9-1, 6-0), 12pm, Big Ten Network

Everyone knew it was going to happen, but a loss on Saturday made it official: Indiana will not go bowling this year. Injuries to their top two quarterback options have sunk a Hoosiers’ offense that carried the team through the first half of the season.

B1G East Week 12

West Division
1. Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat #16 Nebraska 59-24 This Week: Sat at Iowa (7-3, 4-2), 3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2

Wisconsin made a huge statement Saturday when it welcomed Nebraska to town and waxed the Cornhuskers 59-24. Melvin Gordon stole the show, rushing for an NCAA record 408 yards en route to four scores.

2. Minnesota (7-3, 4-2) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #8 Ohio State 24-31 This Week: Sat at #23 Nebraska (8-2, 4-2), 12pm, ESPN

Minnesota hung with the only undefeated team in the Big Ten all game Saturday, but just couldn’t conjure up enough offense to pull the upset. The Gophers still control their own destiny in the West, as trips to Nebraska and Wisconsin loom.

3. Iowa (7-3, 4-2) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Illinois 30-14 This Week: Sat vs #16 Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1), 3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2

Iowa bounced back from a loss to Minnesota by beating up on the Illini 30-14. Now, if Iowa can beat Wisconsin and Nebraska at home to finish the season, it’ll be just a Gophers loss away from winning the West.

4. Nebraska (8-2, 4-2) – Down 3
Last Week: Lost to #20 Wisconsin 24-59 This Week: Sat vs #25 Minnesota (7-3, 4-2), 12pm, ESPN

The whole country saw Nebraska play punching bag for the Badgers Saturday. The Cornhuskers were exposed as pretenders in the Big Ten and still have no quality wins to beef up their resume.

5. Northwestern (4-6, 2-4) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat #18 Notre Dame 43-40 OT This Week: Sat at Purdue (3-7, 1-5), 12pm, ESPNU

Just when it looked like Northwestern had hit rock bottom after a 10-9 home loss to Michigan, the Wildcats came out of nowhere to upset a ranked Notre Dame team. Now only games against Purdue and Illinois, the two worst teams in the West, stand between Northwestern and the postseason.

6. Illinois (4-6, 1-5) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Iowa 14-30 This Week: Sat vs Penn State (6-4, 2-4), 12pm, ESPN2

Illinois got pounded again Saturday, this time at the hands of the Iowa Hawkeyes. Now Penn State visits the Illini for Senior Night.

7. Purdue (3-7, 1-5) – Down 2
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Northwestern (4-6, 2-4), 12pm, ESPNU

Purdue took another bye week this weekend to think about its current four-game losing streak. Last time the Boilermakers came out of a bye they got crushed by 21 points on the road.

B1G West Week 12

First Look: Maryland

Monday, November 17th, 2014


FirstLook-Maryland

A 10-9 win over Northwestern last weekend gave Michigan its first two-game winning streak of the season and moved the Wolverines one game closer to bowl eligibility. The season’s second bye week allowed Brady Hoke’s squad to rest and prepare for the final two weeks. This Saturday, Maryland comes to town for the first time as a member of the Big Ten, and for the first time since 1990, fresh off of a 37-15 loss to Michigan State. Let’s take a look at how the two teams compare through 10 games.

Maryland Statistics & Michigan Comparison
Maryland | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 28.8 | 20.7 65 | 109
29.0 | 20.4 82 | 18
Rushing Yards 1,139 | 1,541 1,983 | 1,032
Rush Avg. Per Game 113.9 | 154.1 111 | 77
198.3 | 103.2 97 | 7
Avg. Per Rush 3.5 | 4.5
4.3 | 2.8
Passing Yards 2,298 | 1,685 2,385 | 1,976
Pass Avg. Per Game 229.8 | 168.5 66 | 112 238.5 | 197.6 83 | 24
Total Offense 3,437 | 3,226 4,368 | 3,008
Total Off Avg. Per Game 343.7 | 322.6 111 | 114 436.8 | 300.8 97 | 8
Kick Return Average 25.1 | 19.0 9 | 106 21.1 | 21.6 70 | 79
Punt Return Average 12.4 | 6.5 18 | 87 9.0 | 11.9 T89 | 114
Avg. Time of Possession 27:26 | 30:14 114 | 60
32:34 | 29:46
3rd Down Conversion Pct 31.0% | 38.0% 116 | 83
38.0% | 38.0% 52 | 49
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 28-161 | 18-111
103 | T50
28-207 | 27-231
T23 | 32
Touchdowns Scored 35 | 24
34 | 23
Field Goals-Attempts 14-14 | 12-17
17-23 | 15-19
Red Zone Scores (23-25)92%|(25-29)86% 7 | 42
(32-41)78%|(27-33)82% 35 | T51
Red Zone Touchdowns (17-25)68%|(19-29)66% (22-41)54%|(16-33)48%
Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) .060 | -.253
55 | 94
-.045 | -.275 58 | 35

Maryland entered its first season in the Big Ten with hopes of competing for the East Division crown. The Terrapins started the season 4-1, the only loss a three-point defeat against West Virginia. But then Randy Edsall’s squad found out just how tough it is to compete week in and week out in a major conference, even one as weak as the Big Ten.

Ohio State went into College Park and handed Maryland a 52-24 loss. The Terps responded with a 38-31 win over Iowa, but got pounded by Wisconsin, 52-7 the following week. Two weeks ago, Maryland pulled out a one-point win at Penn State, 20-19, but after a bye week, got thumped by Michigan State, 37-15 this past Saturday.

Schedule
Date Opponent Result
Aug. 30 James Madison W 52-7
Sept. 6 at South Florida W 24-17
Sept. 13 West Virginia L 37-40
Sept. 20 at Syracuse W 34-20
Sept. 27 at Indiana W 37-15
Oct. 4 #20 Ohio State L 24-52
Oct. 18 Iowa W 38-31
Oct. 25 at Wisconsin L 7-52
Nov. 1 at Penn State W 20-19
Nov. 15 #12 Michigan State L 15-37
Nov. 22 at Michigan
Nov. 29 Rutgers

Maryland’s offense has been fairly similar to Michigan’s this season, but the main difference is the Terps have been able to score more points, averaging 8.1 points per game more than Michigan. The seven points scored against Wisconsin and 15 against Michigan State were the only two games with less than 20 points scored.

The main reason for Maryland’s offensive success was receiver Stefon Diggs, who had 52 receptions — second in the Big Ten — for 654 yards and five touchdowns through nine games. But he suffered a lacerated kidney against Penn State and will miss the rest of the regular season. The Terps have the sixth-best passing offense in the Big Ten, averaging 229.8 yards per game. Without Diggs against Michigan State this past Saturday, Maryland managed its fourth-best passing output of the season, but they were playing from behind the entire game. Freshman Juwann Winfree stepped up with four receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown, besting his season total yardage by 16 yards.

The running game is a different story. Quarterback C.J. Brown is the team’s leading rusher, and he’s not Denard Robinson or Braxton Miller. He’s averaging just 3.2 yards per carry and has 40 more carries (117) than the next running back, Wes Brown. Of his 375 rushing yards, 75 came on one touchdown run in Week 3. That all results in Maryland being the third-worst rush offense in the Big Ten and 111th nationally, averaging 113.9 yards per game. Michigan State held them to just six yards on 17 carries on Saturday.

Maryland’s defense is where the biggest troubles lie. The Terps allow 8.6 points more than Michigan allows, have the Big Ten’s third-worst rush defense, and third-worst pass defense. Those two units rank 97th and 83rd nationally. In total, Maryland allows 136 more yards per game than Michigan does. While Michigan has allowed just three of 10 opponents to reach 30 points, and five of 10 to score 20 or more points, Maryland has allowed more than 30 points five times and more than 20 points six times.

There have been some big performances by opponents against Maryland this season as well. West Virginia passed for 511 yards, their highest total of the season. In fact, 376 yard is WVU’s next-highest passing total this season. Iowa passed for 317, their second-highest of the season. Syracuse rushed for 370 yards, 81 more than any other game this season. In fact, Syracuse has been held below 200 yards in eight of 10 games.

On special teams, Maryland is pretty solid, ranking ninth nationally in kick returns and 18th in punt returns. However, Diggs was a big part of that, ranking sixth in the Big Ten with a 23.9-yard kick return average. Kicker Brad Craddock has made all 14 field goal attempts with the longest made in the Big Ten this season, 57 yards.

Like the Northwestern matchup last week, this game should be an evenly matched contest of two very average teams. Unlike Northwestern, Maryland’s defense is vulnerable, so Michigan’s offense shouldn’t have as much trouble moving the ball and scoring points. Expect a close game, but higher scoring than the Northwestern game.

Key Players
Passing Comp-Att Yards TD INT Average/Game
C.J. Brown 127-236 1,477 9 6 147.7
Rushing Attempts Yards TD Long Average/Carry
C.J. Brown (QB) 111 380 5 75 3.4
Brandon Ross 64 256 2 23 4.0
Wes Brown 68 255 4 33 3.8
Jacquille Veii  (WR) 14 93 2 23 6.6
Receiving Receptions Yards TD Long Average/Game
Stefon Diggs (out) 52 654 5 77 72.7
Deon Long 35 389 1 41 38.9
Marcus Leak 18 276 3 46 27.6
Brandon Ross (RB) 14 212 2 90 21.2
Wes Brown (RB) 12 128 0 38 12.8
Defense Solo Assisted Total Tackles TFL-Yds Sacks-Yds
Sean Davis (DB) 69 25 94 3.0-11 0-0 (8 PD)
Cole Farrand (LB) 50 41 91 4.0-9 0-0 (7 PD)
Andre Monroe (DL) 31 21 52 11.0-74 8.5-63
Darius Kilgo (DL) 25 12 37 7.0-30 2.0-16 (3 FR)
Yannick Ngakoue (LB) 22 10 32 12.5-74 5.5-44 (2 PD)
Kicking FG Made FG Att Long XP Made XP Att
Brad Craddock 14 14 57 34 34
Punting Punts Yds Avg. In-20 50+
Nathan Renfro 71 2,923 41.2 20 11
Full Stats

Stay tuned for more on Maryland in the coming days.

Big Ten power rankings: Week 11

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014


Power Rankings_header

East Division
1. Ohio State (8-1, 5-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat #8 Michigan State 49-37 This Week: Sat at Minnesota (7-2, 4-1), 12pm, ABC

J.T. Barrett’s improvement over the course of the regular season is a real testament to Urban Meyer and his coaching staff. The freshman looked lost in the spread offense early in the season, but has now led the Buckeyes to 49 or more points in six of their last seven games. With the win over Michigan State, Ohio State will likely represent the East Division in Indianapolis, barring an implosion in its final three games.

2. Michigan State (7-2, 4-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #14 Ohio State 37-49 This Week: Sat at Maryland (6-3, 3-2), 8pm, Big Ten Network

Does the loss to Ohio State make this season a failure for Mark Dantonio’s squad? The Spartans came into 2014 with the goals of winning the Big Ten and participating in the first college football playoff. Now, with losses to its top two opponents, Michigan State has only one impressive win: Against Nebraska.

3. Michigan (5-5, 3-3) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Northwestern 10-9 This Week: Bye (11/22 vs Maryland)

If there’s ever such a thing as an ugly win, Michigan mastered the art in Evanston Saturday. The Wolverines needed a missed field goal, three turnovers and two fourth down stops to stay in the game, and then Trevor Siemian fell backwards on the game-deciding two-point conversion. But at the end of the day, Michigan has its first two-game winning streak of the year and a real chance to gain bowl eligibility after the bye week.

4. Maryland (6-3, 3-2) – Down 1
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs #8 Michigan State (7-2, 4-1), 8pm, Big Ten Network

Maryland had a bye week to prepare for Michigan State’s trip to Byrd Stadium, and the Spartan loss won’t do the Terps any favors. An angry Spartan team will be visiting Maryland Saturday night as Maryland looked to take over second place in the East.

5. Penn State (5-4, 2-4) – Even
Last Week: Beat Indiana 13-7 This Week: Sat vs Temple (5-4, 3-3), 12pm, ESPN2

Saturday was the perfect remedy for Penn State’s four-game losing streak: A matchup with Big Ten bottom-feeder Indiana. The Nittany Lions struggled to move the ball, putting up just 13 points on Indiana’s atrocious defense, but allowed just one touchdown to pull out the 13-7 win. Penn State will need a win against Temple or Illinois to become bowl eligible.

6. Rutgers (5-4, 1-4) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Indiana (3-6, 0-5), 3:30pm, Big Ten Network

There wasn’t a team in the Big Ten that needed a bye week as badly as Rutgers did this weekend. The Scarlett Knights raced out to a 5-1 start this season before hitting their first Big Ten gauntlet stretch. Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin combined to outscore Rutgers by a total score of 135-41. Now Indiana visits in a game Rutgers absolutely needs to win.

7. Indiana (3-6, 0-5) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Penn State 7-13 This Week: Sat at Rutgers (5-4, 1-4), 3:30pm, Big Ten Network

Will Indiana pick up a conference win this season? It’s tough to say, as its best chance came at home against a reeling Penn State team Saturday. With a two-game road stretch upcoming, Indiana can look at the finale against Purdue as an opportunity.

B1G East Week 11

West Division
1. Nebraska (8-1, 4-1) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat at #25 Wisconsin (7-2, 4-1), 3:30pm, ABC

The biggest road trip of the season is coming up for Nebraska, as a win in Madison would all but clinch the West Division crown. The Cornhuskers’ best win on the season is against a solid Miami team at home, so this weekend will go a long way in determining if they’re the real deal.

2. Minnesota (6-2, 3-1) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Iowa 51-14 This Week: Sat vs #14 Ohio State (8-1, 5-0), 12pm, ABC

Is there any question that Jerry Kill did his job during a bye week? After Minnesota dropped the ball in Illinois, it came back and rocked Iowa’s world at home. The Gophers put up a season-high 51 points on one of the stronger defenses in the conference to improve to 4-1 in the Big Ten. Now Minnesota gets a real test as it catches OSU off a huge win in what could really bring Kill’s team into the national spotlight.

3. Wisconsin (7-2, 4-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Purdue 34-16 This Week: Sat vs #13 Nebraska (8-1, 4-1), 3:30pm, ABC

Wisconsin cruised through a potential trap game Saturday, pounding Purdue 34-16 in West Lafayette with the matchup against Nebraska looming. This weekend’s matchup will decide the inside track for the ticket to Indy.

4. Iowa (6-3, 3-2) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Minnesota 14-51 This Week: Sat at Illinois (4-5, 1-4), 12pm, Big Ten Network

The bottom of the West Division is so bad that the Hawkeyes get the nod at No. 4 simply for being bowl eligible. A 37-point loss to Minnesota didn’t technically change Iowa’s goal of winning the Big Ten, but there’s no doubt the Hawkeyes simply don’t have it this season.

5. Illinois (3-6, 1-4) – Up 1
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Iowa (6-3, 3-2), 12pm, Big Ten Network

Illinois had a bye week after being pounded by the Buckeyes in Columbus. The reeling Hawkeyes come to town next.

6. Northwestern (3-6, 2-4) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to Michigan 9-10 This Week: Sat at #10 Notre Dame (7-2), 3:30pm, NBC

Northwestern played one of the ugliest games of the season Saturday, scoring just nine points and handing the game to Michigan by failing on a predictable two-point conversion. Now a trip to Notre Dame will likely be loss No. 5 in a row.

7. Purdue (3-7, 1-5) – Down 2
Last Week: Lost to #25 Wisconsin 16-34 This Week: Bye (11/22 vs Northwestern)

Purdue posted almost identical losses to start November, falling by 21 to Nebraska and 18 to Wisconsin. Now Northwestern will visit for what promises to be an unglamorous sixty minutes.

B1G West Week 11

Big Ten power rankings: Week 10

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014


Power Rankings_header

East Division
1. Michigan State (7-1, 4-0) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs #14 Ohio State (7-1, 4-0), 8pm, ABC

Since the start of the Big Ten season, the Spartans have been the favorite to represent the East Division in Indianapolis. The biggest hurdle in front of that goal comes this weekend against the Buckeyes.

2. Ohio State (7-1, 4-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Illinois 55-14 This Week: Sat at #8 Michigan State (7-1, 4-0), 8pm, ABC

While Ohio State didn’t technically have a bye week to prepare for this weekend’s College Gameday matchup like MSU did, a 55-14 waxing of Illinois took about the same effort. The Buckeyes bounced back from a close time in Happy Valley to score at least 50 points and win by at least 20 for the fifth time in six weeks.

3. Maryland (6-3, 3-2) – Even
Last Week: Beat Penn State 20-19 This Week: Bye (11/15 vs #8 Michigan State)

If the Terrapins wanted to make enemies, they got what they wanted in State College last Saturday. After refusing to shake hands before the coin toss, Maryland edged out a 20-19 win against their rivals to improve their record to 2-35-1. The Terps are now 3-2 in their first Big Ten campaign.

4. Michigan (4-5, 2-3) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Indiana 34-10 This Week: Sat at Northwestern (3-5, 2-3), 3:30pm, ESPN2

Michigan has arguably over-performed in four straight weeks since getting blown out at home against Minnesota. A win over Indiana during homecoming kept Brady Hoke’s bowl aspirations alive, but the Wolverines will need wins in the next two weeks before heading to Columbus.

5. Penn State (4-4, 1-4) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Maryland 19-20 This Week: Sat at Indiana (3-5, 0-4), 12pm, Big Ten Network

Remember when Penn State was 4-0? Don’t worry, not many do, because Saturday gave the Nittany Lions a fourth straight loss, three of which came at home. Now if PSU doesn’t make a bowl game, it won’t be due to sanctions, but an epic collapse. If the Nittany Lions don’t win their next three games, fans in Happy Valley will be calling for change once again.

6. Rutgers (5-4, 1-4) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Wisconsin 0-37 This Week: Bye (11/15 vs Indiana)

On one hand, Rutgers has been outscored 135-41 during its current three-game losing streak. But on the other hand, the Scarlet Knights have played three of the best four teams in the conference, and nobody expected them to contend, anyways. After the bye week Rutgers will face off with Indiana, a game that will decide its bowl fate.

7. Indiana (3-5, 0-4) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Michigan 10-34 This Week: Sat vs Penn State (4-4, 1-4), 12pm, Big Ten Network

Last year Indiana was terrible on defense but treated fans to an impressive offensive showing each week. Now, injuries and turnovers have taken even that away, and the Hoosiers are reeling.

BIG East Week 10

West Division
1. Nebraska (8-1, 4-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Purdue 35-14 This Week: Bye (11/15 at Wisconsin)

How good is Nebraska? Nobody really knows, yet. The Cornhuskers are 8-1, but their best win is over an unranked Miami (Fl) team. A fourth-quarter charge made the game against MSU look respectable, but Nebraska really hasn’t passed any tests this season, only several pop quizzes. After the bye week Wisconsin will welcome Nebraska to Madison for a potential Big Ten Championship play-in game.

2. Wisconsin (6-2, 3-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 37-0 This Week: Sat at Purdue (3-6, 1-4), 12pm, ESPNU

On the surface, a 37-0 road win looks like a definite sign that Wisconsin has returned to form, but upon closer examination of the team’s schedule, there’s much left to prove. The Badgers’ best win is a toss-up between Maryland and Bowling Green, but both are greatly overshadowed by an Oct. 4 loss to Northwestern. Wisconsin should cruise past Purdue this weekend before the showdown with Nebraska.

3. Iowa (6-2, 3-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Northwestern 48-7 This Week: Sat at Minnesota (6-2, 3-1), 12pm, ESPN2

Iowa is the only team that has a chance to make the Big Ten West race truly interesting. The Hawkeyes bounced back from a tough loss at Maryland by sand-blasting Northwestern 48-7 in Iowa City. If Iowa can beat Minnesota and Illinois on the road over the next two weeks, it will set up home games against Wisconsin and Nebraska to finish the season. In other words, Iowa’s Big Ten destiny lies in those final two Saturdays in Kinnick.

4. Minnesota (6-2, 3-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Iowa (6-2, 3-1), 12pm, ESPN2

The bye week would have been much more fun in Minneapolis if the Gophers hadn’t surrendered their division lead by losing to last-place Illinois to finish October. Now, Minnesota faces a gauntlet down the stretch: Iowa, Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin. If they want to shock the Big Ten world, the Golden Gophers will have to earn it.

5. Purdue (3-6, 1-4) – Up 2
Last Week: Lost to #15 Nebraska 14-35 This Week: Sat vs #25 Wisconsin (6-2, 3-1), 12pm, ESPNU

Purdue fans have to be dying for their team to finally complete an upset bid. Two fourth-quarter pushes fell short before a 35-14 loss to Nebraska this weekend, and now the Badgers will travel to West Lafayette. On the bright side, Northwestern and Indiana round out the season.

6. Illinois (4-5, 1-4) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #16 Ohio State 14-55 This Week: Bye (11/15 vs Iowa)

Illinois went back to playing Big Ten punching bag Saturday, losing by 41 in Columbus. The Illini’s last chance to play spoiler comes next weekend against Iowa.

7. Northwestern (3-5, 2-3) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Iowa 7-48 This Week: Sat vs Michigan (4-5, 2-3), 3:30pm, ESPN2

A three-game losing streak immediately followed Northwestern’s three-game winning streak that included an upset win over Wisconsin. Now the Wildcats will host their rival Wolverines Saturday in the kick-gate sequel that handed Chicago’s Big Ten team a triple-overtime loss.

BIG West Week 10

First Look: Northwestern

Monday, November 3rd, 2014


FirstLook-Northwestern

Michigan got back in the win column on Saturday with a 34-10 win over Indiana and now has to win two of its last three to become bowl eligible and avoid a losing season. For the second season in a row Michigan has to travel to Northwestern, but of all the road venues in the conference Kyle Field has been the most hospitable with a large Michigan alumni presence in Chicago. Let’s take a look at how Michigan and Northwestern compare through the first two thirds of the season.

Northwestern Statistics & Michigan Comparison
Northwestern | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 19.1 | 21.9 113 | 105
23.9 | 21.7 46 | 29
Rushing Yards 998 | 1,394 1,329 | 1,041
Rush Avg. Per Game 124.8 | 154.9 105 | 71
166.1 | 115.7 65 | 16
Avg. Per Rush 3.2 | 4.5
4.1 | 3.1
Passing Yards 1,642 | 1,576 1,778 | 1,703
Pass Avg. Per Game 205.2 | 175.1 88 | 110 222.2 | 189.2 53 | 18
Total Offense 2,640 | 2,970 3,107 | 2,744
Total Off Avg. Per Game 330.0 | 330.0 114 | 114 388.4 | 304.9 60 | 9
Kick Return Average 19.1 | 19.3 100 | 96 22.5 | 21.3 96 | 80
Punt Return Average 12.8 | 6.2 21 | 88 8.1 | 11.9 66 | 112
Avg. Time of Possession 29:12 | 30:28 82 | 53
30:48 | 29:32
3rd Down Conversion Pct 38.0% | 41.0% 76 | 57
40.0% | 36.0% 75 | 40
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 23-192 | 18-111
105 | T66
14-89 | 21-172
T87 | T54
Touchdowns Scored 19 | 22
24 | 22
Field Goals-Attempts 7-8 | 11-15
8-13 | 14-17
Red Zone Scores (22-26)85%|(23-25)92% T52 | 9
(25-30)83%|(25-29)86% 66 | 89
Red Zone Touchdowns (15-26)58%|(18-25)72% (19-30)63%|(15-29)52%
Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) .082 | -.218
50 | 91
-.066 | -.196 59 | 44

It has been a strange season for Northwestern after entering with hopes of making a push for the Big Ten West Division. The Wildcats opened with losses to California and Northern Illinois before reeling off three straight wins, including a dominant 29-6 victory at Penn State and a 20-14 win over 17th-ranked Wisconsin.

Just when it looked like Northwestern had turned things around, the Wildcats went on a three-game losing streak, falling by a touchdown at Minnesota and then getting blown out by Nebraska and Iowa.

Schedule
Date Opponent Result
Aug. 30 California L 24-31
Sept. 6 Northern Illinois L 15-23
Sept. 20 Western Illinois W 24-7
Sept. 27 at Penn State W 29-6
Oct. 4 #17 Wisconsin W 20-14
Oct. 11 at Minnesota L 17-24
Oct. 18 #19 Nebraska L 17-38
Nov. 1 at Iowa L 7-48
Nov. 8 Michigan
Nov. 15 at #10 Notre Dame
Nov. 22 at Purdue
Nov. 29 Illinois

The problem has been offense. Northwestern has yet to score 30 points in a game this season and has scored 20 or more in just four of eight games. Only 12 teams in the nation average fewer points per game. Unlike Indiana’s offense last week, Northwestern doesn’t have one part of the offense that does really well. The passing game ranks 105th nationally, averaging 124.8 yards per game and the rushing game ranks 88th, averaging 205.2 yards per game.

Senior quarterback Trevor Siemian has taken a step back from last season. He’s completing just 56.2 percent of his passes for 195.5 yards per game and has thrown just four touchdown passes compared to six interceptions. In other words, he’s averaging a touchdown every two games.

One small positive for the Wildcats has been the emergence of freshman running back Justin Jackson, who is averaging 123 yards per game over the last four. He has surpassed 100 yards in three of those four and just missed last week against Iowa with 96 yards. After getting just 14 carries per game in the first four games, he has seen his workload increase to 25 carries per game the last four.

Altogether, Northwestern passes for 30 fewer yards than Michigan but rushes for 30 yards more. Both teams average exactly 330 yards of offense per game, which ranks 114th nationally.

Defensively, Northwestern is about a middle of the road team, ranking 46th nationally in scoring defense, 65th against the run, and 53rd against the pass. After holding three of the first four opponents under 200 yards rushing, three of the last four have eclipsed 200 yards on the ground. Those four have rushed for 11 touchdowns against the Wildcats. Those same three — Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Iowa — have each totaled more than 400 yards of offense as well. In fact, the last two — Nebraska and Iowa — have averaged 477 yards.

In total, Northwestern gives up 84 more yards than Michigan per game, 51 more rushing and 33 more passing. The Wildcats also rank 75th nationally in third down defense, allowing opponents to convert 40 percent of the time, and have only recorded 14 sacks through eight games.

Special teams is also middle of the road with the exception of punt returns. Northwestern ranks 21st nationally with an average of 12.8 yards per punt return, but they’ve only had six. Sophomore kicker Jack Mitchell has made 7-of-8 field goal attempts, but his long is 29. The only field goal he has attempted over that was a missed 44-yarder against Penn State.

As you can see, there’s nothing statistically that says Michigan shouldn’t have a good chance to win in Evanston, but the Wildcats have beaten Wisconsin and thumped Penn State on the road. Additionally, they have played Michigan tough the past two years with both going to overtime.

Key Players
Passing Comp-Att Yards TD INT Average/Game
Trevor Siemian 159-283 1,564 4 6 195.5
Rushing Attempts Yards TD Long Average/Carry
Justin Jackson 158 726 5 27 4.6
Treyvon Green 46 158 0 25 3.4
Warren Long 26 116 0 21 4.5
Solomon Vault 20 81 2 16 4.1
Receiving Receptions Yards TD Long Average/Game
Kyle Prater 29 286 1 22 35.8
Dan Vitale (SB) 26 282 1 28 35.3
Myles Shuler 23 190 0 22 23.8
Tony Jones 18 179 0 35 22.4
Cameron Dickerson 11 171 1 54 21.4
Defense Solo Assisted Total Tackles TFL-Yds Sacks-Yds
Chi Chi Ariguzo (LB) 43 29 72 4.0-15 1.0-7
Traveon Henry (S) 31 26 57 2.0-6 0-0
Nick VanHoose (CB) 44 11 55 3.0-9 0-0 (2 INT, 11 PD)
Godwin Igwebuike (S) 20 16 36 1.0-3 0.0 (3 INT, 5 PD)
Dean Lowry (DL) 14 11 25 5.0-16 3.5-14
Kicking FG Made FG Att Long XP Made XP Att
Jack Mitchell 7 8 29 16 18
Punting Punts Yds Avg. In-20 50+
Chris Gradone 53 2,001 37.8 16 3
Full Stats

Stay tuned for more on Northwestern in the coming days.

2014 Big Ten basketball preview: Part two

Thursday, October 30th, 2014


2014-15 B1G BBall Preview-Part2

Over the past few years an incredible change has passed over the Midwest, which was long praised for elite football programs like Michigan and Ohio State and largely uncompetitive on the hardwood with Michigan State taking the cake nearly every season. Now, the sports landscape has been turned on its head, as Big Ten football struggles to keep three teams ranked in the Top 25 while the basketball conference continues to solidify itself as the best in the nation.

Last season was another great campaign for the conference as a whole. Wisconsin fought its way through a tough West regional to reach the Final Four, while Michigan and Michigan State were just seconds away from doing the same, eventually losing to the two National Championship competitors. Ohio State, Iowa and Nebraska were also selected for the Big Dance, giving the Big Ten six teams that made the cut. Minnesota also had a successful postseason, winning the NIT championship.

The Big Ten has climbed to the top of the basketball world by featuring a deep slate of teams led by a few legitimate Final Four contenders. This season will be no different, even as the conference welcomes two new teams that have struggled in recent years.

Below is part two of our Big Ten preview. Although there are no divisions in basketball, we split up our preview into the Big Ten West and Big Ten East divisions for the sake of organization. Part one (the Big Ten West) was posted earlier this week.

Note: In the 2013 Stats & Rankings tables for each team, the darker the shade of maize, the better that team was in that category; the darker the shade of blue, the worse that team was in that category.

Indiana Hoosiers Indiana logo
Head Coach: Tom Crean (7th season)
2013-14: 17-15, T-8th in Big Ten (7-11), No postseason
Returning starters: 3 (Troy Williams, Stanford Robinson, Yogi Ferrell)
Recruiting class rank: #17 (James Blackmon, Jr., Robert Johnson, Emmitt Holt, Max Hoetzel, Tim Priller, Jeremiah April)
Key non-conference games: Dec 2 vs Pitt, Dec 9 vs Louisville, Dec 20 vs Butler, Dec 27 vs Georgetown

Indiana was surprisingly mediocre last season coming off two straight 27-plus win seasons under Tom Crean. As a sophomore, Yogi Ferrell took over the team and averaged 17.3 points and 3.9 assists per game to lead the offense. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, dominant freshman Noah Vonleh declared for the NBA draft and senior leader Will Sheehey graduated, leaving Ferrell without much help on the offensive side of the ball.

As Ferrell continues to lead Indiana as a junior, the team will have to solidify itself on defense without that dominating presence inside. The roster is small and turnover-prone, which is a formula for disaster in a difficult Big Ten conference. If strong defensive teams lock up on Ferrell and force the rest of this group to make plays, it could be another empty March for the Hoosiers.

Player to watch: Yogi Ferrell. This guy is really fun to watch, as he is quick and creative off the dribble but also accurate from the outside. As one of the most dangerous offensive players in the Big Ten, Ferrell can explode and give Indiana a chance to win on any given night.

Best-case scenario: Indiana sees even more growth from Ferrell and freshmen James Blackmon and Robert Johnson make a quick transition to the college game, landing Indiana a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Worst-case scenario: Last year’s mess leaks over into this season and Indiana hovers around .500 all season, giving the players plenty of time to study for exams in March.

Projected finish: 9th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 72.2 5 108
Scoring Defense 67.6 8 96
Field Goal Percentage .448 6 132
Field Goal Percentage Defense .412 4 59
3-pt FG Percentage .344 6 173
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .299 2 8
Free Throw Percentage .730 7 66
Rebounding Margin +7.6 1
Assist/Turnover Ratio 11.5/15.1 = 0.8 12 321
Steals 5.9 7 179
Blocked Shots 4.3 6 82

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Maryland Terrapins Maryland logo
Head Coach: Mark Turgeon (4th season)
2013-14: 17-15, 9th in ACC (9-9), No postseason
Returning starters: 1 (Evan Smotrycz)
Recruiting class rank: #14 (Melo Trimble, Dion Wiley, Jared Nickens, Michal Cekovsky)
Key non-conference games: Dec 3 vs Virginia, Dec 21 at Oklahoma State

Maryland will make the move to the Big Ten and find itself in uncharted territory as a grueling conference schedule offers challenge after challenge during the winter months. Despite battling to stay relevant over the past few seasons, Maryland brought in a top 10 recruiting class to counter its first Big Ten slate, including Melo Trumble, who will join the team’s top returner Dez Wells in the backcourt.

Though the Big Ten is much deeper than the ACC, Maryland is no stranger to tough games and atmospheres. The Terrapins lost to eventual champion UCONN by just one point last season and even knocked off the conference champion Virginia Cavaliers.

Player to watch: Evan Smotrycz. Michigan fans will remember the curly-haired senior well from his two seasons in Ann Arbor. The 6 foot 9 forward averaged 11 points and six rebounds per game in 2013-14, both better than his totals in the Big Ten. He will miss at least the first month of the season after breaking his foot in October.

Best-case scenario: Maryland surprises the Big Ten and finishes in the top half of the league behind elite backcourt play from Wells and Trumble. Finishing with just over 20 wins earns the Terps a late invite to the Dace.

Worst-case scenario: The Big Ten proves to be much more difficult than the ACC and Maryland wears down early in 2015, finishing with a losing conference record and missing the tournament once again.

Projected finish: 11th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank* National Rank
Scoring Offense 70.9 8 157
Scoring Defense 67.7 9 103
Field Goal Percentage .430 8 218
Field Goal Percentage Defense .417 7 78
3-pt FG Percentage .342 7 172
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .341 9 154
Free Throw Percentage .679 12 253
Rebounding Margin +3.3 5
Assist/Turnover Ratio 11.7/12.8 = 0.9 11 243
Steals 6.3 6 138
Blocked Shots 4.3 6 81
*Where Maryland’s stats would have ranked in the Big Ten last season

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Michigan Wolverines Block M - Maize
Head Coach: John Beilein (8th season)
2013-14: 28-9, 1st in Big Ten (15-3), Elite Eight NCAA Tournament
Returning Starters: 2 (Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton, Jr.)
Recruiting class rank: #28 (Kameron Chatman, D.J. Wilson, Ricky Doyle, Aubrey Dawkins, Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Austin Hatch)
Key non-conference games: Nov 24 vs Oregon, Dec 2 vs Syracuse, Dec 13 at Arizona, Dec 20 vs SMU

John Beilein has certainly turned the Michigan basketball program around. After leading his team to the National Championship game in 2013 and losing stars Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. to the first round of the NBA draft, Beilein simply reloaded and came within one miracle heavy by Kentucky’s Andrew Harrison of returning to the Final Four. Now the team is hoping to recover from major losses once again as Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III left for the NBA, Jordan Morgan graduated and Jon Horford transferred to Florida for his final year of eligibility.

It’s no secret that Beilein needs to continue developing his players to maintain Michigan’s recent success. Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton, Jr. weren’t the most highly-rated recruits, but they will be asked to lead the offense from the backcourt this season after shouldering a big load last year. LeVert, who was named to the 2014-15 preseason All-Big Ten team, set the precedent for sophomore Zak Irvin, who is the popular choice for Michigan’s third straight breakout star.

As the former Mr. Basketball in Indiana, Irvin should welcome lofty expectations. He gave the offense a shot in the arm in a lesser role last season, and will hope to become a more versatile scorer as a starter, much like Stauskas and LeVert did last year.

Michigan also brings in a trio of talented freshmen in D.J. Wilson, Kameron Chatman and, perhaps most importantly, Ricky Doyle. While Wilson and Chatman figure to join a deep rotation of talented guards, Doyle will join redshirt freshman Mark Donnel as the top options at center for Michigan. The two freshmen stand at just 6 foot 9, so Michigan will have to hide that weakness with another elite offensive season.

Player to watch: Derrick Walton. Michigan figures to get great production from the wings while struggling down low because of a size disadvantage. If Walton can build off of an impressive freshman season, he could give Michigan enough of a backcourt to make another run at the Big Ten

Best-case scenario: John Beilein does it again, and the revamped Wolverines improve throughout the nonconference season and emerge as one of the top teams in the Big Ten. After a top-3 finish in the conference, Michigan enters March with a return to the Final Four in mind.

Worst-case scenario: The exodus of centers from last season bites Michigan, and the Big Ten exposes a lack of size and experience in the paint. Michigan finishes the conference season in the middle of the pack and approaches Selection Sunday with a nervous twinge of doubt about their status.

Projected finish: 3rd

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 73.9 3 70
Scoring Defense 65.1 5 48
Field Goal Percentage .477 1 18
Field Goal Percentage Defense .445 12 196
3-pt FG Percentage .402 1 4
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .318 6 46
Free Throw Percentage .763 1 10
Rebounding Margin +0.2 10
Assist/Turnover Ratio 14.2/9.3 = 1.5 2 7
Steals 5.2 9 273
Blocked Shots 2.4 12 301

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Michigan State Spartans MichiganStateLogo
Head Coach: Tom Izzo (20th season)
2013-14: 29-9, T-2nd in Big Ten (12-6), Elite Eight NCAA Tournament
Returning starters: 2 (Denzel Valentine, Branden Dawson)
Recruiting class rank: #51 (Lourawls Nairn, Jr., Javon Bess, Marvin Clark)
Key non-conference games: Nov 18 vs Duke, Dec 3 at ND

Michigan State battled through some regular-season adversity to emerge as one of the favorites to reach the Final Four last March, but fell short when eventual champion UCONN sent the Spartans home. In the following weeks, head coach Tom Izzo said goodbye to his three top players: Adreian Payne, Gary Harris and Keith Appling.

This season, a variety of role players will be asked to fill the void left by those starters, as the incoming freshmen are far from elite. Branden Dawson will be asked to finally embrace his full potential and anchor the starting lineup alongside streaky Denzel Valentine. Travis Trice and Matt Costello will be asked to step into bigger roles this season and give the Spartans a chance to contend for another Big Ten title.

Izzo’s teams often start slowly during the nonconference season, but they will always improve enough to offer a challenge as the calendar turns to March. With all the new faces in East Lansing, this team will likely follow that same script.

Player to watch: Branden Dawson. Will Dawson finally turn the corner and become the dominant inside presence Izzo recruited him to be? He’s no longer in the (exceptionally large) shadows of Derrick Nix or Payne, which means this is his team now.

Best-case scenario: Though this group may not be one of Izzo’s more talented teams, the best-case scenario for Michigan State is always to be in contention for a Final Four run. If Dawson has an All-Big Ten season and the role players progress significantly, no coach in the country will want to match up with MSU in the NCAA Tournament.

Worst-case scenario: A loaded Big Ten proves difficult for the Spartans during a transition year and the team lands somewhere around .500 in the conference and barely squeezes into the Big Dance.

Projected finish: 5th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 75.5 2 49
Scoring Defense 65.6 7 57
Field Goal Percentage .474 2 21
Field Goal Percentage Defense .397 1 18
3-pt FG Percentage .392 2 16
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .332 8 103
Free Throw Percentage .707 9 151
Rebounding Margin +5.1 3
Assist/Turnover Ratio 16.8/11.6 = 1.4 3 18
Steals 6.8 5 85
Blocked Shots 4.6 4 63

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Ohio State Buckeyes Ohio State logo new
Head Coach: Thad Matta (11th season)
2013-14: 25-10, 5th in Big Ten (10-8), Second Round NCAA Tournament
Returning starters: 2 (Amir Williams, Sam Thompson)
Recruiting class rank: #8 (D’Angelo Russell, Keita Bates-Diop, Jae’Sean Tate, Dave Bell)
Key non-conference games: Nov 18 vs Marquette, Dec 2 at Louisville, Dec 20 vs UNC

Remember when Ohio State was 15-0 last season and ranked in the top five? Not many do, because the Buckeyes finished the season 10-10 with a loss to 2014’s Cinderella, the Dayton Flyers, in their first tournament game. Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith, Jr. graduated, and LaQuinton Ross signed with a team in Italy, so things can only get worse for Than Matta’s group, right?

Wrong. Matta countered the loss of three starters by welcoming a top-five recruiting class into Columbus for the 2014-15 season. Top-ranked shooting guard D’Angelo Russell offers a much-needed shot in the arm for what was a terrible Buckeye offense last season. Shannon Scott will take over as the defensive anchor in wake of Craft’s departure, as OSU tries to match last year’s 59.8 points allowed per game (12th in the nation).

In the paint Ohio State will rely on two potential studs to mask an otherwise thin roster. Amir Williams is a beast on the defensive end and will have to stay out of foul trouble. Anthony Lee joins the Buckeyes after transferring from Temple and will partner with Williams to compose a duo that has to grab all the rebounds for this team.

Player to watch: D’Angelo Russell. He’s the top-ranked recruit joining the Big Ten this season, and Matta has a way of getting the most out of his guards. He has to be the go-to man on offense right out of the gates.

Best-case scenario: Matta turns Russell into one of the top players in the country and pairs him with a dominant defense led by Scott and Williams to win the Big Ten and enter the NCAA Tournament as one of the favorites to reach the Final Four.

Worse-case scenario: A talented trio of recruits suffers growing pains and fails to live up to sky-high standards in Columbus, while foul trouble exposes a thin inside presence on defense. Ohio State struggles in the conference season and finishes sixth in the Big Ten, earning a double-digit seed in the NCAA Tournament

Projected finish: 2nd

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 69.5 9 190
Scoring Defense 59.8 1 11
Field Goal Percentage .450 5 124
Field Goal Percentage Defense .406 2 34
3-pt FG Percentage .324 9 263
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .293 1 5
Free Throw Percentage .689 11 211
Rebounding Margin +0.3 9
Assist/Turnover Ratio 12.0/11.3 = 1.1 6 161
Steals 7.7 1 21
Blocked Shots 4.5 5 85

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Penn State Nittany Lions Penn State Logo
Head Coach: Patrick Chambers (4th season)
2013-14: 16-18, T-10th Big Ten (6-12), CBI Quarterfinals
Returning starters: 4 (Jordan Dickerson, D.J. Newbill, Brandon Taylor, John Johnson)
Recruiting class rank: #86 (Shep Garner, Isaiah Washington, Devin Foster)
Key non-conference games: Dec 3 vs Virginia Tech

It might be another tough year for Pat Chambers and Penn State, especially now that Tim Frazier’s rein of terrorizing the Big Ten is finally over. But five of Penn State’s Big Ten losses came by five points or less last season, which means the Nittany Lions were reasonably within reach of finishing 11-7 in the nation’s top conference. That would have put PSU in fourth place with an overall record of 20-12 at the end of the regular season, a resume that almost exactly mirrors the one that put Nebraska in the NCAA Tournament.

Frazier’s departure hurts the Nittany Lions, but D.J. Newbill quietly took over much of the leadership from the senior last year, leading the team with 17.8 points per game and finishing second in rebounds, blocks and steals. Newbill won’t be alone as the team returns each of its top six scorers from last season, with the exception of Frazier.

Ross Travis and Brandon Taylor will start in the frontcourt for Chambers, who will have no shortage of veteran depth across the board.

Player to watch: Devin Foster. The junior college transfer quietly chose Penn State during the offseason and should take over as the starting point guard right off the bat. Foster averaged 12.2 points and 4.8 assists per game last season with Vincennes and gives Chambers a much-needed distributor on offense.

Best-case scenario: A host of returning players continues to improve under Chambers and Penn State wins half of its Big Ten games, threatening fellow bubble teams in the race for a NCAA Tournament bid.

Worst-case scenario: While Newbill performs much like he did last season, the loss of Frazier turns Penn State into the team it was two years ago, when its leader missed the entire season with a ruptured achilles. If so, the Nittany Lions could end up near the bottom of the league.

Projected finish: 10th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 70.9 8 158
Scoring Defense 70.2 10 172
Field Goal Percentage .428 8 228
Field Goal Percentage Defense .414 5 63
3-pt FG Percentage .319 10 284
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .352 12 222
Free Throw Percentage .741 4 38
Rebounding Margin +0.7 6
Assist/Turnover Ratio 11.3/10.6 = 1.1 8 144
Steals 4.5 11 327
Blocked Shots 4.7 3 58

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Rutgers Scarlet Knights Rutgers logo
Head Coach: Eddie Jordan (2nd season)
2013-14: 12-21, 7th in AAC (5-13), No postseason
Returning starters: 2 (Kadeem Jack, Myles Mack)
Recruiting class rank: #66 (D.J. Foreman, Mike Williams, Ibrahima Diallo)
Key non-conference games: Dec 3 vs Duke, Dec 6 at Marquette, Dec 22 at California

Rutgers has battled controversy in its basketball program over the past couple of years, and the looming Big Ten schedule could make the winter just as ugly on the court for the Scarlett Knights. Eddie Jordan’s team failed to knock off a ranked opponent last season and now faces a conference slate that could feature as many as eight ranked teams over the course of the coming months.

Last year’s 20-loss team returns only three of the seven players that averaged more than five points per game. Luckily for Jordan, top playmakers Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack will lead the offense after averaging a combined 29.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and five assists per game last season. Jack is a slightly undersized center who will battle more physical defenses in the Big Ten, and his transition will be a major factor for Rutgers.

Player to watch: Kadeem Jack. His special 2013-14 season was masked by the team’s struggles, but the 6 foot 9 forward put up 14.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game while shooting over 50 percent from the field. His 68.8 percent free throw rate will be a number to watch as Big Ten centers bang with him in the paint.

Best-case scenario: Rutgers fans are treated to another version of the Mack and Jack show, carrying the team out of the Big Ten cellar in its first go-around.

Worst-case scenario: Rutgers finished 1-11 on the road last season with the lone win coming over last-place South Florida. With that in mind, Rutgers could realistically lose nearly every single Big Ten game if the players don’t make a smooth transition from the American.

Projected finish: 14th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank* National Rank
Scoring Offense 71.1 8 185
Scoring Defense 76.2 13 298
Field Goal Percentage .426 11 270
Field Goal Percentage Defense .447 13 232
3-pt FG Percentage .336 7 230
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .371 13 302
Free Throw Percentage .706 10 163
Rebounding Margin -0.6 11
Assist/Turnover Ratio 12.7/12.6 = 1.0 9 194
Steals 5.8 8 209
Blocked Shots 4.2 7 114
*Where Rutgers’ stats would have ranked in the Big Ten last season

Big Ten power rankings: Week 9

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014


Power Rankings_header

East Division
1. Michigan State (7-1, 4-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Michigan 35-11 This Week: Bye (Nov. 11 vs #16 Ohio State)

Michigan State played a below-average game against their in-state rival Wolverines this weekend, but a late score helped the conference favorite cover the spread and stay undefeated in the league.

2. Ohio State (6-1, 3-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Penn State 31-24 (2OT) This Week: Sat vs Illinois (4-4, 1-3), 8pm, ABC

In a near disaster, the Buckeyes let Penn State force overtime after leading by 17 points for much of the game. But a defensive stand in double overtime gave new life to what could be a top-10 matchup for the division crown in East Lansing on Nov. 8.

3. Maryland (5-3, 2-2) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Wisconsin 7-52 This Week: Sat at Penn State (4-3, 1-3), 12pm, ESPN2

It says a lot about the strength of the East Division after MSU and OSU that Maryland, who got waxed in Madison 52-7 Saturday, falls in at No. 3. The Terrapins didn’t carry any momentum from upsetting Iowa into Wisconsin as they got pounded from the start.

4. Penn State (4-3, 1-3) – Up 2
Last Week: Lost to #13 Ohio State 24-31 (2OT) This Week: Sat vs Maryland (5-3, 2-2), 12pm, ESPN2

October has turned into a total disaster for Penn State, as an upset bid fell just short Saturday night during Happy Valley’s signature white out game. Three straight losses have eliminated the Nittany Lions from any hope of staying relevant.

5. Rutgers (5-3, 1-3) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #16 Nebraska 24-42 This Week: Sat vs Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1), 12pm, ESPN

Rutgers got another taste of the Big Ten’s heavy hitters Saturday as Nebraska welcomed the Scarlett Knights to Lincoln and crushed them by 18. They’ve allowed 98 points in their past two games.

6. Michigan (3-5, 1-3) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #8 Michigan State 11-35 This Week: Sat vs Indiana (3-4, 0-3), 3:30pm, Big Ten Network

Nobody expected Michigan to come out of East Lansing with a win, but it was shocking how easily the Spartans handled the Devin Gardner-led offense. Now the Wolverines can only hope to salvage three wins in the final four weeks to earn a bowl invitation.

7. Indiana (3-4, 0-3) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat at Michigan (3-5, 1-3), 3:30pm, Big Ten Network

Indiana took a bye week to prepare for Michigan in the Big House this weekend, but Illinois’ upset win over Minnesota left the Hoosiers as the only winless team in the Big Ten.

B1G East Week 9

West Division
1. Nebraska (7-1, 3-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 42-24 This Week: Sat vs Purdue (3-5, 1-3), 3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2

Nebraska has silently put together a nice 7-1 record in the shadow of Michigan State, the Big Ten’s most talented team. The Cornhuskers are more than capable of winning the rest of their games and setting up a potential rematch in Indianapolis.

2. Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Maryland 52-7 This Week: Sat at Rutgers (5-3, 1-3), 12pm, ESPN

It took three weeks for Wisconsin to put together a complete performance in the Big Ten, but a 52-7 win over Maryland has the Badgers in great position with two winnable road games coming up. If Melvin Gordon can lead his team over Nebraska on Nov. 15, the Badgers will become the West Division favorites again.

3. Minnesota (6-2, 3-1) – Down 2
Last Week: Lost to Illinois 24-28 This Week: Bye (Nov. 8 vs Iowa)

It was only a matter of time before Minnesota surrendered a slim lead in the West Division, but few thought it would come at the hands of the winless Fighting Illini. Iowa comes to town after the bye.

4. Iowa (5-2, 2-1) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Northwestern (3-4, 2-2), 12pm, Big Ten Network

Iowa had a bye week this weekend after a tough loss to Maryland ended a modest winning streak. The next three games are winnable for the Hawkeyes before Wisconsin and Nebraksa round out the season.

5. Illinois (4-4, 1-3) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 28-24 This Week: Sat at #16 Ohio State (6-1, 3-0), 8pm, ABC

Illinois finally got its first Big Ten win Saturday, knocking off the first-place Gophers 28-24. The last four games will be difficult for Tim Beckman.

6. Northwestern (3-4, 2-2) – Down 1
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat at Iowa (5-2, 2-1), 12pm, Big Ten Network

The Wildcats got a much-needed week off after losing two straight conference games. Now a tough road matchup in Iowa City is looming.

7. Purdue (3-4, 0-3) – Down 1
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat at #15 Nebraska (7-1, 3-1), 3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2

Purdue is tied for last place in the West Division, and upcoming games against Nebraska and Wisconsin should keep the Boilermakers near the bottom in the future.

B1G West Week 9

2014 Big Ten basketball preview: Part one

Monday, October 27th, 2014


2014-15 B1G BBall Preview-Part1

Over the past few years an incredible change has passed over the Midwest, which was long praised for elite football programs like Michigan and Ohio State and largely uncompetitive on the hardwood with Michigan State taking the cake nearly every season. Now, the sports landscape has been turned on its head, as Big Ten football struggles to keep three teams ranked in the Top 25 while the basketball conference continues to solidify itself as the best in the nation.

Last season was another great campaign for the conference as a whole. Wisconsin fought its way through a tough West regional to reach the Final Four, while Michigan and Michigan State were just seconds away from doing the same, eventually losing to the two National Championship competitors. Ohio State, Iowa and Nebraska were also selected for the Big Dance, giving the Big Ten six teams that made the cut. Minnesota also had a successful postseason, winning the NIT championship.

The Big Ten has climbed to the top of the basketball world by featuring a deep slate of teams led by a few legitimate Final Four contenders. This season will be no different, even as the conference welcomes two new teams that have struggled in recent years.

Below is part one of our Big Ten preview. Although there are no divisions in basketball, we’re splitting our preview up into the Big Ten West and Big Ten East football divisions for the sake of organization. Part two will be posted later this week.

Note: In the 2013 Stats & Rankings tables for each team, the darker the shade of maize, the better that team was in that category; the darker the shade of blue, the worse that team was in that category.

Illinois Fighting Illini IllinoisLogo
Head Coach: John Groce (3rd season)
2013-14: 20-15, T-8th in Big Ten (7-11), No postseason
Returning starters: 4 (Nnanna Egwu, Rayvonte Rice, Malcolm Hill, Kendrick Nunn)
Recruiting class rank: (according to 247 Sports): #47 (Leron Black, Michael Finke)
Key non-conference games: Dec. 2 at Miami, Dec. 9 vs Villanova, Dec. 13 vs Oregon

Jon Groce took a major step backwards in his second season in the Big Ten, missing the NCAA Tournament and falling to Clemson by one point in the second round of the NIT. Illinois received a major blow during the offseason when Tracy Abrams tore his ACL, putting the senior point guard out of commission for the entire year.

Despite the loss of Abrams, the Illini offense will have to improve on an average of 64.6 points per game last season, which was good for 311th in the nation. Drake transfer Rayvonte Rice joined Illinois and led the team in scoring with 15.9 points per game last year, but he’ll need help from young players like Kendrick Nunn to give the team a chance to play deep into March in 2015.

Player to watch: Rayvonte Rice. He led the team in scoring in his first Big Ten season, shooting 43 percent from the field and grabbing six boards per game.

Best-case scenario: Rice continues to improve his offensive game, and Nnanna Egwu becomes a defensive force in the paint, leading Illinois to an NCAA Tournament berth.

Worst-case scenario: The team feels the loss of Abrams and lets that set a defeated tone for the season, which carries into the gauntlet Big Ten schedule and Groce’s team ends up in a second straight NIT.

Projected finish: 8th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 64.2 11 303
Scoring Defense 62.2 2 19
Field Goal Percentage .411 11 303
Field Goal Percentage Defense .421 9 94
3-pt FG Percentage .317 11 292
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .343 11 164
Free Throw Percentage .733 6 59
Rebounding Margin +0.5 8
Assist/Turnover Ratio 10.0/10.4 = 1.0 10 209
Steals 6.1 6 155
Blocked Shots 3.6 9 164

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Iowa Hawkeyes Iowa logo
Head Coach: Fran McCaffery (5th season)
2013-14: 20-13, 6th in Big Ten (9-9), First round NCAA Tournament
Returning starters: 3 (Adam Woodbury, Aaron White, Mike Gesell)
Recruiting class rank: #72 (Brady Ellingson, Trey Dickerson, Dominique Uhl)
Key non-conference games: Nov. 20 vs Texas, Dec. 3 at UNC, Dec 12 vs Iowa State

Iowa returns most of a team that put together one of the most confusing resumes in the country last season, ultimately finishing with 20 wins and squeaking into an NCAA Tournament first-round game. The only major loss is that of Roy Devyn Marble, who was the most dangerous offensive player for Fran McCaffery last season.

On offense the Hawkeyes ranked in the top 15 in points, rebounds and assists per game a year ago. At the same time, the defense ranked 12th in rebounds, 37th in blocks and 54th in steals per game, combining to form one of the most impressive statistical resumes in the country. But a 1-6 finish to the regular season set up the overtime loss to Tennessee in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and sent Iowa home as an afterthought.

This year the team will rely heavily on do-it-all man Aaron White and an athletic backcourt of Mike Gesell and junior college All-American transfer Trey Dickerson to lead a lethal offense. Center Adam Woodbury will be asked to anchor the defense as a junior.

Player to watch: Trey Dickerson. McCaffery brought in Dickerson to give the offense an element of speed, which helped him earn All-American honors in junior college. He could be a huge addition to this deep Iowa rotation.

Best-case scenario: With a balanced offense returning, the Hawkeyes learn from their late-season collapse and put together a complete season, finishing near the top of the Big Ten and priming themselves for a deep NCAA Tournament run.

Worst-case scenario: The loss of Marble puts too much of the load on White and the offense takes a step back, exposing an overmatched defense. Iowa fights through an inconsistent conference season and lands on the wrong side of the bubble in March.

Projected finish: 6th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 81.5 1 8
Scoring Defense 70.3 11 175
Field Goal Percentage .463 3 51
Field Goal Percentage Defense .415 6 68
3-pt FG Percentage .350 5 135
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .317 5 47
Free Throw Percentage .735 5 52
Rebounding Margin +7.0 2
Assist/Turnover Ratio 16.1/11.2 = 1.4 4 20
Steals 7.1 3 53
Blocked Shots 5.0 2 35

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Minnesota Golden Gophers Minnesota-Logo
Head Coach: Richard Pitino (2nd season)
2013-14: 2013-14: 25-13, 7th in Big Ten (8-10), NIT Champions
Returning Starters: 4 (Maurice Walker, Joey King, Andre Hollis, Deandre Mathieu)
Recruiting class rank: #71 (Nate Mason, Jr., Carlos Morris, Josh Martin, Bakary Konate, Gaston Diedhiou)
Key non-conference games: Nov 14 vs Louisville, Dec 2 at Wake Forest

Minnesota put together quite a run to end the 2014 season, winning five straight games by single digits to take home the NIT crown. As the best of the teams that didn’t make the tournament, Minnesota proved that it probably should have received an invite to the Dance.

Now, Richard Pitino returns three of his four leading scorers, including the explosive Andre Hollins, to an offense that must improve on its 71.2 points per contest from last season. Top rebounder Elliot Eliason is also back, and joins Hollins and Deandre Mathieu to form a solid core in Minnesota.

Pitino will have to fill the void left by Austin Hollis, who did a little of everything for the Gophers, averaging 12.4 points, 2.4 assists, five rebounds and two steals per game. Minnesota should be back on the bubble for an NCAA Tournamnt berth, if it can finish .500 in the Big Ten.

Player to watch: Deandre Mathieu. The Morehead State transfer burst onto the Big Ten scene last season, averaging 12 points and 4.2 assists per game for the Golden Gophers. If he can improve on his numbers as a season, he could become an even better version of Austin Hollins.

Best-case scenario: Mathieu clicks, Andre Hollins makes smart decisions as an upperclassman, and Pitino leads his team to double digit conference wins in his second year with Minnesota.

Worst-case scenario: The consistency and playmaking ability of Austin Hollins is sorely missed and the committee of talented guards in Minnesota struggles to fill that gap. Minnesota ends up back in the NIT with a chance to defend their bittersweet title.

Projected finish: 7th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 71.1 7 149
Scoring Defense 67.7 9 106
Field Goal Percentage .447 7 121
Field Goal Percentage Defense .426 10 110
3-pt FG Percentage .352 4 118
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .343 10 170
Free Throw Percentage .742 3 45
Rebounding Margin +0.6 7
Assist/Turnover Ratio 13.9/11.7 = 1.2 5 71
Steals 7.6 2 36
Blocked Shots 4.1 7 115

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Nebraska Cornhuskers Nebraska logo
Head Coach: Tim Miles (3rd season)
2013-14: 19-13, 4th in Big Ten (11-7), Second Round NCAA Tournament
Returning starters: 5 (David Rivers, Terran Petteway, Walter Pitchford, Shavon Shields, Tai Webster)
Recruiting class rank: #87 (Jake Hammond, Tarin Smith)
Key non-conference games: Dec 1 at Florida State, Dec 7 vs Creighton, Dec 13 vs Cincinnati

After an 0-4 start to the Big Ten season landed Nebraska at 8-8 on the season, rumblings of a tournament bid completely died in Lincoln as the team featured no quality wins and two terrible losses. But then, in perhaps the most unlikely turnaround in the country, the Cornhuskers won 11 of their last 14 regular season games before being bounced out of the Big Ten Tournament and NCAA Tournament on consecutive Fridays.

The X-factor for Nebraska was obvious: Tim Miles’ team simply didn’t lose in the brand-new Pinnacle Bank Arena. In 16 games at home, Nebraska went 15-1 with a last-second loss to the conference champion Wolverines in early January. With that type of home court advantage this season, the Cornhuskers should be well on their way to another tournament appearance.

Of the nine players that averaged over 10 minutes per game for Miles, seven of them are returning, including two of the top offensive players in the conference: Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields. The two forwards make up perhaps the most dynamic duo in the Midwest and figure to lead this team as it enters the season with something new surrounding the program: Expectations.

Last season it was a miracle for Nebraska to sneak into the NCAA Tournament, but this year it will be a massive letdown if they don’t return.

Player to watch: Terran Petteway. This guy is a legitimate contender for conference player of the year. He averaged 18.1 points and 4.8 rebounds per game last season while leading the underdog Cornhuskers to fourth place in the best conference in basketball.

Best-case scenario: Nebraska returns with all the magic from last season and puts together a complete campaign, winning 25 plus games and challenging Wisconsin for the Big Ten crown.

Worst-case scenario: Shields and Petteway can’t match their 2013-14 level of play and the team spends the whole season searching for a leader. In March Nebraska sits near the middle of the pack in the Big Ten and on the wrong side of the NCAA bubble.

Projected finish: 4th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 66.8 10 263
Scoring Defense 65.2 6 50
Field Goal Percentage .427 9 235
Field Goal Percentage Defense .420 8 88
3-pt FG Percentage .333 7 210
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .315 3 42
Free Throw Percentage .717 8 117
Rebounding Margin -1.9 11
Assist/Turnover Ratio 9.5/10.9 = 0.9 11 284
Steals 6.9 4 72
Blocked Shots 3.1 11 213

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Northwestern Wildcats NorthwesternLogo
Head Coach: Chris Collins (2nd season)
2013-14: 14-19, T-10th in Big Ten, No postseason
Returning starters: 4 (Alex Olah, Sanjay Lumpkin, JerShon Cobb, Tre Demps
Recruiting class rank: #54 (Vic Law, Bryant McIntosh, Scott Lindsey, Gavin Skelly, Johnnie Vassar)
Key non-conference games: Dec 3 vs Georgia Tech, Dec 6 at Butler

The hire of Chris Collins from Duke University sparked a buzz around the Northwestern program last season, and the team did show signs of competing within the Big Ten. In fact, with a 5-5 conference record on the first day of February, the Wildcats were in fourth place in the conference with just 10 games to go. Unfortunately, those 10 games didn’t go well.

Northwestern lost their next seven games and eight of their last 10 to finish just a game out of the cellar. Now Collins has to move forward without his best all-around player Drew Crawford, who has taken his talents to the NBA. Crawford led the team in scoring and rebounding and was among the top three in assists and blocks last season.

The team will feature much of the same core in 2014-15, with guards JerShon Cobb and Tre Demps leading the charge from the backcourt. Seven-foot center Alex Olah is back after a solid sophomore season, and Dave Sobolewski will have to step up as a senior coming off the bench. Vic Law was a top 100 recruit and should give the team a future to build around going forward.

Player to watch: Vic Law. The freshman forward should grow into a significant role this season and play a big part in what Collins hopes to do at Northwestern. The team is deep in the backcourt, but could really use a breakout season from Law on the wing.

Best-case scenario: Northwestern’s starting lineup gels and keeps them in most of their games, thanks to career seasons from Cobb and Demps and a solid freshman campaign from Law. The Wildcats enter the final weeks of the season with an opportunity to put themselves on the bubble.

Worst-case scenario: Big Ten defenses no longer have to worry about Crawford, so the host of Wildcat guards are slowed by more focused defenses.

Projected finish: 12th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 59.5 12 347
Scoring Defense 63.4 3 30
Field Goal Percentage .396 12 335
Field Goal Percentage Defense .411 3 55
3-pt FG Percentage .306 12 318
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .315 4 45
Free Throw Percentage .700 10 177
Rebounding Margin -4.5 12
Assist/Turnover Ratio 11.0/10.9 = 1.0 9 175
Steals 4.3 12 335
Blocked Shots 3.7 8 162

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Purdue Boilermakers Purdue logo
Head Coach: Matt Painter (10th season)
2013-14: 15-17, 12th in Big Ten (5-13), No postseason
Returning starters: 3 (A.J. Hammons, Kendall Stephens, Rapheal Davis)
Recruiting class rank: #34 (Isaac Haas, Vincent Edwards, Dakota Mathias, P.J. Thompson, Jacquil Taylor)
Key non-conference games: Nov 24 vs Kansas State, Dec 2 vs NC State, Dec 20 vs ND

It took a truly impressive collapse from Matt Painter’s team to finish with a losing record last season, as Purdue stood at 13-5 midway through the season. A 2-12 finish certainly wasn’t what Painter had in mind, and losing his top two scoring threats for this season won’t help.

When two-time MVP Terone Johnson graduated and moved on to play professional ball in Greece, his brother, Ronnie decided to transfer and take his talents to Houston. With the loss of the Johnson brothers Painter waved goodbye to a total of 22.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.2 steals per game. The only saving grace is that starting center A.J. Hammons is ready to take over the team as a junior, much like JaJuan Johnson did under Painter as a sophomore five years ago.

Hammons will be joined by returning guards Kendall Stephens and Bryson Scott, who played major roles for Purdue last season. Transfer Jon Octeus could be the most important player for the Boilermakers this season after he averaged 13.4 points and 4.7 rebounds out of the backcourt for Colorado State last season.

Player to watch: A.J. Hammons. When Purdue was a Big Ten powerhouse under Painter, the centerpiece was a dominant big man inside. Now Hammons looks like the team’s only chance to get back to that level of success following a last-place finish.

Best-case scenario: Hammons takes the reins and runs with them, drawing double and triple teams to help out the trio of potential breakout guards. Purdue fights its way into the top 10 in the conference and gives the top teams headaches in February and March.

Worst-case scenario: Purdue continues to trend downward and finishes at the bottom of the league once again. Hammons isn’t ready to be a go-to scorer and Painter’s seat gets ever hotter.

Projected finish: 13th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 72.2 5 109
Scoring Defense 71.7 12 208
Field Goal Percentage .427 10 239
Field Goal Percentage Defense .419 7 83
3-pt FG Percentage .327 8 239
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .326 7 77
Free Throw Percentage .671 12 271
Rebounding Margin +3.5 4
Assist/Turnover Ratio 13.1/12.3 = 1.1 7 140
Steals 5.6 8 229
Blocked Shots 5.3 1 28

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Wisconsin Badgers Wisconsin logo
Head Coach: Bo Ryan (14th season)
2013-14: 30-8, T-2nd in Big Ten (12-6), Final Four NCAA Tournament
Returning starters: 4 (Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Traevon Jackson, Josh Gasser)
Recruiting class rank: #108 (Ethan Happ)
Key non-conference games: Dec 3 vs Duke, Dec 6 at Marquette, Dec 22 at California

Wisconsin has finished in the top four of the Big Ten standings each year since 2001, but this season, the Badgers are the favorites to land on top and return to the Final Four. Bo Ryan’s returns Big Ten preseason player of the year Frank Kaminsky along with fellow starters Sam Dekker, Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser.

The Badgers used an eight-game winning streak near the end of the Big Ten season to position themselves as a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. A one-point overtime win against top-seeded Arizona sent Wisconsin to Arlington, where a one-point loss to Kentucky ended a 30-win season.

Now Ryan enters the 2014-15 season with lofty expectations, thanks to a team that lost little more than Ben Brust during the offseason. Wisconsin should be one of the top teams in the Big Ten and battle for a No. 1 seed in March.

Player to watch: Frank Kaminsky. The seven-footer averaged just 13.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game last season, but his strong second half was enough to earn him preseason player of the year honors heading into his senior season.

Best-case scenario: Wisconsin picks up where it left off, blazing through the Big Ten and storming back to the Final Four behind Kaminsky and a more mature Dekker.

Worse-case scenario: Wisconsin’s veteran players take a step back and the team ends up in the fourth or fifth spot in the conference, earning a middling seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Projected finish: 1st

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 73.5 4 77
Scoring Defense 64.0 4 36
Field Goal Percentage .459 4 73
Field Goal Percentage Defense .429 11 118
3-pt FG Percentage .376 3 57
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .341 9 152
Free Throw Percentage .746 2 27
Rebounding Margin +1.5 5
Assist/Turnover Ratio 12.3/8.1 = 1.5 1 8
Steals 4.8 10 302
Blocked Shots 3.3 10 195

Michigan-Michigan State game preview

Saturday, October 25th, 2014


Game Preview_Michigan State_banner

Ten years ago current Michigan offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier was a part of the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry, but wearing the other colors. He felt the sting of one of the best Michigan wins in the history of the rivalry, on the losing end of what Michigan fans affectionately refer to as ‘Braylonfest’. Now he hopes to help Michigan recapture that magic.

But Michigan will need to reverse a disturbing trend that started on the day of that epic comeback. In each of the past 10 years, Michigan has scored fewer points against Michigan State than the previous year. From 45 in 2004 to 34 to 31 to 28 to 21 to 20 to 17 to 14 to 12 to six. The first four of those resulted in wins, as did the 12 points scored two years ago. But if that trend continues Michigan will lose for the sixth time in the last seven years.

UM-PennState-small-final
Quick Facts
Spartan Stadium – 3:30 p.m. EST – ABC
MSU Head Coach: Mark Dantonio (8th season)
Coaching Record: 88-47 (70-30 at MSU)
Offensive Coordinators: Jim Bollman (2nd season)
Dave Warner (8th season)
Defensive Coordinator: Pat Narduzzi (8th season)
Returning Starters: 11 (7 offense, 4 defense)
Last Season: 13-1 (8-0 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: MSU 29 – UM 6 (2013)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 63-33-5
Record at Spartan Stadium: Michigan leads 17-13-1
Current Streak: Michigan State 1
Last 10 Meetings:  Tied 5-5
Last Michigan Win: 2012 (12-10)
Last Michigan Road Win: 2007 (28-24)

Michigan State has taken advantage of the instability of Michigan’s program since Lloyd Carr retired following the 2007 season. Since then, the Spartans have been the Big Ten’s most stable program, winning two of their eight all-time conference titles and three straight bowl games, including last year’s Rose Bowl.

This season has been no different as Michigan State leads the Big Ten East division with a 6-1 record overall and 3-0 record in conference play. The only blemish was a 46-27 defeat at third-ranked Oregon in Week 2. But aside from the Ducks, Michigan State’s schedule has been pretty light thus far with non-conference wins over Jacksonville State (FCS), Eastern Michigan, and Wyoming, and conference wins over #19 Nebraska, Purdue, and Indiana.

The Nebraska win was certainly a quality one as it stands as the Cornhusker’s only defeat to date. In that game, Michigan State held a commanding 27-3 lead at the end of the third quarter before allowing Nebraska to pull within five points after three straight fourth quarter touchdowns. Nebraska actually had the ball at the Michigan State 37 in the final minute, but Tommy Armstrong Jr was picked off to end the game.

Since then, the Spartans have struggled against two of the Big Ten’s bottom-feeders. Purdue scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to pull within seven points with six minutes remaining, and like Nebraska, had the ball in the closing minutes with a chance to tie it up. But Michigan State intercepted quarterback Austin Appleby and returned it for a touchdown to inflate the final score. Last week against an Indiana squad starting a true freshman quarterback in his very first collegiate action, Michigan State allowed the Hoosiers to hang around for the first half thanks to running back Tevin Coleman’s 132 yards on 15 carries. MSU pulled away in the second half for a comfortable win, but Indiana exposed some gaps in the Spartan defense.

So what does that all mean? For one, Michigan State isn’t as invincible as it seems. But can Michigan actually go into East Lansing and pull out a victory? Let’s take a look at the matchups.

Michigan defense vs Michigan State offense: When Michigan State has the ball

The most surprising aspect of Michigan State this season has been its offense. Even MSU writers can’t believe how much progress has been made since the first half of last season when the Spartans offense looked much like Michigan’s has looked at times this season. Through the first seven games this season, Michigan State ranks third nationally in scoring (47 points per game), 12th in total offense (525.1 yards per game), 15th in rushing (260 yards per game), and 42nd in passing (265.1 yards per game). It also ranks first nationally in time of possession (36:22), first in sacks allowed (four), and 17th in third-down conversions (47 percent).

Connor Cook ranks second in the Big Ten in pass efficiency (Michael Hickey, Getty Images)

Connor Cook ranks second in the Big Ten in pass efficiency (Michael Hickey, Getty Images)

The main reason for the success of the MSU offense is the development of junior quarterback Connor Cook. While his completion percentage is down 2.7 percent from last season, Cook ranks second in the Big Ten in pass efficiency behind only Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett and fourth in passing yards per game with 234.4.  He has thrown for at least 230 yards in five of seven games, and the only two he didn’t — against Eastern Michigan and Wyoming — he attempted fewer than 10 passes and backups Tyler O’Connor and Damion Terry each saw extended action.

It certainly helps that Cook has a talented receiving corps to throw to, led by 6’3″, 185-pound senior Tony Lippett, who has caught 39 passes for 786 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s the only receiver in the Big Ten averaging over 100 yards per game (112.3) and he leads the conference in touchdown receptions and yards per catch (20.2). He has scored in every game except last week and he also had a 32-yard touchdown run against Nebraska. Sophomore tight end Josiah Price is the second-leading receiver with 15 catches for 244 yards and four touchdowns, while five other receivers have over 100 yards and at least one touchdown: Junior Aaron Burbridge (158 yards and one touchdown), junior Macgarrett Kings Jr (142 and one), senior Keith Mumphery (123 and one), sophomore R.J. Shelton (102 and one), and junior A.J. Troup (100 and two).

The backfield is led by talented senior running back Jeremy Langford who ranks fifth in the Big Ten with 94.9 rushing yards per game, though he’s a far cry from the top four. But Langford has eclipsed 100 yards in each of the last four games and scored three touchdowns last week. Unlike the four ahead of him, he shares the backfield, and while it’s not a complete share, his backfield mate, senior Nick Hill, has 76 carries for 465 yards and six touchdowns. Last week he recorded the first 100-yard performance of his career with 178 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Sophomore Delton Williams also plays a role as a home run threat, averaging 7.2 yards per carry, and five touchdowns on just 33 carries.

The offensive line had to replace three starters from last season, but the unit has done a great job of protecting Cook. The Spartans lead the nation in sacks allowed with just four in seven games. The only lineman to start every game at the same position this season is sophomore left tackle Jack Conklin. Fifth-year senior Travis Jackson has started six games at left guard and one at center, while regular center Jack Allen has started five and should return from an ankle injury this week. Junior Donovan Clark has started every game, six at right guard and one at right tackle, and sophomore Kodi Kieler has started six at right tackle.

Michigan offense vs Michigan State defense: When Michigan has the ball

Defense is how Mark Dantonio built Michigan State into a power over the past few years, and while this year’s version is good, it’s not quite at the elite level it has been recently. Pat Narduzzi’s defense ranks 34th nationally in scoring (21.6 points per game), ninth in total defense (292.7 yards per game), eighth in rush defense (100.3 yards per game), and 19th in pass defense (192.4 yards per game). Statistically, it’s very comparable to Michigan’s defense which most Michigan fans have been down on. The two areas that are considerably better than Michigan’s are third-down defense (25 percent compared to 36) and sacks (26 compared to 18).

Narduzzi had to replace seven full-time starters, but returned a solid core including junior defensive end Shilique Calhoun, senior end Marcus Rush, and senior linebacker Taiwan Jones. Calhoun and Rush have combined for 14 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. The interior of the line is new this season, but juniors Joel Heath and Lawrence Thomas have held up well, but have given up some big runs up the middle the past few weeks.

Jones leads the linebacking corps with 30 tackles, 7.5 for loss, and three sacks, but junior SAM linebacker Ed Davis leads the team with six sacks and eight tackles for loss. Junior Darrien Harris rounds out the group at the STAR spot with 25 tackles, 1.5 for loss, half a sack, and an interception.

The secondary is led by senior safety Kurtis Drummond, whose 33 tackles, six passes defended, and two interceptions lead the team. The strong safety, freshman Montae Nicholson, is young and prone to mistakes, while junior safety R.J. Williamson, ranks second with 30 tackles to go along with five passes defended and a pick. Junior cornerback Trae Waynes is a star and definitely one of the top corners in the Big Ten. He has 23 tackles, two for loss, one sack, six passes defended, and two interceptions. The field corner is sophomore Darian Hicks and he’s much more vulnerable than Waynes.

Special Teams: The other third

Sophomore kicker Michael Geiger is solid, having converted 7-of-11 this season with a long of 42, although he’s just 2-of-5 from 40-plus. Senior punter Mike Sadler has been around forever and ranks 10th in the Big Ten with an average of 40.6 yards per punt. He has downed 11 of 31 inside the 20 while only two have gone into the end zone.

The return game is pretty lackluster, ranking 60th nationally on kicks and 89th on punts. Shelton ranks sixth in the Big Ten with an average of 22.2 yards per kick return, while Kings Jr ranks fifth with an average of 6.9 yards per punt return.

Prediction

Of course the most vulnerable Michigan State defense in several years gets to face the worse Michigan offense in several years. On Thursday, Spartan Tailgate writer Chris Vannini told us that he thinks Michigan will be able to make some big plays as teams have done on MSU this season. Apparently he hasn’t watched Michigan much as the Wolverines have struggled to make big plays against anyone other than Appalachian State.

Michigan’s defense will be one of the best Michigan State has faced this season, similar to Nebraska’s which held MSU to just 27 points, their fewest of the season. But unlike last week when Michigan was able to pressure Christian Hackenberg all day, the Spartan offensive line will protect Cook. That will allow him to pick apart the secondary just like Notre Dame’s Everett Golson and Rutgers’ Gary Nova did.

Expect Michigan to hang around through the first half, but with the inability to make big plays Doug Nussmeier’s offense will have a hard time stringing together enough scoring drives. Michigan State will pull away in the second half with efficient, time consuming drives and keep the Paul Bunyan Trophy in East Lansing for the sixth time in seven years.

Michigan State 33 – Michigan 13

Big Ten power rankings: Week 8

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014


Power Rankings_header

East Division
1. Michigan State (6-1, 3-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Indiana 56-17 This Week: Sat vs Michigan (3-4, 1-2), 3:30pm, ABC

Indiana stuck around for most of the first half against MSU, but the Spartans’ high-powered offense eventually took over and gave them another conference win. Michigan State will welcome Michigan to town before another bye week.

2. Ohio State (5-1, 2-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 56-17 This Week: Sat at Penn State (4-2, 1-2), 8pm, ABC

Rutgers was the best surprise of the Big Ten through six games, but Ohio State gave them a rude awakening on Saturday with a 56-17 blowout win.

3. Maryland (5-2, 2-1) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Iowa 38-31 This Week: Sat at Wisconsin (4-2, 1-1), 12pm, Big Ten Network

Maryland got back on track Saturday, bouncing back from a big loss to Ohio State to beat Iowa 38-31. Fourteen fourth quarter points helped the Terrapins pick up their biggest conference win so far.

4. Rutgers (5-2, 1-2) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #13 Ohio State 17-56 This Week: Sat at #16 Nebraska (6-1, 2-1), 12pm, ESPN2

Rutgers’ winning streak came to a screeching halt in Columbus on Saturday as the Scarlett Knights lost by 39 points. A grueling schedule looms in the second half, and could erase the strong start of the season.

5. Michigan (3-4, 1-2) – Down 2
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat at #8 Michigan State (6-1, 3-0), 3:30pm, ABC

Michigan’s first bye week came in Week 8 after a big home win over Penn State. The Wolverines got two weeks to prepare for the heavily favored Spartans in East Lansing this Saturday.

6. Penn State (4-2, 1-1) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs #13 Ohio State (5-1, 2-0), 8pm, ABC

Penn State didn’t play in Week 8, getting some much needed rest after losses to Michigan and Northwestern. It won’t get any easier for the Nittany Lions as Ohio State comes to town this weekend.

7. Indiana (3-4, 0-3) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #8 Michigan State 17-56 This Week: Bye (11/1 at Michigan)

Without starting quarterback Nate Sudfeld, upsetting Michigan State was merely a pipe dream for Indiana on Saturday. The Hoosiers took a late first half lead in the game, but collapsed in the following minutes.

BIG East Week 8

West Division
1. Minnesota (6-1, 3-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Purdue 39-38 This Week: Sat at Illinois (3-4, 0-3), 12pm, ESPNU

Minnesota just kept rolling on Saturday against Purdue, grinding out a close game to stay unbeaten in Big Ten play. With matchups against Illinois and Iowa coming up, the Gophers could be atop the division for a few more weeks.

2. Nebraska (6-1, 2-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Northwestern 38-17 This Week: Sat vs Rutgers (5-2, 1-2), 12pm, ESPN2

Though Minnesota is in first place, Nebraska is clearly the class of the Big Ten West. A close loss to MSU is the only blemish on the Cornhuskers’ resume, and a Nov. 22 meeting in Lincoln could decide if Minnesota is really good enough to play in Indianapolis.

3. Wisconsin (4-2, 1-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Maryland (5-2, 2-1), 12pm, Big Ten Network

It was a good week to be idle in the West Division, as Wisconsin sat at home and watched both Iowa and Northwestern fall in the standings. The Badgers will be back in action against Maryland this weekend.

4. Iowa (5-2, 2-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Maryland 31-38 This Week: Bye (11/1 vs Northwestern))

Iowa suffered a disappointing loss to Maryland on Saturday as it continued to play with fire and finally got burned in conference. Maryland dropped 38 points on the Hawkeye defense and knocked them from the ranks of the unbeaten.

5. Northwestern (3-4, 2-2) – Down 4
Last Week: Lost to #19 Nebraska 17-38 This Week: Bye (11/1 at Iowa)

Northwestern couldn’t pull of a second straight Evanston upset on Saturday, falling to Nebraska 38-17. The Wildcats have overachieved with their 2-2 Big Ten record, but they’re far from contenders.

6. Purdue (3-5, 1-3) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Minnesota 38-39 This Week: Bye (11/1 at #16 Nebraska)

Purdue had a real chance to pull even in conference play against Minnesota, but fell a point short on Saturday in a 39-38 loss. The loss dropped the Boilermakers to 1-3 with Nebraska and Wisconsin on the horizon.

7. Illinois (3-4, 0-3) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Minnesota (6-1, 3-0), 12pm, ESPNU

Illinois took a bye week in the midst of a losing streak during Week 8. The Fighting Illini are the only winless team left in the West.

BIG West Week 8