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Posts Tagged ‘Big Ten’

2015 Big Ten power rankings: Week 12

Thursday, November 26th, 2015

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Well, the biggest week of the Big Ten season so far has come and gone, leaving two clear contenders with a direct path to Indianapolis. Barring a massive upset, Iowa and Michigan State will play for the Big Ten crown.

But as a whole, the Big Ten has emerged as the top conference in college football. LSU and much of the SEC has been exposed as overhyped and the Big Ten put four teams in the College Football Playoff top 10.

Now the microscope shifts from the top of the league to the middle, where four teams need a victory to get to six wins. Will the Big Ten send only seven teams to the postseason? Or could it be as many as 11? All 14 teams will hit the turf Saturday (or Friday) for six meaningful games (and one Maryland-Rutgers pillow fight).

East Division
1. Michigan State (10-1, 6-1) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat #3 Ohio State 17-14 This Week: Sat Penn State (7-4, 4-3), 3:30pm, ESPN

Mark Dantonio did it again. Nobody gave Michigan State a chance to win in Columbus, especially when star quarterback and future first-round draft pick Connor Cook was ruled out. If the Spartans knock off Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 5, they should be a top two seed in the playoff.

2. Michigan (9-2, 6-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Penn State 28-16 This Week: Sat vs #8 Ohio State (10-1, 6-1), 12pm, ABC

Saturday was a perfect representation of how far Michigan has come under first-year coach Jim Harbaugh. The Wolverines dominated Penn State in Happy Valley, electing to take a knee inside the five instead of winning the game by 19 points. The victory gave Michigan a perfect 4-0 road record in conference play and a fourth straight win since the crushing defeat against MSU. If Michigan played Utah or Michigan State today, it would probably win both games. Instead, the Wolverines have a chance to clinch a New Year’s Six bowl game if they can take care of Ohio State at the Big House.

3. Ohio State (10-1, 6-1) – Down 2
Last Week: Lost to #9 Michigan State 14-17 This Week: Sat at #10 Michigan (9-2, 6-1), 12pm, ABC

You don’t really find out about the character of a team until it faces some adversity, and the Buckeyes didn’t handle it well. After their first loss in over a calendar year, Cardale Jones and Ezekiel Elliott unceremoniously declared for the NFL Draft and Elliott blamed the entire loss on play calling. Then, Urban Meyer seized control of his team by…basically cowering at Elliott’s feet during his weekly press conference. Elliott does not deserve to miss game time for his comments, but the way he attacked his coaching staff created a crack in the seemingly impenetrable wall Meyer built in Columbus. Now that the Buckeyes have a loss, the rest of their resume is fair game for criticism. Ohio State’s best win came at home against a mediocre Penn State team and then it lost its only competitive game to a team with two backup quarterbacks. I think Michigan is going to see an angry, ultra-motivated Buckeye team in Ann Arbor this weekend.

4. Indiana (5-6, 1-6) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Maryland 47-28 This Week: Sat at Purdue (2-9, 1-6), 12pm, BTN

Indiana has been the anti-Ohio State this season: Losing close games against very tough competition. The Hoosiers have played five of the top six teams in the conference and nearly knocked off four of those teams. But now it’s time to give Indiana some love. Despite falling behind Maryland 21-3 in the first quarter, Kevin Wilson’s team didn’t fall apart, instead scoring the next 27 points and running away with a 47-28 win. That first conference victory gives the Hoosiers a great chance to clinch a bowl Saturday in West Lafayette.

5. Penn State (7-4, 4-3) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #12 Michigan 16-28 This Week: Sat at #5 Michigan State (10-1, 6-1), 3:30pm, ESPN

Is Penn State any good? I’m really not sure. James Franklin heads into the final game of the season without a single win over a winning power five team. PSU’s best win came against Indiana and it hasn’t won a road game on the year. Christian Hackenberg missed some open receivers by a wide margin Saturday against Michigan and looks beaten down by a terrible offensive line’s ineptitude.

6. Rutgers (4-7, 1-6) – Even
Last Week: Beat Army 31-21 This Week: Sat vs Maryland (2-9, 0-7), 12pm, BTN

Rutgers won at Army by 10 points to snap a four-game losing streak on Saturday. Luckily, the Scarlett Knights get to close out the season against Maryland this weekend.

7. Maryland (2-9, 0-7) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Indiana 28-47 This Week: Sat at Rutgers (4-7, 1-6), 12pm, BTN

It seems like some strong head coaching candidates are strongly considering that Maryland job, which is the first good news the football program has heard all season. Luckily, the Terrapins get to close out the season against Rutgers this weekend.

B1G East Week 12


West Division
1. Iowa (11-0, 7-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Purdue 40-20 This Week: Fri at Nebraska (5-6, 3-4), 3:30pm, ABC

With a foot of snow piled on every row of bleachers, Iowa looked like it would give fans an excuse to watch the second half from the warmth of their living rooms Saturday. But a 20-point lead was trimmed to just seven early in the second half after a 13-0 Purdue run. The Hawkeyes woke up just in time to win 40-20 and jump into the top four of the playoff rankings. Iowa already clinched the Big Ten West Division, but it’ll need a win in Nebraska on Friday night to stay alive for the playoff.

2. Northwestern (9-2, 5-2) – Even
Last Week: Beat #25 Wisconsin 13-7 This Week: Sat vs Illinois (5-6, 2-5), 3:30pm, ESPNU

Another week, another reason Northwestern should be ranked much higher than it actually is. The Wildcats went into Madison and held Wisconsin to seven points to add another quality win to a loaded resume. It’s a shame that losses to a pair of top 10 teams took a very deserving Northwestern team out of the New Year’s Six conversation.

3. Nebraska (5-6, 3-4) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 31-14 This Week: Fri vs #4 Iowa (11-0, 7-0), 3:30pm, ABC

It’s been a season full of shock for Nebraska fans: Shocking losses, shocking wins and, most prominently, shocking endings. Mike Riley is two-thirds of the way through the 3-0 finish he needed to make a bowl game. It’s fitting that the Cornhuskers will need a shocking win over undefeated Iowa to polish it off.

4. Wisconsin (8-3, 5-2) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #20 Northwestern 7-13 This Week: Sat at Minnesota (5-6, 2-5), 3:30pm, BTN

Wisconsin played three games against teams without losing record this season and lost all three, scoring an average of 10 points. All eight of Wisconsin’s wins came against teams with five or fewer wins. That makes an SEC non-conference schedule look almost respectable.

5. Minnesota (5-6, 2-5) – Even
Last Week: Beta Illinois 32-23 This Week: Sat vs Wisconsin (8-3, 5-2), 3:30pm, BTN

Coming off three straight losses to current top-10 teams, Minnesota got its first win under Tracy Claeys Saturday against Illinois. It wouldn’t shock me to see the Golden Gophers knock off Wisconsin at home to sneak into the bowl season. Minnesota is one of those pesky teams you don’t want to play in the postseason.

6. Purdue (2-9, 1-6) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to #5 Iowa 20-40 This Week: Sat vs Indiana (5-6, 1-6), 12pm, BTN

This is going to sound strange, but Purdue might be the best 2-9 team in the country. The Boilermakers have come within a possession of knocking off three teams with at least nine wins and gave Iowa a bit of a scare in the 3rd quarter Saturday. A rivalry win against bowl-hopeful Indiana would end the season on a positive note.

7. Illinois (5-6, 2-5) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Minnesota 23-32 This Week: Sat vs #16 Northwestern (9-2, 5-2), 3:30pm, ESPNU

Illinois had a perfect opportunity to clinch a bowl win Saturday in Minnesota, but laid an egg in a 32-23 loss. Now it’ll take an upset over an excellent Northwestern team on Senior Night to extend the season for Bill Cubit’s group.

B1G West Week 12

2015 Big Ten power rankings: Week 10

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

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And then there were two.

The Big Ten watched one-third of its three-headed monster fall Saturday night leaving just one undefeated team in each division. But despite that loss, the conference saw six teams ranked in Tuesday night’s College Football Playoff rankings, more than any other conference.

It’s looking like the Big Ten might be the best conference in the country this season. Here’s a look at how the divisions stack up through Week 10.

East Division
1. Ohio State (9-0, 5-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 28-14 This Week: Sat at Illinois (5-4, 2-3), 12pm, ABC

Another week, another Ohio State victory. The defending champs remained undefeated without their starting quarterback Saturday, fending off a pesky Minnesota squad to improve to 9-0. Cardale Jones threw for 187 yards and a touchdown and Ezekiel Elliott rushed 26 times for 114 and a score to pace the offense. Minnesota controlled the pace and racked up more than 300 yards, but a late comeback effort ran out of gas in the 4th quarter. OSU held steady at No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings Tuesday after being jumped by Alabama, which lost to an unranked team at home but somehow hasn’t been penalized for it. If the Buckeyes knock off a pair of really good teams from the state of Michigan, they should vault right back up to No. 1

2. Michigan (7-2, 4-1) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 49-16 This Week: Sat at Indiana (4-5, 0-5), 3:30pm, ABC

Just one week after falling to a season-worst fourth in these rankings, Michigan is up into the No. 2 spot for just the second time. Michigan took care of business against Rutgers, cruising past the Scarlett Knights 49-16. The offensive outburst was paced by quarterback Jake Rudock, who threw for a season-best 337 yards More importantly, the Wolverines have new life in the Big Ten East race with a pair of tricky road games on the horizon. A shaky secondary faces a huge test Saturday in Indiana, which is bound to finish off one of these upset bids eventually. Michigan moved up three spots to No. 14 in the playoff rankings.

3. Michigan State (8-1, 4-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Nebraska 38-39 This Week: Sat vs Maryland (2-7, 0-5), 12pm, ESPN2

If you play with fire long enough, you’re bound to get burned. Michigan State flirted with defeat almost every week en route to an otherwise impressive 8-0 start, but it couldn’t hold onto a 12-point lead with under four minutes to play Saturday night and fell to Nebraska, 39-38. The Spartans underperformed against Rutgers, Purdue, even the directional schools, to an extent. And no, MSU didn’t lose to Nebraska because of an out-of-bounds call at the end of the game. Mark Dantonio’s team had no business cutting it so close against a team that lost to Purdue by double digits, so that defense has nobody to blame but itself. Luckily for the Spartans, they’re still ranked No. 13 in the playoff rankings with a cupcake at home to get back on track this weekend.

4. Penn State (7-3, 4-2) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #21 NW 21-23 This Week: Bye (11/21 vs Michigan)

The Nittany Lions were already a long shot to win the Big Ten East, but any remaining aspirations were officially put to rest Saturday afternoon.  Penn State had a chance to pick up its first good win of the season in Evanston, but allowed a field goal with under 10 seconds left to surrender a one-point lead. Christian Hackenberg struggled, completing just 21 of 40 pass attempts for 205 yards and an interception. The defense was shaky, allowing nearly 400 yards, but Hackenberg has to be much better for this team to do some damage down the stretch.

5. Indiana (4-5, 0-5) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to #9 Iowa 27-35 This Week: Sat vs #14 Michigan (7-2, 4-1), 3:30pm, ABC

Another week, another near Indiana upset. The Hoosiers hung around just long enough to give the undefeated Hawkeyes a scare in Bloomington, but ultimately fell eight points short of the win. They’ll get back at it Saturday as the hopeful Wolverines come to town.

6. Rutgers (3-6, 1-5) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #17 Michigan 16-49 This Week: Sat vs Nebraska (4-6, 2-4), 3:30pm, BTN

Rutgers players who ticked off Jim Harbaugh despite trailing by 19 points heading into halftime on Saturday have to be feeling pretty stupid now. Harbaugh went for a two-point conversion despite holding a 25-point lead in the 3rd quarter to send the Scarlett Knights back to the sideline with their tails between their legs.

7. Maryland (2-7, 0-5) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Wisconsin 24-31 This Week: Sat at #13 MSU (8-1, 4-1), 12pm, ESPN2

Hey, Maryland actually kept it pretty close Saturday against Wisconsin, falling by just a touchdown to the streaking Badgers. Unfortunately, this weekend brings a trip to East Lansing against an angry Michigan State squad.

B1G East Week 10


West Division
1. Iowa (9-0, 5-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Indiana 35-27 This Week: Sat vs Minnesota (4-5, 1-4), 8pm, BTN

Breathe easy, Iowa fans! The soon-to-be West champs got out of upset-happy Indianapolis with a slim victory and jumped up to No. 5 in the College Football Playoff rankings. That means this team is a lock for the playoff if it finishes the season with four more victories.

2. Northwestern (7-2, 3-2) – Even
Last Week: Beat Penn State 23-21 This Week: Sat vs Purdue (2-7, 1-4), 12pm, BTN

Pat Fitzgerald’s team added another excellent win to its resume Saturday, knocking off Penn State with a late field goal from a kicker who’d missed three times on the day. Now the Wildcats have cracked the top 20 of the College Football Playoff poll and have a chance to keep on rolling this weekend against a punchless Purdue team.

3. Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Maryland 31-24 This Week: Bye (11/21 vs Northwestern)

It took five straight wins over inferior Big Ten opponents, but Wisconsin is finally back in the rankings after sliding into the No. 25 spot on Tuesday night. Now the Badgers will take a much-needed bye week to prepare for a Northwestern team that’s playing as well as any team in the conference this month.

4. Nebraska (4-6, 2-4) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat #7 MSU 39-38 This Week: Sat at Rutgers (3-6, 1-5), 3:30pm, BTN

Saturday night’s game between Nebraska and Michigan State demonstrated why college football is such a strange sport. Nebraska did nothing but find ways to lose close games in its first nine games, while Michigan State always found a way to barely survive. But the tables turned this weekend when Tommy Armstrong led a four-play, 91-yard drive with under a minute left in the game to keep the distant bowl dreams alive for first-year Cornhusker Mike Riley.

5. Illinois (5-4, 2-3) – Even
Last Week: Beat Purdue 48-14 This Week: Sat vs #3 Ohio State (9-0, 5-0), 12pm, ABC

Illinois continued to stay just above the lower-tier of Big Ten teams Saturday, hitting the road and smashing Purdue, 48-14. As specifics about former head coach Tim Beckman create a negative vibe around this Fighting Illini team, its got a chance to really shake things up this weekend in the battle for Illibuck with Ohio State.

6. Minnesota (4-5, 1-4) – Down 2
Last Week: Lost to #3 OSU 14-28 This Week: Sat at #5 Iowa (9-0, 5-0), 8pm, BTN

For the second straight week, Minnesota stayed within striking distance of a top 20 team deep into the 4th quarter but couldn’t quite pull off the upset. The Golden Gophers need two more wins to gain bowl eligibility, but unfortunately two of their last three games come against Iowa and Wisconsin.

7. Purdue (2-7, 1-4) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Illinois 14-48 This Week: Sat at #18 NW (7-2, 3-2), 12pm, BTN

The high point of Purdue’s season came last weekend when it crushed Nebraska by 10 points. After a 34-point home drubbing to Illinois, this is close to the lowest low.

B1G West Week 10

#17 Michigan vs Rutgers game preview

Friday, November 6th, 2015

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College football’s two oldest FBS programs played for the first time in 135 years of existence last season, but Michigan came up on the losing end. The Scarlet Knights became the only Big Ten school to have a winning record over Michigan as of 2014. The other Big Ten newcomer, Maryland, did the same a couple weeks later, but while Michigan avenged that loss in this year’s Big Ten opener, the Wolverines have a chance to do the same to Rutgers tomorrow afternoon.

Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 3:30p.m. EST – BTN
Rutgers Head Coach: Kyle Flood (4th season)
Coaching Record: 25-20, 12-15 B1G (all at Rutgers)
Offensive Coordinator: Ben McDaniels (1st season)
Defensive Coordinator: Joe Rossi (2nd season)
Last Season: 8-5 (3-5)
Last Meeting: Rutgers 26 – Michigan 24
All-Time Series: Rutgers leads 1-0
Record in Ann Arbor: 1st meeting
Jim Harbaugh vs Rutgers: 1st meeting
Last Michigan win: 1st meeting
Last Rutgers win: 2014 (26-24)
Current Streak: Rutgers 1

Rutgers comes in with a 3-5 record, still looking for a win over a team with a winning record. Norfolk State — an FCS school — is just 2-6, Kansas is 0-8, and Indiana is 4-4. Rutgers beat those three 63-13, 27-14, and 55-52, respectively. The Scarlet Knights lost to Washington State (37-34), Penn State (28-3), Michigan State (31-24), Ohio State (49-7), and Wisconsin (48-10).

It has been a troubled season in Piscataway, N.J., beginning with accusations of head coach Kyle Flood contacting a professor about the academic status of defensive back Nadir Barnwell. Then, just two days before the season opener, six players were arrested for home invasion and dismissed from the team. Then, star receiver Leonte Carroo was arrested and summarily suspended for a domestic violence incident following the Week 2 win over Washington State. Then, Flood was suspended for three games and fined $50,000 due to the aforementioned allegations.

Flood is likely done after the season but he’s hoping for a big win to add to his resume and Michigan is the last shot. Nebraska, Army, and Maryland remain after the trip to Ann Arbor, and with last year’s win over Michigan under their belt, Rutgers won’t fear the Wolverines. Let’s take a look at what Michigan will face.

When Rutgers has the ball

In Ben McDaniels’ first year coordinating the Rutgers offense, it ranks 72nd nationally and seventh in the Big Ten in total offense (393.9 yards per game), 67th and seventh in rushing (172.8 yards per game), 72nd and seventh in passing (221.1 yards per game), 41st and fourth in pass efficiency (141.76), and 78th and eighth in scoring (27.9 points per game).

Their success largely depends on whether or not the school’s career touchdown leader plays. Leonte Carroo was the Big Ten’s leading returning receiver entering the season with 1,086 yards in 2014, and despite playing in just five of eight games so far this season, he has half that. His 105.4 yards per game and nine touchdowns currently lead all Big Ten receivers. He reportedly didn’t practice this week with a lingering ankle injury suffered against Ohio State, so if he can’t go Michigan’s defense will get to face the Scarlet Knights without their top weapon.

That makes it harder for redshirt sophomore quarterback Chris Laviano, who ranks ninth in the Big Ten with an average of 192 passing yards per game. He has, however, completed 129 of 200 passes for a conference leading 64.5 percent. But one-fifth of those completions have gone to Carroo, and Carroo is really the lone deep threat. His 12 touchdown passes rank fifth behind Connor Cook, Tommy Armstrong, Nate Sudfeld, and Christian Hackenberg, but again, nine of those have gone to Carroo. So who does he have to throw to?

Junior Andre Patton leads the team with 25 receptions since he has played in all eight games, and ranks second on the team with 327 yards, but he has hauled in just one touchdown. Sophomore Janarion Grant has caught 21 passes for 181 yards, while redshirt junior Carlton Agudosi has 15 receptions for 305 yards and a touchdown. Agudosi’s 6-foot-6, 220-pound frame is resemblant of Devin Funchess last season and will be a challenge for Michigan’s secondary. He was held without a yard in last season’s meeting, but Grant did some damage with three catches for 87 yards and two rushes for 23 yards. Aside from Carroo, Rutgers’ leading pass catcher in terms of touchdowns is redshirt sophomore tight end Matt Flanagan, who has caught three.

The running game utilizes three backs pretty consistently. Sophomore Josh Hicks is the leading rusher with 99 carries for 511 yards (5.2 yards per carry) and four touchdowns. He has two 100-yard games, an 18-carry, 118-yard performance against Norfolk State and a 21-carry, 113-yard game against Kansas. Fellow sophomore Robert Martin is right on his heels with 501 yards on 86 carries (5.8 yards per carry) and four scores. He also eclipsed 100 yards against Kansas (102 on 17 carries) in addition to Indiana (17 for 124 and three touchdowns) and is a change of pace back compared to Hicks and James. Fifth-year senior Paul James has started every game but ranks third in carries (64), yards (357), and touchdowns (one). He is featured more as a pass catcher out of the backfield than the other two with six catches for 40 yards.

Perhaps the biggest win of the season so far is the health of the offensive line. All five starters have started all eight games, and with only one out of eligibility after this season that bodes will moving forward. Left tackle Keith Lumpkin is the lone fifth-year senior and he has career starts under his belt anchoring the left side of the line. Redshirt junior right guard Chris Muller is the second most experienced with 33. The other three, redshirt sophomore left guard Dorian Miller, redshirt junior center Derrick Nelson, Redshirt junior right tackle J.J. Denman, are all first-year starters.

When Michigan has the ball

While the Rutgers offense is slightly on the other side of average, both nationally and in the Big Ten, in pretty much every category, the defense is a different story. It ranks 111th nationally and 13th in the Big Ten in total defense (454.8 yards per game), 54th and 11th in rush defense (155.9 yards per game), 119th and 12th in pass defense (298.9 yards per game), 114th and 14th in pass defense efficiency (151.32), and 100th and 12th in scoring defense (34.0 points per game).

The main reasons for their lack of success have been off the field problems and injuries. Three-fourths of the starting secondary was dismissed from the team in early September, All-Big Ten defensive tackle Darius Hamilton suffered a season ending injury, and redshirt junior safety Davon Jacobs has missed time due to injuries as well.

The linebacking corps is the one constant, led by redshirt junior Steve Longa, who leads the team and the Big Ten with 91 tackles to go along with four for loss and one sack. He also led the team in tackles last season and was named a first team Freshman All-American by the Sporting News in 2013. Fifth-year senior Quentin Gause is a team captain an the second leading tackler with 71 tackles. He leads the team with nine tackles for loss and has one sack. Senior Kaiwan Lewis is the third starter and the third leading tackler with 42. The South Carolina transfer also has three tackles for loss and two interceptions.

Redshirt junior Quanzell Lambert and fifth-year senior Djwany Mera are the defensive ends and have 34 tackles, 5.5 for loss, and 1.5 sacks between them. Mera has five quarterback hurries. Redshirt junior defensive tackle Julian Pinnix-Odrick leads the team with six quarterback hurries and has 23 tackles, one for loss. Redshirt sophomore nose tackle Sebastian Joseph has 13 tackles, 3.5 for loss, and one sack.

The secondary has gotten torched all season as backups were thrust into starting roles right before the season’s first game. Redshirt freshman cornerback Isaiah Wharton leads the secondary with 39 tackles, six pass breakups, and seven passes defended, in addition to one interception. The other starting corner, freshman Blessaun Austin, has 23 tackles, one for loss, one interception, and three pass breakups. Junior free safety Anthony Cioffi is the elder statesman of the crew as the only non-freshman. He ranks fifth on the team with 35 tackles and leads the team with three picks. Strong safety Kiy Hester is a redshirt freshman and has 30 tackles, an interception, and five pass breakups.

The other third

Senior kicker Kyle Federico is one of the Big Ten’s most experienced kickers, but ranks 10th with a 66.7 field goal percentage. He has hit 6 of 9 this season with a long of 48 and has made 40 of 59 throughout his career with a long of 52. Fifth-year senior punter Joey Roth ranks 11th in the Big Ten with an average of 39.7 yards per punt. Of his 37 punts, he has booted two more than 50 yards, downed seven inside the 20 and knocked four into the end zone for touchbacks.

If Carroo doesn’t play tomorrow, Rutgers’ best chance to score a touchdown might be on special teams with Grant’s ability to return both punts and kicks. He’s Jabrill Peppers with touchdowns under his belt — three of them to be exact. He has taken two kickoffs and a punt back for touchdowns so far this season, averaging 24.5 yards per kick return and 9.2 per punt return.


Michigan is going to win. The only question is by how much, and that depends on whether or not Carroo plays. If he does, and is at full strength, I’ll give Rutgers a touchdown or two. But I don’t expect him to be at full strength if he plays at all, and Jourdan Lewis has the edge if that’s the case.

Michigan’s defense will look much more like the one that shut down BYU, Maryland, and Northwestern in three straight weeks than it did against Michigan State and Minnesota the past two times out. Michigan State possessed the best passing quarterback in the league and a very good stable of receivers, while Minnesota gained many of its big plays off of fluky tipped passes or underthrown balls that fell into a receiver’s hands. Sooner or later, Michigan’s secondary is going to make those plays, and without Carroo, Rutgers doesn’t have the deep threat to challenge Michigan’s secondary. The defensive line will pressure Laviano into mistakes and the front seven will keep the run game in check.

Offensively, Michigan will focus on De’Veon Smith and Drake Johnson pounding the rock against a rush defense that has allowed 490 rushing yards on 5.6 yards per carry in the past two weeks. But when Jake Rudock — assuming he’s healthy enough to play — does pass, Rutgers’ secondary is as vulnerable as any the Wolverines have faced so far. Look for Jake Butt and Amara Darboh to have success underneath where the Scarlet Knights’ baby back four been most vulnerable.

Michigan 37 – Rutgers 3

2015 Big Ten power rankings: Week 9

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

Power Rankings_header

The first College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday and the Big Ten is well represented with five teams in the top 25.

Ohio State and Michigan State are firmly in the race for the final four with a potential play-in matchup in Columbus coming up later this month. Iowa, which can coast through the rest of its Big Ten West schedule, will need a win in the Big Ten Championship game to have a chance.

Michigan and Northwestern also made the top 25, though they won’t be playing in the four-team playoff.

There were also five conference matchups with only one major upset in West Lafayette. Here’s a look at how the Big Ten stacks up heading into Week 10.

East Division
1. Ohio State (8-0, 4-0) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Minnesota (4-4, 1-3), 8pm, ABC

f the College Football Playoff started this week, Ohio State would represent the Big Ten as the No. 3 overall seed. The Buckeyes had a bye this weekend, but took a moral victory on Tuesday when the committee deemed them worthy of such a high ranking. Despite the 8-0 start, Ohio State’s two best wins came over Penn State and Northern Illinois, which were both at home. But it wasn’t a perfect week for Urban Meyer’s team, which saw its starting quarterback arrested because he avoided a DUI checkpoint while driving drunk. What do you do when being the starting quarterback of the No. 1 ranked college football team in the country isn’t enough? Apparently you crush a few beers and jump in a car. It was an incredibly stupid move by J.T. Barrett, who won’t play in the team’s next cupcake game against Minnesota. For a kid with a previously unblemished record, Barrett will have to work on regaining a leadership role on the team.

2. Michigan State (8-0, 4-0) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat at Nebraska (3-6, 1-4), 7pm, ESPN

The Spartans also enjoyed a week off in Week 9, sitting pretty with a perfect 8-0 record. The committee ranked MSU No. 7 in the first poll, likely because of close calls against Oregon, Purdue and Rutgers and a somewhat fortunate win over Michigan. But Michigan State still controls its own destiny. A pair of cupcakes separates the Spartans from an essential play-in game in Columbus on Nov. 21. If Mark Dantonio’s group can knock off Ohio State, it’ll be a win over Iowa away from a playoff berth.

3. Penn State (7-2, 4-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Illinois 39-0 This Week: Sat at #21 NW (6-2, 2-2), 12pm, ESPNU

For the first time in three weeks, Penn State demonstrated just how well it can play when everything comes together. Christian Hackenberg completed 21 of 29 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns and the Nittany Lions outgained Illinois 400-167. The only downer for Coach James Franklin was a pair of fumbles that kept the Fighting Illini within 50, but the defense’s first shutout of the season has Penn State at 7-2 with games against three straight ranked opponents on the horizon.

4. Michigan (6-2, 3-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 29-26 This Week: Sat vs Rutgers (3-5, 1-4), 3:30pm, BTN

Well, Michigan certainly didn’t come out of the bye week in style. Fourteen days after having their hearts ripped out in a last-second loss to MSU, the Wolverines nearly lost the battle for the Little Brown Jug to a Minnesota team that looked heavily outmatched in Big Ten play. Mitch Leidner was a big play machine, passing for 317 yards and rushing for 37 more – finishing with two total touchdowns. Sophomore tight end Brandon Lingen torched the Michigan defense for 111 yards on the night. But the most concerning development for Michigan is a running game that has yet to show up for the Big Ten season. Pre-conference star De’Veon Smith was a nonfactor, picking up just 15 yards on nine carries. Only Drake Johnson, who gained 55 yards on 10 carries, could move the ball on the ground. Jake Rudock went 13 for 21 – for 140 yards, a touchdown and a pick – before being knocked out of the game on a missed target while sliding to the ground.

Luckily for the Wolverines, backup quarterback Wilton Speight completed four passes on the team’s final drive to score a touchdown and a two-point conversion that eventually won the game. The defense put up its worst performance of the season – allowing 461 yards to a below-average offense – but made a big stop on a quarterback sneak from the half-yard line to escape with a victory. The Wolverines will try to bounce back Saturday, when they need to blow Rutgers right out of Ann Arbor to get back on track.

5. Rutgers (3-5, 1-4) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to Wisconsin 10-48 This Week: Sat at #17 Mich. (6-2, 3-1), 3:30pm, BTN

Rutgers scored as many points against Wisconsin as Iowa did, but the positive trends end there for the Scarlett Knights. Saturday marked their second straight loss by more than 30 points and the offense gained just 165 yards without star receiver Leonte Carroo. Kyle Flood’s squad needs three wins in the final four weeks to qualify for a bowl game.

6. Indiana (4-4, 0-4) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to #7 MSU 26-52 This Week: Sat vs #9 Iowa (8-0, 4-0), 3;30pm, ESPN

Saturday was the first time since the start of the Big Ten season that Indiana didn’t lose in devastating fashion. Even though it was only a bye week, the Hoosiers didn’t get blown out or collapse in the fourth quarter. Things will likely go back to normal Saturday against Iowa.

7. Maryland (2-6, 0-4) – Down 2
Last Week: Lost to #10 Iowa 15-31 This Week: Sat at Wisconsin (7-2, 4-1), 3:30pm, BTN

When you drop into the cellar of the Big Ten East, things really aren’t going well. Maryland tried to hang around in Iowa Saturday, but Perry Hills threw three more picks and the Terrapins fell 31-15. Their bowl dreams will end Saturday against visiting Wisconsin.

B1G East Week 9

West Division
1. Iowa (8-0, 4-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Maryland 31-15 This Week: Sat at Indiana (4-4, 0-4), 3:30pm, ESPN

The West-leading Hawkeyes got back on the field this weekend and outlasted Maryland, though it was far from overwhelming. C.J. Beathard threw for 183 yards for an offense that gained a total of 293 and the defense surrendered 241 yards. Luckily, Iowa forced four turnovers and controlled the ball for nearly 33 minutes. At No. 9 in the CFP poll, Iowa just has to keep winning to punch its ticket to the playoff.

2. Northwestern (6-2, 2-2) – Up 1
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Penn State (7-2, 4-1), 12pm, ESPNU

Finally, somebody else took notice of Northwestern’s impressive body of work. The Wildcats are ranked No. 21 in the first playoff rankings thanks to impressive wins over Stanford and Duke and solid losses to top 20 teams. They can pick up another win over a winning team this weekend when they host 7-2 Penn State.

3. Wisconsin (7-2, 4-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 48-10 This Week: Sat vs Maryland (2-6, 0-4), 3:30pm, BTN

Wisconsin is flying under the radar at 7-2 thanks to that loss to Iowa that will likely keep them from winning the West Division. But the Badgers have a great chance to win their final three regular season games and enter the bowl season with a quiet 10 wins.

4. Minnesota (4-4, 1-3) – Up 2
Last Week: Lost to #15 Mich. 26-29 This Week: Sat at #3 OSU (8-0, 4-0), 8pm, ABC

Mitch Leidner and the Minnesota offense sure looked like they were playing for recently retired Coach Jerry Kill, putting up over 400 yards on the top-ranked defense in the country. But in the end, it was Kill’s absence that doomed the Gophers as they mismanaged the clock and failed to score on a 1st and goal from the half-yard line as time expired. Unfortunately, Minnesota will have to beat Ohio State, Iowa or Wisconsin to get to six wins this season.

5. Illinois (4-4, 1-3) – Even
Last Week: Lost to PSU 0-39 This Week: Sat at Purdue (2-6, 1-3), 12pm, BTN

Illinois was one of the most pleasant surprises in the West through seven games, playing some of the division’s top teams wire to wire. But the trip to Penn State got very ugly, as the Fighting Illini failed to score and got bombed by 39 points. Wes Lunt had a day to forget, completing just 16 of 37 passes for 129 yards and a pick.

6. Purdue (2-6, 1-3) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 55-45 This Week: Sat vs Illinois (4-4, 1-3), 12pm, BTN

Purdue? Purdue! The Boilermakers came out of nowhere to drop 55 points on Nebraska this weekend and secure their first Big Ten win in more than a year. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to squeeze into the CFP’s top 25.

7. Nebraska (3-6, 1-4) – Down 3
Last Week: Lost to Purdue 45-55 This Week: Sat vs #7 MSU (8-0, 4-0), 7pm, ESPN

Wow, Nebraska really hit rock bottom this weekend. It doesn’t get much worse for a Big Ten team than watching Purdue run up and down the field to hand you a fourth loss in five games and drop you into the cellar of the West Division. Remember when fans got upset with Bo Pelini for winning nine games? What might they do to Mike Riley for losing nine?

B1G West Week 9

2015 Big Ten power rankings: Week 8

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Power Rankings_header

It was a mostly uneventful week for the Big Ten. Four teams were on byes and the five games that were played ended with the favorite on top.

But there were a few significant developments on Saturday, chiefly the return of a J.T. Barrett-led Ohio State offense that looks like it’s finally clicking on all cylinders. That could be a bad sign for the four teams left on the Buckeye schedule.

On the other hand, a few teams watched their bowl dreams fade a little further away with close loses. Here’s a look at the conference as a whole with another bye-filled week ahead.

East Division
1. Ohio State (8-0, 4-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 49-7 This Week: Bye (11/7 vs Minnesota)

Uh oh, it looks like last-December Ohio State is back. J.T. Barrett reclaimed the starting job last week and turned it into 223 passing yards, 101 rushing yards and five total touchdowns – three passing and two rushing – against a Rutgers team that couldn’t put up much of a fight. Ezekiel Elliott didn’t even break a sweat during his 19 carries for 142 yards and two touchdowns, and the Buckeyes outgained the Scarlett Knights 528-293. Now OSU will take a week off to prepare for a couple of cupcakes – Minnesota and Illinois – before taking on MSU and Michigan down the stretch.

2. Michigan State (8-0, 4-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Indiana 52-26 This Week: Bye (11/7 at Nebraska)

When will everyone stop knocking Michigan State for winning games, can’t they see Mark Dantonio loves it? The Spartans were up by only two points – thanks to a pair of missed PATs by Indiana – heading into the 4th quarter, but exploded for 24 points and won by 26. Indiana is one of the worst teams in the Big Ten, but Michigan State is 8-0 and just one big win away from winning the East Division. That Nov. 21 matchup in Columbus could be Connor Cook’s last chance to play in the College Football Playoff.

3. Michigan (5-2, 2-1) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat at Minnesota (4-3, 1-2), 7pm, ESPN

What’s worse than losing a chance at a championship by dropping a punt with 10 seconds left to your in-state rival? Losing a chance at a championship by dropping a punt with 10 seconds left to your in-state rival and having to wait two weeks to get back on the field. Michigan used this “opportunity week” to double prepare for a trip to Minnesota, where it’ll try to take back the Little Brown Jug the Gophers stole from Ann Arbor last season. Jim Harbaugh – who made a ‘worm carrying a machine gun’ reference this week – would love nothing more than to make the Golden Gophers look like Golden Road Kill after last week’s devastating loss.

4. Penn State (6-2, 3-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Maryland 31-30 This Week: Sat vs Illinois (4-3, 1-2), 12pm, ESPN2

Penn State looked outrageously mediocre this weekend in a 31-30 win over the Maryland Terrapins. Christian Hackenberg had a strange day, completing just 13 of 29 passes, but doing so for 315 yards and three touchdowns. The Penn State defense, which began the season as one of the best in the conference, gave up 466 yards to the offense that gained just 105 yards against Michigan a few weeks ago. If the Terps hadn’t turned it over five times, they’d probably have their first Big Ten win of the season.

5. Maryland (2-5, 0-3) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to Penn State 30-31 This Week: Sat at #10 Iowa (7-0, 3-0), 3:30pm, ABC

Yes, the winless Terrapins rose to number five after their loss to Penn State. Why? Because of the reasons you’ll read in the two paragraphs below. As for Maryland, it was Perry Hills’ best game of the season and he still threw three interceptions. With Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan State next on the schedule, the Terps can forget about playing beyond Nov. 28.

6. Rutgers (3-4, 1-3) – Down 2
Last Week: Lost to #1 OSU 7-49 This Week: Sat at Wisconsin (6-2, 3-1), 12pm, BTN

Rutgers got caught in the crosshairs of a resurgent Ohio State offense Saturday night, and it happened to land on national television. The Buckeyes picked up 27 first downs and just wore down the Scarlett Knights early in the first half. Kyle Flood should thank the football gods for Indiana.

7. Indiana (4-4, 0-4) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #7 MSU 26-52 This Week: Bye (11/7 vs Iowa)

Remember when the Hoosiers were 4-4 and hanging with No. 1 Ohio State in Week 5? If not, you aren’t alone. Since falling short in that upset bid, the Hoosiers got crushed by 22 at Penn State, blew a 25-point second-half lead to Rutgers and just allowed 24 4th quarter points to get doubled up by Michigan State. Maybe the Hoosiers will win at Maryland and Purdue in the final weeks and make a bowl game? I wouldn’t bet on it.

West Division
1. Iowa (7-0, 3-0) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Maryland (2-5, 0-3), 3:30pm, ABC

The bye week for Iowa couldn’t have felt more different than it did for Michigan. Iowa sat back and enjoyed its comfortable lead in the West Division while Wisconsin and Northwestern clung to their slim hopes with tough wins. Iowa just has to win four of its last five games – Maryland, Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue and Nebraska – to guarantee a West Division title. But if the Hawkeyes win all five – and they will be heavy favorites to do so – they’ll be one Big Ten Championship Game away from a 13-0 season and… a spot in the playoff?

2. Wisconsin (6-2, 4-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Illinois 24-13 This Week: Sat vs Rutgers (3-4, 1-3), 12pm, BTN

When Joel Stave went down early in the game for the Badgers, it looked like it might be a disastrous day in Champaign. But Bart Houston stepped in and did a nice job for Wisconsin, completing 22 of 33 passes for 232 yards, two touchdowns and two picks. The Badgers couldn’t really get a running game going, and the defense gave up 333 yards to the Illini, but the junior backup quarterback was just good enough to keep Illinois comfortably in the rear-view mirror. The next two games – vs. Rutgers and at Maryland – should be easy victories for Wisconsin, but unless Iowa implodes, it’ll be a little too late.

3. Northwestern (6-2, 2-2) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 30-28 This Week: Bye (11/7 vs Penn State)

Nobody in the country needed a win this weekend more than Northwestern. The Wildcats, coming off back-to-back blowout losses, went into Nebraska and won a close offensive slugfest. Clayton Thorson was solid in the passing game – 13 for 28, 177 yards and a touchdown – but his 126 rushing yards really paced the Wildcat offense. The defense allowed 28 or more points for the third straight game, but Nebraska gained only 2.2 yards per rush and couldn’t punch in a two-point conversion to tie the game late in the 4th. If Northwestern can survive games against Penn State and Purdue after the bye week, this could still be a special season for Pat Fitzgerald’s team.

4. Nebraska (3-5, 1-3) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to NU 28-30 This Week: Sat at Purdue (1-6, 0-3), 12pm, ESPNU

Much like in the East, there’s a huge drop off in quality after the top three teams in the West Division. Nebraska has had one of the stranger seasons in all of FBS, losing five games by a combined 13 points and three Big Ten games by a total of five points. The Cornhuskers are just a few plays from being undefeated in the conference, but instead they’re fighting for their postseason lives down the stretch. Can they knock off Michigan State or Iowa at home and pick up a big sixth win?

5. Illinois (4-3, 1-2) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Wisconsin 13-24 This Week: Sat at Penn St. (6-2, 3-1) 12pm, ESPN2

Illinois has been surprisingly competitive in each of its first three Big Ten games, including a 24-13 loss to Wisconsin this weekend. West Lunt passed for 278 yards, but the Illini rushed for only 55 yards and couldn’t shut down Wisconsin’s backup quarterback in the second half. Illinois should find two more wins to qualify for a bowl, but they’ll likely have to come on the road.

6. Minnesota (4-3, 1-2) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Michigan (5-2, 2-1), 7pm, ESPN

Minnesota didn’t play this weekend, instead taking an extra week to think about the 48-25 waxing it took against Nebraska in Week 7. The Gophers won three non-conference games behind a strong defense, but they’re giving up an average of 29.33 points per game in conference, which isn’t good enough for a team with a subpar offense.

7. Purdue (1-6, 0-3) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Nebraska (3-5, 1-3), 12pm, ESPNU

Purdue took a week off to prepare for Nebraska. The Boilermakers will try to break a five-game losing streak at home.

2015 Big Ten power rankings: Week 7

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

Power Rankings_header

It’s amazing how one play can affect the entire outlook of a conference season.

The ending to the Michigan versus Michigan State game on Saturday night took the inside track to Indianapolis right out of Michigan’s hands and planted the Wolverines firmly behind their two hated rivals in the Big Ten East Division.

In the West, Iowa made a definitive statement in routing Northwestern, 40-10, in Evanston to seize firm control of the division.

It was a crazy, and in many ways heartbreaking, week for a few Big Ten teams. Here’s a look at how the divisions line up heading into what should be a calmer Week 8.

East Division
1. Ohio State (7-0, 3-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Penn St. 38-10 This Week: Sat at Rutgers (3-3, 1-2), 8pm, ABC

It looked like Ohio State was in for a tough test Saturday as the streaking Nittany Lions came to town on a five-game winning streak. But Urban Meyer’s offense finally perked up, dropping 38 points on a Penn State defense that hadn’t allowed 30 all season. J.T. Barrett completed all four of his passes for 30 yards and two touchdowns and added 102 yards and two more scores on 11 rushing attempts. His four-touchdown performance earned Barrett the starting job heading into another easy stretch for Ohio State. The Buckeyes should roll through Rutgers, Minnesota and Illinois and make it to mid-November with a chance to earn the No. 1 College Football Playoff seed. With Ezekiel Elliott, who rushed 27 times for 153 yards Saturday, and an apparently recharged Barrett, the Buckeyes should be able to overcome what has been a shaky defense so far this season.

2. Michigan State (7-0, 3-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat #12 Michigan 27-23 This Week: Sat vs Indiana (4-3, 0-3), 3:30pm, ABC

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, but on the final play of the game Saturday, the Spartans were lucky and good. Yes, Michigan State was gifted a fumbled snap, but the Spartans returned it down the sideline for the winning touchdown and stayed perfect on the season. Is MSU a team of destiny? The Spartans have trailed or led by just one possession in six of their seven games, despite playing only one quality opponent. But on a day when their best player, Connor Cook, was not impressive – 18 of 39 for 328 yards and a touchdown – Michigan State found a way to win. Aaron Burbridge emerged as one of the best receivers in the country, beating lockdown corner Jourdan Lewis for nine catches and 132 yards on the night. Next up for the Spartans: An easy stretch against Indiana, Nebraska and Maryland.

3. Michigan (5-2, 2-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #7 MSU 23-27 This Week: Bye (10/31 at Minnesota)

Wow, that was… not good. Michigan led Michigan State for 60 minutes Saturday night but a touchdown with three zeroes on the clock took away the Wolverines’ chance to finally beat their in-state rival. Now Michigan’s hopes of winning the East Division are all but dead. Even a three-way tie with Michigan State and Ohio State would leave the Wolverines on the outside looking in, as they would certainly rank below one-loss MSU and OSU in the College Football Playoff rankings (the next Big Ten division tiebreaker). The most painful part of the loss is that Michigan had plenty of chances to put the Spartans away. The offense settled for three field goals and when it finally gave its reliable defense a two-possession lead, the defense gave up a 74-yard pass and coughed up that cushion in just two plays. Blake O’Neill, who dropped the snap that led to the shocking final touchdown, punted seven times, including an 80-yard bomb in the first half. At the end of the day, the only turnover of the game killed Michigan and created a steep uphill battle for the East.

4. Rutgers (3-3, 1-2) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Indiana 55-52 This Week: Sat vs #1 Ohio State (7-0, 3-0), 8pm, ABC

Rutgers isn’t the fourth best team in the East, but Penn State had to drop after its pitiful performance in Columbus. The Scarlett Knights were all but dead Saturday when they fell behind by 25 points to Indiana late in the third quarter. But Rutgers scored four straight touchdowns and a late field goal as the clock expired gave them their first conference victory. Chris Laviano was great under center, completing 28 of 42 passes for 386 yards, three touchdowns and a pick. Lente Carroo continued his assault of Big Ten defenses, catching seven passes for 157 yards and three touchdowns. Robert Martin had his best game of the season, rushing for 124 yards and three scores. Rutgers needed every one of those points as its defense allowed over 600 yards and 52 points in the first three quarters. But it stepped up in the fourth quarter, returning a fumble for a touchdown, making two interceptions and forcing a late three-and-out to set up the game-winner. The Scarlett Knights will go back to being a punching bag Saturday in Columbus.

5. Penn State (5-2, 2-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #1 OSU 10-38 This Week: Sat vs Maryland (2-4, 0-2), 3;30pm, ESPN

Penn State entered the Horseshoe on a five-game winning streak Saturday, but we quickly found out it wasn’t because the Nittany Lions are any good. Penn State got exposed by the Buckeyes after rolling over a stretch of cupcakes – Buffalo, Rutgers, San Diego State, Army and Indiana – and bouncing back from an opening loss to Temple. Now it looks like Christian Hackenberg simply can’t play with the big boys as he was simply outmatched by a defense that surrendered 28 points to Maryland a week ago. Saquon Barkley was phenomenal, rushing for 194 yards on the night. He’ll lead the bounce-back effort this week against Maryland.

6. Maryland (2-4, 0-2) – Up 1
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Penn State (5-2, 2-1), 3:30pm, ESPN

Saturday was a bye for Maryland, the best possible option for a team that just fired its coach after three straight losses. Maryland has given up over 40 points three times and lost its last three games by a combined 88 points. The final two games – Indiana and Rutgers – are winnable for the Terrapins, but first they have to get through four straight winning teams.

7. Indiana (4-3, 0-3) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Rutgers 52-55 This Week: Sat a #7 MSU (7-0 3-0), 3:30pm, ABC

That’s right, Indiana slides in below the punch-less, coach-less dumpster fire that is 2015 Maryland football. The reason: Since falling just short of upsetting the No. 1 team in the country two weeks ago, the Hoosiers got sandblasted by Penn State and blew a 25-point lead in the final 18 minutes against Rutgers. Indiana did everything it could to lose the game: Allowing four straight touchdowns, including a 26-yard fumble return that really got the ball rolling for Rutgers. When you turn the ball over three times, hold the ball for fewer than 25 minutes and surrender nearly 600 yards you’ll rarely win in the Big Ten, no matter how many yards you gain.

B1G East Week 7

West Division
1. Iowa (7-0, 3-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat #20 Northwestern 40-10 This Week: Bye (10/31 vs Maryland)

The West Division title talks are definitely heating up in Iowa this month. The Hawkeyes went into Evanston on Saturday and crashed Northwestern by 30 points, and now Iowa is home free barring a huge upset. Victories over Wisconsin and Northwestern on the road have given Iowa a huge leg up on its two toughest contenders in the division. A win over Illinois even looks big for the Hawkeyes as the Fighting Illini have only one conference loss. If Iowa finishes at least 4-1 against Maryland, Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue and Nebraska, the division is theirs.

2. Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Purdue 24-7 This Week: Sat at Illinois (4-2, 1-1), 3:30pm, BTN

Wisconsin wasn’t overly impressive in its 24-7 win over Purdue, but the Badgers have an easy road to the finish line and will probably finish second to Iowa in the West. That 10-6 home loss to Iowa is looking like the early decider in the West this season.

3. Nebraska (3-4, 1-2) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 48-25 This Week: Sat vs NW (5-2, 1-2), 12pm, ESPN2

Mike Riley picked up his first road win as Nebraska head coach Saturday as the Cornhuskers pounded Minnesota, 48-25. It’s an uphill climb for Nebraska, which dug itself into a 2-4 hole, but the four losses came by a combined 11 points. Nebraska is only four plays (three of them flukey plays) from being a perfect 7-0, so don’t sleep on this team if it figures it out down the stretch.

4. Illinois (4-2, 1-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Wisconsin (5-2, 1-2), 3:30pm, BTN

Illinois didn’t play this weekend, but took an extra week to prepare for a home date with Wisconsin. The Fighting Illini have played well since a 34-point loss to North Carolina and have a great shot to make it to a bowl game if they can win a few road games. Knocking off the Badgers would go a long way in making that bowl dream a reality.

5. Northwestern (4-2, 1-1) – Down 3
Last Week: Lost to #17 Iowa 10-40 This Week: Sat at Nebraska (3-4, 1-2), 12pm, ESPN2

When it rains, it pours. Things have turned ugly quick in Evanston after a second straight loss by 30 or more points. The Wildcats didn’t respond well to their first loss of the season, wasting a chance to seize control of the West Division in their blowout loss to Iowa. Pat Fitzgerald’s vaunted defense allowed a combined 78 points to Michigan and Iowa and the schedule won’t get much easier going forward.

6. Minnesota (4-3, 1-2) – Down 3
Last Week: Lost to Nebraska 25-48 This Week: Bye (10/31 vs Michigan)

Bad Minnesota reared its ugly head again this weekend as the Golden Gophers found themselves on the wrong end of another blowout. Minnesota missed its chance at a crucial fifth win when Nebraska came to town this weekend and now, with Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa next on the schedule, it might be tough to clinch a bowl game.

7. Purdue (1-6, 0-3) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Wisconsin 7-24 This Week: Bye (10/31 vs Nebraska)

Purdue suffered a fifth straight loss Saturday, falling to Wisconsin, 24-7. Darrell Hazell’s seat is starting to get a little toasty as the Boilermakers fall farther and farther into the Big Ten cellar. Four of their losses have come by double digits and the best performance of the year came in a three-point loss to Michigan State. B1G West Week 7

Big Ten Basketball Media Day transcript: John Beilein

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

Today is Big Ten Basketball Media Day in Chicago and Michigan head coach John Beilein took to the podium to discuss the upcoming season and answer some questions. Here is the transcript, provided by Caption Northwest, Inc.

Opening Statement

COACH BEILEIN: It’s great to be back at another media day. I mean that. It’s good to have enthusiasm, start talking basketball again. We are excited, as we’ve been every year. I think we approach the beginning of the season with great excitement. We have a team and I mean a true team, with Caris LeVert is, obviously, a spectacular talent. However, he right now is one of the greatest teammates you could ever have and sees his role as being a leader on this team. And everybody else — Spike and everybody else sets that tone, and we just love going to practice every day. The mentality is terrific. So now we’ve just got to continue to try to get better, stay united as a team, and who knows what can happen this year.

Q. Jon, I know last year was difficult to go through with all the injuries. But now that you’re through it, do you look back and think how great that was for Aubrey players like that to get so much time and experience?

COACH BEILEIN: As you know, it is painful to go through that. It is painful for them as well. We had a lot of close losses, and right now you can see the effect has been terrific. They’re hungry. But we make no mistake about it and say we’re not close. You know, we’re not going to talk about it. We’re a few wins here or a few wins there. No. We have a lot of gap to make up with this young team. But without question, now that we look back on it, it was very beneficial for all of us, including the coaching staff.

Q. Coach, with Oliver having missed, obviously, a big chunk of the season, how has he been progressing this off-season as he rehabs and comes back?

COACH BEILEIN: He’s been rehabbed quite a bit obviously since the injury. It’s a long time, and we really erred on the side of caution to give him even more time in rehab. But he’s running faster, jumping higher, stronger than he’s ever been. That’s the good news, is that he has spent so much time building his body up while he was rehabbing the foot. So it really is exciting to watch right now. And I think of this — you know, he’s just 21 years old as a senior, just turned 21 in August. So he is still — I think he’s still developing as a player at this level and then beyond.

Q. Coach, those guys who got to play last year while some of the other guys were injured, do you expect that experience to pay off just in terms of depth, or do you expect them to make as big an impact as guys like Caris and Derrick are coming back?

COACH BEILEIN: I think everyone is separate. We have to get these young men that will probably have to move back in their minutes and still get comfortable with a 5-, 10-, 15-, 20-minute slot, and some of those same young men might be in the 30-, 35-minute slot. So we’re going to determine that out, and it is great to have depth. And it gives you all kinds of choices. Sometimes that’s tough too. We’re trying to still figure things out, and we’re really looking at these six weeks of preseason as a time to try and figure it out and then start the season. You still don’t have all the answers. You try to evolve during the season as well.

Q. Coach, you obviously have a tremendous amount of depth in the perimeter. But talk about the role of Kam Chatman in his sophomore year and how he can be kind of an X factor filling that stretch for you.

COACH BEILEIN: He’s made great strides so far. He has — his shooting has really improved. His body continues to improve, like they all should at this time, with another year of weightlifting and another year of quickness training. Just his knowledge of you can accomplish a lot more if you maybe try to do less a little bit. Just his general understanding of the game and his body and his ability to shoot the ball right now that has really improved.

*Quotes provided by Caption Northwest, Inc.

2015 Big Ten power rankings: Week 6

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

Power Rankings_header

For the first time this season, all 14 Big Ten teams hit the field against conference opponents as the first half of the college football regular season came to an end. And though there were no surprises in the outcomes of these games, some of the winning margins definitely stood out.

In the only intra-division battle, the third-highest East Division team beat the highest-ranked West Division team into a pulp, branding the former as the more dominant half of the conference. Four East teams are 2-0 in conference while only Iowa is unbeaten in the West.

As a whole, the Big Ten has a legitimate chance to send 10 teams to bowl games at the end of the season. Three 6-0 squads are already bowl eligible and another three are just one win away. Assuming Minnesota and Wisconsin can win two more games each, it’s up to Indiana to find two more victories to give the conference 10 bowl-eligible teams.

Here’s how both division stack up after six weeks of football.

East Division
1. Ohio State (6-0, 2-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Maryland 49-28 This Week: Sat vs Penn State (2-3, 0-1), 8pm, ABC

Ohio State holds onto the top spot this week because of the reemergence of the dangerous quarterback tandem that landed them the preseason No. 1 spot in the first place. No, being tied with Maryland in the 3rd quarter isn’t pretty, but the Buckeyes did pull away and win the game by 21 points. Cardale Jones completed 21 of 28 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns while J.T. Barrett got a few red zone chances and scored three rushing touchdowns. Ezekiel Elliott rushed for a cool 106 yards and two touchdowns to cap off one heck of an afternoon for the trio. Ohio State did allow nearly 400 yards to a team that struggled to reach 100 against Michigan last week, but a 499-yard effort from a Buckeye offense that limped into the game eased any concerns. OSU didn’t turn the ball over, controlled the pace with 31 first downs and even got Braxton Miller going – finding the receiver five times for 79 yards and a touchdown.

2. Michigan (5-1, 2-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat #13 NW 38-0 This Week: Sat vs #7 Michigan St. (6-0, 2-0), 3:30pm, ESPN

That’s right, even though the Wolverines have a loss on their resume, they’ve finally jumped into the No. 2 spot in the rankings. Michigan put up one of the top performances of the year Saturday, dominating No. 13 Northwestern in all three phases for a 38-0 victory. Jehu Chesson drew first blood on the opening kickoff, returning it 96 yards for a quick touchdown. Michigan followed its first kick return touchdown since 2009 with drives of 59 yards and 75 yards against the No. 1 scoring defense in the country to stretch the lead to 21-0 in the 1st quarter. A Jourdan Lewis pick-six put the nail in the coffin before the Wildcats could even get to halftime. In addition to notching its third straight shutout, Michigan’s defense surrendered just 168 yards (after allowing 105 to both BYU and Maryland) and held Northwestern to 2-13 on 3rd downs. Jim Harbaugh has his team playing at a higher level than anybody could have expected this early in his regime. If the Wolverines can pull off an unthinkable sixth straight win on Saturday, it’ll enter into the Big Ten title discussion.

3. Michigan State (6-0, 2-0) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 31-24 This Week: Sat at #12 Michigan (5-1, 2-0), 3:30pm, ESPN

Mark Dantonio will probably use these power rankings as motivation for his team as it heads into Ann Arbor on Saturday. The Spartans drop out of the top two after needing a heroic Connor Cook-led drive in the final minute to beat a hapless Rutgers team. Cook made three legitimate NFL throws during the drive – highlighted by a 29-yard strike to R.J. Shelton on 3rd and 9 with MSU in danger of punting it back to the Scarlett Knights with three minutes remaining. Cook was great on the night, throwing for 357 yards and two touchdowns, but the Michigan State defense allowed recently-reinstated Leonte Carroo catch seven passes for 134 yards and three touchdowns to stay in the game. Carroo is an NFL talent, but the Spartan secondary is starting to look more and more porous as the season stretches on. Michigan doesn’t have the greatest passing attack, so if Jake Rudock can pick apart the Spartans on Saturday, it’ll be panic time for Dantonio.

4. Penn State (5-1, 2-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Indiana 29-7 This Week: Sat at #1 Ohio State (6-0, 2-0), 8pm, ABC

Much like Utah’s resurgence has improved Michigan’s resume, Temple’s six-game winning streak to start the season is starting to make Penn State’s 5-1 start look much more respectable. The Nittany Lions smacked Indiana, 29-7, for their fifth straight win and have a chance to shake up the entire East Division in Columbus Saturday night. Christian Hackenberg was just average passing against a terrible Indiana defense – 21 of 39 for 262 yards and two scores – but rushed nine times for two more touchdowns. Indiana was without star running back Jordan Howard and quarterback Nate Sudfeld, so the PSU defense cruised in the victory.

5. Rutgers (3-2, 0-2) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to #4 MSU 24-31 This Week: Sat at Indiana (4-2, 0-2), 3:30pm, BTN

Maybe Rutgers has a little fight left after the return of Carroo to the offense. The senior wideout has caught six touchdown passes in just three games and gives the Scarlett Knights their only dangerous weapon on offense. Defensively, Rutgers can’t stop a nosebleed. Michigan State converted 11 of 17 chances on 3rd down en route to 489 total yards and 31 points. Only Norfolk State, an FCS team, and Kansas, the worst power five team in the country, couldn’t score at least 28 points against Rutgers this season. It’ll be up to the offense if Kyle Flood’s team wants to play in a bowl game.

6. Indiana (4-2, 0-2) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Penn St. 7-29 This Week: Sat vs Rutgers (3-2, 0-2), 3:30pm, BTN

Poor Indiana. Just when it looked like the Hoosiers could make some noise in the Big Ten – 4-0 and beating top-ranked Ohio State in the 3rd quarter – they lost their two best offensive players and spiraled into a familiar abyss of irrelevance. A huge home game against Rutgers could get Indiana a step closer to bowl eligibility. If the Hoosiers drop that contest, they’ll need two road wins over Maryland and Purdue at the end of the season.

7. Maryland (2-4, 0-2) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #1 OSU 28-49 This Week: Bye (10/24 vs Penn State)

Despite hanging with Ohio State for the better part of three quarters, Maryland is the lucky recipient of this week’s Dumpster Fire Award. Firing head coach Randy Edsall won’t teach Perry Hills, or Caleb Rowe, or Daxx Garman how to throw the football. The three quarterbacks own a combined completion percentage of just 44.1 percent and have thrown 17 picks to just 10 touchdowns. Hills – 47.4 percent, five touchdowns and four interceptions – might be the best option, but he still won’t get the Terrapins anywhere near bowl eligibility. On defense, look no further than the three teams (Bowling Green, West Virginia and Ohio State) who put up well over 40 points apiece against Maryland. The next four weeks will be a train wreck for the Terrapins. Athletic Director Kevin Anderson might have actually done Edsall a huge favor.

B1G East Week 6


West Division
1. Iowa (6-0, 2-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Illinois 29-20 This Week: Sat at #20 NW (5-1, 1-1), 12pm, ABC

For the first time this season, a new team sits upon the West Division throne. Iowa wasn’t overly dominant in a 29-20 win over Illinois, but Jordan Canzeri proved he’s the real deal, carrying the ball 43 times for 256 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback C.J. Beathard did just enough in the passing game to open the field for Canzeri, completing 15 of 31 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns. His favorite target on Saturday was freshman Jerminic Smith, who made his first career catches (4) for 118 yards. As the only remaining undefeated team in the Big Ten West, Iowa sits in the driver’s seat heading into a crucial top-20 matchup in Evanston. If the Hawkeyes can escape with a win over Northwestern, the final five weeks will be a cakewalk to Indianapolis.

2. Northwestern (5-1, 1-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #18 Mich. 0-38 This Week: Sat vs #17 Iowa (6-0, 2-0), 12pm, ABC

After winning five games to open the season and knocking off Stanford and Duke – neither of which has lost since falling to the Wildcats – Northwestern finally put itself on a national stage with the chance to make a statement. Simply put, it didn’t go well. The Wildcats fell behind by three touchdowns in the 1st quarter and never even made a peep as the Wolverines shattered their perfect record. Clayton Thorson’s best drive ended in a missed field goal and Justin Jackson rushed 12 times for only 25 yards. Luckily, Pat Fitzgerald only has to wait a week for a chance at redemption. A home win against Iowa Saturday would put Northwestern back on top of the West.

3. Minnesota (4-2, 1-1) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Purdue 41-13 This Week: Sat vs Nebraska (4-2, 1-1), 3:30pm, ESPN2

Minnesota finally broke out of its offensive slump in Week 6, rushing for 326 yards and dropping 41 points on Purdue. Mitch Leidner only threw for 59 yards, but there was little reason to pass as the Gophers had seven different ball carriers combine to average 6.8 yards per carry. The defense bounced back from the 27-0 drubbing it suffered against Northwestern, allowing just 275 yards and forcing four turnovers. Minnesota needs a win over Nebraska this weekend before dates against Michigan and Ohio State after the bye.

4. Wisconsin (4-2, 1-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 23-21 This Week: Sat at Minnesota (4-2, 1-1), 3:30pm, ESPN2

Wisconsin nearly dropped to 0-2 in the Big Ten Saturday, but a 46-yard field goal from Rafael Gaglianone with four seconds left in the game lifted the Badgers over the Cornhuskers, 23-21. Joel Stave threw the ball an uncharacteristic 50 times, completing 24 passes for 322 yards and one touchdown. Dare Ogunbowale added 117 yards rushing to give Wisconsin just enough for its first conference win. Nebraska gained just 13 first downs against the Badger defense and scored only one in the second half. Wisconsin faces an easy four-game stretch – Purdue, Illinois, Rutgers and Maryland – while it waits for Iowa to let it back into the race.

5. Illinois (4-2, 1-1) – Down 2
Last Week: Lost to #22 Iowa 20-29 This Week: Bye (10/24 vs Wisconsin)

For a few glorious moments in the 4th quarter, it looked like Illinois might actually pull a road upset at Kinnick. But the offense managed just two touchdowns as the Fighting Illini fell back to even in conference play. The Illini defense embraced the ‘bend but don’t break’ mentality Saturday, allowing 478 total yards but surrendering just three touchdowns. Marshall Koehn made three field goals after stalled Hawkeye drives to eventually outlast Illinois.

6. Nebraska (2-4, 0-2) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to Wisconsin 21-23 This Week: Sat at Minn. (4-2, 1-1), 3:30pm, ESPN2

Nebraska has really got this heartbreak thing down to a science. After losing on a last-second field goal on Saturday, the Cornhuskers have lost four games by a combined 11 points. Two of those losses came on Hail Mary passes and a third came in overtime. If Mike Riley can’t teach his team to finish, they’ll watch the rest of the conference from home during the bowl season.

7. Purdue (1-5, 0-2) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Minnesota 13-41 This Week: Sat at Wisconsin (4-2, 1-1), 12pm, BTN

To nobody’s surprise, Purdue’s near upset of Michigan State turned out to be a one-week wonder. The Boilermakers turned the ball over four times – including three picks by David Blough – in a 41-13 home loss against Minnesota. Purdue held the ball for under 24 minutes and converted just three of 17 attempts on 3rd down. Rutgers and Maryland have a better chance to play each other in a bowl game than Purdue has to qualify.

B1G West Week 6

#18 Michigan 38 – #13 Northwestern 0: Wolverines dominate Wildcats in all three phases

Saturday, October 10th, 2015

Chesson vs NW(

The coin toss was the only thing Michigan lost on Saturday, but the Wolverines turned even that into a win as Jehu Chesson returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown and they never looked back. Michigan recorded its third straight shutout with a  38-0 blanking of 13th-ranked Northwestern.

Michigan scored touchdowns on offense, defense, and special teams for the first time in a game since 2003 and held Northwestern’s offense to just 168 total yards while racking up 380 of their own — more than doubling the number Northwestern’s defense entered the game allowing per game.

Final Stats
Michigan Northwestern
Score 38 0
Record 5-1 (2-0) 5-1 (1-1)
Total Yards 380 168
Net Rushing Yards 201 38
Net Passing Yards 179 130
First Downs 21 13
Turnovers 0 1
Penalties-Yards 3-28 5-39
Punts-Yards 5-190 8-280
Time of Possession 37:05 22:55
Third Down Conversions 7-of-14 2-of-13
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-1 0-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 4-23 3-4
Field Goals 1-for-1 0-for-1
PATs 5-for-5 0-for-0
Red Zone Scores-Chances 3-of-3 0-of-0
Full Box Score

Jake Rudock had perhaps his best game of the season, completing 17 of 23 passes for 179 yards, and most importantly, no turnovers. The running game was done so by committee as De’Veon Smith led the way with 59 yards on eight carries, Derrick Green 47 yards on 12 carries, and five others rushed for at least 11 yards as Michigan racked up 201 yards on the ground.

Michigan’s defense held the Big Ten’s third leading rusher, Justin Jackson, to just 25 yards on 12 carries, and Jourdan Lewis padded his claim as one of the nation’s best defensive backs with a 37-yard interception return for touchdown. When all was said and done Michigan scored more points than Northwestern had allowed in the previous five games combined to set up a highly anticipated matchup with in-state rival Michigan State next Saturday.

After Chesson’s touchdown, Northwestern’s offense went three and out and Michigan drove 59 yards on seven plays to take a quick 14-0 lead. On the drive, Smith had an 18-yard rush and Jake Butt a 32-yard reception setting up a Drake Johnson 1-yard touchdown run.

Trying to get back in the game, Northwestern drove 50 yards to the Michigan 25, but Jack Mitchell missed a 42-yard field goal. Michigan responded with a six play 75-yard touchdown drive that featured a 34-yard Joe Kerridge run and a 27-yard pass to Chesson. Rudock scored from two yards out to put Michigan ahead 21-0 with 2:35 remaining in the first quarter.

Michigan piled it on near the end of the first half when Lewis intercepted Clayton Thorson’s 3rd-and-9 pass near the Northwestern sideline and raced 37 yards for the score. Michigan tacked on a 47-yard Kenny Allen field goal on its first possession of the second half and then Derrick Green capped off a 12 play, 66-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run with two minutes left.

Game Ball – Offense 

Mason Cole, Ben Braden, Graham Glasgow, Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson
For the first time this season the game ball goes to an entire position group and it’s the big uglies who were impressive all day against one of the nation’s best defenses. From the game’s start, Michigan’s offensive line generated great push against a very good Northwestern defensive front. While no individual running back went off, it was a team effort as nine different players had at least two carries, and five backs and Rudock had at least 11 rushing yards. Michigan totaled 201 rushing yards as a team, 84 more than Northwestern’s defense averages per game, and 4.4 yards per carry against a defense that gave up just 3.7 yards per rush in the first five games. Sure, Northwestern sacked Rudock three times, but it didn’t matter as the damage was done.

Week 1 – Jake Butt (8 rec for 93 yards and 1 TD)
Week 2 – De’Veon Smith (23 carries for 126 yards, 3 TDs)
Week 3 – Ty Isaac (8 carries for 114 yards, 1 TD)
Week 4 — De’Veon Smith (16 carries for 125 yards and 1 TD)
Week 5 — Drake Johnson (13 carries for 68 yards, 1 TD, 1 rec for 31 yards, 1 TD)

Game Ball – Defense

Jourdan Lewis (4 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 touchdown, 1 PBU)
Willie Henry (2 sacks) and Jabrill Peppers (5 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 3 PBU) could have easily gotten today’s game ball, but Lewis gets the nod for his lockdown coverage and 37-yard interception return for touchdown. Northwestern tried throwing at him with little result and he got the better of Thorson when he picked off the 3rd-and-9 pass and raced 37 yards up the sideline to put Michigan ahead 28-0 in the first half. Lewis has been fantastic all season, but will have his toughest test yet when Michigan State comes to town next week.

Week 1 – Chris Wormley (5 tackles, 3 TFL)
Week 2 – Chris Wormley (6 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack)
Week 3 – Jourdan Lewis (3 tackles, 4 PBU)
Week 4 — Ryan Glasgow (3 tackles, 2 TFL)
Week 5 — Desmond Morgan (9 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PBU)

Final Individual Stats
Passing Comp-Att Yds Avg. TD INT Long Sack
Jake Rudock 17-23 179 7.8 0 0 32 3
Clayton Thorson 13-27 106 3.9 0 1 20 2
Matt Alviti 1-3 12 4.0 0 0 12 1
Zack Oliver 1-3 12 4.0 0 0 12 1
Rushing Car. Yards Avg. TD Long
De’Veon Smith 8 59 7.4 0 19
Derrick Green 12 47 3.9 1 10
Joe Kerridge 2 35 17.5 0 34
Justin Jackson 12 25 2.1 0 15
Karan Higdon 8 16 2.0 0 9
Sione Houma 3 13 4.3 0 5
Ty Isaac 2 13 6.5 0 7
Solomon Vault 3 12 4.0 0 15
Jake Rudock (QB) 6 11 1.8 1 13
Jelani Roberts (WR) 1 11 11.0 0 11
Jehu Chesson (WR) 2 6 3.0 0 12
Warren Long 1 6 6.0 0 6
Drake Johnson 2 3 1.5 1 2
Matt Alviti (QB) 3 -2 -0.7 0 5
Clayton Thorson (QB) 3 -4 -1.3 0 3
Zack Oliver (QB) 1 -9 -9.0 0 -9
Receiving Rec Yds Avg. TD Long
A.J. Williams 4 48 12.0 0 16
Jake Butt 3 40
13.3 0 32
Austin Carr 2 39 19.5 0 20
Jehu Chesson 2 26 13.0 0 27
Drake Harris 2 25 12.5 0 13
Cameron Dickerson 2 22 11.0 0 12
Christian Jones 2 22 11.0 0 12
De’Veon Smith (RB) 3 19 6.3 0 10
Amara Darboh 2 11 5.5 0 8
Dan Vitale 1 11 11.0 0 11
Mo Ways 1 10 10.0 0 10
Miles Shuler 1 9 9.0 0 9
Justin Jackson (RB) 1 3 3.0 0 3
Mike McHugh 2 0 0.0 0 2
Clayton Thorson (QB) 1 0 0.0 0 0
Kicking FG Pct Long XP Pts
Kenny Allen 1/1 100.0 47 5/5 8
Jack Mitchell 0/1 0.0 0 0/0 0
Punting No Yds Avg TB In 20 Long
Blake O’Neill 5 190 28.0 2 3 59
Hunter Niswander 8 280 35.0 0 2 47
Kick Returns No Yds Avg Long TD
Jehu Chesson 1 96 96.0 96 1
Solomon Vault 2 39 19.5 22 0
Jelani Roberts 1 19 19.0 19 0
Marcus McShepard 1 17 17.0 17 0
Punt Returns No Yds Avg Long TD

#18 Michigan vs #13 Northwestern game preview

Friday, October 9th, 2015

Game Preview_Northwestern_banner

After last season’s 10-9 snoozefest in Evanston, the thought of a highly anticipated top-20 matchup between Michigan and Northwestern less than a year later was far from most peoples’ minds. And for good reason. Both teams’ 2014 seasons ended with 5-7 records just three weeks after that meeting.

But as one of Week 6’s most anticipated matchups approaches — one of only two games naturally featuring two ranked teams — both Michigan and Northwestern are poised to make a major move toward the Big Ten title.

Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 3:30 p.m. EST – BTN
Northwestern Head Coach: Pat Fitzgerald (10th season)
Coaching Record: 65-53 overall, 31-42 Big Ten (all at NU)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike McCall (8th season)
Defensive Coordinator: Mike Hankwitz (8th season)
Returning 2014 Starters: 14 (6 offense, 8 defense)
Last Season: 5-7 (3-5)
Last Meeting: UM 10 – NU 9 (2014)
All-Time Series: UM leads 56-15-2
Record in Ann Arbor: 34-6-2
Record in Michigan Stadium: 34-6-2
Jim Harbaugh vs Northwestern: 1st meeting
Last Michigan win: 2014 (10-9)
Last Northwestern win: 2008 (21-14)
Current Streak: Michigan 4
Michigan on Homecoming: 88-28-2

At 5-0 and 1-0 in the conference, Northwestern is ranked as high as it has been since 2000, following a wild, 54-51 win over Michigan. The Wildcats shared the Big Ten title with Michigan and Purdue that season and haven’t won it since. Another win over Michigan would make Northwestern the favorite to win the Big Ten West.

Like Michigan, they have a quality win so far this season. In the opener, Northwestern shut down 21st-ranked Stanford for a 16-6 win, holding the Cardinal to just 240 yards of offense and 85 rushing yards. Since then, Stanford is 4-0, averaging 42 points and 506 total yards per game. Northwestern also has a 19-10 win over Duke in Durham and a 27-0 throttling of Minnesota last week. Despite that impressive resume, there is one game of concern, a narrow win over Ball State. The Cardinals gained 359 yards of offense — 181 on the ground — in the Week 4 near-upset.

Michigan holds a 56-15-2 all-time advantage over Northwestern, but the last three meetings were about as close as they could get. In 2012, Michigan trailed by three in the closing seconds, but Devin Gardner completed a Hail Mary to Roy Roundtree, setting up the game-tying field goal. Michigan won in overtime, 38-31. In 2013, Northwestern held a 9-6 lead late in the game, but Michigan pulled off an improbable last-second field goal to tie it. The Wolverines then won in triple overtime, 27-19. Then last year, Michigan carried a 7-0 lead into the fourth quarter before Northwestern kicked a field goal with 7:26 remaining. Michigan responded with a field goal of its own to take a 10-3 lead, but Northwestern scored with three seconds remaining. Instead of going to overtime for the third straight year, Pat Fitzgerald elected to go for two, but Michigan’s defense held strong and broke Northwestern’s heart once again.

Three years of frustration at the hands of Michigan could be redeemed with a win in the Big House tomorrow, vaulting the Wildcats into the top 10. Or Michigan could break their hearts again and make their own jump toward the top 10. Let’s take a look at the matchup.

When Northwestern has the ball

Like Michigan, offense isn’t what has carried Northwestern to a fast start this season. The Wildcats rank 79th nationally and ninth in the Big Ten in total offense (391 yards per game), 14th and first in rushing (248.8 yards per game), 118th and last in passing (142.2 yards per game), 99th and 10th in pass efficiency (114.85), and 89th and 11th in scoring (25.4 points per game).

The main source of offense has been sophomore running back Justin Jackson. His 636 rushing yards rank third in the Big Ten behind Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott (729) and Indiana’s Jordan Howard (709). Jackson is averaging 127.2 rushing yards per game and 4.6 yards per carry on 138 carries. By comparison, De’Veon Smith has just 69 carries, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Jackson has eclipsed 100 yards in four of five games this season, but has just one touchdown.

Junior Warren Long and sophomore Solomon Vault are the backups with about six or seven carries apiece per game. Long is averaging 5.3 yards per carry and has two touchdowns, while Vault averages 4.0.

The second leading runner in terms of both yards and carries is quarterback Clayton Thorson. The redshirt freshman from Wheaton, Ill. has 200 yards on 41 carries and leads the team with four rushing touchdowns. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, he’s not the traditional mobile quarterback, but he’s mobile enough to pick up yards when needed. He was the sixth-best dual threat quarterback in the class of 2014. Passing-wise, he stands in the bottom third of the conference with 711 yards, four touchdowns, and a 56.6 percent completion percentage. He has eclipsed 150 yards passing in just two of five games this season — one of which was 152 yards — and was held to 9-of-23 for 70 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions by Duke.

The leading receiver is senior super back Dan Vitale, who played for Thorson’s rival high school, Wheaton-Warrenville South. He has 15 receptions for 196 yards and two touchdowns this season, but most of that production came against Ball State when he caught five passes for 108 yards and both scores. Fellow senior Christian Jones is the only other player with double-digit receptions, with 14 catches for 157 yards but has yet to find the end zone, while junior Austin Carr is a big play threat with 100 yards and two touchdowns on just four receptions. No other receiver has a touchdown or more than 54 yards.

The offensive line has a good amount of experience. Left tackle Geoff Mogus has 27 career starts, and although he missed the Minnesota game with an injury, he’s expected to start tomorrow. Left guard is the main question mark between senior Matt Frazier, who started against Minnesota, and junior Connor Mahoney, who started against Eastern Illinois and Ball State. Frazier is certainly the more experienced with 18 career starts. Junior Ian Park is the center with 13 career starts, while senior right guard Shane Mertz is a new starter this season and junior right tackle Eric Olson has 14 career starts.

When Michigan has the ball

Defense is what Northwestern has made its calling card this season, matching comparably with Michigan in most categories. The Wildcats rank fifth nationally and second in the Big Ten in total defense (247.4 yards allowed per game), 26th and fifth against the run (117.4 yards allowed per game), seventh and second against the pass (130 yards allowed per game), third and second in pass defense efficiency (83.35), and first and first in scoring defense (seven points per game).

Northwestern has a good set of defensive ends in senior Dean Lowry, senior Deonte Gibson, and junior Ifeadi Odenigbo. Lowry leads the defensive line with 4.5 tackles for loss to go along with half a sack. Gibson and Odenigbo lead the team with 2.5 sacks apiece. The interior of the line consists of senior C.J. Robbins and sophomore Tyler Lancaster. Lancaster ranks third on the team with 3.5 tackles for loss and also has a half a sack.

The linebacking corps is led by rising star sophomore middle linebacker Anthony Walker, who has 44 tackles, 8.5 for loss, a half a sack, and two fumble recoveries. His 8.5 tackles for loss ranks third in the Big Ten behind Wisconsin’s Joe Schubert and Penn State’s Carl Nassib. Junior Jaylen Prater is a first-year starter at the weak side and has 23 tackles, while senior SAM linebacker, Drew Smith, who started seven games last season, also has 23 tackles in addition to two fumble recoveries.

The secondary is one of the nation’s best with a ton of experience between corners Nick VanHoose and Matthew Harris as well as safeties Traveon Henry and Godwin Igwebuike. VanHoose is a fifth-year senior who was an All-Big Ten second team selection by the media a year ago. He has 37 career starts and has nine tackles and five pass breakups so far this season. Harris, a junior, started all 12 games last season and leads the team with three interceptions and six pass breakups this season. Henry, a senior, started 10 games in each of the last two seasons and ranks second on the team with 29 tackles in addition to three for loss and one sack. Sophomore safety Igwebuike started five games as a redshirt freshman a year ago and has 27 tackles and three pass breakups so far in 2015.

The other third

Junior kicker Jack Mitchell has made 10 of 13 field goal attempts with a long of 49. Last season, he made 14 of 18, so he’s solid. Sophomore punter Hunter Niswander, however, ranks near the bottom of the Big Ten with a 38.9-yard punt average. Vault handles the kick return duties and has done so very well so far, averaging 31.6 yards per return, which ranks 14th nationally. He had a 98-yard touchdown return against Duke in Week 3. Senior receiver Miles Shuler is the punt returner with an average of 18.5 yards per return.


Last season’s low-scoring affair was a product of decent defenses, but mostly just bad offenses and it was tough to watch for fans of either side. Tomorrow’s matchup will also be low-scoring, but that’s because it will be a battle of defensive titans that rank first and second nationally in scoring defense and both in the top five in total defense.

What separates these defenses is that Michigan has held two straight Power 5 opponents to just 105 total yards each in the past two weeks, while Northwestern gave up 359 yards of offense to Ball State. While Michigan’s defense is equally good in both phases, Northwestern is great against the pass, but vulnerable to the run, and that’s where Michigan’s offense excels. No one knows at this point whether or not De’Veon Smith will play, but if he does, expect him to split carries with Drake Johnson to give the offense a nice one-two punch of Smith’s hard-nosed power running and Johnson’s vision and burst. Expect Jim Harbaugh’s offense to allow Jake Rudock to take what the defense gives him with underneath passes all day long and not take many chances against Northwestern’s strong secondary.

Defensively, Michigan will focus on stopping Jackson just as it has done to running backs all season. Thorson completes just 56 percent of his passes and has thrown for 105, 152, 70, 256, and 128 yards in Northwestern’s five games. The 256 was against Ball State’s weak defense and the 152 was against FCS school Eastern Illinois, which means against Power 5 competition, he hasn’t thrown for more than 128 yards in a game. Don’t expect that to change tomorrow.

A low-scoring game is guaranteed with neither offense able to have much success. But Michigan will be able to sustain longer drives and pull out the win.

Michigan 17 – Northwestern 6