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Posts Tagged ‘Purdue’

Big Ten power rankings: Week 5

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

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A full week of Big Ten games is in the books as the conference season officially kicked off Saturday with six intra-league battles and one nonconference matchup.

In the only cross-divisional game of the week, Michigan State topped Purdue in a nail-biter at Spartan Stadium. The East also picked up a win from Penn State, which snuck by Army. Meanwhile, a major power shift rattled the West Division as two of the division’s best teams went down to the wire in Madison.

Here’s a look at where the teams stand after one Big Ten game.

East Division
1. Ohio State (5-0, 1-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Indiana 34-27 This Week: Sat vs Maryland (2-3, 0-1), 12pm, BTN

It wasn’t an impressive performance for the No. 1 team in the country, but Ohio State held off a pesky Indiana team Saturday to pick up a win in the conference opener. Cardale Jones completed 18 of 27 pass attempts for 245 yards, a touchdown, and a pick. The defense surrendered over 400 yards, but was saved by Ezekiel Elliott’s 274 yards and three touchdowns. Elliott ripped off runs of 55, 65, and 75 yards in the game, keeping the Buckeyes afloat in the second half.

The Hoosiers came into the game undefeated, but OSU couldn’t pull away despite injuries to Indiana starting quarterback Nate Sudfeld and star running back Jordan Howard. Much like in the opener against Virginia Tech, Ohio State needed an injury to Indiana’s best offensive player to swing the momentum and take the lead for good. Though they’re clearly one of the most talented teams in the country, the Buckeyes have underwhelmed in four of their five games and can’t find a consistent rhythm on offense. They shouldn’t have a problem getting to 6-0 this weekend as a lost Maryland offense comes to the Horseshoe.

2. Michigan State (5-0, 1-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Purdue 24-21 This Week: Sat at Rutgers (2-2, 0-1), 8pm, BTN

If not for Michigan’s opening loss to Utah, the Wolverines would be well above the Spartans in the power rankings based on the past few weeks. Saturday was Michigan State’s worst performance yet as it nearly blew a 21-point halftime lead to a Purdue team with only one win. Michigan State led 21-0 at the break and needed a stop on the Boilermakers’ final drive to secure a 24-21 win.

MSU’s secondary was a great concern early in the season, but it was Markell Jones, Purdue’s starting running back, who smacked the Spartans on homecoming. Jones gained 157 yards on 22 carries and found the end zone twice. David Blough completed fewer than half his pass attempts and threw for just 136 yards, but Michigan State couldn’t pull away, despite forcing three turnovers. Michigan State did outgain Purdue by 105 yards, but the worst team in the league shouldn’t be within a field goal of the No. 2 ranked team in the country. Connor Cook needs to escape from his funk (just 139 yards passing Saturday) and lift the Spartans to where they were last year on offense.

3. Michigan (4-1, 1-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Maryland 28-0 This Week: Sat vs #13 NU (5-0, 1-0), 3:30pm, BTN

In a Week 4 win over BYU, Michigan scored all 31 of its points in the first half before playing to a scoreless tie in the second half. In Maryland, the Wolverines mustered only a pair of field goals before the break and exploded for 22 points in the second half. The common denominator? Neither the Cougars nor the Terrapins could put up a single point against a stout Michigan defense.

For the second straight week, the Wolverines surrendered just 105 yards, this time holding Maryland to seven first downs and fewer than two yards per play. Quarterback Caleb Rowe has struggled all season, but Michigan forced him into his worst performance yet: eight completions in 27 attempts for 47 yards and three interceptions. One of the picks came from emerging star Jourdan Lewis, who’s been near impossible to beat downfield all season. Lewis burst onto the scene as Michigan’s top lockdown corner last year and he’s already made enormous strides under Jim Harbaugh.

But it wasn’t all good news for Michigan at Byrd Stadium. The offense struggled to run the ball with De’Veon Smith out due to injury. Derrick Green and Ty Isaac rushed 13 times for just 43 yards and a pair of fumbles. Drake Johnson struggled in the first half, but made an adjustment after the break and finished with 68 yards on 13 carries. He also took a screen pass 31 yards and dove to the pylon early in the 3rd quarter to break the seal for the Wolverine offense.

Even more serious for Michigan going forward is the loss of Mario Ojemudia for the rest of the season. Ojemudia had developed into Michigan’s top pass rusher out of the buck linebacker position, but now those duties will fall on the shoulders of Royce Jenkins-Stone, a talented but largely unproven senior who made eight tackles last season. Northwestern will visit Michigan in the Big House this weekend in what promises to be a defensive slugfest. The two teams enter Saturday’s matchup ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the country in terms of scoring defense.

4. Penn State (4-1, 1-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Army 20-14 This Week: Sat vs Indiana (4-1, 0-1), 12pm, ESPN2

Penn State was the only Big Ten team to play out of conference in Week 5, holding off a second-half charge from Army to improve to 4-1. The Nittany Lions were bailed out by three Army fumbles that wiped out a 293-yard effort. Army outgained Penn State 293-264, picked up more first downs, and averaged more yards per play. Christian Hackenberg threw only 19 times, picking up 156 yards and a touchdown — a disappointing sequel to his 296-yard, three-touchdown effort against San Diego State. James Franklin’s team just doesn’t have anything going on offense this season, so it’ll rely on a top-tier defense to carry it through conference play.

5. Indiana (4-1, 0-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #1 OSU 27-34 This Week: Sat at Penn State (4-1, 1-0), 12pm, ESPN2

Injuries to Jordan Howard and Nate Sudfeld couldn’t have come at a worse time for Indiana, which had a legitimate chance to dethrone the top-ranked Buckeyes in Bloomington before their top offensive threats went down. Indiana played its best defensive game of the season, but still allowed over 500 yards to the offensively-challenged Buckeyes. Two recovered fumbles and an interception kept the Hoosiers in the game, but three huge runs from Ezekiel Elliott handed Indiana its first loss of the season. The Hoosiers won’t do much damage in the Big Ten behind their high-powered offense and risk-taking defense, but the road ahead won’t get any easier as they visit Penn State and Michigan State and host Iowa and Michigan in the next five games.

6. Rutgers (2-2, 0-1) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs #4 MSU (5-0, 1-0), 8pm, BTN

Rutgers took an early week off after beating a winless Kansas team, 27-14, in Week 4. The extra preparation likely won’t do much good this weekend as the Scarlett Knights host an angry Michigan State team. They might not be competitive in another game until a Week 11 home date with Nebraska.

7. Maryland (2-3, 0-1) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #22 Mich. 0-28 This Week: Sat at #1 OSU (5-0, 1-0), 12pm, BTN

Believe it or not, there’s a team in the Big Ten that would love to have Jake Rudock as its starting quarterback. Maryland’s situation under center is as grim as it gets, and those struggles were on full display against Michigan. Starter Caleb Rowe was pulled from the game after completing just eight of 27 passes for 47 yards and three interceptions. Rowe was replaced in the 3rd quarter by Daxx Garman, who went just 2 of 9 for 29 yards. Brandon Ross was smothered by the Michigan run defense, racking up just 44 yards in the team’s 105-yard effort. The defense was solid, allowing just 378 yards and 28 points despite spending over 34 minutes on the field, but with this offense, Maryland won’t be competitive for the rest of the season.

B1G East Week 5

West Division
1. Northwestern (5-0, 1-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Min. 27-0 This Week: Sat at #18 Michigan (4-1, 1-0), 3:30pm, BTN

Wow. It looks like the Wildcats are even better than we thought they were, and we already thought they were pretty good. Northwestern steamrolled Minnesota on Saturday, holding the Gophers to 173 yards and scoring a season-high 27 points against Jerry Kill’s defense. Justin Jackson continues to quietly get the job done on the ground, picking up 120 yards on 20 carries to pace the offense. Clayton Thorson didn’t have a huge impact, but he completed 14 of 19 passes and didn’t turn it over. He also rushed for the team’s only two offensive touchdowns. Pat Fitzgerald’s team has climbed to No. 13 in the AP Poll with a chance to jump into the top 10 if it can knock off a streaking Michigan team in the Big House this weekend. Northwestern will need an outstanding effort from the defense allowing the fewest points per game in the country.

2. Iowa (5-0, 1-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat #19 Wisconsin 10-6 This Week: Sat vs Illinois (4-1, 1-0), 12pm, ESPNU

Northwestern might be the hottest team in the Big Ten, but Iowa picked up the biggest win in Week 5. The Hawkeyes knocked off perennial West Division champ Wisconsin in Madison by essentially out-Badgering the Badgers. Iowa scored just 10 points in the game, but controlled the clock with its own running game while holding Wisconsin to 2.5 yards per carry. C.J. Beathard was underwhelming, completing just nine of 21 passes for 77 yards as Iowa was outgained 320-221 overall. But the defense forced four turnovers and held Wisconsin to just 4 of 13 on 3rd down to sneak out of Madison with a power-shifting victory. Iowa is now in position to seize control of the West Division if it can win in Evanston on Oct. 17.

3. Illinois (4-1, 1-0) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 14-13 This Week: Sat at #22 Iowa (4-1, 1-0), 12pm, ESPNU

Don’t look now, but Illinois is 4-1! Despite a pair of shaky performances leading up to the Big Ten opener, Illinois shut down the Nebraska offense on Saturday and came away with a thrilling, shocking victory in Champaign. The Cornhuskers opened the door for the Illini by throwing twice on the final drive instead of running the clock down inside 20 seconds. When Illinois took over with 55 seconds left, Wes Lunt led a 72-yard drive that lasted just 41 seconds and ended with a one-yard, game-winning touchdown to Geronimo Allison. Illinois’ record is a bit deceiving, as it was blown out by its only solid non-conference opponent (a 48-14 loss at North Carolina). If the Fighting Illini somehow win one of their next two games – at Iowa or at home against Wisconsin – that’ll be reason to buy in.

4. Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Iowa 6-10 This Week: Sat at Nebraska (2-3, 0-1), 3:30pm, ABC

The Badgers are treading in unfamiliar territory midway through Paul Chryst’s first season as head coach. A rare home loss Saturday against Iowa landed Wisconsin behind the eight ball in the West Division and dropped the Badgers to 3-2 on the year. Joel Stave isn’t playing like a typical Wisconsin senior, turning the ball over twice on Saturday and failing to lead his team into the end zone in the 10-6 loss. Even stranger: Wisconsin’s running game has yet to awaken. Taiwan Deal and Dare Ogunbowale took 26 of the team’s 34 carries against the Hawkeyes but gained just 87 combined yards and an average below 3.5 yards per carry. Wisconsin’s defense was excellent, holding the C.J. Beathard-led attack to just 221 total yards and one touchdown. But the offense is struggling on all cylinders right now and there’s no NFL-caliber running back to pull it out of the rut.

5. Minnesota (3-2, 0-1) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #19 NU 0-27 This Week: Sat at Purdue (1-4, 0-1), 3:30pm, ESPN

Since nearly upsetting No. 2 TCU to open the season in early September, Minnesota has performed steadily worse each week. A pair of three-point wins over MAC schools preceded a 27-0 beat down at the hands of a Northwestern team that was struggling to score points before rolling over the hapless Gophers. Minnesota rushed for just 2.2 yards per carry and Mitch Leidner was awful through the air, completing 10 of 21 passes for 72 yards and a pick. A defense that had been leading the charge through four weeks surrendered 20 points and 312 yards on the night, though it was put in bad position by two offensive turnovers. The style points Minnesota gained by sticking with TCU have expired, and now it’ll need a desperation win in Purdue to get the train back on the tracks.

6. Purdue (1-4, 0-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to #2 MSU 24-27 This Week: Sat vs Minn. (3-2, 0-1), 3:30pm, ESPN

For the first time since a Week 2 thumping over Indiana State, Purdue showed a little fight in a 24-21 loss in East Lansing Saturday. The Spartans carried a commanding 21-0 lead into the half, but Purdue scored 14 unanswered points over the next 16 minutes to pull within a score. A 10-play, 28-yard drive stalled at their own 48-yard line as the Boilermakers’ comeback effort finally ran out of gas. Freshman quarterback David Blough was awful in the first half, but he finished the game with 136 yards passing, a touchdown and an interception after a solid 2nd half effort. If not for MSU running back L.J. Scott’s 146 rushing yards and two touchdowns, Purdue might have pulled the most shocking upset of this college football season.

7. Nebraska (2-3, 0-1) – Down 3
Last Week: Lost to Illinois 13-14 This Week: Sat vs Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1), 3:30pm, ABC

How could Nebraska possibly fall below a lousy, punchless Purdue team? It’s simple: Mike Riley’s team is playing a sloppy, ugly brand of football through five games and it starts with their junior quarterback. Tommy Armstrong Jr. completed less than one-third of his passes Saturday for 105 yards and an interception. He had zero passing yards in the team’s 76-yard touchdown drive in the 1st quarter and the offense mustered only 13 points against an Illinois team that allowed a combined 73 points to North Carolina and Middle Tennessee State the last two weeks. Nebraska could actually be undefeated at this point in the season – the three losses are by a combined nine points – but mammoth mistakes in the 4th quarter an overtime have dropped them to a disastrous start. If Nebraska can’t pull off a win over Wisconsin this weekend, it’ll have to knock off Northwestern, Michigan State or Iowa down the stretch to qualify for a bowl.

B1G West Week 5

Big Ten power rankings: Week 4

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

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The non-conference season is finally (mostly) over. Besides a game each for Penn State and Rutgers, which both have matchups left against Army, the rest of the season will pit Big Ten against Big Ten as the road to Indianapolis officially begins.

So where does the Big Ten rank, now that the judgement period has come and gone? As a conference, the Big Ten finished just 7-8 against other power five teams, losing two of three to the Big 12, splitting 3-3 with the ACC, beating the Pac-12 3-2 and falling in the only Big Ten-SEC battle.

But the difference in the conference this season is the strength of a middle class that’s lagged behind the rest of the country in recent seasons. Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin still bear the flag for the Big Ten, but now they have company on the national stage. Five Big Ten teams went a perfect 4-0 through the non-conference schedule and two of the one-loss teams are ranked in the top 25. It looks like as many as six teams have a chance to win nine games this season.

Unfortunately, the Big Ten’s bottom-feeders are still very, very bad. Purdue managed just one win in the non-conference season after losing to Marshall and Bowling Green and getting bombed at home by Virginia Tech. Maryland has been an embarrassment, falling to Bowling Green and West Virginia by a combined 60 points. Illinois and Rutgers are a combined 5-2 in the non-conference, but neither team played anyone better than Washington State.

The East Division certainly emerged as the stronger half of the Big Ten, despite the presence of Maryland and Rutgers in the cellar. Ohio State and Michigan State hold the top spots in the national rankings and Michigan has morphed into a potential threat under Jim Harbaugh. East teams finished 5-3 against power five teams and 22-6 overall during the non-conference schedule, while the West went just 2-5 against power five teams and 20-8 overall.

In the national landscape, the Big Ten is right there with the Pac-12 and the SEC for top conference in the FBS. The preseason rankings gave the SEC an unearned head start, but that couldn’t save pretenders like Auburn and Arkansas from quickly falling out of contention. Teams like South Carolina, Missouri and Tennessee aren’t where they were expected to be. Without that depth below juggernauts like Alabama and LSU, the SEC’s rein atop college football is vulnerable.

The PAC-12 is headed in the other direction. UCLA and Utah are legitimate top 10 teams, which helps lessen the blow of Oregon’s fall from grace. If Stanford, USC and Arizona can bounce back from early losses, the conference might be the deepest in the nation.

But over the next eight weeks, each conference will turn its attention inward as the battle for conference championships begins. Here’s how the Big Ten stacks up heading into conference play.

East Division
1. Ohio State (4-0, 0-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat W. Michigan 38-12 This Week: Sat at Indiana (4-0), 3:30pm, ABC

Surprise! Ohio State regained the top spot this week with an easy victory over Western Michigan. The 38-12 win was less important to the Buckeyes than Cardale Jones’ bounce back from a two-interception effort against Northern Illinois. Jones threw for 288 yards, two touchdowns and an interception on Saturday to solidify his grip on the starting job. The Broncos couldn’t handle Ezekiel Elliott either, watching him run for 124 yards on just 16 carries. Ohio State gained over 500 yards of offense, but interceptions are still a problem. OSU has thrown the 10th-most picks in college football through Week 4, a surprising number from a team expected to field two All-Big Ten quality quarterbacks. The Buckeyes have an insanely easy path to Indy, with no tough games on the schedule until Nov. 21. But teams like Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois hung around against the Buckeyes, so the top team in the country is certainly beatable.

2. Michigan State (4-0, 0-0) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat C. Michigan 30-10 This Week: Sat vs Purdue (1-3), 12pm, ESPN2

The Spartans didn’t fall from the top of the East because of Oregon’s performance; they fell because they struggled to close out another MAC foe. Central Michigan trailed by only a touchdown midway through the 4th quarter before a pair of late Spartan touchdowns sealed the deal. Michigan State struggled to put Western Michigan, Oregon and Central Michigan away during the non-conference season, despite the combined 4-8 record of those opponents. Unfortunately, Oregon’s rapid demise erased the only quality win on MSU’s resume, sapping the luster from its non-conference resume. Connor Cook was solid again in the 30-10 victory Saturday, completing 11 of 19 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown. Madre London continued to impress, averaging 4.9 yards on 15 carries. Defensively, Michigan state allowed CMU to complete 26 of 39 passes and gain 340 total yards. The Spartans have allowed 396 yards per game and rank just 77th in the country in total defense.

3. Michigan (3-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat BYU 31-0 This Week: Sat at Maryland (2-2), 8pm, BTN

Don’t look now, but there’s a buzz coming from Ann Arbor. Michigan was the Big Ten’s biggest winner on Saturday, crushing then –No. 22 BYU, 31-0, in the Big House. Jake Rudock led the show on offense, throwing for 194 yards, rushing for 33 more and scoring three total touchdowns. What caused his sudden turnaround? The offensive line. Rudock had more time than he knew what to do with on Saturday and even had time to scramble for positive yards after going through his progressions. Tim Drevno has turned the line into a strength and everybody on the offense – especially De’Veon Smith – is benefiting. Smith turned in his second 100-yard game Saturday, rumbling his way to 125 yards on 16 carries. Smith’s best run came in the second quarter, when he disappeared into the pile only to reappear, spin out of a tackle and dash into the end zone 60 yards later. Amara Darboh was the other offensive hero, making an Odell Beckham-like grab to set up Michigan’s first touchdown and finishing with four catches, 57 yards and a touchdown.

The Wolverines’ defense was even better, holding BYU to 105 yards and picking up that elusive first shutout. Players were frustrated last week when UNLV scored in the 4th quarter to end a shutout bid, but this week they finished the job against a much better offense. Tanner Mangum passed for only 55 yards, while the team’s leading rusher, Adam Hine, got only eight carries for 33 yards. Harbaugh insists the team is still a work in progress, but the improvement since Week 1 has been incredible. If this defense keeps it up, and Rudock takes care of the football, Michigan will have something to say in the East race.

4. Indiana (4-0, 1-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Wake Forest 31-24 This Week: Sat vs #1 OSU (4-0), 3:30pm, ABC

In the first three weeks of the season, Indiana knocked off an FCS school and a pair of Conference USA schools by an average of six points to jump out to a fluky 3-0 start. The Hoosiers finally picked up a solid victory Saturday when they went to Wake Forest and earned a road win over a power five team. Jordan Howard put the Indiana offense on his back, running for 168 yards and a score on 33 carries. Nate Sudfeld was steady in the passing game, passing for 205 yards and two touchdowns. In the upset of the week, Indiana’s defense held a team under 400 yards, allowing Wake Forest to rush for only 99 on the ground. The Hoosiers are undefeated to begin conference play, but don’t expect that to last long. The defense allows 499 yards per game, which ranks 117th in the nation. That’ll never hold up against a schedule with offenses like Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa on the horizon.

5. Penn State (3-1, 1-0) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat SDSU 37-21 This Week: Sat vs Army (1-3), 12pm, ESPNU

Christian Hackenberg played his best game since freshman year Saturday when he completed 60 percent of his passes for 196 yards and three touchdowns. Penn State’s offense, which scored just 21.67 points per game over the first three weeks, exploded for 37 points as the Nittany Lions rolled over San Diego State. Penn State dominated on both sides of the ball, outgaining SDSU 400-242 and recovering three fumbles. Is Penn State a contender or a pretender in the East this season? After an embarrassing loss at Temple to start the year, James Franklin’s team bounced back with three fairly easy wins. The defense, which allowed the second fewest yards per game in the FBS last season, will pace the Nittany Lions as Hackenberg and the offense battle to keep up. If freshman running back Saquon Barkley, who’s already rushed for 373 yards on 42 carries (8.9 yards per carry), can take the reins of the offense away from the passing game, Penn State will be a tough team to play.

6. Rutgers (2-2, 0-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Kansas 27-14 This Week: Bye (10/10 vs #2 MSU)

Do I have to rank the last two teams? Yes? Fine, I’ll go with Rutgers at No. 6. The Scarlett Knights are an embarrassment off the field, but they did manage to beat one of the worst power five teams in the country Saturday. Josh Hicks ran all over the Kansas defense, picking up 113 yards and two touchdowns. Rutgers gained over 500 yards of total offense despite turning the ball over three times to the Jayhawks. Kyle Flood’s team already got blown out in their Big Ten opener in Week 3 and probably won’t be favored to win a game until it hosts Maryland in the final game of the season.

7. Maryland (2-2, 0-0) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to W. Virginia 6-45 This Week: Sat vs Michigan (3-1), 8pm, BTN

If you thought Michigan’s shutout win over BYU was a massacre, just wait until you hear about Maryland’s trip to West Virginia. Week 4 was a total disaster for the Terrapins. A painful, turnover-riddled disaster that, of course, ended with Maryland failing to convert a two-point conversion that would have pulled it within 37. Yes, it was as ugly as it sounds. West Virginia scored touchdowns on its first three drives, none of which lasted more than three minutes. The Mountaineers scored 45 unanswered points to start the game, picking up 601 yards and 37 first downs. The Terrapins only held the ball for about 23 minutes, but that was enough time to throw five interceptions and turn the ball over six times. Caleb Rowe, who took over as starting quarterback after the team’s disastrous Week 2 loss to Bowling Green, threw four picks and completed just 10 of 27 passes. Only Brandon Ross, who gained 130 rushing yards on 15 carries, came to play for the Terps. Maryland needs to get the turnovers under control soon as two strong defensive teams (Michigan and Ohio State) come next on the schedule.

West Division
1. Northwestern (4-0, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Ball State 24-19 This Week: Sat vs Minnesota (3-1), 12pm, BTN

Things got a little hairy for the Wildcats Saturday when Ball State hung around until the final drive of a 24-19 Northwestern win. For the first time this season, Pat Fitzgerald’s defense showed a chink in the armor, allowing 359 yards to the Cardinals offense. Riley Neal completed only 14 of 35 passes against Northwestern, but a handful of big plays allowed him to rack up 178 yards and two touchdowns. Ball State also averaged more than five yards per carry against a front seven that was rock solid against Stanford and Duke earlier in the month. But Justin Jackson wouldn’t let the Wildcats’ perfect record go up in flames, leading the team with 184 rushing yards. Clayton Thorson bounced back from a terrible performance at Duke to throw for 256 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. The Big Ten opener will be a big one for Northwestern as Minnesota visits Evanston to set up a heavy defensive battle.

2. Iowa (4-0, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat N. Texas 62-14 This Week: Sat @ #19 Wisconsin (3-1), 12pm, ESPN

Iowa coasted through a much-needed break Saturday after two straight wins over power five opponents. The offense erupted against North Texas, scoring 48 points on 488 yards. Iowa also returned two interceptions for touchdowns in the second half, polishing off a 62-16 masterpiece. C.J. Beathard continued to dominate under center, completing an incredible 18 of 21 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns. Jordan Canzeri bullied a weak North Texas front seven for 115 yards and four touchdowns, giving him eight scores on the year. There’s no way Beathard will complete over 68 percent of his passes in Big Ten play, but he looks like a definite upgrade at quarterback and an excellent complement to Canzeri. With a strong defense and an offense that’s averaging 37.75 points per game, Iowa is a real threat in the West. But all three games against Wisconsin, Northwestern and Nebraska are on the road, so the Hawkeyes will have to be just as good away from Kinnick to compete. Perhaps the greatest hurdle comes Saturday in Madison.

3. Wisconsin (3-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Hawaii 28-0 This Week: Sat vs Iowa (3-1), 12pm, ESPN

Wisconsin rolled over its third straight cupcake opponent Saturday, shutting out Hawaii 28-0. Freshman running back Taiwan Deal built on his 84-yard performance in Week 3 with 147 rushing yards on 25 carries. He’s scored four touchdowns for the Badgers this season and looks like the best option in the backfield heading into Big Ten season. Joel Stave enjoyed a typical, steady non-conference season, completing over 66 percent of his passes for 830 yards, seven touchdowns and two picks.  Thanks to an efficient offense and a defense that allowed just three points in the last three games, the road to the West Division title still runs through Wisconsin.

4. Nebraska (2-2, 0-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Southern Miss 36-28 This Week: Sat at Illinois (3-1), 3:30pm, BTN

Nebraska’s rise to No. 4 in the West is more of an indictment on the rest of the division than an endorsement of the Cornhuskers’ body of work. Tommy Armstrong moved past his devastating overtime interception that doomed Nebraska in Week 3 to throw for 368 yards. He also rushed seven times for 63 yards and scored three total touchdowns in the game. Jordan Westerkamp is one of the conference’s toughest matchups at wide receiver, heading into conference play with 26 catches for 351 yards and four touchdowns in four games. Nebraska is looking to score its way through the Big Ten this season after allowing 12 touchdowns over the four games. Turnovers and penalties have also been a major issue during the rocky start. Poor defense, poor ball security and poor discipline is a dangerous recipe against a defensive-minded division.

5. Minnesota (3-1, 0-0) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Ohio 27-24 This Week: Sat at #16 Northwestern (4-0), 12pm, BTN

Since coming within a play of knocking off No. 2 TCU in the opener, Minnesota has beaten three weak opponents by a field goal each. This week, the Ohio Bobcats fell victim to the Gophers’ late heroics as a Shannon Brooks touchdown run gave Minnesota the lead with 30 seconds left on the clock. For the first time all season the Gophers got into a rhythm on offense, gaining 268 yards, picking up 24 first downs and scoring three touchdowns. Mitch Leidner threw for 264 yards, but all three Minnesota scores can on the ground – One by Leidner and two by Brooks. Ohio set a new high against Minnesota’s vaunted defense, scoring 24 points but falling short on a Hail Mary pass from the 41-yard line. A delay of game penalty after a time out pushed a potential 53-yard field goal attempt out of range and erased the Bobcats’ chance to tie the game. If the Golden Gophers can only beat Colorado State, Kent State and Ohio by three points, it’s hard to see them competing in the Big Ten.

6. Illinois (3-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Middle Tenn. 27-25 This Week: Sat vs Nebraska (2-2), 12pm, BTN

In the wake of Illinois’ beat down at the hands of North Carolina, Middle Tennessee State nearly went into Champaign and poured salt in the still-festering wound. Illinois needed a 51-yard field goal from Taylor Zalewski with 2:09 left on the clock to escape the Blue Raiders, thanks to a missed 43-yarder that would have flipped the script with eight seconds to go. The Fighting Illini won their first two games by a combined 93 points, but a 34-point loss to UNC exposed them as frauds. Conference wins will be tough to come by for Illinois this season.

7. Purdue (1-3, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Bowling Green 28-35 This Week: Sat vs at #2 MSU (4-0), 12pm, ESPN2

Ah, yes. The only Big Ten team with a losing record. Purdue capped off a terrible non-conference season with a home loss to Bowling Green, giving up over 30 points for the third time. The Big Ten slaying Falcons passed for over 400 yards and converted 11 of 16 first downs to outlast Purdue in the final seconds of the game. Travis Greene’s 11th carry of the game went for a 12-yard touchdown that capped an 80-yard drive and sealed Purdue’s fate. New starting quarterback David Blough played a solid game, completing 29 of 39 passes for 340 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. The freshman got no help from his running backs, who averaged just 2.4 yards per carry. When it boils down to it, the Boilermakers don’t have much firepower heading into a difficult month of October. The beat down begins Saturday in East Lansing.

2015 Big Ten power rankings: Week 3

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

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After a disastrous Week 1 (8-6) and an outstanding Week 2 (12-2), the Big Ten levelled out a bit in Week 3, finishing with a 9-3 record in out-of-conference games. Penn State and Rutgers kicked off the conference schedule two weeks early as the Nittany Lions picked up the first official Big Ten win of the season.

But the biggest news of the week came on Sunday, when Ohio State and Michigan State were named Nos. 1 and 2 atop the new AP Poll. Though neither team was dominant over the weekend, they treaded water while the rest of the top 10 crashed and burned. So now the Big Ten has a strong hold atop college football.

With most of the nonconference schedule ending this weekend, it’s nearly time to draw some solid conclusions about the state of the 2015 Big Ten. Here’s where the teams stand after Week 3.

East Division
1. Michigan State (3-0, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Air Force 35-21 This Week: Sat vs Central Michigan (1-2), 12pm, BTN

While Ohio State kept its hold on the No. 1 spot in the national polls, it’ll have no such luck in these power rankings. Michigan State underwhelmed in a 35-21 win over Air Force, but the combination of an emotional Week 2 win over Oregon and a first look at the true Triple Option offense makes the Spartans’ lackluster performance more understandable. Connor Cook enjoyed by far his best game of the season, throwing for 247 yards and four touchdowns on just 23 pass attempts. Eight of his 15 completions went to Aaron Burbridge, who picked up 156 receiving yards and three scores. The defense is definitely a concern for Michigan State as the conference season nears. After Western Michigan and Oregon racked up 383 yards and 432 yards of total offense, respectively, in Weeks 1 and 2, Air Force outgained MSU 428-324. Luckily for the Spartans, it doesn’t have to be pretty. If they win the rest of their games by a point each, they’ll find themselves comfortable in the four-team playoff.

2. Ohio State (3-0, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat N. Illinois 20-13 This Week: Sat vs W. Michigan (1-2), 3:30pm, ABC

Ohio State, like MSU, struggled against an inferior opponent on Saturday. But Ohio State, unlike MSU, has no good wins to fall back on. The Buckeyes limped to a 20-13 win at home over Northern Illinois, which gained fewer than 200 yards of offense and averaged an awful 2.5 yards per play. The Huskies did not play well, completing just 14 of 31 passes, turning the ball over twice and gaining just 2.6 yards per rush, but had a chance in the final moments to knock off the No. 1 team in the country. Ohio State entered the season with a pair of potential All-Big Ten quarterbacks duking it out for the starting job, but now neither one wants to take it. Cardale Jones looked terrible in the first half, completing four of nine passes and tossing two picks. When J.T. Barrett took over, he was wild as well, completing 11 of 19 for a touchdown and an interception. Ohio State’s defense held NIU to just 190 yards, if the star-studded offense keeps turning the ball over, one of these upset bids is bound to turn into an actual upset.

3. Michigan (2-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat UNLV 28-7 This Week: Sat vs BYU (2-1), 12pm, ABC

Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines flew under the radar this weekend as the winless UNLV Rebels came to town. Michigan’s offense struggled again, scoring just 28 points, but it did rack up 377 yards. Jake Rudock threw his fifth interception of the season and averaged just 5.6 yards per pass as the downfield attack continued to be nonexistent. But Ty Isaac and Jehu Chesson finally made a pair of big plays for the Wolverines, each running down the left sideline for long touchdowns. Chesson’s 36-yard dash put Michigan up 14-0 in the second quarter and Isaac’s 76-yard score came just two drives later. Week 2 hero De’Veon Smith took a step back against the Rebels, gaining just 33 yards on 13 carries. The story for Michigan continued to be the defense, which held UNLV to just seven points and 235 yards. Keith Whitely (13 carries for 29 yards) couldn’t get anything going on the ground against Michigan’s front seven, but the secondary was just as strong, breaking up five passes and intercepting two. Jourdan Lewis returned from a Week 2 concussion to break up four passes in coverage. Since allowing 337 yards to Utah in the opener, Michigan has given up just 373 total to Oregon State and UNLV. The team will face its second ranked opponent of the season Saturday when No. 22 BYU visits the Big House.

4. Penn State (2-1, 1-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 28-3 This Week: Sat vs San Diego State (1-2), 3:30pm, BTN

Is there something about that Indiana air that prevents teams from playing defense? Only Purdue (106) has allowed more points than Indiana (104) in the Big Ten through three nonconference games. But Indiana has done so against two Conference USA opponents and an FCS team. This week’s shootout came against Western Kentucky, which fell to the Hoosiers despite gaining 568 yards of offense. Quarterback Brandon Doughty threw for 484 yards and three touchdowns to mask an ineffective running game (3.2 yards per carry) for the Hilltoppers. Indiana picked up a season high 639 rushing yards, led by Jordan Howard’s 203 rushing yards and Nate Sudfeld’s 355 passing yards. The Hoosiers haven’t played defense for years now, and last year they mustered just four wins all season. They’ll have a chance to reach that mark, and polish off an undefeated non-conference season, at Wake Forest Saturday.

5. Indiana (3-0, 0-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat W. Kentucky 38-35 This Week: Sat at Wake Forest (2-1), 12:30pm

Penn State dominated Rutgers in the first conference matchup of the season, scoring 21 points in the second quarter and cruising to a 28-3 win. Saquon Barkley paced Penn State with 195 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. Akeel Lynch accounted for the team’s third rushing touchdown with a 75-yard dash in the second quarter. Christian Hackenberg put in another uninspiring performance, completing 10 of 19 passes for 141 yards and an interception against a shaky Rutgers defense. Hackenberg has completed fewer than half of his passes this season and has just one touchdown.

6. Maryland (2-1, 0-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat USF 35-17 This Week: Sat at West Virginia (2-0), 3pm, FS1

Maryland bounced back from an embarrassing home loss to Bowling Green with a comfortable win over South Florida in Week 3. The transition to Caleb Rowe at starting quarterback had its ups and downs. Rowe threw for 297 yards and four touchdowns, but turned it over three times to keep USF in the game. The Terrapins gained over 400 yards on offense and allowed a season-low 17 points. They’ll face a big test Saturday in West Virginia.

7. Rutgers (1-2, 0-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Penn State 3-28 This Week: Sat vs Kansas (0-2), 12pm, BTN

The Scarlet Knights picked up right where they left off Saturday, losing their second straight game and falling to 0-1 in the Big Ten. Rutgers couldn’t get anything going on offense, averaging a terrible 1.3 yards per carry and turning it over three times. Penn State ran for 330 yards against the front seven, leading an anemic offense to 471 total yards. The Scarlet Knights have a great chance to finish the non-conference schedule even as Kansas comes to town this weekend.

West Division
1. Northwestern (3-0, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Duke 19-10 This Week: Sat vs Ball State (2-1), 8pm, BTN

Though the opening week win over a ranked Stanford team was the coming out party for this Northwestern team, a road win over previously-undefeated Duke made an even louder statement. Northwestern struggled to move the ball, gaining just 271 yards of offense, but its defense is legit. The Wildcats forced three turnovers and held Duke to 3.8 yards per pass en route to a 19-10 win. Solomon Vault made the big play for Coach Pat Fitzgerald, returning a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown to give Northwestern the lead for good. It might not be pretty, but the Wildcats’ defense has passed its first three tests and should lead the way to a 4-0 start Saturday against Ball State.

2. Iowa (3-0, 0-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Pitt 27-24 This Week: Sat vs N. Texas (0-2), 3:30pm, ESPNU

While most of the conference hosted teams like Northern Illinois, UNLV and Troy, Iowa returned home to play its second straight power five team. It was a back and forth battle, and Pitt completed off a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive with 52 seconds left in regulation to tie it at 24. But a trio of C.J. Beathard runs put the Hawkeyes in Panther territory and Marshall Koehn nailed a 57-yard field goal to seal the deal. Iowa picked off two passes and shut down Pittsburgh’s rushing attack (2 yards per carry) to put itself in position for the walkoff win.

3. Wisconsin (2-1, 0-0) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Troy 28-3 This Week: Sat vs Hawaii (2-1), 8pm, BTN

The Badgers have bounced back nicely from an opening week loss to Alabama, beating Miami (OH) and Troy by a combined score of 86-3. Joel Stave is on cruise control at the helm and completed 13 of 17 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown against Troy. Wisconsin’s offense takes on a whole different look without a 100-yard rusher, but the team did average 5.7 yards per carry behind a stout offensive line. On defense, Wisconsin held Troy to 255 yards, but surrendered 19 first downs and lost the time of possession battle, which is unusual for the Badgers.

4. Minnesota (2-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Kent State 10-7 This Week: Sat vs Ohio (3-0), 3:30pm, BTN

Week 3 was a major disappointment for Minnesota, which opened some eyes with a near upset of No. 2 TCU in Week 1 and a road win over Colorado State in Week 2. Luckily for the Gophers, an outstanding defensive performance kept a disappointing week from becoming a disastrous week. Kent State gained just 142 yards in the game, going 3-17 on 3rd down and averaging fewer than 2.5 yards per play. On offense, Minnesota was terrible, scoring 10 points, committing three turnovers and eight penalties. Rodney Smith ran the ball 30 times but gained just 73 yards to pace the ground attack. Mitch Leidner completed 17 of 27 passes for 184 yards, but threw a pair of picks that helped Kent State stick around. Jerry Kill’s defense looks like one of the best in the country, but if Leidner can’t lead the offense back to respectability, Minnesota won’t compete for the West.

5. Nebraska (1-2, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Miami 33-36 This Week: Sat vs Southern Miss (2-1), 12pm, ESPNN

It’s only Week 3, but Nebraska has already lost a pair of heartbreakers this season. Miami was blowing the Huskers out of the water in the fourth quarter before Tommy Armstrong led three straight touchdown drives (two of which ended in successful two-point conversions) to tie the game at 33 in the final minute. But the 23-0 run ended when Armstrong threw a pick in overtime and the Hurricanes kicked a game-winning 28-yard field goal. Nebraska’s defense really struggled Saturday, allowing 511 totals yards in Miami. If Mike Riley hopes to compete in his first year in the Big Ten, that’ll have to turn around quickly.

6. Illinois (2-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Lost to N. Carolina 14-48 This Week: Sat vs Middle Tenn. (2-1), 4pm, ESPNN

Illinois could only hide behind weak competition for so long, and North Carolina exposed the Fighting Illini in a big way Saturday. Running back Elijah Hood averaged over eight yards per carry for the Heels and quarterback Marquise Williams rushed for 105 yards of his own as Illinois got steam rolled right out of North Carolina. West Lunt completed fewer than half of his passes and posted a quarterback rating of 14.3 as the Fighting Illini scored just twice in the contest. Josh Ferguson was the lone bright spot, rushing for 133 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. Illinois will host another cupcake Saturday as Middle Tennessee State comes to Champaign.

7. Purdue (1-2, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Virginia Tech 24-51 This Week: Sat vs Bowling Green (1-2), 12pm, BTN

Purdue couldn’t have looked much worse than it did Saturday against Virginia Tech in West Lafayette. The Boilermakers were outgained by over 200 yards, committed three turnovers and went just 2-15 on third down. Virginia Tech held the ball for over 38 minutes and held Austin Appleby to nine completions on 28 pass attempts. Appleby was a nonfactor on the ground too, rushing 13 times for 11 yards. Purdue is a candidate for an ugly loss in Week 4 as it hosts Bowling Green, a team that already stomped Maryland.

2015 Big Ten power rankings: Week 2

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

Power Rankings_header

The Big Ten looked like the laughingstock of college football in Week 1, but now the tables have turned. After the disastrous opening weekend for the conference as a whole, Week 2 was exactly what it needed to right the ship.

A 12-2 Saturday put two Big Ten teams in the top five, two more into the national rankings and only the two newest members, Maryland and Rutgers, dropped games to weak opponents. Michigan State, Iowa and Michigan picked up wins against Power 5 conference teams and Minnesota beat a solid Colorado State team on the road.

The 12-win week couldn’t have come at a better time, as the SEC watched FCS’s Jacksonville State take Auburn into overtime, Toledo dominate Arkansas and three ranked teams fall from the rankings.

It’s amazing how much can change in just one week. Here’s how the revitalized Big Ten stacks up midway through the nonconference schedule.

East Division
1. Michigan State (2-0, 0-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat #7 Oregon 31-28 This Week: Sat vs Air Force (2-0), 12pm, ABC

When a team doesn’t play its best game against a top 10 opponent but still wins, that team’s doing something right. Michigan State hosted No. 7 Oregon in the game of the week Saturday night and held on for a 31-28 win in East Lansing. Senior quarterback Connor Cook came up empty on a few throws and finished the game just 20 for 32 for 192 yards, two scores and a pick. The Spartans are 2-0 and ranked 4th in the country, and Cook still hasn’t played a strong game. The best performance in the victory was L.J. Scott’s 76 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries as backup to Madre London.

2. Ohio State (2-0, 0-0) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Hawaii 38-0 This Week: Sat vs Northern Illinois (2-0), 3:30pm, ABC

Ohio State’s dominance was on full display Saturday as the Buckeyes sleepwalked to a 38-0 victory over Hawaii. OSU didn’t show up to the Horseshoe, completing just 20 of 34 total passes and rushing for 3.7 yards per carry. But the Buckeyes still crushed an awful Hawaii team behind three touchdowns from Ezekiel Elliott. The only reason to watch Ohio State over the next eight weeks is to see who plays quarterback – J.T. Barrett or Cardale Jones?

3. Michigan (1-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Oregon State 35-7 This Week: Sat vs UNLV (0-2), 12pm, BTN

There was a different feel in the Big House this weekend, though Oregon State posed little threat to Michigan in Ann Arbor. Most of the concerns that arose during the Week 1 loss to Utah were dulled by a dominant 35-7 win in which Michigan ran for 225 yards and De’Veon Smith averaged 5.5 yards per carry. Jake Rudock was shaky for a second straight start, turning the ball over twice and finishing with a 34.2 QBR. But the offensive line was phenomenal, allowing just one sack and opening truck-sized holes for Smith, who scored thrice. Defensively, the Wolverines allowed a 79-yard drive to open the game and then held OSU to just 59 yards in the final 58 minutes. Michigan’s running game helped the offense possess the ball for over 38 minutes. Penalties and turnovers are still major concerns for the Wolverines heading into a tune-up game against UNLV. Michigan committed 10 penalties for 105 yards and lost the turnover battle 2-1 against a poor Oregon State team. Both of those areas need to be cleaned up before BYU lands in Ann Arbor.

4. Penn State (1-1, 0-0) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat Buffalo 27-14 This Week: Sat vs Rutgers (1-1), 8pm, BTN

Can the final four teams all tie for 7th? No? Okay, we’ll give the middle spot to Penn State, which bounced back from an embarrassing Week 1 loss with a less-than convincing victory over Buffalo. After looking lost against Temple in the opener, Christian Hackenberg was only slightly better against a middling MAC team on Saturday. He completed 14 of 27 passes for just 128 yards and one touchdown. Freshman running back Saquon Barkley was the lone bright spot for the Nittany Lion offense, gaining 115 yards on 12 carries after touching the ball just once at Temple. The defense was solid, but the Bulls were a 5-6 team last season, so a 27-14 Penn State win is greatly overshadowed by the 27-10 loss to Temple. Penn State hosts Rutgers to kick off the conference season Saturday. A loss in that game would make James Franklin’s seat a great deal hotter.

5. Indiana (2-0, 0-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat FIU 36-22 This Week: Sat vs Western Kentucky (2-0), 4pm, ESPNU

Indiana is undefeated, so how can it land behind both Michigan and Penn State? Indiana has looked awful in two games against terrible opponents. After a 48-47 win against Southern Illinois in Week 1, the Hoosiers needed to trounce FIU at home to ease the tension in Bloomington. Instead, Indiana trailed at halftime and well into the 3rd quarter before Jordan Howard wore the Panthers down. Howard ran the ball 27 times for 159 yards, but quarterback Nate Sudfeld was responsible for all three touchdowns – two rushing and one passing. Indiana might survive the non-conference schedule unbeaten, but the Week 5 matchup against Ohio State will be a blood bath.

6. Rutgers (1-1, 0-0) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Washington St. 34-37 This Week: Sat at Penn State (1-1), 8pm, BTN

No matter how hard Washington State tried to hand Rutgers an unlikely win Saturday, the Scarlett Knights refused to take it, falling 37-34 to one of the worst Power 5 teams in the country. WSU quarterback Luke Falk completed 47 of 66 passes for 478 yards and four touchdowns against a nonexistent Rutgers secondary. Though they gained over 400 yards on offense, the Scarlett Knights committed 11 penalties for 100 yards, turned the ball over three times and forced just two punts. To cap off a disastrous week, wide receiver Leonte Carroo was arrested and charged with assault in an alleged domestic violent incident on campus. Carroo had been the team’s best playmaker through two games, catching seven passes for 181 yards and three touchdowns, but now his future with the team is up in the air.

7. Maryland (1-1, 0-0) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Bowling Green 27-48 This Week: Sat vs USF (1-1), 12pm, ESPNU

The Big Ten bust of the week award goes to Maryland, who watched the MAC’s Bowling Green Falcons march into Byrd Stadium and steamroll their way to a 48-27 win. Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson threw for 491 yards and six touchdowns against the Maryland secondary, connecting with Roger Lewis 15 times for 200 yards and two scores. Maryland’s rush defense wasn’t much better, allowing Fred Coppet and Travis Greene to combine for 174 yards on 33 carries. All four of Bowling Green’s 4th quarter drives ended in touchdowns, including a 17-play, 99-yard drive that started at BG’s 1-yard line. On offense, Perry Hills completed just half his passes and lost his job to redshirt junior Caleb Rowe. Rowe completed 48.9 percent of his passes last season and threw five touchdowns and three interceptions. He’s already thrown three picks in 44 attempts this season. Even if Rowe is an upgrade over the struggling Hills, changing quarterbacks midseason is rarely a sign of a stable program. Maryland fans should buckle up for a long season.

West Division
1. Northwestern (2-0, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat E. Illinois 41-0 This Week: Sat at Duke (2-0), 12:30pm

The Wildcats jumped to the top spot in Week 1 with an upset win over Stanford and did nothing to lose their hold on atop the West in Week 2. Northwestern hosted a terrible Eastern Illinois team on Saturday and did what Rutgers and Penn State couldn’t: Stomped the Panthers into the ground. Clayton Thorson threw just 16 passes but completed 11 of them for an efficient 152 yards. Eight ball carriers combined to average five yards per rush and the defense allowed just 138 yards and eight first downs. Eastern Illinois converted none of their 11 3rd down attempts and held the ball for under 23 minutes. Northwestern simply dominated for three quarters and cruised through the 4th, en route to a 2-0 record. The Wildcats face a tricky matchup at Duke this week. The Blue Devils won nine games last season and have outscored a pair of weak opponents 92-7 in 2015.

2. Wisconsin (1-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Miami Ohio 58-0 This Week: Sat vs Troy (1-1), 3:30pm, BTN

If you thought Wisconsin was done after an unimpressive loss to Alabama to open the season, Week 2 came as an abrupt wakeup call. Wisconsin nearly matched the beating it took at the hands of Ohio State (59-0) in the Big Ten Championship last season with a 58-point shutout against Miami (OH). Joel Stave paced the Badgers with 236 passing yards and three touchdowns while junior running back Dare Ogunbowale turned 16 carries into 112 yards and his second career touchdown. Unlike in the opener, when they ran the ball just 21 times, the Badgers got back to their bread and butter Saturday, running 45 times for 188 yards. While it lacks an explosive playmaker like Montee Ball, James White, or Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin is the early favorite to come out of the Big Ten West.

3. Iowa (2-0, 0-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Iowa State 31-17 This Week: Sat vs Pitt (2-0), 8pm, BTN

Iowa picked up the Big Ten’s most impressive road win on Saturday when it went into Ames and took down in-state rival Iowa State, 31-17. C.J. Beathard led a typical Iowa-type attack, completing 60 percent of his passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns. Matt VandeBerg looks like one of the conferences breakout candidates on offense after he hauled in nine passes for 114 yards and a touchdown on Saturday. The junior wideout has already passed his reception total from last season and has emerged as Beathard’s favorite target early in the season. Jordan Canzeri led the Hawkeye rushing attack with 124 yards on 24 carries. Unfortunately for Iowa, games against Wisconsin, Northwestern and Nebraska all come on the road this season, so the Hawkeyes are on the outside track in the West.

4. Minnesota (1-1, 0-0) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Colorado State 23-20 This Week: Sat vs Kent State (1-1), 12pm, BTN

Through two weeks, Minnesota has emerged as an under-the-radar contender in the Big Ten West. After taking No. 2 TCU to the final whistle last Thursday, Minnesota hit the road to face a tough Colorado State team that won 10 games last season and went a perfect 6-0 at home. The Golden Gophers weren’t overwhelming, but they rode a strong defensive effort to a 23-20 overtime victory. The secondary played an excellent game, allowing just 142 passing yards and picking off two passes. As a whole, Minnesota forced four turnovers and surrendered just 14 first downs. Mitch Leidner wasn’t great, throwing for 233 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but he took care of the ball and added 47 yards rushing to his total. The hero was placekicker Ryan Santoso, who nailed a 50-yarder just before halftime and an 18-yarder in overtime to seal the victory. He’s made four of five kicks after going just 12 of 18 as a freshman last season. The Gophers should coast through a pair of MAC battles to polish off the nonconference season.

5. Nebraska (1-1 0-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat S. Alabama 48-9 This Week: Sat vs Miami (2-0), 3:30pm, ABC

Nebraska bounced back from a devastating defeat in Week 1 to pound South Alabama by 39 points this weekend. Tommy Armstrong Jr. was excellent in the passing game, completing 21 of 30 passes for 270 yards and two touchdowns. But running back Terrell Newby stole the show, gaining 198 yards and scoring twice on 28 carries. Nebraska’s formula looks the same as it was during the Bo Pelini era: Score quickly and force turnovers on defense. The Cornhuskers gained 561 yards against USA and forced three turnovers.

6. Illinois (2-0, 0-0) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat W. Illinois 44-0 This Week: Sat at North Carolina (1-1), 12pm, ESPN2

It’s impossible to label the Fighting Illini after games against Kent State and Western Illinois, but they’ve certainly taken care of business. Illinois waxed the Leathernecks this weekend, allowing just five first downs and winning the yardage battle 500-141. Despite the 44-point victory, Coach Bill Cubit can’t be happy with his running game. Three Illinois running backs combined for just 126 yards on 36 carries (3.5 yards per carry) and the offense turned the ball over four times. Quarterback Wes Lunt has completed 44 of 65 passes (67.7 percent) so far this season, but he’ll struggle in the Big Ten without a legitimate rushing attack.

7. Purdue (1-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Indiana State 38-14 This Week: Sat vs Virginia Tech (), 3:30pm, ESPNU

Purdue picked up its first win of the season Saturday against FCS opponent Indiana State. Quarterback Qustin Appleby bounced back from his four-interception performance in Week 1 to throw for four touchdowns and 289 yards. The junior completed passes to 10 different receivers and exploded for three passes of 50 yards or longer. Purdue won’t have another cakewalk this nonconference season as Virginia Tech and Bowling Green visit West Lafayette.

2015 Big Ten power rankings: Week 1

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

Power Rankings_header

You see the excitement everywhere you go. Fans are sporting their favorite schools on their chests, talking about fantasy drafts and predictions and looking forward to Saturday tailgates and kickoffs. Rece Davis has taken over as host of College Gameday. Recruits are taking to Twitter to support their final schools. Jim Harbaugh is back in Ann Arbor to face off with Urban Meyer and Dark Dantonio. Finally, football is back.

Now maybe somebody should tell the Big Ten.

It was a terrible opening weekend for the conference, which won only eight of 14 games over the extended weekend. There were losses on the national stage with the whole country watching, losses to schools that have no business beating Big Ten teams and even a loss to a backup quarterback on a final-play Hail Mary.

Here’s how the conference shapes up after Week 1:

East Division
1. Ohio State (1-0, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Virginia Tech 42-24 This Week: Sat vs Hawaii (1-0), 3:30pm, BTN

After being crowned the first unanimous No. 1 team to open a season in college football history, Ohio State kicked the year off with a comfortable drubbing of Virginia Tech on the road. Cardale Jones won the highly-anticipated starting quarterback job and underwhelmed, completing just 50 percent of his passes for 186 yards. But Ezekiel Elliott gained 122 yards on just 11 carries and Braxton Miller gained a total of 140 yards in his first game as H back. The Buckeyes are loaded with playmakers and will likely cruise through the next nine games with ease.

2. Michigan State (1-0, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Western Michigan 37-24 This Week: Sat vs #7 Oregon (1-0), 7pm, ABC

Michigan State did not impress during a 37-24 win over Western Michigan on Friday, allowing Zach Terrell to tear apart the Spartan secondary for 365 yards passing. Connor Cook completed just 48 percent of his passes, a disappointing start for the senior. So why did Michigan State land at No. 2? The defense held Western to 0.8 yards per carry and the offense gained 452 total yards. If the Spartans can beat Oregon at home this weekend, they’ll be home free until October.

3. Michigan (0-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Utah 17-24 This Week: Sat vs Oregon State (1-0), 12pm, ABC

How can Michigan be No. 3 after a loss to open the Harbaugh era? The Wolverines held Devontae Booker, one of the nation’s best running backs, to just 3.1 yards per carry, showed a pulse in the passing game with Amara Darboh and Jake Butt combining for 194 receiving yards and stuck with a top 25 team on the road. Jake Rudock had a disastrous debut for Michigan, tossing three interceptions and overthrowing two wide open receivers in the end zone. But the senior has a long track record of taking care of the ball, so his performance in one game isn’t likely to throw his entire season off the rails. The more pressing concern is Michigan’s running game, which picked up just 2.6 yards per carry with a long of seven yards. If the Wolverines want to compete, even in an average Big Ten, they have to be more effective in the ground game.

4. Maryland (1-0, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Richmond 50-21 This Week: Sat vs Bowling Green (0-1), 12pm, BTN

Maryland opened the season against an FCS opponent and took care of business, beating Richmond 50-21. Senior Brandon Ross stole the show, rushing for 150 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. As a team, Maryland gained 341 yards on the ground and just 138 yards through the air. We won’t know much about the Terps until Sept. 26, when they travel to Morgantown to clash with West Virginia. Once Big Ten season rolls around, Maryland will find it much tougher to average 7.6 yards per carry.

5. Rutgers (1-0, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Norfolk State 63-13 This Week: Sat vs Washington State (0-1), 3:30pm, ESPNU

The largest victory of the weekend went to Rutgers, which stomped a bad FCS team by 50 points. Quarterbacks Hayden Rettig and Chris Laviano scorched the Norfolk State secondary for 248 passing yards on just 15 total attempts for an average of 16.5 yards per attempt. On the ground, three running backs earned 10 or more carries and combined to gain 269 yards. Leonte Carroo enjoyed the second three-score game of his career, catching three passes (all touchdowns) for 129 yards. On defense, Rutgers held Norfolk State to an astounding minus 3 rushing yards on 23 attempts. The Scarlett Knights outgained the Spartans 539-196.

6. Indiana (1-0, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Southern Illinois 48-47 This Week: Sat vs FIU (1-0), 8pm, BTN

It looks like another long season is on tap for Indiana after a 48-47 home win over an FCS team that went just 6-6 in the Missouri Valley Conference last season. Jordan Howard stepped into Tevin Coleman’s shoes and ran for 145 and three touchdowns on 20 carries to lead the Hoosiers. Quarterback Nate Sudfeld contributed 398 total yards of his own to lead Indiana’s 595-yard offensive attack. But the defense, which allowed 32.8 points per game last season, surrendered 659 yards to the Salukis, including 517 to quarterback Mark Iannotti (411 passing, 106 rushing). Indiana came within a two-point conversion attempt of losing the home opener to Southern Illinois, which doesn’t forecast a strong 2015 season.

7. Penn State (0-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Temple 10-27 This Week: Sat vs Buffalo (1-0), 12pm, ESPN2

Remember Christian Hackenberg’s freshman season, when he completed 58.9 percent of his passes for 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions? Well, all of those numbers worsened during his sophomore season, and this year he’s off to a terrible start following his performance on Saturday. The former No. 1 recruit completed just 11 of 25 passes for 103 yards and an interception against Temple, good for a quarterback rating of 3.2. Penn State couldn’t get its running game going, either, averaging just 2.9 yards on 28 carries. The defense, which allowed the eighth fewest points per game (17.7 – fewest in Big Ten) in the country last season, let Jahad Thomas run for 135 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Temple also completed 76 percent of its passes and outgained the Nittany Lions 313-183. A 17-point loss to Temple in the season opener makes next week’s matchup with Buffalo look much less like a sure blowout win.

West Division
1. Northwestern (1-0, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Stanford 16-6 This Week: Sat vs N. Illinois (0-1), 3:30pm, ESPNN

Okay, obviously Northwestern isn’t the best team in the West, nor do I expect them to finish ahead of Nebraska or Wisconsin — both Week 1 losers — this season, but after a week one upset of No. 21 Stanford, the Wildcats earned the top spot. The game certainly wasn’t pretty, but nail-biters in Evanston rarely are (see Michigan vs. Northwestern, 2014). The Wildcats absolutely stifled the Stanford offense, allowing just a pair of field goals. Stanford’s vaunted rushing attack gained just 85 yards and Senior Kevin Hogan was held to 155 through the air. Northwestern was led by redshirt freshman quarterback Clayton Thorson, who threw for 105 yards and ran for 68 yards. Though he completed just half his passes, Thorson’s 42-yard touchdown run was the only non-field goal score of the game and ultimately led the Wildcats to their 10th opening week win in 11 seasons (lost to Cal, 31-24, in 2014). Northwestern has another tough matchup in Week 3 at Duke and will enter Big Ten play as one of the more battle-tested teams from its nonconference schedule.

2. Wisconsin (0-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Alabama 17-35 This Week: Sat vs Miami OH (1-0), 12pm, ESPNU

After Northwestern, the West didn’t have many inspiring efforts in the opening weekend. Wisconsin got pounded on the national stage by an incredibly talented Alabama team, looking nothing like the Wisconsin teams of the past decade. The team that sent running backs to the NFL each of the last three seasons (Montee Ball, James White, Melvin Gordon) was nowhere to be found against the Crimson Tide, running for just 40 yards on 21 carries. They were led by wide receiver Alex Erickson, who picked up 25 yards on just one carry. Joel Stave had a solid game to kick off his senior season, completing 26 of 39 passes for 228 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. The story of the game with Derrick Henry, who ran all over the Badger defense for 147 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries. Wisconsin should roll through the rest of its nonconference schedule, but it missed its only regular-season chance for a statement win.

3. Minnesota (0-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Lost to TCU 17-23 This Week: Sat at Colorado State (1-0), 3:30pm, CBSSN

Northwestern pulled off the biggest upset in the country on Saturday, but Minnesota came within a score of one-upping them on Thursday night. With the No. 2 team in the country visiting, the Golden Gophers fell a touchdown short of a win as TCU escaped by a score of 23-17. Minnesota’s defense wasn’t great, allowing 449 yards and 25 first downs. But it played well in its own territory and forced the Horned Frogs to kick three field goals, which kept the Gophers in the game. Mitch Leidner couldn’t get anything going in the passing game, throwing for just 197 yards 19 of 35 passing. Minnesota’s best weapon was Rodney Smith, who picked up 88 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Jerry Kill’s squad is coming off of back-to-back 8-5 seasons and could surpass that total thanks to a reasonable schedule.

4. Iowa (1-0, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Illinois State 31-14 This Week: Sat at Iowa State (1-0), 4:45pm, FOX

For the second straight year, Iowa opened the season against a Missouri Valley opponent in Iowa City. This time things went much smoother for the Hawkeyes. Iowa controlled the entire game, scoring midway through the fourth quarter to take a 31-0 lead and surrendering just a pair of garbage time touchdowns. Illinois State gained just 106 yards before those final two drives as Iowa’s defense held the Redbirds to 1.2 yards per rush. Ruduck’s replacement, C.J. Beathard, threw for 211 yards and a touchdown while LeShun Daniels carried 26 times for 123 yards. Iowa’s defense looked dominant coming off a season of allowing 24 points per game. The Hawkeyes will look to avenge last year’s home loss with a trip to Iowa State in Week 2.

5. Illinois (1-0, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Kent State 52-3 This Week: Sat vs W. Illinois (1-0), 12pm, BTN

If a team opens the season against a reigning 2-9 MAC opponent, it’d better end in a blowout victory. Luckily for Illinois, that’s just what happened Saturday against Kent State. The game was postponed Friday due to lightning, but that didn’t help the Flashes’ offense the following day. Illinois held Kent State to 245 yards and forced four turnovers in the 52-3 thrashing. Quarterback Colin Reardon had a miserable day, completing just 15 of 34 passes for 156 yards and three picks. The rushing game was no better, as Miles Hibbler led the team with 15 yards on eight carries. The Fighting Illini weren’t flashy on offense, either. Wes Lunt completed 11 of 19 passes for 162 yards and four touchdowns. The ground game picked up just 3.7 yards per carry, but five receiving scores were more than enough to bury Kent State. Next week’s matchup with Western Illinois should yield similar results.

6. Nebraska (0-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Lost to BYU 28-33 This Week: Sat vs South Alabama (1-0), 8pm, BTN

The Cornhuskers’ last-second, Hail Mary defeat was both painful and untimely, but they definitely deserved it. Mike Riley’s team was sloppy in his first game under the helm at Nebraska, committing 12 penalties for 90 yards, turning the ball over twice and allowing BYU to gain 511 total yards. It looked like Big Red would come away with a win after knocking electric duel-threat quarterback Taysom Hill out of the game in the 4th quarter. But backup Tanner Magnum came into the game and scored 10 points in three drives to complete the come-from-behind win. His 42-yard Hail Mary to Mitch Mathews was poorly defended by Nebraska as the clock expired, and in the end, it was BYU receivers hugging the refs after a 33-28 win. Like Wisconsin, Nebraska struggled to run the ball after losing a starting running back to the NFL Draft. With Ameer Abdullah suiting up for the Detroit Lions, Riley couldn’t find a consistent rusher against a solid BYU front. Terrell Newby led the team with 10 carries and 43 yards, but the team’s 3.4 yards per carry wasn’t enough to erase a horde of penalties and miscues. Jordan Westerkamp was a rare bright spot in the loss, catching seven passes for 107 yards and a touchdown. He’ll have to be a consistent playmaker for the Cornhuskers if the running game continues to struggle.

7. Purdue (0-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Marshall 31-41 This Week: Sat vs Indiana State (1-0), 12pm, ESPNN

Coming off a winless second half to end the 2014 season, Purdue stretched its losing streak to seven games Sunday with a 41-31 loss to Marshall. Starting quarterback Austin Appleby showed flashes of brilliance early in the contest, but a pick six on the team’s first offensive play of the season would ultimately prove prophetic. Appleby threw four interceptions in the opener despite completing 31 of 48 passes for 270 yards. D.J. Knox and Markell Jones were a great one-two punch out of the backfield, combining for 174 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries. The Boilermakers outgained Marshall 454-397, but the four turnovers were too much to overcome. Purdue will finish the nonconference season with three straight home games.

Comparing the Big Ten’s returning production from 2014

Monday, July 13th, 2015

Ohio State Navy Football(AP photo)

Less than eight weeks remain before Michigan football returns. Not only will the Wolverines kick off a new era of Michigan football, but they will open up the entire college football season on Thursday, Sept. 3 at Utah. Minnesota faces TCU that same night, while Michigan State and Illinois follow on Friday night. The majority of the Big Ten plays on Saturday as usual, but visits Marshall on Sunday and Ohio State caps the weekend with a trip to Virginia Tech on Monday night.

As we look forward to a new season, it’s time to take a look at one indicator of how the Big Ten might play out. A couple of weeks ago we reviewed how returning production factored into each team’s success in 2014. Maryland had the most but finished in the middle of the pack. Ohio State had the least but won the Big Ten and national title. So what does it look like as we enter the 2015 season? Let’s take a look.


Returning offense
Team Percent Returning 2014 Total Offense Rating
Ohio State 88% 9
Penn State 81% 111
Nebraska 69% 31
Illinois 63% 94
Michigan 62% 112
Wisconsin 60% 21
Rutgers 55% 73
Minnesota 54% 103
Michigan State 54% 11
Northwestern 51% 104
Purdue 48% 108
Iowa 41% 63
Indiana 40% 61
Maryland 29% 109
Returning scoring offense
Team Percent Returning 2014 Scoring Offense Rating
Ohio State 83% 5
Michigan 64% 109
Penn State 64% 110
Nebraska 61% 12
Illinois 58% 84
Northwestern 58% 98
Rutgers 55% 80
Minnesota 54% 66
Wisconsin 51% 27
Purdue 47% 95
Michigan State 44% 7
Maryland 36% 65
Indiana 35% 87
Iowa 31% 68

While Michigan has made the headlines all offseason thanks to the antics of Harbaugh, its chief rival, Ohio State, is the reigning national champions and looks to be even stronger this season. The Buckeyes return the most total offense and scoring offense of any team in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes lost just 112 total rushing yards and four of 41 rushing touchdowns. Receiver Devin Smith’s 931 yards and 12 touchdowns will need to be replaced, but that’s the only significant loss among offensive skill position players, and OSU returns four starting offensive linemen. With 88 percent of the nation’s ninth-best offense and 83 percent of the nation’s fifth-best scoring offense returning, it’s no wonder Ohio State is the hands-on favorite to win the Big Ten and play for the national title once again. And those numbers don’t even include two-time Big Ten offensive player of the year Braxton Miller, who missed all of 2014 with a shoulder injury. In other words, the Buckeyes are stacked.

Penn State returns the second most offensive production with 81 percent of its offense and 64 percent of its scoring. However, while Ohio State’s offense ranked among the nation’s best last season, Penn State’s was among the nation’s worst, ranking 111th in total offense and 109th in scoring offense. Eight starters return, most notably quarterback Christian Hackenberg who enters his third season as a starter. Leading rusher Akeel Lynch and the top two leading receivers, DaeSean Hamilton and Geno Lewis, are also back. The offensive line, which was the source of most of Penn State’s troubles last season, returns four starters and brings in a couple of transfers to vie for the fifth spot.

Nebraska, Illinois, and Michigan each return about the same amount of offense. The Cornhuskers have 69 percent of their 31st-ranked offense and 61 percent of their 12th-ranked scoring offense coming back. However, they’ll have to replace running back Ameer Abdullah’s 1,611 yards and 19 touchdowns, as well as Kenny Bell’s 788 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Illinois brings back 63 percent of its offense and 58 percent of its scoring returning. The top four receivers and leading rusher are back along with quarterback Wes Lunt. However, leading receiver Mike Dudek, who topped 1,000 yards a year ago, will miss some time after tearing his ACL in the spring.

Michigan returns 62 percent of its total offense and 64 percent of its scoring offense. Like Penn State, Michigan’s offense was miserable a year ago. Devin Funchess is the big loss, accounting for 36 percent of Michigan’s receiving yards. Jehu Chesson will have to step into a larger role in the pass catching department. Quarterback Devin Gardner is gone, but Iowa transfer Jake Rudock brings 2,436 yards (540 more than Gardner) and 16 touchdowns (six more) to the table. While Michigan has the second most returning touchdowns percentage-wise, the 34 touchdowns are well short of Ohio State’s 102.

Of the group in the middle of the pack of returning production, Wisconsin had the best offense last season. The Badgers return 60 percent of the nation’s 20th-best total offense and 51 percent of the 27th-best scoring offense. Melvin Gordon’s 2,740 total yards and 32 touchdowns make up nearly all of the team’s lost production.

Michigan State, which was the only Big Ten team with an offense similar to Ohio State’s in 2014, returns 54 percent of the 11th-ranked offense, but just 44 percent of the seventh-best scoring offense. Thirty-seven of the Spartans’ 43 rushing touchdowns and 16 of 26 receiving touchdowns are gone. But with quarterback Connor Cook returning Michigan State’s offense should still be strong if it can find skill position players to step up.

Maryland, which entered last season with nearly its entire offense returning (97.5 of its total offense and 94.4 percent of its scoring offense), is on the other side of the coin entering this fall. The Terrapins return just 29 percent of their total offense and 36 percent of their scoring. Quarterback CJ Brown, who also led the team in rushing, as well as the top four receivers, will need to be replaced.


Returning defense
Team Percent Returning 2014 Total Defense Rating
Ohio State 74% 19
Illinois 71% 109
Northwestern 67% 53
Michigan State 67% 8
Michigan 63% 7
Minnesota 62% 39
Wisconsin 61% 4
Purdue 60% 80
Penn State 59% 2
Rutgers 57% 98
Nebraska 56% 52
Iowa 56% 22
Indiana 53% 93
Maryland 44% 95

Entering last season, the top three defenses in the Big Ten from 2013 had the least production returning. Still, those three teams – Michigan State, Iowa, and Wisconsin – finished among the top six in total defense the Big Ten in 2014. Entering this fall, the top three defenses from last season — Penn State, Wisconsin, and Michigan — stand in the middle third of the conference in terms of returning production (tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, and takeaways).

Penn State had the Big Ten’s best defense a year ago, allowing just 278.7 yards and 18.6 points per game. The Nittany Lions return 59 percent of last season’s production, which ranks ninth in the conference. Linebacker Mike Hull, who led the team with 140 tackles and ranked third with 10.5 tackles for loss, will have to be replaced, but the next five leading tacklers are all back. Head coach James Franklin will also have to replace both defensive ends, who combined for nine sacks, but he does have tackle Anthony Zettel, who led the team with eight, back.

Wisconsin featured the Big Ten’s second best defense and scoring defense last season and the nation’s fourth-best total defense. Despite losing two of their top three tacklers, linebackers Marcus Trotter and Derrick Landisch, the Badgers return 61 percent of last season’s proaction.

Michigan, meanwhile, ranked third in total defense and fifth in scoring defense last season and returns the fifth-most production at 63 percent. Leading tackler Jake Ryan is gone, but will be backfilled by fifth-year senior Desmond Morgan who recorded 229 tackles from 2011-2013 before missing last season with an injury. The defensive line lost a combined 21 tackles for loss and 10 sacks from ends Frank Clark and Brennen Beyer, but the core of the defense — especially the back seven — is back.

Michigan State had the conference’s fourth-best total defense and third-best scoring defense a year ago, and returns 67 percent this year. The top two returning tacklers, Kurtis Drummond and Taiwan Jones, as well as the best corner, Trae Waynes, are gone. The three accounted for 36 percent of MSU’s takeaways.

The team with the most returning production this season is the same team that also returns the most offensive production, the defending Big Ten and national champion Ohio State Buckeyes. Seventy-four percent of the defense that ranked fifth in the Big Ten and 19th nationally is back in action this fall, including the top four tacklers and top two in sacks, Joey Bosa and Darron Lee. In fact, even though they lose 11 sacks, Ohio State returns 33.5 sacks, which would have ranked fourth in the Big Ten last season. The Bucks also bring back 72 percent of their takeaways from a unit that ranked second in that category in 2014.

Rutgers, Nebraska, Iowa, and Indiana all return between 57 percent and 53 percent of their defenses, though they ranked between sixth (Iowa) and 13th (Rutgers) in the Big Ten in total defense a year ago. The Hawkeyes have to replace their top two tacklers and more than 50 percent of their tackles for loss and sacks. Nebraska has to replace four of their top five tacklers, including defensive end Randy Gregory who led the team with seven sacks. Rutgers has 71 percent of their sacks coming back from unit that ranked fourth in the Big Ten in that category, but behind the front four the Scarlet Knights have a lot of holes to fill. Indiana brings back just five starters from a defense that allowed the second most points in the conference last season.

Finally, the team that returned the most defense last season returns the least this year. Maryland is the only Big Ten squad with less than 50 percent of last season’s defensive production returning. The Terrapins return just 44 percent of last year’s 95th-ranked defense. Only four starters return, most notably corners Sean Davis and Will Likely, but nearly the entire front seven has to be replaced.


Ohio State is in the same spot Maryland was entering last season. The Buckeyes have the most returning production across the board. However, the Buckeyes are in a much better spot to allow that production to pay off. Whereas Maryland ranked 77th, 83rd, and 44th in total offense, scoring offense, and total defense in 2013, Ohio State ranked ninth, fifth, and 19th, respectively, last season. Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Iowa just plugged in talent on defense and didn’t miss a beat last season, and all four return more this fall.

2014to2015 Returning Production Chart

According to the chart above, Rutgers is in the exact spot Ohio State was entering last season. Does that mean the Scarlet Knights will roll through the Big Ten and into the College Football Playoff? Probably not since the Buckeyes stand alone atop the chart. Last year, there was only one offense returning less than 50 percent of its production. This year there are four, so we could see a decline in offense across the league. Nine of the league’s 14 primary quarterbacks return, in addition to Rudock, who will likely start for Michigan, and Ohio State’s three-headed monster.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out this fall, but of course this is just one metric to use when predicting performance. Stay tuned for our individual team previews over the course of the next seven weeks as well as our Michigan position previews and other season preview content.

How returning production throughout the Big Ten translated in 2014

Monday, June 29th, 2015

Ohio State Sugar Bowl(AP)

Last summer we kicked off our season preview series with a look at the returning production from each team in the Big Ten from the year before. We’re going to do the same this summer, but we’ll begin with a review of how the returning production entering last season translated over the course of the season. That will lead into this year’s returning production, our opponent previews, and our Michigan position previews.

Entering last season, Maryland was far and away the most experienced team based on the previous season’s production. The Terrapins returned 97.5 percent of their offense, 94.4 percent of their scoring offense, and 82.6 percent of their defense. They led the conference in all three categories. But did it translate?

Maryland went just 7-6 overall and 4-4 in conference play in 2014, its first year in the Big Ten. All that returning offensive production resulted in the 12th-best (third-worst) offense in the Big Ten, though it ranked fifth in scoring. The offensive line that returned 51 starts from 2013 produced the third-worst rushing offense and allowed the second most sacks. All that returning defensive production resulted in a the conference’s 12th-ranked defense and 10th-ranked scoring defense.

Returning 2013 Production vs 2014 Results
Team Returning Total Off. Returning Scoring Off. Returning Def. Big Ten Finish
Ohio State 12th (59.8%) 13th (53.7%) 11th (60.3%) Champion
Wisconsin 13th (57.0%) 11th (57.7%) 13th (49.9%) 1st – West
Michigan State 3rd (90.9%) 2nd (91.3%) 12th (50.1%) 2nd – East
Minnesota 10th (65.9%) 12th (57.4%) 8th (66.1%) 2nd – West
Nebraska 9th (66.5%) 10th (59.5%) 9th (66.5%) 2nd – West
Iowa 2nd (92.8%) 3rd (89.3%) 14th (44.4%) 4th – West
Maryland 1st (97.5%) 1st (94.4%) 1st (82.6%) 3rd – East
Rutgers 6th (74.4%) 4th (86.9%) 3rd (77.8%) 4th – East
Illinois 14th (34.3%) 14th (40.0%) 6th (75.8%) 5th – West
Michigan 8th (68.6%) 9th (63.8%) 4th (77.6%) 4th – East
Northwestern 7th (71.9%) 8th (71.1%) 5th (76.1%) 5th – West
Penn State 5th (76.4%) 5th (84.4%) 7th (67.4%) 6th – East
Indiana 9th (67.3%) 7th (72.2%) 2nd (79.1%) 7th – East
Purdue 4th (82.5%) 6th (80.6%) 10th (63.3%) 7th – West

Iowa and Michigan State ranked second and third in returning offensive production, both at about 90 percent. It translated for the Spartans, who went 11-2 and possessed the Big Ten’s second-best scoring offense and total offense. Interestingly, the running game, which returned 100 percent of its 2013 production ranked just fifth in the conference, while the passing game, which lost 21 percent of its yards and 35 percent of its receiving touchdowns, led the conference in passing. Iowa, meanwhile, was middle of the pack, ranking sixth in total offense and seventh in scoring while matching Maryland’s record of 7-6 and 4-4.

Defensively, both ranked among the bottom three in returning production entering last season, but performed much better. Michigan State ranked fourth in total defense and third in scoring defense, while Iowa ranked sixth and eighth, respectively.

Michigan was in the middle of the pack in returning production with 68.6 percent of its offense and 63.8 percent of its defense returning. The Wolverines went 5-7 overall and 3-5 in Big Ten play, ranking dead last in total offense, second to last in scoring offense. The defense fared much better, finishing third in total defense and fifth in scoring defense.

How about the Big Ten and national champions? Ohio State had the third-lowest total offense, second-lowest scoring offense, and fourth-lowest total defense returning. And that included Braxton Miller, who missed the entire season. All the Buckeyes did was bounce back from an early-season loss to Virginia Tech by running the table the rest of the way, taking down Michigan State, Wisconsin, top-ranked Alabama, and second-ranked Oregon in the process.

2013to2014 Returning Production Results Chart

Wisconsin followed a similar pattern, starting the season with the second-lowest total offense, fourth-lowest scoring offense, and second-lowest total defense returning. It translated into an 11-3 record, a trip to the Big Ten title game — which the Badgers lost to Ohio State 59-0 — and an overtime win over Southeastern Conference power Auburn in the Outback Bowl.

Minnesota, the surprise team in the conference last season, brought the fourth-lowest total offense, third-lowest scoring offense, and eight-most total defense back from 2013. The Gophers went 8-5, nearly ended Ohio State’s chances of a national title, and were a regular-season-ending loss away from a spot in the Big Ten championship game.

For the most part last season — with the exception of Michigan State’s offense — the teams that brought the least production back did the best, while those that had the most returning production suffered the opposite fate. Stay tuned for a look at this year’s returning production across the conference.

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Pre-Big Ten Tournament

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

Power Rankings_header
The Big Ten regular season came to an end on Sunday with Wisconsin retaining the top spot and conference newcomer Maryland grabbing a distant second. There wasn’t a lot of movement in the final power rankings as Indiana took the biggest drop of three places and Iowa had the biggest climb of three. The Big Ten Tournament began tonight, though those results are not reflected in these rankings.

Previous: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 6, Week 7, Week 9

1. Wisconsin (28-3, 16-2) – Even
Last Week: Beat Minn 76-63, Beat #23 Ohio State 72-48 This Week: Fri. (B1G Tournament) vs Mich/Illinois

The undisputed flagship team in the Big Ten finished the regular season with a flourish Sunday, pounding Ohio State by 24 points in Columbus. Wisconsin enters the conference tournament with a No. 1 seed on its mind.

2. Maryland (26-5, 14-4) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 60-50, Beat Nebraska 64-61 This Week: Fri. (B1G Tournament) vs NU/Indiana

Mark Turgeon couldn’t have hoped for a better inaugural season in the Big Ten, as his team cruised to a second-place finish and enters the postseason on a seven-game winning streak. Maryland already took down Wisconsin once, and doing so again would earn the Terps a Big Ten championship.

3. Iowa (21-10, 12-6) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat Indiana 77-63, Beat Northwestern 69-52 This Week: Thu. (B1G Tournament) vs Penn State

On Feb. 15 the Hawkeyes had lost five of their last seven games and stared down the barrel of another late-season collapse. Instead, Iowa blazed through its final six games and picked up the No. 5 seed in Chicago.

4. Michigan State (21-10, 12-6) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Purdue 72-66, Beat Indiana 74-72 This Week: Fri. (B1G Tournament) vs Minn/Ohio State

Tom Izzo and the Spartans were shaky through 31 games this season, but closed with wins over two lesser opponents to snatch the No. 3 seed in the Big Ten Tournament.

5. Purdue (20-11, 12-6) – Down 3
Last Week: Lost at MSU 66-72, Beat Illinois 63-58 This Week: Fri. (B1G Tournament) vs Iowa/Penn State

Purdue is kicking itself heading into the conference tournament after it dropped two road games in the first week of March that would have solidified its NCAA resume. Instead, the first-round bye may actually hurt the Boilermakers, who will likely miss out with a one-and-done showing in Chicago.

6. Illinois (19-12, 9-9) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 69-57, Lost at Purdue 58-63 This Week: Thu. (B1G Tournament) vs Michigan

Illinois came within five points of finishing the season on a three-game streak that may have been enough to put them on the right side of the bubble. Instead, an 8-6 record down the stretch with five of those losses by eight points or less may not be enough for John Groce’s team.

7. Ohio State (22-9, 11-7) – Even
Last Week: Beat Penn State 77-67, Lost vs #6 Wisc 48-72
This Week: Thu (B1G Tournament) vs Minnesota

A 24-point loss to Wisconsin on Senior Day put an exclamation point on Ohio State’s tremendously disappointing season. The Buckeyes finished with only one win over a team ranked in the final AP poll: a home victory against Maryland. Ohio State was uncompetitive against each of Louisville, North Carolina and Wisconsin and will struggle to make a tournament run, barring a complete D’Angelo Russell takeover.

8. Indiana (19-12, 9-9) – Down 3
Last Week: Lost to Iowa 63-77, Lost to MSU 72-74 This Week: Thu. (B1G Tournament) vs Northwestern

The last six weeks of the season were awfully unkind to Tom Crean and the Hoosiers. After finally cracking the Top 25 with a 15-4 record, Indiana dropped eight of its last 12 games, putting its tournament status and coaching future in question. Indiana probably needed to win three of its last five games, but instead beat only Rutgers, the Big Ten’s junior varsity team, and lost three home games and a trip to Northwestern.

9. Northwestern (15-16, 6-12) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Michigan 82-70 2OT, Lost to Iowa 52-69 This Week: Thu. (B1G Tournament) vs Indiana

Despite finishing the season with a losing record, Northwestern is trending sharply upwards, having won five of its final seven conference games. The Wildcats looked destined for a last-place finish after a 10-game losing streak, but flipped the switch in mid-February. Tom Crean’s collar is feeling a little tight heading into this Big Ten Tournament matchup.

10. Michigan (15-15, 8-10) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost at NU 78-82 2OT, Beat Rutgers 79-69 This Week: Thu. (B1G Tournament) vs Illinois

As strange as it may sound, Michigan is one of the better teams in the Big Ten… in the first 40 minutes of games. The Wolverines lost four overtime games, and had they finished those wins, they’d be sitting in the No. 4 seed with a double bye in the tournament.

11. Minnesota (17-14, 6-12) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #6 Wisc 63-76, Lost to Penn State 76-79 This Week: Wed. (B1G Tournament) vs Rutgers

Minnesota just couldn’t get rolling during conference play this season, mustering just one winning streak (three games) but following it with losses in five of its last six games.

12. Penn State (16-15, 4-14) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to #23 OSU 67-77, Beat Minnesota 79-76  This Week: Wed. (B1G Tournament) vs Nebraska

A road win to finish the season snapped a six-game winning streak for Penn State, but it’ll still be one of four teams playing in the first round of the conference tournament Wednesday.

13. Nebraska (13-17, 5-13) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost at Illinois 57-69, Lost to #10 Maryland 61-64 This Week: Wed. (B1G Tournament) vs Penn State

Die-hard believers in what Nebraska accomplished last season considered Tim Miles’ team a legitimate contender heading into the 2014-15 campaign. Instead, Nebraska was the league’s greatest disappointment, finishing in 12th place and losing eight straight down the stretch.

14. Rutgers (10-21, 2-16) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #10 Maryland 50-60, Lost at Michigan 69-79 This Week: Wed. (B1G Tournament) vs Minnesota

Rutgers’ first year in the Big Ten was an absolute bloodbath. The Scarlett Knights will play Wednesday, on the two-month anniversary of their last win, carrying a 14-game losing streak on their shoulders.

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Week 9

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Power Rankings_header
Despite being posted on Wednesday, these rankings only take into account last week’s results, through Sunday. Wisconsin holds onto the top spot, while Purdue and Michigan State make big leaps into the top three. Ohio State is this week’s biggest tumbler, falling five spots thanks to a seven-point loss at Michigan. The bottom five remain the same in a slightly different order.

Previous: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 6, Week 7

1. Wisconsin (25-2, 13-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Penn State 55-47, Beat Min 63-53 This Week: Tue at #14 Maryland, Sun vs Michigan State

Wins in two of its final four games would wrap up sole possession of the Big Ten title for Wisconsin, which is riding a 10-game winning streak. With a strong finish, Wisconsin has a shot at the No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament behind Kentucky.

2. Purdue (18-9, 10-4) – Up 4
Last Week: Beat Indiana 67-63 This Week: Thu vs Rutgers, Sun at Ohio State

Purdue is no longer a nice surprise in the Big Ten. At 10-4, the Boilermakers are playing for a double bye in the conference tournament and all but locked into an NCAA bid. Matt Painter’s team has ripped off seven wins in eight tries, including a 3-1 record on the road.

3. Michigan State (19-8, 10-4) – Up 5
Last Week: Beat Michigan 80-67, Beat Illinois 60-53 This Week: Thu vs Minn, Sun at at #5 Wisconsin

Less than two weeks ago Michigan State was a bubble NCAA Tournament team. Now, after four straight wins, including back-to-back road wins over Michigan and Illinois, MSU is closing in on a second-place Big Ten finish.

4. Maryland (23-5, 11-4) – Even
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 69-65 This Week: Tue vs #5 Wisconsin, Sat vs Michigan

Mark Turgeon has steadied the ship after a rocky 2-3 stretch put Maryland’s position in the top 20 in question. Three straight wins have the Terrapins positioned for a strong finish in which they should win three of four.

5. Indiana (19-9, 9-6) – Up 2
Last Week: Lost to Purdue 63-67, Beat Rutgers 84-54 This Week: Wed at Northwestern

The middle of the Big Ten has really taken a hit over the last few weeks. Indiana, which has dropped five of its last nine, falls in at No. 5 as the rest of the Big Ten battles to stay off the bubble in the NCAA Tournament. Indiana’s last impressive win came over a month ago, on Jan. 22 against Maryland.

6. Iowa (17-10, 8-6) – Down 3
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 81-57, Beat Nebraska 74-46 This Week: Wed vs Illinois, Sat at Penn State

About the only thing Iowa has done right since back-to-back blowout wins over Michigan and Maryland is pounding Nebraska to the point where Tim Miles banned his team from its own locker room. Luckily for the Hawkeyes, a moderate finish of Illinois, Penn State, Indiana and Northwestern offers a great chance to reach the crucial 20-win plateau.

7. Ohio State (19-8, 8-6) – Down 5
Last Week: Lost at Michigan 57-64
This Week: Thu vs Nebraska, Sun vs Purdue

The last two games were not a good look for the previously resurgent Buckeyes, whose stay in the top 25 was as brief as Wisconsin’s struggles after a loss to Rutgers in January. OSU responded to a loss in East Lansing by falling to Michigan, which was riding a five-game losing streak in the conference.

8. Illinois (17-10, 7-7) – Down 3
Last Week: Lost to Michigan State 53-60 This Week: Wed at Iowa, Sat vs Northwestern

Illinois’ four-game winning streak hit a brick wall against conference-leading Wisconsin last week, as the Illini fell by 19 points in Madison. A home loss to Michigan State dropped John Groce’s team to No. 8 in the Big Ten, a dangerous place for teams hoping to avoid the Badgers in the third round of the conference tournament.

9. Michigan (14-13, 7-8) – Even
Last Week: Lost to MSU 67-80, Beat #24 OSU 64-57 This Week: Sat at #14 Maryland

If any team in the Big Ten needed a big morale boost, it was the battered, quickly sliding Wolverines. On Sunday, a start-to-finish waxing of the rival Buckeyes ended that streak and gave Michigan a realistic chance to finish the conference season with at least a .500 record.

10. Northwestern (13-14, 4-10) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 72-66, Beat Penn State 60-39 This Week: Wed vs Indiana, Sat at Illinois

A quick glance at some of the final scores during Northwestern’s 10-game conference losing streak would take some of the shock out of the Wildcats’ current three-game winning streak. Chris Collins’ team is finally finishing games, and has emerged as the top spoiler in the bottom half of the league.

11. Minnesota (16-12, 5-10) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Northwestern 66-72, Lost at #5 Wisconsin 53-63 This Week: Thu at Michigan State

Can the rest of these Big Ten teams all tie for last? Besides Northwestern’s modest winning streak, the bottom of the conference has completely gone up in flames. Minnesota checks in at No. 11 because they still appear to have a pulse, losing by just 10 points to Wisconsin Saturday, which is a small victory in itself.

12. Nebraska (13-14, 5-10) – Even
Last Week: Lost at #16 Maryland, Lost to Iowa 46-74 This Week: Thu at Ohio State

What happened to Nebraska’s vaunted home-court advantage? A team that lost only one game at home by a single point last season has dropped two straight at Pinnacle Bank Arena, including a 28-point thrashing at the hands of Iowa.

13. Penn State (15-13, 3-12) – Down 2
Last Week: Lost to #5 Wisconsin 47-55, Lost at NU 39-60 This Week: Sat vs Iowa

Penn State dropped three straight games against ranked teams before running into the buzz saw that is Northwestern Saturday. A 21-point pounding in Evanston put an early exclamation point on a disastrous conference season for the Nittany Lions.

14. Rutgers (10-18, 2-13) – Even
Last Week: Lost at Iowa 47-81, Lost to Indiana 84-54 This Week: Thu at Purdue

Rutgers is really bad. A 30-point loss to Indiana rounded out an 11-game losing streak with more tough games ahead. In their first Big Ten season, the Scarlett Knights are failing the test.

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Week 7

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

Power Rankings_header
Wisconsin remains on top, having won six in a row, and that should continue at least for the next couple of weeks. Everyone else is chasing the Badgers, but with time running out it looks to be a battle for second place. Ohio State remains second, while Iowa jumped six spots to grab the third spot thanks to blowout wins over Michigan and Maryland. Purdue, Michigan State, and Michigan each tumbled four spots, going a combined 1-4 last week.

Previous: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 6

1. Wisconsin (21-2, 9-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Indiana 92-78, Beat Northwestern 65-50 This Week: Tue at Nebraska, Sun vs Illinois

Since their slip up against 13th-place Rutgers on Jan. 11, Bo Ryan’s Badgers have won six straight games and put a choke hold on the conference. Wisconsin is three games ahead of the pack and will coast to the regular-season title.

2. Ohio State (18-6, 7-4) – Even
Last Week: Lost at Purdue 58-60, Beat Rutgers 79-60 This Week: Wed vs Penn State, Sat at Michigan State

A two-point loss in West Lafayette snapped Ohio State’s modest three-game winning streak Wednesday, but the Buckeyes bounced back with a blowout win against Rutgers to climb into a second-place tie behind Wisconsin.

3. Iowa (15-8, 6-4) – Up 6
Last Week: Beat Michigan 72-54, Beat #17 Maryland 71-55 This Week: Thu vs Minn, Sun at Northwestern

Iowa made a strong statement this week after dropping three straight games in Big Ten play. The Hawkeyes dominated Michigan in Ann Arbor and roughed up 2nd-place Maryland to get back on track.

4. Maryland (19-5, 7-4) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Penn State 64-58, Lost to Iowa 55-71 This Week: Wed vs Indiana, Sat at Penn State

Mark Turgeon is learning that road wins don’t come easily in the Big Ten, as Maryland was blown out for a third straight time away from home Sunday. The Terps are 2-3 in their last five games and are showing signs of wearing down in their first Big Ten season.

5. Illinois (16-8, 6-5) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 66-54, Beat MSU 59-54 This Week: Thu vs Michigan, Sun at #5 Wisconsin

Just when Illinois looked like it would never get over the .500 mark, three straight wins have brought the Illini back to the pack in the Big Ten. A win against Michigan this week would match Illinois’ conference win total from last season.

6. Purdue (15-9, 7-4) – Down 4
Last Week: Beat #20 Ohio State 60-58, Lost to Minn. 58-62 This Week: Thu at Rutgers, Sun vs Nebraska

Purdue knocked off three ranked opponents during their four-game winning streak, but fell to Minnesota in the Barn Saturday. With three of their next four games coming against Rutgers and Nebraska, Matt Painter’s team has a real shot to hang around in the battle for second place in the conference.

7. Indiana (17-7, 7-4) – Even
Last Week: Lost at #5 Wisconsin 78-92, Beat Michigan 70-67 This Week: Wed at #19 Maryland, Sun vs Minn.

The last two weeks have been rocky for Indiana after a strong start to the conference season. But the Hoosiers did hold on for a home win over Michigan Sunday to move into a 2nd place tie in the Big Ten.

8. Michigan State (15-8, 6-4) – Down 4
Last Week: Lost to Illinois 54-59 This Week: Tue at Northwestern, Sat vs #23 Ohio State

MSU picked up another puzzling home loss Saturday when the suspension-riddled Fighting Illini won in Breslin for the second straight season. Win its best win coming at Iowa and a couple of ugly losses on the resume, the Spartans are battling for an 18th straight NCAA Tournament bid.

9. Michigan (13-11, 6-6) – Down 4
Last Week: Lost to Iowa 54-72, Lost at Indiana 67-70 This Week: Thu at Illinois

February has been an unkind month for Michigan, which is playing without its two best players in Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton, Jr. Iowa blew out the Wolverines in the Crisler Center Thursday, and a late comeback fell a few inches short in Bloomington Saturday. Michigan will carry its three-game losing streak into Illinois Thursday.

10. Minnesota (15-9, 4-7) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Purdue 52-68 This Week: Thu at Iowa, Sun at Indiana

Minnesota is trending sharply upwards after an embarrassing 0-5 start to the Big Ten season. Now, with three wins in their last four games, the Golden Gophers are clawing their way out of the conference cellar.

11. Penn State (15-9, 3-8) – Up 2
Last Week: Lost at #17 Maryland 58-64, Beat Neb. 56-43 This Week: Wed at #23 OSU, Sat vs #19 Maryland

After losing two straight road games in the 40th minute, Penn State finally closed out a game, beating Nebraska by 13. The Nittany Lions have had a chance to win their last 10 games, and their 3-2 record since Jan. 24 means they’re learning how to close.

12. Nebraska (13-10, 5-6) – Down 2
Last Week: Beat Northwestern 76-60, Lost to PSU 43-56 This Week: Tue vs #5 Wisconsin, Sun at Purdue

A home win over last-place Northwestern was the only bright spot for Nebraska last week, as it lost in blowout fashion once again, this time at the hands of Penn State. The Cornhuskers’ offense, which was so dynamic late last season, has been held under 45 points in three of its last four games.

13. Northwestern (10-13, 1-9) – Down 2
Last Week: Lost at Nebraska 60-76, Lost at #5 Wisconsin 50-65 This Week: Tue vs MSU, Sun vs Iowa

The race for 13th place in the Big Ten in basically a toss-up, but we’ll go with the slight underdog this week. Though the Wildcats’ nine-game losing streak is one longer than Rutgers’, Chris Collins has brought his team within two points of a win three times during the streak. With four of their next five games coming at home, Northwestern has a chance to play spoiler in February.

14. Rutgers (10-15, 2-10) – Even
Last Week: Lost at Illinois 54-66, Lost to #20 Ohio State 60-79 This Week: Thu vs Purdue

Rutgers will celebrate its one-month anniversary of beating Wisconsin on Wednesday, but unfortunately the Scarlett Knights haven’t won a game since. Rutgers was blown out by 19 points on Sunday, and the final six games of the season will likely yield a similar result.