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Posts Tagged ‘Purdue’

The numbers game: O’Korn’s leads U-M with six big plays in relief in Week 4

Friday, September 29th, 2017


(Eric Upchurch)

Previous: U-M offense lagging behind 2016 big play pace but defense allowing fewer;

Michigan’s offense found new life after Wilton Speight went out with an apparent neck injury. John O’Korn came in and proceeded to orchestrate the offense with precision, making us wonder if last year’s Indiana game or this game was the outlier. Only time will tell.

Offensive big plays
Michigan offense – First four weeks comparison: 2017 vs past two seasons
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2017 22 18 40 13.88% 4.36% 17
2016 30 17 47 15.20% 5.60% 25
2015 15 11 26 9.09% 0.58% 4

Michigan had 12 big plays against Purdue. Yes, 12 — seven pass and five run. O’Korn hit five separate players for big pass plays and added one on the ground himself for good measure.

Michigan is averaging 5.5 explosive runs per game (54th nationally), 4.25 explosive passes (22nd) for a total of 9.75 explosive plays per game (42nd). Their big play percentage is 13.88 percent (41st).

Through four games the 2016 Michigan offense averaged 7.5 explosive runs per game (20th nationally) and 3.75 explosive passes per game (38th nationally) for 11.25 explosive plays per game (21st). Their big play percentage was 15.20 percent (24th) and their big play differential was 5.60 percent (19th).

The 2017 offense is slightly behind the pace of the 2016 offense, but given the schedule and the offensive, um, hiccups, this isn’t actually that bad. The run game has struggled a bit but thanks to O’Korn’s performance last week the pass game is averaging over four big passes per game. If O’Korn’s playmaking remains it will help out the run game by opening things up. Fingers crossed!

Defensive big plays
Michigan defense – 2017 average to date vs past 2 seasons
Year Big Run Plays/gm Big Pass Plays/gm Total Big Plays/gm Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2017 2.75 2.75 5.50 9.52% 4.36% 17
2016 4.50 1.50 6.00 9.60% 5.60% 25
2015 4.00 1.00 5.00 8.51% 0.58% 4

On defense, Michigan surrendered just six big plays to Purdue, three run and three pass. Anything under six is elite, but you already knew this defense was elite. For the year, Michigan is allowing 2.75 explosive runs per game (12th) and 2.75 explosive passes (52nd) for a total of just 5.5 explosive plays per game (15th). Their big play against percentage is 9.52 percent (40th) and their toxic differential is 17, good for 29th on a per game basis.

After four games a year ago, the 2016 defense was giving up 4.5 explosive runs per game (54th) and a paltry 1.5 explosive pass plays (8th) for an even 6.00 explosive plays per game (21st). Their big play against percentage was 9.60 percent (33rd) and their toxic differential was 25, good for 12th on per game basis.

The defense is giving up fewer big run plays but more big pass plays than the 2016 team at this point, but is giving up half a total big play less per game overall. The big play against percentage is roughly the same.

Sacks and tackles for loss

Through four games last year, against all cupcakes (yes, Penn State was a cupcake), Michigan had 44 tackles for loss (11 per game) and 17 sacks (4.25 per game). This year’s team is slightly behind the tackle for loss pace at just 34, but their 18 total sacks and 4.5 per game are both tops nationally right now. They’ve had a tougher schedule and considering Air Force doesn’t usually allow any tackles for loss, this is still impressive. Don Brown for the win!

Since Michigan has a bye this weekend I’m going to save the individual big play stats and other metrics for next week, along with the Michigan State big play preview so we have more to discuss next week. Until then, Go Blue!

#8 Michigan 28 – Purdue 10: O’Korn, U-M defense turn halftime deficit into second half rout

Sunday, September 24th, 2017


(Patrick Barron)

Michigan was a trendy pick to be upset by upstart Purdue on Saturday, but the Wolverines turned a sloppy first half into a second half route to stay 4-0 this season.

Wilton Speight was knocked out of the game on Michigan’s third possession of the game and John O’Korn came in and led the Wolverines on a 13-play, 84-yard touchdown drive to get the scoring started. On the drive, he completed an 11-yard pass to tight end Sean McKeon on 3rd-and-9 and also a 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Zach Gentry on 3rd-and-4.

Final Stats
Michigan  Purdue
Score 28 10
Record 4-0 2-2
Total Yards 423 189
Net Rushing Yards 139 30
Net Passing Yards 284 159
First Downs 24 9
Turnovers 2 1
Penalties-Yards 7-57 10-82
Punts-Yards 7-284 11-439
Time of Possession 38:59 21:01
Third Down Conversions 6-of-15 0-of-12
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-1 0-of-0
Sacks By-Yards 5-40 4-28
Field Goals 0-for-0 1-for-1
PATs 4-for-4 1-for-1
Red Zone Scores-Chances 3-of-3 1-of-1
Red Zone TDs-Chances 3-of-3 1-of-1
Full Box Score

But the lead wouldn’t last for long as Purdue also switched quarterbacks — albeit by choice — and Elijah Sindelar led the Boilermakers right down the field for a game-tying touchdown. The drive was classic Jeff Brohm, using a series of throwback passes to gain 16 yards, 13 yards, 36 yards, and 10 yards for the touchdown.

O’Korn threw an interception on Michigan’s next possession but the Michigan defense held Purdue to just a field goal and the Boilers took a 10-7 halftime lead.

The second half was all Michigan.

It took a couple drives for the Michigan offense to get going, but once it did it didn’t look back, scoring touchdowns on three straight drives that covered 86 yards on 11 plays, 65 yards on nine plays, and 76 yards on five plays.

The Michigan defense was even more impressive, limiting Purdue to just 10 total yards in the second half. Purdue had just one second-half possession that didn’t result in a three-and-out, and it was just five plays long before the Boilers punted. They went three plays for one yard, three plays for three yards, three plays for negative-three yards, three plays for five yards, five plays for three yards, and one play for six yards.

For the game, Michigan’s defense held a Purdue offense that had been averaging 459.7 yards per game to just 189 total yards and 3.8 yards per play — the lowest total the Wolverines have allowed this season.

Purdue quarterback led the Big Ten in passing last season and entered the game tops with a 76.1 completion percentage, but he went just 5-of-13 for 32 yards. Sindelar fared slightly better, going 7-of-16 for 103 yards and a touchdown, but had just a 26.5 quarterback rating.

On the other hand, O’Korn went 18-of-26 for 270 yards, one touchdown, and one interception for an 84.9 quarterback rating. It was the first 250-plus passing game on the road for a Michigan quarterback since Jake Rudock did so at Penn State in 2015.

Chris Evans led Michigan in rushing with 14 carries for 97 yards (6.9 yards per carry) and two touchdowns. Ty Isaac managed just 20 yards and a score on 10 carries. McKeon led the way in receiving with five receptions for 82 yards, while Gentry caught three for 48 and a score. Ten different Wolverines caught a pass.

Chase Winovich earned national defensive player of the week honors with a six tackle (all solo), four tackle for loss, three sack performance. Devin Bush added six tackles, one tackle for loss, and a sack.

Michigan gets a bye week before hosting Michigan State (2-1) on Oct. 7.

Game Ball – Offense

John O’Korn (18-of-26 for 270 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 5 rushes for 12 yards)
It took four weeks but the Michigan quarterback is the offensive player of the week for the first time. But instead of starter Wilton Speight, it’s O’Korn, who took over when Speight was injured on Michigan’s third possession. O’Korn came in and immediately led the Wolverines on a touchdown drive. Although he threw an interception on the next possession, he steadied and led Michigan on three straight touchdown drives in the second half. Is it enough to earn O’Korn the starting job two weeks from now? Who knows, assuming Speight is healthy. But it was an inspiring performance by a guy who has waited his turn.

Previous:
Week 1 – Quinn Nordin (4-of-6 field goals, 2-of-3 from 50-plus)
Week 2 — Ty Isaac (20 carries for 133 yards, 6.7 yards per carry)
Week 3 — Donovan Peoples-Jones (2 receptions for 52 yards, 2 punt returns for 104 yards and 1 touchdown)

Game Ball – Defense

Chase Winovich (6 tackles — all solo — 4 tackles for loss, 3 sacks)
Winovich gets the nod for the second straight week after terrorizing Purdue’s backfield with four tackles for loss and three sacks. His performance was good enough to earn Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week honors. Through four weeks, he ranks third nationally with six sacks and Michigan as a team leads the nation with 18.

Previous:
Week 1 – Devin Bush (7 tackles, 5 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)
Week 2 – Tyree Kinnel (9 tackles, 8 solo, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception return for touchdown)
Week 3 – Chase Winovich (9 tackles – 3 solo – 2 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 quarterback hurry)

Four Bold Predictions Results

 Michigan’s offense shows some new looks, gets the tight ends more involved, and Wilton Speight tops 300 yards passing 
– It wasn’t Speight who had the big game passing, but the passing game went about how I expected. Tight ends Sean McKeon and Zach Gentry were the top two receivers, combining for 12 catches for 130 yards and a touchdown, and John O’Korn came close to 300 yards, finishing with 270.

 The offense also converts all of its red zone attempts 
– Michigan’s offense entered the game just 1-of-10 on red zone touchdown conversions but converted all three chances on Saturday. It did so with a 12-yard touchdown pass from O’Korn to Gentry on 3rd-and-4 in the first quarter, a 10-yard Chris Evans touchdown run in the third quarter, and a 1-yard Ty Isaac touchdown run at the beginning of the fourth.

 Donovan Peoples-Jones scores two touchdowns — one on offense and, yes, another punt return 
– The true freshman who returned a punt for a touchdown against Air Force had a quiet day against Purdue, catching just one pass for eight yards and returning one punt for minus-one yard. Even though Purdue punted 11 times, Peoples-Jones was forced to fair catch most of them. He seemed to take a conservative approach, often calling for the fair catch even though he had room, so he was likely directed to do so in order to avoid a costly mistake in a close game.

 The defense gives up two long pass plays, but holds Purdue’s offense to less than 250 total yards 
– This also went pretty much as expected. Michigan’s defense struggled early in the game with Purdue’s misdirection plays and throwbacks, which resulted in Purdue’s only touchdown. On that drive, the Boilermakers completed passes of 16, 13, 36, and 10 yards. But Don Brown made adjustments at halftime and held the Boilers to just 10 total yards in the second half and 189 total yards — the fewest in their last 35 games.

Season Bold Prediction Results
= 5
 = 4
 = 3

#8 Michigan at Purdue game preview

Friday, September 22nd, 2017


(Kaitlyn Cole)

Previously this week: First Look: Purdue, Tailgate Tuesday: Fried pork tenderloin sammy with fire roasted green chile jam and savory corn casserole, The Numbers Game: U-M offense lagging behind 2016 big play pace but defense allowing fewer

With three games under their belt, the talk surrounding Michigan’s fourth game of the season is sounding much like it was entering the first. Prior to the offseason, most national so-called experts thought the Wolverines would lose to Florida because they lost too many starters to the NFL and they couldn’t match the SEC speed. All Michigan did was win 33-17 and hold the Gators to just 192 total yards and 11 on the ground.

As the Wolverines head into Big Ten play at Purdue tomorrow, they find themselves on the wrong end of the trendy upset pick in Week 4. It seems nearly every neutral observer is picking Purdue.

Quick Facts
Ross-Ade Stadium – 4p.m. EST – FOX
Purdue Head Coach: Jeff Brohm (1st season)
Coaching Record: 32-11 (2-1 at Purdue)
Co-Offensive Coordinators: Brian Brohm (1st season)
Tony Levine (1st season)
Co-Defensive Coordinators: Nick Holt (1st season)
Anthony Poindexter (1st season)
Last Season: 3-9 (1-8 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: UM 44 – Purdue 13 (2012)
All-Time Series: Michigan 44-14
Record in West Lafayette: Michigan 16-9
Jim Harbaugh vs Purdue First meeting
Last Michigan win: 2012 (44-13)
Last Purdue win: 2009 (38-36)
Current Streak: Michigan 3
Purdue schedule to date
Opponent Result
#16 Louisville L 28-35
Ohio W 44-21
at Missouri W 35-3

I mean, if you’re looking for an upset to pick it’s not hard to see why many outside observers would take the Boilermakers. Despite winning all three games by double digits, Michigan’s offense has had trouble converting red zone trips into touchdowns (1-of-10). And despite winning just three games last season and only three Big Ten Conference games combined in the last four years, Purdue has looked much better under first-year head coach Jeff Brohm.

Brohm replaced Darrell Hazell after spending the past three seasons at Western Kentucky and leading the Hilltoppers to two bowl games, two Conference USA East Division titles, and a 30-10 record. He’s a former quarterback at Louisville where he passed for 5,451 yards and 38 touchdowns while going 15-10 from 1991-93.

After bouncing around the NFL and playing in just eight career games, he started seven games in 2001 for the Orlando Rage of the XFL before starting his coaching career in the Arena Football League. He worked his way up from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator at Louisville, then quarterbacks coach stints at Florida Atlantic and Illinois, offensive coordinator at UAB and Western Kentucky before taking the reigns at WKU in 2014.

While he has quickly transformed a Purdue program that has been a Big Ten laughingstock the past decade, one of his players made his job a bit tougher this weekend.

Purdue receiver Gregory Phillips issued some bulletin board material on Thursday by saying, “It’s going to be a surprise when people see us beat Michigan. I wish we played Ohio State, too, because nobody can stop us except ourselves. If we don’t beat Purdue and turn over the ball, we win every game.”

The last statement could be true for most teams. If you don’t beat yourself and turn the ball over, you’ll generally have a good chance of winning. But his assertion that the Boilermakers will beat Michigan and would beat Ohio State too won’t sit well with Wolverines players and coaches.

Phillips also must have a short memory as his team already has one loss this season. Purdue opened the season with a 35-28 loss to 16th-ranked Louisville, though they did perform much better than anyone expected, holding a 28-25 lead in the fourth quarter before surrendering 10 points in the final nine minutes. The Boilers won their next two games, 44-21 over Ohio University and 35-3 at Missouri.

So does Purdue have what it takes to pull off the upset in West Lafayette tomorrow? Or will Michigan stay perfect on the season and put the doubters to rest? Let’s take a look at the matchups.

Purdue offense

Through the first three games of the season, Purdue’s offense ranks 45th nationally in total offense (459.7 yards per game), 43rd in scoring (35.7 points per game), 63rd in rushing (173.0 yards per game), and 35th in passing (286.7 yards per game). While that doesn’t sound like a world-beater by any means, it’s impressive when you consider that last season Purdue ranked 80th, 101st, 125th, and 21st in those categories, respectively.

Brohm brought in his younger brother, Brian Brohm, to run the offense. He followed in his brother’s footsteps as a quarterback at Louisville, though he did so with greater success, throwing for 10,775 yards and 71 touchdowns while going 25-9. He was named Big East Offensive Player of the Year in 2006 and led the Cardinals to their first BCS victory in 2007.  He spent a couple seasons as an NFL backup, then a couple in the UFL and three more in the CFL before starting his coaching career with his brother at Western Kentucky last season.

Although the Brohms inherited a team that hasn’t seen much success, they did inherit a good situation at quarterback to work with. Junior David Blough led the Big Ten with 279.3 passing yards per game in 2016, although he also led the conference with 21 interceptions and ranked last in pass efficiency. The talent is certainly there and having two former quarterbacks to tutor him can only help clean up the mistakes. In the first three games of 2017, Blough ranks just ninth in the Big Ten with 199.0 passing yards per game, but he leads the conference with a completion percentage of 76.1. He has completed 51-of-67 passes for 592 yards, six touchdowns, and two interceptions. Blough split time in the season opener with redshirt sophomore Elijah Sindelar, who had a very 2017 Wilton Speight-like performance, completing 15-of-31 passes for 118 yards, two touchdowns, and a pick.

Blough’s favorite receiver is redshirt freshman Jackson Anthrop, who has caught 17 passes for 157 yards and four touchdown. He leads all Big Ten receivers in touchdowns so far. Only Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor have more (five each). Anthrop caught seven passes for 82 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the opener against Louisville. Phillips is a senior who hasn’t played a major role the past three seasons, but ranks second on the team with 13 catches for 113 yards and a touchdown so far this year. Senior Anthony Mahoungou is the other receiver with at least 100 yards. He has nine receptions for 119 yards and a score.

Junior tight end Cole Herdeman has just seven catches, but he’s made the most of them, leading the team with 200 yards and leads Big Ten pass catchers with 28.6 yards per catch (with a minimum of seven receptions). Fellow tight end, redshirt sophomore Brycen Hopkins, has also caught nine passes for 141 yards and ranks second on the team with two touchdowns. Brohm loves to use his tight ends — his tight end at WKU caught 38 passes for 563 yards last season — so these two will be ones to watch.

Redshirt sophomore running back Tario Fuller ranks seventh in the Big Ten in rushing with an average of 87 yards per game. He rushed for 142 yards on 8.9 yards per carry against Ohio’s 64th-ranked rush defense and 90 yards on 4.7 yards per carry against Missouri’s 91st-ranked rush defense. But Louisville’s 43rd-ranked rush defense limited him to just 29 yards on eight carries. Fuller is the only other Boilermaker back with at least 100 yards rushing. Sophomore Brian Lankford-Johnson is second on the team with 76 yards on 4.4 yards per carry.

Purdue defense

While the offense is significantly improved from last season, the defense still has a ways to go. Under co-defensive coordinators Nick Holt and Anthony Poindexter, Purdue’s defense ranks 68th in total defense (374.3 yards per game), 41st in scoring (19.7 points per game), 53rd against the run (129.7 yards per game), and 83rd against the pass (244.7 yards per game).

They allowed Louisville’s offense to rack up 524 total yards, 378 of which came through the air. Reigning Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Lamar Jackson completed 65 percent of his passes for 378 yards and also rushed 21 times for 107 yards, accounting for a Denard Robinson-like 93 percent of Louisville’s offense. The Boilermakers also let Ohio accumulate 396 total yards, 223 of which came through the air, and 4.6 yards per carry on the ground, but the stiffened against Missouri, holding the Tigers to just 203 total yards, 70 on the ground, and forcing three turnovers.

Most of Purdue’s front seven is back from last year and they added Western Kentucky graduate transfer will linebacker T.J. McCollum, who ranks third on the team with 19 tackles so far this season. He brought 25 career starts, 197 tackles, and 15.5 tackles for loss with him to West Lafayette. Senior Ja’Whaun Bentley is back as the starting middle linebacker. He brings 25 career starts, 175 tackles, and 18 tackles into the season and leads the team with 24 tackles and two forced fumbles through three games. Redshirt sophomore Markus Bailey is the team’s leading returning tackler with 97 a year ago in addition to four interceptions. He has recorded 15 tackles, an interception, and a fumble recovery so far this season.

Purdue lost 21.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks from last year’s defensive tackles, but moved senior Gelen Robinson in from end. Robinson, the younger brother of former Michigan basketball star Glenn Robinson III, led Purdue with five sacks last season, but has had a slow start to 2017 with just eight tackles so far. Seniors Austin Larkin and Danny Ezechukwu are the starting ends. Larkin had 2.5 sacks last year and has six tackles so far in 2017. Ezechukwu is a hybrid linebacker/end, has recorded Purdue’s lone sack on the season, leads the team with three tackles for loss, and has recovered two fumbles. The other tackles spot has been a mix of sophomore Lorenzo Neal and redshirt junior Keiwan Jones, neither of which have made much impact yet this season.

Whereas the front seven brings plenty of experience back from last season, the secondary has little to show in terms of proven experience. Seniors Josh Okonye and Da’Wan Hunte are the starting corners. Okonye is a graduate transfer from Wake Forest and brings experience — if not starting experience — to a secondary that lacks it. He leads the team with three passes defended so far this season. Hunte is the lone returning starter in the secondary after starting 10 games a year ago. Junior college transfer T.J. Jallow had 67 tackles and an interception in two years at East Mississippi Community College and is the starter at free safety, while redshirt junior Jacob Thieneman is the strong safety. He ranks second on the team with 20 tackles through the first three games.

Purdue special teams

Like Michigan’s special teams unit, Purdue’s is extremely young and inexperienced. In Michigan’s case, answers were found in Week 1 with kicker Quinn Nordin setting a school record with two 50-plus field goals. In Purdue’s case, it’s still a question as sophomore J.D. Dellinger and junior Spencer Evans have made just 3-of-6 attempts so far this season. Dellinger at least has experience after connecting on 10-of-14 as a freshman in 2016, but his long was just 42 yards. Unlike Michigan, Purdue has a punter with experience in junior Joe Schopper, who averaged 40.6 yards per punt a year ago (eighth in the Big Ten) and 40.2 yards in 2015. He’s showing improvement so far in the young 2017 season with 12 punts for a Big Ten best average of 48.8 yards.

In the return game, Purdue has left a lot to be desired so far this season, ranking 120th nationally in kick return average and 98th in punt return average. Freshman receiver KeyRon Catlett is averaging an abysmal 12.4 yards per kick return, while junior running back Markell Jones isn’t much better at 14.5. Anthrop is the main punt returner, but is averaging just 2.6 yards on five returns with a long of six. Purdue hasn’t done a great job of defending returns either, ranking 94th in kick return defense and 87th in punt return defense. Against Louisville, they allowed a 43-yard kick return and a 33-yard punt return, so Donovan Peoples-Jones could have some room to run.

Analysis
Purdue running game vs Michigan rush defense
Purdue Michigan 

In three games against average to below average rush defenses, Purdue is averaging 173.0 rushing yards per game, which ranks 10th in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers racked up the majority of their rushing yards (263 on 6.0 yards per carry) against Ohio’s 64th-ranked rush defense. The Bobcats haven’t exactly faced solid running games this season, holding Hampton to just 47 yards on 1.5 yards per carry and Kansas to 108 yards on 3.7 yards per carry. Hampton is an FCS school that had a losing record last season and Kansas ranked 116th nationally in rushing last season. The Jayhawks managed just 73 rushing yards against Southeast Missouri State and 147 against Central Michigan in Week 2. Against Louisville, Purdue managed just 51 rushing yards on 2.4 yards per carry.

So Purdue’s Louisville performance is the most relevant to tomorrow’s game and Michigan’s defense doesn’t allow anyone to run on them. The Wolverines held Florida to just 11 rushing yards, Cincinnati to 68, and Air Force’s triple-option to just 168. Michigan has the clear advantage here.

Purdue pass game vs Michigan pass defense
Purdue Michigan

On the other side of the coin, Purdue has found success with their passing game this season, averaging 286.7 yards per game, which ranks third in the Big Ten. Their 10 passing touchdowns are tied with Penn State and Iowa for most in the conference. While they don’t have superior athletes to Michigan’s defense, they’ll succeed in chunks as a result of Brohm’s scheme which relies heavily on misdirection. They passed for 293 yards on Louisville (on 57 attempts) but had more success against Ohio with 295 yards on just 24 attempts. Against Missouri, it was similar with 272 yards on 34 attempts.

Michigan’s pass defense has been surprisingly solid this season, but has shown it is prone to mistakes, which makes sense with such a young and inexperienced secondary. Yes, they’ve scored three defensive touchdowns, but they’ve also given up some big plays, including a 64-yard touchdown pass by Air Force last week. That was simply a case of Tyree Kinnell getting sucked in by the Falcons’ run game, but it’s a sure bet that Brohm will game plan to attack Michigan’s young corners and force them to make mistakes. I’m putting this category as even based mostly on scheme.

Purdue rush defense vs Michigan running game
Purdue Michigan 

Michigan’s running game has been defined by big plays so far this season. It has had trouble gaining positive yards consistently, but then gains a big chunk of yards on one run. This is most evident in Ty Isaac, who ranks fourth in the Big Ten with 112 rushing yards per game, but has had 38.3 percent of his carries go for one yard or less. This is because he already has 10 runs of 10 or more yards and is averaging 24 yards apiece on those 10. He’s averaging an explosive run more than every five carries. Chris Evans’ one yard or less rate is even higher at 42.4 percent, but he only has four explosive runs with an average gain of 15 yards.

Purdue’s rush defense has given up 129.7 yards per game on the ground — 11th in the Big Ten — but it has done well at preventing big runs. They’ve allowed 13 runs of 10 or more yards through three games, but none has gone for more than 24. Louisville had a long of just 15 yards and Missouri’s long was just 13. Can Michigan’s running game move the ball consistently without big, explosive runs? That remains to be seen, but just because Purdue hasn’t allowed big runs doesn’t mean Michigan won’t break one, so I’m giving Michigan a very slight edge here.

Purdue pass defense vs Michigan passing game
Purdue Michigan 

This, to me, is one of the more intriguing battles to watch tomorrow. Wilton Speight has been erratic in the early season, throwing a pair of interceptions and often overthrowing open receivers. But — like in the running game — he has hit a fair amount of explosive plays. Six different Michigan receivers have caught a pass of at least 33 yards (three of them for touchdowns). Purdue’s defense has given up 11 explosive pass plays, which is tied with Ohio State and Rutgers for worst in the Big Ten. They’ve also only gotten to the quarterback once in three games, which is dead last nationally.

Receivers can get open, and Speight will have time to throw, but will he hit them? He’ll be without his top big-play receiver, Tarik Black, who is out indefinitely with a broken foot. Donovan Peoples-Jones has shown explosiveness and will need to step into Black’s role. I’m expecting an expanded role for Michigan’s tight ends this week. Zach Gentry has shown great potential with two explosive receptions for an average of 33 yards, and at 6-foot-7 with good speed, he’s a very tough matchup for a linebacker.

I’m giving Michigan a slight edge here, and if Speight shows the accuracy he had through the first two-thirds of last season, Michigan could have a far bigger edge in the passing game.

Purdue special teams vs Michigan special teams
Purdue Michigan 

One of the big questions coming into the season, special teams has been a major asset for Michigan through the first three games. Nordin leads the nation with 11 made field goals and Peoples-Jones has been dynamic in the punt return game, taking one 79 yards for a touchdown last week. Purdue is ripe for allowing a long return with a punter who is averaging nearly 49 yards per punt and a return defense that is allowing nine yards per return. Purdue has been woeful in its own return game and has made just 3-of-6 field goals, so Michigan has the clear edge in this category.

Coaching
Purdue Michigan 

Jeff Brohm may not have the depth of proven success that Jim Harbaugh has, but he’s one of the most exciting young minds in the college football game right now. He comes from the Bobby Petrino school of coaching, which has been successful over the past couple of decades. Many are salivating over the matchup of Brohm’s offense against Don Brown’s defense and it will be fun to watch. Brohm’s offense will test the aggressiveness of Brown’s defense with play-action, screens, and misdirection, and could cause fits if the blitzes can’t get home in time. Michigan gets a slight edge here due to the track record of the entire coaching staff, but I won’t discount Brohm’s ability to challenge it.

Atmosphere and Intangibles
Purdue  Michigan 

Michigan’s young team handled the AT&T Stadium atmosphere just fine in Week 1, but it was still a very friendly crowd as a neutral site. Tomorrow is their first true road game, and while Ross-Ade Stadium isn’t one of the most feared in the Big Ten, it will be a homecoming crowd that is tasting success for the first time in a decade and thinks it has a real chance to knock off a top-10 team, so the late afternoon kickoff will make for a hyped up crowd and a classic Big Ten environment. How will the young Wolverines respond, especially if they fall behind early? Jumping out to a quick lead is important in this one, but for now, I’ll give Purdue the edge.

Edge Average: Michigan 6.2 – Purdue 3.8
Score Prediction: Michigan 41 – Purdue 20

Prior to the season, it was weird to consider Purdue a big game, but here we are with many picking the Boilermakers to pull off the upset. I think it’s a statement game for Michigan similar to how it was against Florida in Week 1. Many were writing them off and they came out and won convincingly. Maybe that Michigan State-like “chip on the shoulder” mentality is what this young team needs. Purdue will hang around through the first half, but Michigan is simply too athletic on defense to give Brohm’s offense a big day, and many of the offensive struggles the Wolverines have faced in the first three games will be a distant memory come Saturday night.

Four bold predictions:

Michigan’s offense shows some new looks, gets the tight ends more involved, and Wilton Speight tops 300 yards passing
The offense also converts all of its red zone attempts
 Donovan Peoples-Jones scores two touchdowns — one on offense and, yes, another punt return
 The defense gives up two long pass plays, but holds Purdue’s offense to less than 250 total yards

Tailgate Tuesday: Fried pork tenderloin sammy with fire roasted green chile jam and a savory corn casserole

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017


Tailgate Tuesday is our weekly contribution from our resident pitmaster, Joe Pichey from GoBlueBBQ. Joe has limited time this season, so we will be tag-teaming the weekly recipes. These tailgate recipes will be posted each Tuesday throughout the football season and will feature a variety of appetizers, main courses, and sides to help you be the king of your next tailgate. Gentry’s BBQ, a Orlando, Fla. based BBQ and catering company, sponsors this season’s feature by providing their killer rubs and sauces for use in the recipes. Buy them here. In addition, Fogo Charcoal provides charcoal to use in each recipe. Buy it here.

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Those of you who read this site regularly probably know that I didn’t actually go to Michigan. Even though my mom and grandfather are alums and I got accepted, I chose to attend a smaller school on a soccer scholarship. That school was in the state of Indiana, so when I started to think about what type of food I should cook for the Purdue week Tailgate Tuesday that had to do with Indiana, I didn’t have to think long.

One of the food items served at the dining commons on campus that I remember the most is this huge, flat, breaded piece of meat sandwiched between buns. It may have had a piece of lettuce and a tomato slice on it, but mostly I remember having to take several bites just to get to anything but breaded pork. It was quintessential Indiana eatin’ and although I haven’t had one in about 13 years, I decided to try my hand at making one. In an effort to make it taste better than cardboard, I thought I’d top it with Jess Pryles’ fire roasted green chili jam (every recipe of her’s I’ve ever tried has been amazing) and pair it with a savory corn casserole.

Ingredients
For the sandwich: For the pepper jam: For the corn casserole:
2 lbs center-cut boneless pork loin 4 lbs green chiles 2 TBSP butter
2 eggs 1 TBSP vegetable oil 1 large onion, diced
2 cups buttermilk 1 finely diced onion 1 bell pepper, diced
2 garlic cloves 2 TBSP Worcestershire 2 TBSP sugar
Kosher salt & ground black pepper 2 TBSP yellow mustard seed 1/4 cup fresh sage
1/4 tsp cayenne 4 cups sugar 1 TBSP Kosher salt
2 sleeves of saltines 3/4 cup cider vinegar Gentry’s Smoke Stack BBQ Rub
2 cups insta flour (Wondra) 6 oz liquid pectin 6 corn cobs
Gentry’s Smoke Stack BBQ Rub 1 tsp salt 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
Oil for frying 3 eggs
Buns and mayo 1 1/4 cups milk
Gentry’s Cakalacki Gold Mustard Sauce 1/2 cup heavy cream
Sliced tomato, lettuce, red onion, pickles 1 cup shredded parmesean
Directions

The pork tenderloin sandwich isn’t actually BBQ, which is why I had to throw in the jam and corn casserole to at least add a grilled element to the recipe. Start with your pork loin and cut it crosswise into several equal pieces, about two inches each. Next, slice each piece horizontally in half, but don’t slice all the way through. Leave about 3/4 of an inch and then splay it open like a book. Place each piece between two pieces of plastic wrap, but make sure to sprinkle with water to keep the wrap from sticking to the meat. Use a heavy duty pan (a cast iron skillet works best) and pound it as flat as possible. I got mine about a half inch and I wouldn’t go any bigger than that.

In a bowl, whisk the two eggs, two cups of buttermilk, crushed garlic, a teaspoon of salt and pepper, and a couple shakes of Gentry’s Smoke Stack BBQ Rub. This stuff is a great all-purpose BBQ seasoning that is smoked paprika-forward and works great on pork, chicken, and beef. Cover the flattened pork pieces with this wet mixture and let sit in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

In the meantime, you can start the chile jam. Toss your whole green chiles onto the grill to char the skin. Let them go until the skin is blistered and black, then place them in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap and let sit for 15-20 minutes. Next, peel off the blistered skin and discard, but it’s ok if you leave a few pieces in. If you want a spicier jam, keep the seeds. If not, discard these too. Chop the softened chiles into small pieces.

In a saucepan, sauté your onions until softened, then add the two tablespoons of Worcestershire, two tablespoons of yellow mustard seeds, 3/4 cup cider vinegar, four cups sugar, one teaspoon of salt, and the diced chiles. Boil rapidly for 2-3 minutes then remove from heat. Add the six ounces of liquid pectin and stir thoroughly. Allow to cool completely then place into jars. It will keep for 3-4 weeks in the fridge.

During this time, you can also start your corn casserole. Place a deep cast iron on the hot grill and melt your two tablespoons of butter. Add the diced onion, diced bell pepper, two tablespoons of sugar, tablespoon of Kosher salt, fresh sage, and a few shakes of Gentry’s Smoke Stack BBQ Rub. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are translucent and start to brown. While this is cooking, slice all the corn kernels off of the cobs (make sure to then use a spoon to scrape off all the rest of the sweet guts of the cob). Now add the corn to the skillet and continue cooking for another 10 minutes or so. Then, add the 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal and remove from the grill.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the three eggs, 1 1/4 cups milk, and 1/2 cup heavy cream. Pour this into your corn mixture, stir well to combine, and put back on the grill for about 20 minutes or until it starts to set. If you want, you can either turn your oven’s broiler on and toss it in for a couple minutes to brown the top, or keep it on the grill and use a blowtorch to brown the top. This step is not completely needed if you don’t have access to these items while tailgating.

Now that your jam and corn are ready, it’s time to fry up your pork tenderloins. First, heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan until it’s 360 degrees. Crush up the saltines. You can do this with your hands or throw into a food processor until they form coarse crumbs and place into a shallow dish. Put your insta flour into another shallow dish and sprinkle with your Gentry’s Smoke Stack BBQ Rub. Take your pork out of fridge, then one at a time, dredge both sides in the flour, dip back into your buttermilk marinade, then coat with the saltine crumbs. Place it into the hot oil and fry for about three minutes per side until the pork is cooked through. Once it’s done, put it onto paper towels to cool slightly and drain excess oil.

Spread both halves of a bun with mayo and Gentry’s Cakalacki Gold Mustard Sauce. Place a piece of fried pork tenderloin on, then top with a piece of lettuce, slice of tomato, and slice of red onion. Top with a spoonful of the green chile jam, add a couple of pickles, and enjoy.

Sometimes recipes don’t live up to expectations, but this one completely exceeded expectations by all who feasted on them this past weekend. The coarse breading that felt more like what you’d get on fried chicken than what I was used to from my college days of pork tenderloin sandwiches provided great flavor with the Smoke Stack mixed in. The Cakalacki Gold and the green chile jam added a tangy, sweet, and spicy flavor profile, and then the corn casserole on the side provided a nice savory touch to complement it. Sure, these recipes were fairly involved and probably too much for a tailgate, but I would highly recommend for your next “homegate.”

Visit Gentry’s to purchase their great rubs and sauces. You can follow them on Twitter at @gentrysbbq and you can also follow our resident pitmaster Joe at @mmmgoblubbq.

First Look: Purdue

Monday, September 18th, 2017


Michigan’s offense struggled for the second week in a row but defense and special teams helped the Wolverines to another double-digit victory. Michigan closed out the non-conference slate with five offensive touchdowns, three defensive touchdowns, one special teams touchdown, 11 field goals, and a safety. In other words, the special teams has scored 48 points, the offense has scored 30, and the defense 20.

This Saturday, Michigan faces a stern test in its Big Ten conference opener in West Lafayette. Raise your hand if you thought you’d hear that sentence prior to the season. No one? Ok, let’s take a look at how the team’s compare through the first fourth of the season.

Purdue & Michigan team stats comparison
Offense Defense
Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank
35.7 43rd 32.7 57th PPG 19.7 41st 14.7 24th
519 598 Rush Yds 389 247
173.0 63rd 199.3 41st Rush/Gm 129.7 53rd 82.3 9th
4.5 4.7 Rush Avg 4.1 2.3
860 608 Pass Yds 734 377
286.7 35th 202.7 84th Pass/Gm 244.7 83rd 125.7 12th
1,379 1,206 Total Off. 1,123 624
459.7 45th 402.0 72nd Total Off./Gm 374.3 68th 208.0 5th
13.5 120th 18.0 94th KR Avg 22.2 94th 15.4 14th
2.6 98th 14.8 18th PR Avg 9.0 87th 2.0 28th
34:35 12th 31:25 45th Avg TOP 25:25 28:35
40% 69th 34% 102nd 3rd Down% 35% 50th 24% 13th
8-40 98th 8-41 98th Sacks-Yds 1-7 129th 13-85 6rd
14 9 TDs 7 5
3-6 (50%) 11-13 (85%) FG-ATT 4-4 (100%) 3-6 (50%)
13-13 (100%) 1st 9-10 (90%) 39th Red Zone 9-11 (82%) 60th 3-4 (75%) 35th
10-13 (77%) 1-10 (10%)  RZ TD 5-11 (45%) 2-4 (50%)
OFEI/DFEI
29.4 66 32.0 49 S&P+ 29.9 75 12.8 2

Purdue is 2-1 under first-year head coach Jeff Brohm and has looked surprisingly un-Purdue-like so far. They hung with Louisville in the season opener, leading 28-25 in the fourth quarter before allowing 10 unanswered points in the final nine minutes. In Week 2, the Boilermakers topped Ohio University 44-21, and this past Saturday they traveled into SEC country and whooped Missouri, 35-3. Missouri is hardly the Mizzou of the past decade, but it’s becoming clear, neither is Purdue.

Brohm has already topped the 2013 season long win total, tied the 2015 total, and needs just one more win to tie 2014 and 2016’s. He has done so with a revamped offense that ranks in the top third nationally in most categories. Last season, in Darrel Hazel’s final year at the helm, Purdue ranked 11th in the Big Ten in scoring, but actually led the conference in passing. Three games into 2017, the Boilers are fourth in the conference in scoring, and sixth in total offense — ahead of Michigan in both categories.

Purdue is averaging 11 more points per game so far than they did a year ago, and that’s not simply because of schedule strength. Despite playing 16th-ranked Louisville this year — compared to a poorer non-conference slate last year — the Boilers have scored 18 more points than they did in the first three games of 2016.

They’ve done it with a strong passing game that is averaging 286.7 yards per game and ranks 35th nationally. They threw for 294 yards against Louisville, which is relatively the same as what the Cardinals allowed to 3rd-ranked Clemson this past Saturday. They followed that up with 295 yards against Ohio and 272 against Missouri. What’s more is that they’ve completed 65 percent of their passes with a 10-4 touchdown to interception ratio.

Purdue is less potent on the ground, ranking 63rd nationally with an average of 173 yards per game. That’s about 26 yards fewer than Michigan on a per game basis, though they’re averaging just 0.2 yards per carry fewer than the Wolverines. Louisville’s defense, which ranks 43rd nationally against the run, held the Boilers to just 51 rushing yards on 21 carries in the opener, so there’s precedent for Michigan’s defense.

Before we get carried away by the success of Purdue’s offense in the early season, let’s also point out that their two wins came against two poor defensive teams. Ohio ranks 69th in scoring defense, 64th against the run, 70th against the pass, and 65th in total defense. Missouri is even worse at 112th in scoring defense, 91st against the run, 98th against the pass, and 102nd in total defense. Louisville is worse yet, ranking 115th in scoring defense, 43rd against the run, 122nd against the pass, and 104th in total. Granted, the Cardinals have played Clemson, who may very well wind up in the College Football Playoff once again this season.

Defensively, Purdue isn’t quite as stout as their offense, ranking 41st in scoring (19.7 points per game), 53rd against the run (129.7 yards per game), 83rd against the pass (244.7 yards per game), and 68th in total defense (374.3 yards per game).

Purdue’s defense let Lamar Jackson throw for 387 yards and two touchdowns and rush for another 107 yards in the opener, but held Missouri to just 203 total yards and 70 rushing yards on 2.4 yards per carry. They did, however, give up nearly 400 total yards to Ohio, letting the Bobcats rush for 4.6 yards per carry and pass for 223 yards. Purdue has struggled to get into the backfield with just one sack and eight tackles for loss through three games. By comparison, Michigan has 13 sacks and 27 tackles for loss so far.

Unlike the Air Force matchup, Michigan will face a more traditional offense this Saturday, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy. It will be the best passing offense the Wolverines’ young defense has faced so far this season. Purdue hasn’t been great at protecting the quarterback — they’ve allowed eight sacks just like Michigan has — so expect Don Brown to dial up plenty of blitzes to keep quarterback David Blough out of rhythm.

If Michigan can survive its first road test of the season the Wolverines will head into the bye week at 4-0 with an extra week to prepare for a rivalry game against Michigan State and a pair of road games at Indiana and Penn State the weeks following.

Comparing the Big Ten’s returning production from 2016: Defense

Monday, August 28th, 2017


(Dustin Johnson)

A few weeks ago, we outlined the returning offensive production throughout the Big Ten, which showed that last year’s Big Ten champion, Penn State returns the most production in the conference and Michigan finds itself just inside the top half. Today, we take a look at the defensive side, which will show a much different story for the Wolverines.

A year ago, Purdue returned the most defensive production, but finished just 91st nationally in total defense, going just 3-9 overall. Conversely, Michigan returned the fourth-fewest defensive production and finished with the best defense in the nation, and Ohio State returned the second-fewest and finished with the nation’s sixth-best total defense.

The story was different in 2015 as Ohio State entered that season with the most returning defensive production and backed it up with the conference’s third-best defense.

So what does this year have in store? Let’s take a look at the Big Ten’s returning defensive production. At the end, we’ll tie it all together with the offense to see if there are any indications of who will capture the Big Ten title this December.

Defense

Returning defense
Team Percent Returning 2016 Total Defense Rating
Maryland 78% 77
Indiana 78% 45
Iowa 74% 23
Rutgers 72% 97
Wisconsin 71% 7
Penn State 71% 37
Ohio State 69% 6
Northwestern 67% 60
Nebraska 59% 30
Purdue 59% 91
Minnesota 53% 21
Michigan State 51% 32
Illinois 46% 61
Michigan 40% 1

As a whole, there is more returning defensive production throughout the Big Ten than there was a year ago, which is contrary to the other side of the ball which seems less offensive production returning than there was in 2016. Like last year, a weak defensive team leads the way in returning production as Maryland brings back 78 percent if its 77th-ranked defense. The Terps went 6-7 overall and 3-6 in the Big Ten in D.J. Durkin’s first season at the helm, but look to improve on that with their top three tacklers, top five in tackles for loss, and four of their top five sacks returning. They’ll have to create more turnovers if they want to see improvement, as Maryland forced a Big Ten-worst 12 turnovers last season and only seven of those are returning.

Indiana brings back the second-most production for the second straight season and there might just be something there for once. The Hoosiers improved significantly from 120th in 2015 to 45th in 2017 under Tom Allen, who became the head coach when Kevin Wilson was fired this offseason. In the first few seasons of Wilson’s guidance, defense was an afterthought to the electric offense, but Allen changed that last fall. It’s a safe bet to assume the Hoosiers will be more defense-oriented under Allen, especially with the pieces he has coming back, most notably linebacker Tegray Scales, who lead the Big Ten with 126 tackles and 23.5 tackles for loss. Safety Jonathan Crawford, who lead the team with seven takeaways, and corner Rashard Fant, who lead the Big Ten with 20 passes defended, are also welcome returns.

Top returning Big Ten defensive linemen by production
Name (Yr.) Team Tackles TFL Sacks
Gelen Robinson (Sr.) Purdue 61 8 5
Dre’Mont Jones (RS So.) Ohio State 52 4 0
Jesse Aniebonam (Sr.) Maryland 46 14 9
Sam Hubbard (RS Jr.) Ohio State 46 8 3.5
Matt Nelson (RS Jr.) Iowa 43 6.5 5.5
Kingsley Opara (5th) Maryland 41 11.5 3

Iowa, Rutgers, Wisconsin, and Penn State each return just over 70 percent of their defenses this fall. The Hawkeyes have 74 percent of the nation’s 23rd-best defense returning, most notably linebacker Josey Jewell, the Big Ten’s second-leading returning tackler. Iowa’s defense really tightened the reigns during the second half of the 2016 season, allowing just 16.2 points per game over their last five, but they were destroyed by Florida, 30-3, in the Outback Bowl. And now they return seven starters including the entire linebacking corps, which figures to be one of the best in the conference.

Rutgers returns 72 percent of its defensive contributions and eight of 11 starters, but the Scarlet Knights still have a long way to go. In Chris Ash’s first season, the Rutgers defense ranked 97th nationally in total defense and 116th in scoring defense, giving up 37.5 points per game. Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Penn State beat Rutgers by a combined 224-0 — an average of 56 points allowed. Ash was Ohio State’s defensive coordinator prior to taking the job in New Brunswick, so a betting man would be wise to expect an improvement over last year, but just how much is the question. Nearly the entire back seven returns, in addition to Michigan transfer Ross Douglas, who may win a starting job as a hybrid linebacker.

Top returning Big Ten linebackers by production
Name (Yr.) Team Tackles TFL Sacks
Tegray Scales (Sr.) Indiana 126 23.5 7
Josey Jewell (5th) Iowa 124 6 1.5
Jermaine Carter Jr. (5th) Maryland 110 9 6
Shane Cockerille (5th) Maryland 108 8 3
Tre Watson (RS Jr.) Illinois 102 4.5 0
Trevor Morris (Jr.) Rutgers 102 3.5 1

Wisconsin and Penn State both return 71 percent of their defensive production from 2016. Whereas the Badgers posted one of the nation’s best defenses — seventh in total defense and fourth in scoring defense — Penn State was an above average defense, ranking 37th in total and 47th in scoring. Wisconsin has to replace T.J. Watt and Vince Biegel at outside linebacker, though Garret Dooley got significant playing time while Biegel was injured a year ago. The inside linebackers, Jack Cichy and T.J. Edwards, are among the Big Ten’s best. The biggest losses in the secondary were safety Leo Musso and cornerback Sojourn Shelton, who accounted for 10 of the team’s 28 takeaways.

Penn State somehow came out of nowhere to win the Big Ten last season after starting the season 2-2 including a 49-10 blowout loss at Michigan. Now, with the most offensive production returning from what became an explosive offense, the Nittany Lions are in great shape in 2017 if the defense improves even slightly. Six starters return along with 71 percent of the defensive production. Free safety Marcus Allen lead the team with 110 tackles a year ago and he’s back to lead a secondary that has some questions marks. Penn State has a strong linebacking corps returning with Jason Cabinda and Manny Bowen bringing back 149 tackles 12.5 for loss, and three sacks.

Ohio State and Northwestern return 69 and 67 percent of their defensive production, respectively, but Ohio State featured the nation’s sixth-best defense and Northwestern had an uncharacteristically bad 60th-ranked unit. The Buckeyes bring back six full-time starters including most of their front seven. Dre’Mont Jones, Sam Hubbard, and Tyquan Lewis lead what most pundits are calling the best defensive line in the Big Ten — though Michigan’s should have something to say about that — while Jerome Baker and Chris Worley return at linebacker. The main question mark is the secondary which returns only free safety Damon Webb, but has a lot of talent filling in.

While Northwestern’s total defense wasn’t great in 2016, it’s scoring defense ranked 24th, giving up just 22.2 points per game. The Wildcats lost three games that its defense played well enough to win and that was the difference between a good season and a mediocre season. Now, seven starters return including three from the line and three from the secondary. Safety Godwin Igwebuike lead the team with 108 tackles last season, while fellow safety Kyle Queiro and cornerback Montre Hartage return. The three combined for 11 takeaways a year ago. Nate Hall is the only returning starter at linebacker, and Pat Fitzgerald will have to find a replacement for Anthony Walker, who was one of the Big Ten’s best linebackers in 2016.

Nebraska and Purdue both return 59 percent of their defensive production. The Cornhuskers return six starters from the nation’s 30th-best total defense and 33rd-best scoring defense. Most of the secondary returns to form what should be one of the Big Ten’s best secondaries this fall. Only four teams nationally allowed fewer passes per game of 20-plus yards than Nebraska’s 2.2, and most of their interceptions return. Safeties Aaron Williams, Joshua Kalu, and Kieron Williams and cornerback Chris Jones combined for 234 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, and 12 takeaways and all are back for more.

Top returning Big Ten defensive backs by production
Name (Yr.) Team Tackles TFL Takeaways
Marcus Allen (Sr.) Penn State 110 6 2
Godwin Igwbuike (5th) Northwestern 108 6 3
Brandon Snyder (RS Jr.) Iowa 85 3 5
Patrick Nelson (RS So.) Illinois 75 2.5 1
Jonathan Crawford (Jr.) Indiana 71 0.5 7
Tony Fields (Sr.) Indiana 70 0.5 2

Purdue also has six returning starters, but its defense ranked 91st nationally last season and 117th in scoring. It wasn’t quite Rutgers bad, but it was close, giving up 38.3 points per game. Defensive tackle Gelen Robinson is the conference’s top returning defensive lineman in terms of production with 61 tackles, eight for loss, and five sacks. Linebackers Markus Bailey and Danny Ezechukwu should form the strength of the defense, while a pair of additions to the secondary — T.J Jallow from East Mississippi Community College and Josh Okonye, a grad transfer from Wake Forest — will add some depth to an inexperience secondary.

Minnesota and Michigan State return 53 and 51 percent of their 2016 defensive production, respectively. Both ranked in the top 32 nationally last season, but the Gophers are breaking in a new head coach. Landing P.J. Fleck, who took Western Michigan to a New Year’s Six bowl, was a big coup for the program but he has to replace about half of his defensive production and six starters. Michigan State, meanwhile, felt the sting of losing defensive coordinator, falling from 25th in scoring defense in 2015 to 61st last season, allowing 27.8 points per game. To make matters worse, the MSU defense lost its best player, Malik McDowell, to the NFL and the team has been dealing with arrests and suspensions all offseason.

Illinois and Michigan return the least production this fall with the Illini bringing back 46 percent and Michigan just 40 percent. Illinois had just the 61st-best total defense and 94th-best scoring defense in Lovie Smith’s first season last fall. The former NFL head coach was known as a defensive minded coach and he added former NFL cornerback Donnie Abraham to his staff this summer. Linebacker Tre Watson is the fifth-leading returning tackler in the Big Ten and safeties Stanley Green and Patrick Nelson are good pieces to build around.

Michigan had the nation’s best defense in Don Brown’s first season running the unit and most expect a big dropoff this fall. The Wolverines lost 10 of 11 full-time starters, eight of which were drafted, including Heisman Trophy candidate Jabrill Peppers. But although it seems hard to believe, this year’s defense figures to be faster and more athletic than the one that was made up of Brady Hoke recruits a year ago. Replacing Peppers will be no easy task, but that’s a spot that Brown has proven he can mold playmakers to succeed in throughout his career. Rashan Gary is a popular pick for a breakout season on the line and a host of young but talented defensive backs are ready to step in. The Wolverines may not lead the nation in defense in 2017, but the dropoff won’t be as big as many expect.

Conclusion

Since we began analyzing returning production four years ago, the eventual Big Ten champion fell within a very similar range when offensive and defensive returning production numbers were plotted on a chart. Ohio State, Michigan State, and Penn State all fell within the grey oval in the chart below.

As you can see, no teams fall within that zone this season, but the closest are Rutgers and Wisconsin. It’s a pretty safe bet that Rutgers won’t win the Big Ten, but Wisconsin has a very real chance to do so. If the Badgers were in the East they’d have a tougher road, but they’re the clear favorite to win the West with a favorable conference slate that has them traveling only to Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, and Minnesota. They host Northwestern, Iowa, and East crossover Michigan.

The Badgers have approximately the right mix of returning production on both sides of the ball to make a run at the Big Ten title, and if the past three years hold true they very well may do so this December.

Comparing the Big Ten’s returning production from 2016: Offense

Monday, July 17th, 2017


(Sean M. Haffey, Getty Images)

Independence Day has come and gone, which means fall camp kicks off in a couple weeks and college football season will be here before we know it. While Michigan doesn’t have quite the hype it had entering last season the Wolverines still find themselves ranked in the top ten in most preseason publications.

It’s time to kickoff our preseason coverage with a look at how each team in the Big Ten compares in terms of returning production. It’s certainly not the end all be all when it comes to determining how each team will fare, but in the three years that we’ve been tracking this, it has produced some interesting results. All three years, the eventual Big Ten champion returned nearly the exact same mix of offensive and defensive production.

In 2014, Ohio State returned 60 percent of its offense and defense and won the conference. In 2015, Michigan State returned 54 percent of its offense and 67 percent of its defense — roughly 60 percent overall — and won the league. Last season, Penn State returned just under 60 percent of its total production and, you guessed it, won the Big Ten.

Could that sweet spot hold true again this year? We’ll get to that, but let’s start with the offense.

Offense

Returning offense
Team Percent Returning 2016 Total Offense Ranking
Penn State 90% 49th
Northwestern 81% 73rd
Purdue 74% 80th
Ohio State 71% 31st
Indiana 64% 56th
Michigan 62% 58th
Illinois 61% 123rd
Rutgers 53% 128th
Wisconsin 50% 89th
Maryland 50% 95th
Minnesota 47% 107th
Michigan State 39% 75th
Iowa 30% 121st
Nebraska 22% 90th
Returning scoring offense
Team Percent Returning 2016 Scoring Offense Ranking
Penn State 88% 21st
Northwestern 82% 87th
Purdue 73% 101st
Ohio State 67% 13th
Michigan 65% 11th
Illinois 63% 122nd
Indiana 62% 88th
Minnesota 54% 63rd
Wisconsin 53% 67th
Rutgers 52% 127th
Maryland 50% 88th
Michigan State 38% 104th
Iowa 30% 95th
Nebraska 20% 79th

Penn State joins last year’s Nebraska, 2015’s Ohio State, and 2014’s Maryland as the teams with the most returning offensive production from the year prior. But that’s not necessarily good news for the Nittany Lions. None of those three won their division that fall as Nebraska finished third in the West at 9-4, Ohio State went 12-1 but finished second behind Michigan State in the East, and Maryland finished third in the East at 7-6.

Like Ohio State in 2015, Penn State is the returning Big Ten champion and only has to replace its top receiver. The Nittany Lions return the Big Ten’s top passer, Trace McSorley, and the second-leading rusher, Saquon Barkley. The pair accounted for nearly 5,500 yards of offense and 54 touchdowns in 2016. James Franklin will have to find a replacement for receiver Chris Godwin, who was drafted 84th overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after leading the team with 982 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. But Gesicki is the leading returning tight end in the conference with 679 yards and five touchdowns a year ago and rising seniors DeAndre Thompkins and Saeed Blacknall combined for nearly 800 yards and four scores in 2016.

Top returning Big Ten quarterbacks by passing production
Name (Yr.) Team Comp/Att (%) Yards TDs
Trace McSorley (RS Jr.) Penn State 224/387 (57.9) 3,614 29
David Blough (RS So.) Purdue 295/517 (57.1) 3,352 25
Richard Lagow (5th) Indiana 253/438 (57.8) 3,362 19
Clayton Thorson (RS Jr.) Northwestern 280/478 (58.6) 3,182 22
J.T. Barrett (Sr.) Ohio State 233/379 (61.5) 2,555 24
Wilton Speight (RS Jr.) Michigan 204/331 (61.6) 2,538 18

After Penn State, Northwestern returns the second most offensive production with 81 percent of its offense and 82 percent of its scoring offense back for another year. The Wildcats finished fifth in the Big Ten West with a 7-6 overall record and a 5-4 conference record and their offense wasn’t the strength, finishing 73rd nationally in total offense and 87th in scoring.

Quarterback Clayton Thorson is the fourth-leading returning quarterback in the Big Ten after throwing for more yards (3,182) than any other sophomore in Northwestern history. Running back Justin Jackson lead the Big Ten in rushing last season, averaging 117.2 yards per game, and he’s back for his senior season. Like Penn State, Northwestern has to replace its top receiver, Austin Carr, who was far and away the Big Ten’s leading receiver a year ago. His 1,247 yards were 252 more than the next best. Junior Flynn Nagel is NU’s leading receiver with 447 yards and two touchdowns.

Top returning Big Ten running backs by production
Name (Yr.) Team Rush Att. Yards TDs
Justin Jackson (Sr.) Northwestern 298 1,524 15
Saquan Barkley (Jr.) Penn State 272 1,496 18
Rodney Smith (RS Jr.) Minnesota 240 1,158 16
Mike Weber (So.) Ohio State 182 1,096 9
Akrum Wadley (5th) Iowa 168 1,081 10
Ty Johnson (Jr.) Maryland 110 1,004 6

Purdue returns the third-most offensive production with 74 percent of the nation’s 80th-best offense and 73 percent of the 101st-best scoring offense coming back. Redshirt sophomore quarterback David Blough was one of the lone bright spots for the Boilermakers, who went just 3-9 overall and 1-8 in the Big Ten. Blough lead the conference with 279.3 passing yards per game and finished second with 25 passing touchdowns. His 517 passing attempts were 38 more than any other conference quarterback despite playing one fewer game.

Ohio State is an intriguing story this fall, returning the fourth-most offensive production from last season with 71 percent of their total offense and 67 percent of their scoring. But the big addition that isn’t shown in the returning production statistics is the offseason hiring of offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, the offensive guru who was Indiana’s head coach the past six seasons. His hiring was music to the ears of OSU fans who had become increasingly angered with Ed Wariner and Tim Beck’s erratic play calling.

Wilson will install his tempo-based spread attack into an offense that returns more than two-thirds of its production and that could be a scary thing. The Buckeyes do have to replace Curtis Samuel, who finished third on the team with 771 rushing yards and lead the team with 865 receiving yards, racking up 15 touchdowns in the process, but with Mike Weber returning from a 1,000-yard freshman campaign and J.T. Barrett back for another season behind center, Ohio State should take a step forward on offense this fall. The only question mark is at the receiver position where tight end Marcus Baugh is the leading returner with just 269 yards and two touchdowns.

Top returning Big Ten receivers by production
Name (Yr.) Team Receptions Yards TDs
Nick Westbrook (Jr.) Indiana 54 995 6
Malik Turner (Sr.) Illinois 48 712 6
Mike Gesicki (Sr.) Penn State 48 679 5
D.J. Moore (Jr.) Maryland 41 637 6
Jazz Peavy (5th) Wisconsin 43 635 5
Troy Fumagalli (5th) Wisconsin 47 580 2

Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois all return about the same amount of offensive production — in the low 60 percent — but Michigan stands out among the three for a couple of reasons. Whereas Michigan and Indiana both ranked about the same in total offense last season (Indiana 56th, Michigan 58th), Illinois had the nation’s 123rd-best offense. And Ohio State’s gain was Indiana’s loss with regards to Wilson. The Hoosiers’ offense is sure to take a step back under new offensive coordinator Mike DeBord.

Michigan, meanwhile, returns quarterback Wilton Speight — the first returning starter at the position since Harbaugh has been in Ann Arbor — and also returns plenty of experience at the running back position. Chris Evans is slated to assume the starter role which he shared with De’Veon Smith a year ago. Evans showed flashes of brilliance as a true freshman and now looks to expand that into a full season this fall. Receiver is the main question mark for the Wolverines after losing Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson, and Jake Butt to the NFL. But there is plenty of young talent ready to step up.

The next level of returning offensive production includes Rutgers, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Minnesota, who each return around half of last season’s production. Rutgers had the nation’s worst offense and second worst scoring offense last season, so they won’t factor into the discussion. Maryland had four different quarterbacks who passed for at least 200 yards last season and returns two of them, but also returns a 1,000-yard rusher in Ty Johnson. Minnesota has to replace quarterback Mitch Leidner, who passed for 2,169 yards and rushed for 366, but brings back the third-leading returning running back, Rodney Smith, who rushed for 1,158 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Wisconsin is the team that could be poised for another run at a Big Ten title this fall with solid talent returning. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook will take the reigns fully this fall after sharing with Bart Houston. The redshirt sophomore completed 58.6 percent of his passes for 1,262 yards, nine touchdowns, and seven interceptions a year ago. He has two of the Big Ten’s top six returning receivers to throw to in Jazz Peavy and tight end Troy Fumagalli, who combined for 1,215 yards and seven scores last season, but does have to find a replacement for Corey Clement in the ground game. Bradrick Shaw rushed for 457 yards on 5.2 yards per carry and the Badgers add Pitt transfer Chris James, who averaged five yards per carry in 2015.

A trio of usual stalwarts bring up the rear in terms of returning production as Michigan State, Iowa, and Nebraska have the least returning this fall. The Spartans found themselves in the same position last year and their total offense went from 73rd nationally in 2015 to 75th in 2016, while their scoring offense fell from 60th to 140th. They do have running back L.J. Scott back, but have to replace their top four receivers and quarterback Tyler O’Connor. Brian Lewerke figures to start the season behind center, but Dantonio’s offense has as many question marks as any team in the conference.

Iowa brings back just 30 percent of its total offense and scoring offense, both of which ranked among the Big Ten’s worst in 2016. Quarterback C.J. Beathard, running back LeShun Daniels, and receiver Riley McCarron are all gone, but Akrum Wadley does bring back his 1,081-yard, 10-touchdown performance.

Finally, Nebraska has just 22 percent of its 90th-ranked total offense and 20 percent of its 79th-ranked scoring offense returning. The Cornhuskers have to replace quarterback Tommy Armstrong, their top two rushers, and three of their top four receivers. Redshirt junior Tanner Lee and redshirt freshman Patrick O’Brien will battle for the starting quarterback position and head coach Mike Riley will have to find playmakers everywhere to step up.

It’s shaping up to be an interesting Big Ten race this fall, at least as far as offenses are concerned, with a lack of top-flight quarterbacks and not many household names returning. The rich seem to be getting richer as Penn State and Ohio State have the clear advantage offensively. If the Nittany Lions can continue the torrid offensive pace that they closed 2016 with they’ll be a force to be reckoned with, and if Kevin Wilson can improve the Buckeyes’ offense, we could be looking at a two-team race.

Stay tuned as we take a look at the returning defenses later this week.

Big Ten power rankings 2016: Pre-bowl

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016


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Each Wednesday throughout the season we will release our Big Ten power rankings. These are voted on individually by the five members of our staff and then each team’s ranking is averaged to reach our power rankings. As these are simply power rankings, they are based on each team’s performance to date, not what happened last season or what will happen in the future.

Previous: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8, Week 9, Week 10, Week 11, Week 12

*Black dash signifies previous week’s ranking

Big Ten power rankings – Pre-Bowl
Team Up/Dn Last Week This Week
1. Ohio State (11-1, 8-1) Even Beat Michigan 30-27 2OT CFP Semifinal – Fiesta Bowl
Sat. vs #2 Clemson (12-1, 7-1), 7pm, ESPN
2. Michigan (10-2, 7-2) Even Lost at #2 OSU 27-30 2OT Orange Bowl
Fri. vs #11 FSU (9-3, 5-3), 8pm, ESPN
3. Penn State (11-2, 8-1) Up 1 Beat #6 Wisconsin 38-31  Rose Bowl
Mon. vs #9 USC (9-3, 7-2), 5pm, ESPN
4. Wisconsin (10-3, 7-2) Down 1 Lost to #7 PSU 31-38 Cotton Bowl
Mon. vs #15 WMU (13-0, 8-0), 1pm, ESPN
5. Nebraska (9-3, 6-3) Even Lost to Iowa 10-40 Music City Bowl
Fri. vs #21 Tenn. (8-4, 4-4), 3:30pm, ESPN
6. Iowa (8-4, 6-3) Even Beat Nebraska 40-10 Outback Bowl
Mon. vs #17 Florida (8-4, 6-2), 1pm, ABC
7. Minnesota (8-4, 5-4) Even Lost at #6 Wisc 17-31 Holiday Bowl
Tue. vs WSU (7-5, 7-2)
8. Northwestern (6-6, 5-4) Up 1 Beat Illinois 42-21 Pinstripe Bowl
Wed. vs Pitt (8-4, 5-3)
9. Indiana (6-6, 4-5) Down 1 Beat Purdue 26-24 Foster Farms Bowl
Wed. vs Utah (8-4, 5-4)
10. Maryland (6-6, 3-6) Even Beat Rutgers 31-13 Quick Lane Bowl
Mon. vs Boston College (6-6, 2-6)
11. Illinois (3-9, 2-7) Up 1 Lost at NW 21-42 Season Over
12. MSU (3-9, 1-8) Down 1 Lost at #7 PSU 12-45 Season Over
13. Purdue (3-9, 1-8) Even Lost at Indiana 26-24 Season Over
14. Rutgers (2-10, 0-9) Even Lost at Maryland 13-31 Season Over

Heading into the heart of bowl season, Ohio State and Michigan hold onto the top two spots despite neither making the Big Ten championship game. Both face tough bowl games this weekend with Michigan playing 11th-ranked Florida State in the Orange Bowl on Friday night and Ohio State facing 2nd-ranked Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal on Saturday night.

Penn State leapfrogs Wisconsin thanks to a 38-31 win over the Badgers in the Big Ten championship game. The Nittany Lions will try to continue their late-season momentum with a Rose Bowl win over 9th-ranked USC on Monday. Wisconsin, meanwhile, gets a no-win situation against 15th-ranked Western Michigan in the Cotton Bowl on Monday. Beat the Broncos and it just shows the difference in the level of competition. Lose to the Broncos and it’s a black eye for the program even though WMU is one of just two undefeated teams.

Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota hold onto the five through seven spots, though the first two are tied for fifth. Nebraska holds a one-game advantage in the standings, but Iowa throttled the Cornhuskers 40-10 in the regular season finale. They both get to face SEC foes in their bowl games with Nebraska seeing 21st-ranked Tennessee on Saturday and Iowa taking on 17th-ranked Florida on Monday. Minnesota beat Washington State in the Holiday Bowl this past Tuesday, but that was not factored into this week’s power rankings.

Northwestern and Indiana flip spots after regular season ending wins over Illinois and Purdue, respectively. The Wildcats upset Pittsburgh in the Pinstripe Bowl on Wednesday afternoon (not factored into this week’s rankings) and Indiana played 19th-ranked Utah in the Foster Farms Bowl Wednesday night.

Maryland held onto the 10th spot after topping Rutgers 31-13. They lost to Boston College in the Quick Lane Bowl on Monday night, though it also is not factored into this week’s rankings.

Illinois, Michigan State, Purdue, and Rutgers round out the rankings as the only four non-bowl eligible teams in the Big Ten. All four lost their season finale. They’ll look to rebound in 2017.

 

Big Ten power rankings 2016 — Week 12

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016


power-rankings_header

Each Wednesday throughout the season we will release our Big Ten power rankings. These are voted on individually by the five members of our staff and then each team’s ranking is averaged to reach our power rankings. As these are simply power rankings, they are based on each team’s performance to date, not what happened last season or what will happen in the future.

Previous: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8, Week 9, Week 10, Week 11

week-12-power-rankings

*Black dash signifies previous week’s ranking

Big Ten power rankings – Week 12
Team Up/Dn Last Week This Week
1. Ohio State (10-1, 7-1) Even Beat MSU 17-16 Sat. vs #3 Michigan (10-1, 7-1), 12pm, ABC
2. Michigan (10-1, 7-1) Even Beat Indiana 20-10 Sat. at #2 OSU (10-1, 7-1), 12pm, ABC
3. Wisconsin (9-2, 6-2) Even Beat Purdue 49-20 Sat. vs Minn. (8-3, 5-3), 3:30pm, BTN
4. Penn State (9-2, 7-1) Even Beat Rutgers 39-0 Sat. vs MSU (3-8, 1-7), 3:30pm, ESPN
5. Nebraska (9-2, 6-2) Even Beat Maryland 28-7 Fri. at Iowa (7-4, 5-3), 3:30pm, ABC
6. Iowa (7-4, 5-3) Even Beat Illinois 28-0 Fri. vs #16 Neb. (9-2, 6-2), 3:30pm, ABC
7. Minnesota (8-3, 5-3) Even Beat N’western 29-12 Sat. at #6 Wisc. (9-2, 6-2), 3:30pm, ESPN
8. Indiana (5-6, 3-5) Even Lost at #3 Mich. 10-20 Sat. vs Purdue (3-8, 1-7), 12pm, ESPNU
9. Northwestern (5-6, 4-4) Even Lost at Minn. 12-29 Sat vs Illinois (3-8, 2-6), 12pm, BTN
10. Maryland (5-6, 2-6) Even Lost at #18 Neb. 7-28 Sat. vs Rutgers (2-9, 0-8), 12pm, ESPNN
11. Michigan State (3-8, 1-7) Even Lost to #2 OSU 16-17 Sat at #7 PSU (9-2, 7-1), 3:30pm, ESPN
12. Illinois (3-8, 2-6) Even Lost to Iowa 0-28 Sat at N’western (3-8, 2-6), 12pm, BTN
13. Purdue (3-8, 1-7) Even Lost to #7 Wisc. 20-49 Sat. at Indiana (5-6, 3-5), 12pm, ESPNU
14. Rutgers (2-9, 0-8) Even Lost to #8 PSU 0-39 Sat. at Maryland (5-6, 2-6), 12pm, ESPNN

As college football heads into the last weekend of the regular season, our Big Ten power rankings remained exactly the same as last week. Interestingly, the top seven teams all won while the bottom seven teams all lost in Week 12.

The top four — Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Penn State — remained exactly the same with OSU gaining all five first place votes, Michigan garnering four of five second place votes, Wisconsin getting four of five third place votes, and Penn State securing four of five fourth place votes. Nebraska remained fifth, but slipped slightly from 5.0 to 5.2, while Iowa gained one of their fifth place votes, going from 6.2 to 6.0. Minnesota and Indiana remained at 7.2 and 8.0, respectively, despite the Hoosiers losing to Michigan.

Northwestern retained the ninth spot, but fell from 8.6 to 9.2 after losing to Minnesota, 29-12. There’s a large leap between the Wildcats and the 10-14 spots. Maryland comes in just ahead of Michigan State at 10.8, whereas the Spartans are 11.0 after nearly knocking off Ohio State. Illinois is also 11.0. Purdue and Rutgers round out the rankings.

As we head into this weekend, a lot is still at stake. Michigan and Ohio State face off to determine the Big Ten East division winner. If the Wolverines win, they head to the Big Ten championship game next weekend. If Ohio State wins they’ll have to wait for the outcome of the afternoon matchup between Penn State and Michigan State. A Penn State win would send the Nittany Lions to Indianapolis, while a MSU win would send the Buckeyes to Indy.

In the West division, Wisconsin has the inside track, needing just a win over Minnesota. The Badgers can also go to Indy with a loss and an Iowa win over Nebraska. Nebraska needs to beat Iowa on Friday and have Wisconsin lose the next day to advance.

So sit back and enjoy an exciting weekend of Big Ten football with nearly half the conference still in the title hunt. Unless Michigan loses. Then you can drown your sorrows.

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Big Ten power rankings 2016 — Week 11

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016


power-rankings_header

Each Wednesday throughout the season we will release our Big Ten power rankings. These are voted on individually by the five members of our staff and then each team’s ranking is averaged to reach our power rankings. As these are simply power rankings, they are based on each team’s performance to date, not what happened last season or what will happen in the future.

Previous: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8, Week 9, Week 10

week-11-power-rankings*Black dash signifies previous week’s ranking

Big Ten power rankings – Week 10
Team Up/Dn Last Week This Week
1. Ohio State (9-1, 6-1) Up 1 Beat Maryland 62-3 Sat. at MSU (3-7, 1-6), 12pm, ESPN
2. Michigan (9-1, 6-1) Down 1 Lost at Iowa 13-14 Sat. vs Indiana (5-5, 3-4), 3:30pm, ESPN
3. Wisconsin (8-2, 5-2) Even Beat Illinois 48-3 Sat. at Purdue (3-7, 1-6), 12pm, ABC
4. Penn State (8-2, 6-1) Even Beat Indiana 45-31 Sat at Rutgers (2-8, 0-7), 8pm, BTN
5. Nebraska (8-2, 5-2) Even Beat Minnesota 24-17 Sat. vs Maryland (5-5, 2-5), 12pm, ESPNN
6. Iowa (6-4, 4-3) Up 3 Beat #3 Michigan 14-13 Sat. at Illinois (3-7, 2-5), 12pm, BTN
7. Minnesota (7-3, 4-3) Down 1 Lost at #19 Neb. 17-24 Sat. vs N’western (5-5, 4-3), 3:30pm, BTN
8. Indiana (5-5, 3-4) Down 1 Lost to #10 PSU 31-45 Sat. at #3 Michigan (9-1, 6-1), 3:30pm, ESPN
9. Northwestern (5-5, 4-3) Down 1 Beat Purdue 45-17 Sat at Minnesota (7-3, 4-3), 3:30pm, BTN
10. Maryland (5-5, 2-5) Even Lost to #5 OSU 3-62 Sat. at #18 Neb. (8-2, 5-2), 12pm, ESPNN
11. Michigan State (3-7, 1-6) Up 2 Beat Rutgers 49-0 Sat vs #2 OSU (9-1, 6-1), 12pm, ESPN
12. Illinois (3-7, 2-5) Down 1 Lost at #7 Wisc. 3-48 Sat vs Iowa (6-4, 4-3), 12pm, BTN
13. Purdue (3-7, 1-6) Down 1 Lost to N’western 17-45 Sat. vs #7 Wisc. (8-2, 5-2), 12pm, ABC
14. Rutgers (2-8, 0-7) Even Lost to MSU 0-49 Sat. vs #8 PSU (8-2, 6-1), 8pm, BTN

After holding the top spot for three weeks, Michigan falls back to two after a heartbreaking 14-13 loss at Iowa. Ohio State regains  top billing, which the Buckeyes held for the first seven weeks of the season. Wisconsin, Penn State, and Nebraska remain in the same order from three to five after wins over Illinois, Indiana, and Minnesota, respectively. Interestingly, the top five all face opponents ranked in the bottom half of the conference this Saturday.

Iowa takes the biggest leap of the week, moving up three spots after shocking Michigan. They leap ahead of Minnesota, Indiana, and Northwestern, all of whom moved down one spot. Maryland remains in the 10th spot despite a 62-3 loss to Ohio State — the second straight week the Terrapins have remained the same after losing big. I guess that says a lot about the bottom four. Speaking of, Michigan State avoided the Big Ten cellar, proving that they’re better than at least one team in the conference with a 49-0 win over Rutgers. Illinois and Purdue each dropped a spot after losing to Wisconsin and Northwestern, while Rutgers remains in distant last with all five last-place votes for the fifth straight week.

Three of the bottom four face top-10 opponents this Saturday with Michigan State hosting 2nd-ranked Ohio State, Purdue hosting 7th-ranked Wisconsin, and Rutgers hosting 8th-ranked Penn State.

 

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