Scouting The Big 10: Week Five

Week Five:

Big Ten Beat: Wisconsin Falters, MSU Drops, Northwestern Real, Indiana Can Hang

Conference Roundup: 1-0 out of conference
We are finally here, conference play. After a combined cupcake schedule, the conference at last meets some real opponents. Iowa beat Wisconsin at its own game of running and stout defense. Indiana and Purdue nearly toppled the top two teams in the country, respectively. Northwestern proved itself legitimate (again). Minnesota proved quite the opposite. Illinois and Nebraska were closely matched, while Michigan continues their impressive turnaround.

Four Downs

Badgers Upset
Wisconsin has been clicking all season. They exhibited balance, and Joel Stave looked to have finally turned the corner. We jumped the gun on that one. Now, let me be clear, Iowa deserves all the credit in this one. Behind a hammering running game and suffocating defense, the Hawkeyes proved to be an incredibly tough team. Even without their passing game working. However, more was expected of the Badgers. Stave regressed, offering up two interceptions and two fumbles. The running game was stuffed, and the passing attack groaned to a complete halt without Alex Erickson. Wisconsin was stout in the secondary, but were exploited in the running game, getting blown off the ball regularly. Wisconsin now has to battle to catch up with a pair of undefeateds in Northwestern and Iowa if they want to reach their aspirations of contending for the conference title.

Michigan State Drops In Polls

The Spartans have been riding high since their win over Oregon. They moved comfortably into the second spot in the polls, and beat up on both Air Force and Central Michigan. Then, they nearly blew it against Purdue. Boasting a 21-7 lead entering the fourth quarter, Michigan State allowed Purdue to climb within three points. No offense to Purdue, but they should not belong on the same field as the number two team in the country. Yes, crazy things happen in college football, and flukes are abundant. However, the Boilermakers showed that the Spartan defense is not unbeatable, especially against the run. Luckily for Michigan State, the offense is still functioning. LJ Scott and Madre London are a potent one-two punch, while Connor Cook is a steady quarterback who owns the part of game manager.

Northwestern a Legitimate Threat

Welcome to the top 15, Northwestern. Coming into the weekend, the Wildcats were sitting just beyond at No. 16, and facing one of their stiffer challenges of the season in a Minnesota team that nearly toppled TCU in their opener. Well, turns out the Wildcats are not just undefeated, they are really good. Despite being an unrefined passer against a talented tandem of cornerbacks, Clayton Thorson managed to complete 14 of his 19 attempts. He even proved effective running, especially from close range—he notched two touchdowns against the Gophers. Justin Jackson was a workhorse, and multiple receivers got involved (eight players caught at least one pass). It was on defense however that the Wildcats really handled the Gophers. They completely stifled Mitch Leidner and Demry Croft, who finished 15 of 31 for 99 yards (a putrid 3.1-yard average), zero touchdowns, one interceptions and QBRs of 5.9 and 8.3, respectively. They also held the Gophers to a mere 74 rushing yards on 33 attempts, surrendering a 2.2 yards-per-carry average. Northwestern is facing a tough slate of games these next couple of weeks, but they have impressed with every step this season.

Indiana Nearly Knocks Off Ohio State

They almost had it. Taking a lead into half time, Indiana was looking for the upset. Even with starting quarterback Nate Sudfeld and the nation’s leading rusher, Jordan Howard, leaving early with injuries, the Hoosiers fought Ohio State hard. In Sudfeld’s wake, Zander Diamont came on to go six of 14 passing for 76 yards. He also aided the weakened running game but adding 98 yards on seven carries, including a 79-yard touchdown run. While Ezekiel Elliott feasted on the Hoosier run defense to the tune of 274 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries, the defense did manage to keep Cardale Jones from beating them—Jones went 18 of 27 for 245 yards, one touchdown, one interception, and an 11.2 QBR. The loss is the Hoosiers’ first of the season. They clearly are not an equal to the Buckeyes, but it is hard not to be impressed with what the Hoosiers have been able to do this season. With three ranked teams left on the schedule, the Hoosiers may yet get their upset.

Big Ten Players of the Week

Offense: Ezekiel Elliott, Jr. Running Back, Ohio State
This is the production that made Elliott a Heisman favorite coming into the season. He broke long runs, and hammered out medium runs, displaying a combination of speed, power, and balance. It will not be the last time Elliott puts up big numbers, watch for him to continue accumulating them before his jump to the pros.

Defense: Desmond King, Jr. Cornerback, Iowa

The veteran leader for a tough Hawkeye defense, King showed up exactly when he needed to. King hauled in two Joel Stave interceptions, while racking up nine tackles. Thus far, the coverman has notched five interceptions through five games, leading the conference in the category.

Defense: Joe Schobert, Sr. Linebacker, Wisconsin

Playing on the opposite team from King, Schobert continued to wreak havoc on offensive lines. A consistent force in the Iowa backfield, Schobert recorded eight tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. The country’s leader in sacks, the former walk-on continues to make a name for himself.
Freshman of the Week: LJ Scott, Running Back, Michigan State
Scott was huge in a battle of running backs against Michigan State. He totaled 146 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries against Purdue. The battering-ram back continues to head the Spartan attack in a conference full of talented rushers.

Poll Dancers:

#1 Ohio State: No change
#4 Michigan State: Down two
#13 Northwestern: Up three
#18 Michigan: Up four
#22 Iowa: Unranked last week
Wisconsin: Unranked from 19

Conference Scores:

#1 Ohio State 34, Indiana 27
#2 Michigan State 24, Purdue 21
#16 Northwestern 17, Minnesota 0
Iowa 10, #19 Wisc 7
#22 Michigan 28, Maryland 0
Penn State 20, Army 14
Illinois 14, Nebraska 13

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