Scouting The Big 10: Week Seven

Week Seven: Buckeyes’ Experiment, Second Chance, Hawkeyes Soar, Wildcats Fall Further

Conference Roundup:
Ohio States performed as expected, while officially making a long-coming quarterback change. Michigan controlled their in-state rival the entire game, before an untimely punting mishap cost them a spot in the top ten. Iowa handed Northwestern their second trouncing in as many weeks, as the Wildcats continue to spiral from conference front-runner to an unspectacular middle-of-the-pack team. Rutgers edged Indiana at their own game—high scoring—while Minnesota’s descent from the rankings continues.

Four Downs
The End of The Cardale Experiment
The experiment was not as glorious as the Buckeyes had hoped. Jones was the Buckeye’s best NFL prospect at the position, boasting the frame, arm strength, and mobility that make scouts drool. However, his brief flashes last season proved to be just that, flashes. Now comes JT Barrett, in a full time capacity. He was the maestro of last season’s team, orchestrating their run to the playoffs before Jones came in as a closer. Barrett does not have the size or arm strength to rival his competition, but he makes up for it in leadership, accuracy, and his knowledge of the offense. While mobility is a shared trait, Jones’ more powerful style was less-well suited for the offense compared to Barrett’s shiftier talents. Now in control of the starting seat, Barrett has a chance to prove that his work last season was not a temporary flash.

Spartans Get a Second Chance
Michigan State nearly blew their opportunity. They were outmatched for three quarters against Michigan. Granted, they marched part of the way back on their own, but that botched punt was their saving grace.  It has been three weeks now of narrow victories, two against well-below-average opponents. With three weeks left before they face Ohio State, the Spartans now have the likes of Indiana, Nebraska, and Maryland to use as tune ups for the big game. Indiana and Nebraska can both be tough teams when they bring their A-game, so Michigan State will not have the luxury of being able to look past more feeble opponents. The Spartans are certainly talented, but they cannot afford to keep the games close as they have this season.

Iowa Distancing
Let us move past the obvious, the Big Ten East is the better half of the conference. However, it is not the only half with an undefeated team. After besting Wisconsin last week, Iowa staked their claim as the team to beat in the West. Then they handily beat down Northwestern, who came into the game looking like perhaps the Hawkeyes greatest challenge. They do still have Minnesota lurking, a game which could be an upset should the Gophers learn how to win again. Indiana will also be tough because of their offense. However, with wins over their top two contenders, Badgers and Wildcats, the Hawkeyes now sit firmly in the driver’s seat.

Northwestern in Trouble
After starting the season undefeated, with quality wins over Stanford, Duke, and Minnesota, the Wildcats looked like a team that could contend in the West. Then, over their past two games, put up ten points while allowing 78. Clayton Thorson has not been able to move the ball through the air with anything resembling efficiency. In the running game, Justin Jackson and Solomon Vault have not been able to move the ball either. Between their offensive struggles and recent penchant for surrendering points, these Wildcats now face a high climb back to be a contender. Their fate is no longer in their own hands.

One to Watch: #7 Michigan State vs. Indiana
This week’s slate is a little weaker, with the conference’s high-caliber teams facing off against some of its lesser ones. It was almost the Northwestern and Nebraska game to see if the Wildcats can get on track, but this game offers some intriguing potential. On one hand, the Spartans could emerge emotionally drained from their duel with Michigan, allowing Indiana the opportunity to notch the upset. On the other, they may emerge more motivated than ever. Indiana meanwhile, must bring their potent offense to the game. They came out well against Ohio State, if they do again, they may have enough for the upset.

Players of the Week:
Offense: Akrum Wadley, So. Running Back, Iowa
Hawkeye running backs have showed up here in each of the last two weeks. Filling in for the injured Jordan Canzeri, Wadley put up 204 rushing yards on 26 carries, finding the end zone four times.
Defense: Shilique Calhoun, Sr. Defensive End, Michigan State
Calhoun earns these honors for the second time this season, recording 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Calhoun has long been a talented player, but showing up the way he did against Michigan was a big step in the right direction.
Freshman: T.J. Edwards, Linebacker, Wisconsin
Edwards has done his best to solidify the middle of the defense. This week, he proved more than just a stop gap. His 16 tackles were a career high, and showed that Edwards may be the future of the Badger defense. He also forced a fumble.

Conference Scores
#1 Ohio State 38, Penn State 10
#7 Michigan State 27, #12 Michigan 23
#17 Iowa 40, #20 Northwestern 10
Wisconsin 24, Purdue 7
Rutgers 55, Indiana 52
Nebraska 48, Minnesota 25

Poll Dancers
#1 Ohio State: even
#7 Michigan State: even
#12 Iowa: up five
#15 Michigan: down three
Northwestern: unranked from #20

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