Big Ten Beat: Wolverines Climb, Spartans Slide, Penn State Surging, Pass Rushers
Ohio State won handily, though continues to surrender a surprising amount of points on defense. Michigan State pulled out its second close victory, teetering on the verge of upset. Michigan blasted previously streaking Northwestern to officially announce its return to a respectable realm. Iowa edged an Illinois team fresh off two close victories. Wisconsin was a story of personal and team redemption on the foot of their hefty kicker. Minnesota trounced cellar-dweller Purdue, while Penn State was the first team to slow the torrid pace of the Hoosier offense.
There are more than just the casts of “Red Dawn,” screaming for their cause. Michigan destroyed everything it looked like Northwestern was becoming. They have now allowed a mere 14 points since their week one loss to Utah, and notched their third straight shutout. The Wolverines never trailed, returning the opening kick for a touchdown and refusing to slow down. Rudock was efficient against what had been an incredibly stout defense, while De’Veon Smith showed his healthy—earning himself a rest after the game become non-competitive—and Derrick Green bullishly finished off the game. The Wolverines dominated all three phases of the game, and look to be hitting their stride just in time for a clash with an undefeated Michigan State team trending in the opposite direction.
Michigan State is undefeated. They toppled then-No. 7 Oregon in week two to rise to second in the nation and have not lost since. They have, however, fallen five spots in the polls over the last two weeks. The reason? A narrow three-point victory that the Spartans had to pull out late against perennial loser Purdue, and a late, seven-point victory over lowly Rutgers. For a team than hangs their hat on their defensive prowess and steady offensive attack, Michigan State is in trouble. Connor Cook had to throw 38 times, while the top trio of Spartan rushers finished with 29 carries. Reverse those numbers and you have a comfortable Spartan stat line, but the offense was forced into a style they prefer not to play. Meanwhile, Rutgers quarterback Chris Laviano looked like Cook, completing 62.5 percent of his passes for 208 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. The Spartans also allowed a long run to Paul James, and allowed Robert Martin to run the ball successfully over 13 carries. They are still an undefeated team with the opportunity to play Ohio State and Michigan, but the concerns are real.
Penn State Surging
Let us first qualify this by noting that Indiana was missing their top-two players in quarterback Nate Sudfeld and running back Jordan Howard. However, Penn State continues to flash a budding defense built on the backs of a talented front line. Carl Nassib is now the country’s sack leader, and Anthony Johnson continues to emerge as a top-flight prospect at the next level. Without their two leading rushers, the Penn State offense amassed 29 points, most coming from inconsistent star Christian Hackenberg. The quarterback connected on a paltry 54 percent of his passes, but did accrue 262 yards and two touchdowns. He also contributed 21 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Star receiver DaeSean Hamilton continues to get a lack of targets, but did score a touchdown. Nick Scott and Mark Allen led the Nittany Lion rushing attack, accounting for 57 yards and 45 yards, respectively. Now, Indiana does not have a good defense, but the signs were promising for Penn State.
Big Ten Pass Rushers
This is impressive. Four of the top ten sack getters in the country come from the Big Ten. Carl Nassib and Joe Schobert claim the top two spots, recording 10 and nine sacks, respectively. They have been storylines emerging out of the conference, but Indiana defensive lineman Nick Mangieri and Maryland’s Yannick Ngakoue are tied for sixth in the country with seven sacks apiece. Not to mention Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun, Iowa’s Drew Ott, Iowa’s Nate Meier, Illiniois’ Dawuane Smoot, Maryland’s
Quinton Jefferson, and Nebraska’s Freedom Akinmoladun are nipping on their heals at five sacks. This list does not even include some of the conference’s most impressive prospects. The Big Ten is a conference on the rise, and behind their plethora of pass rushers, that rise may be even faster.
One to Watch: #7 Michigan State at #12 Michigan
In state rivals, each with aspirations of greatness, each with old school, physical, styles? Yes please. Get ready to watch some 90’s football here, with each team predicated on an aggressive defense and a desire to pound the ball. Whoever wins this game will certainly deserve it. Buckle up that chin strap, it’s going to get physical.
Players of the Week
Offense: Jordan Canzeri, Sr. Running Back, Iowa
This is workhorse productivity: 43 carries, 256 yards, one touchdown. Canzeri was a huge factor in last week’s victory over Wisconsin, and again carried the Hawkeye offense against Illinois. The senior also added two catches, putting up 15 yards and another touchdown.
Defense: Jourdan Lewis, Jr. Cornerback, Michigan
Lewis is the first Michigan player to earn defensive player of the week honors in nearly a year, earning it with a pick-six in the second quarter. He also notched four tackles, including one for a loss.
Freshman of the Week:
Jabrill Peppers, Defensive Back, Michigan
We have known Peppers’ name for a long time. This year, he is making good on all the promise he has. After recording five tackles, 1.5 of which were for loss, and three pass breakups, Peppers becomes the first Michigan freshman to earn the honor since James Ross in 2012.
Shannon Brooks, Running Back, Minnesota
Brooks gave the Gophers the spark they needed after a tough loss to Northwestern last week. He took 17 carries, and turned them into 176 yards and a touchdown. According to bigten.org, he recorded the most rushing yards since 2003 for a Minnesota freshman running back.
#1 Ohio State 49, Maryland 28
#4 Michigan State 31, Rutgers 24
#18 Michigan 38, #13 Northwestern 0
#22 Iowa 29, Illinois 20
Wisconsin 23, Nebraska 21
Minnesota 41, Purdue 13
Penn State 29, Indiana 7
#1 Ohio State: even
#7 Michigan State: down three
#12 Michigan: up six
#17 Iowa: up five
#20 Northwestern: down seven