photo courtesy of: http://bcsknowhow.com/
Will Chukerman takes a look at members of the B1G Leaders Division, while Cody Harner observes those of the Legends Division. Coverage of each team includes opinions and quotes from head coaches throughout the division from the weekly B1G Teleconference.
Penn State (5-2, 3-0)
During Penn States winning streak that has now stretched to five with their 38-14 win over Iowa, multiple things have been clicking but none more then the defense which saw another member of the unit get named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.
This week the honor went to defensive tackle Jordan Hill. The senior from Steelton Pennsylvania had nine total tackles, two for a loss, and one sack joining Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges as other Nittany Lions to win the award.
On Tuesday, head coach Bill O’Brien spoke highly of those three as they’re leading a defense that’s only allowing 16 points per game.
“The one thing they all have in common is that they love playing football for Penn State,” O’Brien said. “They have a passion for the game of football, they practice hard, and play hard.”
With a defense playing as well as they have, they haven’t needed many points from the offense but they still came on Saturday. Matt McGloin had another great game, throwing for 289 yards and two touchdowns.
Both sides of the ball continue to click for this Penn State team in anticipation of their matchup against undefeated Ohio State.
Although both teams sit atop the leaders division standing, neither is eligible for postseason play, making this a mini Big Ten Championship for the two squads.
All of this sets up for a big time game in Happy Valley this weekend, Penn State can continue their unprecedented streak with an upset of Ohio State and continue their rebuilding efforts.
Ohio State (8-0, 4-0) #9 AP Poll
On Saturday, Ohio State nearly lost two things; the game and their star quarterback Braxton Miller. They ended up beating Purdue in overtime 29-22, and got good news that Braxton Miller who had suffered a neck injury and needed to be taken the hospital, should be good to play this week.
Backup quarterback Kenny Guiton came in to relieve Miller, leading the team to a touchdown drive with just three seconds to play and also the game winning drive in overtime.
In what was a tough situation for head coach Urban Meyer in the fourth quarter, he was trying to figure out how Miller was and still coach his team in what was a very tight game.
“Right when I kept asking on the sideline they didn’t know,” Meyer said.
With Miller’s soreness lingering during the course of the week, the Buckeyes will have both quarterbacks ready to go as they travel to Happy Valley to face the Nittany Lions.
Lots of bragging rights are at stake this weekend as Big Ten supremacy is on the line.
Miller will surely be the storyline heading into the game, the Buckeyes just hope that them winning is the one after the game.
Wisconsin (3-1, 6-2)
I’m no rocket scientist, but when a team rushes for over 800 yards in two games they should win 99% of the time. The Badgers have done that, winning their last two games by a combined 49 points.
Whether his name is Mon-TE or Mon-TEE, that Ball fella is really good. In the 38-13 win over Minnesota, he rushed for 166 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 6.9 yards a rush.
His head coach was having that same problem, but no matter the name of his star tailback, he has some thoughts that should scare the rest of the Big Ten.
“I think he’s even better,” Head coach Brett Bielema said referring to Ball this season. “ He’s a little thicker, and a little bit stronger.”
Although his season started off slower then anticipated, Ball has racked up 529 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns during Wisconsin’s three game win streak.
The Badgers play host to a struggling Michigan State team this Saturday who after starting off the season 2-0, has now lost four of their last six games.
This game will feature two of the best running backs in the Big Ten, in Ball and Le’Veon Bell, both looking to continue their impressive seasons.
With another big game, Ball could easily get back into the Heisman race that after Collin Klein, that much like his running lanes the past few weeks, seems pretty wide open.
Illinois (2-5, 0-3)
A bye week couldn’t have came at a better time for Illinois as they had been playing some of their worst football in recent memory over the past few weeks.
Not much has gone right for this team as both their offense and defense has been well below average. With a rookie head coach, its tough to stay positive, but Tim Beckman is doing his best to instill the right mindset in his team.
“We’ve gone to own the day, one day at a time,” Beckman said. “We have not played well, I know that.”
With a more simplistic approach, Beckman hopes that his team can play better then they have been. Hopefully, they worked on conditioning in practice this week as they’re going up against one of the faster paced offenses in the country when they face Indiana.
The Hoosiers like to get plays off every 10-20 seconds, which could pose a problem for Illinois as the defense has been allowing 31 points per game.
This would be the game though for Illinois to get their offense back in sync as the Indiana defense is allowing 32 points per game. The Illini have not scored over 14 points in any of the last three games.
After this game, there will be one less winless team in the Big Ten, Illinois is hoping it’s not them in their quest to stop the skid they’re currently on.
Purdue (3-4, 0-3)
Dropping to 0-3 in conference play, this past Saturday was the toughest loss to date. Purdue had a lead up until three seconds left in regulation, ultimately losing to Ohio State in overtime, 29-22.
A rare site this weekend was the fact that Purdue only played one quarterback. Caleb Terbush played a solid game, throwing for 230 yards and two touchdowns.
Head coach Danny Hope really liked the attitude his team showed this past weekend, showing him they wont back down against any team.
“It was obvious they’re a long ways from quitting,” Hope said. “I think we gained some pride from our performance this weekend.”
Moral victories wont cut it in the Big Ten, but Hope believes his Boilermaker team will be ready to go against Minnesota this weekend.
Both team are 0-3 in conference play, setting up for a hard fought battle between teams looking to rally and save their seasons.
Iowa 4-3 (2-1 B1G), Unranked
Despite coming off of two big wins against Minnesota and Michigan State, the Hawkeyes were unable to extend their streak as they hit a brick wall and were trounced by a surging Penn State team. Although the Hawkeyes didn’t play well in any facet of the game, injuries did play a major role in this loss. The Hawkeyes were basically without start running back Mark Weismann, as he had only five carries for nine yards in a very limited role due to an ankle sprain. In addition, Iowa suffered a major blow when it lost two starting offensive lineman in Brandon Scherff and Andrew Donnal.
The offense mustered an abysmal 209 yards while turning the ball over three times. For being a run-heavy offense, Iowa played completely out of character, gaining a total of only 20 rushing yards. In terms of special teams, Iowa’s generally very reliable kicker, Mike Myer, missed both of his field goal attempts adding to the Hawkeyes’ woes.
Head coach Kirk Ferentz was very disappointed in his team’s effort, but as we always hear from coaches in this league, players must move on and focus on the next objective.
“It was a tough weekend for us,” Ferentz said. “Penn State played a tremendous football game. We had a great environment in our stadium, but we just couldn’t match their tempo. It was a disappointing loss for us, but we’ve looked at the tape and moved on to get ready for a very good Northwestern team.”
Iowa will have their shot at redemption from this loss next week when they take on fellow B1G Legends member Northwestern. These two squads will face off Saturday at noon in a game to be aired on ESPN2.
Michigan 5-2 (3-0 B1G) No. 22 BCS
In an expected war against in-state rival Michigan State, the Wolverines used a field goal with five seconds remaining from kicker Brendan Gibbons to beat the Spartans for the first time since 2007. The game was stagnant in offense and grinding on defense, but when B1G rivals meet up, this is the type of suspenseful game fans hope for.
Denard Robinson again carried a heavy workload completing 14 of 29 passes for 163 yards, but also tossed one interception. Robinson also dominated the rushing attack as he took 20 carries for 96 yards. The key play was Robinson’s 20 yard pass to Drew Dileo which set up the Gibbons field goal.
The Wolverines’ defense matched the Spartans’ in terms of dominance. Michigan allowed a total of only 304 yards and most importantly was able to restrict Michigan State’s star running back Le’Veon Bell to just 68 yards on 26 carries.
Michigan has enjoyed this winning streak, but head coach Brady Hoke is not taking this for granted as he knows another very good team in Nebraska awaits them this week.
“We have a real test going on the road playing Nebraska,” Hoke stated. “They are a tremendous football team. They are very good at home. They have won 18 of the last 20 games played there. Taylor Martinez has improved and matured and both running backs in Burkhead and Abdullah are problems we have to deal with. Defensively, they force a lot of negative plays through sacks and tackles for loss. We haven’t played our best football, but we are going to need to this week.”
We will see if the Wolverines can keep up their consistency and extend their winning streak when they travel to face the Cornhuskers this weekend. These teams will face off at 8 p.m. this Saturday night in a game to be televised on ESPN2.
Minnesota 4-3 (0-3 B1G), Unranked
The Golden Gophers have now fallen victim to a three-game losing streak as they fell to Wisconsin 38-13. After starting the season strong, Minnesota has fallen off the map, especially on offense as they have mustered only 13 points each of the past three weeks.
This week, Minnesota gave the starting nod to freshman quarterback Philip Nelson. Nelson played relatively well as he went 13 for 24 for 149 yards and two touchdowns. Nelson also had 16 carries for 67 yards. He made two mistakes, however, in throws that the Wisconsin defense took advantage of and intercepted.
Outside of Nelson, there was relatively no production from any other source on the team. The team combined for 245 total yards of offense. The Golden Gophers defense didn’t help their cause as they surrendered a total of 443 yards, 337 on the ground. Wisconsin running backs James White and Montee Ball torched the Minnesota defense for a combined 341 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
Head coach Jerry Kill recognizes the struggles his team has faced. Although he contributes some of this to his team’s youth, his team has struggled in every area of the game, which is surprising, coming from a team who started the season 4-0.
Kill continues to look ahead and help his team grow and mature in an attempt to get the team back on track.
“We had good work on Sunday,” Kill commented. “We need to learn from our game against Wisconsin. We have a young team and we are continuing to move forward with our kids. They have a great attitude and we are looking forward to practicing and getting better.”
The Golden Gophers will get their chance to end this three-game losing streak this Saturday when they take on the Purdue Boilermakers. This game will be at 3:30 and aired on the Big Ten Network.
Nebraska 5-2 (2-1 B1G), Unranked
Nebraska rebounded from a big loss to Ohio State and defeated the Northwestern Wildcats 29-28. The Cornhuskers rallied from 12 points down in the fourth quarter behind excellent play from quarterback Taylor Martinez to pick up the victory.
Nebraska’s electrifying offense put up 543 total yards of offense, 407 of which were contributed by Taylor Martinez. Martinez threw for 342 yards and three touchdowns, accompanied by 65 rushing yards and a score. The most crucial of these scores came when Martinez found Ben Cotton for a seven-yard touchdown pass for the go-ahead score with only two minutes remaining.
The Cornhuskers will get the chance to make a major statement this weekend when they face the only ranked team in the Legends division in the Michigan Wolverines. Head coach Bo Pelini realizes what this game could mean for the Cornhuskers and hopes his team can excel this weekend.
“We are looking forward to the game this weekend,” Pelini said. “We are looking forward to the challenge. We have a lot of respect for Michigan and their football team and we hope we have prepared ourselves well enough for this challenge.”
Nebraska will get their chance to take the next step as a legitimate contender in the B1G when they take on the Wolverines. They will face Michigan on Saturday at 8 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPN2.
Michigan State 4-4 (1-3 B1G), Unranked
Michigan State suffered its second consecutive loss at the hands of their in-state rival, the Michigan Wolverines. In a heartbreaker, the Spartans watched Michigan’s kicker, Brendan Gibbons, put one through the posts with only five seconds remaining. This losing streak has put Michigan State back at .500, continuing their disappointing season thus far.
The Spartans managed to gain only 304 total yards and Le’Veon Bell was held to just 68 yards on 26 carries. The Michigan State offense has not been able to find its niche, which has caused much inconsistency for the team. This inconsistency has played a major role in the subpar season the Spartans have had.
Head coach Mark Dantonio remains optimistic about his team despite the woes of the season.
“I think—first of all—we have lost very close football games,” Dantonio said. “Games can go one way or another based on a few plays and we are finding one or two that are not going our way. We need to focus at the challenge at hand in Wisconsin. We need to deal with one thing at a time. We need to push through the tough times. I believe through adversity you can see your biggest growth.”
The Spartans will get the chance to show some life and turn the season around this weekend when they face the BCS No. 25 team in the Wisconsin Badgers. These teams will face off on Saturday at 3:30 in a game to be aired on ABC and ESPN2.
Northwestern 6-2 (2-2 B1G), Unranked
After losing to Nebraska last week, the Wildcats have now dropped two of their last three games. Northwestern has fallen from the rankings, but they are playing fairly well as their two losses have been by a combined twelve points. The Wildcats’ play in the fourth quarter and crunch time is what got them out to such a good start, but in their two losses they have given up 22 points and 13 points in the final period to Penn State and Nebraska respectively.
Head coach Pat Fitzgerald realizes his team has let two games slip away and has made it a point of emphasis to close out games better.
“We have to coach our guys better to make some plays down the stretch,” Fitzgerald reasoned. “We had opportunities in both games, but unfortunately we just ended up on the short end. It is disappointing, but we have to move on.”
Northwestern will get their chance to move back into winning ways this weekends when they face a divisional opponent in the Iowa Hawkeyes. Northwestern will welcome Iowa on Saturday at noon in a game to be televised on ESPN2.