IUSportCom’s Cody Harner and Will Chukerman take in-depth look at the B1G Legends and Leaders Division
Iowa (3-2, 1-0)
The Hawkeyes are coming off of a bye week, which followed a big win against the then undefeated Minnesota Golden Gophers. The win helped push Iowa over .500, and they hope to continue the trend this week when they visit Michigan State.
The Hawkeyes have been led by stellar play from running back Mark Weismann, but will have to face another excellent running back in Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell this week. Iowa’s head coach Kirk Ferentz realizes how talented Bell is and knows that a game plan must be set in order to contain him. “When you face a good back like Bell, certainly he’ll have our full attention. He has had great success against us so we are really respectful of what he is capable of doing.”
Not only does Iowa have to worry about the Spartans offensively with Bell, but must prepare for an experienced Spartan defense. “We are playing a defense that is veteran and very physical. They are very experienced and tough to run the football against,” said coach Ferentz.
Iowa will look to put together a two-game winning streak for the first time this season. This will not come easy as they will be playing in the spotlight since the game will be televised on ESPN at noon. Both teams will continue the vigorous B1G conference schedule this week as well as continue to fight to keep their postseason hopes alive.
Michigan (3-2, 1-0) No. 25 AP
The Wolverines bounced back from their underperformance in the first four weeks and trounced the Purdue Boilermakers 44-13. A combination of a harassing defense and a great performance by quarterback Denard Robinson helped get Michigan back on track and into the rankings as well.
Robinson finished with 105 passing yards and one touchdown accompanied by 235 rushing yards. The Boilermakers could not contain Robinson and the Michigan offense. This is reflected by the 44 points on the scoreboard. Michigan’s defense was very physical, which helped lead to four forced turnovers on Purdue. Two interceptions and two forced fumbles accounted for the Wolverines turnovers.
Head coach Brady Hoke was happy with the win, but like most weeks, he quickly moves the focus on to the next week and is cautious to not get caught up in just one win. “We were pleased to win last week. I thought on both sides of the ball we came out with good plans. Also, I thought our guys did a good job on the defense. It was nice to see, but we have a tough task this week because Illinois has a lot of weapons. They will be a real challenge for us when they come to Ann Arbor.”
The Wolverines will get their chance to continue their rise back up the rankings on Saturday when they take on the Illinois Fighting Illini. This game will be aired at 3:30 on ABC and ESPN.
Michigan State (4-2, 1-1)
Despite trailing by 13 at halftime, Michigan State was able to rally back behind a balanced effort and defeat the Indiana Hoosiers 31-27. The Spartans used great second-half defense to hold the Hoosiers scoreless accompanied by solid play from Le’Veon Bell and Andrew Maxwell, which led them to the victory.
Le’Veon Bell contributed 121 rushing yards combine with two rushing touchdowns to help bring the Spartans back. Andrew Maxwell threw for 290 yards along with two touchdowns to go along with Bell’s performance, which helped prevent the Hoosier upset. Despite allowing Cameron Coffman to throw three touchdowns in the first half, the Spartans were able to hold him and the whole Hoosier offense to minimal yardage in the second half and no scoring.
Head coach Mark Dantonio realizes that his team’s execution was off par, but was still happy to get the win. “We continue to come ready to play. We have had great weeks of practice. We have been frustrated with execution at some times, but that is football. On the positive side, we have had great effort and attitude”
The Spartans will hope to play better while continuing their winning ways this Saturday when they take on their fellow B1G Legends Division member Iowa. The Spartans will battle the Hawkeyes at noon in a game that will be aired on ESPN.
Minnesota (4-1, 0-1)
After getting off to a hot start with four straight wins, the Golden Gophers finally cooled down as they lost their first game 31-13 to the Iowa Hawkeyes. Turnovers and poor defense played a major role in this loss for Minnesota.
The Golden Gophers had four turnovers including three interceptions from Max Shortell. Minnesota’s offense was held to just 299 total yards of offense and only 102 total rushing yards combined from four different players. The defense gave up 177 yards rushing to Iowa’s running back Mark Weismann along with a touchdown.
However, despite their poor play, Minnesota is looking forward focusing on their next opponent, Northwestern, instead of dwelling on a loss. Head coach Jerry Kill is keeping his team focused on the objective at hand, which is winning their game this weekend. “We are hard in our preparation working toward Northwestern. We are getting our football team ready. We are looking forward to practicing and to keep moving our team forward.”
Minnesota is in a similar situation as Northwestern as both teams started out 4-0, but are coming off of their first loss. These teams will both attempt to bounce back Saturday at 12PM in a game that will be televised on ESPN2.
Nebraska (4-2, 1-1)
The Cornhuskers fell out of the rankings this week due to a poor performance against Ohio State, as they were defeated by a final score of 63-38. Nebraska’s defense could not stop the potent offense of the Buckeyes as they totaled nearly 500 total yards of offense and put up 63 points.
Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller threw for 127 yards and a touchdown, as well as 186 rushing yards and another score. Nebraska had no answer for Miller and the Ohio State running attack as they put up a total of 371 yards on the ground.
Nebraska has the benefit of the bye week which will allow them to regroup and prepare as we enter the back half of this season. Head coach Bo Pelini realizes his team needs to adjust if they want to make a run into the post season. “Well we are entering into the bye week and preparing ourselves for the last stretch of the year. We are getting back to fundamentals this week in practice and getting ready to role for the challenges that lie ahead.”
Nebraska will take on Northwestern next weekend on October 20th. The Cornhuskers will hope to solve their defensive problems and bounce back as they enter a tough part of their schedule. With Northwestern, Michigan, and Michigan State being their next three opponents, they must play at their highest level if they hope to be successful.
Northwestern (5-1, 1-1)
Despite being up by 11 going into the fourth quarter, Northwestern surrendered 22 points to Penn State in the final period and lost 39-28. Northwestern could only muster a total of 247 yards for the game while surrendering 443 to the Nittany Lions.
Penn State was able to dominate time of possession as they held the ball for more than 19 minutes longer than the Wildcats. In a balanced effort, McGloin threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns while running back Zach Zwinak ran for 121 yards and a score. Northwestern had no answer for Penn State in the fourth quarter and for that reason fell victim to defeat.
Although Penn State has shocked many with their 4-2 record (2-0 in the B1G) despite losing several players to transfer following the Jerry Sandusky scandal, head coach Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern claim that saw through all of this and knew they were facing a solid team. “We knew going into this season that this team would be very talented. When we watched them on tape, they played very well. They had tremendous leadership…and they just played well against us and you have to tip your hat to them.”
Northwestern will get the chance to climb back into the rankings when they face B1G Legends opponent Minnesota this Saturday.
Both teams are coming off a loss so they will need to get this victory to avoid their first losing streak of the season. They will face off on Saturday at noon in a game that will be aired on ESPN2.
Penn State (4-2, 2-0)
Things looked bleak for the Nittany Lions going into the fourth quarter on Saturday. The three-game winning streak seemed to be coming to an end as Northwestern had scored 14 unanswered points, and led by 11.
However, the resiliency of this team continued to show as Penn State rattled off three straight touchdowns en route to a 39-28 win. The strong Nittany Lion defense was able to hold running back/wide receiver Kain Colter in check for most of the game, only allowing him 41 all purpose yards.
Much can be accredited to the continuing strong play of the linebacking core. Seemingly every week it’s a new player stepping up, and this week it was Gerald Hodges. The senior was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after recording 11 total tackles, one forced fumble, and two pass deflections.
On Tuesday, the focus wasn’t on Hodges, but rather on head coach Bill O’Brien and the work he’s done to get this team to 4-2, a record most thought was out of the picture after the first two games of the season.
When asked what he thought of his name being mentioned in coach of the year talks, O’Brien was quick to dismiss the notion.
“There’s a lot of great coaches in this country,” O’Brien noted. “ I’ve only coached six games in my whole career, so that’s the furthest thing from my mind.”
The Nittany Lions head coach also mentioned the hard schedule his team faces in the upcoming weeks. The team will be on the bye this week, but then they play three of four games on the road.
Bill O’Brien may not win coach of the year, but a lot can be said of the work he’s already done in hopes to rebuild a once proud program.
Ohio State (6-0, 2-0) No. 8 AP Poll
If I were to tell you the final score of the Ohio State versus Nebraska score, you probably wouldn’t believe me. No way a team coming off a physical one-point road win could beat Nebraska by 25, could they?
Well, that’s exactly what happened. Ohio State proved that in the relatively weak Big Ten, they’re the cream of the crop, dismantling Nebraska 63-38.
The Ohio State running game continued its strong season as Braxton Miller got some help this weekend. Junior Carlos Hyde ran for a career high 140 yards to go along with four touchdowns to help the Buckeyes average 7.7 yards per carry on 48 attempts.
As Miller continued his stellar season on the ground, it’s still evident that improvements can be made in his passing game. Head coach Urban Meyer also believes this to be the case.
“As we continue to develop, for us to win a game, he has to become a better thrower,” Meyer Said.
The Buckeyes head coach did say that he was “pleased” with his progress as a thrower and also threw his star quarterback an even bigger compliment.
“Percy Harvin and Braxton Miller are the two best runners I’ve ever had.” Meyer said.
That’s some pretty high company to be in if your Miller, as Harvin has become an electrifying talent in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings.
This weekend, the Buckeyes travel to Bloomington to face the Hoosiers in hopes to remain undefeated and atop the Big Ten Leaders standings.
Although Indiana may not be one of the best in the Big Ten, you can never look past an opponent playing in front of their home crowd.
Wisconsin (4-2, 1-1)
If you’re a Wisconsin football fan, this past Saturday is your blueprint for success over the course of the rest of the season. The Badgers beat Illinois 31-14, getting closer to looking like their team from a year ago.
The running game finally got going, Joel Stave had his best game of the year, and the defense held Illinois to less then 300 yards of total offense. You combine all three of those and you get a Wisconsin team that looks to have found their mojo following a tough loss to Nebraska.
It wasn’t just Ball who saw success on the ground, James White and Melvin Gordon also saw some action which led head coach Brett Bielema to discuss continuing using a balanced backfield.
“All three are good,” Bielema said. “I think a little bit of a balance of what we saw last week is what we expect.”
Getting contributions from Ball’s backups will pay dividends down the road as the preseason All-American has shown a bit of rust this season after suffering a concussion this past offseason, and one against UTEP.
Awaiting Wisconsin on Saturday will be the Purdue Boilermakers who are coming off a blowout loss to the Michigan Wolverines. Denard Robinson was able to run all over the Boilermakers defense, which gives hope that the Badgers can continue their strong effort on the ground.
Wisconsin’s dominating performance over Illinois should give them momentum heading into a matchup against a Purdue team that may have some problems getting their blowout loss out of their head.
Its only week 7, but this matchup surely will affect who’s representing the Leaders Division in the Big Ten Championship game down in Indianapolis.
Illinois (2-4, 0-2)
A three-game losing streak, compounded by your coach getting caught chewing tobacco on the sideline is not how you want to spend a week answering questions in preparation of a game versus a ranked opponent.
Unfortunately, that’s the way Illinois will be spending this coming week. Illinois was forced to report a secondary violation to the NCAA, and attempt to deal with a losing streak that has seen been due to the combination of a lack of offensive and defensive mishaps.
Expectations weren’t sky-high coming into this season, but not many could have envisioned a 2-4 start.
During the Wisconsin game, head coach Tim Beckman was caught on camera chewing tobacco, which is an NCAA violation. When asked on Tuesday if that’s something he would be running laps for, Beckman was quick to admit his mistake.
“It’s a bad habit,” Beckman said. “and one that will definitely be corrected.
With that distraction out of the way, it’s time to for the Illini to turn their attention to Michigan, who as mentioned before, is coming off a huge win versus Purdue.
The teams couldn’t be moving in more opposite directions. And at first glance, it looks like Illinois will have their work cut out for them in hopes to shut down Denard Robinson.
A win versus Michigan would do wonders for Illinois’ psyche; if they can pull off the upset, they’ll jump right back into a wide-open Leaders division race.
Purdue (3-2, 0-1)
Just as everyone was starting to drink the Purdue kool-aid, they laid flat and got blown out by Michigan, 44-13. The Wolverines got out to a 21-0 lead and never looked back. The Purdue offense that had looked so good in nonconference struggled mightily against the stingy Michigan defense, only accounting for 213 total yards of offense.
Just as we though the Purdue quarterback roulette was over, Caleb Terbush struggled, and we saw Rob Marve play his first action since his most recent ACL injury. Rob Henry also saw a few snaps.
Head coach Danny Hope reiterated that Terbush will remain the starting quarterback, but wouldn’t commit to whether or not Marve would be worked into the rotation,. However, he did interestingly note the big play potential with Marve in the game.
“That’s why we’re committed to getting him ready and playing him in the ball games.”
With the quarterback situation seemingly unsettled, watch for that to be a storyline in this B1G Leaders Division game against Wisconsin, one that could determine who will be playing in the Big Ten Championship.
Purdue can’t play the way they did against Michigan and expect to beat a Wisconsin team that may have begun to figure things out this year. A more complete performance will be needed to beat the Boilermakers.
A game that may fly under the national college football landscape, it is a must watch for Big Ten fans, as postseason play will be affected one way or the other in Camp Randall.