The Wisconsin Badgers had little trouble with the Illinois Fighting Illini crushing them 48-3. As one would expect, the team had a solid outing with both sides of the ball turning in strong performance on homecoming. We will take a look at the Badgers performance against Illinois with some thoughts below.
1. The offense was highly efficient – One of the big issues for the Badgers on offense this year was their inefficiency inside the red zone. In particular, they have struggled to score touchdowns converting just 18 of 33 red zone opportunities into touchdowns coming into the game. Against Illinois they were way above their season average of 54.5% going 4 for 5 in the first half alone (the other one was a made field goal).
For the game, the Badgers went 8 for 8 in the red zone with 6 touchdowns and 2 field goals. To be fair, Illinois was overmatched against the Badgers, but the offense has struggled to punch the ball in for scores this year and this should give them confidence. Let’s see how the offense does against another overmatched team in Purdue next week.
2. The defense was ballhawking – The Badgers defense forced four interceptions versus the Illini with all occurring in the first half. That was impressive considering the Illini had 3 interceptions for the entire season entering the game. 2 of the 4 interceptions were turned into touchdowns while another was converted into a field goal giving even more confidence to the team. Leo Musso had two interceptions (including one on an incredible kick tip from Sojourn Shelton with video of the play below) while Ryan Connelly and D’Cota Dixon had the other interceptions.
3. The defense was overwhelming – In addition to forcing four turnovers the Badgers defense was suffocating. They held Illinois to just 200 yards of total offense and did not allow a third down conversion (Illinois went 0 for 9). The Illini could not get anything going, which was not surprising given how excellent the Badgers are on defense. This game was over early in large part to the defense’s strong performance.
If we are being extremely picky, the Badgers secondary had a few instances where the Illini receivers got by them. That might be an area of concern against more talented teams.
4. The rushing attack continues to spur the offense – The Badgers were averaging 204 yards per game over the previous 4 contests coming into this game, as noted last week. Wisconsin finished the game with 363 yards on 64 carries for 5.7 yards per rush. The first 5 weeks of the season saw the Badgers put up 161.6 yards rushing per game while the last 5 games have seen an average of 235.8 rushing yards per game.
CoreyClement went for 123 yards and 3 touchdowns on 25 carries while Dare Ogunbowale had 103 yards on 7 carries. Bradrick Shaw saw quite a bit of playing time as the game was out of hand and finished with 80 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
The passing game only produced 92 yards, but when the offensive line and running backs are producing nearly 6 yards a carry, there is zero reason to put the ball in the air. Reproducing this game against Purdue and Minnesota will put them in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Wisconsin has pushed their record to 8-2 overall and 5-2 in the Big Ten. The play on the road at Purdue next week and then at home against Minnesota in two weeks. If the Badgers win both games, they will play in the Big Ten Championship. Below are previous columns providing thoughts on each Wisconsin game this season.
Week six has come and gone (along with nuisance of Hurricane Matthew we hope). Week seven has some big games including NC State at #3 Clemson, Kansas State at #19 Oklahoma, #20 West Virginia at Texas Tech, North Carolina at #16 Miami (FL), #12 Ole Miss at #22 Arkansas, and #2 Ohio State at #8 Wisconsin.
We will take a look at some of the games not listed above for week seven. Note, these games are listed in order of when they will be played and all times listed are Eastern.
1. Mississippi State at BYU (10/14 at 10:15 PM) – The Bulldogs enter this game off a horrendous performance against Auburn at home. They were run off the field in the first half after giving up 35 points. They played better in the second half, but that is not a consolation after the first 30 minutes they played.
BYU comes in at the opposite end of the spectrum. The went into East Lansing and won 31-14. They were close with the Spartans through three quarters, but really wore them down in the final frame scoring 21 points to Michigan State’s 7. It was a familiar scene with Jamaal Williams toting the rock quite a bit in the final quarter.
In the Bulldogs’ last two losses to LSU and Auburn, they allowed 177 yards rushing and 228 yards rushing, respectively. Williams has put up four games of at least 160 yards rushing this year and BYU is 3-1 in those games. Mississippi State will need to stop Williams if they want to have a chance of winning. Even then, though, they will have to deal with Taysom Hill.
The Bulldogs will need their A+ game in this one, but will also need Nick Fitzgerald to play better. In their two wins, he has put up at least 110 yards (305 total) and 5 touchdowns against 1 interception. In their three losses, he has managed just 85 yards total on 32 carries and just 2 touchdowns against 1 interception. If the Bulldogs get Fitzgerald going, they can stay in striking distance.
BYU sits and 3-3 while Mississippi State is 2-3 so far in 2016. A win for either team will help their bowl chances, but more so for the Bulldogs.
2. Illinois at Rutgers (10/15 at 12 PM) – This game is way under the radar and has no impact on the rest of the season. So why is it on this list? Because both teams are trending in a bad direction under first year head coaches and this is the kind of game that give a team something to build on if they win. Plus, one of these teams can say they did not go winless in conference play at the end of the year.
Illinois (1-4) is on a four game losing streak and last week’s game against Purdue was there for the taking. They had a chance to defeat Purdue, but Chase McLaughlin’s 41 yard kick at the end of the game hit the right upright and Purdue won 34-31 in overtime.
Rutgers (2-4) is well known for their past two performances. They were crushed 58-0 on the road at Ohio State, but last week’s game put them on the map. They were drubbed 78-0 at home to Michigan, who basically ran the ball the final 20 minutes and still ended up with 481 yards on the ground and 9 rushing touchdowns. The duo of Chris Laviano and Zach Allen combined to go 2 for 18 for 5 yards passing for the Scarlet Knights in the passing game. Rutgers managed 34 yards rushing on 36 carries.
One of these teams has to win this game and while it may not get either one to a bowl game, at least they can build off of this game. Hopefully.
3. Georgia Southern at Georgia Tech (10/15 at 12:30 PM) – This is the battle of which Georgia Triple Option offense is better. Both teams have about 67% of their offense from the ground game while both enter on losing streaks with Georgia Southern at two and Georgia Tech at three.
Georgia Southern will have the benefit of an extra three days of preparation due to playing Arkansas State on Wednesday. The Eagles will spread the ball around to their backs. Five players have at least 200 yards and another one has over 100 yards: Matt Breida (279 yards and 1 touchdown), Wesley Fields (279 and 3 TDs), FavianUpshaw (254 and 2 TDs), Kevin Ellison (252 yards and 3 TDs), L.A. Ramsby (208 and 3 TDs), and Demarcus Godfrey (124 yards).
Georgia Tech has lost three in a row, but they have faced some tough opponents in Clemson, Miami (FL), and Pittsburgh with only Pittsburgh on the road. The ball will usually go into the hands of Dedrick Mills (82 carries for 357 yards and 7 TDs) or quarterback Justin Thomas (64 carries for 206 yards and 1 TD). Another one to watch out for is Clinton Lynch. He only has 19 carries, but has gone for 254 yards and a touchdown on the ground. He also has 6 catches for 134 yards and another touchdown. If he breaks one, it might be the difference.
This game will be old school triple option offense with a lot of running and sporadic amounts passing. Georgia Southern sits at 3-2 and while a loss here does not crush their bowl hopes, a win would give them a confidence boost going back into Sun Belt play. A win here would be bigger for Georgia Tech because their run in consists of Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Virginia, and Georgia. There is no margin for error with a loss here.
4. New Mexico at Air Force (10/15 at 3:30 PM) – A Mountain West battle ensues as the Lobos will travel to face Air Force. New Mexico comes off a big loss to Boise State at home where the offense racked up a ton of yards on the ground, but not much on the scoreboard. They got crushed 49-21 with two late scores flattering the scoreline.
Air Force lost their first game of the season last week to Wyoming on the road 35-26. The Falcons were forced to rely on the passing attack, which ended badly as Nate Romine went 6 of 19 for 188 yards with 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. They may be facing a poor pass defense in New Mexico, but Air Force football is a triple option first with some passing sprinkled in.
This game should feature a lot of running. Air Force only managed 149 yards on 39 carries against Wyoming, but they like to pass the ball closer to 15 times a game instead of 20. New Mexico averages 354 rushing yards per game from their version of the triple option between Teriyon Gipson (399 yards and 5 TDs on 31 carries in only 3 games), Tyrone Owens (390 yards and 2 TDs on 63 carries), LamarJordan (287 yards and 1 TD on 50 carries in basically 3 games), and Richard McQuarley (242 yards and 7 TDs on 47 carries). Gipson missed the game versus Boise State due to hamstring. He is expected to be back for this game and it will be worth watching to see how effective he is against Air Force.
Both teams have a loss in conference play, but Air Force has not played Boise State yet this season. New Mexico could use a win going into the back half of their schedule while Air Force could use this game to get the run game back on track (last two games have seen the offense finish with more passing yards than rushing yards).
5. Northwestern at Michigan St (10/15 at 3:30 PM) – This game will feature both teams at 2-3, which was not expected before the season. Northwestern got a big win before their bye week with a 38-31 win on the road over Iowa. The offense easily looked the best they have all year against Iowa with Justin Jackson getting 171 yards on 26 carries and Austin Carr catching 3 touchdown passes (6 catches for 73 yards total) from Clayton Thorson (164 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions).
Michigan State has not looked anything like the Spartans of the past 5 years during their three game losing streak. Against Wisconsin and BYU they were physically dominated. BYU ran wild on the Spartans in the fourth quarter while Indiana put up 437 yards of offense on them.
The loser of this game drops to 2-4, which will be very difficult to navigate the final half of the year. Northwestern will face Indiana, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Purdue, Minnesota, and Illinois. Michigan State plays Maryland, Michigan, Illinois, Rutgers, Ohio State, and Penn State. This is a big game for both teams.
6. Missouri at Florida (10/15 at 4 PM) – Missouri is 2-3 on the season alternating between losses and wins to start the campaign. They most recently lost to LSU 42-7 on the road and they were dominated in that game. Florida comes in off a win against Vanderbilt, but it was an ugly win. They also had to deal with the postponement of their contest against LSU due to Hurricane Matthew.
Florida’s defense has been very good against every team except Tennessee. They have given up a total of 20 points in their four wins and only 163.5 total yards per game in those four as well. Meanwhile, Missouri’s offense put up a lot yards prior to the LSU game and that will be an interesting matchup for them against the Florida defense. Drew Lock has thrown for 1,675 yards with 14 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He will find this group to be a big step up compared to some of his other opponents.
This game could help shape the SEC East. Florida has just one loss and can still win the division with some help. Missouri already has two losses in conference play and is now looking to make a bowl game. A win here would help and really put a dent in Florida’s SEC East hopes.
Check back next week for the week eight edition of Under The Radar Games. In addition, you can find the previous columns below.
After a great opening week there was a lull in the big games during week two, but that gives way to some top games in the third week. #2 Florida State at #10 Louisville, #1 Alabama at #19 Ole Miss, and #3 Ohio State at #14 Oklahoma are the headliners this week. There are also other good contests like #25 Miami (FL) at Appalachian State, #22 Oregon at Nebraska, Pittsburgh at Oklahoma State, and USC at #7 Stanford.
We look for those small headliners that are worth keeping an eye on both this week and possibly down the road with their impact on the season. Let’s take a look at some of the under the radar games for week three. Note, these games are listed in order of when they will be played.
1. Vanderbilt at Georgia Tech (9/17 at 12:30 PM EST) – This game is big for both schools in regards to making a bowl game this year. Georgia Tech can improve to 3-0 with a win heading into their ACC schedule and would need just three wins in their final 9 games to reach a bowl game. As for Vanderbilt, they are 1-1 after seeing their opening week game slip away to South Carolina. They rebounded on offense to put up 47 points against Middle Tennessee with Ralph Webb running wild to the tune of 211 yards and 2 touchdowns on 29 carries.
The key for both teams will be third down. For the season, the Vanderbilt offense is 8 of 27 on third down and they are facing a Georgia Tech defense that has allowed 16 of 32 on third down. It could also be a low scoring affair given the amount of carries both offenses will feature.
2. South Florida at Syracuse (9/17 at 3:30 PM EST) – South Florida made an appearance on this last week with their game against Northern Illinois. They crushed the Huskies 48-17 just as they did Towson in week one, 56-20. Syracuse opened with a 33-7 win over Colgate before getting dominated 62-28 by LamarJackson and Louisville at home.
The Orange will not have to worry about facing a guy like Jackson this week, but they do have to contend with Quinton Flowers. Flowers threw for 350 yards with 4 touchdowns and ran for another 53 yards on the ground against NIU. South Florida also held that NIU offense to 318 total yards as well as 5 of 18 on third down. The Orange did move the ball well against Louisville, but will need to have the defense step up if they are to keep this game close and have a chance at winning.
3. Western Michigan at Illinois (9/17 at 4 PM EST) – Welcome back, Western Michigan. They were featured in this season’s opening column and did not disappoint with a 22-21 win over Northwestern. They decimated North Carolina Central in week two 70-21 to move to 2-0. Illinois started with a 52-3 win over Murray State in week one and then lost 48-23 to North Carolina in week two. They hung close with the Tar Heels for most of the game, but gave up the final 17 points in the fourth quarter.
The Broncos are actually favored in this game (by 3 points as of this writing). They will not have to worry about facing a tough defense like Northwestern in week one. However, they are facing a better offense this time around than they did in the opening week. Wes Lunt can sling the ball, but he did not look too solid against North Carolina throwing for only 127 yards and 2 touchdown on 17 of 35 passing. Like opening week, this should be a good game to watch and Western Michigan could make it 2-0 against the Big 10 this year.
4. Georgia at Missouri (9/17 at 7:30 PM EST) – Georgia has looked underwhelming this year with a 33-24 win over North Carolina in week one and then squeaking past FCS Nicholls State 26-24 last week. Missouri struggled against West Virginia in their 26-11 loss on the road, but bounced back to trounce Eastern Michigan 61-21 at home last week.
This will be the fifth meeting of these two teams since Missouri joined the SEC in 2012. Georgia is 3-1 in those games and they have beaten Missouri handily in both games at Missouri. They won 41-20 in 2012 and 34-0 in 2014. It is difficult to call any game in the SEC a trap game, but this could be it. Georgia faces Ole Miss on the road next week while Missouri faces Delaware State.
Will Georgia get the running attack going like they did against North Carolina when Nick Chubb ran for 222 yards and 2 touchdowns? How will the defense handle Missouri’s Drew Lock who happens to be the SEC’s leading passer after two weeks? This game could be pivotal in what appears to be another wide open SEC East race.
5. Duke at Northwestern (9/17 at 8 PM EST) – This is a game of what could have been. Duke lost quarterback Thomas Sirk before the season and then lost by 10 points to Wake Forest in week two as they sit at 1-1. Northwestern has been even worse. They lost to both Western Michigan and Illinois State with the offense looking particularly bad against ISU. They lost running back Justin Jackson to a “lower-body injury” in the ISU game, but he is expected to play in this game. The Northwestern offense looked bad against Illinois State and are just 9 of 28 on third down this year.
This game could be ugly especially on the offensive side of the ball. If Jackson is not able to make an impact and the Duke running game cannot get going, it could be even worse. This is a big game at this point in the season for both teams given their schedules the rest of the season.
6. FCS Teams versus FBS Teams– Getting sick of seeing this one yet? Well, it will stick around for at least this week. After four wins in the opening week, there were three more FCS victories over FBS opponents in week two. This week features a total of 12 FCS versus FBS teams and there are some games that look like possible victories for the FCS. The most likely upsets are Eastern Kentucky at Ball State, Monmouth at Kent State, and Delaware at Wake Forest. In addition, North Dakota State (winners of five straight games versus FBS opponents) face Iowa on the road. Will a team have their name added to the list below?
Five Predictions For The Big 10 Conference In 2016
The 2016 College Football season is less a week away as Hawaii and California kick off on next week in Sydney, Australia. Below are five predictions for Big Ten Conference for the 2016 season. Some predictions will be right, some predictions will be wrong, and some will be spectacularly awful (or correct) by the end of the season.
There are no changes to the teams for the Big Ten Conference as the fourteen teams remain the same and are split into East and West Divisions. The seven teams in the East Division are Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State,and Rutgers. The seven teams in the West Division are Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern, Minnesota, Purdue,and Wisconsin.
Here are five predictions for the Big Ten Conference in 2016:
1. Indiana will play in their second consecutive bowl game – The Hoosiers went 6-7 last year with a close loss in the highly entertaining Pinstripe Bowl against Duke 44-41. Now, Indiana will look to make back-to-back bowl games for the first time since the 1990 and 1991 seasons.
The offense has six starters back, but will lose both quarterback Nate Sudfeld and running back JordanHoward. Howard was hobbled with injuries in 2015, which allowed Devine Redding to get some big reps (finished with 1,012 yards and 9 touchdowns). Redding is back as are the top three receivers in Simmie Cobbs (60 catches for 1,035 yards and 4 touchdowns), Ricky Jones (54 catches for 905 yards and 5 touchdowns), and Mitchell Paige (57 catches for 684 yards and 6 touchdowns). No matter who wins the quarterback battle, they will have plenty of options to go to.
The defense took a step back in 2015 when they allowed 37.6 points and 509 yards per game. That was worse than 2014 when they gave up 32.8 pints and 434 yards per game. There are seven starters back, including the top five tacklers in 2015, along with a new defensive coordinator in Tom Allen (from South Florida). The numbers in 2016 should look more like 2014 than 2015 and possibly better than 2014.
The schedule is favorable for Indiana to reach another bowl game. They open on the road against Florida International before back-to-back home games against Ball State and Wake Forest with a 3-0 record looking likely. They do have a daunting Big Ten schedule to start: Michigan State (home), Ohio State (road), Nebraska (home), and Northwestern (road). The back part is much easier with Maryland (home), Rutgers (away), Penn State (home), Michigan (away), and Purdue (home). Wins against Maryland, Rutgers, and Purdue would give them six wins. Indiana might need an upset along the way if they stumble, but they are capable of getting it.
2. Northwestern’s Justin Jackson will lead the conference in rushing – Justin Jackson deserves to be in the upper echelon of running backs in the nation, but he is rarely mentioned with the best. In 2015, he finished second in the conference with 1,418 yards rushing behind only Ezekiel Elliott who had 1,821 yards on the ground.
Consider this: Jackson alone averaged 109 yards per game in 2015 while the Northwestern passing attack average 139 per game. Jackson had little help with the passing attack, was the main focal point of the offense (and conversely the main focal point for the defense), and still ran for over 100 yards per game.
The passing attack should be better in Clayton Thorson’s second season. He lost some playmakers in the receiving corps (Christian Jones, Dan Vitale, Miles Shuler), but the numbers will be better as long as he has progressed. Jackson will face Western Michigan, Illinois State, and Duke in his first three games while playing Purdue, Minnesota, and Illinois in the final three games. Northwestern also faces Indiana in the middle of the season. As long as he stays healthy, Jackson should have a big year.
3. Wisconsin will not win 10 games – No prediction hurts more to make than this one. As a Wisconsin fan and someone who attended the school, it is always tough to make a prediction like this. But reality is too stark to ignore.
The Badgers lost defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, which is a huge loss. His defense never allowed more than 305 yards per game for a season, nor did they allow more than 21 points per contest over the course of a season. They get Justin Wilcox as a replacement from USC and he will have six starters to work with on defense. Wilcox is a solid guy as a DC, but he is not quite on the same level as Aranda.
The schedule is brutal for Wisconsin. They open with LSU (and face Aranda) in Green Bay before getting Akron and Georgia State at home. In Conference, they run a buzz saw from the start with Michigan State AND Michigan both at on the road. After a bye week they face Ohio State at home, Iowa on the road, Nebraska at home, and Northwestern on the road. They close out the season with Illinois (home), Purdue (away), and Minnesota (home). That is a demanding schedule to reach 10 wins, but I will still be hoping this prediction is wrong.
4. The winner of The Game will make the College Football Playoffs – This is a cop-out for having to pick the winner of the Michigan-Ohio State game. It is really tough to pick a winner of that game because it does look like a pretty even game (though Ohio State does have a slight edge being at home as well as having won four in a row and 11 of the last 12 games). It looks likely that whichever team wins the Michigan-Ohio State game will be in the College Football Playoffs.
This prediction looks solid but there are some hurdles that need to be cleared. First, Michigan State plays both Michigan and Ohio State at home this season. Ohio State also faces Oklahoma on the road September 17 as well as Wisconsin and Penn State on the road in back-to-back games in October (15 and 22). The next two games after PSU are Northwestern and Nebraska at home before they end with Michigan State (road) and Michigan (home).
Michigan has a schedule that sets them up well this year, but there are a few challenging games. Like OSU, they play Penn State and Wisconsin in back-to-back games, but both are at home. They do have some possible trap games as well. After Michigan State on the road (Oct. 29), they play Maryland at home (Nov. 5) and then face Iowa on the road (Nov. 12). In between Iowa and Ohio State (Nov. 26) they have Indiana at home (Nov. 19). The Wolverines should handily win those games against Maryland and Indiana, but they cannot take those games lightly given their next opponent.
Looking at Ohio State and Michigan, they are the two best teams in the Big Ten. Michigan State might have something to say about that and even if either the Buckeyes or Wolverines win the Big Ten East, they still have to take care of business in the Big Ten Championship Game, which has proven to be a tough hurdle in the past for teams in position to make the Playoffs or National Championship.
5. Iowa will be pushed to the brink by North Dakota State – If this game were held in the Fargodome, this would be a prediction for an outright NDSU win. But then again, Iowa would not be scheduling a road game against an FCS opponent and FCS opponents will be a thing of the past for Big Ten teams in the near future.
North Dakota State will be going to Iowa City on September 17 in Iowa’s third game of the year. It is sandwiched between Iowa State (home) and the Big Ten opener against Rutgers (away). North Dakota State is the five time FCS National Champion, but their record against FBS teams is outstanding. They are 8-3 overall and have won five in a row against Kansas (6-3 in 2010), Minnesota (37-24 in 2011), Colorado State (22-7 in 2012), Kansas State (24-21 in 2013), and Iowa State (34-14 in 2014).
NDSU has a well known blueprint to beating teams: a strong rushing attack and offense that eats up the time of possession and a very good defense. Iowa boasts a strong defense as well, which could lead to a defensive game. If North Dakota State can grind out long possessions, they can make this game way too close for comfort and possibly pull off the upset.
The Prediction Schedule
With the Big Ten predictions above, predictions have been made for every conference with the exception of the SEC. Those predictions will be made next Saturday, August 27. Below are links to each of the conference predictions completed.
The Illinois Fighting Illini officially hired Lovie Smith on Monday after firing Bill Cubit on Saturday. Cubit’s short tenure ended as bizarrely as it began when he took over for Tim Beckman just days before the start of the season. Now, it ends a month after signing day and his son Ryan was also part of the fallout as he was fired too.
The hiring of Lovie Smith is no doubt a surprise at this point in the off-season, but there are good things that he brings to the Illini. We take a look at the good and bad sides of his hiring.
Lovie Smith is a big name coach – New Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman wanted a big name hire and he got it with Lovie Smith. It is good for the program to be able to bring in a recognizable coach, but as always, how it ends up depends what is produced on the field.
Smith brings stability – The contract for Smith calls for $21 million over 6 years, with his base salary increasing by $1 million per year in 2018, 2019, and 2020. No buyout figures have been released, but it is not hard to imagine they would be pretty hefty early in the contract. More importantly though is that Illinois has a coach they will probably keep around for longer than a few years. Tim Beckman stayed three years after going 12-25 and would have been there at least for a fourth season if not for worrisome allegations against him. It is hard to see Smith not getting at least four season as well in Champaign.
Smith knows the state of Illinois – Smith coached the Chicago Bears from 2004-2012 finishing his tenure with an 81-63 record as well as a 3-3 playoff record. He coached the Bears to Super 41, a game they lost to Indianapolis 29-17. That NFL head coaching experience will resonate with college players…
Smith knows NFL talent – Smith’s ability to recruit NFL talent is not he main priority for Illinois. They will want to see how he does on the field, as well as off the field given their previous coach’s issues. Still, with Smith knowing what it takes to make a roster in the NFL, that will be enough for some recruits to head to Champaign.
Smith has previous college and Big Ten coaching experience – Smith has never been a head coach at the collegiate level, but he did spend over a decade in the college ranks on the defensive side from 1983 through 1995. He even had a stop at Wisconsin in 1987 as the linebackers coach and in 1995 at Ohio State as the defensive backs coach.
Lack of collegiate head coaching experience – This is a concern because being a college coach involves recruiting. Some coaches love it and others do not care for it. Except for the NCAA mandated quiet and dark periods, recruiting is a near non-stop process. In addition, there are limits on how many hours per week the coaches can spend with the players, something that is not present in the NFL.
The College versus NFL playing styles – For the most part, the NFL does not have a ton of variation in the amount of offensive schemes to defend against. Yes, there are spread offenses in the NFL, but not nearly to the extent in the college game where talent discrepancies can accentuate defensive breakdowns. Smith may find that some of his defensive schemes work well on the collegiate level while others may need to be scrapped.
He does not have his players in place – This one is not on Smith at all, but it is still a major negative for him in his first year. He will not have his preferred type of players for offense and defense thanks to this change occurring a month after signing day. He will, however, have spring practice to help put his schemes in place going into the summer months.
Being a big name coach does not mean success – Lovie Smith may be a popular name among the football ranks, but that does not mean he will be a great or even good college head coach. How well and quickly he adapts to the college game will dictate the amount of success he has. This is an unknown because some coaches have been successful going from the NFL to college (i.e. Pete Carroll from New England to USC) while others have not been as successful (i.e. Bill Callahan from Oakland to Nebraska.
Smith’s recruiting base – Smith is from Texas, but does that mean anything in the way of recruiting at this point? Smith has never recruited, but that does not mean he cannot do so. He does have the NFL background to help with some recruits, but what about the others who may see something beyond the NFL? It is a mixed bag at this point for Smith in the recruiting department.
Lovie Smith’s hire is a peculiar one by the Illini at this point in the year, but that does not mean it is a bad hire. The good, bad, and unknown of his hiring will not be fully seen by the end of the first year or even the second year, but it is worth seeing how the above points play out over the next few seasons.
The second to last week in the Big Ten regular season saw all fourteen teams playing in conference clashes with the Big Ten East Division winner still to be decided. It was easy for Michigan State – win against Penn State and they would be playing in Indianapolis on December 5. For Michigan and Ohio State, they needed to win against each other and hope for a Michigan State loss.
#4 Iowa Hawkeyes at Nebraska Cornhuskers
Result: Iowa Win 28-20 (Friday, November 27)
Iowa went on the road and took care of business against Nebraska to move into the Big Ten Championship Game undefeated.
C.J. Beathard was far from impressive throwing the ball going 9 of 16 for 97 yards and a touchdown. However, Jordan Canzeri picked up the slack with 140 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns on 17 carries. George Kittle had 2 catches for 35 yards and the lone receiving touchdown. Iowa put up just 250 yards of offense and did not convert a single one of their 9 third down attempts.
Iowa’s defense was the story as they forced four turnovers, all interceptions. Parker Hesse’s pick was excellent as he stepped in front of the pass at the four yard line, tipped the ball to himself, and easily scored the touchdown. Greg Mabin, Josey Jewell, and Cole Fisher all intercepted passes as well.
Tommy Armstrong did not have a good game for Nebraska throwing for 296 yards and those 4 picks on 25 of 45 passing. He did rush for 46 yards on 9 carries while Imani Cross had 19 carries for 55 yards and 2 scores. Cethan Carter led the Huskers with 4 catches for 76 yards while Brandon Reilly had 3 grabs for 50 yards. Jordan Westerkamp was held to only 2 catches for 41 yards. The Huskers were able to put up 433 yards of offense, but the turnovers hurt them. The Huskers did go 7 of 16 on third down.
Iowa (12-0, 8-0) will play Michigan State on Saturday to decided the Big 10 Champion. The winner is practically guaranteed a spot in the College Football Playoffs.
Nebraska (5-7, 3-5) is not guaranteed a bowl spot, but could end up going to one anyway due to a lack of 6 win teams.
#8 Ohio State Buckeyes at #10 Michigan Wolverines
Result: Ohio State Win 42-13
A week after a horrendous offense performance for Ohio State, they responded by crushing the Wolverines with a massive rushing performance.
JT Barrett went 9 of 15 for 113 yards and a touchdown through the air, but this game was all about the ground attack for the Buckeyes. Ezekiel Elliott ran for 214 yards and 2 touchdowns on 30 carries a week after he inexplicably had only 12 carries for 33 yards. Barrett also had his fun running the ball with 19 carries for 139 yards and 3 scores. Michael Thomas was the top receiver with 2 catches for 50 yards. Ohio State put up 482 yards on one of the top defense in college while going 7 of 13 on third down.
Jake Rudock had a decent game going 19 of 32 for 263 yards and a touchdown. He had no problem finding Jehu Chesson 8 times for 111 yards and a touchdown. Amara Darboh had 68 yards on 4 catches while Jake Butt had 5 grabs for 54 yards. The running game was virtually non-existent with 25 rushes for 57 yards as a team for the entire game. Michigan had 364 yards of offense and was a solid 9 of 18 on third downs.
Ohio State (11-1, 7-1) will not be playing in the Big 10 Championship, but will probably end up in a New Year’s 6 Bowl. Michigan (9-3, 6-2) finished a very good first year under Jim Harbaugh and will probably end up in a January bowl game.
Indiana Hoosiers at Purdue Boilermakers
Result: Indiana Win 54-36
Indiana had an offensive explosion against Purdue to get them into a bowl game. There was not a lot of defense played in this contest on either side.
Nate Sudfeld went 18 of 29 for 350 yards and 4 touchdowns while also had another touchdown rushing. No Jordan Howard for Indiana? No problem as Devine Redding had 144 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries and the Hoosiers ran for 309 yards as a team. Ricky Brookins had 64 yards rushing while Andrew Wilson also had 52 yards and a score on 15 carries.
Mitchell Paige had 5 catches for 92 yards and a touchdown, Simmie Cobbs had 5 catches for 84 yards and a touchdown, and Andre Brooker had only one catch, but it was a 72 yard touchdown. Indiana put up 659 yards of offense and went 5 of 15 on third down. The defense also forced four turnovers, which the offense turned into only 3 points.
Purdue did not play poorly on offense, but they did have 4 turnovers. Austin Appleby had 332 yards, two touchdowns, and 2 interceptions on 36 of 57 passing. Appleby also ran for two scores while Markell Jones had 16 carries for 96 yards and a touchdown. Four Purdue receivers had at least 5 catches and 50 yards (Danny Anthrop, DeAngelo Yancey, Domonique Young, and Cameron Posey), but the two touchdown catches came from Jordan Jurasevich and Cole Herdman. Purdue put up 486 yards of offense and went 6 of 16 on third down.
Indiana (6-6, 2-6) has finally reached bowl eligibility for the first time since 2007 when they played in the Insight Bowl. Purdue (2-10, 1-7) finished with a worse record than 2014 when they went 3-9. Under DarrellHazell, the team is 6-30, but opted to keep him for 2016 season.
Maryland Terrapins at Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Result: Maryland Win 46-41
Despite having no bowl implications, this game was one of the more entertaining ones of the week as Maryland came back from a 31-10 deficit to win 46-41 on a touchdown in the final five minutes of the contest.
Caleb Rowe went 16 of 32 for 239 yards passing with no touchdowns or interceptions. The run game was great for Maryland as Brandon Ross ran for 173 yards and 3 touchdowns on 28 carries. Rowe had 7 carries for 98 yards, Ty Johnson was incredibly efficient with 2 carries for 87 yards and 2 touchdowns, and Kenneth Goins had one carry for 42 yards and a touchdown.
Jahrvis Davenport led the team in receiving with 7 catches for 89 yards, DeAndre Lane had 4 grabs for 63 yards, and D.J. Moore caught 4 passes for 49 yards. Maryland had 656 yards of offense and went 5 of 15 on third down.
Rutgers had a good day on offense as well, but lost a 21 point lead. Chris Laviano went 21 of 33 for 344 yards with 4 touchdowns and a pick. Paul James had 17 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown, Josh Hicks had 61 yards on 10 carries, and Robert Martin had 16 carries for 42 yards. Leonte Carroo ended his season the way he started: with a big game. Carroo had 7 catches for 183 yards and a touchdown while Janarion Grant caught 4 passes for 56 yards and a score. Rutgers had 530 yards of offense and went 3 off 11 on third down.
Maryland (3-9, 1-7) and Rutgers (4-8, 1-7) will both be home for the bowl season and will also be looking for new head coaches for 2016.
Penn State Nittany Lions at #5 Michigan State Spartans
Result: Michigan State Win 55-16
With a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game on the line, Michigan State did not just take care of Penn State, they destroyed them.
Christian Hackenberg went 22 of 39 for 257 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions while SaquonBarkley ran 17 times for 103 yards. Chris Godwin had a good day catching 11 passes for 109 yards and 2 touchdowns while DaeSean Hamilton had 8 catches for 78 yards and Saeed Blacknall had one catch for 77 yards. Penn State had 418 yards of offense and went 5 of 15 on third down. Penn State went an excellent 4 of 5 on fourth downs as well.
Connor Cook came back from injury for the Spartans to go 19 of 26 for 248 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Spartans as a team had a solid rushing attack with 38 carries for 188 yards and 3 touchdowns. The touchdowns came from Gerald Holmes, LJ Scott, and center Jack Allen. Aaron Burbridge had 6 catches for 75 yards and his touchdown was spectacular as he took a hit and spun twice to reach the end zone. The Spartans had little trouble on third down going 8 of 11 and had 436 yards of offense.
Penn State (7-5, 4-4) had a terrible ending to the season losing their final three games. Michigan State (11-1, 7-1) has a date with Iowa on Saturday in the Big Ten Championship Game. The winner will all but be guaranteed a spot in the College Football Playoffs.
#16 Northwestern Wildcats at Illinois Fighting Illini
Result: Northwestern Win 24-14
Northwestern got out to a comfortable 21-7 halftime lead and held on from there to prevent in-state rival Illinois from reaching 6-6 on the year.
Clayton Thorson went 12 of 25 for 146 yards with a touchdown pass and an interception. Justin Jackson had his eighth 100 yard rushing game going for 172 yards and a touchdown on 37 attempts. Warren Long had 25 yards and a score on 5 carries as well. Austin Carr had 3 catches for 61 yards, MilesShuler hauled in 2 passes for 39 yards, and Dan Vitale had 3 catches for 32 yards and the lone receiving touchdown. Northwestern finished with 350 yards of offense and went 6 of 19 on third down.
Wes Lunt went 20 of 41 for 241 yards with no touchdowns and an interception, but ran for a score. Ke’Shawn Vaughn had 12 carries for 62 yards while Josh Ferguson had 14 carries for 40 yards and caught 7 passes for 100 yards. Desmond Cain had 4 grabs for 52 yards, Malik Turner had 3 caches for 46 yards, and Geronimo Allison had 5 grabs for 42 yards. Illinois had 319 yards and went 6 of 18 on third down.
Northwestern (10-2, 6-2) has reached double digit wins for the first time since 2012 when they went 10-3. In that year, Northwestern also won their bowl game. Illinois (5-7, 2-6) is not bowl eligible, but like Nebraska, may still be part of a bowl due to the lack of 6 win teams in the FBS.
Wisconsin Badgers at Minnesota Golden Gophers
Result: Wisconsin Win 31-21
A rivalry game between Wisconsin and Minnesota saw the Badgers’ rushing game get back on track.
Joel Stave’s first pass of the game was returned for a touchdown and the Badgers opted to keep the ball on the ground after that. Stave went 9 of 17 for 79 yards, no touchdowns, and the aforementioned pick. Dare Ogunbowale had his best game of the season with 33 carries for 155 yards and a touchdown. He looked much better this week with more decisive cuts, power running, and shiftiness. Taiwan Deal also had a good game with 90 yards and 2 touchdowns on 22 carries. Alex Erickson was the leading receiver with 6 catches for 66 yards.
The Badgers defense was excellent forcing 5 turnovers against Minnesota. Tanner McEvoy had 2 interceptions, Joe Schobert forced a fumble and recovered a separate one, and Darius Hillary had 2 fumble recoveries. Corey Clement did not travel with the team due to an incident on Wednesday.
Mitch Leidner went 16 of 37 for 223 yards with a touchdown and three picks while being held to only 10 yards rushing on 6 carries. Rodney Smith had 7 rushes for 35 yards and a touchdown while ShannonBrooks was limited to 8 yards on 5 carries. Brooks was the top receiver with 3 catches for 53 yards while Nick Hart had 3 receptions for 45 yards. The Badgers did a good job limiting KJ Maye to 5 catches for 45 yards and Drew Wolitarsky had 2 catches for 44 yards and a touchdown. Minnesota finished with 276 yards, were 3 of 12 on third down, and missed both fourth down conversions.
Wisconsin (9-3, 6-2) finished third in the West Division, but still have a chance at 10 wins in the bowl game. Minnesota (5-7, 2-6) endured a tough season with the loss of their head coach midway through the season, but could still end up in a bowl game if there are not enough 6 win teams.
The Big Ten had six conference games and one non-conference game in week 12. Once again, a team from Michigan was in the spotlight with Michigan State at Ohio State. Each game is looked at below.
Purdue Boilermakers at #5 Iowa Hawkeyes
Result: Iowa Win 40-20
Iowa got out to a big early lead and then kept the pesky Purdue Boilermakers at bay to keep their perfect season intact. The Hawkeyes also formally clinched the Big Ten West Division to reserve their spot in the Big Ten Championship Game against a yet to be determined team from the East division.
Purdue’s Austin Appleby had a solid game going 23 of 40 for 259 yards and a touchdown in relief after an injury to David Blough. Markell Jones ran for 87 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. DeAngeloYancey led Purdue with 9 catches for 117 yards while Domonique Young had 4 grabs for 52 yards. Purdue did manage to put up 405 yards of offense thanks to playing from behind for the entire game. They went 4 of 18 on third down, but a solid 5 of 8 on fourth down.
C.J. Beathard was good again going 12 of 20 for 213 yards with 3 touchdowns and no picks. JordanCanzeri had 95 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. LeShun Daniels ran for 2 touchdowns and 31 yards on 8 carries. HenryKrieger Coble had 4 catches for 76 yards and a touchdown while TevaunSmith had 4 receptions for 73 yards. Iowa had 387 yards on offense and went 5 of 10 on third down.
Purdue (2-9, 1-6) will finish their season at home against Indiana battling for the Old Oaken Bucket. Iowa (11-0, 7-0) faces Nebraska on the road on Black Friday.
#12 Michigan Wolverines at Penn State Nittany Lions
Result: Michigan Win 28-16
Michigan had a consistent effort on the road to defeat Penn State and keep their hopes of a Big Ten East title alive.
Jake Rudock went 25 of 38 for 256 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception. The Wolverines rushing attack was ineffective against Penn State. De’Veon Smith was the top rusher with 39 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries while Michigan had just 87 yards on 30 carries as a team. Jehu Chesson led the team with 4 catches for 69 yards, but Amara Darboh (7 catches for 68 yards and a touchdown) and JakeButt (5 catches for 66 yards and a touchdown) also had good games. Michigan finished with 343 yards on offense and went 7 of 14 on third down.
Penn State struggled on offense and also struggled putting the ball in the end zone. ChristianHackenberg went 13 of 31 for 137 yards and a touchdown, but struggled mightily with accuracy. SaquonBarkley ran for 68 yards on 15 carries while also having 2 grabs for 19 yards. Chris Godwin led Penn State with 3 catches for 51 yards while Saeed Blacknall had a 25 yard touchdown catch in his only reception of the game. Penn State settled for 3 field goals in the red zone and only had 207 yards of offense. They went 3 of 14 on third down and 1 of 2 on fourth down.
Michigan (9-2, 6-1) will take on Ohio State at home next week. Michigan is tied atop the Big Ten East at 6-1 with both Ohio State and Michigan State. Michigan will need a loss by Michigan State as well as to beat Ohio State to make the Big Ten Championship Game.
Penn State (7-4, 4-3) will be on the road against Michigan State with a chance to ruin the Spartans Big Ten title hopes with a win.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Army Black Knights
Result: Rutgers Win 31-21
Rutgers was playing in the only non-conference game of the week and took care of Army on the road.
Chris Laviano went 13 of 21 for 105 yards with no touchdowns or picks. The rushing attack was excellent for Rutgers with Paul James leading the way. He had 116 yards and 3 touchdowns on 18 carries while Robert Martin had 99 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. Janarion Grant had only 2 carries, but managed to run for 40 yards. Grant also had 3 catches for 31 yards while Leonte Carroo had 4 catches for 37 yards. Rutgers had 395 yards of offense, but struggled on third down going 3 of 10. They did managed to convert both of their fourth down attempts.
Rutgers defense struggled to stop the run, but that is expected against Army who runs the triple option. They allowed 261 yards on 52 attempts, but were burned on the six passing attempts by Army. Army went 4 of 6 passing for 140 yards with a touchdown and a pick. Edgar Poe had 2 catches for 95 yards and a touchdown. Army also converted 9 of 13 on third down and 1 of 2 on fourth down. Rutgers gave up 401 yards of offense to Army.
Rutgers (4-7, 1-6) finishes their season next Saturday with Maryland coming to town.
Indiana Hoosiers at Maryland Terrapins
Result: Indiana Win 47-28
Indiana had big second and third quarters to propel them to a 47-28 win over Maryland and leave them one game from bowl eligibility going into the regular season finale. Indiana put up 37 points in the middle two quarters compared to just 7 for Maryland during the same time frame.
Nate Sudfeld had a big game going 23 of 35 for 385 yards and 4 touchdowns. He did not throw an interception and also ran for a touchdown. Devine Redding stepped up to rush for 130 yards on 24 carries after an injury knocked Jordan Howard out of the game early in the contest. Simmie Cobbs easily led the team and entire game with 9 catches for 192 yards. Andre Booker caught 2 passes for 79 yards and a touchdown while Mitchell Paige had 5 catches for 64 yards and 2 touchdowns. Indiana racked up 555 yards, but struggled on third down going just 4 of 14.
Maryland could not find any rhythm in the passing game between Caleb Rowe and Shane Cockerille. Rowe left the game in the second quarter after a concussion. Rowe finished 10 of 19 for 88 yards with a touchdown while also rushing for 27 yards on 4 carries. Cockerille went 10 of 21 for 87 yards while also rushing for 23 yards on 13 carries. Brandon Ross had a massive game rushing going for 250 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground for the best game of 2015 and his career. Levern Jacobs led Maryland with 4 catches for 50 yards. The Terps went 3 of 16 on third down and also went 2 of 6 on fourth down.
Indiana (5-6, 1-6) faces Purdue next week on the road with their final chance at making a bowl in 2015. Maryland (2-9, 0-7) will face Rutgers on the road with neither team having a chance at making a bowl.
#20 Northwestern Wildcats at #25 Wisconsin Badgers
Result: Wisconsin Win 13-7
A defensive battle between Northwestern and Wisconsin saw a tight finish in a controversial game. The Badgers had a punt return touchdown called back due to an illegal fair catch and also had a touchdown overturned in the final minute.
Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson was largely ineffective going 9 of 20 for only 60 yards. Justin Jackson was the workhorse for the Wildcats with 35 carries for 139 yards and a touchdown. GarrettDickerson had 2 catches for 24 yards as the Wildcats leading receiver. Northwestern finished with 209 yards of offense and went 7 of 20 on third down.
Wisconsin was led by Joel Stave going for 229 yards on 20 of 34 passing. He also threw 2 interceptions and also lost a fumble. He missed the final play of the game for Wisconsin as he took a sack with the Badgers on the 1 yard line of Northwestern and left due to concussion like symptoms. The Badgers were completely ineffective running the ball. Corey Clement went for 24 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, but the Badgers finished with NEGATIVE 26 yards rushing due to Stave taking so many sacks.
Jazz Peavy had 5 catches for 88 yards, but his touchdown catch in the final minute was overturned because he did not complete the process of a catch. Tanner McEvoy had 5 catches for 57 yards, but lost a fumble on one of those catches. Wisconsin finished with only 203 yards of offense, had 5 turnovers, and went a poor 2 of 13 on third down.
Northwestern (9-2, 5-2) faces Illinois at home on Saturday with a chance to get their second 10 win season under Pat Fitzgerald (2012). Wisconsin (8-3, 5-2) faces Minnesota on the road next week with a chance of winning 10 games for fifth time in the last 7 seasons. A win over Minnesota and their bowl opponent will get them to the 10 win mark.
#9 Michigan State Spartans at #3 Ohio State Buckeyes
Result: Michigan State Win 17-14
The game of the day for the Big Ten belonged to Michigan State and Ohio State. The Spartans won by a field goal despite not having quarterback Connor Cook.
Tyler O’Connor got the start in place of Cook and went 7 of 12 for 89 yards and a touchdown. GeraldHolmes ran for 65 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries while LJ Scott had 13 carries for 58 yards. The Spartans relied heavily on their rushing attack to the tune of 203 yards on 51 carries. Aaron Burbridge led the team with 4 catches for 62 yards while four others recorded a reception. Trevon Pendleton had the lone touchdown reception for the Spartans as they finished with 294 yards on offense and went 7 of 15 on third down.
Ohio State could hardly get anything going on offense. JT Barrett went 9 of 16 passing for 46 yards and a touchdown. Barrett was also the leading rusher for Ohio State with 44 yards on 15 carries. Ezekiel Elliott inexplicably had only 12 carries and went for 33 yards and a touchdown. Jalin Marshall was the top receiver with 2 catches for 22 yards and a touchdown. Ohio State had only 132 yards of offense and went 4 of 14 on third down.
Michigan State (10-1, 6-1) controls their destiny in the Big Ten East. They face Penn State at home on Saturday and a win would put them in the Big Ten Championship Game against Iowa.
Ohio State (10-1, 6-1) will face Michigan on the road next week. They need a win over Michigan and a loss by Michigan State to play in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Illinois Fighting Illini at Minnesota Golden Gophers
Result: Minnesota Win 32-23
The battle for two bowl hopefuls ended with Minnesota coming out on top as both teams now sit at 5-6 on the season.
Wes Lunt went 34 of 47 for 279 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception for Illinois. Josh Ferguson led the Illini in rushing with 105 yards on 20 carries while Kendrick Foster got his most significant playing time to post 56 yards rushing on 11 carries. Malik Turner led the team with 11 catches for 126 yards and a touchdown. Illinois finished with 433 yards of offense and went 8 of 17 on third down, but also committed 3 turnovers.
Mitch Leidner did not have anywhere near the same passing efficiency in his past four games, but that did not hurt the Gophers. He finished 15 of 25 for 88 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for 64 yards on 10 carries. Shannon Brooks ran wild all game with 174 yards and 3 touchdowns on 17 carries. KJ Maye had a quiet game going for 31 yards on 4 catches while Drew Wolitarsky had 2 catches for 26 yards and Brandon Lingen had 3 catches for 20 yards. Minnesota put up 343 yards of offense while going 7 of 13 on third down.
Illinois (5-6, 2-5) will need to beat Northwestern in Chicago to reach a bowl game in 2015. Minnesota (5-6, 2-5) is in the same position of needing a win against Wisconsin, but they will be at home.
Check back next Sunday for a roundup of the Big Ten’s final full week of the regular season.