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2015 Week 13 Big Ten Roundup

Connor Cook returned and Michigan State dominated Penn State on Saturday. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images North America)
Connor Cook returned and Michigan State dominated Penn State on Saturday. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images North America)

2015 Week 13 Big Ten Roundup

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 Darrell Hazell, 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 Saquon Barkley 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, Miles Shuler 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 Shannon Brooks 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.

2015 Week 10 Big Ten Roundup

Nebraska defeated Michigan State on a controversial ending to keep their bowl hopes alive. (Eric Francis/Getty Images North America)
Nebraska defeated Michigan State on a controversial ending to keep their bowl hopes alive. (Eric Francis/Getty Images North America)

2015 Week 10 Big Ten Roundup

All fourteen teams were in action for the Big Ten this week and, what seems to be the norm, is a controversial ending.

Illinois Fighting Illini at Purdue Boilermakers

Result: Illinois Win 48-14 (Saturday, November 7)

Illinois made quick work of Purdue as they coasted to an easy 34 point victory. Wes Lunt went 19 of 33 for 169 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions. The run game was incredibly effective with Ke’Shawn Vaughn gashing the Purdue defense for 180 yards and 2 touchdowns on 16 carries. Josh Ferguson had 133 yards on 12 carries while backup quarterback Chayce Crouch even ran for 45 yards. Illinois finished with 382 yards rushing on 41 carries.

Desmond Cain had his best game on the year with 6 catches for 74 yards and a touchdown to lead the team in receiving. Ferguson added 6 catches for 41 yards and a touchdown through the air while Malik Turner had 2 grabs for 36 yards and a score. Illinois racked up 595 yards of offense and went 5 of 14 on third down.

Purdue had trouble getting much going with David Blough throwing for 174 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions on 29 of 47 passing. He found 10 different receivers with DeAngelo Yancey leading the team with 5 catches for 51 yards and a touchdown. Markell Jones had 84 yards rushing on 14 carries. Purdue’s offense put up 263 yards and went 8 of 22 on third and fourth down combined.

Illinois (5-4, 2-3) sits one game from bowl eligibility with Ohio State coming to town next week. Purdue (2-7, 1-4) is eliminated from bowl contention, but head coach Darrell Hazell will be back in 2016. The Boilermakers face Northwestern next week on the road.

Penn State Nittany Lions at #21 Northwestern Wildcats

Result: Northwestern Win 23-21 (Saturday, November 7)

Northwestern defeated Penn State on a late field goal, but lost quarterback Clayton Thorson. His backup, Zack Oliver, did well in place of him going 11 of 24 for 111 yards with a touchdown and interception. Oliver also ran for another touchdown.

Justin Jackson had a massive game rushing the ball with 28 carries for 186 yards as the Wildcats rushed for 227 yards on 47 carries as a team. Nine different receivers caught a pass for Northwestern with Dan Vitale tallying 4 catches for 40 yards. Garrett Dickerson had 2 catches for 34 yards and Christian Jones caught 2 passes for 27 yards and a touchdown. Northwestern finished with 396 yards on offense and were 6 of 17 on third down.

Christian Hackenberg went 21 of 40 for 210 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. Receiver Geno Lewis threw a nice 32 yard touchdown pass in his only attempt of the game. Saquon Barkley ran for 120 yards and 2 touchdowns on 25 carries while Chris Godwin was easily the top receiver with 8 catches for 104 yards. DaeSean Hamilton had the 32 yard touchdown catch from Lewis and finished with 3 grabs for 50 yards. Barkley also added 6 catches for 50 yards. Penn State converted only 4 of 17 third downs and put up 362 yards of offense.

Penn State (7-3, 4-2) has a bye week before taking on Michigan at home on November 21. Northwestern (7-2, 3-2) will play Purdue at home next week.

Wisconsin Badgers at Maryland Terrapins

Result: Wisconsin Win 31-24 (Saturday, November 7)

It was far from a pretty game for Wisconsin, but they came out with the victory on the road against Maryland.

Joel Stave went 15 of 24 for 188 yards with a touchdown and an interception while the surprise rushing leader was Joe Schobert on his lone 57 yard carry. Corey Clement did not make the trip while Dare Ogunbowale had 19 carries for 47 yards and a touchdown and Taiwan Deal had 42 yards on 9 carries. Unsurprisingly, Alex Erickson led the team in receiving with 5 catches for 83 yards. Ogunbowale also had a touchdown receiving to go along with 3 catches for 16 yards.

The Badgers were boosted by a nice 98 yard kickoff return from Natrell Jamerson and two interceptions by Tanner McEvoy. He now has 4 interceptions on the season. The Wisconsin offense had 305 yards and went a poor 3 of 13 on third down. They did convert both of their fourth down attempts.

Maryland employed a dual quarterback system with mixed results. Perry Hills went 6 of 16 for 107 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Caleb Rowe, who came in during the fourth quarter, had very similar stats going 7 of 18 for 97 yards with a touchdown and interception as well. Playmaker William Likely led the Terps in rushing with 56 yards on 3 carries while Wes Brown had 34 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.

DeAndre Lane led the team with 3 catches for 63 yards, but the next two guys caught the touchdown passes. DJ Moore had 2 catches for 51 yards while Levern Jacobs had 48 yards on 2 catches. Maryland put up 316 yards of offense and went 5 of 16 on third down.

Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1) still has a longshot possibility of winning the West Division, but will be more focused on getting to 10 wins. They have a bye before facing Northwestern at home on November 21. Maryland (2-7, 0-5) faces Michigan State on the road next week.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights at #17 Michigan Wolverines

Result: Michigan Win 49-16 (Saturday, November 7)

Michigan got back to their dominating ways even if they ruffled some feathers along the way.

Rutgers had trouble getting anything going on offense. Chris Laviano went 11 of 26 for 97 yards with an interception. Robert Martin had 81 yards on 10 carries while Josh Hicks went for 41 yards on 9 carries. Andre Patton led the team in receiving with 3 catches for 35 yards. Rutgers finished with 225 yards, went 3 of 13 on third down, and their lone touchdown came on special teams with Janarion Grant’s 98 yard kickoff return.

Michigan had a career passing game from Jake Rudock, who went 18 of 25 for 337 yards, 2 passing touchdowns, and a rushing touchdown. De’Veon Smith ran for 73 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries with Drake Johnson rushing for 27 yards and a touchdown on 7 carries. Jake Butt had 4 catches for 102 yards and Amara Darboh had 3 grabs for 53 yards and a score. Michigan tallied 487 yards and went 7 of 13 on third down.

Michigan was up 35-16 when De’Veon Smith punched the ball in from 4 yards out. Harbaugh decided to go for two and Rudock was able to run it in near the pylon to make it 43-16, which caused some chatter and controversy.

Rutgers (3-6, 1-5) faces Nebraska next week at home with the loser eliminated from bowl eligibility. Michigan (7-2, 4-1) still has a chance to win the Big Ten East and play in the Big 10 Championship Game by winning out. They face Indiana next week on the road.

#9 Iowa Hawkeyes at Indiana Hoosiers

Result: Iowa Win 35-27 (Saturday, November 7)

Iowa did not always play perfect against Indiana, but a win is a win and they are still undefeated.

C.J. Beathard went 19 of 31 for 233 yards and a touchdown, but also showed some decent wheels with 38 yards and a touchdown on 5 rushing attempts. With Jordan Canzeri still out, Akrum Wadley led the way with 12 carries for 120 yards and a touchdown. LeShun Daniels also had 23 carries for 78 yards and 2 scores.

The passing game was dominated by three receivers for Iowa. Matt VandeBerg had 5 catches for 68 yards, Tevaun Smith had 4 catches for 55 yards, and Jacob Hillyer finished with 4 catches for 53 yards. The lone touchdown pass went to George Kittle, who finished with 2 catches for 19 yards. Iowa went 7 of 14 on third down and put up 467 yards of offense.

Indiana had a good game against a solid defense, but it was not enough. Nate Sudfeld threw for 180 yards, a touchdown, and an interception on 16 of 37 passing. Jordan Howard ran wild with 174 yards and 2 touchdowns on 22 carries. Mitchell Paige had 2 catches for 51 yards while Ricky Jones caught 4 balls for 39 yards. Indiana put up 407 yards of offense while going a combined 10 of 19 on third down.

Iowa’s Desmond King continues to be an interception machine. He has recorded at least one interception in six of the nine games for Iowa and has 8 on the season.

Iowa (9-0, 5-0) will be focused on going undefeated, which is a strong possibility with their remaining schedule. They face Minnesota at home this week. Indiana (4-5, 0-5) has dropped five in a row and needs to win two of their final three to make a bowl game. They face Michigan at home next week.

#7 Michigan State Spartans at Nebraska Cornhuskers

Result: Nebraska Win 39-38 (Saturday, November 7)

Nebraska played in yet another close game this year, but, for once, this one turned out in their favor. It was a controversial ending on whether Brandon Reilly should have been called for illegal touching, but the Huskers will not care after how their season has gone.

Connor Cook had another good game passing going 23 of 37 for 335 yards with 4 touchdowns and an interception. His top target was none other than Aaron Burbridge with 10 catches for 164 yards and a touchdown. Macgarrett Kings had 4 receptions for 97 yards and 2 touchdowns as well.

Gerald Holmes ran for 117 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries as the featured back. Michigan State had 491 yards of offense and went 9 of 16 on third and fourth down. Their struggles on defense continue to be a worry and it caught up with them in this contest.

After missing last week, Tommy Armstrong returned with a vengeance going 19 of 33 for 320 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He also ran for two scores while Imani Cross led the team in rushing with 98 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Jordan Westerkamp had 9 catches for 143 yards and a touchdown while Brandon Reilly had 3 catches for 87 yards and the big touchdown grab down the sideline. Nebraska had 499 yards of total offense and went 6 of 12 on third down (1 for 1 on fourth down).

Michigan State (8-1, 4-1) can still win the Big Ten East, as they have to face Ohio State and beat Michigan earlier this year. They face Maryland at home next week. Nebraska (4-6, 2-4) can still make a bowl game by winning their final two games. They face Rutgers next week on the road with the loser not making a bowl game for the 2015 season.

Minnesota Golden Gophers at #3 Ohio State Buckeyes

Result: Ohio State Win 28-14 (Saturday, November 7)

Ohio State did not have JT Barrett, but that was no problem as they relied on Ezekiel Elliott and Cardale Jones to lead the way.

Jones went 12 of 22 for 187 yards and a touchdown, but was also effective running the ball. He ran 12 times for 65 yards and a late touchdown to ice the game. Elliott was a workhorse with 26 carries for 114 yards and a touchdown. Jalin Marshall had 2 catches for 56 yards while Braxton Miller had a big 45 yard catch, but that was his only one on the night. Michael Thomas finished with 4 grabs for 39 yards and a touchdown. Ohio State had 376 yards of offense and went 7 of 16 on third down.

Minnesota got another good game from quarterback Mitch Leidner. He went 27 of 44 for 281 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception. The rushing attack could not get anything going as they managed only 33 yards on 26 carries as a team. Shannon Brooks was the leader with 27 yards on 11 carries.

KJ Maye had a wonderful game with 10 catches for 116 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Lingen caught 4 passes for 50 yards, Rodrick Williams had 2 catches for 44 yards, and Rashad Still had 6 grabs for 41 yards and a touchdown. Minnesota had 314 yards of offense, went 7 of 19 on third down, and converted one of two fourth downs.

Minnesota (4-5, 1-4) still needs two wins to reach bowl eligibility. They face Iowa on the road next week. Ohio State (9-0, 5-0) faces Illinois next week on the road, still with a massive chance to defend their National Title.

Check back next week for a recap of Week 11 in the Big Ten.

2015 Week 5 Big Ten Roundup

Illinois celebrates their victory, as Nebraska suffers another crushing last-minute loss. ( Michael Hickey/Getty Images North America)
Illinois celebrates their victory, as Nebraska suffers another crushing last-minute loss. ( Michael Hickey/Getty Images North America)

2015 Week 5 Big Ten Roundup

The Big Ten started conference play in Week 5 with six conference games. Only Penn State (at home versus Army) and Rutgers (idle) did not play a conference game. A look at each game is below.

Purdue Boilermakers at #2 Michigan State Spartans

Result: Michigan State Win 24-21 (Saturday, October 3)

In a theme across the Big Ten, it was a day of concern for some teams and that includes the second ranked Michigan State Spartans.

The Spartans looked well on their way to an easy win with their rushing game leading them to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter. That was the score at halftime, but the offense sputtered to just 3 points the final 40 minutes of the game. The offense lost one fumble and missed a field goal on back-to-back possessions that led to 14 points for Purdue.

Connor Cook had a pedestrian game going 13 of 19 for 139 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for 48 yards on just 5 carries. LJ Scott had a big game, particularly in the first half with 146 yards and 2 touchdowns on 18 carries. Madre London got his share of playing time with 17 carries for 97 yards.

The Michigan State defense forced three turnovers in the first half, but did not force any in the second half. One drive did begin right outside the red zone, which was not the fault of the defense. They were susceptible to the big play at times as well.

Purdue could not get anything going on offense in the first half due largely to their turnovers. The second half saw the narrative completely flip and the offense looked much more comfortable. Two of their touchdown drives went for 79 and 80 yards while Markell Jones had a big day including a long touchdown on one of those. He rushed for 157 yards and 2 touchdowns on 22 carries while David Blough looked okay going 15 of 31 for 136 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 pick.

If Purdue’s defense can play each game like they did in the second half, they will be a tough opponent for the rest of the season.

Purdue faces Minnesota next week at home while Michigan State takes their perfect record on the road to face Rutgers.

Minnesota Golden Gophers at #16 Northwestern Wildcats

Result: Northwestern Win 27-0 (Saturday, October 3)

This game was all about defense, specifically Northwestern’s defense.

The Northwestern defense stymied Minnesota at every turn. The Gophers could only managed 173 yards of offense the entire game with 99 through the air and 74 on the ground. Minnesota converted only 4 of 16 third downs and were 0 of 4 on fourth down. It was a dominating performance from Northwestern on defense.

Mitch Leidner was ineffective going 10 of 21 for 72 yards with an interception. Shannon Brooks mustered just 33 yards rushing on 10 carries while Rodney Smith had just 32 yards on 11 carries.

Northwestern’s offense was not out of this world, but they were effective. Clayton Thorson looked better this week going 14 of 19 for 128 yards. He also had 2 rushing touchdowns and was once again aided by Justin Jackson’s running attack. Jackson had 120 yards on 20 carries.

Anthony Walker was responsible for a 13 yard fumble recovery that he returned for a touchdown to put the exclamation point on the defense dominance Northwestern showed.

Minnesota will face Purdue next week on the road in a game that will need to see the offense have some sort of spark. Northwestern will go to Ann Arbor to face Michigan in what is setting up to be a classic Big Ten defensive struggle.

Iowa Hawkeyes at #19 Wisconsin Badgers

Result: Iowa Win 10-6 (Saturday, October 3)

If you are a fan of defense, this was the game for you. That is in large part due to the inept offenses that both Iowa and Wisconsin provided in this contest.

Wisconsin never seemed comfortable at any point in this game on offense. They were able to get a field goal on their opening drive, but only were able to get 3 points the rest of the way. Joel Stave had 234 yards passing on 21 of 38 attempts, but had two interceptions and lost two fumbles including one at the Iowa one yard line.

The rushing attack was virtually non-existent for Wisconsin. They had 86 yards on 34 carries as a team and Taiwan Deal was the top back with only 59 yards on 15 carries.

The one positive for Wisconsin was their defense and Joe Schobert shined. He made tackles, constantly was in the backfield, had two forced fumbles, and also recovered one of those forced fumbles. He was in full beast mode, but unfortunately his performance was wasted in the loss.

As bad as Wisconsin was on offense, Iowa was worse and still managed to win this game. C.J. Beathard had only 77 yards passing on 9 of 21 passing. He had a touchdown pass late in the second quarter, but also threw a pick that was intercepted by Michael Caputo. Jordan Canzeri was a workhorse with 125 yards rushing on 26 carries.

The Iowa defense gave up 320 yards of offense, but they stood tall when put up against their backs. They forced four turnovers including several that kept points off the board. They also held the Badgers to 3 field goal attempts with them going 2 of 3 on those kicks. Desmond King had the two interceptions and he was impressive in coverage.

Iowa improved to 5-0 with this win and they will continue their Big Ten schedule with Illinois at home next week. Wisconsin has a tough road trip to Nebraska in another crucial Big Ten West matchup.

#22 Michigan Wolverines at Maryland Terrapins

Result: Michigan Win 28-0 (Saturday, October 3)

Michigan’s defense continues to look impressive this year with another shutout performance.

The Michigan offense was okay, but they did not have to do much with their defense continuing to shut down the opponents. Jake Rudock went 16 of 32 for 180 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Drake Johnson was the main running back with 13 carries for 68 yards and a score, but a plethora of others got a chance to run the ball. Jehu Chesson had a wonderful 66 yard touchdown run for his only rushing attempt of the game.

The story, though, is about the defense and the Maryland offense. Maryland put up a total of 105 yards of offense for the entire game! They were an awful 1 of 18 on third down. The quarterbacks combined to go 10 of 36 passing for 76 yards with 3 interceptions. Brandon Ross had 44 yards on 14 rushes, but the rest of the team was so bad they finished with 29 yards rushing on 26 attempts as a team. All of those stats are a combination of Michigan’s defense and Maryland’s offense.

Michigan has a big defensive battle next week at home against Northwestern. Maryland has to face Ohio State at home with the hope that they can get something, anything positive going.

Army Black Knights at Penn State Nittany Lions

Result: Penn State Win 20-14 (Saturday, October 3)

Penn State was the only Big Ten team in action to not play another conference member. They took on Army in an offensive struggle for them again. To be fair, the Nittany Lions were without their top two running backs.

Christian Hackenberg went 10 of 19 for 156 yards and a touchdown through the air. Nick Scott led the rushing attack with 12 carries for 54 yards and a touchdown. Chris Godwin was the top received easily with 4 catches for 66 yards. The offense only converted on 5 of 15 third downs, but did not turn the ball over.

The defense had some issues against the triple-option, but played well in the first half. They recovered three fumbles that the offense was able to convert into 10 points. The second half is when they struggled against the option giving up two touchdown drives of 75 yards or longer. Perhaps they were beginning to wear down against the run, as Army had 55 rushing attempts and only 1 passing attempt for the entire game.

Penn State faces Indiana at home next week in their second Big Ten game. They beat Rutgers two weeks ago 28-3 in their conference opener.

#1 Ohio State Buckeyes at Indiana Hoosiers

Result: Ohio State Win 34-27 (Saturday, October 3)

The Big Ten opener for both Ohio State and Indiana showed both teams quite a bit on both sides of the ball.

For Ohio State, the offense continued to look disheveled at times, but they did get back to one tenant that made them so good in 2014: pound the rock with Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott was explosive against Indiana with 274 yards and 3 touchdowns on 3 touchdowns. Elliott’s touchdown runs were from 55, 65, and 75 yards and helped to repel the upset bid of Indiana.

Cardale Jones went 18 of 27 for 245 yards with 1 touchdown and a pick, but also looked bad at times. He will have to play way better for Ohio State to repeat this year. Jalin Marshall had 6 catches for 110 yards, but also lost 2 fumbles.

The defense was not great against Indiana, but they got the job done. They held the Hoosiers to 17 of 36 passing (226 yards) and also allowed only 176 yards on 55 carries (3.2 average). They did not force a turnover, but held Indiana to only 7 of 22 on third downs. This is another part of the team that will need to improve from this game.

For Indiana, this was actually a solid game. They were ultimately hurt by injuries that may have prevented them from the upset, but that is part of the game.

Nate Sudfeld left the game with an ankle injury, but went 10 of 21 for 134 yards and did not have a turnover. Star running back Jordan Howard ran for only 34 yards on 14 carries before he too suffered an ankle injury.

Zander Diamont had a solid game in place of Sudfeld going 6 of 14 for 76 yards. He was also elusive when running the ball with 7 carries for 98 yards and a score. That touchdown run was a 79 yarder that made the game 34-27 with 10 minutes left to play. Devine Redding carried a bulk of the load with Howard gone. He had 30 carries for only 45 yards, but two went for touchdowns.

Ultimately, it was the defense that struggled for Indiana and cost them the game with those long runs by Elliott. It is a common theme for the Hoosiers, but if they can improve slightly over the course of the final 7 games, they could win 7 or 8 games and improve their bowl slot.

Ohio State will have a chance to remedy some of their issues next week against Maryland at home. Indiana will face Penn State on the road next week.

Nebraska Cornhuskers at Illinois Fighting Illini

Result: Illinois Win 14-13 (Saturday, October 3)

Nebraska suffered another heartbreaking loss in a theme that has been all too common for the Husker faithful this year.

Let’s start with Illinois on offense, which had opportunity after opportunity to score early in the game. A muffed punt gave them a chance to get points, but they missed a field goal. They were stopped on fourth and one at the Nebraska 10 and missed another field goal on the next two drives.

The Illini finally broke through early in the fourth quarter with a 22 yard touchdown pass from Wes Lunt to Marchie Murdock. Lunt also threw a touchdown pass on fourth down to Geronimo Allison with seconds left to tie the game before the extra point gave them the win. Lunt finished the game going 23 of 45 for 251 yards with those two touchdown passes.

The Illini were hurt on offense when Josh Ferguson left in the first quarter due to injury. He had 4 carries for 50 yards prior to that. Ke’Shawn Vaughn ended up getting most of the carries the rest of the way finishing with 98 yards on 24 rushes.

Nebraska will rue the loss, but there is plenty of blame to go around. Tommy Armstrong went a putrid 10 of 31 for 105 yards with an interception. He also had 8 rushes for 38 yards while Devine Ozigbo had 7 rushes for 70 yards and a score. The offense went 4 of 17 on third down and also had 2 turnovers with neither coming back to haunt them.

Nebraska falls to 2-3 and has a good game next week against Wisconsin at home. Illinois moved to 4-1 and has to go to Iowa in another Big Ten West clash that could determine the winner by season’s end.

The Week 6 edition will be up next Sunday so be sure to check back for thoughts on the game’s from next weekend.

2015 College Football Preview: Big 10 West

Corey Clement has big shoes to fill in replacing Melvin Gordon while Wisconsin has been to three of the first four Big 10 Championship Games. (Mike McGinnis/Getty Images North America)
Corey Clement has big shoes to fill in replacing Melvin Gordon while Wisconsin has been to three of the first four Big 10 Championship Games. (Mike McGinnis/Getty Images North America)

2015 College Football Preview: Big 10 West

Part fourteen of Sports Enthusiasts’ 2015 College Football Preview delves into the Big 10’s West Division. There are only three conferences left in the preview series with the Pac-12 and SEC still a few weeks down the road. Below is the schedule of conference previews completed and those still to come.

MAC East Division – July 1

MAC West Division – July 3

Mountain West, Mountain Division – July 7

Mountain West, West Division – July 10

C-USA East Division – July 14

C-USA West Division – July 17

The American East Division – July 21

The American West Division – July 24

FBS Independents – July 28

Sun Belt – July 28

Big 12 – July 31

ACC Coastal Division – August 4

ACC Atlantic Division – August 7

Big 10 West Division – August 11

Big 10 East Division – August 14

Pac-12 North Division – August 18

Pac-12 South Division – August 21

SEC East Division – August 25

SEC West Division – August 28

The Big 10 West Division is broken down below.

1. Wisconsin Badgers

Bret Bielema bolted Wisconsin after the 2012 season to go to Arkansas while Gary Andersen came in for the 2013 and 2014 seasons. He led the Badgers to a 9-4 record in 2013 before a double digit win season in 2014 including a 59-0 destruction at the hands of Ohio State in the Big 10 Championship. He too bolted Madison and went West to Oregon State. Paul Chryst returns to his alma mater where he played quarterback from 1986 to 1988 and was the offensive coordinator from 2005 through 2011. He was also the head coach at Pittsburgh from 2012 t0 2014.

The offense was very good under Andersen where they had nearly identical output over his two years. In 2013, they put up 34.8 points and 481 yards per game and it was 34.6 points and 469 yards in 2014. The offense has five starters back with Joel Stave not having to worry about another QB. Stave threw for 1,350 yards with 9 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Melvin Gordon is gone after his monstrous season with 2,587 yards with 29 touchdowns, but Corey Clement is willing to try and fill the void. Clement had 949 yards and 9 touchdowns rushing while Dare Ogunbowale had 193 yards and a touchdown on only 34 carries. The go to guy last year, Alex Erickson, is back after recording 55 catches for 772 yards and 3 touchdowns. Troy Fumagalli caught 14 passes for 187 yards last year and a second wide receiver will need to develop in 2015. The offensive line also has only two starters returning, but the quarterback numbers should be better with Chryst in charge. The loss of Gordon will hurt, but the offense should be solid even with Chryst coming in.

The defense for Wisconsin is constantly solid. Between 2009 and 2014, the defense has not yielded more than 22 points and 325 yards per game. The defense had only 3 starters back in 2014 and allowed 20.8 points and 294 yards per game. There are six starters back including most of the secondary. Chikwe Obasih had 21 tackles and 1.5 sacks in seven starts. The depth is also better after plaguing them the past two seasons. The linebacker unit has the two outside ‘backers returning in Vince Biegel (56 tackles, 7.5 sacks, and 9 tackles for loss) and Joe Schobert (69 tackles, 3 sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss, and 7 pass breakups). The secondary has three starters back led by Michael Caputo. Caputo was the top tackler last year with 106 stops while also recording 1 sack, 5 tackles for loss, 6 pass breakups, and an interception. Darius Hillary and Sojourn Shelton will be at the cornerback spots, but need to interception more passes after those two failed to record any in 2014. Tanner McEvoy has also moved to safety after splitting time at quarterback and safety in 2014.

Wisconsin opens with a daunting game in Arlington, Texas against Alabama that will surely test them to their highest capability. After that, it is much easier with the trio of Miami (OH), Troy, and Hawaii all coming to Madison. In conference, Wisconsin faces Iowa, Purdue, and Northwestern at home while playing Nebraska, Illinois, and Minnesota on the road. From the East division, the Badgers take on Rutgers (home) and Maryland (road). The Badgers will surely make a bowl game in 2015 and can expect to be the team to beat for the West, but they have their question marks.

2. Northwestern Wildcats

Pat Fitzgerald did something that only Bob Voigts was able to do: win a bowl game. Voigts won the 1949 Rose Bowl while Fitzgerald won the 2012 Gator Bowl after losing the previous four bowl games. Since that 2012 season, Northwestern has not been back to a bowl game after back-to-back 5-7 seasons that have been filled with injuries. 2015 must result in a bowl game for the Wildcats and Fitzgerald.

The offense sputtered last year after putting up 23 points and 353 yards per game despite eight starters back. This year, the offense will have six starters back, but one of them will not be at quarterback. That may not be a bad thing as Trevor Siemian only threw for 2,214 yards with 7 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Zack Oliver threw for 367 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions, but he will be battling with Clayton Thorson and Matt Alviti for the starting job. Justin Jackson is back after a stellar freshman season. Despite only starting five games, Jackson ran for 1,187 yards with 10 touchdowns while also catching 22 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown. There is plenty of talent back at wide receiver with Dan Vitale leading the way. He had 40 catches for 402 yards and 2 touchdowns. Cameron Dickerson (24 catches for 318 yards and a touchdown) and Miles Shuler (23 catches for 190 yards) back as well. The biggest returner is Christian Jones, who had a solid 2013 season with 668 yards, but missed all of 2014. The offensive line has three starters back and the entire offense should be able to perform better this year.

The defense was decent in 2014 with seven starters back, giving up 25.2 points and 384 yards per game. Eight starters are back in 2015, the most for Fitzgerald since 2009 (gave up 24.5 points and 350 yards per game). The entire defensive line is back led by Dean Lowry, who had 41 tackles, 4 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, and 8 pass breakups. The linebacking unit is the worry for Northwestern with only Anthony Walker returning (51 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss, and 2 interceptions). The secondary is another strength with three starters back. Traveon Henry had 73 tackles (#2 on team) and 2.5 tackles for loss while Matthew Harris had 70 tackles (#3 on team), 3.5 tackles for loss, 7 pass breakups, and 2 interceptions. The defense should be solid once again for Northwestern and should improve on the numbers the allowed last season.

Northwestern does not have an easy start to the season with Stanford coming to town followed by Eastern Illinois. A road trip against Duke comes before their final non-conference game against Ball State at home. In conference, the Wildcats will face Minnesota, Iowa, and Purdue at home while taking on Nebraska and Wisconsin on the road. They also face Illinois in Chicago on the final weekend in November. From the East, they will have the pleasure of facing Michigan (road) and Penn State (home) in two tough games. All around, Northwestern should be better in 2015 and could have a chance to take the division with a win over Wisconsin (Nov. 21).

3. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Nebraska was led by Bo Pelini starting in 2008 and going through 2014. During that time, Pelini led Nebraska to at least 9 wins each year including three 10 win seasons. Pelini, however, did not make a BCS or Group of Five bowl in that time and was let go after the 2014 season. Mike Riley comes over from Oregon State after 15 years there and only once led the Beavers to at least 10 wins (2006).

The offense has six starters back from a group that put up 37.8 points and 452 yards of offense per game. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong threw for 2,695 yards with 22 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while also rushing for 705 yards and 6 touchdowns as the teams second leading rusher. Ameer Abdullah will not be back, which leaves Imani Cross (384 yards and 5 touchdowns) and Terrell Newby (297 yards and 5 touchdowns) as the top returning running backs. Nearly all of the receivers return led by Jordan Westerkamp (44 catches for 747 yards and 5 touchdowns) and De’Mornay Pierson-El (23 catches for 321 yards and 4 touchdowns). The offensive line has two starters back at the tackles. The offense will probably not put up the same numbers as they did last year with a new coach and new schemes.

The defense has six starters back from a unit that allowed 26.4 points and 384 yards per game. Three starters are back on the defensive line that gave up 178 yards and 4.7 yards per carry last year. Greg McMullen (4 sacks, 5 tackles for loss, and 4 pass breakups), Maliek Collins (45 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 9.5 tackles for loss), and Vincent Valentine (45 tackles, 3 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, and 2 pass breakups) are the returners. David Santos is the lone returning linebacker after recording 50 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and 1 interception. The secondary has two starters back led by Nathan Gerry (#1 tackler), who had 88 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss, 4 pass breakups, and 5 interceptions en route to making the 2nd Team Big 10 squad. There may be some growing pains in 2015, but the numbers should not fluctuate too much.

Nebraska opens with BYU and South Alabama at home before traveling to face Miami (FL) on the road and getting Southern Miss at home. The Cornhuskers face Illinois, Minnesota, and Purdue on the road while playing Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Iowa at home. From the East, Nebraska will take on Michigan State (home) and Rutgers (road). Nebraska should be in a bowl game in 2015 and could even make the Big 10 Championship Game with a few stumbles and surprises.

4. Illinois Fighting Illini

Ron Zook was in charge of Illinois from 2005 through 2011 and led the Illini to three bowl games including the 2007 Rose Bowl. Zook was let go before the 2011 bowl game that Illinois won 20-14 over UCLA. Tim Beckman came in starting with the 2012 season and went 2-10 followed by a 4-8 record in 2013. The Illini had to make a bowl game in 2014 for Beckman to keep his job and they did, but lost to Louisiana Tech 35-18. 2015 is another chance for Illinois to make a bowl game.

The offense put up 25.9 points and 367 yards per game in 2014 with Wes Lunt taking over at quarterback. Lunt had injury issues throughout the season while finishing with 1,763 with 14 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Josh Ferguson is returning at running back after a sub par year with only 735 yards and 8 touchdowns. Ferguson also was the team’s third leading receiver with 50 catches for 427 yards and 2 touchdowns. Mike Dudek led the team in receiving as a freshman in 2014 with 76 catches for 1,038 yards and 6 touchdowns, but tore his ACL in April. He status for 2015 is still up in the air. Geronimo Allison (41 catches for 598 yards and 5 touchdowns), Malik Turner (25 catches for 256 yards and a touchdown), and Justin Hardee (19 catches for 240 yards and a touchdown) all return in case Dudek is unable to go. Three starters are back on the offensive line to bring the total up to eight for the offense. A healthy Lunt will mean higher numbers for the Illini offense even if Dudek is out for the year.

Defense has been an issue for Illinois under Beckman, as the unit has not allowed less than 32 points per game in his tenure. Last year, the defense gave up 34 points and 456 yards per game with seven starters back. That same number is back this year with Jihad Ward and Rob Bain back on the line. Ward had 51 tackles, 3 sacks, and 5.5 tackles for loss last year. Two linebackers return in Mason Monheim and TJ Neal, which is good news for Illinois. Monheim had 111 tackles (#1 on team), 1 sack, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 2 interceptions while Neal had 98 tackles (#4 on team) and 6.5 tackles for loss. The secondary has three starters back including Taylor Barton, who had 100 tackles (#3 on team). V’Angelo Bentley is back in the secondary as well, but he will also be utilized in the return game. The defense should improve in 2015 with seven starters back.

Illinois opens with home games against Kent State and Western Illinois before traveling to face North Carolina on the road. They close out the non-conference portion of their schedule against Middle Tennessee at home. Within their division, Illinois will play Nebraska and Wisconsin at home while facing Northwestern in Chicago. They also play Iowa, Purdue, and Minnesota on the road. From the East, the Illini play Penn State (road) and Ohio State (home), which is a tough draw. There is enough offense and defense on this Illinois squad to make a second straight bowl game under Beckman.

5. Iowa Hawkeyes

Kirk Ferentz is entering his 17th season at Iowa. In that time, Iowa has 11 winning season and four season with at least 10 wins. Since going 11-2 in 2009, however, Iowa has not reached that success with their best recording being 8-5 in both 2010 and 2013. The pressure may be on Ferentz to get Iowa back to double digit wins sooner rather than later.

The offense will return five starters from a group that put up 28.2 points and 400 yards per game. CJ Beathard is taking over at quarterback for the now transferred Jake Rudock (went to Michigan). Beathard threw for 645 yards with 5 touchdowns and 2 interceptions while also not having Mark Weisman (812 yards and 16 touchdowns). Jordan Canzeri (494 yards), Akrum Wadley (186 yards and a touchdown), Jonathan Parker (141 yards and a touchdown), LeShun Daniels (49 yards and a touchdown), and CJ Hilliard will all see some looks at the running back spot. Tevaun Smith (43 catches for 596 yards and 3 touchdowns), Jake Duzey (36 catches for 392 yards and 3 touchdowns), and Matt VandeBerg (14 catches for 256 yards and 1 touchdown) are back. The line has three starters back while the offense could put up similar numbers in 2015 as they did last year.

Last year’s defense was not as effective as an Iowa defense usually is. They gave up 25.6 points and 344 yards per game with only five starters back. The number of starters returning increases by two, to seven, which is good news. Drew Ott (57 tackles, 8 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, and an interception) and Nate Meier (57 tackles, 2 sacks, and 4 tackles for loss) are back to anchor the defensive end positions. Bo Bower and Josey Jewell are the two starters returning at linebacker while the secondary has three starters back. Jordan Lomax will be at one of the safety spots after recording 92 tackles, 6 pass breakups, and an interception last year. 2015 should see Iowa’s defense improve.

Iowa opens the season against Illinois State at home before facing in-state rival Iowa State on the road. The non-conference schedule ends with Pittsburgh and North Texas both coming to Iowa City. Iowa will face Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Nebraska on the road while playing Illinois, Minnesota, and Purdue at home. From the East, Iowa has Maryland (home) and Indiana (road) in two winnable games. Iowa should be back in a bowl game this year, but will that be enough to keep Ferentz around another year?

6. Purdue Boilermakers

Darrell Hazell came in from Kent State in 2013 and had a rough first year. The Boilermakers went 1-11 with their lone win against FCS Indiana State in a game they only won 20-14. The offense (14.9 points and 345 yards per game) and defense (38 points and 460 yards allowed per game) were dreadful. 2014 was a very good step in the right direction with a 3-9 record and 2015 should continue that trend.

The offense in 2014 had 8 starters back and shot up to 23.8 points and 345 yards per game. There are eight starters back again in 2015 with the quarterback position in the air between freshmen David Blough and Elijah Sindelar and Austin Appleby (1,449 yards with 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions). Running back is not settled with DJ Knox, Keyante Green (199 yards), David Yancey, and Markell Jones all having a chance to win the top duties. Danny Anthrop is back as the top wide receiver after grabbing 38 passes for 616 yards and 4 touchdowns. The offensive line has all the starters back, which is great news for whoever wins the quarterback and running back battles. The offense should be better in 2015 with even better numbers than last year.

The defense was awful in 2013 by giving up 38 points and 460 yards per game. Year two was better with the defense allowing 31.7 points and 416 yards per game. Seven starters return in 2015 including the second through fifth top tacklers from last year. Ryan Watson (17 tackles, 4 sacks, 1.5 tackes for loss) and Jake Replogle (40 tackles, 3 sacks, and 7.5 tackles for loss) return on the line that improved from 235 rushing yards allowed per game in 2013 to 192 yards per game in 2014. That number should drop in 2015. The strength of the defense is at linebacker with the top three starters back. Ja’Whaun Bentley (76 tackles; #2 on team), Jimmy Herman (56 tackles, #4 on team), and Danny Ezechukwu (43 tackles; #8 on team) all back after starting last year. The secondary has three starters back led by Anthony Brown and Frankie Williams at the corner spots. Like the offense, the defense should improve in year three of Hazell’s tenure.

Purdue opens the season on the road at Marshall in a tough game before facing Indiana State, Virginia Tech, and Bowling Green at home. In their division, Purdue will play Minnesota, Nebraska, and Illinois at home while facing Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Iowa on the road. From the East, they will have to play Michigan State (road) and Indiana (home). Purdue is going in the right direction and will probably need two upsets to reach a bowl game.

7. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Jerry Kill has been at Minnesota since 2011 and has made them into a gritty team that is not easy to defeat. After going 3-9 in his first year, the team improved to 6-7 in 2012 and lost by a field goal, 34-31, to Texas Tech in the bowl game. 2013 saw them finish 8-5 and they did the same in 2014 as they had a chance to win the Big 10 West in the final week against Wisconsin. 2015 will be an interesting test for Minnesota and Kill.

The offense for Minnesota is run-based and will have five starters back in 2015. Mitch Leidner threw for 1,798 yards with 11 touchdowns and 8 interceptions while rushing for 452 yards and 10 touchdowns. Backup Chris Streveler ran for 235 yards and 1 touchdown as well. David Cobb has exited after rushing for 1,626 yards and 13 touchdowns leaving a big void at running back. Berkley Edwards (140 yards and 2 touchdowns) and Rodrick Williams (114 yards and 3 touchdowns) will be vying to start at running back. Top target Maxx Williams (36 catches for 569 yards and 8 touchdowns) is gone as well, leaving KJ Maye as the top wide receiver. Maye had 16 catches for 298 yards and a touchdown as the #2 receiver. The offensive line has three starters back, but it will probably be tough for the Gophers to match last year’s production of 28.4 points and 357 yards per game with Cobb and Williams gone.

The defense has been solid for Minnesota the last three years. In 2014, the defense gave up 24.2 points and 368 yards per game and returns seven starters from that group. Theiren Cockran (23 tackles, 4 sacks, and 3 tackles for loss) and Steven Richardson (23 tackles, 2 sacks, and 4 tackles for loss) will be teaming up with the Ekpe brothers of Scott and Hendrick. De’Vondre Campbell (75 tackles, 2.5sacks, 4 tackles for loss, and an interception) and Jack Lynn (57 tackles, 1 sack, and 6 tackles for loss) will be the returning linebackers. In the secondary, three starters are back led by Eric Murray at corner. Murray had 69 tackles, 7 pass breakups, and an interception last year. The defense should be solid once again for Minnesota.

Minnesota opens with TCU at home before facing Colorado State on the road. Kent State and Ohio both travel to Minneapolis to close out the non-conference slate. In division, Minnesota will play Northwestern, Purdue, and Iowa on the road while taking on Nebraska, Illinois, and Wisconsin at home. From the East, Minnesota draws Michigan (home) and Ohio State (road). It will be a challenging year for Minnesota if the offense sputters and will need a couple of upsets to make a bowl game, but they are more than capable of getting those upsets.

Overview

The Big 10’s West division is quite the conundrum with every team having questions. Wisconsin has a new coach and lost a star in Melvin Gordon while Northwestern has some offensive worries. Nebraska is in the same boat as Wisconsin with a new coach and lost Ameer Abdullah. Illinois has worries on defense while Iowa is constantly underachieving. Purdue is still learning Hazell’s system and Minnesota lost a lot of offensive production in David Cobb and Maxx Williams.

We will go with Wisconsin to win the division, but Northwestern or Nebraska could also finish on top. Illinois is likely to make noise with a more veteran team along with Iowa. Purdue and Minnesota will both be close to bowl eligibility and could easily finish higher than predicted, especially the Gophers. Below is the predicted order of finish.

1. Wisconsin

2. Northwestern

3. Nebraska

4. Illinois

5. Iowa

6. Purdue

7. Minnesota

Check back on Friday for a preview of the Big 10 East Division as well as a look at the Big 10 Championship Game prediction.