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Five Predictions For The Big 10 Conference In 2016

Mark Dantonio and Michigan State won the 2015 Big Ten Championship over Iowa by a score of 16-13. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images North America)
Mark Dantonio and Michigan State won the 2015 Big Ten Championship over Iowa by a score of 16-13. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images North America)

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.

The one change that will occur in 2016 is each team will now play nine conference games instead of eight and teams will no longer feature FCS opponents on their schedules going forward. There are plenty of FCS opponents on this year’s schedule in the opening weeks, however.

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 Jordan Howard. 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.

July 17 – FBS Independents

July 17 – Sun Belt

July 23 – C-USA

July 24 – MAC

July 30 – American Athletic

July 31 – Mountain West

August 7 – Big 12

August 13 – Atlantic Coast

August 14 – Pac-12

August 20 – Big Ten

August 27 – SEC

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 11 Big Ten Roundup

Michigan had another thriller in 2015 and they came out on top once again. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America)
Michigan had another thriller in 2015 and they came out on top once again. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America)

2015 Week 11 Big Ten Roundup

#3 Ohio State Buckeyes at Illinois Fighting Illini

Result: Ohio State Win 28-3

Ohio State did not have any issues dealing with Illinois despite a slow start on offense. JT Barrett returned at quarterback and went a solid 15 of 23 for 150 yards with a touchdown and interception. He was also effective with his legs running for 74 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.

Ezekiel Elliott continues to have an excellent season, albeit without the fanfare of over players in the nation. He ran for 181 yards and 2 touchdowns on 27 carries. Elliott has now ran for 100 or more rushing yards in 15 straight games dating back to last year.

Michael Thomas was the leading receiver with 6 catches for 76 yards and a touchdown, Jalin Marshall caught 4 passes for 38 yards, and Nick Vannett had 3 grabs for 31 yards. Ohio State struggled on third down with only 4 conversions on 13 attempts, but did convert 2 of 3 fourth down attempts. They put up 460 yards of offense.

Illinois struggled to put together any big drives. Wes Lunt went 23 of 47 for 241 yards, but struggled to find his top playmaker in Geronimo Allison (1 catch for 38 yards). Josh Ferguson was held to 49 yards on 12 carries while also having 5 catches for 26 yards. Desmond Cain had 10 catches for 102 yards for his second consecutive big game for the freshman. Malik Turner finished with 5 catches for 61 yards. Illinois went 5 of 17 on third down and put up 261 yards of offense.

Ohio State (10-0, 6-0) has a big game next week at home against Michigan State while Illinois (5-5, 2-4) faces Minnesota on the road.

Maryland Terrapins at #13 Michigan State Spartans

Result: Michigan State Win 24-7

Michigan State played a large portion of their game against Maryland without quarterback Connor Cook, but that was not much of an issue as the defense stifled the Terrapins on offense.

Connor Cook struggled in his playing time going 6 of 20 for 77 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. Backup Tyler O’Connor went 6 of 11 for 44 yards and a touchdown pass to Macgarrett Kings who finished with 4 catches for 48 yards to lead the team. R.J. Shelton had 3 catches for 35 yards while Aaron Burbridge was held to just 3 catches for 27 yards.

10 different Michigan State players registered a rush, but Gerald Holmes had the most rushes going for 83 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. The Spartans put up just 262 yards of offense and went 6 of 16 on third down. It was clear they were not the same offense with Cook out.

Maryland was led by Perry Hills again, but he only went 14 of 30 for 140 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. He finished second on the team in rushing as well with 39 yards on 16 carries. Caleb Rowe also had some time at quarterback, but went 3 of 5 for 42 yards with 2 interceptions.

Wes Brown had 52 yards rushing on 12 carries while Brandon Ross had the lone touchdown via the rushing game for Maryland. Amba Etta-Tawo led Maryland with 5 catches for 63 yards and Levern Jacobs had 3 catches for 55 yards. Maryland actually outgained Michigan State by 27 yards (289 to 262), but went 4 of 16 on third down.

Maryland (2-8, 0-6) faces Indiana next weekend at home with a chance to keep Indiana out of a bowl game. Michigan State (9-1, 5-1) has the tough task of going on the road to the Horseshoe and play Ohio State.

Purdue Boilermakers at #18 Northwestern Wildcats

Result: Northwestern Win 21-14

Northwestern used a dominant rushing attack to power their way to 8-2. The Wildcats threw only 24 passes the entire game and needed a late touchdown to get past Purdue 21-14.

Clayton Thorson went 9 of 19 for 82 yards with an interception after an injury scare last week knocked him out against Penn State. Zack Oliver went 2 of 5 for 50 yards and threw an interception as well. Justin Jackson ran for 116 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. It was his 6th game with over 100 yards rushing and Northwestern is 6-0 when he runs for over 100 yards this year.

Warren Long had 6 rushes for 52 yards and 2 touchdowns while Thorson had 48 yards on 7 carries. Miles Shuler even ran twice for 30 yards. Solomon Vault had 2 catches for 53 yards to lead the team. Northwestern ran for 250 yards as a team and finished with 382 yards of offense. They were solid on third down going 8 of 17.

Purdue did not play poorly, but could not get some of their drives going to threaten the Northwestern defense. David Blough went 26 of 45 for 287 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Markell Jones had 58 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, but the run game was largely held in check by Northwestern.

Domonique Young led the team in receiving with 5 catches for 107 yards thanks to his 68 yard touchdown grab early in the game. Markell Jones had 68 yards on 5 catches while DeAngelo Yancey caught 4 passes for 39 yards. Purdue’s offense had 360 yards and went 8 of 19 on third down.

Purdue (2-8, 1-5) will have a second straight road game next week with a trip to Iowa. Northwestern (8-2, 4-2) has a road game next week as well. They will play Wisconsin in Madison with the Badgers coming off a bye week.

#14 Michigan Wolverines at Indiana Hoosiers

Result: Michigan Win 48-41 in double overtime

Michigan survived yet another late game scare to keep their Big Ten title hopes alive. Indiana lost another close game to keep them winless in conference play.

Jake Rudock had himself a game going 33 of 46 for 440 yards with 6 touchdowns and one pick. He was able to pass at will on the defense while also leading the team in rushing with 64 yards. De’Veon Smith had 58 yards rushing on 12 carries.

Jehu Chesson had a big game as well catching four (!) touchdown passes to finish the game with 10 catches for 207 yards. Amara Darboh had 8 catches for 109 yards and the eventual game winning touchdown while Jake Butt had 7 grabs for 82 yards and a score. Michigan put up 581 yards of offense and went six of 12 on third down.

Nate Sudfeld had a solid game going 20 of 34 for 220 yards and a touchdown. However, the story was running back Jordan Howard rushing for 238 yards and 2 touchdown on 35 carries against what had been a stout Michigan defense. Simmie Cobbs had 4 catches for 86 yards and Ricky Jones had 4 catches for 42 yards. Indiana put up a staggering 527 yards of offense against Michigan and went a combined 9 of 22 on third and fourth downs.

Michigan (8-2, 5-1) faces Penn State next week on the road while still having a chance to win the Big Ten East division and play in the Big Ten Championship. Indiana (4-6, 0-6) has to win their final two games to make a bowl game, but they are both winnable. They face Maryland next week on the road before playing against Purdue in two weeks on the road.

Nebraska Cornhuskers at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Result: Nebraska Win 31-14

Nebraska followed up their big win last week against Michigan State with a nice victory over Rutgers on the road.

Tommy Armstrong had an up and down day going 14 of 21 for only 188 yards. He had 3 touchdowns through the air, but also threw 3 picks. Imani Cross ran for 90 yards on 20 carries. Cethan Carter had his best game in 2015 going for a not only 32 yard touchdown run, but also catching 4 passes for 57 yards and another score. Jordan Westerkamp was relatively quiet catching 3 passes for 32 yards and a touchdown. Nebraska put up 362 yards of offense and went 5 of 11 on third down.

Rutgers was led by Chris Laviano at quarterback, but he only went 13 of 27 for 165 yards and 2 interceptions. Janarion Grant had the lone passing touchdown for Rutgers throwing to Laviano on a trick play for the 5 yard score.

Josh Hicks had 61 yards rushing on 12 carries while Robert Martin had 12 carries for 40 yards and a touchdown. Leonte Carroo came back from injury to post a team high 62 yards on 4 catches. Janarion Grant had 4 catches for 58 yards as well as his passing touchdown. Rutgers posted 259 yards of offense, but went 3 of 14 on third down and did not convert any of their 4 fourth down attempts.

Nebraska (5-6, 3-4) will need to win the final regular season contest on November 27 against Iowa to make it to a bowl game. That game will be at home so the Huskers will have that in their corner. Rutgers (3-7, 1-6) faces Army on the road next week in their final non-conference game.

Minnesota Golden Gophers at #5 Iowa Hawkeyes

Result: Iowa Win 40-35

A defensive game was expected between Minnesota and Iowa, but the offenses took over the show as Iowa held on for a 40-35 victory to stay undefeated.

Mitch Leidner had another big game through the air again going 19 of 27 for 259 yards and a touchdown. He also had a rushing touchdown along with 32 rushing yards. Shannon Brooks showed off his wheels and arm with a 42 yard touchdown pass to Drew Wolitarsky and rushing for 86 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.

KJ Maye had 7 catches for 106 yards to keep his hot streak going. In the last 4 games, Maye has caught 34 passes for 374 yards and a touchdown. In the first 6 games, he had 22 catches for 256 yards and three touchdowns. Brandon Lingen had 6 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown for his second 100 yard receiving game in the last 3 contests. Wolitarsky finished with 3 catches for 71 yards and the score from Brooks. Minnesota put up 434 yards per game and went 5 of 10 on third down.

C.J. Beathard went 18 of 26 for 213 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions, but did have success on the ground. He had 50 yards and 2 scores on 10 carries while LeShun Daniels ran all over the field to the tune of 195 yards and 3 touchdowns on 26 carries. Jordan Canzeri ran just 10 times for 31 yards in his return from injury.

Matt VandeBerg recorded 6 catches for 74 yards, Henry Krieger Coble had 3 catches for 61 yards, and George Kittle had 5 grabs for 44 yards. Tevaun Smith had 2 catches for 35 yards. Iowa racked up 506 yards of offense and went an excellent 10 of 15 on third down.

Minnesota (4-6, 1-5) can still make a bowl game by winning out and it begins next week at home against Illinois. Iowa (10-0, 6-0) clinches the Big Ten East title with a win at home against Purdue next week.

Check back next Sunday for a recap of Week 12’s Big Ten action.

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.

Wisconsin Struggles To Throw The Ball In Loss To Northwestern

Melvin Gordon

(Photo Credit to David Banks / Getty Images)

Melvin Gordon‘s career-high 259 yards rushing were not enough for the Badgers overcome Northwestern on Saturday. Godwin Igwebuike had THREE interceptions in the Wildcats win in a game that featured both Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy at quarterback for Wisconsin.

The Badgers’ first drive started well with Melvin Gordon breaking loose for a 58 yard run to the Northwestern 36 yard line. However, it ended with McEvoy throwing off his back foot to Alex Erickson. Igwebuike was there for his first interception and a touchback to end the drive.

The Badgers defense was stingy in the red zone after a long drive by the Wildcats. Jack Mitchell‘s 22 yard field goal make it 3-0. However, two drives later, Northwestern Trevor Siemian hit Dan Vitale for a 5 yard touchdown and a 10-0 lead.

Wisconsin threw three straight incompletions after that. There would be no scoring for the rest of the half and the Wildcats led 10-0 at the break.

Wisconsin started the second half strong, just as they have all year long. Melvin Gordon broke 61 yard run on the second play to the Northwestern 14 yard line. After Gordon converted a fourth and one at the 5 yard line, he ran in on the next play from 2 yards out to cut the deficit to 10-7.

The Badgers’ reverted to their interception throwing ways on the next drive. Stave’s arm was hit on the throw and it was picked off by Jimmy Hall. The Wildcats capitalized on the next play with Miles Shuler running in from 16 yards out on the reverse to make it 17-7.

Wisconsin had a chance to cut the lead to 7 but Rafael Gaglianone‘s 50 yard field goal was wide left. Northwestern went right down the field but was stopped in the final 5 yards again. Jack Mitchell tacked on his second 22 yard field goal of the game to take a 20-7 lead.

Wisconsin had a great opportunity to close the gap at the Northwestern 3 yard line. Joel Stave dropped back and then scrambled towards the sideline. He pass was thrown right in the path of Igwebuike for an interception in the end zone to end another scoring chance.

Stave found Kenzel Doe on the next drive to make it 20-14 Wildcats. Stave threw his third interception with less than 30 seconds remaining to Igwebuike, which allowed Northwestern to run the clock out.

It was another dreadful passing performance by the Badgers, though the cloudy and rainy weather had a big impact on the passing. Joel Stave went 8 for 19 for 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions. Tanner McEvoy went 4 of 10 for 24 yards and an interception in a largely ineffective performance.

Melvin Gordon’s 259 yards and 1 touchdown performance went to waste for the Badgers. He did all that on 27 carries for a 9.6 yard-per-carry average.

Alex Erickson caught 4 passes for 45 yards. Kenzel Doe had 4 catches for 34 yards and a touchdown in his best game of the season.

The Badgers will need to find consistency in their passing game if they are to threaten in the Big Ten West division. The Badgers have thrown for 50, 289, 112, 160, and 138 yards in their first five games, including Saturday.

Gordon is up to 871 yards on 105 carries this year. His presence alone has made the Badgers far more competitive.

On Northwestern’s side of the ball, Trevor Siemian went 15 of 29 for 182 yards and a touchdown. Justin Jackson ran 33 times for 162 yards in his best performance of the year. Kyle Prater caught 5 balls for 55 yards to lead the Wildcats.

It is hard to ignore the Wildcats’ improved performances over the last two weeks. They defeated Penn State 29-6 in a dominant effort and have certainly put themselves in position to make a bowl game after finishing 5-7 in 2013.

Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1) returns home next week and will take on Illinois (3-3, 0-2). Northwestern (3-2, 2-0) goes on the road to face Minnesota (4-1, 1-0) who had a bye this week.