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Wisconsin Badgers 2016-17 Football Season Report Card

T.J. Watt had a big 2017 finishing with a double digit sack total. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images North America)

Wisconsin Badgers 2016-17 Football Season Report Card

The Wisconsin Badgers have finished the 2016-17 season with a 24-16 win over the Western Michigan Broncos to end at 11-3 overall. It was another double digit win season for the Badgers as 2016 marked the sixth time in the last 8 years they have won at least 10 games.

We will give a grade to each unit on the team as well as an overall team grade and a grade for head coach Paul Chryst. For a measuring stick, here is the midseason report card and we will include the midseason grade for each unit below. Let’s start with a quick glance at the results of each game for the Badgers.

Wisconsin Results

Week 1 (9/3) – Defeated #5 LSU 16-14 (Green Bay, Wisconsin)

Week 2 (9/10) – Defeated Akron 54-10 (Home)

Week 3 (9/17) – Defeated Georgia State 23-17 (Home)

Week 4 (9/24) – Defeated Michigan State 30-6 (Away)

Week 5 (10/1) – Lost to Michigan 14-7 (Away)

Week 6 (10/8) – Bye

Week 7 (10/15) – Lost to Ohio State 30-23 in 1 OT (Home)

Week 8 (10/22) – Defeated Iowa 17-9 (Away)

Week 9 (10/29) – Defeated Nebraska 23-17 in 1 OT (Home)

Week 10 (11/5) – Defeated Northwestern 21-7 (Away)

Week 11 (11/12) – Defeated Illinois 48-3 (Home)

Week 12 (11/19) – Defeated Purdue 49-20 (Away)

Week 13 (11/26) – Defeated Minnesota 31-17 (Home)

Week 14 (12/3) – Lost to Penn State 38-31 (Big 10 Championship)

Bowl (1/2/17) – Defeated Western Michigan 24-16 (Cotton Bowl)

Head Coach Paul Chryst

Midseason Grade: B+

2016 was not an easy year for Paul Chryst in his second season. He had to juggle two quarterbacks, a new defensive coordinator, and what looked like a daunting schedule. Looking at the entire season, he did well switching between Bart Houston (began the season as the starter) and Alex Hornibrook.

The hire of Justin Wilcox as the defensive coordinator already looks like a steal. The Badgers allowed 13.7 points per game in 2015 and saw that increase only marginally to 15.6. The yardage allowed per game do go up from from 268.5 in 2015 to 301.4 yards per game. Still, the defense played well this year, but Wilcox has departed for the California Golden Bears’ head coaching vacancy. The Badgers will have their third defensive coordinator in three years for the 2017 season.

The schedule before the season looked imposing. They had LSU, Michigan State (away), Michigan (away), Ohio State, Nebraska, and the potential for a Big 10 Championship Game. The Badgers ended up facing 7 teams that were ranked in the top 15 at the time of the game for the 2016-17 and went 4-3 in those games. Granted, some of those teams were far from being top 25 material by season’s end, but the Badgers navigated the season well under Chryst.

Final Grade: B+

Quarterbacks

Midseason Grade: C-

Bart Houston began the season as starter, but was replaced in the Georgia State contest by Hornibrook. After that game, the duo split time behind center though Hornibrook was injured versus Minnesota and subsequently missed the Big 10 Championship game. Many pundits lament the two quarterback system, but these two actually worked pretty well though they were far from game changers.

We noted that on the midseason report card that Hornibrook had looked like the better of the two quarterbacks after five games. By the end of the season it was far more even as Houston gained confidence and was more efficient. Houston finished the year with 1,245 yards (68.1%) with 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. After being benched versus Georgia State and not playing the next three games, Houston threw 70 passes and completing 52 of those (74%) for 718 yards with 3 touchdowns and 1 pick.

Hornibrook finished the season with 1,262 yards (58.6%) with 9 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. In the Badgers’ final eight games, he went 52 of 85 (61%) with 4 touchdowns against 1 interception (remember he missed the Big 10 Championship). He has some things to work on like his reads, throwing the ball into coverage, etc., but he has a bright future as long as he continues to improve.

Final Grade: C+

Running Backs

Midseason Grade: B

It is not hard to see how the running game changed over the Badgers’ season. Over the first five games Wisconsin averaged 161.6 yards per game on the ground. In the final 9 games the Badgers averaged 226.1 yards rushing per game. Corey Clement easily led the team in rushing with 1,375 yards (4.4 yards per carry) with 15 touchdowns. In addition, the final 9 games saw Clement have at least 100 yard performances 7 times.

Dare Ogunbowale had a few big games against Nebraska (120 yards and a touchdown) and Illinois (103 yards) to finish with 506 yards (5.6 YPC) and five touchdowns. He also played a big role in the passing game with 24 catches for 208 yards and a touchdown, but it felt like he was a go to receiver on third down for much of the year.

Both Clement and Ogunbowale are seniors, which means that freshman Bradrick Shaw could feature prominently in the future. He had 457 yards and 5 touchdowns on 88 carries (5.2 YPC). He did have some fumble issues, but his strength, power, and quickness could make for a scary sight in the next few seasons. He could be in a backfield with Taiwan Deal (164 yards rushing) and Pittsburgh transfer Chris James (690 yards rushing in two seasons) in 2017.

Wide receiver Jazz Peavy had a big impact in the rushing game as well. He was used almost exclusively on the end around to finish the season with 318 yards rushing and a touchdown on just 21 carries (15.1 YPC). He came up big throughout the season when called upon and he could see a familiar role in 2017.

Final Grade: A-

Wide Receivers

Midseason Grade: B-

As with any run-heavy Badger offense, the wide receivers are not likely to put up big numbers. There were some stars that emerged in Jazz Peavy and Troy Fumagalli. Peavy finished as the leading receiver with 43 catches for 635 yards and 5 touchdowns (along with the aforementioned rushing impact). Fumagalli had 47 catches for 580 yards and 2 touchdowns, but bookended his season with very good performances against LSU (7 catches for 100 yards) and Western Michigan (6 catches for 83 yards and a touchdown). Both players are juniors and if either of them leave for the NFL, that would create a big void in the passing attack.

Ogunbowale was instrumental in the passing game, but he will move on as a senior. Robert Wheelwright caught 34 passes for 448 yards and 1 touchdown, but is a senior. George Rushing had just 12 catches for 136 yards and was spotty throughout the season. With more consistency he could be a possible #2 opposite of Peavy, but he has a ways to go to fill that void.

Three freshmen who saw some playing time in 2016 and worth keeping an eye on in their development were Kyle Penniston (6 catches for 102 yards and 2 touchdowns), Quintez Cephus (135 total offensive yards), and A.J. Taylor (72 total offensive yards).

Final Grade: B-

Offensive Line

Midseason Grade: C+

The offensive line had a slow start this season. Injuries and new quarterbacks hurt them. It took until after the Michigan game for the line to assert itself. The first five games saw the Badgers average just 3.8 yards per carry while that number shot up to 4.6 yards per carry over the final nine games. For the season, the Badgers averaged 4.3 yards per carry, which was better than 2015’s number of 3.8, but still less than the lowest output between 2009 and 2014 of 4.6. Tackle Ryan Ramczyk was named as a first team All-American. Ramczyk will move on to the NFL creating a massive void to refill.

The offensive line had allowed 8 sacks in the first five games, but gave up another 16 the final 9 games to make it 24 on the season. To be fair, the sacks are not always the fault of the line and both Houston and Hornibrook had a tendency to hold on to the ball too long from time to time. In 2015, the Badgers allowed 23 sacks. The offensive line did make good progress over the course of the season particularly in the running game.

Final Grade: B

Overall Offensive Grade

Midseason Grade: C+

There was a clear change in the offense between the Michigan and Ohio State games. It is worth mentioning that between those games was the Wisconsin bye week, which probably allowed them to re-focus the offense. The running game came alive after the bye week while Houston looked more efficient. The Badgers averaged 28.4 points, 382.1 yards, 203.1 rushing yards, and 179.1 passing yards per game. The total yardage was similar to 2015 (378.6 per game), but the emphasis was more on the run (150.3 yards rushing per game), which was not surprising given a new quarterback.

The offense will need to work on being far more efficient in the red zone. They had 58 red zone trips and converted 49 of those into points (84.4%), which ranked 63rd in the country. However, only 37 of those trips resulted in a touchdown (63.8%). This is a big area of improvement for the Badgers in 2017.

Final Grade: B

Defensive Line/Linebackers

Midseason Grade: A+

The linebackers had a great year in 2016 led by the T.J. duo. T.J. Watt led the team in sacks (11.5) and tackles-for-loss (15.5). His partner T.J. Edwards led the team in total tackles with 89 while also recording 3 sacks and 8.5 tackles-for-loss. Jack Cichy was on his way to a stellar year after 7 games before a torn pectoral ruled him out the rest of the season. Cichy recorded 60 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 7.5 tackles-for-loss. Ryan Connelly (59 tackles and 7 TFL), Garret Dooley (40 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 6.5 TFL), and Vince Biegel (44 tackles, 4 sacks, and 6 TFL) were big contributors to an incredible linebacker group.

Only Biegel is a senior though Watt (a second team All-American) or Edwards could bolt for the NFL after stellar campaigns. Chris Orr will also return after missing 2016 with a torn ACL.

Defensive ends Connor Sheehy and Alec James, both juniors, had similar seasons on the stat line. Sheehy had 27 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 4 tackles-for-loss while James finished with 23 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 3.5 tackles-for-loss. Also returning on the defensive line are Chikwe Obasih (31 career starts along with 22 tackles in 2016), and Olive Sagapolu (14 tackles and 1 sack).

The possibility of everyone outside of Biegel returning is tantalizing, but the NFL is a loud call this time of year. Still, the front seven should be a deep and talented group for the Badgers next season.

Final Grade: A+

Defensive Backs

Midseason Grade: A-

One clear area of regression as the season went on was in the secondary. Perhaps the Georgia State game was a sign of things to come for the final few games, particularly the Big 10 Championship. The Panthers were able to put up 269 yards through the air that day and a few other teams had some success as well. Northwestern threw for 277 (they played from behind the whole game), Purdue had going deep, and then Penn State gashed the back four with ease in the second half.

Sojourn Shelton had 4 picks and 12 pass breakups (most on the team) while Leo Musso recorded 74 tackles and 5 interceptions (led the team). Derrick Tindal had 3 picks and 11 pass breakups and Lubern Figaro finished with 7 pass breakups.

Tindall and Figaro will both be seniors in 2017 as will D’Cota Dixon (60 tackles and 4 interceptions) and Natrell Jamerson (mainly a return guy, but he did have 19 tackles and 4 pass breakups). Those four, along with others, will need to step up to replace Shelton and Musso. This group faltered down the stretch and in the pivotal second half of the Big 10 Championship Game versus Penn State. Look out to see if the secondary plays with a chip on their shoulder in the next year after how they finished the season.

Final Grade: B

Overall Defensive Grade

Midseason Grade: A

The defense did play very well for most of the season. The secondary had documented struggles, but they did play well for stretches of the season. The linebackers led the way for this side of the ball and there were some stars we hope return in 2017 to make this another top defense in the nation.

Final Grade: A-

Special Teams Grade

Midseason Grade: B

The loss of Rafael Gaglianone in late September really hurt then, but after seeing the season play out, that is even more evident now. Gaglianone went 7 of 8 on his field goals and was a perfect 10 for 10 on extra points. Andrew Endicott replaced him and from the start was uneasy. He finished the season 13 of 19 with a long of 46 yards. He made 35 of 37 extra points, but even a few of those were barely inside the uprights. Gaglianone will be back in 2017, which will be a boost to the kicking game.

The punting game left some room for improvement. Anthony Lotti averaged 37.7 yards per punt and put 25 punts inside the opponent’s 20 yard line, but he had a few games where he struggled (see the Michigan game). P.J. Rosowski averaged 36.7 yards per punt and also handled kickoff duties. He had 79 kickoffs with 51 touchbacks and just one kick go out of bounds. Lotti was only a freshman in 2016 so he will have a few seasons left as Badgers to get better.

Natrell Jamerson had 12 kick returns for an average of 21.1 yards per return while Dare Ogunbowale had 10 returns for an average of 21.3 yards per return. Jamerson had a long of 39 and Ogunbowale had a long of 41 and neither had a touchdown. Jazz Peavy returned punts for the Badgers and averaged a paltry 5.8 yards per return on 17 returns. The Badgers can afford to work on the return game going into the 2017 season.

Final Grade: C+

Overall Team Grade

Midseason Grade: B+

2016 was a very good year for the Wisconsin Badgers. Expectations were subdued with the loss of Joel Stave, Alex Erickson, Michael Caputo, and Tanner McEvoy among others. A new starting quarterback turned into two new starters at that position and both players handled it well.

The running game got off to a slow start, but turned it on after the bye week. In turn, the quarterbacks performed more efficiently and the team was able to shake off back-to-back losses to Michigan and Ohio State to claim the Big 10 West. The defense had breakout stars in T.J. Watt and T.J. Edwards under new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox while Corey Clement remained healthy to have a solid season.

Overall, it is hard to argue with the results produced by the Badgers. Many (including this author) thought 10 wins were out of the question, but the Badgers did one better than that and won their first Cotton Bowl.

Final Grade: A

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 12 Big Ten Roundup

Michael Geiger kicks the game winning field goal for Michigan State against Ohio State. (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images North America)
Michael Geiger kicks the game winning field goal for Michigan State against Ohio State. (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images North America)

2015 Week 12 Big Ten Roundup

The Big Ten had six conference games and one non-conference game in week 12. Once again, a team from Michigan was in the spotlight with Michigan State at Ohio State. Each game is looked at below.

Purdue Boilermakers at #5 Iowa Hawkeyes

Result: Iowa Win 40-20

Iowa got out to a big early lead and then kept the pesky Purdue Boilermakers at bay to keep their perfect season intact. The Hawkeyes also formally clinched the Big Ten West Division to reserve their spot in the Big Ten Championship Game against a yet to be determined team from the East division.

Purdue’s Austin Appleby had a solid game going 23 of 40 for 259 yards and a touchdown in relief after an injury to David Blough. Markell Jones ran for 87 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. DeAngelo Yancey led Purdue with 9 catches for 117 yards while Domonique Young had 4 grabs for 52 yards. Purdue did manage to put up 405 yards of offense thanks to playing from behind for the entire game. They went 4 of 18 on third down, but a solid 5 of 8 on fourth down.

C.J. Beathard was good again going 12 of 20 for 213 yards with 3 touchdowns and no picks. Jordan Canzeri had 95 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. LeShun Daniels ran for 2 touchdowns and 31 yards on 8 carries. Henry Krieger Coble had 4 catches for 76 yards and a touchdown while Tevaun Smith had 4 receptions for 73 yards. Iowa had 387 yards on offense and went 5 of 10 on third down.

Purdue (2-9, 1-6) will finish their season at home against Indiana battling for the Old Oaken Bucket. Iowa (11-0, 7-0) faces Nebraska on the road on Black Friday.

#12 Michigan Wolverines at Penn State Nittany Lions

Result: Michigan Win 28-16

Michigan had a consistent effort on the road to defeat Penn State and keep their hopes of a Big Ten East title alive.

Jake Rudock went 25 of 38 for 256 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception. The Wolverines rushing attack was ineffective against Penn State. De’Veon Smith was the top rusher with 39 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries while Michigan had just 87 yards on 30 carries as a team. Jehu Chesson led the team with 4 catches for 69 yards, but Amara Darboh (7 catches for 68 yards and a touchdown) and Jake Butt (5 catches for 66 yards and a touchdown) also had good games. Michigan finished with 343 yards on offense and went 7 of 14 on third down.

Penn State struggled on offense and also struggled putting the ball in the end zone. Christian Hackenberg went 13 of 31 for 137 yards and a touchdown, but struggled mightily with accuracy. Saquon Barkley ran for 68 yards on 15 carries while also having 2 grabs for 19 yards. Chris Godwin led Penn State with 3 catches for 51 yards while Saeed Blacknall had a 25 yard touchdown catch in his only reception of the game. Penn State settled for 3 field goals in the red zone and only had 207 yards of offense. They went 3 of 14 on third down and 1 of 2 on fourth down.

Michigan (9-2, 6-1) will take on Ohio State at home next week. Michigan is tied atop the Big Ten East at 6-1 with both Ohio State and Michigan State. Michigan will need a loss by Michigan State as well as to beat Ohio State to make the Big Ten Championship Game.

Penn State (7-4, 4-3) will be on the road against Michigan State with a chance to ruin the Spartans Big Ten title hopes with a win.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Army Black Knights

Result: Rutgers Win 31-21

Rutgers was playing in the only non-conference game of the week and took care of Army on the road.

Chris Laviano went 13 of 21 for 105 yards with no touchdowns or picks. The rushing attack was excellent for Rutgers with Paul James leading the way. He had 116 yards and 3 touchdowns on 18 carries while Robert Martin had 99 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. Janarion Grant had only 2 carries, but managed to run for 40 yards. Grant also had 3 catches for 31 yards while Leonte Carroo had 4 catches for 37 yards. Rutgers had 395 yards of offense, but struggled on third down going 3 of 10. They did managed to convert both of their fourth down attempts.

Rutgers defense struggled to stop the run, but that is expected against Army who runs the triple option. They allowed 261 yards on 52 attempts, but were burned on the six passing attempts by Army. Army went 4 of 6 passing for 140 yards with a touchdown and a pick. Edgar Poe had 2 catches for 95 yards and a touchdown. Army also converted 9 of 13 on third down and 1 of 2 on fourth down. Rutgers gave up 401 yards of offense to Army.

Rutgers (4-7, 1-6) finishes their season next Saturday with Maryland coming to town.

Indiana Hoosiers at Maryland Terrapins

Result: Indiana Win 47-28

Indiana had big second and third quarters to propel them to a 47-28 win over Maryland and leave them one game from bowl eligibility going into the regular season finale. Indiana put up 37 points in the middle two quarters compared to just 7 for Maryland during the same time frame.

Nate Sudfeld had a big game going 23 of 35 for 385 yards and 4 touchdowns. He did not throw an interception and also ran for a touchdown. Devine Redding stepped up to rush for 130 yards on 24 carries after an injury knocked Jordan Howard out of the game early in the contest. Simmie Cobbs easily led the team and entire game with 9 catches for 192 yards. Andre Booker caught 2 passes for 79 yards and a touchdown while Mitchell Paige had 5 catches for 64 yards and 2 touchdowns. Indiana racked up 555 yards, but struggled on third down going just 4 of 14.

Maryland could not find any rhythm in the passing game between Caleb Rowe and Shane Cockerille. Rowe left the game in the second quarter after a concussion. Rowe finished 10 of 19 for 88 yards with a touchdown while also rushing for 27 yards on 4 carries. Cockerille went 10 of 21 for 87 yards while also rushing for 23 yards on 13 carries. Brandon Ross had a massive game rushing going for 250 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground for the best game of 2015 and his career. Levern Jacobs led Maryland with 4 catches for 50 yards. The Terps went 3 of 16 on third down and also went 2 of 6 on fourth down.

Indiana (5-6, 1-6) faces Purdue next week on the road with their final chance at making a bowl in 2015. Maryland (2-9, 0-7) will face Rutgers on the road with neither team having a chance at making a bowl.

#20 Northwestern Wildcats at #25 Wisconsin Badgers

Result: Wisconsin Win 13-7

A defensive battle between Northwestern and Wisconsin saw a tight finish in a controversial game. The Badgers had a punt return touchdown called back due to an illegal fair catch and also had a touchdown overturned in the final minute.

Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson was largely ineffective going 9 of 20 for only 60 yards. Justin Jackson was the workhorse for the Wildcats with 35 carries for 139 yards and a touchdown. Garrett Dickerson had 2 catches for 24 yards as the Wildcats leading receiver. Northwestern finished with 209 yards of offense and went 7 of 20 on third down.

Wisconsin was led by Joel Stave going for 229 yards on 20 of 34 passing. He also threw 2 interceptions and also lost a fumble. He missed the final play of the game for Wisconsin as he took a sack with the Badgers on the 1 yard line of Northwestern and left due to concussion like symptoms. The Badgers were completely ineffective running the ball. Corey Clement went for 24 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, but the Badgers finished with NEGATIVE 26 yards rushing due to Stave taking so many sacks.

Jazz Peavy had 5 catches for 88 yards, but his touchdown catch in the final minute was overturned because he did not complete the process of a catch. Tanner McEvoy had 5 catches for 57 yards, but lost a fumble on one of those catches. Wisconsin finished with only 203 yards of offense, had 5 turnovers, and went a poor 2 of 13 on third down.

Northwestern (9-2, 5-2) faces Illinois at home on Saturday with a chance to get their second 10 win season under Pat Fitzgerald (2012). Wisconsin (8-3, 5-2) faces Minnesota on the road next week with a chance of winning 10 games for fifth time in the last 7 seasons. A win over Minnesota and their bowl opponent will get them to the 10 win mark.

#9 Michigan State Spartans at #3 Ohio State Buckeyes

Result: Michigan State Win 17-14

The game of the day for the Big Ten belonged to Michigan State and Ohio State. The Spartans won by a field goal despite not having quarterback Connor Cook.

Tyler O’Connor got the start in place of Cook and went 7 of 12 for 89 yards and a touchdown. Gerald Holmes ran for 65 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries while LJ Scott had 13 carries for 58 yards. The Spartans relied heavily on their rushing attack to the tune of 203 yards on 51 carries. Aaron Burbridge led the team with 4 catches for 62 yards while four others recorded a reception. Trevon Pendleton had the lone touchdown reception for the Spartans as they finished with 294 yards on offense and went 7 of 15 on third down.

Ohio State could hardly get anything going on offense. JT Barrett went 9 of 16 passing for 46 yards and a touchdown. Barrett was also the leading rusher for Ohio State with 44 yards on 15 carries. Ezekiel Elliott inexplicably had only 12 carries and went for 33 yards and a touchdown. Jalin Marshall was the top receiver with 2 catches for 22 yards and a touchdown. Ohio State had only 132 yards of offense and went 4 of 14 on third down.

Michigan State (10-1, 6-1) controls their destiny in the Big Ten East. They face Penn State at home on Saturday and a win would put them in the Big Ten Championship Game against Iowa.

Ohio State (10-1, 6-1) will face Michigan on the road next week. They need a win over Michigan and a loss by Michigan State to play in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Illinois Fighting Illini at Minnesota Golden Gophers

Result: Minnesota Win 32-23

The battle for two bowl hopefuls ended with Minnesota coming out on top as both teams now sit at 5-6 on the season.

Wes Lunt went 34 of 47 for 279 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception for Illinois. Josh Ferguson led the Illini in rushing with 105 yards on 20 carries while Kendrick Foster got his most significant playing time to post 56 yards rushing on 11 carries. Malik Turner led the team with 11 catches for 126 yards and a touchdown. Illinois finished with 433 yards of offense and went 8 of 17 on third down, but also committed 3 turnovers.

Mitch Leidner did not have anywhere near the same passing efficiency in his past four games, but that did not hurt the Gophers. He finished 15 of 25 for 88 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for 64 yards on 10 carries. Shannon Brooks ran wild all game with 174 yards and 3 touchdowns on 17 carries. KJ Maye had a quiet game going for 31 yards on 4 catches while Drew Wolitarsky had 2 catches for 26 yards and Brandon Lingen had 3 catches for 20 yards. Minnesota put up 343 yards of offense while going 7 of 13 on third down.

Illinois (5-6, 2-5) will need to beat Northwestern in Chicago to reach a bowl game in 2015. Minnesota (5-6, 2-5) is in the same position of needing a win against Wisconsin, but they will be at home.

Check back next Sunday for a roundup of the Big Ten’s final full week of the regular season.

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 9 Big Ten Roundup

Michigan needed a goal line stop to win the Little Brown Jug (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images North America)
Michigan needed a goal line stop to win the Little Brown Jug (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images North America)

2015 Week 9 Big Ten Roundup

The ninth week of college football provided five Big Ten games. The game of the week turned out to be Michigan at Minnesota, but the other four games also provided story lines.

Illinois Fighting Illini at Penn State Nittany Lions

Result: Penn State Win 39-0 (Saturday, October 31)

Penn State had the largest margin of victory in Week 9 by one point, but they completely shut down the Illinois offense.

Christian Hackenberg had a good game going 21 of 29 for 266 yards with 2 touchdowns through the air. He also caught a 14 yard touchdown pass on a half back pass for his third touchdown. Saquon Barkley ran for 84 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries while Mark Allen had a touchdown and 23 yards on just 2 carries.

Eight different Penn State players caught a pass with Chris Godwin leading the way with 7 catches for 76 yards and a score. Saquon Barkley added another 58 yards on 3 catches through the air while DaeSean Hamilton had 4 grabs for 54 yards. The offense put up exactly 400 yards while going 5 of 13 on third down.

Illinois could not get anything going on offense thanks in large part to the Penn State defense. Wes Lunt struggled during this game throwing for just 129 yards with an interception on 16 of 37 passing. Ke’Shawn Vaughn had 15 carries for 38 yards and Chayce Crouch ran for 22 yards on 5 carries. Dionte Taylor caught 4 passes for 45 yards, Geronimo Allison had 4 grabs for 34 yards, and Vaughn had 6 catches for 33 yards.

Illinois only mustered 167 yards of offense and went 6 of 21 on third downs. As a team, they had just 37 yards rushing on 27 carries for a putrid average of 1.4 yards per carry.

Illinois (4-4, 1-3) has dropped three games in a row and will face Purdue next week on the road. Penn State (7-2, 4-1) will have a tough road contest at Northwestern next week.

Nebraska Cornhuskers at Purdue Boilermakers

Result: Purdue Win 55-45 (Saturday, October 31)

While not game of the week, the Nebraska-Purdue contest was incredibly wild in the fourth quarter with 42 points put on the board in the final frame alone.

Nebraska opted to go with Ryker Fyfe at quarterback with Tommy Armstrong out with an injury. Fyfe was a bit of a conundrum looking really good at times and also making poor throws at time. He finished 29 of 48 for 407 yards with 4 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He was forced to throw due to an ineffective rushing game and being in a deficit late in the game.

Terrell Newby ran for 56 yards on 10 carries while Imani Cross had 8 carries for 39 yards and a touchdown. The Huskers finished the game with 29 carries for 77 yards. Jordan Westerkamp led Nebraska in receiving with 9 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Reilly had 5 grabs for 88 yards and a score while 10 different players recorded at least one reception. The offense finished with 484 yards and went 7 of 12 on third down.

Purdue had a big game from quarterback David Blough with 28 of 43 passing for 274 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also added 82 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries to help his cause as Markell Jones had a nice game with 23 carries for 92 yards and 2 touchdowns. DeAngelo Yancey had 5 catches for 111 yards and 2 touchdowns, Jones had 5 catches for 51 yards, and Danny Anthrop had 10 catches for 40 yards and a touchdown.

Purdue was far more balanced on offense than Nebraska, but totaled less yards with 457. They went 8 of 17 on third down and also converted on 2 of 3 fourth down attempts. The time of possession was just about 50-50 in this game.

Nebraska (3-6, 1-4) is on the verge of missing a bowl game for the first time since 2007 when the Huskers were in the forgettable Bill Callahan era. Nebraska faces Michigan State at home next week in a must win situation to stay alive for a possible bowl game.

Purdue (2-6, 1-3) will also need to win out to make a bowl game, which is even more unlikely than Nebraska. Purdue has Illinois next week at home.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Wisconsin Badgers

Result: Wisconsin Win 48-10 (Saturday, October 31)

Wisconsin had Joel Stave and Corey Clement back for this game and it was clear the offense was much better with the duo in the lineup.

Joel Stave was not crisp going 13 of 25, but had 217 yards and a touchdown. He also threw two picks one of which was returned for a touchdown by Blessuan Austin. Corey Clement had 115 yards and 3 touchdowns on just 11 carries and could have had even more scores, but could not finish one long run of 58 yards as he was tackled at the four yard line.

Dare Ogunbowale had 14 carries for 41 yards and a score while Tanner McEvoy also had 2 carries for 29 yards and a touchdown. Alex Erickson led the offense with 6 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown and Troy Fumagalli caught 3 passes for 55 yards. The Badgers were very balanced with 217 yards passing and 209 yards rushing for a total of 426. Wisconsin went 8 of 16 on third down and one of one on fourth down.

Rutgers struggled all game on both phases of the offense. Chris Laviano went 4 of 14 for 31 yards and an interception. Hayden Rettig came in late to go 2 of 6 for 51 yards, but all indications are Laviano will hold on to the starting job. The rushing game was not much better with Josh Hicks running for 72 yards on 15 carries. Carlton Agudosi led the team with one catch for 49 yards. Rutgers finished with 165 yards of offense and converted only 2 of 15 on third down.

Rutgers (3-5, 1-4) will have a second straight road game against Michigan next week. Wisconsin (7-2, 4-1) will travel to face Maryland next week.

Maryland Terrapins at #10 Iowa Hawkeyes

Result: Iowa Win 31-15 (Saturday, October 31)

Iowa did not always look great against Maryland, but they never looked in danger of losing the game.

Perry Hills went 11 of 24 for 74 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions. Hills also led the offense with 104 yards rushing on 19 carries while Wes Brown had 8 carries for 33 yards and Brandon Ross had 5 carries for 31 yards. 8 different receivers caught a pass for Maryland, but the leader was Taivon Jacobs with 3 catches for 18 yards and a touchdown. Maryland had 241 yards of offense and converted only 1 of 10 third downs. Maryland also got a 100 yard kickoff return from William Likely in the fourth quarter.

C.J. Beathard went 12 of 23 for 183 yards with no touchdowns and no picks. Akrum Wadley had 19 carries for 67 yards and a touchdown while LeShun Daniels ran for 60 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. Matt VandeBerg caught 3 passes for 54 yards while Tevaun Smith had 2 grabs for 35 yards. Iowa totaled 293 yards on offense and converted 6 of 16 third downs. Desmond King continues to be a ball-hawk for the Iowa defense with another interception. He returned his pick for a touchdown to give him 7 interceptions for the season.

Maryland (2-6, 0-4) takes on Wisconsin at home next weekend. Iowa (8-0, 4-0) travels to face Indiana next week looking to continue their incredible run in 2015.

#15 Michigan Wolverines at Minnesota Golden Gophers

Result: Michigan Win 29-26 (Saturday, October 31)

Michigan needed a touchdown with a backup quarterback and goal line stop to beat Minnesota, but they got both of those to win 29-26 in a great game for the Little Brown Jug.

Jake Rudock went 13 of 21 for 140 yards with a touchdown and an interception, but was knocked out in the third quarter and replaced by Wilton Speight. Speight led the Wolverines to the eventual game winning touchdown with less than five minutes to play. He finished 3 of 6 for 29 yards and the touchdown.

Drake Johnson ran the ball 10 times for 55 yards, Jehu Chesson had one carry for 22 yards, and Jabrill Peppers got in on offense to rush for 16 yards and a touchdown on 4 carries. Amara Darboh led the team with 6 catches for 73 yards and Jake Butt had 4 grabs for 38 yards. Chesson had 3 catches for 33 yards and 2 touchdowns. Michigan put up 296 yards of total offense and went 5 of 12 on third down.

One of the surprising stories of this game was the Minnesota offense and the way they were able to move the ball against Michigan’s defense. Mitch Leidner went 16 of 33 for 317 yards and a touchdown and carried the ball 11 times for 37 yards and a touchdown.

Rodney Smith had 12 carries for 74 yards and Shannon Brooks had 12 rushes for 33 yards. Brandon Lingen had a big game with 5 catches for 111 yards, Rashad Still had 2 catches for 69 yards and a touchdown, and KJ Maye had a team high 6 catches for 58 yards. Minnesota had 461 yards of offense and went 5 of 14 on third down. Minnesota also had a 4 for 4 game kicking field goals with a long of 47 yards.

Michigan (6-2, 3-1) faces Rutgers at home next week with a chance to fix some issues on defense. Minnesota (4-4, 1-3) faces Ohio State on the road next weekend in prime time.

Check back next Sunday for a look at the week 10 edition of the Big Ten Roundup.

2015 Big Ten Week 2 Roundup

Madre London and Michigan State delivered a big win for Michigan State and the Big Ten (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images North America)
Madre London and Michigan State delivered a big win for Michigan State and the Big Ten (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images North America)

2015 Big Ten Week 2 Roundup

The Big Ten went 8-6 in the opening week of the college football season, but overall it was not a good weekend for them. Week two was a good chance for the Big Ten to redeem themselves. A closer look at each of the Big Ten’s teams is below.

Oregon State Beavers at Michigan Wolverines

Result: Michigan Win 35-7 (Saturday, September 12)

Jim Harbaugh’s first game in the Big House did not get off to a good start. The Beavers took the opening drive and marched right down the field to take a 7-0 lead. It got worse when quarterback Jake Rudock lost a fumble on the Wolverines’ first possession and put Oregon State in position to add to their lead. The Michigan defense stepped up to force and recover a fumble two plays later while the offense turned it into a field goal.

Michigan looked more like Michigan after that first drive by not allowing another point the rest of the game. De’Veon Smith was effective at rushing the ball and was more decisive as well. He finished with 126 yards and 3 touchdowns on 23 carries. Rudock went 18 of 26 for 180 yards, but did not have a touchdown pass and threw an interception.

The Michigan defense allowed a total of 138 yards the entire game and 79 of those yards came on Oregon State’s opening drive. They were disruptive and all over the field for nearly all of the game. The defense gave up only one third down conversion to the Oregon State offense out of 11 attempts.

The Wolverines face UNLV next week at home with a chance to continue improving on both sides of the ball.

Western Illinois Leathernecks at Illinois Fighting Illini

Result: Illinois Win 44-0 (Saturday, September 12)

The departure of Tim Beckman had no effect in week two as the offense continued to shine. Wes Lunt went 33 of 46 for 316 yards with a touchdown and an interception. His top target was Geronimo Allison who had 8 receptions for 124 yards. Marchie Murdock had a solid game with 6 catches for 51 yards and a touchdown.

One area that the offense struggled in was holding on to the ball. They had four turnovers in total with three of those coming on lost fumbles. Obviously it did not hurt this week, but a similar performance against better competition will have disastrous consequences. The Illini also had 147 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns on 40 carries as a team, which does not even average to 4 yards a carry. That will also need to improve.

The defense pitched a shut out and gave up only 141 yards of offense to Western Illinois. They allowed just 43 yards through the air and intercepted two passes. It was a suffocating performance that bodes well for them.

Illinois looked good for two weeks, but the waters get very deep next week on the road at North Carolina. That will be a great test for Illinois on both sides of the ball against their highest quality opponent to date.

Bowling Green Falcons at Maryland Terrapins

Result: Bowling Green Win 48-27 (Saturday, September 12)

Maryland had a second half surge to beat Richmond last week and it looked like they were going to do well against Bowling Green this week. The Terps led 13-6 at halftime, but struggled mightily in the final 30 minutes.

The defense for Maryland was the biggest culprit as they gave up 42 second half points. They allowed 491 yards and 6 touchdowns through the air while giving up another 201 yards on the ground. They managed just one turnover and allowed 10 of 22 on third and fourth down conversions.

Perry Hills did not have a good game going 15 of 30 with 168 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air. He threw three interceptions, but did run for 94 yards on 8 carries. William Likely was a bright spot again with an 85 yard touchdown return on a punt.

Maryland has a third home game in a row next week against South Florida, but that will not be easy if they continue to struggle.

Buffalo Bulls at Penn State Nittany Lions

Result: Penn State Win 27-14 (Saturday, September 12)

Penn State was atrocious in week one against Temple, but rebounded to beat Buffalo at home this week. However, it was not always pretty as they continued to struggle on offense.

Christian Hackenberg went 14 of 27 with 128 yards and a touchdown. He and the offense would not score until midway through the second quarter, but built a familiar 10-0 score. Buffalo made it 10-7 on their second drive of the second half, but the offense was able to do enough to put the game out of reach. Hackenberg was not sacked at all against Buffalo after being sacked 10 times in week one.

Saquon Barkley had a good game with 115 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries while Akeel Lynch was stifled at times gaining only 46 yards on 19 carries. This duo was able to move the ball at times while the passing game was ineffective under Hackenberg.

The Nittany Lions’ defense was solid allowing only 274 yards of offense to Buffalo and only 69 yards on the ground. They did not force a turnover, but were solid for most of the game.

Penn State kicks off their Big Ten schedule with a home game against Rutgers next week.

Miami (OH) Redhawks at Wisconsin Badgers

Result: Wisconsin Win 58-0 (Saturday, September 12)

Wisconsin was in fine form in week two after their tough opening week game against Alabama. Week two provided Miami (OH), which was a welcome relief as the Badgers crushed them.

Corey Clement did not play this week due to a lingering injury, but it did not matter with Joel Stave slinging the ball around. The running game struggled early on, but eventually got on track as the Redhawks wore down. Dare Ogunbowale ran for 112 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries while Taiwan Deal had 45 yards and 2 touchdowns on 14 carries.

Stave looked sharp again this week going 19 of 30 for 236 yards with 3 touchdown and an interception. His best target was surprising with Robert Wheelwright leading the team. He had 6 catches for 79 yards and 2 touchdowns with the bulk of the catches coming late in the second quarter. Alex Erickson had 5 catches for 73 yards, but was also effective on punt returns with 72 yards on 4 returns.

The defense, as expected, was dominant. They held Miami to -3 yards rushing and a total of 157 yards. They forced four turnovers including two picks Leo Musso and one interception by Tanner McEvoy. McEvoy got snaps at wide receiver as well in this game catching 3 passes for 29 yards.

It was a much better performance, but the run game will need to find its feet quicker and not rely on Stave too much to get the offense going. The Badgers will have Troy in town next week.

Hawaii Rainbow Warriors at #1 Ohio State Buckeyes

Result: Ohio State Win 38-0 (Saturday, September 12)

Ohio State had a quick turnaround from Monday night’s win over Virginia Tech and it may have played a part in their lackadaisical effort at times.

Cardale Jones started the game, but struggled for the first quarter and a half. He was pulled in the second quarter with J.T. Barrett taking over. Neither quarterback was overly impressive with Jones going 12 of 18 for 111 yards and Barrett going 8 of 15 for 70 yards. Neither threw a touchdown or interception.

Ezekiel Elliott was relied on more heavily this game going for 101 yards and 3 touchdowns on 27 carries. Braxton Miller, to no surprise, was used as well with 8 carries for 57 yards, but was held to 2 catches for 16 yards. Curtis Samuel finished as the leading receiver with 7 catches for 53 yards and Michael Thomas had 52 yards on 5 catches.

The defense was very good by allowing only 165 total yards with 85 of those coming through the air and 80 on the ground. They forced four turnovers (2 interceptions and 2 fumbles) and returned one of those fumbles to the house courtesy of Vonn Bell from 14 yards out.

The Buckeyes will certainly be looking to get more a rhythm next week at home against Northern Illinois.

Washington State Cougars at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Result: Washington State Win 37-34 (Saturday, September 12)

It looked like Rutgers was going to pull one out for the Big Ten, but a wild fourth quarter saw these two teams combine for 39 points including touchdowns from each team in the final 1:31.

Kyle Flood opted to play Chris Laviano against the Cougars and he was decent. He finished 23 of 29 for 204 yards with a touchdown, but threw an interception that led to a field goal. He was able to spread the ball around finding 10 different receivers with Janarion Grant leading the way with 5 catches for 65 yards. Josh Hicks led the team in rushing with 91 yards on 16 carries while Robert Martin ran for 61 yards and a touchdown on 9 carries.

The obvious weakness this week was the defense that was shredded by Washington State’s air raid offense. Luke Falk went 47 of 66 for 478 yards with 4 touchdowns. Gabe Marks caught 14 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown while River Cracraft had 8 catches for 121 yards and a score. The Rutgers defense was not able to force a turnover and the critical drive that led to the loss. The defense will need to improve if Rutgers wants to make a bowl game this year.

The Scarlet Knights face Penn State on the road next week.

Minnesota Golden Gophers at Colorado State Rams

Result: Minnesota Win 23-20 in 1 Overtime (Saturday, September 12)

Minnesota played well in week one and did so again in week two on the road at Colorado State. The Gophers needed overtime to get the win, but they were able to force an interception and then kick a field goal to give them the three point victory.

Mitch Leidner’s stats are not overwhelming, but he played well when he had to for the most part. He went 23 of 45 for 233 yards with 2 touchdowns, but no interceptions. He did lose two fumbles with the first one occurring inside the Rams’ 20 yard line on fourth and one. The other happened inside his own red zone that led to a field goal. Still, his ability to lead the offense down the field late in the fourth quarter for a go ahead touchdown was impressive.

Rodney Smith ran for 108 yards on 21 carries while Leidner was the second leading rusher with 47 yards on 11 carries. Drew Wolitarsky was a big target for Leidner with 9 catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. KJ Maye made the biggest catch in the fourth quarter for a touchdown and finished with 6 catches for 54 yards.

The defense played well, especially when it counted the most in overtime. They finished with four turnovers forced and also held the Colorado State offense to 314 yards. The defense got lucky that Colorado State’s Rashard Higgins was out, but still did well overall.

Minnesota’s strong start will look to be continued next week back at home against Kent State.

Eastern Illinois Panthers at Northwestern Wildcats

Result: Northwestern Win 41-0 (Saturday, September 12)

If there was any worry that Northwestern would be too full of themselves after last week’s win over Stanford, it was not apparent in week two.

The offense was far from overwhelming, but was efficient led by Clayton Thorson who went 11 of 16 for 152 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a touchdown and only attempted two runs. Justin Jackson had 22 carries for 78 yards and a touchdown while Warren Long saw action and finished with 12 rushers for 72 yards and a score.

Austin Carr had 2 catches for 61 yards and a long touchdown of 44 yards. Dan Vitale had 4 catches for 40 yards. The offense was not spectacular, but the defense was even if it was versus a FCS team.

Matthew Harris had a big game this week with two interceptions including one returned 71 yards for a touchdown. The defense allowed only 138 yards of offense to Eastern Illinois and did not allow a third down conversion (0 for 11). It was another dominant performance that bodes incredibly well for the Wildcats.

Northwestern will take on Duke next week on the road in another early season test for the Wildcats.

Iowa Hawkeyes at Iowa State Cyclones

Result: Iowa Win 31-17 (Saturday, September 12)

Iowa had to battle against their in-state rival Iowa State, but they got the job done thanks to a balanced offense. Quarterback C.J. Beathard threw for 215 yards and 3 touchdowns on 15 of 25 passing. He also showed some wheels by running for 77 yards on 10 carries including long runs of 44 yards and 57 yards.

Jordan Canzeri pounded the ball 24 times for 124 yards and a touchdown, but did lose a fumble inside the Iowa State red zone with the game tied at 17. Matt VandeBerg was a safety blanket catching 9 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown.

The defense was not great in the first half allowing all 17 points, but they played well in the final two quarters. With the game still in the balance and Iowa leading 24-17, Desmond King intercepted a pass at the Iowa State 36 and put the offense in great position to salt the game away.

One drive worth noting was Iowa’s final drive of the first half. They started from their own 2, moved the ball down to the Iowa State 22, and were in a great spot to kick a field goal. The game was a 17-10 Iowa State lead at the time, but Kirk Ferentz decided to try a trick play and let Marshall Koehn run the ball on a fake field goal, but he was stopped at the five. It was a bizarre play call that had no effect in the end, but the timing was very curious.

Iowa has another good game next week with Pittsburgh going to Iowa City.

#7 Oregon Ducks at #5 Michigan State Wolverines

Result: Michigan State Win 31-28 (Saturday, September 12)

The Big Ten’s biggest game of the week turned out to be a good one that went their way with a nice performance out of the Michigan State Spartans.

Connor Cook had a decent game going 20 of 32 for 192 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception. Madre London had a good game running the ball with 103 yards on 18 carries while LJ Scott pounded the ball in for two touchdowns and 76 yards on 11 carries. Aaron Burbridge had a great game catching 8 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown.

The Michigan State defense was not great, but they played well considering their opponent. They forced two interceptions in the first half with the first one leading to a touchdown for the offense. They also had a huge goal line stop in the second quarter.

In the fourth quarter, they allowed a touchdown with a 31-21 lead, but were able to force a turnover on downs on the following drive (thanks in large part to a sack by Chris Frey and Lawrence Thomas).

Michigan State will be back at home next week with Air Force coming to town.

South Alabama Jaguars at Nebraska Cornhuskers

Result: Nebraska Win 48-9 (Saturday, September 12)

Nebraska rebounded from week one’s crushing Hail Mary loss to decimate South Alabama. Tommy Armstrong went 21 of 30 for 270 yards and 2 touchdowns to lead the Huskers. Terrell Newby had a monster game rushing for 198 yards and 2 touchdowns on 28 carries. Newby also had 2 catches for 38 yards and a score while Brandon Reilly caught 5 passes for 71 yards to lead the team.

The defense was clearly angered by last week’s performance and did well with the starters in. They did not allow a point in the first half and when the Jaguars did get into scoring position, they stopped them both times.

Nebraska faces the Miami Hurricanes next week on the road in another big game for them.

Florida International Panthers at Indiana Hoosiers

Result: Indiana Win 36-22 (Saturday, September 12)

Indiana escaped an upset last week against FCS Southern Illinois while this week’s game was not as dramatic at the end. However, Indiana did struggle early on with FIU. The Hoosiers trailed 22-19 early in the fourth quarter before putting up the final 17 points to make the finish comfortable.

Jordan Howard had another very good game with 27 carries for 159 yards. The defense struggled at times, but sealed the game with a pick six for 96 yards by Jameel Cook. That happened to be on fourth and goal with just over 4 minutes left.

Indiana’s defense will be tested again next week with the high-powered Western Kentucky offense going into Bloomington.

That concludes a look at the second week of the Big Ten football roundup. Look out for the week three edition next week.

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.