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2015 Week 6 Big Ten Roundup

Michigan continues to trend up in the Big Ten with their third straight shut out. (Leon Halip/Getty Images North America)
Michigan continues to trend up in the Big Ten with their third straight shut out. (Leon Halip/Getty Images North America)

2015 Week 6 Big Ten Roundup

The sixth week of the college football team saw all 14 Big Ten teams playing in conference clashes. Some teams performed well while others did not. Let’s take a look at each game.

Maryland Terrapins at #1 Ohio State Buckeyes

Result: Ohio State Win 49-28 (Saturday, October 10)

Ohio State may be the top ranked team, but they have not played like the team was saw last year.

Cardale Jones started the game, but J.T. Barrett saw plenty of action as well. The offense had a pretty good performance overall with almost 500 yards, but the defense gave up 21 points to a previously hapless Maryland offense.

Jones went 21 of 28 for 291 yards and 2 touchdowns while Barrett had 3 rushing touchdowns along with 62 yards rushing on 12 carries. Ezekiel Elliott was held in check compared to last week, but still finished with 106 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. Michael Thomas had 7 catches for 107 yards while Braxton Miller was electric again with 5 catches for 79 yards and a touchdown.

For Maryland, they opted to go with Perry Hills and it appears to have paid early dividends even if they still lost by 3 touchdowns. They key here is the offense found something that was not there previously. Hills was a terrible 10 of 27 for 133 yards with a touchdown and 2 interceptions, but was a menace running the ball. He had 25 carries for 170 yards and 2 touchdowns to give the Buckeyes fits.

Ohio State gave up 386 total yards and allowed 6 of 16 on third and fourth down conversions. They struggled early against a team that also had their coach relieved earlier this week. It is a troubling pattern for a team that is ranked number one.

Maryland (2-4, 0-2) has a bye next week before facing Penn State at home on October 24. Ohio State (6-0, 2-0) will get Penn State next week at home.

Illinois Fighting Illini at #22 Iowa Hawkeyes

Result: Iowa Win 29-20 (Saturday, October 10)

Iowa’s offense looked better at home one week after struggling on the road at Wisconsin. This week was against Illinois.

C.J. Beathard went a paltry 15 of 31 through the air, but had 200 yards and 2 touchdowns in a secondary performance to the running back. Jordan Canzeri ran wild for Iowa on offense with 256 yards and a touchdown on 43 carries. Jerminic Smith had a big game with 4 catches for 118 yards including a few nice grabs. The offense had 478 yards of total offense with no turnovers.

One of the only knocks on the offense was they ended up settling for 3 field goals with all three converted by Marshall Koehn. Koehn did miss an extra point early in the game that nearly had consequences late in the fourth quarter, but was good outside of that miss. Another knock was that they converted just 4 of 16 third downs.

Illinois seemed to have trouble finding consistency in the first half with only 7 points that came on their second drive. Part of the issue may have been due to the absence of Josh Ferguson, who missed the game due to a shoulder injury. Illinois’ touchdown drive went for 67 yards while their other six drives totaled 49 yards combined.

The second half was better for Illinois with some up-tempo offense. Wes Lunt looked better throwing the ball and he combined with Geronimo Allison for several big plays. Lunt finished 25 of 42 for 317 yards and a touchdown while Allison caught 8 passes for 148 yards and a score. Ke’Shawn Vaughn had 67 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.

Illinois will need to be better on defense as noted by the 256 rushing yards allowed to Canzeri. They will also need to force more turnovers to give their offense a chance to build a lead.

Illinois (4-2, 1-1) has a bye next week and will face Wisconsin at home on October 24. Iowa (6-0, 2-0) play Northwestern on the road next week with a chance to put a hammerlock on the Big Ten West division with a win.

Indiana Hoosiers at Penn State Nittany Lions

Result: Penn State Win 29-7 (Saturday, October 10)

Indiana struggled on offense this week while Penn State was decent on offense and very good on defense to lead them to yet another win.

Zander Diamont got the start with Nate Sudfeld out. He suffered an injury of his own in the third quarter and was replaced by Danny Cameron. Diamont led Indiana to a touchdown early, but the offense did not do much after that. Diamont finished the game going 9 of 17 for 90 yards passing as well as 11 rushes for 38 yards and a touchdown.

Cameron was 6 of 16 with 65 yards and an interception. Devine Redding had 13 carries for 32 yards with Jordan Howard not playing. It was not pretty for Indiana outside their touchdown drive. For the game, Indiana went 3 of 16 on third down and finished with 234 yards of total offense.

Penn State did not have any issues on offense as Christian Hackenberg went 21 of 39 for 262 yards and 2 touchdowns. On top of that, he also had 9 rushes for 21 yards and 2 touchdowns thanks to two short runs near the Indiana goal line.

The Nittany Lions continued to be without their top two rushers. Nick Scott got 8 carries for 57 yards while Mark Allen also had 8 carries and 45 yards. Penn State had 420 yards of total offense and held a nearly 36-24 minute lead in time of possession.

Penn State’s defense was led by Carl Nassib, who had two forced fumbles and two sacks. The entire defense had a very good game and continue to look good.

Indiana (4-2, 0-2) will face Rutgers at home hoping to see Nate Sudfeld and Jordan Howard play. Penn State (5-1, 2-0) have a big test on the road at the Horseshoe against Ohio State.

#13 Northwestern Wildcats at #18 Michigan Wolverines

Result: Michigan Win 38-0 (Saturday, October 10)

Michigan continued their incredible defensive streak by posting a third straight shut out. All phases of the game got in on the act as well.

Jake Rudock had a quiet, but efficient game going 17 of 23 for 179 yards. De’Veon Smith had 8 carries for 59 yards while Derrick Green had 47 yards and a touchdown on 12 rushes. The offense finished with 380 yards of offense and went 7 of 14 on third downs. Northwestern had only allowed 35 points in the first five games prior to this contest.

The Michigan defense was superb. Justin Jackson had only 25 yards on 12 carries. Clayton Thorson went 13 of 27 for 106 yards with an interception. Northwestern totaled 168 yards of offense and went a putrid 2 of 13 on third downs. A lot of that is due to the Michigan defense, which got a pick six from Jourdan Lewis, who ripped the ball out of the receiver’s arms and sprinted down the sideline for a 37 yard return.

Michigan’s special teams started the day with a 96 yard kickoff return by Jehu Chesson and it was all Wolverines after that.

Northwestern (5-1, 1-1) faces Iowa next week at home in a massive Big Ten West game. Michigan will take on Michigan State at home next week in a huge game of their own.

Wisconsin Badgers at Nebraska Cornhuskers

Result: Wisconsin Win 23-21 (Saturday, October 10)

Stop if you have heard this one before: Nebraska lost a heartbreaker. It was their fourth loss of the season, all in close fashion.

Wisconsin had a tough time getting their running game involved early on. It was not until the fourth quarter when the Badgers were able to run the ball. Dare Ogunbowale finished with 18 carries for 117 yards while Taiwan Deal managed just 4 carries for 8 yards and left early due to an ankle injury. Alec Ingold was the third string running back and finished with 14 yards and a touchdown on 8 carries.

Joel Stave went to the air quite a bit due to the poor rushing attack. He went 24 of 50 for 322 yards with a touchdown. He found two of his favorite targets in Alex Erickson (7 catches for 113 yards) and Robert Wheelwright (5 catches for 81 yards). With Austin Traylor out at tight end, Troy Fumagalli stepped up to finish with 6 catches for 60 yards and a touchdown. The offense struggled on third down again going just 5 of 16, but racked up 469 yards of offense.

Nebraska ha issues moving the ball at times against Wisconsin. Tommy Armstrong went 11 of 28 for 129 yards and a touchdown through the air, but was dangerous running the ball with 50 yards and a touchdown on 8 carries. Andy Janovich and Terrell Newby both had 59 yards rushing while Janovich had a nice 55 yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to give the Huskers a slim lead. Nebraska had 325 yards of offense and went 8 of 18 on third downs.

The defenses were both solid for much of the game. In the fourth quarter, the offenses came to life to provide an excellent game. Wisconsin was lucky to get the win thanks to Rafael Gaglianone, but he went 3 of 5. Nebraska kicker Drew Brown missed his only field goal attempt in another play that could be looked back on as a what if moment.

Wisconsin (4-2, 1-1) faces Purdue at home next weekend. Nebraska (2-4, 0-2) has another tough game with Minnesota next week on the road.

Minnesota Golden Gophers at Purdue Boilermakers

Result: Minnesota Win 41-13 (Saturday, October 10)

A potentially dangerous game for Minnesota turned into a rout with a big 28 point third quarter for the Gophers.

Minnesota’s passing game was hardly featured, but it was not needed often. Mitch Leidner went 8 for 12 for 59 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception. Brandon Lingen caught both of those touchdowns and had 3 catches for 22 yards total. Shannon Brooks had a great game rushing with 176 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries while Rodney Smith had 52 yards on 13 carries. The Gophers ran for 326 yards and 2 touchdowns on 48 carries as a team.

Purdue struggled on offense. David Blough went 21 of 49 for 207 with a touchdown, but also threw 3 interceptions. D.J. Knox had 13 carries for 60 yards and a touchdown with Purdue managing just 275 yards of total offense. One of the interceptions was returned for a touchdown by Minnesota’s Jalen Myrick. Purdue went 3 of 17 on third down and the turnovers hurt them immensely.

Minnesota (4-2, 1-1) faces Nebraska next week at home. Purdue (1-5, 0-2) has the tough task of going into Madison and playing Wisconsin next weekend.

#4 Michigan State Spartans at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Result: Michigan State Win 31-24 (Saturday, October 10)

Michigan State was able to escape their road game at Rutgers thanks to a blunder by the Scarlet Knights on a night that featured both quarterbacks.

Connor Cook had a good game going 23 of 38 for 357 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception. His top target once again was Aaron Burbridge, who had 9 catches for 146 yards. The Spartans struggled to run the ball at times with LJ Scott led the team with 9 carries for 42 yards and 2 scores.

Michigan State seemed as if they had no trouble converting on third down and they finished 11 of 17 on that important down. Rutgers was led by Chris Laviano going 15 of 24 for 208 yards and 3 touchdowns, but most importantly did not throw an interception. Leonte Carroo had his second three touchdown receiving game of the year with 7 catches for 134 yards and 3 scores. Paul James had only 2 carries, but that was good enough for 74 yards thanks to his long 72 yard run. Robert Martin had 61 yards on 13 carries as well.

Rutgers was the opposite going 3 of 12 on third down and 2 of 3 on fourth down. Neither defense played terribly, but neither was outstanding. Laviano spiked the ball with seconds remaining on fourth down after a sack, which caused Rutgers to lose. It was fourth and 20 at midfield so the chances were not great, but it became zero with the spike.

Michigan State (6-0, 2-0) will face in-state arch-rival Michigan on the road next week. Rutgers (2-3, 0-2) plays Indiana on the road next weekend.

Check back next Sunday for the Week 7 edition of the Big Ten Round Up.

2015 College Football Preview: Big 10 East

Ohio State won the 2015 College Football Playoff Championship. Can they do it again in 2015? (Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America)
Ohio State won the 2015 College Football Playoff Championship. Can they do it again in 2015? (Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America)

2015 College Football Preview: Big 10 East

Part fifteen of Sports Enthusiasts’ 2015 College Football Preview takes a closer look at the Big 10 East division. We will also take a look at the Big 10 Championship game, giving a prediction of that projected contest as well. Below is a look at each of the conferences already previewed as well as the previews 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

Let’s take a closer look at the Big 10’s East Division.

1. Ohio State Buckeyes

Urban Meyer took over in 2012 and led Ohio State to a 12-0 record, but the Buckeyes were not eligible for the postseason. In 2013, the Buckeyes were on their way to the National Championship, but lost to Michigan State in the Big 10 Championship game and then also lost to Clemson in the Orange Bowl to fall to 12-2. In 2014, Ohio State suffered a shock loss at home to Virginia Tech in the second game before reeling off 13 straight wins including the inaugural College Football Playoff Championship. 2015 looks like more of the same for Ohio State: excellence.

Ohio State will have seven starters back on offense from a unit that put up 44.8 points and 512 yards per game. Of course, the trio of JT Barrett, Cardale Jones, and Braxton Miller will be back with Miller moving from quarterback to wide receiver. Barrett threw for 2,834 yards with 34 touchdown and 10 interceptions before Jones came in for the injured Barrett and threw for 860 yards with 7 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in the final three games. Ezekiel Elliott is returning at running back after rushing for 1,878 yards and 18 touchdowns. Most of the receivers return sans Devin Smith (33 catches for 931 yards and 12 touchdowns). Michael Thomas (54 catches for 788 yards and 9 touchdowns), Jalin Marshall (38 catches for 499 yards and 6 touchdowns), and Dontre Wilson (21 catches for 300 yards and 3 touchdowns) are back along with Miller moving over from QB. The offensive line has four starters back and this offense will continue to be one of the best in the nation.

The defense also returns seven starters from a group that allowed 22 points and 342 yards per game. Joey Bosa returns on the line after recording 53 tackles, 13.5 sacks, and 7.5 tackles for loss while being named 1st Team All-American last year. He will miss the opening game against Virginia Tech along with Jalin Marshall. Joshua Perry (124 tackles, 3 sacks, and 5.5 tackles for loss) and Darron Lee (81 tackles, 7.5 sacks, and 9 tackles for loss) return at linebacker after those two were the #1 and #3 tacklers last year respectively. The secondary has three starters back led by Vonn Bell (92 tackles, 6 pass breakups, and 6 interceptions) and Tyvis Powell (76 tackles, 4 pass breakups, and 4 interceptions). The defense will be solid once again and could improve on the numbers they allowed last year.

Ohio State opens up with Virginia Tech on the road and will surely be looking to exact a measure of revenge. Their final three non-conference games are at home against Hawaii, Northern, Illinois, and Western Michigan. The Buckeyes will face Indiana, Rutgers, and Michigan on the road while playing Maryland, Penn State, and Michigan State at home. From the West, Ohio State has Minnesota (home) and Illinois (road). Ohio State is clearly the team to beat not only in the East, but all of the Big 10. Ohio State has an excellent chance at running the table and making it back-to-back National Championships in 2015.

2. Michigan State Spartans

Since 2010, Michigan State has been one of the elite teams in the Big 10 with four season of at least 11 wins. 2013 was the best year under Mark Dantonio when they went 13-1 winning both the Big 10 and the Rose Bowl that season. 2014 was another very good year with MSU going 11-2 including that incredible come from behind win against Baylor in the Cotton Bowl. What will 2015 bring?

The offense has seven starters back led by quarterback Connor Cook. Cook threw for 3,214 yards with 24 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. The trio of Madre London, LJ Scott, and Gerald Holmes will look to replace the production of Jeremy Langford (1,522 yards and 22 touchdowns). The top two receivers are gone, but returning are Macgarrett Kings (29 catches for 404 yards and a touchdown), Josiah Price (26 catches for 374 yards and 6 touchdowns), and Aaron Burbridge (29 catches for 358 yards and a touchdown). RJ Shelton is coming over from running back after grabbing 16 passes for 173 yards and 2 touchdowns. The offensive line has four starters back as well. The offense put up 43 points and 501 yards of offense last year and probably will not match those numbers. However, they can still put up plenty of offense with Cook commanding the offense.

The defense has seven starters back from a group that allowed 21.5 points and 316 yards per game. The line has three starters back in Lawrence Thomas (30 tackles and 3 sacks), Joel Heath (29 tackles and 2.5 sacks), and Shilique Calhoun (39 tackles, 8 sacks, and 4.5 tackles for loss). The linebacking unit has Ed Davis (48 tackles, 7 sacks, and 5 tackles for loss) and Darien Harris (48 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and an interception) back. The secondary has Darian Hicks and RJ Williamson (59 tackles and 3 interceptions) back to help against the pass. The numbers Michigan State allowed in 2014 were pretty good and could improve even more in 2015.

The Spartans have Western Michigan on the road to start the season before a big game at home against Oregon. They round out non-conference play with Air Force and Central Michigan at home as well. In conference, they will face Rutgers, Michigan, and Ohio State on the road while playing Indiana, Maryland, and Penn State at home. From the East, MSU has to play Purdue (home) and Nebraska (road). Michigan State has a chance to win the East if they can upset Ohio State on November 21 along with everything else falling in place. At the least, Michigan State should see another 10+ win season under Dantonio.

3. Michigan Wolverines

Brady Hoke came to Michigan in 2011 with a lot of hype. In his first year, he seemed to validate the hype by going 11-2 and leading Michigan to a Sugar Bowl victory. The next three seasons were all downhill for the Wolverines as they went 8-5 in 2012 to 7-6 in 2013 to 5-7 in 2014, which ended Hoke’s tenure at Michigan. Enter Jim Harbaugh for 2015 and he has created a lot of excitement as well as the constant headlines without coaching a game at UM. What could the actual football season produce then?

The offense for Michigan has eight starters returning from a group that produced a lackluster 20.9 points and 333 yards per game. There will be a battle for the quarterback duties between Iowa transfer Jake Rudock (2,436 yards with 16 touchdowns and 5 interceptions last year) and Shane Morris (128 yards and 3 interceptions in backup duty). The running back trio of De’Veon Smith (519 yards and 6 touchdowns), Derrick Green (471 yards and 3 touchdowns), and Drake Johnson (361 yards and 4 touchdowns) will be joined by USC transfer Ty Isaac (236 yards in 2013). Devin Funchess has departed, but the next four receivers all return. Amara Darboh had 36 catches for 473 yards and 2 touchdowns, Jake Butt had 21 catches for 211 yards and 2 touchdowns, and Jehu Chesson won 14 catches for 154 yards. There are four starters back on the offensive line and the Michigan offense should be able to produce much better this year compared to 2014.

The defense has seven starters back from a unit that allowed 22.4 points and 311 yards in a solid year. The line has two starters back from a unit that allowed 118 rushing yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry. The top returning linebacker this year will be Joe Bolden after recording 102 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 tackles for loss last year. The secondary will be strong with three returning starters and Stanford transfer Wayne Lyons. Lyons had 124 tackles in 22 starts in his three years at Stanford. Jarrod Wilson will be safety again this year after recording 50 tackles last year, which was good enough for third on the team. The defense will be solid once again, even in Harbaugh’s first season.

Michigan has a tough non-conference schedule with the opening game against Utah on the road before three straight home games versus Oregon State, UNLV, and BYU. In conference, they will play Maryland, Indiana, and Penn State on the road and take on Michigan State, Rutgers, and Ohio State at home. From the East, Michigan faces Northwestern (home) and Minnesota (road). Harbaugh should be able to lead Michigan back to a bowl game and might have a chance to reach 10 wins with a victory in the bowl game.

4. Penn State Nittany Lions

Bill O’Brien took over in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal and did quite well given the sanctions levied against Penn State. He led PSU to back-to-back winning seasons going 8-4 in 2012 and 7-5 in 2013. The Nittany Lions were not eligible for a bowl either season due to the scandal and O’Brien left to take over the Houston Texans in the NFL. James Franklin became head coach in 2014 and led PSU to a 7-6 record and one point win in the Pinstripe bowl over Boston College.

The offense will have eight starters back from a group that put up 20.6 points and 335 yards per game. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg threw for 2,977 yards with 12 touchdowns and 15 interceptions while being considered by some as the top prospect of the 2016 NFL Draft. Akeel Lynch ran for 678 yards and 4 touchdowns despite only starting two games last year. Three of the top four receivers are returning led by DaeSean Hamilton, who had 82 catches for 899 yards and 2 touchdowns as a freshman. Geno Lewis (55 catches for 751 yards and 2 touchdowns) and Chris Godwin (26 catches for 338 yards and 2 touchdowns) return as well. With four starters back on the offensive line, the offense should perform better in 2015 with a year of Franklin’s schemes under their belts.

The defense was excellent in 2014 allowing just 18.6 points and 279 yards per game. They now return seven starters from last year including the second through sixth leading tacklers. The line has Austin Johnson (49 tackles, 1 sack, and 5 tackles for loss) and Anthony Zettel (42 tackles, 8 sacks, 9 tackles for loss, and 3 interceptions) back from a unit that allowed only 100 yards rushing per game and 2.9 yards per carry. Two are back at linebacker led by Nyeem Wartman, who had 75 tackles (#2 on team). They do lose Mike Hull, who was fantastic in 2014 with 140 tackles, 2 sacks, and 8.5 tackles for loss. The secondary will have three starters back in Trevor Williams (27 tackles, 5 pass breakups, 2 interceptions), Jordan Lucas (58 tackles, 2 sacks, and 9 pass breakups), and Marcus Allen (58 tackles, 1 sack, and 3 pass breakups) to make this one of the better secondaries in the Big 10. The defense could match last year’s numbers, but at the very least, should be solid again.

Penn State opens with a road game at Temple before facing Buffalo, San Diego State, and Army at home to close out the non-conference slate. Rutgers, Indiana, Michigan will be coming to State College while PSU will travel to play Ohio State, Maryland (Baltimore), and Michigan State. From the West, Penn State will take on Illinois (home) and Northwestern (road). The Nittany Lions should be better in 2015 and could have a chance to win 10 games with an upset or two.

5. Indiana Hoosiers

Kevin Wilson has been in charge at Indiana since 2011 and has yet to make a bowl game. He has an overall record of 14-34 and his best chance of making a bowl game was in 2013 when the Hoosiers went 5-7. The offense has not been much of an issue under Wilson while the defense is the Achilles heel in his tenure thus far. Will the defense be good enough to reach 6-6 in 2015?

The offense has seven starters back after putting up 25.1 points and 405 yards per game. Gone is Tevin Coleman, who ran for 2,036 yards and 15 touchdowns. Replacing Coleman is UAB transfer Jordan Howard, who ran for 1,587 and 13 touchdowns in 2014. He probably will not match Coleman’s output, but he is quite the pick up to replace him. Nate Sudfeld started the first six games throwing for 1,151 yards with 6 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, but suffered a shoulder injury that knocked him out for the year. Zander Diamont came in to start the last six and threw for 515 yards with 1 touchdown and 4 interceptions. He was also more mobile than Sudfeld and ran for 133 yards and 2 touchdowns. Receiver is a bit of a concern with the top returning target in J-Shun Harris. Harris had only 18 catches for 168 yards and 2 touchdowns. Camion Patrick has transferred from junior college while Dominique Booth (8 catches for 70 yards) and Simmie Cobbs (7 catches for 114 yards) could step up. There are four starters back on the offensive line to provide ample time for the receivers and running backs. The offense should be able to improve this season with a healthy quarterback.

The defense has five starters back from a unit that allowed 32.8 points and 434 yards per game. Those numbers were the best under Wilson in his tenure, but will need to get better if Indiana is to make a bowl game this year. The line has three starters back led by Nick Mangieri, who had 37 tackles, 2 sacks, and an interception. TJ Simmons is the lone linebacker returning after recording 72 tackles (#2 on team), 2 sacks, and 4.5 tackles for loss. The only returning member of the secondary is Antonio Allen, who led the team with 74 tackles, but also had 1 sack, 2.5 tackles for loss, and 2 interceptions. The defense will probably have similar numbers to last year, which puts the burden on the offense.

Indiana opens the year with three home games against Southern Illinois, Florida International, and Western Kentucky. Their final non-conference game is on the road at Wake Forest, but they could be 4-0 heading into conference play. In division play, Indiana has Ohio State, Rutgers, and Michigan at home while facing Penn State, Michigan State, and Maryland on the road. From the West, Indiana has to play Iowa (home) and Purdue (road). If Indiana goes 4-0 in non-conference play, they have an excellent chance at reaching 6-6 by winning two of three against Rutgers, Maryland, and Purdue.

6. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Kyle Flood started at Rutgers in 2012 when they were still in the Big East. He went 9-4 in this first year, then dropped down to 6-7 in 2013 when Rutgers was in The American. 2014 was the first season of Rutgers’ Big 10 career and it ended well with an 8-5 record and a 40-21 dusting of North Carolina in the Quick Lane bowl. 2015 could a rough year for Rutgers after early success in the Big 10.

The offense will have five starters back from a unit that put up 26.7 points and 390 yards per game. Quarterback will most likely go to Chris Laviano, who threw for only 107 yards with 1 interception in backup duty behind Gary Nova last year. There is a plethora of running backs returning with the top five rushers from 2014 all back. Paul James started the first four games and rushed for 363 yards with 5 touchdowns, but was injured and missed the rest of the year. Desmon Peoples was the top rusher with 447 yards and 3 touchdowns while Josh Hicks ran for 440 yards and 2 touchdowns. Robert Martin added 434 yards and 7 touchdowns while Justin Goodwin had 328 yards and a touchdown. The top receiver returns for Rutgers in Leonte Carroo, who caught 55 passes for 1,086 yards and 10 touchdowns. Janarion Grant also returns after having 25 catches for 312 yards. There are three starters back on the line and there is plenty of pieces in place for the offense to match last year’s numbers.

The defense has slumped the last two years for Rutgers. In 2013, the defense gave up 29.8 points and 413 yards per game with only four starters back. Last year, the defense did worse by allowing 30.2 points and 443 yards per game with seven starters back. There will be five starters back this season with two residing on the defensive line. Darius Hamilton had 45 tackles, 6 sacks, and 5.5 tackles for loss and Djwany Mera had 18 tackles and 1.5 sacks last year will lead the line this year. Quentin Gause is one of two returning linebackers after recording 72 tackles, 1 sack, and 6 tackles for loss. The other is Steve Longa, who led the team with 102 tackles and also recorded 2 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss. Just one starter is back in the secondary and that is Nadir Barnwell. He had 29 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 4 pass breakups last year. The defense could struggle again in 2015 for the third straight year.

Rutgers opens the season with Norfolk State and Washington State at home. Their non-conference schedule also includes Kansas at home and a road trip to Army on November 21. Rutgers will face Penn State, Indiana, and Michigan on the road while playing Michigan State, Ohio State, and Maryland at home. From the West, Rutgers has to play Wisconsin (road) and Nebraska (home) in one of the toughest draws. Rutgers will need a couple of upsets to reach another bowl game in 2015.

7. Maryland Terrapins

Randy Edsall came to Maryland from Connecticut in 2011 after leading Connecticut to a Fiesta Bowl appearance in 2010. It has been a steady improvement under Edsall with the Terps going 2-10 in 2011 and 4-8 in 2012. The past two seasons have produced identical 7-6 records. What does 2015 have in store for Edsall and company?

The offense has six starters back from a group that produced 28.5 points and 342 yards per game. Caleb Rowe will take over the quarterback duties. He threw for 489 yards with 5 touchdowns and 4 interceptions last year, but does have starting experience dating back to the 2013 campaign. The top rusher last year was quarterback CJ Brown, who had 539 yards, but he has departed. Brandon Ross ran for 419 yards and 4 touchdowns while Wes Brown had 356 yards and 6 touchdowns. They will need to be much more productive in 2015 if the offense is to perform better. Stefon Diggs was the top receiver the last few years, but he has gone on to the NFL. Marcus Leak is the top returning receiver with 20 catches for 297 yards and 3 touchdowns. Jacquille Veil had 16 catches for 230 yards and a touchdown while Amba Etta-Tawo had 10 grabs for 22 yards and 1 touchdown. The offensive line has three starters back, but the losses may hurt the Terps this year.

The defense has only four starters back this season. Last year’s group allowed 30.2 points and 436 yards per game with nine starters returning. Yannick Ngakoue is back on the line after recording 37 tackles, 6 sacks, and 7.5 tackles for loss. The linebacking unit was decimated with no starters returning. Jermaine Carter is the top linebacker returning after recording 27 tackles in 2014. The secondary is the strength of the defense with three starters back including Sean Davis at safety. He had 115 tackles, 1 sack, 3 tackles for loss, and 8 pass breakups last season. Despite the strong secondary, the defense will have some issues with the lack of experience in the front seven.

Maryland opens the season with Richmond, Bowling Green, and South Florida at home before traveling to face West Virginia on the road. They will play Michigan, Penn State (Baltimore), and Indiana at home while going on the road to take on Ohio State, Michigan State, and Rutgers. From the West, they will have to play Iowa (road) and Wisconsin (home). Maryland will get close to bowl eligibility, but may have to settle for a rebuilding year with the lack of experience in 2015.

Overview

The Big 10 East appears to be fairly easy to discern. Ohio State is clearly the top team while Michigan State is the only challenger to them. Michigan and Penn State are in the next tier while Indiana, Rutgers, and Maryland will battle to stay out of the cellar. Below is the predicted order of finish.

1. Ohio State

2. Michigan State

3. Michigan

4. Penn State

5. Indiana

6. Rutgers

7. Maryland

Big 10 Championship

Wisconsin was predicted as the winner of the Big 10 West division earlier this week, which sets up a rematch of 2014’s Big 10 Championship Game. In a game between Wisconsin and Ohio State, we will go with Ohio State to win again and to make the College Football Playoff.

The Pac-12 Conference will be previewed next week with the North Division on Tuesday and the South Division on Friday.

Derrick Green Out For Year

Derrick Green

 

(Photo Credit To Gregory Shamus / Getty Images North America)

A bad season for Michigan just got worse. Starting running back Derrick Green has been ruled out for the remainder of the 2014 season with a broken clavicle.

Head coach Brady Hoke confirmed the news on Monday. Green suffered the injury on Saturday in the fourth quarter against Rutgers. Green ran for 74 yards on 12 carries.

Green had an up and down season prior to the injury. He ran for a total of 471 yards and 3 touchdowns. His best games were against Appalachian State where he ran for 170 yards and a touchdown and against Miami (OH) when he ran for 137 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Replacing Green will be a combination of De’Veon Smith, Justice Hayes, and Drake Johnson. Smith has 282 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2014. Hayes has 101 yards on 19 carries while Johnson has 28 yards on 3 carries. Those 28 yards came against Appalachian State and he has not recorded any stats since.

Michigan is embroiled in an awful season with their record at 2-4 overall and 0-2 in the Big Ten. They have lost three games in a row to Utah, Minnesota, and Rutgers. Brady Hoke’s seat is already uncomfortably warm and it is hard to see him surviving this season even if they win out and go 9-4 with a bowl victory. That scenario is improbable given the way the Wolverines have performed in this season.

Michigan faces Penn State (4-1, 1-1) on Saturday in the Big House.