Five Predictions For The Big 10 Conference In 2016
The 2016 College Football season is less a week away as Hawaii and California kick off on next week in Sydney, Australia. Below are five predictions for Big Ten Conference for the 2016 season. Some predictions will be right, some predictions will be wrong, and some will be spectacularly awful (or correct) by the end of the season.
There are no changes to the teams for the Big Ten Conference as the fourteen teams remain the same and are split into East and West Divisions. The seven teams in the East Division are Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State,and Rutgers. The seven teams in the West Division are Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern, Minnesota, Purdue,and Wisconsin.
Here are five predictions for the Big Ten Conference in 2016:
1. Indiana will play in their second consecutive bowl game – The Hoosiers went 6-7 last year with a close loss in the highly entertaining Pinstripe Bowl against Duke 44-41. Now, Indiana will look to make back-to-back bowl games for the first time since the 1990 and 1991 seasons.
The offense has six starters back, but will lose both quarterback Nate Sudfeld and running back JordanHoward. Howard was hobbled with injuries in 2015, which allowed Devine Redding to get some big reps (finished with 1,012 yards and 9 touchdowns). Redding is back as are the top three receivers in Simmie Cobbs (60 catches for 1,035 yards and 4 touchdowns), Ricky Jones (54 catches for 905 yards and 5 touchdowns), and Mitchell Paige (57 catches for 684 yards and 6 touchdowns). No matter who wins the quarterback battle, they will have plenty of options to go to.
The defense took a step back in 2015 when they allowed 37.6 points and 509 yards per game. That was worse than 2014 when they gave up 32.8 pints and 434 yards per game. There are seven starters back, including the top five tacklers in 2015, along with a new defensive coordinator in Tom Allen (from South Florida). The numbers in 2016 should look more like 2014 than 2015 and possibly better than 2014.
The schedule is favorable for Indiana to reach another bowl game. They open on the road against Florida International before back-to-back home games against Ball State and Wake Forest with a 3-0 record looking likely. They do have a daunting Big Ten schedule to start: Michigan State (home), Ohio State (road), Nebraska (home), and Northwestern (road). The back part is much easier with Maryland (home), Rutgers (away), Penn State (home), Michigan (away), and Purdue (home). Wins against Maryland, Rutgers, and Purdue would give them six wins. Indiana might need an upset along the way if they stumble, but they are capable of getting it.
2. Northwestern’s Justin Jackson will lead the conference in rushing – Justin Jackson deserves to be in the upper echelon of running backs in the nation, but he is rarely mentioned with the best. In 2015, he finished second in the conference with 1,418 yards rushing behind only Ezekiel Elliott who had 1,821 yards on the ground.
Consider this: Jackson alone averaged 109 yards per game in 2015 while the Northwestern passing attack average 139 per game. Jackson had little help with the passing attack, was the main focal point of the offense (and conversely the main focal point for the defense), and still ran for over 100 yards per game.
The passing attack should be better in Clayton Thorson’s second season. He lost some playmakers in the receiving corps (Christian Jones, Dan Vitale, Miles Shuler), but the numbers will be better as long as he has progressed. Jackson will face Western Michigan, Illinois State, and Duke in his first three games while playing Purdue, Minnesota, and Illinois in the final three games. Northwestern also faces Indiana in the middle of the season. As long as he stays healthy, Jackson should have a big year.
3. Wisconsin will not win 10 games – No prediction hurts more to make than this one. As a Wisconsin fan and someone who attended the school, it is always tough to make a prediction like this. But reality is too stark to ignore.
The Badgers lost defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, which is a huge loss. His defense never allowed more than 305 yards per game for a season, nor did they allow more than 21 points per contest over the course of a season. They get Justin Wilcox as a replacement from USC and he will have six starters to work with on defense. Wilcox is a solid guy as a DC, but he is not quite on the same level as Aranda.
The schedule is brutal for Wisconsin. They open with LSU (and face Aranda) in Green Bay before getting Akron and Georgia State at home. In Conference, they run a buzz saw from the start with Michigan State AND Michigan both at on the road. After a bye week they face Ohio State at home, Iowa on the road, Nebraska at home, and Northwestern on the road. They close out the season with Illinois (home), Purdue (away), and Minnesota (home). That is a demanding schedule to reach 10 wins, but I will still be hoping this prediction is wrong.
4. The winner of The Game will make the College Football Playoffs – This is a cop-out for having to pick the winner of the Michigan-Ohio State game. It is really tough to pick a winner of that game because it does look like a pretty even game (though Ohio State does have a slight edge being at home as well as having won four in a row and 11 of the last 12 games). It looks likely that whichever team wins the Michigan-Ohio State game will be in the College Football Playoffs.
This prediction looks solid but there are some hurdles that need to be cleared. First, Michigan State plays both Michigan and Ohio State at home this season. Ohio State also faces Oklahoma on the road September 17 as well as Wisconsin and Penn State on the road in back-to-back games in October (15 and 22). The next two games after PSU are Northwestern and Nebraska at home before they end with Michigan State (road) and Michigan (home).
Michigan has a schedule that sets them up well this year, but there are a few challenging games. Like OSU, they play Penn State and Wisconsin in back-to-back games, but both are at home. They do have some possible trap games as well. After Michigan State on the road (Oct. 29), they play Maryland at home (Nov. 5) and then face Iowa on the road (Nov. 12). In between Iowa and Ohio State (Nov. 26) they have Indiana at home (Nov. 19). The Wolverines should handily win those games against Maryland and Indiana, but they cannot take those games lightly given their next opponent.
Looking at Ohio State and Michigan, they are the two best teams in the Big Ten. Michigan State might have something to say about that and even if either the Buckeyes or Wolverines win the Big Ten East, they still have to take care of business in the Big Ten Championship Game, which has proven to be a tough hurdle in the past for teams in position to make the Playoffs or National Championship.
5. Iowa will be pushed to the brink by North Dakota State – If this game were held in the Fargodome, this would be a prediction for an outright NDSU win. But then again, Iowa would not be scheduling a road game against an FCS opponent and FCS opponents will be a thing of the past for Big Ten teams in the near future.
North Dakota State will be going to Iowa City on September 17 in Iowa’s third game of the year. It is sandwiched between Iowa State (home) and the Big Ten opener against Rutgers (away). North Dakota State is the five time FCS National Champion, but their record against FBS teams is outstanding. They are 8-3 overall and have won five in a row against Kansas (6-3 in 2010), Minnesota (37-24 in 2011), Colorado State (22-7 in 2012), Kansas State (24-21 in 2013), and Iowa State (34-14 in 2014).
NDSU has a well known blueprint to beating teams: a strong rushing attack and offense that eats up the time of possession and a very good defense. Iowa boasts a strong defense as well, which could lead to a defensive game. If North Dakota State can grind out long possessions, they can make this game way too close for comfort and possibly pull off the upset.
The Prediction Schedule
With the Big Ten predictions above, predictions have been made for every conference with the exception of the SEC. Those predictions will be made next Saturday, August 27. Below are links to each of the conference predictions completed.
The second to last week in the Big Ten regular season saw all fourteen teams playing in conference clashes with the Big Ten East Division winner still to be decided. It was easy for Michigan State – win against Penn State and they would be playing in Indianapolis on December 5. For Michigan and Ohio State, they needed to win against each other and hope for a Michigan State loss.
#4 Iowa Hawkeyes at Nebraska Cornhuskers
Result: Iowa Win 28-20 (Friday, November 27)
Iowa went on the road and took care of business against Nebraska to move into the Big Ten Championship Game undefeated.
C.J. Beathard was far from impressive throwing the ball going 9 of 16 for 97 yards and a touchdown. However, Jordan Canzeri picked up the slack with 140 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns on 17 carries. George Kittle had 2 catches for 35 yards and the lone receiving touchdown. Iowa put up just 250 yards of offense and did not convert a single one of their 9 third down attempts.
Iowa’s defense was the story as they forced four turnovers, all interceptions. Parker Hesse’s pick was excellent as he stepped in front of the pass at the four yard line, tipped the ball to himself, and easily scored the touchdown. Greg Mabin, Josey Jewell, and Cole Fisher all intercepted passes as well.
Tommy Armstrong did not have a good game for Nebraska throwing for 296 yards and those 4 picks on 25 of 45 passing. He did rush for 46 yards on 9 carries while Imani Cross had 19 carries for 55 yards and 2 scores. Cethan Carter led the Huskers with 4 catches for 76 yards while Brandon Reilly had 3 grabs for 50 yards. Jordan Westerkamp was held to only 2 catches for 41 yards. The Huskers were able to put up 433 yards of offense, but the turnovers hurt them. The Huskers did go 7 of 16 on third down.
Iowa (12-0, 8-0) will play Michigan State on Saturday to decided the Big 10 Champion. The winner is practically guaranteed a spot in the College Football Playoffs.
Nebraska (5-7, 3-5) is not guaranteed a bowl spot, but could end up going to one anyway due to a lack of 6 win teams.
#8 Ohio State Buckeyes at #10 Michigan Wolverines
Result: Ohio State Win 42-13
A week after a horrendous offense performance for Ohio State, they responded by crushing the Wolverines with a massive rushing performance.
JT Barrett went 9 of 15 for 113 yards and a touchdown through the air, but this game was all about the ground attack for the Buckeyes. Ezekiel Elliott ran for 214 yards and 2 touchdowns on 30 carries a week after he inexplicably had only 12 carries for 33 yards. Barrett also had his fun running the ball with 19 carries for 139 yards and 3 scores. Michael Thomas was the top receiver with 2 catches for 50 yards. Ohio State put up 482 yards on one of the top defense in college while going 7 of 13 on third down.
Jake Rudock had a decent game going 19 of 32 for 263 yards and a touchdown. He had no problem finding Jehu Chesson 8 times for 111 yards and a touchdown. Amara Darboh had 68 yards on 4 catches while Jake Butt had 5 grabs for 54 yards. The running game was virtually non-existent with 25 rushes for 57 yards as a team for the entire game. Michigan had 364 yards of offense and was a solid 9 of 18 on third downs.
Ohio State (11-1, 7-1) will not be playing in the Big 10 Championship, but will probably end up in a New Year’s 6 Bowl. Michigan (9-3, 6-2) finished a very good first year under Jim Harbaugh and will probably end up in a January bowl game.
Indiana Hoosiers at Purdue Boilermakers
Result: Indiana Win 54-36
Indiana had an offensive explosion against Purdue to get them into a bowl game. There was not a lot of defense played in this contest on either side.
Nate Sudfeld went 18 of 29 for 350 yards and 4 touchdowns while also had another touchdown rushing. No Jordan Howard for Indiana? No problem as Devine Redding had 144 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries and the Hoosiers ran for 309 yards as a team. Ricky Brookins had 64 yards rushing while Andrew Wilson also had 52 yards and a score on 15 carries.
Mitchell Paige had 5 catches for 92 yards and a touchdown, Simmie Cobbs had 5 catches for 84 yards and a touchdown, and Andre Brooker had only one catch, but it was a 72 yard touchdown. Indiana put up 659 yards of offense and went 5 of 15 on third down. The defense also forced four turnovers, which the offense turned into only 3 points.
Purdue did not play poorly on offense, but they did have 4 turnovers. Austin Appleby had 332 yards, two touchdowns, and 2 interceptions on 36 of 57 passing. Appleby also ran for two scores while Markell Jones had 16 carries for 96 yards and a touchdown. Four Purdue receivers had at least 5 catches and 50 yards (Danny Anthrop, DeAngelo Yancey, Domonique Young, and Cameron Posey), but the two touchdown catches came from Jordan Jurasevich and Cole Herdman. Purdue put up 486 yards of offense and went 6 of 16 on third down.
Indiana (6-6, 2-6) has finally reached bowl eligibility for the first time since 2007 when they played in the Insight Bowl. Purdue (2-10, 1-7) finished with a worse record than 2014 when they went 3-9. Under DarrellHazell, the team is 6-30, but opted to keep him for 2016 season.
Maryland Terrapins at Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Result: Maryland Win 46-41
Despite having no bowl implications, this game was one of the more entertaining ones of the week as Maryland came back from a 31-10 deficit to win 46-41 on a touchdown in the final five minutes of the contest.
Caleb Rowe went 16 of 32 for 239 yards passing with no touchdowns or interceptions. The run game was great for Maryland as Brandon Ross ran for 173 yards and 3 touchdowns on 28 carries. Rowe had 7 carries for 98 yards, Ty Johnson was incredibly efficient with 2 carries for 87 yards and 2 touchdowns, and Kenneth Goins had one carry for 42 yards and a touchdown.
Jahrvis Davenport led the team in receiving with 7 catches for 89 yards, DeAndre Lane had 4 grabs for 63 yards, and D.J. Moore caught 4 passes for 49 yards. Maryland had 656 yards of offense and went 5 of 15 on third down.
Rutgers had a good day on offense as well, but lost a 21 point lead. Chris Laviano went 21 of 33 for 344 yards with 4 touchdowns and a pick. Paul James had 17 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown, Josh Hicks had 61 yards on 10 carries, and Robert Martin had 16 carries for 42 yards. Leonte Carroo ended his season the way he started: with a big game. Carroo had 7 catches for 183 yards and a touchdown while Janarion Grant caught 4 passes for 56 yards and a score. Rutgers had 530 yards of offense and went 3 off 11 on third down.
Maryland (3-9, 1-7) and Rutgers (4-8, 1-7) will both be home for the bowl season and will also be looking for new head coaches for 2016.
Penn State Nittany Lions at #5 Michigan State Spartans
Result: Michigan State Win 55-16
With a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game on the line, Michigan State did not just take care of Penn State, they destroyed them.
Christian Hackenberg went 22 of 39 for 257 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions while SaquonBarkley ran 17 times for 103 yards. Chris Godwin had a good day catching 11 passes for 109 yards and 2 touchdowns while DaeSean Hamilton had 8 catches for 78 yards and Saeed Blacknall had one catch for 77 yards. Penn State had 418 yards of offense and went 5 of 15 on third down. Penn State went an excellent 4 of 5 on fourth downs as well.
Connor Cook came back from injury for the Spartans to go 19 of 26 for 248 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Spartans as a team had a solid rushing attack with 38 carries for 188 yards and 3 touchdowns. The touchdowns came from Gerald Holmes, LJ Scott, and center Jack Allen. Aaron Burbridge had 6 catches for 75 yards and his touchdown was spectacular as he took a hit and spun twice to reach the end zone. The Spartans had little trouble on third down going 8 of 11 and had 436 yards of offense.
Penn State (7-5, 4-4) had a terrible ending to the season losing their final three games. Michigan State (11-1, 7-1) has a date with Iowa on Saturday in the Big Ten Championship Game. The winner will all but be guaranteed a spot in the College Football Playoffs.
#16 Northwestern Wildcats at Illinois Fighting Illini
Result: Northwestern Win 24-14
Northwestern got out to a comfortable 21-7 halftime lead and held on from there to prevent in-state rival Illinois from reaching 6-6 on the year.
Clayton Thorson went 12 of 25 for 146 yards with a touchdown pass and an interception. Justin Jackson had his eighth 100 yard rushing game going for 172 yards and a touchdown on 37 attempts. Warren Long had 25 yards and a score on 5 carries as well. Austin Carr had 3 catches for 61 yards, MilesShuler hauled in 2 passes for 39 yards, and Dan Vitale had 3 catches for 32 yards and the lone receiving touchdown. Northwestern finished with 350 yards of offense and went 6 of 19 on third down.
Wes Lunt went 20 of 41 for 241 yards with no touchdowns and an interception, but ran for a score. Ke’Shawn Vaughn had 12 carries for 62 yards while Josh Ferguson had 14 carries for 40 yards and caught 7 passes for 100 yards. Desmond Cain had 4 grabs for 52 yards, Malik Turner had 3 caches for 46 yards, and Geronimo Allison had 5 grabs for 42 yards. Illinois had 319 yards and went 6 of 18 on third down.
Northwestern (10-2, 6-2) has reached double digit wins for the first time since 2012 when they went 10-3. In that year, Northwestern also won their bowl game. Illinois (5-7, 2-6) is not bowl eligible, but like Nebraska, may still be part of a bowl due to the lack of 6 win teams in the FBS.
Wisconsin Badgers at Minnesota Golden Gophers
Result: Wisconsin Win 31-21
A rivalry game between Wisconsin and Minnesota saw the Badgers’ rushing game get back on track.
Joel Stave’s first pass of the game was returned for a touchdown and the Badgers opted to keep the ball on the ground after that. Stave went 9 of 17 for 79 yards, no touchdowns, and the aforementioned pick. Dare Ogunbowale had his best game of the season with 33 carries for 155 yards and a touchdown. He looked much better this week with more decisive cuts, power running, and shiftiness. Taiwan Deal also had a good game with 90 yards and 2 touchdowns on 22 carries. Alex Erickson was the leading receiver with 6 catches for 66 yards.
The Badgers defense was excellent forcing 5 turnovers against Minnesota. Tanner McEvoy had 2 interceptions, Joe Schobert forced a fumble and recovered a separate one, and Darius Hillary had 2 fumble recoveries. Corey Clement did not travel with the team due to an incident on Wednesday.
Mitch Leidner went 16 of 37 for 223 yards with a touchdown and three picks while being held to only 10 yards rushing on 6 carries. Rodney Smith had 7 rushes for 35 yards and a touchdown while ShannonBrooks was limited to 8 yards on 5 carries. Brooks was the top receiver with 3 catches for 53 yards while Nick Hart had 3 receptions for 45 yards. The Badgers did a good job limiting KJ Maye to 5 catches for 45 yards and Drew Wolitarsky had 2 catches for 44 yards and a touchdown. Minnesota finished with 276 yards, were 3 of 12 on third down, and missed both fourth down conversions.
Wisconsin (9-3, 6-2) finished third in the West Division, but still have a chance at 10 wins in the bowl game. Minnesota (5-7, 2-6) endured a tough season with the loss of their head coach midway through the season, but could still end up in a bowl game if there are not enough 6 win teams.
#3 Ohio State Buckeyes at Illinois Fighting Illini
Result: Ohio State Win 28-3
Ohio State did not have any issues dealing with Illinois despite a slow start on offense. JT Barrett returned at quarterback and went a solid 15 of 23 for 150 yards with a touchdown and interception. He was also effective with his legs running for 74 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
Ezekiel Elliott continues to have an excellent season, albeit without the fanfare of over players in the nation. He ran for 181 yards and 2 touchdowns on 27 carries. Elliott has now ran for 100 or more rushing yards in 15 straight games dating back to last year.
Michael Thomas was the leading receiver with 6 catches for 76 yards and a touchdown, Jalin Marshall caught 4 passes for 38 yards, and Nick Vannett had 3 grabs for 31 yards. Ohio State struggled on third down with only 4 conversions on 13 attempts, but did convert 2 of 3 fourth down attempts. They put up 460 yards of offense.
Illinois struggled to put together any big drives. Wes Lunt went 23 of 47 for 241 yards, but struggled to find his top playmaker in Geronimo Allison (1 catch for 38 yards). Josh Ferguson was held to 49 yards on 12 carries while also having 5 catches for 26 yards. Desmond Cain had 10 catches for 102 yards for his second consecutive big game for the freshman. Malik Turner finished with 5 catches for 61 yards. Illinois went 5 of 17 on third down and put up 261 yards of offense.
Ohio State (10-0, 6-0) has a big game next week at home against Michigan State while Illinois (5-5, 2-4) faces Minnesota on the road.
Maryland Terrapins at #13 Michigan State Spartans
Result: Michigan State Win 24-7
Michigan State played a large portion of their game against Maryland without quarterback Connor Cook, but that was not much of an issue as the defense stifled the Terrapins on offense.
Connor Cook struggled in his playing time going 6 of 20 for 77 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. Backup Tyler O’Connor went 6 of 11 for 44 yards and a touchdown pass to MacgarrettKings who finished with 4 catches for 48 yards to lead the team. R.J. Shelton had 3 catches for 35 yards while Aaron Burbridge was held to just 3 catches for 27 yards.
10 different Michigan State players registered a rush, but Gerald Holmes had the most rushes going for 83 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. The Spartans put up just 262 yards of offense and went 6 of 16 on third down. It was clear they were not the same offense with Cook out.
Maryland was led by Perry Hills again, but he only went 14 of 30 for 140 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. He finished second on the team in rushing as well with 39 yards on 16 carries. Caleb Rowe also had some time at quarterback, but went 3 of 5 for 42 yards with 2 interceptions.
Wes Brown had 52 yards rushing on 12 carries while Brandon Ross had the lone touchdown via the rushing game for Maryland. Amba Etta-Tawo led Maryland with 5 catches for 63 yards and LevernJacobs had 3 catches for 55 yards. Maryland actually outgained Michigan State by 27 yards (289 to 262), but went 4 of 16 on third down.
Maryland (2-8, 0-6) faces Indiana next weekend at home with a chance to keep Indiana out of a bowl game. Michigan State (9-1, 5-1) has the tough task of going on the road to the Horseshoe and play Ohio State.
Purdue Boilermakers at #18 Northwestern Wildcats
Result: Northwestern Win 21-14
Northwestern used a dominant rushing attack to power their way to 8-2. The Wildcats threw only 24 passes the entire game and needed a late touchdown to get past Purdue 21-14.
Clayton Thorson went 9 of 19 for 82 yards with an interception after an injury scare last week knocked him out against Penn State. Zack Oliver went 2 of 5 for 50 yards and threw an interception as well. JustinJackson ran for 116 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. It was his 6th game with over 100 yards rushing and Northwestern is 6-0 when he runs for over 100 yards this year.
Warren Long had 6 rushes for 52 yards and 2 touchdowns while Thorson had 48 yards on 7 carries. Miles Shuler even ran twice for 30 yards. Solomon Vault had 2 catches for 53 yards to lead the team. Northwestern ran for 250 yards as a team and finished with 382 yards of offense. They were solid on third down going 8 of 17.
Purdue did not play poorly, but could not get some of their drives going to threaten the Northwestern defense. David Blough went 26 of 45 for 287 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Markell Jones had 58 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, but the run game was largely held in check by Northwestern.
Domonique Young led the team in receiving with 5 catches for 107 yards thanks to his 68 yard touchdown grab early in the game. Markell Jones had 68 yards on 5 catches while DeAngelo Yancey caught 4 passes for 39 yards. Purdue’s offense had 360 yards and went 8 of 19 on third down.
Purdue (2-8, 1-5) will have a second straight road game next week with a trip to Iowa. Northwestern (8-2, 4-2) has a road game next week as well. They will play Wisconsin in Madison with the Badgers coming off a bye week.
#14 Michigan Wolverines at Indiana Hoosiers
Result: Michigan Win 48-41 in double overtime
Michigan survived yet another late game scare to keep their Big Ten title hopes alive. Indiana lost another close game to keep them winless in conference play.
Jake Rudock had himself a game going 33 of 46 for 440 yards with 6 touchdowns and one pick. He was able to pass at will on the defense while also leading the team in rushing with 64 yards. De’Veon Smith had 58 yards rushing on 12 carries.
Jehu Chesson had a big game as well catching four (!) touchdown passes to finish the game with 10 catches for 207 yards. Amara Darboh had 8 catches for 109 yards and the eventual game winning touchdown while Jake Butt had 7 grabs for 82 yards and a score. Michigan put up 581 yards of offense and went six of 12 on third down.
Nate Sudfeld had a solid game going 20 of 34 for 220 yards and a touchdown. However, the story was running back Jordan Howard rushing for 238 yards and 2 touchdown on 35 carries against what had been a stout Michigan defense. Simmie Cobbs had 4 catches for 86 yards and Ricky Jones had 4 catches for 42 yards. Indiana put up a staggering 527 yards of offense against Michigan and went a combined 9 of 22 on third and fourth downs.
Michigan (8-2, 5-1) faces Penn State next week on the road while still having a chance to win the Big Ten East division and play in the Big Ten Championship. Indiana (4-6, 0-6) has to win their final two games to make a bowl game, but they are both winnable. They face Maryland next week on the road before playing against Purdue in two weeks on the road.
Nebraska Cornhuskers at Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Result: Nebraska Win 31-14
Nebraska followed up their big win last week against Michigan State with a nice victory over Rutgers on the road.
Tommy Armstrong had an up and down day going 14 of 21 for only 188 yards. He had 3 touchdowns through the air, but also threw 3 picks. Imani Cross ran for 90 yards on 20 carries. Cethan Carter had his best game in 2015 going for a not only 32 yard touchdown run, but also catching 4 passes for 57 yards and another score. Jordan Westerkamp was relatively quiet catching 3 passes for 32 yards and a touchdown. Nebraska put up 362 yards of offense and went 5 of 11 on third down.
Rutgers was led by Chris Laviano at quarterback, but he only went 13 of 27 for 165 yards and 2 interceptions. Janarion Grant had the lone passing touchdown for Rutgers throwing to Laviano on a trick play for the 5 yard score.
Josh Hicks had 61 yards rushing on 12 carries while Robert Martin had 12 carries for 40 yards and a touchdown. Leonte Carroo came back from injury to post a team high 62 yards on 4 catches. Janarion Grant had 4 catches for 58 yards as well as his passing touchdown. Rutgers posted 259 yards of offense, but went 3 of 14 on third down and did not convert any of their 4 fourth down attempts.
Nebraska (5-6, 3-4) will need to win the final regular season contest on November 27 against Iowa to make it to a bowl game. That game will be at home so the Huskers will have that in their corner. Rutgers (3-7, 1-6) faces Army on the road next week in their final non-conference game.
Minnesota Golden Gophers at #5 Iowa Hawkeyes
Result: Iowa Win 40-35
A defensive game was expected between Minnesota and Iowa, but the offenses took over the show as Iowa held on for a 40-35 victory to stay undefeated.
Mitch Leidner had another big game through the air again going 19 of 27 for 259 yards and a touchdown. He also had a rushing touchdown along with 32 rushing yards. Shannon Brooks showed off his wheels and arm with a 42 yard touchdown pass to Drew Wolitarsky and rushing for 86 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.
KJ Maye had 7 catches for 106 yards to keep his hot streak going. In the last 4 games, Maye has caught 34 passes for 374 yards and a touchdown. In the first 6 games, he had 22 catches for 256 yards and three touchdowns. Brandon Lingen had 6 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown for his second 100 yard receiving game in the last 3 contests. Wolitarsky finished with 3 catches for 71 yards and the score from Brooks. Minnesota put up 434 yards per game and went 5 of 10 on third down.
C.J. Beathard went 18 of 26 for 213 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions, but did have success on the ground. He had 50 yards and 2 scores on 10 carries while LeShun Daniels ran all over the field to the tune of 195 yards and 3 touchdowns on 26 carries. Jordan Canzeri ran just 10 times for 31 yards in his return from injury.
Matt VandeBerg recorded 6 catches for 74 yards, Henry Krieger Coble had 3 catches for 61 yards, and George Kittle had 5 grabs for 44 yards. Tevaun Smith had 2 catches for 35 yards. Iowa racked up 506 yards of offense and went an excellent 10 of 15 on third down.
Minnesota (4-6, 1-5) can still make a bowl game by winning out and it begins next week at home against Illinois. Iowa (10-0, 6-0) clinches the Big Ten East title with a win at home against Purdue next week.
Check back next Sunday for a recap of Week 12’s Big Ten action.
There were five Big Ten Conference games in Week 8 with Michigan, Iowa, Purdue, and Minnesota all on a bye week. Below is a look at each game.
Northwestern Wildcats at Nebraska Cornhuskers
Result: Northwestern Win 30-28 (Saturday, October 24)
Northwestern’s offense came to life against Nebraska, but their defense continued to struggle. Meanwhile, Nebraska lost another close game to drop them to 3-5 on the year.
Clayton Thorson went 13 of 28 for 177 yards and a touchdown, but it was his legs that led the Wildcats in the first half. He had two big runs to propel him to 126 yards and a touchdown on 9 carries. Justin Jackson struggled in the first half and finished the game running for 40 yards on 14 carries. Jackson made his presence felt in the passing game with 2 catches for 55 yards. Dan Vitale also had a nice game with 5 catches for 55 yards and a touchdown.
The offense had 333 yards total and went 5 of 13 on third down. Nick VanHoose had a 72 yard interception returned for a touchdown midway through the second quarter to give Northwestern a 14-5 lead, but the defense had their issues in the second half giving up 16 points.
Tommy Armstrong had an inaccurate game going 24 of 49 for 291 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also ran for two touchdowns while Terrell Newby led the team with 52 yards on 16 carries. Jordan Westerkamp had 5 catches for 92 yards while Brandon Reilly caught 4 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. The Huskers finished with 373 yards of offense and were 9 of 20 on third down. They also held the ball for almost 39 minutes compared to 21 for Northwestern.
Northwestern (6-2, 2-2) has reached bowl eligibility for the first time since 2012. They face Penn State on November 7 after a bye next week.
Nebraska (3-5, 1-3) has lost their 5 games by a combined 13 points. They will face Purdue next week on the road.
Wisconsin Badgers at Illinois Fighting Illini
Result: Wisconsin Win 24-13 (Saturday, October 24)
Wisconsin put together a solid offensive performance despite losing quarterback Joel Stave very early in the game.
Stave went 3 of 7 for 49 yards, but was knocked out due to a head injury. He was replaced by Bart Houston, who did well at times, but also made some poor throws. Houston went 22 of 33 for 232 yards with 2 touchdowns, but also threw two picks. Those two interceptions were thrown in the end zone taking the chance for more points away. The offense finished 9 of 16 on third down, but racked up 419 yards.
Alex Erickson, normally the leading receiver, led the team in rushing with 81 yards on 4 carries. DareOgunbowale had 16 carries for 42 yards while Alec Ingold had the lone rushing touchdown to go along with 26 yards on the ground. Erickson did lead the team in receiving as well with 10 catches for 96 yards and a touchdown. He was a big target for Houston to move the chains with Ogunbowale catching 5 passes for 63 yards. Troy Fumagalli had 5 catches for 52 yards while Robert Wheelwright had 3 catches for 47 yards and a touchdown that was pure determination on his part.
Illinois was stymied at times on offense with Wes Lunt going 22 of 43 for 278 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. Ke’Shawn Vaughn was the only player to record a carry with 13 attempts for 55 yards and a touchdown. Geronimo Allison had 8 catches for 99 yards while Malik Turner caught 4 passes for 80 yards. Illinois finished with 333 yards on offense, but managed just 3 of 12 on third down conversions and also went 0 for 2 on fourth down.
Wisconsin (6-2, 3-1) will go back home to face Rutgers next week with an uncertain situation at quarterback. Even if Stave cannot play, Houston looked capable of picking up the slack while the defense will probably be its usual stout self.
Illinois (4-3, 1-2) still sits two games from bowl eligibility and next week’s road contest at Penn State will not be easy.
Penn State Nittany Lions at Maryland Terrapins
Result: Penn State Win 31-30 (Saturday, October 24)
Penn State’s offense came to the rescue this week to secure a big 31-30 road win over Maryland.
Christian Hackenberg went only 13 of 29, but threw for 315 yards with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. He found Chris Godwin 4 times for 135 yards and a touchdown while also hitting DaeSean Hamilton with 5 catches for 96 yards and a touchdown. Saquon Barkley was not as effective this week with 65 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Penn State was an awful 3 for 12 on third down including a terrible third down throw in the final 90 seconds clinging to a one point lead. They finished with 363 yards of offense despite having the ball only 24 minutes.
Perry Hills went 19 of 28 for Maryland with 225 yards, a touchdown, and three interceptions. He also had a nice game on the ground with 26 carries for 128 yards and a touchdown. He was giving the Penn State defense fits throughout the entire game. Levern Jacobs led the team with 5 catches for 93 yards and Malcolm Culmer had 3 catches for 65 yards. Maryland was barely better than Penn State on third down with a 4 of 13 tally. The Terps finished with 470 yards of offense, but will rue the fact they settled for 4 field goals (converted 3 of them) and had 5 turnovers that yielded a touchdown, but also caused them to miss out on potential points on three occasions.
Penn State (6-2, 3-1) takes on Illinois at home next week. Maryland (2-5, 0-3) faces a tough task next week on the road against Iowa, the leaders of the Big 10 West Division.
Indiana Hoosiers at #7 Michigan State Spartans
Result: Michigan State Win 52-26 (Saturday, October 24)
The final score of this game is far from indicative of how close this contest was until late in the fourth quarter. Indiana kept it close, but the Spartans pulled away late.
Nate Sudfeld went 23 of 37 for 308 yards with 3 touchdowns and an interception. Jordan Howard returned to the lineup and went for 78 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Simmie Cobbs had 5 catches for 108 yards and a touchdown while Mitchell Paige had 8 catches for 99 yards. The offense put up 389 yards of offense and went 5 of 11 on third down.
Connor Cook nearly had a record day passing for the Spartans with 398 yards and 4 touchdowns on 30 of 52 passing. The running game was bolstered with the game in hand late. LJ Scott ran for 68 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries while Gerald Holmes had 10 rushes for 39 yards and a touchdown. AaronBurbridge finished with 8 catches for 128 yards and a touchdown, R.J. Shelton had 6 catches for 76 yards and 2 touchdowns, and Macgarrett Kings had 7 receptions for 69 yards. The Spartans were dominant on offense with 570 yards, holding the ball for 39 minutes, and 13 of 20 on third down.
Indiana (4-4, 0-4) still need two wins to reach bowl eligibility after losing four games in a row. They have a bye next week before taking on Iowa at home on November 7.
Michigan State (8-0, 4-0) also have a bye next week and face Nebraska on the road November 7.
#1 Ohio State Buckeyes at Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Result: Ohio State Win 49-7 (Saturday, October 24)
Ohio State looked well oiled on offense with JT Barrett behind center as they crushed Rutgers on the road.
Barrett finished the game going 14 of 18 for 223 yards with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran for 101 yards and 2 touchdowns on 13 carries. Ezekiel Elliott ran for 142 yards and 2 touchdowns on 19 carries while Michael Thomas had 5 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown receiving. Braxton Miller had 2 catches for 55 yards, as the offense racked up 528 yards. They went 5 of 10 on third down and 2 of 3 on fourth down.
Rutgers struggled for much of the night with Chris Laviano going 10 of 20 for 117 yards and an interception. Hayden Rettig went 3 of 7 for 72 yards and a touchdown in garbage time to give Rutgers their only points. Paul James ran for 56 yards on 10 carries while Robert Martin had 6 rushes for 43 yards. Carlton Agudosi had 2 catches for 76 yards and Leonte Carroo had 3 grabs for 55 yards.
Rutgers finished the game with 293 yards of offense and went 5 of 15 on third down. They managed just 12 first downs for the game.
Ohio State (8-0, 4-0) have a bye next week before a home date against Minnesota on November 7. Rutgers (3-4, 1-3) will travel to face Wisconsin next week.
Check back next Sunday for a recap of the ninth week of Big Ten action.
Week seven of the college football season saw six Big Ten Conference games. Sitting idle were the Maryland Terrapins and Illinois Fighting Illini.
#17 Iowa Hawkeyes at #20 Northwestern Wildcats
Result: Iowa Win 40-10 (Saturday, October 17)
Iowa put forth a dominant win over Northwestern on the road to put a virtual hammerlock on the Big Ten West Division midway through October. There was a loss in the form of running back Jordan Canzeri, but they did just fine with his replacements.
Iowa raced out to a 16-0 lead before a 10-0 run by the Wildcats made it 16-10 at the half. It was all Iowa after that with the final 24 points. C.J. Beathard had a pedestrian game with 15 of 25 passing for 176 yards with no touchdowns and an interception, but this was all about Iowa’s rushing attack.
Canzeri went down early with an injury and was seen in a walking boot a short time later. Akrum Wadley stepped right in and made it seem like Canzeri never left. Wadley ran for 204 yards and 4 touchdowns on 26 carries. Derrick Mitchell Jr. had 79 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries as well. Iowa finished with 492 yards of offense and went 9 of 18 on third down. Matt VandeBerg had 8 catches for 78 yards.
Northwestern’s offense struggled once again. Clayton Thorson went 17 of 35 for 125 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also had 11 carries for just 10 yards. Even Justin Jackson was stymied with only 30 yards rushing on 10 carries. The Wildcats saw 10 different receivers catch a pass and six of them had at least two catches.
Northwestern had only 198 yards of total offense and went 8 of 19 on third down. For Iowa, Desmond King recorded his sixth interception this season and continues to be a one-man turnover machine.
Iowa (7-0, 3-0) will welcome the bye next weekend before a home game against Maryland on Halloween. Northwestern (5-2, 1-2) have lost back-to-back games and face a road test at Nebraska next week.
Purdue Boilermakers at Wisconsin Badgers
Result: Wisconsin Win 24-7 (Saturday, October 17)
Wisconsin waited until late in the third quarter to put some breathing space between them and Purdue in a lackluster performance by the offense.
Joel Stave went 30 of 39 for 322 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. His interception was an overthrown ball with a big return that eventually led to a touchdown for Purdue. The running game was handled by Dare Ogunbowale with Taiwan Deal out with an injury. Corey Clement was dressed for the game but did not play. Alec Ingold had 9 rushes for 19 yards, but had the first and last touchdowns of the game.
The passing game for Wisconsin was made up of mostly the short variety of passes. Alex Erickson had 9 catches for 86 yards while Robert Wheelwright had 6 catches for 61 yards. Dare Ogunbowlae also had 6 catches, but for 51 yards. The Badgers racked up 418 yards of offense and went 7 of 14 on third down.
Rafael Gaglianone missed a field goal late in the first half, which marks sixth game this year that he has missed a field goal. He is 10 for 17 on the season.
David Blough could not get any rhythm as he finished 15 of 26 for 136 yards. Markell Jones ran for 46 yards on 12 carries and D.J. Knox had 10 carries for 24 yards. Purdue had 191 yards of offense and went a paltry 4 of 13 on third down. The Boilermakers held the ball for only 22 minutes and 14 seconds during the game.
Purdue (1-6, 0-3) has a bye next week and will play at home against Nebraska on October 31. Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1) faces Illinois on the road next week. The Illini are coming off a bye.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Indiana Hoosiers
Result: Rutgers Win 55-52 (Saturday, October 17)
This game was about offense and only a touch of defense. It was also about Indiana blowing a 52-27 lead in final 18 minutes of the game.
As one can imagine with a 55-52 score line, the quarterbacks had pretty good games. Chris Laviano went 28 of 42 for 386 yards with 3 touchdowns and a pick. His top target was none other than Leonte Carroo who had another massive game. Carroo had 7 catches for 157 yards and 3 touchdowns, but left in the third quarter after an injury and did not return.
Robert Martin ran for 124 yards and 3 touchdowns on 17 carries while Paul James added 42 yards and a touchdown on 6 carries. Rutgers rushed for 210 yards as a team. Rutgers did pretty well on third down going 12 of 20 and amassed 596 yards of offense.
Indiana was glad to see Nate Sudfeld back and he had a big game going 32 of 42 for 464 yards with 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Jordan Howard was still out, but Devine Redding was able to rush for 99 yards and 2 touchdowns including a 66 yard touchdown run in the third quarter to make it 52-27.
Three different Hoosiers finished with at least 100 yards receiving. Mitchell Paige had 8 catches for 126 yards, Ricky Jones had 6 grabs for 119 yards and a touchdown, and Simmie Cobbs Jr. had 7 catches for 107 yards. Jordan Fuchs had just two catches for 9 yards, but both went for touchdowns.
Indiana had 627 yards of offense, but struggled on both third and fourth down. The Hoosiers went a combined 3 of 14 on those two downs.
After Redding’s touchdown run made it 52-27, a series of miscues allowed Rutgers to tie the game. A 26 yard fumble return by Kemoko Turay made it 52-39 while the two interceptions by Sudfeld were turned into touchdowns as well.
Rutgers (3-3, 1-2) faces Ohio State next week at home. Indiana (4-3, 0-3) saw one of their better opportunities for a win fade away in the final quarter and have to play Michigan State next week in East Lansing.
#7 Michigan State Spartans at #12 Michigan Wolverines
Result: Michigan State Win 27-23 (Saturday, October 17)
Of the craziest finishes to a college football game in history, this ranks up there near the top. The Spartans pulled off a shocking final play to win 27-23.
Connor Cook was not very accurate going 18 of 39, but threw for 328 yards with a touchdown. The rushing game for both teams was stuffed all game long. The Spartans finished with 58 yards on 33 carries with Gerald Holmes leading the team with 8 carries for 33 yards. LJ Scott had two touchdown rushes on 8 carries for 16 yards.
Aaron Burbridge had a big game with 9 catches for 132 yards. MacgarrettKings had 3 catches for 57 yards and a touchdown, but also had a few big drops. The Spartans had 386 yards of total offense, went 3 of 12 on third down, and 0 for 4 on fourth down.
Michigan was led by a decent performance from Jake Rudock. He went 15 of 25 for 168 yards with no touchdowns, but did not commit a turnover. The rushing game did only slightly better than Michigan State with 33 rushes for 62 yards. De’Veon Smith led the team with 46 yards on 19 carries while Sione Houma had 3 rushes for 30 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Jehu Chesson had 4 catches for 58 yards and Amara Darboh had 3 catches for 52 yards. Michigan had only 230 yards of offense and converted 4 of 15 on third down.
There was just one turnover in the game and it came on the last play. A bobbled punt by Blake O’Neill was returned by Michigan State’s Jalen Watts-Jackson for the win in a truly incredible finish.
Michigan State (7-0, 3-0) faces Indiana next week at home. Michigan (5-2, 2-1) has a bye week and faces Minnesota on the road October 31.
Nebraska Cornhuskers at Minnesota Golden Gophers
Result: Nebraska Win 48-25 (Saturday, October 17)
Nebraska played a good game on offense and did not have to worry about another heartbreaking loss this week. In fact, it was the defense that made sure there would not be another late loss.
Tommy Armstrong went 18 of 26 for 261 yards with 3 touchdowns while also rushing for 38 yards. Terrell Newby had a nice game on the ground with 116 yards and 2 touchdowns on 13 carries. AlonzoMoore had 4 catches for 84 yards and a score while Jordan Westerkamp made 6 grabs for 76 yards. Nebraska had 464 yards of offense and went 7 of 13 on third down.
With under three minutes to play, Minnesota was mounting one last challenge down 16 points before a 41 yard pick six by Joshua Kalu. Just to be safe, Nate Gerry intercepted Minnesota on the next drive to truly end the game.
Minnesota got a rare big game passing from Mitch Leidner. He went 26 of 40 for 301 yards with a touchdown and the two aforementioned picks. The rushing game was held in check with only 65 yards on 26 carries. Shannon Brooks had 25 yards, KJ Maye had 21 yards and a touchdown, and Rodney Smith had 20 yards.
Maye also had 11 catches for 94 yards while Eric Carter caught 4 passes for 91 yards and a touchdown. Minnesota had 366 of offense and went 6 of 15 on third down.
Nebraska (3-4, 1-2) faces Northwestern next week at home. Minnesota (4-3, 1-2) will play Michigan on October 31 after a bye next week.
Penn State Nittany Lions at #1 Ohio State Buckeyes
Result: Ohio State Win 38-10 (Saturday, October 17)
It was a slow start for the Ohio State offense, but a 21 point stretch on three straight touchdown drives gave them more than enough points.
Cardale Jones had poor numbers going 9 of 15 for only 84 yards and was substituted in or near the red zone by J.T. Barrett. Barrett went 4 for 4 with 30 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air, but was most effective with his legs. He ran for 102 yards and 2 touchdowns on 11 carries and really helped spark the offense.
Ezekiel Elliott had his usual good game with 153 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. Braxton Miller had some rushes finishing with 4 carries for 30 yards. Miller lead the team with 4 catches and was second with 33 yards along with a touchdown catch. Michael Thomas had 3 catches for 34 yards and a touchdown as well. The offense had 429 yards while going 5 of 11 on third down.
Penn State had a rough time passing the ball with Christian Hackenberg going 7 of 13 for 120 yards and a touchdown. Penn State had success on the ground thanks to Saquon Barkley’s 194 yards on 26 carries. Chris Godwin had 3 catches for 103 yards and a big 56 yarder. Penn State had 315 yards of offense, but struggled mightily on third down with only 1 conversion on 12 attempts.
Penn State (5-2, 2-1) will face Maryland next week at home looking to secure bowl eligibility. Ohio State (7-0, 3-0) will travel to play Rutgers next weekend.
Check back next Sunday for the Week 8 edition of the Big Ten Roundup.
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.
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. JoeyBosa 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 EdDavis (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 JakeRudock (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. GenoLewis (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 MikeHull, 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 TevinColeman, who ran for 2,036 yards and 15 touchdowns. Replacing Coleman is UAB transfer JordanHoward, 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. CalebRowe 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. JermaineCarter 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.
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.