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Big Ten thumbs up-thumbs down for Week 2

9/14/2009



Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Welcome to a new feature on the Big Ten blog, to appear every Monday afternoon the rest of the season. I'll hand out thumbs ups and thumbs downs to players, coaches, teams, position groups and anything else Big Ten-related from the previous week of games.

Let's hope Roger Ebert doesn't sue me for copyright infringement.

Thumbs up, Ohio State's defensive line -- The Buckeyes won the matchup of strength vs. strength with USC's offensive line for most of Saturday's game. Tackle Cameron Heyward was a dominant force in the middle, and the Buckeyes put constant pressure on Matt Barkley. If the D-line had received just a bit of help from the offense, Ohio State would have won.

Thumbs down, Northwestern's defensive line -- What figured to be one of the team's strongest units has underperformed so far. Is star end Corey Wootton still limited by his surgically repaired knee? Northwestern clearly misses John Gill in the middle and needs to step things up against Syracuse.

Thumbs up, O'Brien Schofield -- The Wisconsin defensive end recorded four tackles for loss, including a sack, and led the team with 11 total tackles against Fresno State. Schofield is stepping up both on and off the field for Wisconsin.

Thumbs down, Wisconsin's third-down defense -- The Badgers were miserable on third down against Fresno State, which converted 11 of 18 attempts. Wisconsin won't win many more games if that percentage doesn't change.

Thumbs up, Minnesota's linebackers -- Led by Nate Triplett, the National Defensive Player of the Week, the Gophers had all three starting linebackers record double digits in tackles against run-happy Air Force. Triplett led the way with 17 stops, plus a 52-yard fumble return for a touchdown, followed by Lee Campbell (11 tackles, 1.5 for loss) and Simoni Lawrence (10 tackles).

Thumbs down, Minnesota's skill players not named Eric Decker -- Take away Decker's 10 catches for 113 yards, and Minnesota's offensive numbers against Air Force look pretty gruesome (214 total yards). Whether it's DeLeon Eskridge, Duane Bennett, Troy Stoudermire or someone else, the Gophers need to find more offensive weapons.

Thumbs up, Kirk Cousins -- Cousins looks and acts the part of Michigan State's offensive leader, and he played pretty darn well against Central Michigan, completing 13 of 18 passes for 164 yards and a touchdown. The sophomore has earned the right to play more snaps ahead of Keith Nichol.

Thumbs down, Mark Dantonio -- Discipline has been Dantonio's hallmark at Michigan State, but his team lost it against Central Michigan. The Spartans had eight penalties for 81 yards, including an offside call that gave the Chippewas another chance at the game-winning field goal. That just can't happen.

Thumbs up, Rich Rodriguez -- After taking a lot of heat (some deserved) before the season, Rodriguez has had his Michigan team, and particularly his offense, ready to play. He called an excellent game against Notre Dame, and his young quarterback, Tate Forcier, looks like a keeper.

Thumbs down, Michigan secondary -- They faced a tough task defending Golden Tate and Michael Floyd, but you had to know what was coming against Notre Dame. The Irish exposed sophomore cornerback Boubacar Cissoko, who needs to have a short memory and put the game behind him.

Thumbs up, Ralph Bolden -- Another huge game for Bolden, who rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns at Oregon. The sophomore leads the nation in rushing through the first two weeks of the season.

Thumbs down, Joey Elliott -- Joey's a big boy and can take the heat, and the Purdue quarterback knows you can't have two interceptions and a fumble on the road. Oregon converted two of those turnovers into touchdowns and escaped.

Thumbs up, Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood -- The Iowa defensive backs combined for five interceptions in the Hawkeyes' rout of Iowa State. Cyclones quarterback Austen Arnaud will be having nightmares about these two for some time.

And we'll end on a good note ...

Thumbs up, new running backs -- The Big Ten won't miss a beat without Shonn Greene, Javon Ringer or Beanie Wells. The league has reloaded at running back and got big performances Saturday from Bolden, Michigan's Brandon Minor, Iowa's Brandon Wegher, Indiana's Demetrius McCray, Northwestern's Stephen Simmons and Wisconsin's John Clay.