Big Ten stock report: Week 5

September, 26, 2012
9/26/12
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Penn State starts: Bill O'Brien's early game plans must be working. The Nittany Lions are outscoring their opponents 35-0 in the first quarter of games this year and 55-9 in the first half. "It's tough to put a finger on that," O'Brien said. "I know that we stress trying to get off to a fast start. We've done a decent job of that. On the flip side of that now, when we go in at halftime we've got to come out and do a better job in the second half, especially getting off to another fast start."

Doran Grant: The sophomore cornerback for Ohio State made his first career start Saturday against UAB with Bradley Roby nursing a sore shoulder. Grant responded with an interception, a fumble recovery, a sack and seven tackles. While Roby isn't losing his starting job, Grant earned himself a lot more playing time with that performance.

[+] EnlargeWisconsin's Melvin Gordon
Jeff Hanisch/US PRESSWIREWisconsin's Melvin Gordon rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown against UTEP.
Melvin Gordon: Wisconsin coaches have been saying the redshirt freshman has star potential. After Montee Ball left the game with a head injury against UTEP, Gordon got to show it. He had ran for 112 yards on only eight carries, both career highs, and scored on a 26-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. If Ball is not 100 percent this week, expect Gordon to get some more looks at Nebraska.

Imani Cross: Gordon wasn't the only freshman running back to shine on Saturday. The 225-pound true freshman ran for exactly 100 yards on 12 carries, with a 20-yard touchdown run. Granted, it came against Idaho State, but Cross gave a glimpse of his immense potential in the crowded Nebraska backfield.

Minnesota's turnover margin: Last year, the Gophers were last in the Big Ten in turnover margin at minus-8. Through four games this year, they're tied for the league lead at plus-5. A big reason: Minnesota has already gained more turnovers this season (10, tied for ninth in the FBS) than they had in all of 2011 (an FBS-worst nine). "I think we have some players that are playing aggressively and making some plays," head coach Jerry Kill said. "Our young safeties have made some big plays. Got push up front. It's just been a good team effort."

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Iowa's starts: The Hawkeyes have trailed at halftime of all three of their games against FBS opponents. Last week against Central Michigan was the first of those in which Iowa managed a first-half touchdown, but it still trailed 23-14 at the break. The Hawkeyes are outscoring opponents 42-19 in the second half but are digging themselves too many early holes.

Ohio State's special teams: It was a blunder-filled day for the Buckeyes' specialists against UAB. The Blazers blocked a punt and recovered it for a touchdown. Ohio State also had a running into the punter penalty to keep a UAB drive alive, misplayed a kickoff return and let the Blazers recover a pop-up kick to start the second half. Urban Meyer takes special teams very seriously. All of the Buckeyes had better do the same this week against Michigan State.

Penn State's attendance: Saturday's game against Temple drew only 93,680 fans to Beaver Stadium, the lowest total since the stadium was expanded in 2001. The first two home games, against Ohio and Navy attracted 97,186 and 98,792, respectively, which is still far below the stadium capacity of 107,000. Is this an aftereffect of the Sandusky scandal? A reflection of the home schedule? The economy? Penn State's crowds are still larger than most, but not as big as they have been in recent years.

Denard Robinson's passing: All indications this offseason were that Robinson had improved his footwork and decision-making in the passing game, and that a second year in the offensive system would lead to much better numbers. Not so much so far. Robinson already has eight interceptions, putting him on pace to shatter last year's Big Ten-worst 15. His completion percentage of 54.5 is worse than last year's 55.0. He has played two outstanding defenses in Alabama and Notre Dame, but Robinson's lack of progress is still disappointing.

William Gholston: The immensely talented Michigan State defensive end isn't dominating the way most people thought he would this season. The junior has only 14 tackles through four games, including three for loss and just one sack, though he has been credited with four quarterback sacks. Gholston did not play in the first half against Eastern Michigan for reasons Mark Dantonio declined to explain. The Spartans need more from Gholston, and this week's game against Ohio State might good be a good place for him to start.

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