Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Big Ten stock report: Week 2
By ESPN.com staff
Every Wednesday during the season, I'll take a look at the Big Ten marketplace to see whose stock is rising and falling.
1. Denard Robinson: Everyone knew what the Michigan quarterback could do in the open field, but he proved himself as a passer against Connecticut, not only making accurate throws but great decisions. Robinson set team single-game records for quarterback rushing (197 yards) and total offense (383 yards).
2. Big Ten quarterbacks: A group that has taken heat in recent years stepped up nicely in Week 1. Robinson dominated the national spotlight, but Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor, Iowa's Ricky Stanzi, Northwestern's Dan Persa and Indiana's Ben Chappell all had impressive numbers. Penn State's Rob Bolden might have been the biggest surprise, as he passed for 239 yards and two touchdowns in his collegiate debut. Nine Big Ten starters ranked among the nation's top 56 in pass efficiency.
3. Minnesota's offensive line: Criticized for the last two years, the Gophers' veteran front five made a statement in the opener. Minnesota racked up 281 rushing yards and held the ball for over 45 minutes, totally controlling the line of scrimmage at Middle Tennessee. A very good sign early on this fall.
4. Michigan State's run game: Playing without starting running back Larry Caper, the Spartans got huge lifts from sophomore Edwin Baker and freshman Le'Veon Bell, who combined for 258 rush yards and four touchdowns. Kudos also to the offensive line, which looked strong against Western Michigan.
5. Wisconsin's defensive line: A question mark entering the fall, the Badgers' front four performed well in the opener against UNLV. Junior end J.J. Watt made a game-changing forced fumble early in the third quarter, leading to a touchdown, while end Louis Nzegwu and tackle Jordan Kohout both recorded sacks.
1. Special-teams execution: The Big Ten had some special-teams highlights, like Paki O'Meara's blocked punt and Chaz Powell's kickoff return, but there were far too many breakdowns. Ohio State had a field goal attempt blocked and returned for a touchdown. Northwestern botched a field goal attempt and an extra-point try. Minnesota missed two field-goal attempts. It needs to get better.
2. Illinois' second-half offense: A 13-3 halftime lead slipped away as the Illini offense stalled after the break. Illinois had only 10 total yards in the third quarter and didn't cross midfield until midway through the fourth quarter. The Illini finished with 75 second-half yards and no points.
3. Michigan State's discipline: The Spartans did a lot of good things in their opener, but they couldn't avoid the yellow flag. Michigan State drew 11 penalties for 69 yards, four more fouls than any other Big Ten team. This area has to improve after the Spartans finished 10th in the league in penalties a year ago.
4. Northwestern's running backs: The run game was Northwestern's top concern entering the season, and it's still very much there. The backs went backward two often and put the ball on the ground twice. Persa can't be the only viable rushing option for Northwestern this fall. Someone has to step up soon.
5. Purdue's downfield passing game: Robert Marve completed 31 passes in his first career start for Purdue. Pretty good, right? For sure, but Marve had only 220 pass yards because Notre Dame took away everything down the field. Purdue has the weapons to stretch things out a bit, but with questions lingering about the run game, it could be tough.
Each week, I'll also take a look at the Player of the Year races. These will be based solely on production this season. Right now, that equals one game.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR RACE: OFFENSE
1. Michigan QB Denard Robinson: Rushed for 197 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries; completed 19 of 22 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown.
2. Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor: Completed 17 of 25 passes for 247 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs; added 17 rush yards.
3. Wisconsin RB John Clay: Rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns on only 17 carries (7.2 ypc).
4. Northwestern QB Dan Persa: Completed 19 of 21 passes for 222 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs; added team-high 82 rush yards.
5. Minnesota RB Duane Bennett: Did everything but reach the end zone at Middle Tennessee, rushing 30 times for 187 yards.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR RACE: DEFENSE
1. Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt: Recorded a league-high four pass breakups, a forced fumble that led to a touchdown; assisted on a tackle for loss.
2. Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan: Recorded seven tackles, 2.5 for loss, and a sack; helped record a safety.
3. Ohio State S/LB Tyler Moeller: Led the team with six tackles, including two for loss and a sack; forced a fumble.
4. Ohio State LB Brian Rolle: Had his first career pick-six, a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown; had three tackles, one for loss.
5. Illinois DT Corey Liuget: Recorded six tackles, including 2.5 for loss, and broke up a pass.