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Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Big Ten stock report: Week 9

By Brian Bennett

Occupy this post.

Stock up

Kenny Bell: The Nebraska redshirt freshman receiver went 82 yards on his first career rushing attempt, a reverse that went for a touchdown against Minnesota. Bell also had four catches and nearly connected with Taylor Martinez on another couple of deep passes. Just what the Huskers' opponents wanted to see: more speed.

Gerald Hodges: Another in a long line of Penn State defenders who have raised their games this season, Hodges had 14 tackles against Northwestern on his way to being named Big Ten co-defensive player of the week. Joe Paterno said Hodges is a great athlete who could have played a number of positions. Looks like linebacker was a good call.

Purdue's defense: After getting thrashed by Notre Dame 38-10 on Oct. 1, the Boilers have bounced back in a big way on defense. Their three Big Ten opponents are averaging just 18 points and a little more than 315 yards per game. Kawann Short is tough to handle up front, Joe Holland leads the linebacking corps and Ricardo Allen is a playmaking cornerback. A defense that returned nine starters from a year ago is starting to show its experience and talent.

Tre Roberson: The true freshman made his first start at Iowa and completed 16-of-24 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown while running for another 84 yards. Kevin Wilson said Roberson exudes calm and confidence and has gotten better each week, though the Indiana coach stopped short of naming him his definite starter going forward. Roberson has plenty of room to grow, but shows potential that may lessen the loss of recruit Gunner Kiel.

Jared Abbrederis returning punts: The Wisconsin receiver ranks first nationally in punt return average with more than 22 yards per attempt, a staggering figure when you consider only one other player in the Big Ten is averaging more than 8.6 yards per return. The Badgers' offense usually doesn't need that much help with field position, but Abbrederis gives it to them.

Stock down

Penn State and Purdue attendance: Despite a 7-1 record, attendance has gone down at Penn State's Beaver Stadium this year. Two games have seen crowds below 100,000 for the first time since 2001, and the Purdue game drew the smallest homecoming crowd (100,820) in a decade. This week's Illinois game is not sold out. Paterno says the economy and a new ticket plan that required fans to pay more for better seats are to blame. Meanwhile, large swaths of Ross-Ade Stadium were empty for last week's homecoming win against Illinois. The Boilermakers announced a crowd of just more than 45,000 in a facility that seats 62,500.

Illinois' offense: What has happened to an attack that once looked like one of the most explosive in the Big Ten? Illinois has scored just 21 points in its past two games combined and has needed late touchdowns in both games just to get there. The rushing game has slowed and Nathan Scheelhaase has made uncharacteristic mistakes. That's why the Illini have lost two straight.

Vince Browne: A second-team All-Big Ten performer last year, the Northwestern defensive end was named to several preseason watch lists and at least one All-America team. But Browne has only 21 tackles and two sacks on the season, and last week he was one of four starters benched by Pat Fitzgerald in an effort to shake up the defense. The Wildcats' defensive struggles aren't all Browne's fault by any means, but somebody needs to step up and take charge of that unit.

Jared Abbrederis playing defensive back: Let's just say Abbrederis' could use a little practice defending Hail Marys. The fact that he was basically the first and last line of defense on the Michigan State miracle speaks of some secondary depth problems for Wisconsin.