Monday, October 19, 2009
Big Ten thumbs up-thumbs down for Week 7
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
A few shout-outs and smack-downs to those not recognized previously (helmet stickers, players of the week, etc.).
Thumbs up, Greg Jones -- It seems like everyone takes Jones for granted at this point, but what he's doing every week is truly amazing. Jones led Michigan State in tackles in each of his first two seasons, and barring injury, he'll lead the Big Ten and possibly the nation this year. The junior linebacker currently leads the nation in total tackles (85) and ranks second in tackles average (12.1 tpg).
Thumbs down, Terrelle Pryor -- He doesn't deserve all the blame for what's wrong with Ohio State's offense, but he should be performing better than this. Turnovers are a Cardinal sin, especially on Jim Tressel's team, and Pryor had four of them against Purdue. After watching fellow No. 1 recruits Matt Barkley and Jimmy Clausen light up the sky in South Bend on Saturday, I have to wonder when Pryor will truly blossom.
Thumbs up, Derek Moye -- The Penn State sophomore wide receiver had a big day against Minnesota, making six receptions for 120 yards. He also turned in arguably the best catch of the weekend, a diving 12-yard grab in the end zone with only 35 seconds left in the first half. Moye and teammate Chaz Powell are quickly blossoming into good Big Ten receivers.
Thumbs down, Wisconsin's quarterback switch -- Many of us were scratching our heads at Camp Randall Stadium when Curt Phillips replaced Scott Tolzien at quarterback midway through the second quarter with Wisconsin leading 10-3. Tolzien had just led a 92-yard touchdown drive, during which he connected on several impressive play-action passes. The decision to insert Phillips seemed to stop the momentum, and Wisconsin never scored again. There's no need to get cute against a team like Iowa.
Thumbs up, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos -- After a slow start to the season, DJK is showing why he's Iowa's best wide receiver and one of the best in the league. Johnson-Koulianos led Iowa with eight receptions for 113 yards against Wisconsin and has 176 receiving yards in his last two games. If Johnson-Koulianos and tight end Tony Moeaki continue to make plays for Ricky Stanzi, the run game will open up more and more.
Thumbs down, Illinois' defense -- We can continue to rag on the offense, but at least the unit showed some life behind Juice Williams. Illinois' defense got absolutely shredded by quarterback Ben Chappell and Indiana, which should have scored way more than 27 points in Saturday night's win. This season has been an across-the-board disaster, and the defense shouldn't be spared.
Thumbs up, Tom Bradley -- It's pretty clear to me who Penn State's next head coach should be. Bradley has done a fabulous job with the Nittany Lions defense, which ranks second nationally in scoring (8.71 ppg) after shutting out Minnesota on Saturday. Despite not having linebackers Navorro Bowman and Sean Lee on the field together for most of the year, Bradley's defense hasn't allowed a first-half touchdown all season. Things do get much tougher Saturday at Michigan.
Thumbs down, Minnesota's first-down offense -- The run game has been a disappointment most of the season, and things reached a low point against Penn State. Minnesota had just one of its first eight plays on first down go for positive yards against the Lions, and Adam Weber was constantly in third-and-long. First-year coordinator Jedd Fisch needs to get things figured out as Minnesota faces an angry Ohio State team on Saturday.
Thumbs up, unheralded wide receivers -- Several of the Big Ten's best wide receivers this fall generated little to no hype during the recruiting process. Michigan State's Blair White and Northwestern's Zeke Markshausen, who combined for 28 receptions and 297 receiving yards in Saturday's game, both were walk-ons. Indiana's Tandon Doss wasn't a big-time recruit coming out of high school. Neither was Minnesota's Eric Decker. But all those players rank among the top six in the Big Ten in receiving yards.
Thumbs down, Northwestern's offensive line -- Offensive lineman are supposed to prefer run blocking to pass blocking, but evidently this doesn't apply to Northwestern's crew. Northwestern has tried everything to get the run game going but hasn't gotten consistent push from a line that returned four starters. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald sounds like he's ready to abandon the run entirely if things don't improve soon.
And, finally ...
Thumbs up, Joey Elliott -- The Purdue quarterback has turned in a very solid senior season, but he wasn't rewarded until Saturday. Elliott finally got the signature win that eluded his predecessor Curtis Painter as he passed for 281 yards and two touchdowns in Purdue's upset of Ohio State.