Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Big Ten stock report: Week 7
By Brian Bennett
Ring the bell. It's time for the Big Ten stock report.
Aaron Burbridge: The Michigan State true freshman had eight catches for 134 yards in his first-ever start last week against Indiana. Is he the missing piece for the Spartans' passing game? That's a lot to put on a youngster, but he is a promising player. "Burbridge made great catches with people hanging on him," head coach Mark Dantonio said. The Spartans will need more of that this week with tight end Dion Sims out against Iowa.
Jake Ryan: The sophomore linebacker was all over the field against Purdue last week and has turned into one of Michigan's top defensive players. He had six tackles, including two for loss and a sack, in the 44-13 win over Purdue. Ryan has been excellent in applying pressure, as Purdue quarterback Robert Marve found out on a big hit in the second half.
Corey "Philly" Brown: A week after he hauled in 12 catches against Michigan State -- or two fewer than any Ohio State receiver had in all of last year -- Brown finally showed some elusiveness with his 76-yard punt return for a touchdown in the victory over Nebraska. Brown has been more of a possession guy while Devin Smith has provided the downfield threat, but he showed that he's capable of making big plays, too.
Wisconsin's pass rush: The Badgers don't have a dominating edge rusher like J.J. Watt, but they've been finding ways to get the job done. They had four sacks last week against Illinois, each coming from a different member of the defensive line. Wisconsin might not have a burner on the perimeter, but the D-line is doing a solid job bringing the heat, anyway.
Penn State discipline: Without a huge margin for error, the Nittany Lions can't afford to hurt themselves with silly mistakes. And so far, they haven't done that much. Penn State ranks ninth in the FBS for fewest penalties per game, and the team has drawn only five yellow flags in its first two Big Ten conference games combined.
Mark Dantonio saw his Spartans flagged for six personal fouls against Indiana.
Michigan State discipline: The Spartans committed a ghastly six personal fouls against Indiana, and it nearly cost them the game. Through two Big Ten games, they have drawn 12 yellow flags, which is the most in the conference. Dantonio said some of the personal fouls stem from officials placing more emphasis on player safety. But, he added, "it's extremely frustrating on my part with our players, not with the officials."
Taylor Martinez on the road: The Nebraska quarterback is just 3-8 in his past 11 starts away from Lincoln. He's thrown four interceptions and just one touchdown pass on the road this season. Martinez isn't the Huskers' only problem on the road -- their defense has failed to show up too many times -- but he seems to revert to bad form when adversity strikes away from home. That's got to change for Nebraska to win the Big Ten.
Wisconsin's student attendance: There were huge swaths of empty seats in the student section at Camp Randall on Saturday against Illinois. Where were all the students? (And don't say studying). The game was a 2:30 p.m. local time kick, so too much partying the night before could not be used as an excuse.
Field-goal kicking: If it seems like kickers have been a little more unreliable this season, that's because it's true. As a whole, Big Ten kickers are connecting on just 68.5 percent of their field goal tries in 2012. By comparison, league kickers hit 75.9 percent of their attempts in 2011. Northwestern, Purdue, Iowa and Ohio State have been immune from the issues. But teams like Penn State, Minnesota, Illinois, Nebraska and Michigan State have seen their share of field-goal struggles.
Tim Beckman's dip habit: The Illinois coach has apologized for being spotted before the Wisconsin game putting a little chaw between his lip and gum. The Illini reported a secondary violation to the NCAA, which won't result in anything more than a reprimand, at worse. Beckman said he will quit the habit. Might we suggest some Big League Chew?