Big Ten: Justin Jackson

Northwestern Wildcats season review

December, 17, 2014
Dec 17
2:00
PM ET
Our week-long review of the 2014 season for each Big Ten program rolls on with the Northwestern Wildcats.

Overview: No team in the Big Ten had as many zeniths and nadirs as Northwestern during the 2014 season. The Wildcats beat two ranked opponents and still managed to miss a bowl game. The season got off to an embarrassing start when the offense, in a 24-7 win, was outgained by Western Illinois after losses to Cal and Northern Illinois. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald challenged his players' toughness and got a three-game winning streak, capped by knocking off West Division champ Wisconsin. Fitzgerald's team also upset heavily-favored Notre Dame in South Bend with an entertaining 43-40 overtime victory. In between those wins, Northwestern's offense failed to reach 20 points in any of its four consecutive losses to Big Ten opponents. Some talented freshmen on both sides of the ball provided reasons for optimism, but the season ended on another low note by losing to in-state rival Illinois with a bowl trip on the line for both teams.

Offensive MVP: Of the group of rookies who stepped into big roles this season in Evanston, Illinois, running back Justin Jackson was easily the most impressive. Jackson became the second freshman at Northwestern to top 1,000 yards and finished the season with 1,187 and a team-high 10 touchdowns. He also led the offense in putting up 43 points at Notre Dame. His 149 rushing yards in that game were the most the Irish gave up to any player this season.

Defensive MVP: Safety and co-captain Ibraheim Campbell coordinated the Wildcats' secondary in his fourth and final season as a starter. His three interceptions this season brought his career total to 11, which is third all-time at Northwestern. He also tied for the Big Ten lead in forced fumbles this year with four. One of those gave the offense a chance to tie Notre Dame in the final 90 seconds of the fourth quarter. He ended the season with 54 tackles despite missing four games due to an injury in the middle of the season. The Wildcats went 1-3 during that stretch.

ESPN's Big Ten all-freshman team

December, 15, 2014
Dec 15
10:00
AM ET
The Big Ten doesn't put out an all-freshman team. But we do. Here are our picks for the top first-year players in the league in 2014:

Offense

QB: J.T. Barrett, Ohio State: Well, duh.

RB: Justin Jackson, Northwestern: In the year of the running back in the Big Ten, Jackson somewhat quietly produced 1,187 yards and 10 touchdowns as a true freshman.

RB: Curtis Samuel, Ohio State: He added to the Buckeyes' ridiculous array of skill players, running for 386 yards and six scores. Looks like a future star.

WR: Mike Dudek, Illinois: In another season, one in which a guy like Barrett doesn't put up mind-boggling stats, Dudek would have been the freshman of the year in the league. He should surpass 1,000 yards receiving in the Fighting Illini's bowl game.

WR: DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State: Though the Nittany Lions' offense struggled, Hamilton caught more passes (75) than any other Big Ten player and finished with 848 yards in the regular season.

WR/RB: Jalin Marshall, Ohio State: A versatile, speedy weapon who could come out of the backfield or fly into it, Marshall scored seven touchdowns on offense and one on punt returns. He's also the team's backup quarterback right now.

OL: Mason Cole, Michigan: The first Wolverine ever to start the opener at left tackle as a true freshman, Cole stayed there all season and showed a lot of promise with his excellent footwork and instincts.

OL: Brian Allen, Michigan State: The true freshman and brother of All-Big Ten center Jack Allen appeared in all 12 games, with one start at left guard.

OL: Billy Price, Ohio State: The redshirt freshman has started all 13 games as a guard for the Buckeyes.

OL: Andrew Nelson, Penn State: The Nittany Lions had their issues on the offensive line, but Nelson started every game at tackle -- including twice at left tackle -- and has a bright future.

OL: Christian DiLauro, Illinois: He filled in as the starting right tackle in the second half of the season for the Illini and helped them rally their way to a bowl game.

Defense

DL: Kemoko Turay, Rutgers: After a torrid start, the pass rushing specialist finished with 7.5 sacks. He also blocked a field goal against Michigan to preserve that victory.

DL: Malik McDowell, Michigan State: The blue-chip recruit whose signing day saga made headlines showed his talent by playing in all 12 games and recording 3.5 tackles for loss.

DL: Steven Richardson, Minnesota: Thrust into a starting role after the first week because of injuries, the true freshman more than held his own by finishing with 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.

LB: Darron Lee, Ohio State: After taking a medical redshirt last year, Lee emerged as one of the Buckeyes' top defensive playmakers, recording 66 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions and a pair of fumble recoveries, one of which he scored on.

LB: Ja'Whan Bentley, Purdue: The Boilermakers' linebacker position has been a problem for the past few years, but Bentley is part of the solution. He was Purdue's second-leading tackler on the season with 76 stops, adding an interception and three fumble recoveries.

LB: Anthony Walker, Northwestern: In his first start against Penn State, Walker returned an interception 49 yards for a touchdown. He also had a pick in the win at Notre Dame and led the Wildcats with nine tackles for loss.

LB: Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State: Playing mostly in a reserve role, McMillan had an immediate impact on the Buckeyes. The former stud recruit recorded 50 tackles, 2.5 sacks and an interception.

DB: Eli Apple, Ohio State: It's scary how many star freshmen the Buckeyes have. Apple is another, as he had 41 tackles, including 5.5 for loss, and a pair of interceptions.

DB: Montae Nicholson, Michigan State: The true freshman played in every game and had three starts in the Spartans' "No Fly Zone." He had 30 tackles and a pair of fumble recoveries.

DB: Godwin Igwebuike, Northwestern: He made waves in the Wildcats' upset win over Wisconsin by grabbing three interceptions. He started five times at safety and finished with 51 tackles.

DB: Marcus Allen, Penn State: He started Penn State's final six games at safety after Ryan Keiser got hurt, and the Nittany Lions' defense didn't miss a beat. He was third on the team in tackles with 52.

Specialists

K: Rafael Gaglianone, Wisconsin: The effusive Brazilian with the strong leg went 17-for-20 on field goals, including 2-of-3 from beyond 50 yards.

P: Daniel Pasquariello, Penn State: His 37.7-yards per punt average was nothing to write home about -- except the Australian probably does write home a lot. He improved down the stretch to solidify the Nittany Lions' punt team.

Returner: De'Mornay Pierson-El, Nebraska: He was third in the FBS in punt-return average (17.8) and scored three touchdowns, including a memorable one in the comeback win at Iowa.

Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 15

December, 7, 2014
Dec 7
10:00
AM ET
Let's get this Queen song queued up -- and, for Adam Rittenberg's team, we'll have another ready -- because it's down to just Austin Ward and me in the final week.

Ward needs to beat me by 57 points to win our championship, so the odds are against him. But it's not over just yet; I've been outscored by that much twice this season.

It's been a see-saw year but, ultimately, it's no coincidence the top two teams just happen to have the top two fantasy players. Melvin Gordon has earned me an average of 34.8 fantasy points per week, while J.T. Barrett has gotten Ward 33.4 points a game. Rittenberg was in the driver's seat early on with Ameer Abdullah (24.9 ppg), but the MCL injury hurt The Trombone Shorties as much as it did the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

We'll know our champion for sure by Saturday night. In the meantime, here's a look at the scoring, waiver-wire moves and final rosters.

Your results this week:

Coal Crackers (Josh Moyer): 137
Massive Attack (Austin Ward): 124
The Trombone Shorties (Adam Rittenberg): 89
Legendary Leaders (Brian Bennett): 75
Sherman Tanks (Mitch Sherman): 57

And the overall standings:

Coal Crackers: 1,597
Massive Attack: 1,541
The Trombone Shorties: 1,416
Legendary Leaders: 1,239
Sherman Tanks: 1,105

Waiver wire: Only seven moves were made in our final week, and none were all that significant. Rittenberg was forced to find a replacement for Trevor Siemian, but most of us just picked up players based on their matchups this weekend. Sherman didn't even make a move.

Bennett adds Northwestern WR Kyle Prater and drops Michigan WR Devin Funchess

Rittenberg adds Indiana WR Shane Wynn and drops Nebraska WR Kenny Bell

Ward adds Michigan kickers and drops Penn State kickers

Moyer adds Maryland defense and drops Penn State defense

Rittenberg adds Illinois QB Reilly O'Toole and drops Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian

Moyer adds Maryland WR Deon Long and drops Maryland QB C.J. Brown

Rittenberg adds Northwestern defense and drops Michigan defense

Coal Crackers (Moyer)

Purdue QB Austin Appleby
Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner
Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon
Indiana RB Tevin Coleman
Rutgers WR Leonte Carroo
Maryland WR Deon Long
Wisconsin kickers
Maryland defense
Bench: Michigan WR Amara Darboh (at Ohio State)

Massive Attack (Ward)

Iowa QB Jake Rudock
Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett
Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott
Illinois RB Josh Ferguson
Ohio State WR Michael Thomas
Penn State WR DaeSean Hamilton
Michigan kickers
Michigan State defense
Bench: Minnesota RB David Cobb (at Wisconsin)

The Trombone Shorties (Rittenberg)

Illinois QB Reilly O'Toole
Michigan State QB Connor Cook
Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah
Northwestern RB Justin Jackson
Ohio State WR Devin Smith
Indiana WR Shane Wynn
Maryland kickers
Northwestern defense
Bench: Ohio State RB Dontre Wilson (vs. Michigan)

Legendary Leaders (Bennett)

Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong
Wisconsin QB Joel Stave
Iowa RB Mark Weisman
Michigan State RB Jeremy Langford
Northwestern WR Kyle Prater
Illinois WR Mike Dudek
Ohio State kickers
Wisconsin defense
Bench: Illinois QB Wes Lunt (at Northwestern)

Sherman Tanks (Sherman)

Rutgers QB Gary Nova
Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg
Michigan RB De'Veon Smith
Purdue RB Akeem Hunt
Michigan State WR Tony Lippett
Iowa WR Kevonte Martin-Manley
Michigan State kickers
Ohio State defense
Bench: Wisconsin RB Corey Clement (vs. Minnesota)
Melvin Gordon Zach Bolinger/Icon SportswireWisconsin star Melvin Gordon is one of seven 1,000-yard rushers in the Big Ten this season.
Melvin Gordon can be mesmerizing. He's such a dynamic runner, seemingly always on the verge of another huge play, that it's hard to ever turn away.

The Wisconsin junior is having a Heisman Trophy-caliber season even if he doesn't win the award next month. Although Gordon's FBS single-game rushing record of 408 yards lasted a single week, as Oklahoma's Samaje Perine eclipsed it Saturday, Gordon still became the fastest player in FBS history to reach 2,000 yards in a season (241 carries). He leads the nation with 2,109 yards. According to Wisconsin, his rushing total from the first three quarters alone (1,915 yards) still would lead the nation.

But there are other standout running backs in the Big Ten -- great ones and really good ones. As the season concludes this week for a handful of teams, it's important to acknowledge all of them. Because we might never a group of Big Ten backs like this one in the same season.

"There's a lot of guys in this league that are going to be playing on Sundays from that specific position," Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said Sunday.

[+] EnlargeTevin Coleman
AP Photo/Darron CummingsTevin Coleman has been a bright spot for Indiana, setting the school's single-season rushing mark.
Think about what Tevin Coleman felt like the day Gordon went for 408. Playing Rutgers at the same time Gordon gashed Nebraska, Coleman went for 307 yards, the second-highest total in Indiana history (behind Anthony Thompson's 377, the Big Ten record that Gordon smashed). Coleman had déjà vu Saturday against Ohio State, rushing for 228 yards and three touchdowns, breaking the IU single-season rushing record but being overshadowed because he plays on a losing team.

How high would Coleman's stock be if he played for a contender?

At least Coleman's name is known around the Big Ten and, to a degree, around the country. No one is talking about Jeremy Langford. Not even in the Big Ten. OK, maybe in East Lansing. But nowhere else.

Here's what Langford did this past Saturday: rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns as Michigan State stomped Rutgers. It marked his 15th consecutive 100-yard rushing performance against a Big Ten opponent. Think about that. He has the longest active streak of 100-yard rushing performances against conference opponents since at least 1996.

Langford has 1,242 rush yards and 17 touchdowns, and he's barely a blip on the Big Ten radar. It's a tribute to the league's incredible depth at running back. Langford is quietly having another productive season a year after quietly rushing for 1,422 yards on a team that won the Big Ten and the Rose Bowl. But it's time he gets his due as one of the more consistent runners in the country the past two seasons.

"He's one of the reasons we won 13 games last year and won nine this year," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said Sunday night. "Remember, he had 23 yards rushing coming into his junior year. He's put together a string of 14 100-yard games in [regular-season] conference play.

"He's been a tremendous performer for us."

Minnesota's David Cobb has a slightly higher profile than Langford, but he also gets overlooked in a league loaded with star running backs. Cobb is one of the nation's most physical and prolific backs, yet his steak evidently doesn't match Gordon's or Coleman's sizzle. Despite 1,350 rush yards entering play Saturday, Cobb amazingly didn't make the cut for Doak Walker Award semifinalists.

Cobb left Saturday's win against Nebraska with a hamstring injury. He's questionable for this week's showdown against Wisconsin, although he tweeted that he'll be ready to go. If so, the game at Camp Randall Stadium will feature the longest uninterrupted rivalry in the FBS, the Big Ten West Division title at stake, a giant axe and two of the nation's best running backs. Sign me up.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Langford
Mike Carter/USA TODAY SportsMichigan State's Jeremy Langford has been the mark of consistency with 15 straight 100-yard rushing games in Big Ten play.
Did you know that two more Big Ten backs joined the 1,000-yard club Saturday? Don't feel bad if you were too busy watching Mesmerizing Melvin rack up 207 rush yards and two touchdowns against Iowa.

Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott and Northwestern's Justin Jackson both eclipsed 1,o00 yards. Elliott recorded his fourth 100-yard rushing performance in Big Ten play and fifth of the season against Indiana. Jackson, a true freshman, boasts five 100-yard rushing performances in the past seven games and consistently produces for a Northwestern offense that has struggled most of the season.

The Big Ten now has seven 1,000-yard rushers with a week to go in the regular season. No other league has more than five. The Big Ten has four players -- Gordon, Coleman, Cobb and Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah -- with more than 1,400 rush yards. No other league has more than two.

The surge has taken place without star rushers from Michigan or Penn State, two traditionally elite running programs, and despite the season-ending injury to Rutgers standout Paul James. Dantonio, who has spent much of his career in the Big Ten, recalls the running back depth in the mid-to-late 1990s, when the league had stars like Wisconsin's Ron Dayne, Ohio State's Eddie George, Michigan's Tim Biakabutuka and Penn State's Curtis Enis.

"It seemed like everybody had a guy," Dantonio said. "It's very similar to that [now]. You've got four or five guys who really deserve to be first-team all-conference players. Somebody's going to get left out in the cold a little bit."

That's life in the league of running backs, but this group, not just Gordon, should not soon be forgotten.
Just like the West Division, our league's race is starting to clear up.

Thanks to huge days by Melvin Gordon (64 fantasy points) and J.T. Barrett (44 fantasy points), it now appears as if it's just a two-team race between the Coal Crackers and Massive Attack. Who will come out on top these last two weeks?

Stay tuned ...

Your results this week:

Coal Crackers (Josh Moyer): 186
Massive Attack (Austin Ward): 156
Legendary Leaders (Brian Bennett): 107
The Trombone Shorties (Adam Rittenberg): 76
Sherman Tanks (Mitch Sherman): 63

And the overall standings:

Coal Crackers: 1,460
Massive Attack: 1,417
The Trombone Shorties: 1,327
Legendary Leaders: 1,164
Sherman Tanks: 1,048

Waiver wire: Rittenberg trails by 133 points after a down week and, as a result, he is trying to make up for some lost ground. He accounted for exactly half of our league's six moves this week. But, overall, last week's starting rosters are mostly intact.

Sherman adds Michigan RB De'Veon Smith and drops Nebraska RB Imani Cross

Bennett adds Michigan WR Devin Funchess and drops Penn State TE Jesse James

Rittenberg adds Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian and drops Wisconsin QB Tanner McEvoy

Moyer adds Michigan WR Amara Darboh and drops Illinois WR Geronimo Allison

Rittenberg adds the Michigan defense and drops the Rutgers defense

Rittenberg adds the Maryland kickers and drops the Minnesota kickers

Coal Crackers (Moyer)

Purdue QB Austin Appleby
Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner
Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon
Indiana RB Tevin Coleman
Rutgers WR Leonte Carroo
Michigan WR Amara Darboh
Wisconsin kickers
Penn State defense
Bench: Maryland QB C.J. Brown (at Michigan)

Massive Attack (Ward)

Iowa QB Jake Rudock
Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett
Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott
Minnesota RB David Cobb
Ohio State WR Michael Thomas
Penn State WR DaeSean Hamilton
Penn State kickers
Michigan State defense
Bench: Illinois RB Josh Ferguson (vs. Penn State)

The Trombone Shorties (Rittenberg)

Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian
Michigan State QB Connor Cook
Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah
Northwestern RB Justin Jackson
Ohio State WR Devin Smith
Nebraska WR Kenny Bell
Maryland kickers
Michigan defense
Bench: Ohio State RB Dontre Wilson (vs. Indiana)

Legendary Leaders (Bennett)

Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong
Illinois QB Wes Lunt
Iowa RB Mark Weisman
Michigan State RB Jeremy Langford
Michigan WR Devin Funchess
Illinois WR Mike Dudek
Ohio State kickers
Wisconsin defense
Bench: Wisconsin QB Joel Stave (at Iowa)

Sherman Tanks (Sherman)

Rutgers QB Gary Nova
Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg
Michigan RB De'Veon Smith
Purdue RB Akeem Hunt
Michigan State WR Tony Lippett
Iowa Kevonte Martin-Manley
Michigan State kickers
Ohio State defense
Bench: Wisconsin RB Corey Clement (at Iowa)

Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 12

November, 16, 2014
Nov 16
2:00
PM ET


SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- His hair was a little thinner. The outside temperature was a lot lower. He was the one reining in his exuberant players this time around, not the one whom, he would say later Saturday, did not "have a clue" what was going on 19 years ago.

And yet after Northwestern pulled off another South Bend shocker, this one a 43-40 overtime victory that extended Notre Dame's late-season misery while resuscitating its own campaign, Pat Fitzgerald had a confession to make.

"I think it's much more enjoyable today," the ninth-year Wildcats coach said.

[+] EnlargePat Fitzgerald
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesPat Fitzgerald's Wildcats pulled off another big win over the Irish on Saturday.
 He had entered the postgame press conference later than normal, the rare visiting coach who got to speak last in this building. Fitzgerald and Northwestern had waited 19 years for another shot at Notre Dame, its like-minded rival some 100 miles east. They came here in 1995 to open the season -- sun-baked, four-touchdown underdogs who would go on to do the unthinkable, recording the first of many upsets en route to a Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl trip.

No trophies or bowl games were clinched this time around, but a 4-6 team now finds itself in position to extend its season to a bowl game after pulling off the improbable here once again.

"[I] talked to them on Tuesday about a playoff mentality going back to high school: You get to November, the weather gets nasty, and that's when champions are crowned," Fitzgerald said. "We're not going to win a Big Ten championship, we understand that. We can still achieve our goals, but we have to have our back against the wall, playoff-type mentality and win and advance. We've advanced to another week to keep this team alive for postseason play."

Northwestern football, he said, is in a totally different place now than it was the last time these Cats took the field here. All-Americans like himself -- All-Americans who grew up on Chicago's South Side bleeding blue and gold, yet somehow ended up in Evanston -- undertook a massive culture change, one that led to three Big Ten titles, and one that now sheds the weight of a season that had been cast in a negative light.

Fitzgerald can thank himself for that, too, as the man just a few weeks shy of his 40th birthday can get Northwestern to its sixth bowl game in its past seven seasons with just two more wins, over Purdue and Illinois.

Those might look like child's play compared to what his players pulled off here on the third Saturday of November, sizing up an Irish team just a week removed from the College Football Playoff picture and delivering it another gut punch.

There was a blocked extra-point try on Notre Dame's second touchdown, which Nick VanHoose returned all the way and made what should have been a 14-7 game a 13-9 one.

There was the fallout of those Irish special-teams miscues: Coach Brian Kelly's questionable decision to go for two after the Irish's final touchdown, an incomplete pass that kept it a 40-29 Irish lead instead of putting Northwestern in a position where it would have to score two touchdowns.

Then, of course, there was the fumble -- the fourth, final and most costly Irish turnover, this from sure-handed captain Cam McDaniel, which gave Northwestern the ball back with a three-point deficit and 1 minute, 28 seconds to work with.

"They're giving us a shot, guys," Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian said in the huddle. "Just let it rip."

Jack Mitchell's 45-yard field goal sent the game to overtime. His 41-yard kick -- which came after another Irish special-teams miscue, a missed 42-yard try in overtime -- set off a party nearly two decades in the making for the large contingent dressed in purple.

Said running back Justin Jackson, who could not bear to watch the game-winning kick: "First of all, that fumble was unbelievable, how we got that ball back. And then the drive, the field goal, and then for them to miss the field goal and for us to make a field goal -- it's a storybook ending to a crazy game. So it was really fun."

Fun for cornerback Matthew Harris, who was on the ledge of the stands celebrating with traveling fans long after the team had sung the alma mater. Fun for those traveling fans -- one of whom waved a purple T-shirt bearing a Chicago Sun-Times cover from 1995 that read: NU 17, ND 15. And fun for the man who had 11 tackles in that '95 meeting and sold this group on the belief that lightning could strike twice.

Fitzgerald held Siemian in a long embrace after the game. He made references to iPhones and Instagrams, luxuries and pitfalls of today's youth that will grant his players more attention than he ever received. He mentioned conversations with Ara Parseghian, the legendary former Northwestern and Notre Dame coach with whom he speaks regularly. He said boardrooms across Fortune 500 companies will feature more purple than usual Monday, as proud alumni revel in another victory at Notre Dame.

Nineteen years later, and here Fitzgerald was in a familiar position, at home once again after winning over a few more non-believers.

"I wouldn't want to play for anybody else in the country," Siemian said. "He's awesome. That's it. I just wouldn't want to play for anybody else."
It's been a crazy season so far.

As the weeks have progressed, our championship picture has only become more muddled. Just 23 points now separate the top three teams, and only three weekends remain. Can The Trombone Shorties bounce back? Will J.T. Barrett lead Massive Attack to victory? Can the Coal Crackers hang on?

Stay tuned ...

Your results this week:

Massive Attack (Austin Ward): 130
Coal Crackers (Josh Moyer): 114
The Trombone Shorties (Adam Rittenberg): 98
Legendary Leaders (Brian Bennett): 78
Sherman Tanks (Mitch Sherman): 27

And the overall standings:

Coal Crackers: 1,274
Massive Attack: 1,261
The Trombone Shorties: 1,251
Legendary Leaders: 1,057
Sherman Tanks: 985

Waiver wire: Thankfully, the bye weeks are just about over -- so there wasn't as much movement. Half of the pickups simply involved Nebraska and Illinois players, who had the last week off. The most interesting addition was probably Sherman's Imani Cross; that could be a boom-or-bust pick.

Sherman adds Rutgers QB Gary Nova and drops Michigan QB Devin Gardner

Bennett adds Illinois WR Mike Dudek and drops Indiana WR Shane Wynn

Rittenberg adds Nebraska WR Kenny Bell and drops Michigan WR Devin Funchess

Ward adds Michigan State defense and drops Minnesota defense

Moyer adds Illinois WR Geronimo Allison and drops Iowa WR Tevaun Smith

Sherman adds Nebraska RB Imani Cross and drops Michigan RB Drake Johnson

Rittenberg adds Rutgers defense and drops Michigan defense

Moyer adds C.J. Brown and drops Michigan WR Amara Darboh

Coal Crackers (Moyer)

Maryland QB C.J. Brown
Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner
Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon
Indiana RB Tevin Coleman
Rutgers WR Leonte Carroo
Illinois WR Geronimo Allison
Wisconsin kickers
Penn State defense
Bench: Purdue QB Austin Appleby (on bye)

Massive Attack (Ward)

Iowa QB Jake Rudock
Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett
Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott
Minnesota RB David Cobb
Ohio State WR Michael Thomas
Penn State WR DaeSean Hamilton
Penn State kickers
Michigan State defense
Bench: Illinois RB Josh Ferguson (vs. Iowa)

The Trombone Shorties (Rittenberg)

Wisconsin QB Tanner McEvoy
Michigan State QB Connor Cook
Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah
Northwestern RB Justin Jackson
Ohio State WR Devin Smith
Nebraska WR Kenny Bell
Minnesota kickers
Rutgers defense
Bench: Ohio State RB Dontre Wilson (at Minnesota)

Legendary Leaders (Bennett)

Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong
Illinois QB Wes Lunt
Iowa RB Mark Weisman
Michigan State RB Jeremy Langford
Penn State TE Jesse James
Illinois WR Mike Dudek
Ohio State kickers
Wisconsin defense
Bench: Wisconsin QB Joel Stave (vs. Nebraska)

Sherman Tanks (Sherman)

Rutgers QB Gary Nova
Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg
Wisconsin RB Corey Clement
Nebraska RB Imani Cross
Michigan State WR Tony Lippett
Iowa Kevonte Martin-Manley
Michigan State kickers
Ohio State defense
Bench: Purdue RB Akeem Hunt (on bye)
It has been a seesaw battle for that top spot and, once again, we have a new leader.

It's my first time all season at No. 1 -- but that might be short-lived. Only 29 points separate first place from the second runner-up, so today's top team can just as easily be tomorrow's No. 3. It should be an interesting next few weeks.

Also, on a side note, you'll notice a few tweaks to the overall scores this week due to unreflected roster changes. They didn't impact the standings and basically just gave Mitch Sherman a nice boost.

Your results this week:

Coal Crackers (Josh Moyer): 106
Legendary Leaders (Brian Bennett): 93
Sherman Tanks (Mitch Sherman): 84
Massive Attack (Austin Ward): 77
The Trombone Shorties (Adam Rittenberg): 50

And the overall standings:

Coal Crackers: 1,160
The Trombone Shorties: 1,153
Massive Attack: 1,131
Legendary Leaders: 979
Sherman Tanks: 958

Waiver wire: Some of the B1G's top players were reshuffled this week. With a combination of byes and some players -- such as Illinois QB Wes Lunt -- returning from injury, that made for some interesting changes to the league. Ezekiel Elliott, Leonte Carroo and Lunt all found new homes.

Sherman adds Michigan RB Drake Johnson and drops Illinois WR Geronimo Allison

Bennett adds Penn State TE Jesse James and drops Nebraska WR Kenny Bell

Ward adds Minnesota defense and drops Nebraska defense

Rittenberg adds Ohio State WR Devin Smith and drops Rutgers WR Leonte Carroo

Moyer adds Michigan WR Amara Darboh and drops Maryland WR Stefon Diggs

Sherman adds Michigan State kickers and drops Nebraska kickers

Bennett adds Illinois QB Wes Lunt and drops Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott

Ward adds Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott and drops Ohio State RB Dontre Wilson

Rittenberg adds Ohio State RB Dontre Wilson and drops Illinois QB Reilly O'Toole

Moyer adds Rutgers WR Leonte Carroo and drops Michigan QB Devin Gardner

Sherman adds Michigan QB Devin Gardner and drops Maryland QB C.J. Brown

Ward adds Penn State kickers and drops Rutgers kickers

Moyer adds Iowa WR Tevaun Smith and drops Nebraska WR Jordan Westerkamp

Rittenberg adds Wisconsin QB Tanner McEvoy and drops Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian

Rittenberg adds Minnesota kickers and drops Maryland kickers

Coal Crackers (Moyer)

Purdue QB Austin Appleby
Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner
Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon
Indiana RB Tevin Coleman
Michigan WR Amara Darboh
Iowa WR Tevaun Smith
Wisconsin kickers
Penn State defense
Bench: Rutgers WR Leonte Carroo (on bye)

The Trombone Shorties (Rittenberg)

Wisconsin QB Tanner McEvoy
Michigan State QB Connor Cook
Ohio State RB Dontre Wilson
Northwestern RB Justin Jackson
Ohio State WR Devin Smith
Michigan WR Devin Funchess
Minnesota kickers
Michigan defense
Bench: Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah (on bye)

Massive Attack (Ward)

Iowa QB Jake Rudock
Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett
Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott
Minnesota RB David Cobb
Ohio State WR Michael Thomas
Penn State WR DaeSean Hamilton
Penn State kickers
Minnesota defense
Bench: Illinois RB Josh Ferguson (on bye)

Legendary Leaders (Bennett)

Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong
Wisconsin QB Joel Stave
Iowa RB Mark Weisman
Michigan State RB Jeremy Langford
Penn State TE Jesse James
Indiana WR Shane Wynn
Ohio State kickers
Wisconsin defense
Bench: Illinois QB Wes Lunt (on bye)

Sherman Tanks (Sherman)

Michigan QB Devin Gardner
Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg
Wisconsin RB Corey Clement
Michigan RB Drake Johnson
Michigan State WR Tony Lippett
Iowa Kevonte Martin-Manley
Michigan State kickers
Ohio State defense
Bench: Purdue RB Akeem Hunt (vs. Wisconsin)
We're coming off our closest-scoring week.

Only 19 points separated the highest-scoring team from the lowest-scoring team last weekend, so the overall results changed very little. That puts an increased emphasis on this week, since only five games remain.

Your results this week:

Massive Attack (Austin Ward): 104
The Trombone Shorties (Adam Rittenberg): 103
Sherman Tanks (Mitch Sherman): 102
Coal Crackers (Josh Moyer): 95
Legendary Leaders (Brian Bennett): 85

And the overall standings:

The Trombone Shorties: 1,089
Massive Attack: 1,038
Coal Crackers: 1,026
Legendary Leaders: 881
Sherman Tanks: 746

Waiver wire: Luckily, there were few moves again this week. Sherman faced the most difficult decision since we have only one bench spot -- and he had two good Michigan State players on bye, Jeremy Langford and Tony Lippett. Did he make the right decision? We'll have to see ...

Sherman adds Iowa WR Kevonte Martin-Manley and drops Michigan State RB Jeremy Langford

Bennett adds Indiana WR Shane Wynn and drops Rutgers RB Desmon Peoples

Moyer adds Purdue QB Austin Appleby and drops Michigan State RB Nick Hill

Ward adds Ohio State RB Dontre Wilson and drops Wisconsin QB Tanner McEvoy

Rittenberg adds Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian and drops Maryland RB Wes Brown

Sherman adds Purdue RB Akeem Hunt and drops Rutgers QB Gary Nova

Bennett adds Michigan State RB Jeremy Langford and drops Ohio State WR Devin Smith

Moyer adds Penn State defense and drops Michigan State defense

Rittenberg adds Michigan defense and drops Minnesota defense

Moyer adds Wisconsin kickers and drops Michigan State kickers

The Trombone Shorties (Rittenberg)

Illinois QB Reilly O'Toole
Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian
Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah
Northwestern RB Justin Jackson
Rutgers WR Leonte Carroo
Michigan WR Devin Funchess
Maryland kickers
Michigan defense
Bench: Michigan State QB Connor Cook (on bye)

Massive Attack (Ward)

Iowa QB Jake Rudock
Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett
Illinois RB Josh Ferguson
Ohio State RB Dontre Wilson
Ohio State WR Michael Thomas
Penn State WR DaeSean Hamilton
Rutgers kickers
Nebraska defense
Bench: Minnesota RB David Cobb (on bye)

Coal Crackers (Moyer)

Purdue QB Austin Appleby
Michigan QB Devin Gardner
Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon
Indiana RB Tevin Coleman
Maryland WR Stefon Diggs
Nebraska WR Jordan Westerkamp
Wisconsin kickers
Penn State defense
Bench: Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner (on bye)

Legendary Leaders (Bennett)

Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong
Wisconsin QB Joel Stave
Iowa RB Mark Weisman
Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott
Nebraska WR Kenny Bell
Indiana WR Shane Wynn
Ohio State kickers
Wisconsin defense
Bench: Michigan State RB Jeremy Langford (on bye)

Sherman Tanks (Sherman)

Maryland QB C.J. Brown
Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg
Wisconsin RB Corey Clement
Purdue RB Akeem Hunt
Illinois WR Geronimo Allison
Iowa Kevonte Martin-Manley
Nebraska kickers
Ohio State defense
Bench: Michigan State WR Tony Lippett (on bye)
When simply picking the games doesn't cut it, the Big Ten blog crew takes it to another level. For some bolder, more specific predictions for the opening weekend of what could be an unforgettable November, we hit the roundtable.

Adam Rittenberg: Purdue will pace Nebraska well into the second half.

This isn't a knock on the Huskers, who are quietly putting together a very solid, and refreshingly drama-free, season. But Purdue's offense is hitting its stride behind quarterback Austin Appleby, speed backs Akeem Hunt and Raheem Mostert and a much-improved offensive line. The Boilers have had two weeks to prepare and face a Nebraska defense that still has too many technical breakdowns for my liking. This will be a track meet for two, maybe three quarters -- thinking 28-24 Nebraska at halftime -- before Ameer Abdullah and Nebraska pull away in the fourth.

Mitch Sherman: Wisconsin will make its biggest statement yet.

The Badgers served notice to the rest of the West last week with a 52-7 win over Maryland that they’ve turned a corner. Still, it was one game. It was at home, and we’ve seen previous flashes from Wisconsin. But with most of the attention focused on the exploits of Melvin Gordon and uncertainty at QB, the Wisconsin defense has built a résumé as the Big Ten’s best. Now, with Joel Stave back in command, the Badgers will streamroll Rutgers, beat up at QB and elsewhere after trips to Ohio State and Nebraska, and enter the final four weeks as the favorite in the West despite that ugly Northwestern loss.

Brian Bennett: Northwestern and Iowa will head to overtime. Again.

Just like last year in Iowa City, the Wildcats and Hawkeyes will play to a draw in regulation. They're similar teams, with good defenses and running games but who struggle to score at times. Justin Jackson and Mark Weisman will each find the end zone twice as the teams go into overtime tied at 20. Northwestern makes one more play in the second extra period to win it.

Austin Ward: Tevin Coleman will be held in check.

The Indiana tailback wasn’t getting all that much support from the passing game even when Nate Sudfeld was healthy and that didn’t slow him down even against stout rush defenses. But with the attack even more one-dimensional now, his string of 100-yard outings is going to come to an end on the road against Michigan and a defense allowing just 3.1 yards per carry. That’s about the only thing the Wolverines do well at this point, and any chance of salvaging something positive out of this season for Brady Hoke’s club will require coming out inspired to take care of Indiana. That’s yet another sign of how bad things are at Michigan, but there is a talented, proud defense waiting for a chance to do something nobody else has done yet this season.

Dan Murphy: Ohio State hits 60 points for the second time this season.

Any chances of the Buckeyes looking ahead to the Michigan State next weekend were knocked out after the close call in Happy Valley. J.T. Barrett will be back in his comfort zone at home and looking to pick a part the Fighting Illini defense. Ohio State hung 66 points on Kent State earlier this year. While Saturday might not be quite as big of a blowout, the Buckeyes will get to 60 for the second year in a row against Illinois.

Josh Moyer: Penn State hits its highest rushing total of the Big Ten season.

OK, maybe this is a bit of a gamble considering that left tackle Donovan Smith -- the only returning starter on the line this season -- suffered an injury Saturday, and his status is unknown against Maryland. But the Nittany Lions fared better than I expected against Ohio State, and the offensive line has a much easier test against the Terrapins. Only 17 teams in the nation are faring worse in run defense than than the Terps, so we should see a healthy dose of Penn State speedsters Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch. James Franklin has vowed to keep running the ball, and I think that strategy finally pays off this weekend.
Another week, another change in our standings.

Austin Ward is in second and I've dropped to third after my trade (Mark Weisman and Tommy Armstrong for Tevin Coleman) didn't go quite as well as I had hoped. It's still a tight race for the top three.

Your results this week:

The Trombone Shorties (Adam Rittenberg): 143
Massive Attack (Austin Ward): 120
Coal Crackers (Josh Moyer): 90
Legendary Leaders (Brian Bennett): 76
Sherman Tanks (Mitch Sherman): 59

And the overall standings:

The Trombone Shorties: 986
Massive Attack: 934
Coal Crackers: 931
Legendary Leaders: 796
Sherman Tanks: 644

Waiver-wire: We've had more than 20 waiver-wire moves in each of the last two weeks, so it was a nice reprieve this week. Four Big Ten teams have byes Saturday, but none is loaded with fantasy players: Indiana, Purdue, Iowa, Northwestern. So we had half as many moves as a result.

Sherman adds Wisconsin RB Corey Clement and drops Purdue RB Akeem Hunt

Bennett adds Rutgers RB Desmon Peoples and drops Maryland QB Caleb Rowe

Moyer adds Michigan QB Devin Gardner and drops Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian

Ward adds Penn State WR DaeSean Hamilton and drops Ohio State TE Jeff Heuerman

Rittenberg adds Illinois QB Reilly O'Toole and drops Purdue QB Austin Appleby

Sherman adds Illinois WR Geronimo Allison and drops Iowa WR Kevonte Martin-Manley

Bennett adds Wisconsin defense and drops Minnesota defense

Moyer adds Michigan State RB Nick Hill and drops Maryland RB Brandon Ross

Ward adds Wisconsin QB Tanner McEvoy, drops Ohio State RB Rod Smith

Rittenberg adds Maryland RB Wes Brown, drops Indiana WR Shane Wynn

Rittenberg adds Minnesota defense and drops Northwestern defense

The Trombone Shorties (Rittenberg)

Illinois QB Reilly O'Toole
Michigan State QB Connor Cook
Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah
Maryland RB Wes Brown
Rutgers WR Leonte Carroo
Michigan WR Devin Funchess
Maryland kickers
Minnesota defense
Bench: Northwestern RB Justin Jackson (on bye)

Massive Attack (Ward)

Wisconsin QB Tanner McEvoy
Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett
Illinois RB Josh Ferguson
Minnesota RB David Cobb
Ohio State WR Michael Thomas
Penn State WR DaeSean Hamilton
Rutgers kickers
Nebraska defense
Bench: Iowa QB Jake Rudock (on bye)

Coal Crackers (Moyer)

Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner
Michigan QB Devin Gardner
Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon
Michigan State RB Nick Hill
Maryland WR Stefon Diggs
Nebraska WR Jordan Westerkamp
Michigan State kickers
Michigan State defense
Bench: Indiana RB Tevin Coleman (on bye)

Legendary Leaders (Bennett)

Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong
Wisconsin QB Joel Stave
Rutgers RB Desmon Peoples
Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott
Nebraska WR Kenny Bell
Ohio State WR Devin Smith
Ohio State kickers
Wisconsin defense
Bench: Iowa RB Mark Weisman (on bye)

Sherman Tanks (Sherman)

Maryland QB C.J. Brown
Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg
Wisconsin RB Corey Clement
Michigan State RB Jeremy Langford
Illinois WR Geronimo Allison
Michigan State WR Tony Lippett
Nebraska kickers
Ohio State defense
Bench: Rutgers QB Gary Nova (at Nebraska)
It's been quite the interesting week in our fantasy league.

Not only did we complete our league's first-ever trade -- listed below -- but Austin Ward's time atop the standings proved to be a short one. After his lowest-scoring week of the season, he dropped from first to third. So it's still anybody's championship ... well, almost anybody's.

Your results this week:

Coal Crackers (Josh Moyer): 132
Legendary Leaders (Brian Bennett): 108
The Trombone Shorties (Adam Rittenberg): 89
Massive Attack (Austin Ward): 58
Sherman Tanks (Mitch Sherman): 57

And the overall standings:

The Trombone Shorties: 843
Coal Crackers: 841
Massive Attack: 813
Legendary Leaders: 720
Sherman Tanks: 585

Trade Alert: Bennett's Legendary Leaders traded Indiana RB Tevin Coleman to Moyer's Coal Crackers in exchange for Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong and Iowa RB Mark Weisman.

Trade analysis: Bennett needed a quarterback badly, and put the word out he was willing to make a deal. The quarterbacks on his roster heading into this week -- Joel Stave and Reilly O'Toole -- are both on bye, and he literally had no starters. So it was either take zeroes, hope to get lucky on the waiver wire, or make a trade. Sherman offered Gary Nova, but I sweetened the deal by adding a running back. My other QBs aren't great, but it was difficult to turn down the prospect of having Melvin Gordon and Coleman on the same team.

Waiver-wire: If your heads are swirling from all the moves, know that you're not alone. This season is getting harder, and it's difficult to find starters at key spots -- so there was once again a lot of shuffling. Ward focused on Ohio State players, while Rittenberg added two solid wideouts.

Sherman adds Maryland QB C.J. Brown and drops Michigan QB Devin Gardner

Bennett adds Ohio State WR Devin Smith and drops Penn State WR Geno Lewis

Ward adds Ohio State RB Rod Smith and drops Indiana QB Nate Sudfeld

Moyer adds Maryland WR Stefon Diggs and drops Illinois WR Mike Dudek

Rittenberg adds Rutgers WR Leonte Carroo and drops Northwestern WR Dan Vitale

Sherman adds Purdue RB Akeem Hunt and drops Michigan RB De'Veon Smith

Bennett adds Nebraska WR Kenny Bell and drops Illinois WR Geronimo Allison

Ward adds Ohio State WR Michael Thomas and drops Illinois WR Martize Barr

Moyer adds Nebraska WR Jordan Westerkamp (drops no one due to 2-for-1 trade)

Rittenberg adds Maryland kickers and drops Wisconsin kickers

Sherman adds Iowa WR Kevonte Martin-Manley and drops Penn State WR DaeSean Hamilton

Bennett adds Maryland QB Caleb Rowe and drops Illinois QB Reilly O'Toole and Wisconsin RB Corey Clement (drops two due to 2-for-1 trade)

Ward adds Ohio State TE Jeff Heuerman and drops Michigan State WR Macgarrett Kings

Moyer adds Maryland RB Brandon Ross and drops Indiana WR Shane Wynn

Rittenberg adds Indiana WR Shane Wynn and drops Indiana RB D'Angelo Roberts

Sherman adds Ohio State defense and drops Wisconsin defense

Bennett adds Ohio State kickers, drops Minnesota kickers

Ward adds Nebraska defense, drops Michigan defense

Rittenberg adds Northwestern defense and drops Penn State defense

Sherman adds Nebraska kickers and drops Penn State kickers

Ward adds Rutgers kickers and drops Indiana kickers

And now for a look at our rosters this week:

The Trombone Shorties (Rittenberg)

Purdue QB Austin Appleby
Michigan State QB Connor Cook
Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah
Northwestern RB Justin Jackson
Rutgers WR Leonte Carroo
Indiana WR Shane Wynn
Maryland kickers
Northwestern defense
Bench: Michigan WR Devin Funchess (on bye)

Coal Crackers (Moyer)

Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner
Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian
Indiana RB Tevin Coleman
Maryland RB Brandon Ross
Maryland WR Stefon Diggs
Nebraska WR Jordan Westerkamp
Michigan State kickers
Michigan State defense
Bench: Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon (on bye)

Massive Attack (Ward)

Iowa QB Jake Rudock
Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett
Ohio State RB Rod Smith
Minnesota RB David Cobb
Ohio State WR Michael Thomas
Ohio State TE Jeff Heuerman
Rutgers kickers
Nebraska defense
Bench: Illinois RB Josh Ferguson (on bye)

Legendary Leaders (Bennett)

Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong
Maryland QB Caleb Rowe
Iowa RB Mark Weisman
Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott
Nebraska WR Kenny Bell
Ohio State WR Devin Smith
Ohio State kickers
Minnesota defense
Bench: Wisconsin QB Joel Stave (on bye)

Sherman Tanks (Sherman)

Maryland QB C.J. Brown
Rutgers QB Gary Nova
Purdue RB Akeem Hunt
Michigan State RB Jeremy Langford
Iowa WR Kevonte Martin-Manley
Michigan State WR Tony Lippett
Nebraska kickers
Ohio State defense
Bench: Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg (on bye)

Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 7

October, 12, 2014
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