Big Ten: Rob Henry

Thirty Big Ten players heard their names called during the 2014 NFL draft, but many others received phone calls immediately after the event. The undrafted free-agent carousel is spinning, and players from around the Big Ten are hopping aboard.

Unlike the draft, the UDFA list is somewhat fluid, and other players could get picked up later today or in the coming days. To reiterate: This is not the final list.

Here's what we know right now from various announcements and media reports:

ILLINOIS
  • LB Jonathan Brown, Arizona Cardinals
  • WR Ryan Lankford, Miami Dolphins
  • TE Evan Wilson, Dallas Cowboys
  • WR Steve Hull, New Orleans Saints
  • WR Spencer Harris, New Orleans Saints
Notes: Illini OT Corey Lewis, who battled knee injuries throughout his career, told Steve Greenberg that several teams are interested in him if he's cleared by doctors.

INDIANA
  • WR Kofi Hughes, Washington Redskins
  • RB Stephen Houston, New England Patriots
Notes: S Greg Heban and K Mitch Ewald have tryouts with the Chicago Bears.

IOWA
  • LB James Morris, New England Patriots
  • OT Brett Van Sloten, Baltimore Ravens
  • G Conor Boffeli, Minnesota Vikings
  • WR Don Shumpert, Chicago Bears
  • LS Casey Kreiter, Dallas Cowboys
MARYLAND
  • LB Marcus Whitfield, Jacksonville Jaguars
  • CB Isaac Goins, Miami Dolphins
MICHIGAN
  • LB Cam Gordon, New England Patriots
  • S Thomas Gordon, New York Giants
Notes: RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (Baltimore), DT Jibreel Black (Pittsburgh), LS Jareth Glanda (New Orleans) and DT Quinton Washington (Oakland) will have tryouts.


MICHIGAN STATE
  • LB Denicos Allen, Carolina Panthers
  • S Isaiah Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals
  • T/G Dan France, Cincinnati Bengals
  • WR Bennie Fowler, Denver Broncos
  • LB Max Bullough, Houston Texans
  • DT Tyler Hoover, Indianapolis Colts
  • DT Micajah Reynolds, New Orleans Saints
  • OL Fou Fonoti, San Francisco 49ers
Notes: LB Kyler Elsworth has a tryout scheduled with Washington.

MINNESOTA
  • LB Aaron Hill, St. Louis Rams
NEBRASKA
  • QB Taylor Martinez, Philadelphia Eagles
  • OT Brent Qvale, New York Jets
  • CB Mohammed Seisay, Detroit Lions
  • DE Jason Ankrah, Houston Texans
  • C Cole Pensick, Kansas City Chiefs
  • OT Jeremiah Sirles, San Diego Chargers
Notes: CB Ciante Evans has yet to sign but will do so soon. DB Andrew Green has a tryout with the Miami Dolphins.

NORTHWESTERN
  • WR Kain Colter, Minnesota Vikings
  • K Jeff Budzien, Jacksonville Jaguars
  • WR Rashad Lawrence, Washington Redskins
  • DE Tyler Scott, Minnesota Vikings
OHIO STATE
  • S C.J. Barnett, New York Giants
  • K Drew Basil, Atlanta Falcons
  • WR Corey Brown, Carolina Panthers
  • G Andrew Norwell, Carolina Panthers
  • G Marcus Hall, Indianapolis Colts
  • WR Chris Fields, Washington Redskins
PENN STATE
  • OT Garry Gilliam, Seattle Seahawks
  • LB Glenn Carson, Arizona Cardinals
  • S Malcolm Willis, San Diego Chargers
Notes: OT Adam Gress will have a tryout with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

PURDUE
  • DE Greg Latta, Denver Broncos
  • S Rob Henry, Oakland Raiders
  • G Devin Smith, San Diego Chargers
  • DT Bruce Gaston Jr., Arizona Cardinals
Notes: P Cody Webster will have a tryout with Pittsburgh.

RUTGERS
  • WR Brandon Coleman, New Orleans Saints
  • WR Quron Pratt, Philadelphia Eagles
  • LB Jamal Merrell, Tennessee Titans
  • DE Marcus Thompson, Miami Dolphins
  • S Jeremy Deering, New England Patriots
Notes: According to Dan Duggan, DE Jamil Merrell (Bears) and G Antwan Lowery (Baltimore) will have tryouts.

WISCONSIN
  • G/T Ryan Groy, Chicago Bears
  • TE Jacob Pedersen Atlanta Falcons
  • TE Brian Wozniak, Atlanta Falcons
  • DE Ethan Hemer, Pittsburgh Steelers
Quick thoughts: Martinez's future as an NFL quarterback has been heavily scrutinized, but Chip Kelly's Eagles are a fascinating destination for him. Whether he plays quarterback or another position like safety, Kelly will explore ways to use Martinez's speed. ... The large Michigan State contingent is still a bit startling. The Spartans dominated the Big Ten, beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl, use pro-style systems on both sides of the ball and had just one player drafted. Bullough, Allen and Lewis all were multiple All-Big Ten selections but will have to continue their careers through the UDFA route. ... Colter certainly looked like a draft pick during Senior Bowl practices in January, but that was before his ankle surgery and his role in leading the unionization push at Northwestern. I tend to think the injury impacted his status more, but NFL teams have been known to shy away from so-called locker-room lawyers. ... Other Big Ten standouts like Jonathan Brown, Morris and Pedersen were surprisingly not drafted. Morris should be a great fit in New England. ... Coleman's decision to leave Rutgers early looks questionable now that he didn't get drafted.
Purdue isn't a program that wins in spite of its quarterback. It isn't a place for game managers or those content with handing off the ball 40 times a game.

You don't need to be a Purdue historian to know that the program's spikes in success are tied to its star quarterbacks, from Bob Griese in the mid 1960s to Mark Herrmann in the late 1970s to Drew Brees from 1997-2000. Even average Boilers teams had productive signal-callers, from Bob DeMoss to Len Dawson to Gary Danielson to Jim Everett to Kyle Orton to Curtis Painter.

Purdue lacks the luxuries or location to consistently build great teams with defense or the run game. Although the program bills itself as the "Den of Defensive Ends," and for good reason, it's more significant nickname is "Cradle of Quarterbacks." Fifteen Purdue quarterbacks have moved on to the NFL, accounting for more starts and throwing for more yards than those from any other FBS program.

[+] EnlargeDanny Etling
AP Photo/Michael ConroyDanny Etling was solid in his freshman season at Purdue, starting the final seven games, but knows the Boilers QBs need to play better in 2014.
As the Boilers begin digging out from a 1-11 bunker last fall, their worst season in 20 years, they know where to start.

"The entire quarterback room has a big responsibility in turning this whole culture around," quarterback Danny Etling told ESPN.com. "Any time you've ever had success at Purdue, you've always had a very good quarterback at the helm. That shows with our Rose Bowls. It was Bob Griese and Drew Brees. So in order for Purdue to be successful, the quarterback position has to be playing very, very strong."

Growing up in Terre Haute, Ind., Etling needed no education on Purdue's quarterback tradition. Boiler quarterbacks dominate the passing section of the Big Ten record book, occupying the top four spots in single-season yards and four of the top eight spots in career yards.

But last season, Purdue finished last in the Big Ten and 119th nationally in both scoring (14.9 points per game) and total offense (282.9 yards per game). It ranked 106th in team passing efficiency.

"At Purdue, you're the focal point of why a team is going to be successful or not," Etling said. "I'd rather have that on my shoulders. I'd rather have to be the big man on campus having to take control of a team and try to lead them, throwing it 30, 40 times a game instead of handing the ball off a bunch. That's what Purdue has a history of doing."

Purdue's history is what lured Etling, rated by ESPN RecruitingNation as the country's No. 12 quarterback in the 2013 class. Austin Appleby grew up in North Canton, Ohio, as a big Ohio State fan, but he also knew about Purdue's reputation for producing NFL quarterbacks.

The same draw also helped Purdue land 2014 recruit David Blough, who, like Brees, hails from Texas. Blough, who stood out at the prestigious Elite 11 finals last summer, has already enrolled at Purdue, like Etling did last winter.

"We have three Elite 11 quarterbacks right now, three pretty highly touted guys and it's not by mistake," Appleby said. "There's such a tradition here for good quarterbacks. Danny, David and myself, we're all genuinely good people. We love to work and we love to push each other. You won't find a time where you walk into the film room and one of us isn't in there. That's the thing that has separated us, aside from the talent."

Appleby and Etling both competed alongside Rob Henry for the starting job last spring and summer. Henry got the nod for the opener, but after a 1-3 start, Purdue turned to Etling, who started the final seven games.

Although Etling showed some promise, especially in his final three games when he competed 66.7 percent of his passes for 871 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions, he'll need to beat out both Appleby and Blough when spring ball kicks off March 6.

"We didn't have the season we wanted, and I don't think any job is safe," Appleby said. "That’s one of the best things that could possibly happen to this team. There needs to be a sense of urgency in the program that we are going to turn things around and we're going in a certain direction. You either need to get with us or you need to get outta here. That's been explained to us from the top.

"It's enough talk. We've got to be men of action."

The quarterbacks are taking charge this winter, from meeting with receivers and linemen to review routes and protections to organizing 7-on-7 sessions in the indoor facility. They've also tried to set examples with some of the off-field policies coach Darrell Hazell implemented after his arrival, such as sitting in the front row of classes and not wearing hats indoors.

"The quarterback has to set the tone," Etling said. "The tone is set by the strong, and we're a very, very strong quarterback room, I believe, one of the better ones in the country."

Etling wasn't pleased with his play last fall and has set several goals for his sophomore season: 3,000 passing yards, a completion percentage well above 60 and, the most ambitious, 30 completions per game -- "whether we call 35 passes or 50," he said. He has worked on his timing with receivers and wants to make quicker decisions, whether it's on downfield shots or checkdowns.

Although Appleby appeared in just two games last season, completing five of six attempts, his approach to be the starter hasn't changed. He thinks he knows the offense as well as the coaches.

"There's always an urgency," Appleby said. "I'm looking to get this program back on the right track, and it's going to go through the quarterback position."

Season wrap: Purdue

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
6:00
AM ET
The hiring of Darrell Hazell created optimism for Purdue fans who were sick of the mediocrity under previous coach Danny Hope. By the end of Hazell's first season, however, that mediocrity sounded pretty good.

The bloom isn't already off the Hazell rose because he has had just one year in West Lafayette. But the start of his tenure couldn't have gone much worse, as the Boilermakers went 1-11, ranked among the worst FBS teams in most major categories and lost by at least 14 points nine times. They were, frankly, one of the worst Big Ten teams of recent memory, although they did play a challenging schedule. Some freshmen provided bright spots, but this might be a bigger rebuilding project than anyone expected, and Hazell will soon have to prove he's the man for the job.

Offensive MVP: There aren't many candidates to choose from on a team that averaged fewer than 15 points per game this season. But true freshman quarterback Danny Etling at least gave the offense a spark when he assumed the job midway through the Northern Illinois game. He threw for 1,690 yards and 10 touchdowns in eight games and gave Purdue some offseason hope with his 485-yard, four-touchdown performance against Indiana in the finale.

Defensive MVP: Senior cornerback Ricardo Allen tied for the Big Ten lead with six interceptions and also had a forced fumble and four tackles for loss. He holds the Purdue record for interceptions returned for touchdowns. If you consider a punter part of the defense, this award would have gone to Ray Guy finalist Cody Webster. He was probably the team's best player, which tells you something about the Boilers' season.

Best moment: In the third quarter of a prime-time home game against Notre Dame in Week 3, Rob Henry found B.J. Knauf for an 18-yard touchdown pass to give Purdue a 17-10 lead. At that point, the future seemed pretty bright. Unfortunately, the Boilermakers went on to lose by seven points, which was the start of a 10-game losing streak. Henry would move to defense a few weeks later, and Knauf earned a midseason suspension.

Worst moment: A 56-0 loss at home to Ohio State on Nov. 2. The Boilers had played the Buckeyes very tough the past couple of years, including an overtime loss in 2012 in Columbus. But Ohio State, which led 42-0 at halftime before calling off the dogs in the second half, could have named its score this year. The 56-point loss matched the worst defeat in school history.

Big Ten lunchtime links

October, 10, 2013
10/10/13
12:00
PM ET
There's highs, there's lows, the roller coaster is out of control.
  • Michigan State linebacker Max Bullough may have a nose for the football, but he can't actually smell anything since he was born without that sense.
  • The bye week helped Devin Gardner relax, and the Michigan quarterback had much better results to show for it last weekend to keep the Wolverines unbeaten.
  • Bill O'Brien stopped by Nittanyville, and the Penn State coach wound up showing off his basketball skills in a dunk contest.
  • Ameer Abdullah might lack some size, but the Nebraska running back more than makes up for it with power that even far bigger defenders can't match.
  • Sean Robinson is in position to offer advice to a quarterback making his first start or one transitioning to defense. He's done both himself, making the Purdue linebacker an invaluable resource for Danny Etling and Rob Henry.
  • The Wisconsin receivers measure themselves with a statistic that doesn't show up in the box score, taking pride in their blocking and counting "knockdowns."
  • Northwestern receiver Rashad Lawrence is kicking himself over the longest play of his career, disappointed he couldn't turn it into a touchdown against Ohio State.
  • Held without a reception last weekend, Illinois is looking to get receiver Ryan Lankford back in the mix and the offense back on track during the bye week.
  • Kyle Rowland digs into Ohio State's official performance reviews of the coaching staff through its first season on the job.
  • Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague has "no question" about who his football coach is despite Jerry Kill's health issues.

Big Ten lunchtime links

October, 8, 2013
10/08/13
12:00
PM ET
The Bro Code has been around for centuries. Nay, whatever's more than centuries.

QB Etling fulfilling dream at Purdue

October, 7, 2013
10/07/13
1:00
PM ET
On autumn afternoons in Terre Haute, Ind., when the cool air whipped up red and yellow leaves from the backyard oak, young Danny Etling would ring up the neighborhood kids for a Saturday game of football.

He'd always pretend to be Peyton Manning or Drew Brees. And at least one kid would always complain over the phone, "But, Danny, we just did that yesterday!" Even as a 12-year-old, Etling didn't mind much. If he couldn't find friends, he'd recruit his father or older brother.

[+] EnlargeDanny Etling
AP Photo/Daryl Quitalig via Triple Play New MediaFreshman Danny Etling is Purdue's new starting quarterback.
And, if they grew tired, he'd just turn to the backyard tire swing or head over to the brick middle school, where he could toss a special training pigskin -- which looked like a half-football -- that'd bounce off the wall and return like a boomerang. Rain, snow, ice -- it didn't matter. He usually didn't march back into the house until his mother screamed outside that he'd catch cold.

Etling laughed recently while recalling those memories because, back then, he worked toward one day playing for Purdue. He'd sleep in a bed alongside a Brees poster. And as of last week, as a true freshman, that work culminated in the announcement he's now the Boilermakers' starting quarterback.

"Obviously, it's a dream come true," Etling said. "It's been a dream since I was a kid, to come to Purdue University and be the starting quarterback. It's a very surreal feeling, and it's kind of hard to explain what it feels like.

"I don't know if I've had this feeling before in my life. But it's a great one."

Supporters of the Gold and Black haven't had much to cheer for lately, so seeing its quarterback of the future caused emotions to bubble over Sept. 28.

The home crowd leaped to its feet with a frenzy of noise, unleashing a tidal wave of applause and cheers, when head coach Darrell Hazell burned the freshman's redshirt by inserting him into the first half with 35 seconds left. Purdue trailed 27-7 against Northern Illinois after senior QB Rob Henry struggled, but it sounded as if Purdue had just scored the game-winning touchdown and the band was simply late to its cue.

In the stands, the eyes of Etling's father welled up with tears. On the field, Etling smiled and waited a few moments for the surprise to die down -- so his teammates could hear the cadence.

"Getting that kind of support," Etling said, "it just sends chills up your spine."

Etling became the highest-rated recruit that Purdue has signed since ESPN started keeping track in 2006. He was a four-star prospect in the 2013 class, the 12th-best pocket-passer in the nation, and has played the role of dream-catcher for a reeling Purdue fan base.

Purdue fans have spent years wondering when the Motor City Bowl and the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl wouldn't constitute a "good" season. The Boilermakers haven't been ranked in the top 25 at the end of a season since 2003, back when Kyle Orton lined up under center and when Etling's parents were pushing their son toward tennis.

Etling didn't play football until he offered a challenge to his mother in fourth grade: If I win this next tennis tournament, you have to let me play football. She agreed, thinking there's no way her son would win the first-place trophy.

The determined youngster signed up for football that summer.

He'd attend football camps at the local Division III college with few fundamentals, few physical skills and an eager attitude. He'd go home with a handful of drills, practice incessantly -- his father would often come home to bang-bang-bang from Danny tossing footballs against the house -- and return to another camp with those drills perfected.

"Maybe he wasn't the biggest guy, the strongest guy or the fastest guy," said his father, Joe Etling. "But he'd always put the work in. I almost saw it transform into kind of a blue-collar, roll-up-your-sleeves work situation."

Danny, an Eagle Scout, doesn't do things halfway. During the bye weekend, when most players return home, attend a high school football game, pose for photos and meet with old friends, Etling lingered on campus and organized extra drills for himself and his receivers.

Etling knows this team, and this fan base, are counting on him. ("You can just feel it," he said.) He was forced to start wearing a Purdue ballcap between classes because students kept stopping him along the way to chat. He loves talking to fans -- it almost reminds him of those Fridays beneath the lights -- but he'd draw perilously close to showing up late.

He's a cause for excitement in West Lafayette, which is roughly two hours from his hometown. He knows that. He knows he can't succeed against Nebraska by playing the way he did against Northern Illinois in the third quarter, when his adrenaline surged and he launched every football as hard as possible. He knows this offense goes through him. He knows if he struggles, his team struggles.

He studies Brees now instead of pretending to be him. But he still likes to think back on those fall days in the backyard every now and then, so he can fully appreciate where he is now -- and where he's heading.

"It's got me at a loss for words right now. You think back to how hard you worked and just dreaming of this day and moment," he said. "You think how it's all going to happen when I step on the field against Nebraska.

"It's got me at a loss for words -- and it's got me happy that I came to Purdue."
Five lessons from four games in Week 5. Got that?

Let's go ...

1. Ohio State's young defense is growing up: Lost amid the Braxton Miller-Kenny Guiton debate this week was the fact a mostly young Ohio State defense with only one returning starter in the front seven would be put to the test by Melvin Gordon, James White and the formidable Wisconsin run game. The young Bucks certainly earned a passing grade after holding Wisconsin to just 104 yards on 27 carries. Gordon's knee injury limited the Badgers, but Ohio State prevented big runs and forced Wisconsin to win the game through the air. Linebacker Ryan Shazier shined, while linebacker Curtis Grant and lineman Michael Bennett both recorded sacks. The loss of safety Christian Bryant to a season-ending ankle injury is a big blow, but Ohio State has enough talent in the secondary to make up for it, as long as they don't run into Jared Abbrederis again soon. Ohio State's offense will win plenty of games, but you know what they say about defenses and championship. These might not be the typical Silver Bullets, but they're developing and can build on Saturday's performance as they face an even another formidable offense in Northwestern next week.

[+] EnlargeMichael Bennett
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsJoel Stave and the Badgers hung around, but they were eventually tamed by Michael Bennett and the Buckeyes.
2. Wisconsin is an excellent 56-minute team: Gary Andersen's crew showed plenty of grit Saturday night in Columbus. Quarterback Joel Stave quieted some of his critics -- thanks in large part to a career performance from Abbrederis (10 catches, 207 yards, 1 TD) -- and linebacker Chris Borland was brilliant, as usual. But Wisconsin's inability to finish off halves remains a troubling trend, and it surfaced in the loss to Ohio State. The Badgers trailed by only three points when freshman cornerback Sojourn Shelton dropped an easy interception near the goal line. Miller found Philly Brown for a 40-yard touchdown on the next play, giving Ohio State a huge boost with one second left in the half. Wisconsin struggled to manage the clock down the stretch as its comeback attempt fell short. This isn't a team built to come back in games based on the pass game, and it showed. Coupled with the Arizona State debacle (granted, more officiating than execution), Wisconsin has had a lot of bad things happen at critical moments. That's what could separate the Badgers from a fourth consecutive Big Ten title.

3. Iowa will be a factor in the Legends Division: The Hawkeyes might not be a great team yet, but it's clear they are vastly improved from last season. On Saturday, Iowa went into Minnesota and pushed the Gophers around on their home turf, piling up 464 total yards and allowing only 30 rushing yards in a 23-7 win. The pig will return to Iowa City, but even more importantly, the hogs up front are getting it done in classic Kirk Ferentz fashion. Iowa has rushed for at least 200 yards in every game this season and went for 246 against a Minnesota defense that thought it had made strides in that area. This team has an identity, and it starts with the power running game led by Mark Weisman and a solid offensive line. Quarterback Jake Rudock has shown an ability to extend plays, and Iowa even got an explosive play in the passing game when Damond Powell took a short pass 74 yards to paydirt. The defense is also playing well right now; the Gophers' only score came after a long kickoff return. The Hawkeyes are 4-1 and gets Michigan State at home next week, while Northwestern and Michigan still must come to Kinnick Stadium. The schedule is difficult the rest of the way, but Iowa will have a big say in who wins the Legends.

4. Nathan Scheelhaase is the Big Ten's most improved player: A year ago, Scheelhaase was sputtering at the helm of one of the nation's worst offenses, hardly resembling the player who had shown promise as a freshman and during the first part of his sophomore season. No Big Ten player has made bigger strides in the past season than the Illinois senior quarterback, who threw five first-half touchdown passes Saturday against Miami (Ohio) and finished with 278 pass yards on 19 of 24 attempts. Scheelhaase leads the Big Ten in passing yards and is second in touchdowns (12), tripling his total from last season. He's just five touchdown passes shy of his single-season best and 15 shy of Kurt Kittner's single-season team record. Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit deserves a lot of credit for Scheelhaase's surge -- and that of the entire Illini offense -- but Scheelhaase clearly is back on track after a year and a half in the dark. It will be interesting to see what he does this week against Nebraska's shaky defense.

5. Future starts now for Etling, Purdue: Darrell Hazell stuck with senior quarterback Rob Henry through this season's early offensive struggles, but the Purdue coach realized it was time for a change Saturday against Northern Illinois. The last straw was Henry's second interception of the first half, a terribly thrown floater into the Huskies' end zone. That prompted Hazell to give the reins over to true freshman Danny Etling, the prized former recruit who made his collegiate debut. This was no fairy tale, so Etling didn't lead the Boilermakers to a comeback victory. He threw two interceptions, including a pick-six, and narrowly avoided another one. But Etling (19-for-39, 241 yards) did show good mobility and flashed his strong arm, especially on his first career touchdown pass, a 16-yarder to Cameron Posey. The offense will have more of a chance to stretch the field with him under center. Quarterback is hardly the only problem for Purdue, which got housed 55-24 at home by a MAC team and might have a hard time finding another win this season. But while Boilers fans don't like to see the words "Danny" and "hope" in the same sentence, Etling at least gives them something to look forward to as Hazell tries to work the program out of this mess.

Purdue seeks offensive solutions

September, 26, 2013
9/26/13
1:00
PM ET
The last time Darrell Hazell coached against Northern Illinois, his team scored 37 points in a double-overtime thriller.

That was at Kent State, which lost to the Huskies 44-37 in last season's MAC title game. The odds are against Hazell's new team, Purdue, engaging in a similar shootout when NIU comes to Ross-Ade Stadium on Saturday.

The 1-3 Boilermakers have struggled to score or move the ball consistently in every game except their 31-24 loss to Notre Dame, which is starting to look like the aberration. Here are some of the ugly rankings of Purdue's offense out of 123 FBS teams:

  • No. 121 in both yards per game (246) and yards per play (4.0)
  • No. 116 in rushing yards per game (70.5)
  • No. 102 in passing yards per game (175)
  • No. 117 in points per game (15.3)

The Boilers followed up their promising effort against Notre Dame with last week's dud at Wisconsin, when they managed just 180 total yards in a 41-10 loss.

[+] EnlargeDarrell Hazell
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesDarrell Hazell is searching for answers to Purdue's offensive problems.
"I felt honestly that we took a little bit of a step back this past Saturday," Hazell said.

The offense hasn't done much all season, but the passing game has been conspicuously absent. Purdue has not developed any consistent downfield threats and spent most of last week looking for short passes and screens. Here are some more depressing stats: only 24.3 percent of the Boilers' passes have resulted in a first down, while only 36.8 percent have gone for at least 10 yards. Both of those figures are the worst in the Big Ten.

So what's the problem? Hazell said it starts with the offensive line.

"It's hard to pass the ball when you can't protect," he said. "It's hard to run the ball when you don't have guys on the right guys and those types of things. We've got to get those things fixed up."

The blocking has been so spotty that Hazell said the center and guard who were supposed to double team Wisconsin's nose guard on running calls Saturday twice cut that defender loose, blowing up the entire play.

But it's not just the line. So far, Purdue's receivers -- a promising group coming into the season -- have not shown the consistent ability to get separation and make big plays even when the protection is there.

"You're going to see a lot of man-to-man coverage because we didn't do a great job of beating one-on-one matchups [against Wisconsin], Hazell said.

Many Boilers fans are calling for a change at quarterback. Senior Rob Henry is completing just 56.3 percent of his passes and has thrown four touchdowns. His QBR score is 30.5 (out of a possible 100). But Hazell doesn't think switching to Austin Appleby or Danny Etling would solve the problems.

"I don't feel Rob took a step back last week," he said. "He's gotten better, but it's hard to be in that position.

"There was a play I stopped for the staff on Sunday and said, 'Would you guys like to be a quarterback in that situation?' You've got guys up the field pretty quickly. The receivers were all covered. He didn't have an uncovered guy. I said. 'I don't know what quarterback would like that situation right there.'

"He needs a little bit of help, obviously. We all need to be better, not just Rob, but the whole football team right now."

If that doesn't happen by Saturday, Purdue will head into its bye week at 1-4.

Big Ten lunchtime links

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
12:00
PM ET
Wacha Wacha Wacha.
The debate is over, at least for now. Ohio State affirmed itself as the Big Ten's top team by putting on an offensive show against Cal, despite missing its top quarterback and top running back.

There's more doubt about whether Michigan or Northwestern is No. 2 after the Wolverines' surprising struggles Saturday against Akron. For now, we have Michigan ahead by a nose hair, thanks to its win against Notre Dame.

Wisconsin might have moved up to the No. 2 line if the officials had given the Badgers a chance to win the game against Arizona State. We like most of what we saw from Gary Andersen's crew on Saturday night. The same can't be said for Nebraska, which takes a tumble after folding the tent against UCLA, and Penn State, which caved defensively against UCF.

Week 3 was mostly rough for the Big Ten, but it had some bright spots. Michigan State found a quarterback, Indiana regained its footing on defense, and Iowa impressed on the ground against Iowa State.

There's not much separation in the league's bottom half, but as we noted Sunday, the Big Ten might not have a truly bad team.

Here's one last look at last week's rankings.

Now, let's get to the rundown ...

1. Ohio State (3-0, last week: 1): It'll take more than injuries and suspensions to slow down the Buckeyes' potent offense. Quarterback Braxton Miller didn't suit up against Cal, but backup Kenny Guiton once again stepped up with 276 pass yards and four touchdowns, to go along with 92 rush yards. Running back Jordan Hall (168 rush yards, 3 TDs) continued his brilliance filling in for the injured Carlos Hyde, who returns this week against Florida A&M.

2. Michigan (3-0, last week: 2): A week after looking like arguably the Big Ten's best team, Michigan backslid with a mistake-ridden performance against Akron. Brady Hoke's crew emerged with a win but also plenty of questions on both sides of the ball. As good as Devin Gardner has looked at times, the first-year starting quarterback must take better care of the football. Michigan also must patch up a vulnerable defense before Big Ten play.

3. Northwestern (3-0, last week: 3): Take away a lackluster first quarter against Western Michigan, and the Wildcats looked impressive on their home field. The offense clearly has improved despite the continued absence of star running back Venric Mark, as stand-in Treyvon Green (158 rush yards, 2 TDs) looks more than capable. Northwestern's defense remains too leaky but covers up yards with takeaways. The Wildcats have positioned themselves well for an Oct. 5 showdown with Ohio State.

4. Wisconsin (2-1, last week: 4): What is there left to say about the Arizona State ending? Wisconsin was far from perfect Saturday night, struggling to protect Joel Stave or stop back-shoulder throws from Arizona State's Taylor Kelly. But the Badgers fought hard in all three phases and received another huge boost from sophomore running back Melvin Gordon. They deserved better. It'll be interesting to see how they bounce back in the Big Ten opener against Purdue.

5. Michigan State (3-0, last week: 8): Look, an offense! And a quarterback! The Spartans finally start moving in the right direction in the rankings after a scoring explosion against Youngstown State. Connor Cook solidified himself as the team's starting quarterback with four touchdown passes and no interceptions, as Michigan State scored 35 first-half points. Sure, it's Youngstown State, but Michigan State needed a starting point on offense. It has one before a tough test at Notre Dame.

6. Nebraska (2-1, last week: 4): The collapses are no longer surprising because they seem to happen so often for Bo Pelini's teams. Sure, Nebraska normally keeps it together at home, and Saturday's third quarter was one of the worst in team history. But this is who these Huskers are under Pelini, a fragile team prone to blowout losses in big games. Nebraska falls off the national radar for a while but still could contend in the mediocre Big Ten.

7. Minnesota (3-0, last week: 7): It was a rough Saturday for the Gophers, who lost starting quarterback Philip Nelson to a hamstring injury and head coach Jerry Kill to another seizure. Minnesota also had a slow start against FCS Western Illinois until the offense caught fire in the fourth quarter behind running back David Cobb and backup quarterback Mitch Leidner, who was efficient in relief of Nelson. The Gophers face a test this week as San Jose State comes to town.

8. Penn State (2-1, last week: 6): It'll be a long week for defensive coordinator John Butler and a unit that surrendered 507 yards in the loss to UCF and had no answers for Knights quarterback Blake Bortles. After a final non-league tuneup against Kent State, Penn State opens Big Ten play against four potent offenses: Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State and Illinois. Wide receiver Allen Robinson is a beast, but Penn State needs more balance.

9. Indiana (2-1, last week: 10): The Hoosiers forced a punt against Bowling Green, and they did much, much more in one of their better defensive performances in recent memory. Bowling Green didn't score an offensive touchdown as defensive end Nick Mangieri and the Hoosiers bent but didn't break. Indiana had more than enough offense from quarterback Nate Sudfeld (335 pass yards, 2 TDs) and running backs Tevin Coleman (129 rush yards, 2 TDs) and Stephen Houston (155 rush yards), pulling away for an impressive win.

10. Illinois (2-1, last week: 9): Missed scoring opportunities in the first half doomed Illinois in the final 30 minutes against Washington, which repeatedly gashed a young Illini defense. But Illinois showed plenty of fight, even in the fourth quarter when the outcome seemed decided. Illinois has playmakers on both sides of the ball -- QB Nathan Scheelhaase, RB/WR Josh Ferguson, WR Ryan Lankford, LB Jonathan Brown -- and could surprise some Big Ten teams.

11. Iowa (2-1, last week: 11): There's an argument that Iowa should handle Iowa State rather easily, which is what happened Saturday in Ames. But Iowa hasn't handled the Cyclones nearly as often as they should, which is what made Saturday's performance so important. The Hawkeyes needed to win this one to generate some positive vibes, and thanks to a Mark Weisman-led run game and a solid defense, they got it done.

12. Purdue (1-2, last week: 12): The Boilers remain at the bottom, but we feel a lot better about them after the Notre Dame game. Quarterback Rob Henry and the offense looked more comfortable, and the defense contained the Irish run attack. There were still too many mistakes down the stretch, but coach Darrell Hazell can build on this. The problem is the schedule simply doesn't let up, as Purdue visits Wisconsin this week.
Darrell Hazell is a stickler for details, and he wants Purdue's players to be the same way. It's why the Boilers' offensive struggles in the first two games must frustrate the first-year coach, even if he keeps a positive attitude both publicly and privately.

Nothing went right for Purdue's offense in its opening loss at Cincinnati, a game in which it ran only 57 plays and had only one drive stretch longer than 40 yards. Communication problems surfaced throughout the contest, as Purdue committed three false starts and a delay of game penalty, never finding a rhythm.

The Boilers largely cleaned up their communication lines last Saturday against Indiana State, committing only four errors according to Hazell, down from 18 the week before. But a new issue surfaced, as Purdue couldn't get the ball in the end zone despite twice having first-and-goal from the Indiana State 1-yard line.

"We've got to do a better job down there of executing," Hazell said. "We had an inside zone play called, and the guard falls off the block one time, and then we missed a back block on a power play. The first one is a walk-in [touchdown] if he stays on the block, and the second one was probably a hit on the goal line and falls in. So we've got to do a better job of executing down in the tight red zone."

Hazell spoke Tuesday about the need for the offense to remain "on schedule," meaning productive first- and second-down gains to set up manageable third-down situations. Purdue is just 8-of-28 on third downs (28.6 percent) through the first two games, but many have been long-yardage situations.

The entire offense must make several gains Saturday night for Purdue to have a chance of upsetting No. 21 Notre Dame at Ross-Ade Stadium. Although Michigan moved the ball well against the Fighting Irish in last week's win, Notre Dame's formidable defensive line, led by 342-pound nose guard Louis Nix III, will challenge a Purdue offensive front that, so far, has underperformed.

"He's chasing the ball 20, 25 yards down the field, and that's uncommon for guys who weigh 350 pounds," Hazell said. "I was really impressed with his effort for a big guy."

Hazell saw better things from Boilers quarterback Rob Henry in Week 2 after a rough outing in the opener. Henry had no turnovers, which pleased Hazell, but missed some open throws to his back side.

"We've still got to see the field better, and we've still got to throw it a little bit better," Hazell said.

The details will determine how far Purdue's offense can go this fall, beginning Saturday night against the Irish.

Ten items to track around Big Ten football in Week 2:

1. House party: If the second night game at Michigan Stadium is anything like the first, we'll all be thrilled (well, except for those Notre Dame folks). Michigan and Notre Dame delivered the drama two years ago under the lights, and the spectacle Saturday night in Ann Arbor should once again be incredible. The teams' past four meetings have all been decided by seven points or fewer (19 points total). The series sadly disappears after the 2014 meeting in South Bend, so enjoy it while it lasts.

2. Rees vs. Gardner: Notre Dame-Michigan features another appetizing quarterback matchup. While Tommy Rees remains a polarizing figure for some Notre Dame fans, it's hard to argue with what he has done against Michigan. Before last Saturday's opener against Temple, Rees' only 300-yard passing performance came against Michigan two years ago, and he led Notre Dame to victory last fall. Rees can stretch the field, as he had more passes of 20 yards or longer against Temple (7) than Everett Golson had in any game last season. Devin Gardner was Michigan's leading receiver last year against Notre Dame, but he's firmly entrenched as a quarterback. Gardner has been deadly in the red zone for the Wolverines, converting 19 touchdowns in 22 red zone trips as the starter.

3. Spartans looking for a spark: Michigan State basically has two more weeks to get its offense right before facing one of the nation's top defenses on the road at Notre Dame. The unit's opening act was highly disappointing, as Michigan State averaged just 3.8 yards per play against a Western Michigan defense that ranked 61st nationally in 2012. Head coach Mark Dantonio has kept mostly quiet about his quarterback situation this week as four players continue to get reps in practice. The Spartans need a solution there and at other offensive spots against South Florida, which allowed 56 points to McNeese State in its opening loss.

4. Illini aim to continue big-play ways: One of the nation's most feeble offenses in 2012 broke out last week against Southern Illinois, as Illinois recorded six plays of 30 yards or longer -- matching its total from all of last season! Senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase recorded a career-high 416 pass yards and featured weapons like Josh Ferguson and Ryan Lankford. The question is whether the Illini can come close to that type of production against a much, much tougher opponent in Cincinnati, which held Purdue to one short scoring drive and only 226 yards last week. We'll get a much better gauge about Illinois' offensive progress against Tommy Tuberville's defense.

5. Northwestern's health: After a mostly injury-free season in 2012, Northwestern already has been bitten by that pesky bug early this fall. The Wildcats will be without starting cornerback Daniel Jones (knee) for the rest of the season, putting redshirt freshman Dwight White in the spotlight against Syracuse. Top quarterback Kain Colter (head) and running back Venric Mark (leg) both are questionable for the game. If Northwestern can survive again like it did last week against Cal, it has a chance to get healthy in the next two weeks against weaker opponents before a two-week prep for Ohio State.

[+] EnlargeDevin Gardner
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesQuarterback Devin Gardner was 10-of-15 passing for 162 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in Michigan's season-opening rout of Central Michigan.
6. Roby watch in Columbus: After playing nine new defensive starters in last week's opener against Buffalo, Ohio State regains a very big piece in All-Big Ten cornerback Bradley Roby, who returns from suspension. Coach Urban Meyer wanted Roby to re-prove himself as a starter this week in practice, but it's only a matter of time before the junior distinguishes himself. Ohio State is looking for a cleaner performance in all three phases against struggling San Diego State, and it will be interesting to see how Roby performs.

7. Indiana's offensive efficiency: Kevin Wilson's Hoosiers scored touchdowns on five of their first six offensive possessions in last week's opener against Indiana State, en route to a Memorial Stadium-record 73 points. If Indiana can come close to that type of efficiency Saturday against Navy, it will improve to 2-0. Possessions likely will be limited against the Midshipmen, as Indiana found out last year when it had only 10 offensive drives in a 31-30 loss. The Hoosiers had to settle for three field goals of 30 yards or less and need to be better about punching it in against Navy. "You don't get as many at-bats," Wilson said.

8. Second chances: Purdue and Iowa didn't get off to the starts they wanted in Week 1, and neither did Nebraska's defense, which surrendered 35 first downs and 602 yards to Wyoming in the opener. Fortunately, all three teams should redeem themselves against weaker competition on Saturday. The Boilermakers need to boost quarterback Rob Henry's confidence and fix their communication problems on offense against Indiana State. Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock must rebound from his late interception against Missouri State. The Huskers defense, meanwhile, aims to clean things up against a Southern Miss team that has lost 13 straight and scored just 15 points against Texas State last week.

9. Wolverines' youth put to test: Don't be surprised if Michigan-Notre Dame comes down to how well the Wolverines' young interior offensive line performs against an elite Fighting Irish defensive front led by nose guard Louis Nix III and end Stephon Tuitt, two potential first-round picks in next April's NFL draft. Michigan will start redshirt freshman Kyle Kalis at right guard, true sophomore Jack Miller at center and redshirt sophomore Graham Glasgow at left guard. They'll be challenged all night long (especially Miller) as they try to create running room for Fitzgerald Toussaint and protect Gardner.

10. Hack's home debut: Penn State fans have been waiting more than a year and a half to watch quarterback Christian Hackenberg take snaps at Beaver Stadium. They'll finally get their chance Saturday as the Lions face Eastern Michigan in their home opener. Hackenberg had a few expected hiccups in his collegiate debut against Syracuse but also showed why he can be such a special player for Penn State's offense. Head coach Bill O'Brien vows to put Hackenberg in better positions to succeed this week. Hackenberg also will have top weapon Allen Robinson at his disposal from the start, which should make a big difference.

Big Ten predictions: Week 2

September, 5, 2013
9/05/13
8:00
AM ET
We went a combined 23-1 in our first week of predictions, so let's see if we can keep that robust pace going. And how will our Week 2 guest picker fare?

Let's get to it:

Eastern Michigan at Penn State

Brian Bennett: Not much to see here, as Eastern Michigan has long been a Big Ten sacrificial lamb. This is a good opportunity for Christian Hackenberg to work out some kinks, and the kid throws three TD passes. ... Penn State 35, Eastern Michigan 9.

Adam Rittenberg: The Hackenberg-Allen Robinson connection will link up for two touchdowns, and Penn State coach Bill O'Brien will keep to his word and call better plays, sparking the run game to 175 yards and two scores. Lions roll. ... Penn State 31, Eastern Michigan 10

Indiana State at Purdue

Adam Rittenberg: Rob Henry gets the confidence boost he needs and Purdue fixes its communication issues on offense as running back Akeem Hunt goes for 135 yards and two touchdowns. The Boilers come out fast and get a first-quarter forced fumble from big Bruce Gaston. ... Purdue 38, Indiana State 14

Brian Bennett: The FCS just had a great weekend, so maybe we should take the three Big Ten games against FCS opponents seriously on Saturday. Nah. A team that just got done giving up 73 points to Indiana is just what the sputtering Purdue offense needs. ... Purdue 45, Indiana State 17.

Missouri State at Iowa

Brian Bennett: Iowa finally snaps its seven-game losing streak, using its superior beef to run for 200 yards, and getting a special-teams score. ... Iowa 31, Missouri State 13.

Adam Rittenberg: Yeah, this game has Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock written all over it. The tandem combines for three rushing touchdowns and Jake Rudock adds two more through the air to C.J. Fiedorowicz and Kevonte Martin-Manley. ... Iowa 38, Missouri State 10

Tennessee Tech at Wisconsin

Adam Rittenberg: James White rushing touchdown, Melvin Gordon rushing touchdown, Corey Clement rushing touchdown. Rinse and repeat. ... Wisconsin 63, Tennessee Tech 3

Brian Bennett: Yawn. Are we done with the FCS games yet? ... Wisconsin 56, Tennessee Tech 7.

South Florida at Michigan State

Brian Bennett: If the Spartans can't move the ball against a Bulls team that gave up 53 points to McNeese State last week, they've got even bigger problems than we realized. Three different QBs play for MSU, and two of them throw for TDs. ... Michigan State 30, South Florida 10.

Adam Rittenberg: I agree that Michigan State can't be much worse on offense than it was in the opener and will move the ball better, especially on the ground. Jeremy Langford and Riley Bullough both reach the end zone, and Tyler O'Connor makes the quarterback race a little more interesting. ... Michigan State 34, South Florida 3

Cincinnati at Illinois

Adam Rittenberg: The Illini start quickly and jump ahead on a Nathan Scheelhaase touchdown pass to Josh Ferguson. But reality begins to set in as a superior Cincinnati team takes charge behind its athletic defense. ... Cincinnati 28, Illinois 17

Brian Bennett: Illinois will put up a more respectable showing against the Bearcats than Purdue did. Scheelhaase throws for 300 yards and the game is close until midway through the third quarter. But there's just too much Munchie Legaux (I can't help myself). ... Cincinnati 42, Illinois 27.

San Diego State at Ohio State

Brian Bennett: I was interested in this game until San Diego State gagged against Eastern Illinois. The Buckeyes turn in a better overall effort than in Week 1, and Bradley Roby has a pick in his first game back. ... Ohio State 45, San Diego State 20.

Adam Rittenberg: My concern is Ohio State might be less interested than you are, BB. The Buckeyes overcome a sluggish start as Braxton Miller fires two second-quarter touchdown passes. Freshman Dontre Wilson scores his first touchdown for the Scarlet and Gray. ... Ohio State 41, San Diego State 13

Southern Miss at Nebraska

Adam Rittenberg: After a passionate postgame speech last week, emerging leader Ameer Abdullah takes matters into his own hands. The Huskers running back piles up 200 yards and three touchdowns. The defense has its typical hiccups early before settling down. ... Nebraska 42, Southern Miss 17

Brian Bennett: I expect -- and would hope -- that the Nebraska offense comes out mad after not finishing key drives last week. The Huskers go for the jugular this week behind Taylor Martinez's five total TDs, and the defense makes slight improvements. ... Nebraska 49, Southern Miss 24.

Navy at Indiana

Brian Bennett: It's never easy or fun to play Navy, but the Hoosiers got some experience against the option last year. The Midshipmen will shorten the game and frustrate the IU offense some, but Nate Sudfeld throws a fourth-quarter TD pass to Kofi Hughes to seal it. ... Indiana 28, Navy 20.


Adam Rittenberg: Sudfeld and the Hoosiers will finish drives better than they did last year against Navy, as Tevin Coleman twice reaches the end zone. IU forces a key third-quarter fumble and pulls away midway through the fourth quarter. Tre Roberson sees more field time in this one. ... Indiana 34, Navy 23

Syracuse at Northwestern

Adam Rittenberg: Northwestern's injury issues are worth monitoring, but the Wildcats have enough weapons on offense to outscore a Syracuse team that didn't impress me much last week against Penn State. Trevor Siemian connects with Dan Vitale on two touchdowns, and the defense comes up big again with a fourth-quarter takeaway. ... Northwestern 28, Syracuse 20

Brian Bennett: Hard to know what to expect from Northwestern because of the iffy status of both Venric Mark and Kain Colter. But Syracuse looked limited offensively last week, and I think Siemian rescues the 'Cats once again. ... Northwestern 31, Syracuse 24.

Minnesota at New Mexico State

Brian Bennett: It was a tough call between Ann Arbor and Las Cruces for the "GameDay" crew this week -- seriously, what is Minnesota doing here? Are the Gophers just big "Breaking Bad" fans who are planning a side trip to Albuquerque? Anyway, it's close for a half but the defense comes up with another score to send the Aggies to Belize. ... Minnesota 37, New Mexico State 20.

Adam Rittenberg: Maybe the Gophers can take a side trip to Roswell and check out the UFOs. Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson will provide a few identified flying objects in this one, firing two touchdown passes in the second half. It's not a pretty game, but it's a win as Minnesota improves to 2-0. ... Minnesota 34, New Mexico State 21

Notre Dame at Michigan

Adam Rittenberg: Can't wait to witness this one under the lights at the Grande Casa. Although Michigan struggles early with Notre Dame's fearsome defensive front, the offense settles down late as Devin Gardner and Jeremy Gallon connect for two second-half touchdowns, including the game-winner in the final minutes. Tommy Rees' mastery of Michigan ends with two second-half interceptions. ... Michigan 24, Notre Dame 21

Brian Bennett: I just keep remembering how Michigan mostly outplayed Notre Dame last year except for all those picks, and I don't think Gardner will make the same mistakes. Gardner finds Gallon for a pair of scores, and Blake Countess intercepts Tommy Rees on Notre Dame's final series to turn the lights out on the Irish. ...Michigan 27, Notre Dame 24.

Now it's time to hear from our guest picker. As we announced last week, we'll be choosing one fan/loyal blog reader each week to try his or her hand at outsmarting us. There's nothing but pride and some extremely limited fame at stake. If you're interested in participating, contact us here and here. Include your full name (real names, please) and hometown and a brief description why you should be that week's guest picker. Please also include "GUEST PICKS" in all caps somewhere in your email so we can find them easily.

The response so far has been overwhelming. This week's guest picker is Nick Schmit from West Des Moines, Iowa. The floor is yours, Nick:
"As a graduate of the University of Iowa, I have been following the conference and teams for as long as I can remember. I have plenty of insight and knowledge to offer. Besides, my wife is due with our first daughter on 10/19 (Iowa vs. OSU). Other than her birth, I need something to be excited about in what looks to be another long, depressing, mediocre (or worse) season for the Hawks."

Nick's picks:


Penn State 28, Eastern Michigan 13
Purdue 28, Indiana State 21
Iowa 34, Missouri State 10
Wisconsin 70, Tennessee Tech 3
Michigan State 35, South Florida 10
Cincinnati 31, Illinois 21
Ohio State 42, San Diego State 6
Nebraska 51, Southern Miss 17
Indiana 41, Navy 31
Northwestern 42, Syracuse 20
Minnesota 33, New Mexico State 21
Notre Dame 27, Michigan 24


SEASON RECORDS

Brian Bennett: 12-0
Adam Rittenberg: 11-1
Guest picker: 9-3

Big Ten lunchtime links

September, 4, 2013
9/04/13
12:00
PM ET
We've come this far, for us. What's one more?

Big Ten picks rewind: Week 1

September, 3, 2013
9/03/13
3:00
PM ET
Every Monday or Tuesday, I'll take a look back at our Big Ten predictions and poke fun at Brian, our guest picker and myself. Unfortunately, Brian is the big winner after Week 1, going a perfect 12-0 in picks to lead me by a game.

To review, the Week 1 predictions made by the reporters and guest picker Ryan Stitt of Litchfield, Ill.

WEEK 1/SEASON RECORD

Brian Bennett: 12-0 (1.000)

Adam Rittenberg: 11-1 (.917)

It's rewind time …

Indiana State at Indiana
  • Bennett's pick: Indiana 38, Indiana State 14
  • Rittenberg's pick: Indiana 42, Indiana State 20
  • Actual score: Indiana 73, Indiana State 35
  • 20-20 hindsight: We both underestimated the prowess of Indiana's offense, which set a stadium record for points scored. Bennett correctly pegged Tre Roberson to start at quarterback for the Hoosiers and Nate Sudfeld to take over and play plenty. My prediction of three combined rush touchdowns for Tevin Coleman and Stephen Houston fell one score short.
UNLV at Minnesota

  • Bennett's pick: Minnesota 31, UNLV 16
  • Rittenberg's pick: Minnesota 27, UNLV 14
  • Actual score: Minnesota 51, UNLV 23
  • 20-20 hindsight: Again, we didn't expect such a scoring explosion from the Big Ten team. I correctly predicted Minnesota would record several takeaways (it had two). Bennett's pick to click, Gophers running back Donnell Kirkwood, had his night cut short by an ankle injury.
Western Michigan at Michigan State

  • Bennett's pick: Michigan State 28, Western Michigan 6
  • Rittenberg's pick: Michigan State 31, Western Michigan 10
  • Actual score: Michigan State 26, Western Michigan 13
  • 20-20 hindsight: Both of us correctly pegged the Spartan Dawgs defense for a big night, although their pick-six came from a safety (Kurtis Drummond), not a cornerback, as I predicted. Bennett had the better forecast on the offense, writing that the quarterback competition wouldn't be settled in Week 1.
Buffalo at Ohio State

  • Bennett's pick: Ohio State 42, Buffalo 14
  • Rittenberg's pick: Ohio State 49, Buffalo 13
  • Actual score: Ohio State 40, Buffalo 20
  • 20-20 hindsight: Bennett came closer on the score prediction, but we both had the wrong Buckeyes going for long touchdowns as running back Jordan Hall and wide receiver Devin Smith did their thing. Defensive end Noah Spence had a sack, but neither Adolphus Washington nor Ryan Shazier recorded one, as I had predicted.
Massachusetts at Wisconsin

  • Bennett's pick: Wisconsin 38, UMass 7
  • Rittenberg's pick: Wisconsin 48, UMass 10
  • Actual score: Wisconsin 45, UMass 0
  • 20-20 hindsight: This was one of our easier and better predictions of Week 1. Bennett's combined yards prediction of 275 for James White and Melvin Gordon came extremely close -- they had 287 -- and I correctly pegged Badgers quarterback Joel Stave to twice find Jared Abbrederis for touchdowns.
Southern Illinois at Illinois

  • Bennett's pick: Illinois 31, Southern Illinois 13
  • Rittenberg's pick: Illinois 27, Southern Illinois 17
  • Actual score: Illinois 42, Southern Illinois 34
  • 20-20 hindsight: Sense a theme? We both undervalued the offenses of several second-division Big Ten squads in Week 1. Brian came close with his predictions of 35 pass attempts (Illinois had 37) and three Nathan Scheelhaase touchdown passes (he had two).
Purdue at Cincinnati

  • Bennett's pick: Cincinnati 28, Purdue 27
  • Rittenberg's pick: Cincinnati 27, Purdue 24
  • Actual score: Cincinnati 42, Purdue 7
  • 20-20 hindsight: We both expected much more from Purdue in coach Darrell Hazell's debut. Cincinnati quarterback Munchie Legaux made big plays early, not late, as Brian predicted. I had Purdue quarterback Rob Henry committing a key fourth-quarter turnover, but he threw picks in the first and third quarters in a poor performance.
Central Michigan at Michigan

  • Bennett's pick: Michigan 35, Central Michigan 17
  • Rittenberg's pick: Michigan 38, Central Michigan 14
  • Actual score: Michigan 59, Central Michigan 9
  • 20-20 hindsight: We had similar score predictions and both turned out to be way off, at least when it comes to Michigan's offensive output. Michigan receiver Jeremy Gallon had one touchdown catch, not two as I had predicted. Wolverines running back Fitzgerald Toussaint had 57 rush yards, falling short of Brian's prediction (95).
Penn State vs. Syracuse


  • Bennett's pick: Penn State 27, Syracuse 23
  • Rittenberg's pick: Penn State 24, Syracuse 21
  • Actual score: Penn State 23, Syracuse 17
  • 20-20 hindsight: One of our better score predictions, as we both expected a fairly low scoring close game and got one. Penn State had zero rushing touchdowns, not the two I had predicted.
Northern Illinois at Iowa

  • Bennett's pick: Northern Illinois 23, Iowa 21
  • Rittenberg's pick: Iowa 24, Northern Illinois 23
  • Actual score: Northern Illinois 30, Iowa 27
  • 20-20 hindsight: Our lone disagreement of Week 1 went Bennett's way, even though I was in good shape for most of the second half. Iowa running back Mark Weisman (100 rush yards) came 50 yards and two touchdowns shy of my prediction. NIU got a big lift late in the fourth quarter from a Jordan Lynch touchdown pass, not a Lynch scoring run, which was Bennett's forecast.
Wyoming at Nebraska

  • Bennett's pick: Nebraska 49, Wyoming 21
  • Rittenberg's pick: Nebraska 52, Wyoming 17
  • Actual score: Nebraska 37, Wyoming 34
  • 20-20 hindsight: We both expected a stress-free night for the Huskers and a much better performance from the young Nebraska defense. Neither happened. I correctly pegged Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez to find Quincy Enunwa for two touchdown passes. Brian's prediction of five combined touchdowns for Martinez and Ameer Abdullah came up short as Imani Cross had Nebraska's two rushing touchdowns.
Northwestern at California

  • Bennett's pick: Northwestern 30, Cal 24
  • Rittenberg's pick: Northwestern 33, Cal 24
  • Actual score: Northwestern 44, Cal 30
  • 20-20 hindsight: We both came up short with our score predictions, although Bennett's forecast of Northwestern recording two timely interceptions proved spot on as linebacker Collin Ellis had a pair of pick-sixes in the second half. Injuries prevented the big night I predicted for Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter and running back Venric Mark.

And now for our guest picker …

Indiana 21, Indiana State 13
UNLV 21, Minnesota 17
Michigan State 28, Western Michigan 17
Ohio State 45, Buffalo 13
Wisconsin 38, UMass 14
Southern Illinois 20, Illinois 17
Cincinnati 27, Purdue 21
Michigan 28, Central Michigan 17
Penn State 28, Syracuse 23
Iowa 24, Northern Illinois 13
Nebraska 27, Wyoming 16
Northwestern 24, California 21

Record: 9-3

Assessment: Not too shabby, Ryan, although you've clearly lived in Big Ten country too long with some of those low score predictions. You came close with Michigan State-Western Michigan but, like the two of us, underestimated the offensive prowess of teams like Michigan, Northwestern, Indiana, Minnesota and Illinois. That UNLV pick doesn't look too good, but not a terrible first effort.

Who's next?

SPONSORED HEADLINES