Big Ten: Tanner McEvoy

Big Ten morning links

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
8:00
AM ET
Bowl season is a tricky time for coaches to motivate players.

“You can grind guys up if you occupy them too much mentally,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said this week.

Read more from Fitzgerald and others Friday on ESPN.com about motivation in bowl season. His Wildcats, sitting home this month, would trade places with any of the 10 Big Ten bowl teams. And with that wonderful time of year to start on Saturday -- the first Big Ten bowl game is still a week away -- it makes sense to look at the factors motivating conference teams.

Here’s a ranking of Big Ten teams with the most for which to play in the postseason:

Ohio State (Allstate Sugar Bowl, vs. Alabama, Jan. 1): A clear leader in this category as the Big Ten representative in the College Football Playoff, the Buckeyes carry the weight of the league on their shoulders. What else is new? Ohio State is flagship program of the Big Ten under Urban Meyer, who had a lot to say Thursday about his team's daunting task against the Crimson Tide.

Michigan State (Goodyear Cotton Bowl, vs. Baylor, Jan. 1): The Spartans lost to a pair of playoff teams, yet they're largely forgotten nationally. A business trip to Texas to face Baylor, the next best thing to a playoff opponent, offers a chance for MSU to finish on a high note nearly equal last year's Rose Bowl win.

Minnesota (Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl, vs. Missouri, Jan. 1): A victory in Orlando would give the Golden Gophers a nine-win season for the first time since 2003 and the second time in more than a century, and it would represent the school's best two-year run in over 50 years. It won't come easy against the two-time SEC East champ. The Gophers must run the ball effectively, their bread and butter, now and in the future.

Penn State (New Era Pinstripe Bowl, vs. Boston College, Dec. 27): The Nittany Lions, exposed in the second half of this season for a lack of overall talent, can end on a high note in this much-awaited return to the postseason after a two-year bowl ban. A visit to New York against a regional recruiting rival heightens the stakes.

Rutgers (Quick Lane Bowl, vs. North Carolina, Dec. 26): The Scarlet Knights exceeded expectations to make it this far. After an inspiring comeback win over fellow Big Ten newcomer Maryland to close the regular season, confidence is high, though the uncertain injury status of star receiver Leonte Carroo threatens to put a damper on the excitement around this bowl trip.

Wisconsin (Outback Bowl, vs. Auburn, Jan. 1): Motivated by the embarrassment of a 59-point loss in the Big Ten title game, the Badgers got knocked down another step by the surprise departure of Gary Andersen. But the return of Paul Chryst has boosted the spirits of players, who will look to impress their new coach as he observes in Tampa. Against Auburn's multi-faceted offense, Wisconsin must use everything at its disposal, including QB Tanner McEvoy on the defensive side.

Nebraska (National University Holiday Bowl, vs. USC, Dec. 27): The Cornhuskers are also playing to catch the eye of a new coach, as Mike Riley figures to watch closely. Riley's new staff will start fresh though, so what happens in San Diego stays in San Diego. Still, Nebraska players, amid a dramatic exit from their former coach that has sparked more debate, want to provide a fond farewell for their old staff of assistant coaches.

Illinois (Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, vs. Louisiana Tech, Dec. 26): With victories over Penn State and Northwestern to get bowl eligible, Illinois has won simply by making it this far. No marquee opponent awaits, and Dallas isn't exactly a winter paradise, though maybe the man of the hour, QB Reilly O'Toole, can rally the Fighting Illini once again.

Maryland (Foster Farms Bowl, vs. Stanford, Dec. 30): Did the Terrapins run out of gas in the second half against Rutgers? It was a long season, packed with several highlights, in Maryland's first season of Big Ten play. But a visit to face Stanford, which is coming off four consecutive major bowls, near its home turf, looks like another significant challenge for Randy Edsall's team.

Iowa (TaxSlayer Bowl, vs. Tennesssee, Jan. 2): The Hawkeyes need someone to step up, a habitual practice in the postseason, or they face a dull ending to a disappointing season that set up well in Iowa City.

Around the rest of the league:
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)
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)
Lessons learned after Week 11 in the Big Ten:

[+] EnlargeJ.T. Barrett
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsA clutch performance by J.T. Barrett on Saturday night helped keep Ohio State's playoff hopes alive.
1. Ohio State is king of the East and one of the B1G's two best bets for the playoff: Michigan State linebacker Taiwan Jones said he felt as if the College Football Playoff started Saturday. He was kind of right, but the Spartans are out, and the Buckeyes are in ... the playoff picture. Few people saw the Buckeyes' dominating 49-37 win over Michigan State coming, and that's exactly what they needed to make a statement in this playoff race. J.T. Barrett outplayed Connor Cook, Ohio State scored touchdowns on six straight drives, and there was no sad pizza eating for Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer. Margin of victory can only help the Buckeyes, and they'll need to keep playing like this to show they deserve one of the playoff's four spots. Only two Big Ten teams, one-loss Ohio State and Nebraska, are in contention for the playoff now, and they could face each other in the Big Ten title game. Of course ...

2. ... The Wild West still remains wild: Just when you think you’ve started to figure out the West Division, with Minnesota coming off a puzzling loss to Illinois and Iowa blowing out Northwestern, Jerry Kill’s squad steps up and absolutely dominates the Hawkeyes in a 51-14 thrashing that was over by halftime. Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin all boast just one Big Ten loss now -- so anything can happen in these last three weeks, especially when you consider these three teams will all play one another, with Nebraska taking on Wisconsin next Saturday. (Even Iowa, which still plays Wisconsin and Nebraska, isn’t technically out of the equation.) It’s looking more and more as if we’ll have to wait until the final week of the regular season to get a clear picture of who will move forward. Lessons learned: It was way too premature to write off Minnesota (and Kill’s dancing skills), and it’s still too early to pick a clear favorite.

3. Wisconsin passing game has some potential: Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy appeared doomed early this season, but they might end up just fine if Stave can build off part of Saturday’s performance. The Badgers set a season high with 30 pass attempts, and Stave finished 19-of-29 for 216 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. His QBR of 77.2 was the highest of any Wisconsin starter in the Big Ten season, and he was especially hot in the second quarter of the 34-16 win. This was about as balanced as Wisconsin’s offense has been all season, and if defenses are forced to take some of the focus away from the running game, the Badgers’ offense could become even more dangerous. One game doesn’t make a trend, but it does show Stave is capable of more this season.

4. Several B1G offenses are regressing: If you watched -- and stayed awake through -- Penn State's 13-7 win over Indiana and Michigan's 10-9 win over Northwestern, feel free to pat yourself on the back. Those four teams combined for three offensive touchdowns, 39 points, 33 punts and 10 turnovers. It wasn’t pretty. For Indiana, it’s more understandable because Nate Sudfeld's injury forced this team to become even more one-dimensional. But for the other three, every week seems to lead to fewer answers and more questions. Turnovers continue to be an issue for Devin Gardner and the Wolverines, Trevor Siemian remains incredibly inconsistent … and Penn State? Well, nothing seems to be going well there. Penn State, Michigan and Northwestern are ranked outside the top 100 in scoring offense, and the Hoosiers have averaged 11.3 points per game with Zander Diamont as the starting quarterback. These offenses aren’t showing much progress.

5. Penn State bowl hopes pinned to the defense: As bad as the Nittany Lions’ offense has been, the defense has performed nearly perfectly. Indiana never reached the red zone Saturday, Tevin Coleman didn’t reach 100 rushing yards for the first time all season, and the Lions’ defense didn’t allow a single point. (IU’s only touchdown came on an interception return for a TD.) PSU needs just one more win for bowl eligibility, but even with Illinois and Temple left on the slate, that’s no guarantee. The offense hasn’t once reached 20 points in regulation in a Big Ten game, but on the flip side, the defense has allowed just nine touchdowns in regulation in six B1G games. This is arguably the best defense in the Big Ten, but it’s also arguably the worst offense.
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)

Big Ten Wednesday mailbag

November, 5, 2014
Nov 5
5:00
PM ET
Welcome to another edition of ye olde Wednesday mailbag. Let's get to your questions.

Brian Bennett: Penn State was 2-0 when its bowl ban was lifted, and the Nittany Lions went on to win their next two games. But since then, they've lost four straight (with three of them coming down to a final possession). Getting to the postseason is certainly not guaranteed, but I really like Penn State to win this weekend at Indiana, which is struggling mightily. Unless you think James Franklin's club will upset Michigan State at home in the season finale, then that means it will have to beat either Temple or Illinois (on the road) to become bowl-eligible. Both those games are close to toss-ups, but I would favor Penn State slightly in each. So I think this team will get to six wins, though it probably won't be easy.

Brian Bennett: Hey, no fair using two tweets to get your full question in! No doubt, the momentum has slowed for Northwestern, which at the time of last year's game with Ohio State had won 14 of its previous 17 games and notched its first bowl victory in half a century. Since then, the Wildcats are just 4-12. Just when it looked like they were starting to turn things around with wins over Penn State and Wisconsin this season, the bottom dropped out again. Pat Fitzgerald's team has lost its past two games by a combined 62 points, including last Saturday's embarrassingly bad 48-7 whitewash at Iowa.

It's hard to tell what exactly has gone wrong in Evanston, as Fitzgerald hasn't changed much since the highly successful 2012 season and supposedly more athletic recruits were on the way. The team certainly lacks consistency and, apart from that two-game stretch earlier in the year, hasn't shown much toughness. According to ESPN Recruiting Nation, Northwestern has 17 commitments so far for 2015, and 16 of them are rated as three-star prospects. This isn't a team that usually reels in more than the occasional four-star and five-star player. More so than recruiting, Fitzgerald has to figure out why things have gone so far off the rails and how to get them back on track.


Brian Bennett: Let's not shortchange the Badgers' 52-7 win over Maryland. Sure, the Terrapins are impossible to figure out week to week. But they have also beaten Iowa and Penn State and came within a field goal of beating a very good West Virginia team. So that win was the best Wisconsin has looked all season, by far.

What we've learned about the Badgers is that their defense is playing at an unbelievably high level, currently ranked No. 1 in the FBS in yards allowed and No. 3 in scoring. The return of Warren Herring at defensive tackle has been huge, and in retrospect, his injury -- not Melvin Gordon's disappearance -- might have been the biggest reason Wisconsin couldn't hold on against LSU in the opener.

Now, for the bad news: While Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy did a pretty good job throwing the ball against Maryland, the passing game against Rutgers was virtually nonexistent (albeit in tough weather conditions). When the Badgers take on Nebraska and Iowa, they can't simply be one-dimensional on offense, no matter how good Gordon is. They won't win the Big Ten West unless Stave, McEvoy and their receivers can elevate their performance in the final month.


Brian Bennett: Nebraska sits at No. 13 in the latest playoff poll and has a great shot to move into the Top 10 if it wins its final three regular-season games. Would that be enough for a big six bowl if the Huskers then lost in the Big Ten championship game? Possibly, but I'd say no. The committee doesn't appear to have much respect for the Big Ten based on the current rankings, so another loss could send Nebraska tumbling back down the poll. I'd say it's more likely Big Red heads to the Holiday Bowl, mostly because the Big Ten wants to avoid sending the Cornhuskers back to Florida for a fourth straight year.

One thing that could really help the Huskers' cause, however: A Miami win over Florida State.

 
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)
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)

B1G roundtable: Week 9 bold predictions

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
4:40
PM ET
OK, so we didn't exactly go out on the limb with our Week 9 scoring predictions this week. For once, we actually all agreed.

So we thought we'd take it a step further this week. Instead of just predicting the winner, which seems like a relatively easy exercise this week, we each took a crack at making a bold prediction for Week 9.

Here are those bold predictions:

Adam Rittenberg: Tommy Armstrong Jr. and Gary Nova combine for 550 pass yards

I expect a big day for both quarterbacks in Lincoln. Rutgers is very vulnerable to long passes -- 52.5 percent of opponents' completions against the Scarlet Knights go for 10 yards or longer -- and Nebraska features a big-play passing attack. I'm also not sold on the Huskers secondary, which will be tested by Rutgers deep threat Leonte Carroo. Maybe Randy Gregory inhales Nova and it's another rough day on the road for Rutgers, but I see a lot of pass yards in this one.

Brian Bennett: Penn State breaks out something new

The Nittany Lions know they can't simply line up and run the ball in conventional ways (or protect Christian Hackenberg) because of their porous offensive line, and the talent level isn't going to change this season. But the team had a bye week in which James Franklin said it spent working on those issues. Expect the coaching staff to throw some new wrinkles at Ohio State, a la the 2011 game when Penn State broke out the Wildcat. It probably still won't be enough to beat the surging Buckeyes, but Ohio State had better be ready to adjust for something different.

Austin Ward: The Badgers will look competent throwing the football

The two-quarterback system barely made an appearance the last time Wisconsin stepped on the field, though it hardly made any difference against Illinois and its pillow-soft defense. Melvin Gordon might still be enough on his own against another unit that doesn’t usually put up much of a fight on the ground, but Maryland does have better athletes on that side of the ball and the Badgers will likely need to show more balance to get the win they need to remain a factor in the West. Coming off a bye week to tinker with the rotation and fine-tune some packages for both Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy, expect to see more production from those passers -- maybe even the first 200-yard passing performance since Week 2 against Western Illinois.

Josh Moyer: The Illini will look incompetent with a two-QB system

Tim Beckman was adamant he wants to play both dual-threat Aaron Bailey and pocket-passer Reilly O'Toole. Bad move, Tim -- and even your offensive coordinator doesn't seem sold on the idea. Bill Cubit just shrugged earlier this week when asked if Beckman's two-QB idea was the best plan: "I don't know. I'll be honest with you, the playbook gets really expanded for one guy." The two-quarterback system worked against Wisconsin because the Badgers didn't expect Bailey to run. That element of surprise is gone now; Minnesota knows what's coming. And we think we know, too: Another Illinois loss.

Dan Murphy: Three players will reach 200 rushing yards

Despite Tevin Coleman -- the country's second most productive running back -- taking the week off for a bye, the Big Ten will see three 200-yard rushing performances this Saturday. Illinois allows 271 yards per game on the ground (125th nationally). Minnesota workhorse David Cobb will fill the majority of that quota this week. Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon, the only player with more rushing yards than Coleman, faces a Maryland defense with its own issues stopping the run. The regular cast of characters finishes with Ameer Abdullah from Nebraska, who is likely headed for a high-scoring affair with Rutgers in Lincoln.

Mitch Sherman: Michigan will rush for positive net yardage

Believe it. Michigan State mauled the Wolverines last year, sacking QB Devin Gardner seven times as the Wolverines finished with minus-48 rushing yards -- the lowest figure in program history. It’ll go better for Michigan on Saturday, though well not enough to beat the Spartans. Or come close. Michigan ranks 64th nationally in rushing offense, a significant improvement over last year, and the Spartans have slipped to eighth against the run, allowing 100.3 yards per game. The Wolverines won’t get to triple digits, especially without injured back Derrick Green. But Brady Hoke has said he wants to get Gardner more involved in the ground game. They had a bye week to prepare. Let’s see it.

Big Ten mailbag

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
5:00
PM ET
We're on the back side of the wait for Week 9 in the Big Ten. Let's get to the latest batch of questions. As always, thanks for the submissions.
Mitch Sherman: Every game is a big one for the Badgers at this point. Since the promising first 30 minutes of the year against LSU, something has seemed constantly amiss with Wisconsin. It is far from out of the running in the wide-open West Division, but with the loss at Northwestern, the Badgers are climbing uphill again. It's reminiscent, somewhat, of the 2012 path, when Wisconsin scuffled through the first half of the season, then dropped three of its final four before backing into the conference title game and clobbering Nebraska. The quarterback situation is just strange. Gary Andersen said this week it's not a competition but that Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy will both play. I don't entirely get that, though I recognize, considering Stave's unusual season, that it's likely been one of the most difficult situations a coaching staff could face with two healthy quarterbacks.
Sherman: Let me direct you to the weekly Playoff Eliminator, which puts into context the contenders that remain for the main event in January. Context is the all-important factor here. Without it, no one can say if a Big Ten team has a shot to make the playoff. At this point, even the league's top-ranked teams, when the committee's first poll is unveiled next week, will need help in order to reach the top four. But with highly ranked SEC teams falling each week in conference play and so many big games left before the playoff is set, it makes sense to believe that any Big Ten team would stand a reasonable chance to fit into the playoff picture at 12-1.
Sherman: Well, that's going to depend on the next coach. Since we're dealing in hypotheticals, let's say the Wolverines hit a home run -- no a grand slam -- in finding their next guy. If a proven NFL coach takes the job or a big-name guy from college who understands the recruiting game, I think Michigan can be competitive immediately. It could be a real contender nationally in the second year, simply because the talent is there. Hoke has recruited well; he and his staff have just struggled to develop talent in Ann Arbor and, to some degree, attract the right mix of recruits. The right coach could fix all of that in a short time.
Sherman: The short answer is no. The long answer? Not against Michigan State if the U-M played the Spartans every week between now and the end of the season. You saw what happened last year when Michigan State made even Ohio State fans feel sorry for Gardner. (OK, probably not.) The Spartans will be up for this game like they were to face Nebraska on Oct. 4, looking to pound another nail into the coffin of Michigan's season. Gardner, of course, is plenty talented. He's the right choice to run Michigan's offense, considering the roster of quarterbacks, but probably not this offense. Hoke suggested before the Penn State game that Gardner might play to his strength and run the football more. He carried 10 times for 18 yards in the 18-13 U-M win. With a week off to prepare for the Spartans, maybe the offense has undergone a transformation, though it's doubtful a philosophical change could dig Michigan out of this hole.

Big Ten Monday mailbag

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
5:00
PM ET
Let's get this week started off right with a good, old-fashioned Big Ten mailbag ...

Josh Moyer: Why not both? Adam is still right -- there's really not a lot of separation over in the West. Minnesota is the only team that has yet to drop a conference game, but three others (Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin) are within striking distance with only one loss. At the same time, we've been saying for quite a few weeks now that Nebraska clearly boasts the edge, talent-wise, in the division. Heck, I picked the Huskers to win the West in the preseason. Nebraska is the only balanced team here. Minnesota and Wisconsin really don't have much in the way of passing games, and the Hawkeyes haven't exactly been models of consistency. But one misstep in this division could cost the crown. That's why the “Wild, Wild West” may have become slightly clearer, but it's still pretty muddled. We'll know how the East shakes out when Michigan State takes on Ohio State in two weeks. But the West? We might not know until the final week. Take a look at the Huskers' final three opponents: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa. Now that's wild.

Mike from Grand Rapids, Minnesota, writes: Does Brady Hoke need to win out to save his job? As much as I'm in the minority, I don't want to see Michigan go through another coaching search. This team, their O-line in particular, is pretty young.

Moyer: See, that's a tough question, Mike -- only because there's about a zero percent chance Hoke wins out. Listen, he's gone. Even he has to know he's gone. Michigan has looked worse every season, and player development seems to be an ongoing issue. I'll even give you the offensive line since it's young. But why is Devin Gardner regressing? And why couldn't U-M adjust when Rutgers nailed them for 404 passing yards? As far as player development/recruiting, let me share kind of an eye-opening fact here: Michigan's usual starting lineup features seven players who were on the ESPN 300; Rutgers has recruited seven total ESPN 300 players since 2006. How about resources? For every dollar Rutgers' athletic department spends, Michigan spends $1.82. Yet, Rutgers was the Vegas favorite earlier this season -- and won. So it's clear Michigan is not on the right track. If Hoke somehow turns this team around and beats Michigan State and Ohio State, sure, he'll keep his job. But we might as well talk about what happens to Tim Beckman if Illinois wins out. Because neither is very likely to happen.

Moyer: Let's get the obvious out of the way first: Expect lots and lots of yards for Melvin Gordon. The Terrapins are ranked No. 102 nationally in rush defense and the Badgers are ranked No. 1 in rushing offense. That's a big reason the Badgers are favored by double digits. Before the injury to Indiana's Nate Sudfeld, Maryland's offense also kind of reminded me of the Hoosiers without Tevin Coleman – you saw all this potential through the air … but you wondered when it was going to materialize. With C.J. Brown struggling, you still wonder. Maryland hasn't faced a top-25 defense yet this season, and it should struggle against Wisconsin. As far as Wisconsin's quarterback situation, both players are still splitting reps with the first team. Joel Stave has seen more time than Tanner McEvoy the last two games and, unless McEvoy practices better this week, I'd expect more of the same.

Moyer: Haha ... well, I can't argue with that logic. Here's another fact to chew on: Penn State beat Ohio State, 63-14, in 1994. The next season, the Buckeyes won 28-25. Of course, do I really think the Nittany Lions will win Saturday after getting demolished last season by that same 63-14 score? Of course not. This is one of the worst offensive lines in the Power 5, while the Buckeyes have one of the best defensive lines. If Penn State can even keep this close -- Saturday night's game is the hot PSU ticket this season -- then it should be a boost. The Nittany Lions' defense is much improved from last season, but it really hasn't yet played a good quarterback. And J.T. Barrett has been great this season. This needs to be a low-scoring affair for PSU to really stand a chance. But I'd be surprised if Penn State really threatened.
As unlikely as it seemed earlier in the season, we have a new leader atop the league.

Austin Ward's Massive Attack took advantage of a low-scoring week by Adam Rittenberg's Trombone Shorties. It's the first time all season that Rittenberg didn't end the week at No. 1. As a result, our league is almost as clustered as the West Division.

Your results this week:

Coal Crackers (Josh Moyer): 145
Massive Attack (Austin Ward): 121
Sherman Tanks (Mitch Sherman): 84
The Trombone Shorties (Adam Rittenberg): 77
Legendary Leaders (Brian Bennett): 58

And the overall standings:

Massive Attack: 756
The Trombone Shorties: 754
Coal Crackers: 709
Legendary Leaders: 612
Sherman Tanks: 528

Oh, it's getting so much harder right now. Only 10 Big Ten teams play this week, which makes for an interesting waiver wire when each fantasy team has to start two quarterbacks and the starting signal-callers at Iowa and Wisconsin won't be getting all the snaps. Much frustration was had this week. Check it out:

Sherman adds Penn State WR DaeSean Hamilton and drops Nebraska WR Jordan Westerkamp

Bennett adds Illinois QB Reilly O'Toole and drops Maryland QB C.J. Brown

Moyer adds Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner and drops Illinois QB Wes Lunt

Rittenberg adds Purdue QB Austin Appleby and drops Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong

Ward adds Michigan State WR Macgarrett Kings and drops Ohio State WR Devin Smith

Sherman adds Penn State kickers and drops Ohio State kickers

Bennett adds Penn State WR Geno Lewis and drops Nebraska WR Kenny Bell

Moyer adds Illinois WR Mike Dudek and drops Purdue RB Akeem Hunt

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

Ward adds Illinois WR Martize Barr and drops Maryland WR Deon Long

Sherman adds Michigan RB De'Veon Smith and drops Michigan RB Derrick Green

Bennett adds Wisconsin QB Joel Stave and drops Wisconsin QB Tanner McEvoy

Moyer adds Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong and drops Maryland WR Stefon Diggs

Rittenberg adds Northwestern RB Justin Jackson and drops Maryland RB Brandon Ross

Ward adds Iowa QB Jake Rudock and drops Ohio State RB Dontre Wilson

Bennett adds Minnesota defense and drops Michigan defense

Rittenberg adds Indiana RB D'Angelo Roberts and drops Penn State TE Jesse James

Ward adds Indiana kickers and drops Nebraska kickers

Bennett adds Minnesota kickers and drops Maryland kickers

Rittenberg adds Penn State defense and drops Rutgers defense

Ward adds Michigan defense and drops Ohio State defense

Waiver-wire analysis: This is the biggest week of moves we've had all season, and most all were made due to byes or injuries. There were two exceptions. For one, Bennett decided to go with Stave at quarterback instead of McEvoy. That makes sense, considering Stave is expected to get the start. Neither player is a good option, but beggars can't be choosers in this league. Also, my team decided to look ahead to the future and took Tommy Armstrong -- who's on bye -- and dropped Stefon Diggs, who's also on bye. Wideouts are a lot easier to come by than quarterbacks, so hopefully the move pays off.

Massive Attack (Ward)

Iowa QB Jake Rudock
Indiana QB Nate Sudfeld
Illinois RB Josh Ferguson
Minnesota RB David Cobb
Illinois WR Martize Barr
Michigan State WR Macgarrett Kings
Indiana kickers
Michigan defense
Bench: Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett (on bye)

The Trombone Shorties (Rittenberg)

Purdue QB Austin Appleby
Michigan State QB Connor Cook
Indiana RB D'Angelo Roberts
Northwestern RB Justin Jackson
Northwestern WR Dan Vitale
Michigan WR Devin Funchess
Wisconsin kickers
Penn State defense
Bench: Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah (on bye)

Coal Crackers (Moyer)

Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner
Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian
Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon
Iowa RB Mark Weisman
Illinois WR Mike Dudek
Indiana WR Shane Wynn
Michigan State kickers
Michigan State defense
Bench: Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong (on bye)

Legendary Leaders (Bennett)

Wisconsin QB Joel Stave
Illinois QB Reilly O'Toole
Indiana RB Tevin Coleman
Wisconsin RB Corey Clement
Illinois WR Geronimo Allison
Penn State WR Geno Lewis
Minnesota kickers
Minnesota defense
Bench: Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott (on bye)

Sherman Tanks (Sherman)

Michigan QB Devin Gardner
Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg
Michigan RB De'Veon Smith
Michigan State RB Jeremy Langford
Penn State WR DaeSean Hamilton
Michigan State WR Tony Lippett
Penn State kickers
Wisconsin defense
Bench: Rutgers QB Gary Nova (on bye)

Big Ten viewer’s guide: Week 7

October, 10, 2014
Oct 10
10:00
AM ET
Week 7 is here, and let’s not sugarcoat it: Big Ten football has looked more interesting on other weekends. This first Saturday of the season without nonconference action lacks marquee matchups. Still, the division races will continue to take shape.

Here’s a look at the five games (all times Eastern):

Noon

Illinois (3-3) and Wisconsin (3-2), ESPN2: Will Melvin Gordon run for 300 yards? If the Badgers wanted it to happen, Illinois’ 119th-ranked rushing defense would likely comply. More of the intrigue in Madison involves the quarterbacks. For Wisconsin, Joel Stave, who returned last week against Northwestern, will see time, in addition to Tanner McEvoy, who might also take a shot at receiver. And with Illinois’ Wes Lunt out with a fractured leg, senior Reilly O’Toole and sophomore Aaron Bailey, who was set to redshirt, have competed in practice this week.

Indiana (3-2) and Iowa (4-1), ESPNU: Indiana has shown it can win on the road in tough spots, handing Missouri its lone loss on Sept. 20. The Hoosiers are more explosive on offense than any foe Iowa has faced. But Indiana still can’t defend well, in particular against proficient quarterbacks. The Hawkeyes are going back to Jake Rudock at the start, but C.J. Beathard will play. How well can Greg Davis manage this? If it’s a disaster, Indiana might just find itself in the right place at the right time for an upset bid.

[+] EnlargeDavid Cobb
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesDavid Cobb and Minnesota can take a big step in their quest for a Western Division crown by beating Northwestern on Saturday.
Northwestern (3-2) at Minnesota (4-1), BTN: Who would have guessed a month ago, as the Golden Gophers fell flat at TCU and the Wildcats sat winless, that this game would have legitimate implications for the West Division title race? It does, with NU in quest of a third straight unexpected win to open league play. Its defense led the charge against Penn State and Wisconsin. Minnesota is simply solid, led by David Cobb, statistically the league’s most valuable offensive player. Minnesota has defended the pass especially well in recent games and will test Northwestern’s Trevor Siemian, 13th in the Big Ten in QBR.

3:30 p.m.

No. 8 Michigan State (4-1) at Purdue (3-3), ESPN2: At least it’s not the best team in the Big Ten against the worst. Purdue escaped the low spot last week with a win over Illinois. And sophomore quarterback Austin Appleby looked good in the victory. Very good, in fact. Back at home, he figures to find a much more difficult situation against the Spartans, who might come in a bit angry after nearly blowing a 24-point, fourth-quarter lead against Nebraska.

7 p.m.

Penn State (4-1) at Michigan (2-4), ESPN2: The visitors from Happy Valley, after an off week, get an opportunity to show that their anemic performance against Northwestern was just a fluke. With an upcoming stretch of three challenging games, no better time exists for PSU to get healthy than at Michigan, trying to avoid its first 0-3 start in the Big Ten since 1965. Against a good Penn State front, the Wolverines must protect Devin Gardner and throw the football, neither of which they’ve done well in recent weeks.

Required reading

Big Ten morning links

October, 10, 2014
Oct 10
8:00
AM ET
The past two months brought bad news piled on top of bad news for Big Ten quarterbacks -- from Braxton Miller's season-ending right-shoulder injury in August to Wes Lunt's fractured left leg last week.

In between, Michigan's Shane Morris found himself embroiled in a head-injury controversy that dominated headlines; Joel Stave of Wisconsin got the yips, and Minnesota won a game while completing one pass for 7 yards.

Since early August, eight of 14 Big Ten teams have endured a prolonged change -- temporary or permanent -- at quarterback, because of injury or poor play. Only Nate Sudfeld, Gary Nova, Trevor Siemian, Connor Cook, Christian Hackenberg and Tommy Armstrong Jr. have avoided time on the bench.

The schedule for Week 7 looks a little, well, weak. So in lieu of dissecting these five games, here's a rundown of the three most unsettled QB situations -- in order of messiness -- among teams set to play on Saturday:

3. Iowa: Junior Jake Rudock is back and set to start against Indiana after missing the Hawkeyes' Sept. 27 win at Purdue with a leg injury. But sophomore C.J. Beathard will also play. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis said last week he would rotate the quarterbacks, deciding by “feel." That's a recipe for disaster. Iowa needs a quarterback. One quarterback. Problem is, the Rudock-led offense has been mundane, while the long-locked Beathard offers a big-play threat but consistency problems.

2. Illinois: Without Lunt for four to six weeks, the Illini look to senior Reilly O'Toole and sophomore Aaron Bailey. Or perhaps both. O'Toole started in place of Lunt against Nebraska and played in relief last week, completing 26 of 52 passes for 379 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions while being sacked five times. Bailey has not played this year after getting into nine games as a true freshman last year. To redshirt or not to redshirt, that is the question on Bailey. At this point, hopes for a winning season in Champaign are growing dim. Is it really worth using Bailey if he's not the clear-cut starter?

1. Wisconsin: Well, this is quite an ordeal after the junior Stave came off the bench last week at Northwestern for his first action of the season and tossed three interceptions, compiling a lowly 18.5 QBR index on 19 throws. Senior Tanner McEvoy has yet to settle into a groove, though, committing nine turnovers in 4 ½ games. Both are set to play against Illinois. Stave looks to give the Badgers a better shot in November if he can make strides this month. Compounding matters, McEvoy may also play receiver -- not what Wisconsin needs, more confusion.

With that, let's go around the league:

East Division
  • Taiwan Jones and the Michigan State linebackers respond to the doubters.
  • Penn State offensive line coach Herb Hand sees improvement among his players.
  • Michigan coach Brady Hoke says he's a "ton of positives" have come as a result of his team's recent struggles.
  • What kind of grade does the Ohio State offense deserve?
  • Indiana running back Tevin Coleman, born to Liberian emigrants, has been overcoming obstacles since birth.
  • Rutgers' president speaks out on the football team's success in a presentation to the university's leadership.
  • Numbers to know from the first half of the season at Maryland.
West Division
  • Injured linebacker Sean Robinson may consider playing with a torn ACL for Purdue.
  • Nebraska's offensive game plan was not the problem against Michigan State, coach Bo Pelini said.
  • Why are Minnesota and Northwestern vying for a spot atop the division? They both capitalize on turnovers.
  • Punter Chris Gradone is Northwestern's secret weapon.
  • Reasons exist to believe in Iowa, writes Marc Morehouse, and there are reasons not to believe.

Two QBs can work for Wisconsin

October, 6, 2014
Oct 6
3:25
PM ET
When we found out last week that Iowa planned to use two quarterbacks, it seemed a little bit odd. That's because the skill sets of Jake Rudock and C.J. Beathard aren't all that different.

On Monday, Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said he expects to go with his own two-quarterback system, beginning this weekend against Illinois. This not only makes more sense, it seems like the best way to cure what ails the Badgers' offense.

[+] EnlargeJoel Stave
David Manning/USA TODAY SportsJoel Stave will share time with Tanner McEvoy as Wisconsin searches for a spark to its passing game.
There's a clear distinction in styles between Tanner McEvoy, who has started all five games this season, and Joel Stave, who started all 13 times in 2013. McEvoy is the superior athlete who can make a difference with his legs, but he's pretty shaky throwing the ball. Stave is far more statuesque in the pocket, but gets the ball downfield better (relatively speaking, of course; he's not exactly Russell Wilson with his accuracy, either).

Andersen said it's possible one guy could do so well that he seizes all the playing time. But he likes the idea of juggling things and even -- and this makes me swoon -- having both guys on the field at the same time.

"I think that opens a can of worms for people to wonder what’s going to happen," Andersen said. "We’ll also play them in different situations. I’m a firm believer right now our offense as a whole, we’re best served to play both of those quarterbacks to help us move down the field."

How do you get two quarterbacks on the field at once? Well, Andersen acknowledged that McEvoy could see time at receiver. Remember there was much talk of playing McEvoy at receiver last season, when he eventually filled in and became a solid starter at safety. Given Wisconsin's problems at receiver as well as quarterback, his size and athleticism could come in handy.

And can you imagine a formation with both guys in the backfield, leaving opposing defenses to guess whether it's going to be an option run with McEvoy or a pass from Stave? Deception could mask some of the Badgers' obvious deficiencies in the passing game. (Answers, by the way aren't coming from backups Bart Houston or D.J. Gillins. Andersen said Houston is clearly No. 3 behind McEvoy and Stave, and the freshman Gillins will definitely redshirt this season).

None of this will likely matter this week against Illinois, who once again is fielding the Big Ten's worst rushing defense. The Badgers ran for 289 yards in Champaign last season, and Melvin Gordon could have that much by halftime this week if Tim Beckman's defense tackles as poorly as it did last week versus Purdue.

But for Wisconsin to get back in the West Division race, it simply has to improve a passing attack that has thus far generated just 749 yards -- or only 15 more than Washington State's Connor Halliday threw for in one game on Saturday night. With Stave back from the yips, Andersen now has options. And everything ought to be on the table, including a double-barreled quarterback system.

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