Chicago Colleges: Jake Ruddock

Big Ten viewer’s guide: Week 7

October, 10, 2014
Oct 10
10:00
AM CT
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 helmet stickers: Week 5

September, 29, 2013
9/29/13
9:00
AM CT
Recognizing the best and the brightest from Week 5 in the Big Ten:

Iowa's group of linebackers: Where do we even begin? The trio finished 1-2-3 in tackles and led the defense to a dominating win over Minnesota. But the most impressive number wasn't found within the individual stats. Minnesota came into the game with the nation's 13th-ranked rushing offense and limped out with just 30 yards on 27 carries. Each linebacker contributed something different. Anthony Hitchens paced the Hawkeyes with 10 tackles, Christian Kirksey came up with an interception, and James Morris finished with a sack and a pick. They came up big Saturday and were a huge reason for the win.

Wisconsin WR Jared Abbrederis: Wisconsin might not have come out a winner, but that had nothing to do with the sure-handed Abbrederis. He dominated an All-American cornerback, became the first Wisconsin wideout to finish with 200 receiving yards since Lee Evans in 2003 and was clearly the Badgers' MVP. He made 10 catches for 207 yards, while the rest of his team wound up with eight receptions for 88 yards. He was nearly unstoppable Saturday night and added some nice clips to his highlight film, including a leaping 33-yard catch, where he held on despite a big hit. Abbrederis made a statement in Saturday's game, and it was a pretty easy decision to hand the man a helmet sticker.

Ohio State QB Braxton Miller: Wait, Miller's coming off an injury? It certainly didn't look like it. Wisconsin had no answer for the dual-threat quarterback in the first half, and Miller did enough in the second half to keep Ohio State's 17-game winning streak alive. Miller is known more for his legs than his arm, but he impressed greatly with the latter against the Badgers. He completed 68 percent of his passes, threw for 198 yards and tossed four touchdowns to no interceptions. He flashed good arm strength and launched a 40-yard TD to Corey Brown with just one second left in the first half. That was one of the game's key plays, and Ohio State's undoubtedly happy to have Miller back. (Oh, and he did rush for 83 yards on 22 carries.) There's no quarterback controversy in Columbus after that performance.

Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase: It's pretty difficult to ignore a quarterback who tossed five touchdowns in one half -- even if they did come against the hapless Miami (Ohio) Redhawks. The senior signal-caller finished 19-of-24 for 278 yards and guided the Illini to six scores on their first seven drives. Outside of an interception, Scheelhaase played a perfect game. He's a no-brainer for a helmet sticker here, especially because he basically put those numbers up in just two quarters. He took a seat in the third quarter because Illinois already had the game in hand.

Iowa RB Mark Weisman: He didn't find the end zone, but he's the one who often drove the Hawkeyes downfield against the nation's No. 21 run defense. Weisman's number was called five times on the eight-play, 80-yard TD drive -- and he came up with 19 of the 27 yards in the first scoring drive that resulted in a field goal. Jake Rudock played well, but his longest pass came on a wide receiver screen. Weisman was consistent throughout and rushed 24 times for 147 yards against a good run defense. He earned his helmet sticker this week.

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