- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Who's rising? Who's falling?
Time to check the market.
Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins: Count me among those questioning whether Cousins could get it done in the clutch, but he came through in a big way against Wisconsin. The Spartans junior bounced back from two first-half interceptions to complete 8 of 10 passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns in the final two quarters. Cousins was masterful on Michigan State's 15-play, 84-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter, completing two third-down passes and a fourth-down touchdown strike to B.J. Cunningham.
Iowa's defense: The Hawkeyes put it all together defensively against Penn State, despite some injuries at the linebacker spot. Defensive end Adrian Clayborn showed why he'll be a first-round draft pick in April with 10 tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack. Cornerback Shaun Prater recorded a pick-six and the Hawkeyes received big performances from Karl Klug, James Morris and Christian Ballard.
Illinois' defense: The Illini didn't complete the upset against Ohio State but validated their early-season improvement under coordinator Vic Koenning, particularly in the secondary. Safety Trulon Henry became the latest Illinois defensive back to showcase his playmaking skills, recording two interceptions. Linebackers Martez Wilson and Nate Bussey also played well as Illinois held Ohio State's offense in check.
Indiana WR Tandon Doss: A lot of folks who should have known the name do now after Doss set career highs in both receptions (15) and receiving yards (221) against Michigan. Doss added 21 rushing yards and 121 yards in returns to finish with an insane 363 all-purpose yards, the third-highest total in team history. Several weeks removed from a groin injury, Doss is hitting his stride and showing why he's a future NFL receiver.
Wisconsin's offensive line: Tabbed by some as the nation's best O-line before the season, the Badgers haven't looked the part so far. Michigan State recorded two sacks and three quarterback hurries against Wisconsin on Saturday, and the Badgers couldn't keep All-American Greg Jones out of the backfield. The rushing numbers are still good, but Wisconsin's experienced and talent line needs to do better.
Northwestern's defensive line: After several strong performances, the Wildcats got pushed around for much of last Saturday's game at TCF Bank Stadium. Minnesota's offensive front won the line of scrimmage as DeLeon Eskridge went for 119 rush yards and a touchdown. Although Vince Browne continued to make plays, the Wildcats need a better effort going forward to protect a vulnerable secondary.
Penn State's receivers: I still really like the potential of this group, but the receivers didn't help out a young quarterback in a tough situation last Saturday at Iowa. Several dropped passes really hurt the Lions, who didn't reach the end zone for the second time this season. Rob Bolden was under a ton of pressure against an excellent defense, and he could have used some more plays from his targets.
Minnesota's two-minute offense: The Gophers' coaches called a great game for 58 minutes, pounding away at Northwestern with Eskridge and executing nifty play-action passes to the tight ends. But aside from a good bootleg call on fourth-and-3, Minnesota really botched the 2-minute drill when it had two timeouts and only needed a field goal to win. The run call on first-and-10 from the Northwestern 39 in the final minute was a major head-scratcher.
Moving on to the Big Ten awards races. Thanks to a good suggestion by one of you, I'm going to include each player's season statistics rather than the stats from the previous week. It gives a better big-picture view.
The Freshman of the Year award looks like a two-horse race right now.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR RACE: OFFENSE
(Player, season statistics)
1. Michigan QB Denard Robinson: 67-for-96 passing, 1,008 pass yards, 7 TDs, 1 INT; 98 rushes, 905 rush yards, 8 TDs.
2. Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor: 80-for-123 passing, 1,015 pass yards, 12 TDs, 3 INTs; 54 rushes, 373 yards, 3 TDs; 1 reception for a 20-yard touchdown
3. Indiana QB Ben Chappell: 116-for-162 passing, 1,370 pass yards, 12 TDs, 1 INT
4. Northwestern QB Dan Persa: 108-for-136 passing, 1,358 pass yards, 10 TDs, 2 INTs; 68 rushes, 271 rush yards, 2 TDs
5. Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi: 82-for-121 passing, 1,226 pass yards, 10 TDs, 2 INTs
PLAYER OF THE YEAR RACE: DEFENSE
(Player, season statistics)
1. Michigan State LB Greg Jones: 41 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 3 forced fumbles, 2 INTs, 1 sack, 4 quarterback hurries, 3 passes defended
2. Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan: 34 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery
3. Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt: 24 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 5 pass breakups, 4 quarterback hurries, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 1 blocked kick
4. Iowa DL Mike Daniels: 19 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 1 quarterback hurry
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
1. Michigan State RB Le'Veon Bell: 64 carries, 471 rush yards, 7 TDs; 4 receptions, 63 receiving yards
2. Wisconsin RB James White: 44 carries, 367 yards, 6 TDs; 5 receptions, 55 receiving yards, 15 kick returns for 283 yards