It’s that time of the week, time to take my Big Ten grid quiz to prep you for a big Saturday full of action. Clear your desks, take out your No. 2 pencils and get ready to have your brain bent. You’ll thank me later. I promise.
1. If the season ended now, who would be the first-team All-Big Ten quarterback?
A. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
B. Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois
C. Braxton Miller, Ohio State
D. Jake Rudock, Iowa
E. Devin Gardner, Michigan
F. Joel Stave, Wisconsin
Answer: B. Hackenberg has been as good as any true freshman in the nation. He paces the Big Ten in passing, averaging 278.7 yards per game. He’s completing 58 percent of his attempts and has 11 touchdowns and six interceptions for an attack he’s largely carrying. But Scheelhaase has to be the guy. The Illinois senior is hitting 66 percent of his attempts with 12 touchdowns and only four picks, averaging 257.7 passing yards per game. He quickly picked up the offense of new coordinator Bill Cubit, breathing life into a struggling Fighting Illini program. Scheelhaase also is No. 4 in the Big Ten in passing efficiency.
2. Which school has the best shot to become bowl eligible?
Answer: B. The Hawkeyes have four wins and should take care of business vs. Northwestern this Saturday. Iowa also has a game at Purdue on Nov. 9 which it should win. Should the Hawkeyes lose either game, you’d have to like their chances when Michigan visits Iowa City on Nov. 23. But, you never want your bowl hopes hinging on having to topple the Wolverines.
3. Which school has the most difficult path to become bowl eligible?
Answer: B. The Wildcats already are reeling, losing three in a row after a 4-0 start made them a national darling. Northwestern has games left at Iowa; at Nebraska; vs. Michigan; vs. Michigan State; at Illinois. The Wildcats will be hard-pressed to win two of those tilts unless quarterback Kain Colter can stay healthy and the line play on both sides of the ball improves.
4. What is the most exciting team to watch in the Big Ten?
C. Ohio State
Answer: B. The Hoosiers are a thrill-a-minute. Their go-go offense averages 42.4 points, with a trio of receivers in Kofi Hughes, Cody Latimer and Shane Wynn that is unmatched in the Big Ten. Tevin Coleman also has continued to emerge as a top Big Ten back. And a porous Hoosier defense typically keeps things interesting. The unit is last in the Big Ten in scoring defense, yielding an ample 37.1 points per game. This team was at its thrill-a-minute best last week in that wild 63-47 loss at Michigan that saw the Hoosiers gain 572 yards and allow 751. Watching the Hoosiers is like watching those Dan Fouts’ San Diego Chargers teams.
5. If it’s fourth-and-1, what running back should you give the ball to?
A. Iowa’s Mark Weisman
B. Penn State’s Zach Zwinak
C. Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde
D. Nebraska’s Imani Cross
Answer: C. Some good choices, but Hyde has to be the option. At 6-0, 235 pounds, Hyde is a load to handle. He has shown an ability to run between the tackles and move the pile. After sitting out the first three games due to suspension, Hyde has quickly emerged as perhaps the top back in the Big Ten behind Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon. Hyde has 72 carries for 443 yards and five touchdowns. And he has really come on the last two games, basically putting the offense on his back. At Northwestern, Hyde ran 26 times for 168 yards and three TDs. In Ohio State’s win over Iowa, the senior carried 24 times for 149 yards and two scores. Hyde is the ultimate workhorse and power back.
|About Tom Dienhart||BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.|