Buy or Sell: Is Jabrill Peppers the best player in the Big Ten?
The Big Ten is riding a wave entering the fourth week of the season, as Ohio State, Michigan State and Nebraska all won huge games on Saturday.
Here is what I’m buying and selling in the Big Ten.
Ohio State is the clear favorite to win the Big Ten?
Sell. Yes, the Buckeyes looked very impressive in dispatching Oklahoma, 45-24, in Norman, Oklahoma, in a game that really wasn’t even that close. But don’t discount Michigan State. The Spartans are the defending Big Ten champion. And, they looked equally as impressive as Ohio State on Saturday in beating Notre Dame, 36-28, in another game that wasn’t that close, either. It’s also important to note that the Buckeyes play Nov. 19 at Michigan State.
Michigan’s jack-of-all-trades Jabrill Peppers is the best player in the Big Ten?
Buy. You can make a case for a few guys, but I am going with Peppers. He showed his full array of skills in the win vs. Colorado, making a career-high nine tackles, 3.5 TFLs with a sack and 209 all-purpose yards, highlighted by a 54-yard punt return for a TD. Peppers is living up to the hype, and no other player impacts the game in as many facets as the Michigan linebacker, returner and occasional offensive player. Simply put, he impacts the game on so many different levels.
Iowa’s C.J. Beathard is the top QB in the Big Ten West?
Sell. Let’s go with Tommy Armstrong of Nebraska. He showed his full arsenal in that big triumph vs. Oregon. The senior enjoyed maybe his best game while in Lincoln, completing 17-of-33 passes for 200 yards with three touchdowns, and led the Cornhuskers with 95 yards rushing on 16 carries with a TD. And he had no turnovers. Best of all: He delivered in crunch time, hitting a big fourth-down pass to keep the game-winning drive alive and rambling 34 yards for the winning TD.
Iowa should be concerned after losing to FCS North Dakota State?
Buy. There is no other way to spin it: That was a brutal setback for the Hawkeyes. This is a program that was supposed to be mature to the point where it was beyond losing games like that. Yes, NDSU is the top FCS program in the nation, winning the last five championships. But Iowa was the pick to win the Big Ten West coming off a 12-2 season that included a Rose Bowl bid. Most concerning: Iowa couldn’t run the ball or stop the run, as the Bison ran for 239 yards and the Hawkeyes had just 34. Iowa was “out Iowa-ed” by a FCS school. Think about that. And know this: Iowa is 2-3 in its last five games dating to last season.
There’s reason to worry about Michigan after its comeback win vs. Colorado?
Sell. The Wolverines didn’t blow the doors off the Buffaloes, but they still took care of business. And it was good that the team had to deal with some adversity, fighting back from a 21-7 deficit to smother Colorado. It’s always good to see how a team reacts to getting punched in the nose. Michigan responded well. Now, can the Wolverines do it when they are on the road? We shall see.
Nebraska is the team to beat in the West?
Buy. Why not the Cornhuskers? Yes, Iowa still can rebound, and Wisconsin is very good. But Nebraska may be the best bet to win the division. The Huskers should get a big boost from their 35-32 win vs. No. 22 Oregon. Yes, the Nebraska defense still has something to prove—especially along the line. But the potential is there for a strong unit that showed its stuff by turning back the Ducks on their final drive. And the Nebraska offense is one of the best in the Big Ten, with QB Tommy Armstrong poised for a big senior season. The big issue for the Huskers is they have to play at Wisconsin and at Iowa.
Wisconsin should stick with Alex Hornibrook at quarterback?
Buy. Early reports indicate Hornibrook will start at Michigan State. Good call. With the offense lethargic as Corey Clement sat out with an ankle injury, Wisconsin pulled Bart Houston and inserted redshirt freshman Hornibrook in the third quarter vs. Georgia State. The young lefty looked good, hitting 8-of-12 passes for 122 yards with a touchdown and pick, in leading UW to a 23-17 win. The Badgers should stick with lefty, who led the Badgers to scores on three drives in the second half and is a more accurate passer than Houston with a nice upside.
Purdue faces a must-win vs. Nevada?
Buy. The Boilers were in a similar spot when Cincinnati visited in Week 2, and Purdue flopped. The team hoped to open 3-0 with three home games to begin what is a critical Year Four for Darrell Hazell. Prospects for success would seem diminished if the Boilermakers enter Big Ten play with a 1-2 mark.
Penn State needs a signature win for James Franklin?
Buy. It’s a well-known fact that Franklin is 0-6 vs. the Big Ten East trio of Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State. He could really use a big win vs. one of the conference’s top teams. The Nittany Lions will arrive in Ann Arbor off a nice win vs. Temple. But the Wolverines are a big step up in competition. The good news for Penn State: Michigan’s run game hasn’t been dominating—and stopping the run has been an issue for PSU. It would seem Penn State has a puncher’s chance in this game by turning the contest into a shootout—which the Nits could win.