Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, October 7, 2014
Several teams – six, to be exact – have played six games, meaning nearly half of the conference has reached the halfway point of the season. That being the case, let?s take a look back at what we saw and peek toward what?s around the corner.
Biggest surprise: Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have used a physical front seven on defense (check out the national-best 24 sacks) and balanced offense to be a factor in the East. Not bad for a team many though would finish in the basement. How many games can this team win?
Biggest disappointment: Michigan. The phrase ?circling the drain? comes to mind when thinking about this season. The Wolverines looked primed to rebound from a 7-6 mark but instead have flopped. The offense?s struggles up front continue, which has exasperated issues with the running game. Quarterback play has also been spotty. Sprinkle in the mishandling of the Shane Morris situation, and you have the makings of a forgettable season.
1. Michigan State 27, Nebraska 22. A possible Big Ten title game preview, the Spartans jumped out to a 27-3 lead. But then the fourth quarter happened, and the Cornhuskers rattled off 19 unanswered points before the Spartans picked off a pass in the closing minute to thwart the rally.
2. Penn State 13, Rutgers 10. The first Big Ten game ever for the Scarlet Knights was a doozy, as the Nittany Lions snatched a win with a game-winning TD drive in the waning moments.
3. Rutgers 41, Washington State 38. The Scarlet Knights rallied by scoring the game-winning TD with 3:24 left to beat Wazzu in an exciting back-and-forth affair in Seattle to open the season.
1. Jordan Westerkamp, behind-the-back catch (Watch!). This incredible highlight in the season opener against Florida Atlantic caused jaws to drop across America. He followed that with an insane one-handed grab vs. McNeese State the next week.
2. Ameer Abdullah, catch-and-run TD (Watch!). The 58-yard touchdown was one for the ages, as Abullah darted, juked, sprinted and broke a handful of tackles on his way to pay dirt and save the day vs. McNeese State. Simply spectacular.
3. Griffin Oakes, 58-yard field goal (Watch!). Right before the half vs. Maryland in the Big Ten opener, Oakes drilled an Indiana record 58-yard field goal. It was right down the middle, and it had distance to spare.
1. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin. He has been a one-man gang for UW, running for 871 yards (seven behind leader Ameer Abdulluah in one fewer game) and averaging 8.3 yards per tote. He?s a thing of beauty to behold.
2. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska. He has a league-best 878 yards rushing and 10 TDs as the lynchpin of one of the league?s top offenses. Go ahead and stamp him an ?all-time? great for the Huskers.
3. Tevin Coleman, RB Indiana. The best back America never has heard of. Coleman is a lithe sprinter with 841 yards on the ground, averaging eight yards a carry.
1. J.T. Barrett, QB Ohio State. The redshirt freshman paces the league in passing efficiency, hitting 66 percent of his passes for 1,354 yards with a league-best 17 TDs and five picks. He?s more than a reasonable facsimile of Braxton Miller.
2. Mike Dudek, WR, Illinois. He has 33 catches for a league-high 539 yards and three TDs. And he?s a true freshman.
3. Godwin Igwebuike, WR, Northwestern. The safety is a big part of Northwestern's underrated and stingy defense. Oh, and his three interceptions, all last week vs. Wisconsin, are tied for the Big Ten lead.
1. Kyle Flood, Rutgers. Picked by most to be the worst team in the East, RU is three points from being 6-0. Go ahead and dream big, Kyle.
2. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State. What would he do for an encore after a 13-1 season? Well, MSU is the best team once again. Stand back and admire his work.
3. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern. He has had to deal with offseason tumult, a key transfer and an 0-2 start. Regardless, NU is on top in the West. Why can?t NU win the West?
1. Braxton Miller, QB Ohio State. Before the season even started, Miller reinjured a shoulder in August that sidelined him for the season. At the time, it looked devastating with the two-time Big Ten MVP out. But OSU has adapted under J.T. Barrett.
2. Paul James, RB, Rutgers. The workhorse Scarlet Knights back suffered a season-ending knee injury vs. Navy in the fourth game of the season. He was RU?s top rusher with 363 yards and five TDs, and he also had two receiving touchdowns.
3. Wes Lunt, QB, Illinois. The Big Ten passing leader (313.8 ypg) fractured a leg vs. Purdue on Saturday and is out for up to six weeks. Will this ground what was a strong Illini attack.
Offensive Player of the Year: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Offensive Lineman of the Year: Brandon Scherff, Iowa
Defensive Player of the Year: Joey Bosa, E, Ohio State
Defensive Lineman of the Year: Joey Bosa, E, Ohio State
Freshman of the Year: J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State
Coach of the Year: Kyle Flood, Rutgers
Quarterback of the Year: J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Running Back of the Year: Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
Receiver of the Year: Tony Lippett, Michigan State
Tight End of the Year: Maxx Williams, Minnesota
Kicker of the Year: Brad Craddock, Maryland
Defensive Back of the Year: Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Minnesota
Linebacker of the Year: Mike Hull, Penn State
Punter of the Year: Will Hagerup, Michigan
Now, let's look ahead to the rest of the season!
BEST REMAINING GAMES
1. Ohio State at Michigan State, Nov. 8. A battle between the Big Ten?s best teams may have playoff ramifications.
2. Nebraska at Iowa, Nov. 28. This could be a de facto Big Ten West title game.
3. Nebraska at Wisconsin, Nov. 15. The Badgers may be struggling on offense now, but they may be rolling when the Huskers come to Madison.
1. The Big Ten will get a team in the playoffs. It could come down to the Ohio State at Michigan State game. The winner is in great shape, assuming it finishes with one loss.
2. Nebraska will play Michigan State in the Big Ten title game. The two teams just played Saturday, and they look like the top teams in their respective division.
3. The Spartans will win the Big Ten. The reigning Big Ten champs look really strong again. Plus, they have a manageable schedule.
4. Melvin Gordon will finish with more yards rushing than Ameer Abdullah. He's only seven yards behind Abdullah, and that's in one fewer game. A season ago, Abdullah took the title from Gordon late in the season.
5. Ten teams will go bowling. Those 10 teams are: Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, , Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers and Wisconsin.
|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.|
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