Big Ten West notebook: Say hello to Northwestern RB Justin Jackson

Justin Jackson is a workhorse.

Mark Dolejs/Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten is home to perhaps the two best teams in America: Ohio State and Michigan State. However, there is a team in the Big Ten West laying in the weeds, waiting to pounce that is playing some great physical football.

Don’t look now but Northwestern is 3-0. The Wildcats have played some stingy defense, but it’s time credit is given to their star tailback Justin Jackson. 

As a freshman, all Jackson did was rush for 1,187 yards and 10 touchdowns, which went largely unnoticed because it was the year of the running back in the Big Ten. So far this season, Jackson has 85 rushes for 332 yards and one touchdown. 

On Saturday against Duke, the sophomore carried the ball 35 times with no signs of slowing down. When asked about his workhorse running back, head coach Pat Fitzgerald had this to say:

"He probably had too many touches on Saturday, but he’s a guy that can handle it. He’s a throwback running back. He’s one of those guys, he just gets tougher the more he carries the ball."

Whether Jackson can continue at this pace is something to keep an eye on as Big Ten play is rapidly approaching. In a wide open Big Ten West, he just may be the best offensive player and the key to the Wildcats making a run towards Indianapolis. Their next challenge is against Ball State at home Saturday.

Iowa honors former player; wins thriller

Four years ago former Hawkeye Brett Greenwood suffered an anoxic brain injury that put him in a coma for 27 days.

On Saturday, the Hawkeyes welcomed him home as he led the team out onto the field to a long and thunderous ovation. He used a walker to guide himself but has continued to fight to increase his mobility and prove doctors wrong. Coach Kirk Ferentz commented on his determination:

“To see the progress Brett has made, it illustrates the same determination we saw from him as a player,’’ Ferentz said. “He’s an amazing young man.’’

Iowa went onto win the game over Pitt with a walk-off 57 yard field goal to push its record to 3-0. Is it time to consider the Hawkeyes a dark horse? History tells us no, considering they started 3-0 last season before finishing under .500. However, the Hawkeyes are still under the radar with an improving defense and an offense that is a work in progress.

Huskers in flux after failed comeback

For the first time since 1981, Nebraska is 1-2.

Keep in mind that typically the Huskers don’t play anyone capable of beating them in the non-conference schedule, much less two teams but fans don’t want to hear excuses. The team staged a furious comeback on Saturday, charging from a 23-point deficit in 8:36 against Miami. 

Any interception thrown by Tommy Armstrong and a terrible penalty by Alex Lewis cost them the game but what happened after the game may have a lasting impact.

Lewis, a senior captain, went on a rant against fans on social media. It can be debated how much impact that has on the current team but there are questions if the old Bo Pelini "us against the world" mentality that infected the team over the last few seasons is still there.

Secondly, their best linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey is out at least four weeks with a groin injury. This is an enormous blow to a struggling defense that is already thin at linebacker. It shouldn’t be a problem this week against Southern Miss, but with Big Ten play starting in 11 days, the health of the Huskers’ defense is looming large.

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