Big Ten Skill Position Rankings and Key Matchups for Week 11

Oct 24, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; General view of Big Ten logo on field prior to a game between the Michigan State Spartans and the Indiana Hoosiers at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 24, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; General view of Big Ten logo on field prior to a game between the Michigan State Spartans and the Indiana Hoosiers at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

A look at Big Ten skill position players and their rankings.

Although the biggest games in the Big Ten in week nine turned out to be duds, at least they were better than the 10-0 performance Alabama and LSU put on in Death Valley. Zero points after three quarters for the No. 1 team is embarrassing.

Guess the smirk on coach Urban Meyer’s face all week was telling.  His offense erupted barreling over the No. 10 Cornhuskers 62-3.  Coupled with a defense that scored 14 points, Ohio State played its most complete game of the season.  It is now ready to win the Big Ten.

Memo to Michigan.  This is what happens to a team that plays back-to-back road games, at night, against highly ranked teams.  Nebraska was flat and not prepared for the physical pounding.

I am buying that No. 3 Michigan is better, but not having to go on the road in consecutive weeks against good competition does cast some doubt.  I understand that the Wolverines pummeled another vastly inferior team and have yet to play a down game, but playing on the road is much more difficult than the comforts of Ann Arbor.

As much as they don’t want to admit it, Ohio State has to root for Michigan because Indiana, Michigan State and Rutgers are not going to beat Penn State.

Most were shocked to see the Nittany Lions ranked No. 12 in the first CFP Committee release last week, but unlike Texas A&M, they proved they belong in the discussion by running over the Hawkeyes 41-14.

Penn State will be rooting hard for Maryland and Michigan State over the next two weeks to pull an upset over the Buckeyes.

No. 8 Wisconsin broke a two-game losing streak to Northwestern winning 21-7 in Evanston.  The Badgers are now in the driver’s seat for winning the West Division.  Barring an upset, they will get a rematch against Michigan or Ohio State in the championship game.

On a side note, I am wondering if the epic beat downs that Iowa and Michigan State received in the Rose Bowl and Playoff semifinal carried over mentally into this season.  Both teams lack confidence and look lost.

Each week, I’ll provide a ranking of the Big Ten quarterbacks and running backs and preview the best games.

The formula for ranking each player is pretty simple, mostly based on watching the games and saying this player is good and this one is not so good.  Here we go:

Big Ten Quarterbacks:

For the second-straight week, I thought about switching J.T. Barrett and Wilton Speight, but the top remains the same.  Speight was efficient in the win over the Terps and Barrett was lights out against the Cornhuskers.

Quarterback play in the Big 10 this week was up and down again.  Here’s how they rank:

QB Team Attempts Completions Yards YPC TDs INTs
Wilton Speight Michigan 231 149 2053 13.78 15 3
J.T. Barrett Ohio State 265 171 1965 11.49 21 4
Trace McSorley Penn State 241 134 2058 15.36 14 3
Tommy Armstrong Jr Nebraska 232 119 1838 15.45 11 8
Clayton Thorson Northwestern 341 193 2219 11.5 16 6
Alex Hornibrook Wisconsin 150 86 1040 12.09 6 7
CJ Beathard Iowa 227 136 1584 11.65 13 5
Richard Lagow Indiana 311 191 2574 13.48 15 13
Tyler O’Connor Michigan State 198 121 1341 11.08 12 7
David Blough Purdue 406 236 2737 11.6 20 13
Perry Hills Maryland 144 97 1143 11.78 10 3
Mitch Leidner Minnesota 209 121 1505 12.44 5 6
Jeff George, Jr. Illinois 78 33 391 11.85 4 1
Giovanni Rescigno Rutgers 91 52 598 11.5 5 3

Stud of the Week:

Barrett’s play has been criticized for weeks.  He responded by torching a good Nebraska secondary for 290 yards and four touchdowns.  The amazing thing is he missed a couple of wide open opportunities to tack on more.

If he continues to play this way, the Buckeyes will be a tough to beat.

Open the Competition Again:

The Golden Gophers are tied for first place in the West with games against Nebraska, Northwestern and Wisconsin remaining.  There is zero chance that Minnesota will win any of these games getting the production that Mitch Leidner is providing.

Minnesota is all about running the football, but it needs a little bit of balance to compete for the West Division.  Leidner’s five touchdowns and six interceptions on the year are terrible for third-year starter.

Rodney Dangerfield Award:

All of Penn State’s highlights feature Saquon Barkley, but Trace McSorley is putting together a successful season.  He passed for 240 yards and two touchdowns against the Hawkeyes and has 14 touchdowns and just three interceptions on the year.  He’s a huge reason why the Nittany Lions are probably the most improved team in the all of college football from September to November.

Big Ten Running Backs:

The Big Ten has always had great running backs, but this may be the deepest set of backs the conference has seen in years.  Most of them delivered this week.  Here’s how all of the backs rank through week 10:

Running Backs Team Carries Yards YPC TDs
Mike Weber/Curtis Samuel Ohio State 216 1441 6.67 12
De’Veon Smith/Chris Evans Michigan 166 1020 6.14 12
Saquon Barkley/Miles Sanders Penn State 181 1352 7.47 12
Corey Clement/Dare Ogunbowale Wisconsin 260 1155 4.44 9
Terrell Newby/Devine Ozigbo Nebraska 223 988 4.43 9
Justin Jackson/John Moten IV Northwestern 224 992 4.43 6
LeShun Daniels/Akrum Wadley Iowa 228 1306 5.73 14
Rodney Smith/Shannon Brooks Minnesota 270 1426 5.28 18
Ty Johnson/Lorenzo Harrison Maryland 157 1268 8.08 9
L.J. Scott/Gerald Holmes Michigan State 203 1017 5.01 9
Devine Redding/Tyler Natee Indiana 217 986 4.54 5
Kendrick Foster/Reggie Corbin Illinois 151 1017 6.74 8
Markell Jones/Brian Lankford Johnson Purdue 143 705 4.93 5
Robert Martin/Justin Goodwin Rutgers 183 896 4.9 1


Stud of the Week:

Saquon Barkley put on another show rushing for 167 yards and a touchdown against Iowa.  In his last four games, Barkley has 675 yards and four touchdowns.  Penn State’s next three opponents are Indiana, Michigan State and Rutgers who are currently ranked No. 60, No. 61 and No. 122 in rushing defense.  My guess is Barkley will break 1500 yards and 15 touchdowns giving him a legitimate shot at winning the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.

Open the Competition Again:

Justin Jackson, like many running backs this year, was humbled by Wisconsin.  No real shame in that, but 42 yards for the Big Ten’s third-leading rusher is not getting the job done.  Good news is he gets to play Purdue next week.  That should get him back on track.

Rodney Dangerfield Award:

Illinois has not had much to cheer about this season, but Kendrick Foster is a good back stuck behind a bad offensive line.

Foster rushed for 146 yards and two touchdowns against Michigan State keeping the Fightin Illini’s slim bowl hopes alive and earning him some respect this week.

Big Ten Team of the Week:

Ohio State.  The Buckeyes needed a game where they pushed the reset button for the offense and they got it.  They need to stay focused and take care of Maryland and Michigan State before the final showdown against Michigan on November 26.

The Week Ahead:

Not an exciting week in the Big Ten, but the top three teams in the East hit the road.  All three should win comfortably.

10 weeks ago, it looked like the game in Iowa City might be one that could trip up the Wolverines.  Unfortunately, Iowa has reverted back to being an average team.

The Hawkeyes will be pumped for the first minute until Michigan punches them in mouth.  Wolverines will be solid again winning 42-14.

Penn State travels to Indiana for an early 12:00 PM kickoff.  The Hoosiers can certainly score points, but they can’t stop anyone.  Barkley will run wild padding his lead as the Big Ten’s best rusher.  The defense will get a couple of interceptions off of the charitable Richard Lagow.  Nittany Lions cruise to a 38-21 win.

The Buckeyes travel to College Park to face a reeling Terps team who have lost four out their last five games.  Injuries are certainly taking its toll on Maryland.  Quarterback Perry Hills was knocked out of the Michigan game.  He’s been nursing a shoulder injury since September.

Ohio State has momentum coming off the win over Nebraska and Meyer is not about to let his foot off the pedal.  With the Spartans’ being down, there is no chance the Buckeyes look ahead.  Buckeyes win 48-17.

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