Big Ten Skill Position Rankings and Key Matchups for Week 12

Jul 28, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany addresses the media during the Big Ten football media day at Hilton Chicago. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Jul 28, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany addresses the media during the Big Ten football media day at Hilton Chicago. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Skill position rankings and key matchups in the Big Ten heading into week 12.

The Big Ten was picked on for so long it is almost hard to conceive that it might be the best Power Five conference this season. Is that enough to sway the College Football Playoff Committee to put two teams into the College Football Playoff?

As it stands right now, Ohio State and Michigan are in, but we know one will fall out after November 26. Regardless, we might find out how strong the precedents set in the first two years will influence the Committee this year should Ohio State win out and Penn State or Wisconsin win the Big Ten.

The Wolverines still control their fate, despite laying a colossal egg at Iowa, but the confidence level of beating the Buckeyes in Columbus was definitely diminished by the loss to the Hawkeyes.  Apparently playing on the road, at night, was a little more difficult than the fans in Ann Arbor thought.

More importantly, is quarterback Wilton Speight lost for the season?  Reports about his collarbone are conflicting.  Regardless, a less than 100-percent Speight or playing a backup impacts Michigan’s chances.  Are they on upset alert against Indiana?

Ohio State travels to East Lansing seeking payback for the loss last year.  The Spartans might be down, but don’t expect a third-straight 62-3 outcome.  Beating Michigan State is priority No. 1 for the Buckeyes.  They won’t be looking ahead to Michigan.  This game will be tougher than expected.

The Nittany Lions passed their final test of the season beating the Hoosiers 45-31.  They have Rutgers this week and Michigan State at home on November 26.  They are rooting hard for the Buckeyes to beat Michigan next week as they own the tie-breaker.

The Badgers are a lock to win the Big Ten West.  They play Purdue and Minnesota.  I suspect they are rooting for Michigan or Ohio State to get a chance to redeem one of their two losses.  If they beat Penn State, my guess is the Committee will select Ohio State.

Each week, I’ll provide a ranking of the Big Ten’s 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:

Quarterbacks:

J.T. Barrett reclaims the top spot again as Speight was unable to get any offense going against Iowa.  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 257 160 2156 13.78 15 4
J.T. Barrett Ohio State 292 189 2218 11.49 23 4
Trace McSorley Penn State 271 150 2390 15.36 16 5
Tommy Armstrong Jr Nebraska 259 138 2055 15.45 13 8
Clayton Thorson Northwestern 377 216 2571 11.5 19 8
Alex Hornibrook Wisconsin 162 93 1125 12.09 7 7
CJ Beathard Iowa 246 144 1650 11.65 14 6
Richard Lagow Indiana 351 214 2866 13.48 17 13
Tyler O’Connor Michigan State 213 131 1747 11.08 15 7
David Blough Purdue 442 257 2921 11.6 21 16
Perry Hills Maryland 147 98 1139 11.78 10 3
Mitch Leidner Minnesota 236 139 1685 12.44 5 7
Jeff George, Jr. Illinois 94 38 470 11.85 4 5
Giovanni Rescigno Rutgers 108 57 638 11.5 5 5

Stud of the Week:

A week after getting knocked out of the games against the Buckeyes, Tommy Armstrong rebounded with a solid performance against Minnesota passing for 217 yards with two touchdowns.  The win keeps the Cornhuskers slim chances of winning the West Division alive.

Open the Competition Again:

Take your pick among David Blough, Giovanni Rescigno, Jeff George, Jr. and Mitch Leidner who combined passed for 483 yards with 10 interceptions and just one touchdown.

Rodney Dangerfield Award:

No one really qualified this week so I will throw a bone to Tyler O’Connor who threw for 141 yards and three touchdowns against Rutgers leading the Spartans to their first Big Ten win of the season.

Sep 10, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes running back Mike Weber (25) against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won 48-3. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 10, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes running back Mike Weber (25) against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won 48-3. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Running Backs:

Here’s how all of the backs rank through week 10:

Running Backs Team Carries Yards YPC TDs
Mike Weber/Curtis Samuel Ohio State 232 1572 6.67 14
De’Veon Smith/Chris Evans Michigan 186 1100 6.14 11
Saquon Barkley/Miles Sanders Penn State 215 1250 7.47 14
Corey Clement/Dare Ogunbowale Wisconsin 292 1381 4.44 12
Terrell Newby/Devine Ozigbo Nebraska 239 1073 4.43 9
Justin Jackson/John Moten IV Northwestern 262 1238 4.43 8
LeShun Daniels/Akrum Wadley Iowa 265 1475 5.73 14
Rodney Smith/Shannon Brooks Minnesota 296 1496 5.28 19
Ty Johnson/Lorenzo Harrison Maryland 165 1289 8.08 9
L.J. Scott/Gerald Holmes Michigan State 252 1191 5.01 10
Devine Redding/Tyler Natee Indiana 246 1121 4.54 7
Kendrick Foster/Reggie Corbin Illinois 169 1113 6.74 8
Markell Jones/Brian Lankford Johnson Purdue 160 795 4.93 5
Robert Martin/Justin Goodwin Rutgers 203 958 4.9 1

Stud of the Week:

It has been a while since any player from Iowa deserved recognition, but Akrum Wadley delivered a solid performance against the Wolverines rushing for 115 yards.  He never made it to the end zone, but he kept the Hawkeyes offense on the field chewing up the clock.

Open the Competition Again:

De’Veon Smith and Robert Martin.  Smith managed just 28 yards against Iowa.  Martin gained 32 yards against Michigan State.

Rodney Dangerfield Award:

Devine Redding is quietly putting together a pretty good season.  He rushed for 108 yards with two touchdowns against Penn State.  He has 901 yards on the season giving him a legitimate shot at breaking 1000.  Ludlow gets the attention, but Redding is a good workhorse.  If he can put together a similar performance in Ann Arbor, the Hoosiers have a shot at winning the game.

Jan 1, 2016; Pasadena, CA, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback C.J. Beathard (16) passes against the Stanford Cardinal during the second quarter in the 2016 Rose Bowl at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 1, 2016; Pasadena, CA, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback C.J. Beathard (16) passes against the Stanford Cardinal during the second quarter in the 2016 Rose Bowl at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Big Ten Team of the Week:

Iowa fans have had little to cheer about until the Hawkeyes pulled one of the season’s biggest upsets.  The win does little to improve the disappointing season, but for one week the Hawkeyes played up to their potential.  Penn State says Thank you.

The Week Ahead:

After last week, predicting a quiet week seems foolish.  The conference’s best teams have games they should comfortably win. Should and do sometimes fail to mix though.

Mark Dantonio certainly did not expect the type of season his Spartans’ team is having.  A myriad of problems have kept the team from playing well.

He’s the only coach in the Big Ten to beat Urban Meyer twice, spoiling the Buckeyes chances of winning conference and national championships.  Can he do it again?

Doubtful.  Meyer has this team laser focused and ready for revenge.  It will be a little tougher than expected, but the Buckeyes get the win.

Michigan returns to the comforts of home to take on a desperate Indiana team searching for its sixth win of the season.  They are catching the Wolverines at the wrong time.

Michigan will struggle early in the game, but take control in the second half to win 42-20.  Take comfort Hoosiers, you get Purdue next week.  That’s an automatic win.

Northwestern and Maryland are both seeking a sixth win too and they will have to do it on the road.  The Terps play at Nebraska which is definite loss.  Like Indiana, Maryland can rest easy knowing Division III Rutgers is up next week.

The Wildcats go to Minnesota to face an up and down Golden Gophers team.  Normally I would say this is a toss-up game, but Clayton Thorson will have an epic game carrying Northwestern to 38-14 win.

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