Newcomer Rutgers faces biggest test at Ohio State
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) A look at what to watch in the Big Ten this weekend:
GAME OF THE WEEK: Believe it or not: It’s newcomer Rutgers (5-1, 1-1) traveling to Ohio State (4-1, 1-0).
The Scarlet Knights haven’t been the pushovers everyone expected in their first season in the Big Ten, and they easily could have been undefeated had it not been for a missed tackle on a late drive in a loss to Penn State. The Buckeyes, who like Rutgers had a bye last weekend, are rolling after a big win over Maryland.
The contest features two of the nation’s top five quarterbacks in passing efficiency. J.T. Barrett of Ohio State ranks third at 186.3 and Gary Nova of Rutgers is fifth at 170.9.
The big question for Rutgers will be its defense. Can its speed match up against Ohio State’s powerful front.
Rutgers is playing its 145th year of football while Ohio State is in its 125th. This is the first time the schools have met.
BEST MATCHUP: Recent history says everyone should tune in to the Nebraska-Northwestern game.
Both teams are coming off losses. The No. 19 Cornhuskers (5-1, 1-1) were embarrassed by No. 8 Michigan State, while Northwestern (3-3, 2-1) is looking to rebound from a setback at Minnesota on a late kickoff return.
The last three games between the teams have been decided by three points or fewer with Nebraska winning its second straight last season when Jordan Westerkamp hauled in a Hail Mary pass as time expired to give the Huskers a 27-24 win.
Northwestern freshman Justin Jackson has rushed for at least 100 yards in the last two games. Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska needs 122 yards rushing for his third straight 1,000-yard season.
Another reason to watch this one: Northwestern will wear special `Northwestern Gothic’ uniforms. The black-purple-gold color scheme is a nod to the school’s colors of ”purple and `old gold”’ before the University adopted purple as it’s only official color.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: After getting blown out at Ohio State nearly two weeks ago, Maryland (4-2, 1-1) will play a Homecoming game against Iowa (5-1, 2-0).
The Terps have scored at least 24 points in all six games this season, the first time that has happened in the program’s history. They are averaging 34.7 points, tied for the fourth-highest total in the Big Ten.
Receiver Stefon Diggs is a two-way threat. He leads the team in receptions (36) and receiving yards (450) and is averaging 24.4 yards on kickoff returns, tops in the conference. Maryland punt returner William Likely is averaging 22 yards, also the best in the Big Ten.
Iowa has won three straight and it needs a win to secure bowl eligibility for the 13th time in 14 seasons. The Hawkeyes, 5-1 for the second straight year, will be trying for their best start since opening the 2009 season with nine wins. Iowa has won four straight and six of its last seven on the road.
LONG SHOT: Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio spent a lot of time watching videotapes of Al Raby High School in Chicago this past week. It wasn’t anything to do with recruiting.
With Nate Sudfeld out for the rest of the year with a separated left shoulder, Indiana will have freshman Chris Covington at quarterback against No. 8 Michigan State (5-1, 2-0).
That doesn’t bode well for the Hoosiers (3-3, 0-2). Covington completed 3 of 12 passes for 31 yards and ran 11 times for 41 in relief of Sudfeld.
That will put more pressure on Indiana junior Tevin Coleman, who leads the nation in rushing, averaging with 176.7 yards, after a 219-yard, three touchdown performance against Iowa.
The problem is the Spartans allow an average of 83.2 yards rushing, fifth best in the nation. In their last game they held Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska to 45 yards, more than 100 yards less than his current average.
It looks like a long day for Indiana.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Minnesota running back David Cobb has been added to the 2014 Maxwell Award Watch List. The trophy goes to the most outstanding collegiate football player. The senior has 819 yards rushing and has run for 2,086 yards on 402 carries in 27 games. The Gophers are 8-1 in games when Cobb has surpassed 100 yards rushing. Minnesota will face Purdue on Saturday and the Boilermakers put up 31 point against Michigan State, the first Big Ten team to do that since 2011. Purdue running back Akeem Hunt ran for three TDs, Austin Appleby was 24 of 37 for 211 yards with one touchdown and one interception in his second career start and Danny Anthrop had a career-high nine catches for 133 yards.