Believe it or not, we’ve hit the quarter poll on the 2018 college football season. Yes, after three weeks of college football the Big Ten has some explaining to do — and not all of it is bad.
With that in mind, my goal is to give you a glimpse in to what is happening quarter-by-quarter throughout the season.
So, let’s take a look at the players who are standing out, the thoughts that beginning to form and just how the conference is performing after three weeks in the books.
QB Dwayne Haskins (So.)- OSU… 72.5% comp, 296.7 ypg passing, 11 TDs, 1 INT… he brings a clear passing threat to this offense and is incredibly efficient.
RB Mike Weber (Jr.)- OSU… 6.1 ypc; 93 ypg, 5 TDs… a big, bruising back whose numbers may be more elevated if he played more than four quarters of football through three games.
RB Jonathan Taylor (So.)- WISC… 6.7 ypc; 171 ypg, 5 TDs… a big play threat on every touch, but fumble issues could be costly down the line.
WR Tyler Johnson (Jr.)- MINN… 20 rec (14.2 ypc); 74.3 ypg, 5 TDs… OC Kirk Ciarrocca’s offense has put up some impressively consistent numbers so far and have made good use of tools like Johnson.
WR Cody White (So.)- MSU… 14 rec (13.1 ypc); 91.5 ypg, 2 TDs through 2 games… has become Brian Lewerke’s go-to guy and teaming with Felton Davis III only makes him more dangerous.
TE Cameron Green (Jr.)- NU… 17 rec (10.7 ypc); 61 ypg, 2 TDs… For an offense that’s been struggling in the early going, Green has proven to be offensive insurance in the passing game for a recovering Clayton Thorson.
OL Ohio State– they have only given up 3 sacks in three games (2nd in the Big Ten), and they help give the Buckeyes the conference’s top passing team and 2nd-best rushing offense. They are big, physical, and not afraid to come after you.
DE Nick Bosa (Jr.)- OSU… 6 TFLs, 4 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries… due has been a beast on the D-line- the only thing that has been able to stop him is a recent abdominal injury
DT Matt Nelson (Sr.)- IOWA… 8 tkls, 1 sack, 1 TFL, PBU… helping anchor the middle of one of the Big Ten’s top fronts, he’s a force inside.
DT Dremont Jones (Jr.)- OSU… 11 tkls, 4 TFLs, 3 sacks, INT… really showed his prowess against TCU; being bookended by Bosa and Chase Young certainly helps.
DE A.J. Epenesa (So.)- IOWA… 4 sacks, 4 TFLs, 2 FF… forming one of the top fronts in the conference, Epenesa should see double teams the rest of the way, which can open things up for the rest of their front seven.
LB Trey Watson (Sr.)- MD… 9.3 tackles per game; 19 solo tackles; INT, 1 PBU… the Illinois transfer has been welcomed in his new home and has been productive all over the field.
LB Joe Bachie (Jr.)- MSU… 10.5 tackles per game; sack, INT through 2 games… the guy is incredibly difficult to block and his athletic PBU/INT in week one may be the defensive highlight of the first quarter of the season.
LB Cornel Jones (So.)- PUR… 7.3 tackles per game; 15 solo tackles; 7.5 TFLs, 2.5 sacks… though Purdue’s season hasn’t started the way many though, Jones has been a bright spot (statistically) for Nick Holt’s defense.
CB Amani Oruwariye (Sr.)- PSU… 6 PBUs, 2 INTs, 12 tackles… a solid lock down corner for the Lions who had a game-clinching INT in unexpected crunch time against App. St.
CB Terrell Smith (Fr.)- MINN… 5 PBUS, INT, 18 tackles… one of the top performers for a Gopher defense that has played above expectations.
SAF Khari Willis (Sr.)- MSU… 13 tackles, INT, 3 PBUs through 2 games… Willis can cover the deep pass as well as come up to defend the run, in a typically stout Dantonio defense.
SAF Scott Nelson (RS-Fr.)- WISC… 16 tackles, 4 PBUs, INT… Nelson is becoming a field general in the secondary, mirroring the play of his DC Jim Leonhard. A 3- or even 4-time All Big 10 caliber player in the making.
PK Chase McLaughlin (Sr.)- ILL… 7/8 FGs (3-of-3 from 50+; long of 54); 9/9 on PATs… for a team that may play a few games close, having McLaughlin in the clutch could prove the edge to knock off one of the big(ger) boys.
P Blake Hayes (So.)- ILL… 19 punts, 46.1 avg; 11 inside the 20; 8 of 50+ yards… Hayes is a big dude who can put a big leg into his kicks. He helps the field position game, which helps a vulnerable defense.
KR K.J. Hamler (Fr.)- PSU… 35.4 ypr avg; long of 52 yards… Not that the Nittany Lion Offense needs much help, but having Hamler bringing kicks back close to midfield definitely puts them in prime position for points.
PR DeAndre Thompkins (Sr.)- PSU… 21.5 ypr avg; 39-yard TD… Ditto for Thompkins.
Coach Ryan Day- OSU… his team didn’t skip a beat and his offense has been clicking more than ever. Averaging 56 points per game and doing so in brutish fashion makes this guy the hottest 2019 coaching commodity in the game with perhaps the best resume material you could imagine.
Top Newcomer on Offense
Rondale Moore (fr)- PUR… 25 rec (10.5 ypc), 87.3 ypg, 2 TDs… He showcased his skills in the opener against Northwestern and then resurfaced against Missouri. The Boiler’s offense will need him to continue to rise as they seek to rise from their current cellar.
Top Newcomer on Defense
Terrell Smith (fr)- MINN… This true freshman worked his way into the starting lineup in camp and has never looked back. Smith is tied for 2nd in the Big Ten in PBUs and 4th among CBs in tackles (18). He’ll be put on display against some better receivers in the coming weeks, so we’ll get to see just how good he really is.
What we’ve learned through three games….
1. The West teams are even less of a threat than we thought at the beginning of the year. Prior to the opening Big Ten kickoff on August 30th, the perception was that the Big Ten was composed of the Power 4 in the East, Wisconsin in the West, and a bunch of “other-rans”. Through three games, Wisconsin has already lost, Northwestern was beaten by a MAC team at home, and Nebraska and Purdue are a combined 0-5- not exactly fitting early prognostications. We still don’t know exactly how good Iowa is- they look pretty good, but haven’t been battle tested like some other teams. The same can be said about Minnesota. Check back in three weeks for the 2nd quarter report card and we should have a better handle on the “wild west”.
2. Ohio State does not appear to be affected by the Urban “Liar” scandal whatsoever. They destroyed three Power Five schools, one of whom was ranked 16th in the country (TCU). The offense is humming with a Heisman candidate and what may be half of the First Team All-Big Ten Team. Their defense still has some work to do, but having such an athletic and physical front four is making the transition in the plug-and-play in the back seven even easier. Big Test coming at Penn State in a few weeks.
3. This conference continues to be a defensively charged group. Eight Big Ten teams are currently sitting in the top 50 in defense and that number may even increase by the half-way point. Through the first three weeks, eleven teams held their opponent to ten points or less in a game. Three D-Linemen are poised for All-American honors, and two newcomers are likely to make the all-Freshmen team if trends continue. Sure, the climate sometimes dictates lower offensive totals which aids in defensive perception, but make no mistake- there are some solid units on the stop-side of the field.
Big Ten vs. the Power Five
Three weeks ago, the College Football world saw the Big Ten as the country’s most talented and primed-for-success conference in the nation, with an NCAA-best five teams in the top 15. Three weeks later, only two remain. Granted, their top team- Ohio State- is playing as well as any team in the country (yes, ‘Bama and Georgia fans), and their #2 (Penn State) is flirting with that top tier of teams, but flat performances by Michigan against Notre Dame, and Michigan State and Wisconsin (who both lost to unranked teams) have deflated the country’s assessment of CFB’s oldest and most traditional conference.
It appears as though Ohio State is the conference’s best shot at the CFB playoff. However, if Penn State’s only loss comes to the Buckeyes (and it’s close), and they get some help, they would certainly look to jump over a fellow one-loss ACC or Pac 12 champ. And if LSU loses at some point this season to someone other than Alabama, a one-loss Nittany Lion team would seem to have the edge over them as well. But let’s let it play out… we have a whole season ahead of us and anything can happen. That’s why we love this game (and this conference)!
Spoilers to the Party?
Michigan State has the Buckeyes at home and Michigan hosts Penn State. Throw Wisconsin in there to try and derail the Blue and White also. Don’t mark either of those contests as locks for the favorites.
Bold Predictions for the next three weeks
Northwestern will beat either Michigan or Michigan State. The Wildcats play Michigan at home after a bye in week 5 and the Wolverines will have played a Nebraska team at home that may still be down. If attrition or bad breaks strike the Maize and Blue, look for an angry/hungry Wildcat team to capitalize. If not, they will gain vengeance the following week in East Lansing with MSU possibly looking at an East division showdown at Penn State the following week.
Either Jeff Brohm or Scott Frost will be 0-fer after week five. The Boilers host a tough Boston College team this week at home and Nebraska plays at Michigan. Both are underdogs and both will have to scratch, strategize, and catch some luck to win those games. That week 5 matchup will be in Lincoln, where Nebraska has lost six straight and hasn’t delivered a red-balloon-flying victory in over a calendar year- could be a bad week for the Brohm family.
Ohio State will be ranked No. 2 after week 6. The Buckeyes will play Tulane, a top-ten Penn State team on the road, and a possibly undefeated Indiana team (if they can upset the Spartans this weekend). Current #3 Clemson plays sandwich road games at Georgia Tech and Wake Forest with high-scoring Syracuse in-between. The Tigers have dropped a mid-season ACC “shouldn’t have” the past couple seasons and Georgia might have a close game playing at Missouri and then home games against Tennessee and Vanderbilt. If the Buck’s dominate Tulane, beat Penn State by at least a touchdown, and then avalanche an Indiana team that should be 5-1 at worst, the voters are likely to see Ohio State- with a Heisman candidate quarterback and an opportunistic defense- as the country’s #2 squad behind ‘Bama. Plus it will be juicy de(click)bate for the Urban haters.
Chappy’s Big Ten First Quarter Rankings
1. Ohio State
2. Penn State
6. Michigan State
Tim Chapman is a contributing writer. You can follow him on Twitter @champion_lit. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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