It was another lovely Saturday this past weekend as we started the first full slate of the Big Ten schedule. We had a few blowouts and a few close games as Ohio State, Penn State and Nebraska all took care of business with ease while Michigan State, Maryland and Wisconsin all sweated out wins on Saturday. Before we get to Week 6, lets take a look back at Week 5.
Most Impressive Win: This is a tough one but I think I have to go with Maryland going on the road and beating a very good Minnesota team. They did it with their 3rd string quarterback who looked much better and more comfortable than last week.
Most Disappointing Loss: Iowa looked so good against Penn State a couple weekends ago but looked like a different team this past weekend. They fell behind early, committed costly turnovers and didn’t have the firepower to come back on the road versus a mediocre MSU team.
Offensive Player of the Week: DaeSean Hamilton. He recorded 9 receptions for 122 yards and 3 touchdowns in Penn State’s win over Indiana. He also became Penn State’s all time leader in receptions so congratulations DaeSean.
Defensive Player of the Week: Garret Dooley. The senior linebacker from Wisconsin recorded 8 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks in Wisconsin’s win over Northwestern.
Now on to Week 6! Here are three things to look for this weekend in the Big Ten.
1. Michigan State vs. Michigan. This in-state rivalry sometimes gets forgotten about because it plays second fiddle to the best rivalry in college football. But its something that divides the great state of Michigan every year as the two teams battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy as arguments take place on who is in fact the little brother. We are now two years removed from Jalen Watts-Jackson winning the game on the final play for the Spartans. Expect bad blood, flared tempers and the Big House to be rocking. MSU has won 7 of the last 10 but Michigan has won 11 of the last 20. Michigan comes in the far superior team and should take of business against the Spartans, but anything can happen in this type of rivalry.
2. Bet on Maryland. I know was way off last week telling everyone that Rutgers would cover last week but this week is honestly surprising with Maryland. Ohio State is more of a favorite this week against a very good Maryland team than against a bad Rutgers team? That doesn’t make much sense. Maryland is coming off a road victory against a good Minnesota team and has a running game that averages over 230 yards a game. Sophomore Max Bortenschlager, the third strong to start the year, has been thrust into the lime light and finally looked comfortable in his second full game. I think that Maryland should keep things competitive in Columbus. Ohio State has looked very good since their loss to Oklahoma and should continue to roll. Maryland will put up a better fight than Rutgers and should cover with their playmakers on offense.
3. Penn State vs. Northwestern. This should be the game of the week in the Big Ten. I know the battle of Michigan has the primetime spot but I think this will be the more competitive game. Penn State struggled on the road verse Iowa and go to Northwestern who is not as bad as their 2-2 record indicates. The Wildcats put up a fight in Madison last week and had a chance to tie the game on their final possession. They kept Wisconsin’s run game in check allowing 2.9 yards per rush. That will be the key again to keeping this one close. Northwestern must average better than 0.7 yards a carry though at home if they want any chance at the upset.
Match Up of the Week: John O’Korn vs. Michigan State’s defense.
This will be John O’Korn’s second start in a Michigan uniform with his first being against Indiana last year when Speight went down with a shoulder injury. He played well last week when he came in for the again injured Speight, moving the offense down the field several times in the section half. This will be his first taste of rivalry football in the Mitten State. O’Korn is more elusive and athletic as Speight and but is more of West Coast style quarterback. Before this season, he averaged around 6 yards per attempt. However this year, in limited action, he is averaging over 11 yards an attempt and is completing over 70% of his passes. He has seemed to be more confident in his play making ability and his arm to go along with his decision making. I am interested to see how he handles the Michigan State secondary who is allowing just 152 yards a game through air. Michigan will probably lean heavy on the run with Isaac, Evans and Higdon as MSU struggled to stop the run in their one loss this year. Michigan State is led by their stout front 7. They are 3rd in the Big Ten in yards allowed per game and pressure is key to allow their secondary to make plays. I expect to see a fairly conservative play calling for Michigan, especially on first or second down running the ball. The opporunties will be their but don’t expect Michigan to try to come out of the gate looking to put up 30 points. I expect this will be a game won through the trenches and I like Michigan and O’Korn to get the win and retain the Paul Bunyan Trophy. Michigan 23, Michigan State 13.