1 B1G takeaway from every team in Week 6
Here is 1 takeaway from each Big Ten team in Week 6.
Iowa — Keith Duncan has the confidence that other teams wish their kicker had
College kickers are notoriously inconsistent, but Iowa has a weapon in Keith Duncan. And he is making it a yearly occurrence to remind us that on Black Friday against Nebraska. One year after infamously blowing a kiss to the Nebraska sideline, Duncan nailed 4-of-5 field goal attempts in Iowa’s 26-20 win. Duncan has made a B1G-high 10 field goals on 14 attempts, though that includes going 0-for-3 from 50-plus yards (including 1 this week that hit the crossbar). That’s after a 2019 season in which he led the country in making 29. Duncan isn’t shy about much of anything, either, as he suggested that Nebraska players care too much about growing their mustaches rather than, you know, playing football.
Penn State — You can never have too many running backs
This time last year, Penn State’s running back room was as loaded as you could have possibly had. It would’ve been understandable if the Nittany Lions took a year off from recruiting the position, or at least went a little lighter. Instead, they doubled down and nabbed 2 4-star recruits in Keyvone Lee and Caziah Holmes, both of whom probably figured they wouldn’t get anywhere near the field this season. But Penn State’s 4 running backs from last season are all MIA for various reasons, so on Saturday, the true freshman duo combined for 32 carries for 168 yards in the win over Michigan. They had combined for just 43 carries in the first 5 games.
Michigan State — Mel Tucker is a big-game coach
Michigan State has had a rough go of it in 2020, undoubtedly. But say this for the Spartans and first-year head coach Mel Tucker: They show up for big games. Saturday’s upset win over No. 8 Northwestern marked the second game in which a broader audience had an interest in the game (Michigan was the other), and Michigan State made it 2-for-2. If you’re a casual observer of college football, you might think the Spartans were heading toward a Big Ten title. No, Michigan State had been outscored 79-7 over the previous 2 games. But for whatever reason, Tucker has his guys ready to go when the stage is bigger. When the Spartans have more talent, their knack for rising to the occasion will come in handy.
Indiana — Run game still needs work
Indiana seemed to enter Saturday’s game against Maryland with the sole intent of getting its struggling running game going. It seemed like a good idea considering Maryland entered the day allowing 4.9 yards per rush (2nd-worst in the Big Ten). The results were mixed, as the Hoosiers ran a season-high 48 times for 234 yards (4.9 average), their most in the last 13 games. Offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan, to his credit, stuck with it through some early difficulties. And it may not have been too tough of a call given that Michael Penix Jr. had one of the worst games of his career before exiting with a lower leg injury in the 3rd quarter.
Rutgers — Sean Gleeson has some tricks up his sleeve
After using Noah Vedral almost exclusively at QB during the first 5 games of the season, offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson mixed and matched with Art Sitkowski and Johnny Langan. Purdue didn’t have an answer for it, as Rutgers (2-4) rallied from a 10-point deficit to win 37-30. Sitkowski completed 18-of-27 passes for 2 TDs, while Langan ran 21 times for 95 yards and threw a TD. Purdue couldn’t stop Langan on the ground late in the game to get the ball back.
Northwestern — Lack of run game holding back Wildcats
Northwestern has become one-dimensional offensively, and that dimension isn’t very good. The Wildcats cannot run the ball. After 63 yards on 37 attempts at Michigan State, they have 167 rushing yards on 100 attempts (1.7 average) over the last 3 games. That’s put a ton of pressure on Peyton Ramsey, as he is averaging 44 pass attempts over the last 2 weeks. It’s been a disappointing decline in rushing production for Northwestern, which ran for 325 yards in the opener against Maryland and 458 in the 5 games since.
Nebraska — It’s always something
It’s always something with these Huskers, isn’t it? On Friday, Nebraska blamed bad snaps from center Cam Jurgens on clapping from the Iowa sideline. As you can imagine, that drew a collective eye roll from the rest of college football. At some point, it’s Nebraska’s fault. Even if Jurgens was hearing something, this is football — not golf, as Kirk Ferentz pointed out. Jurgens’ bad snaps repeatedly killed Nebraska’s momentum in the first half, as Adrian Martinez was forced to fall on the loose balls. The Huskers actually played well, taking a 20-13 lead early in the 3rd quarter. What if they didn’t give away a handful of plays in the first half?
Michigan — Feed Hassan Haskins
Michigan’s run game has been one of the worst in the Big Ten, and part of it may be due to not letting any running back get into a rhythm. Well, Hassan Haskins has emerged the last 2 weeks as the go-to guy in the backfield. After a 17-carry, 101-yard performance in which he scored 2 TDs, Haskins has led the backfield in back-to-back games. In fact, Haskins is the only Michigan running back to have double-digit carries in a game this season.
Maryland — Rust is clearly an issue
It’s hard to judge Maryland too harshly in its first game in 3 weeks. The Terrapins were predictably sloppy in the loss of Indiana, as they turned it over 3 times and ran for only 59 yards. Maryland was without 23 players due to COVID. For as poorly as they played, they should take solace in the fact that this was a 7-3 game at halftime and Indiana, which is supposedly one of the best teams in the Big Ten, couldn’t pull away until the 4th quarter. There will be better days for Taulia Tagovailoa, as he had to go against a defense leading the country in interceptions per game.
Purdue — Boilermakers are fading fast
Oddly enough, Purdue has lost 3 straight and is 0-2 with star Rondale Moore back in the lineup. Granted, all 3 losses are by 1 possession, but so were the Boilermakers’ 2 wins to open the season. Their defense wore down in the second half as Rutgers scored 24 points to erase a 10-point halftime deficit. Just a few weeks ago, Purdue was one of the Big Ten’s most surprising teams, but the Boilermakers are just 1 game outside of last place in the West.