5 Big Ten players with a lot to prove in Week 11
It’s Week 11 in the Big Ten, and there are plenty of people under the spotlight this week. We’ve got some teams still trying to win division titles, and others hoping to bounce back to turn in a signature performance.
Here are five Big Ten players, more or less, with a lot to prove this weekend:
Clayton Thorson, Northwestern quarterback
Northwestern is trying to win the Big Ten West and play in the Big Ten Championship Game for the first time, and they can pretty much seal the deal with a win at Iowa on Saturday. The problem, though, is that they are an 11-point underdog on the road against an Iowa team that has been very good at home. Northwestern has won two straight against Iowa, so Clayton Thorson needs to hit all the right notes and have a big game against that though Iowa defense. When titles are there for the taking, you expect your senior quarterback to step up.
Miles Sanders, Penn State running back
We never expected the Penn State running game to struggle this year, even with Saquon Barkley gone. Miles Sanders was plug-and-play, but the offensive line has struggled, too. Sanders hasn’t gained 100 yards the past three games and the Nittany Lions are 2-3 in their last five games. The offensive line got a little talking-to on Sunday. “We don’t normally talk to them,” Sanders said Wednesday, referring to crashing position meetings. “But, with us struggling and with the run game being a little frustrating, we thought just as running backs, just to talk to the room and tell them we still trust them and we still appreciate them and all that.” We’ll see if that makes any difference Saturday against Wisconsin’s stingy defense.
Iowa cornerback Riley Moss
Purdue picked on Iowa cornerback Riley Moss last week, so it’s important that he erases all that from his memory and bounce back with a big game Saturday against Northwestern in Iowa City. It’s still a big game Moss and fellow freshman Julius Brents are going to be very good players on the corners for the Hawkeyes, but they have had their moments where they struggled this year. They both need a big game Saturday, especially Moss.
Entire Ohio State defense … again
This group was on this list a week ago for being such a disaster – and nothing has changed. After this group of 11-man all-stars gave up 49 points in a loss to Purdue, they gave up 31 to a seven-loss team in Nebraska a week ago. We said “awful” last week, and we’ll say it again. Everyone involved with this group — players and coaches alike — needs to step it up and get it fixed. If they play poorly at Michigan State, they could very easily lose again.
Alex Hornibrook, Wisconsin quarterback … again
To say that Wisconsin needs a big win this season that it can hang their hat on is a massive understatement. The Badgers are 6-3, but their win against Iowa is THE ONLY ONE against a team with a winning record. Western Kentucky (1-8), New Mexico (3-6), Nebraska (2-7), Illinois (4-5) and Rutgers (1-8) have a combined record of 11-34. That can all change Saturday at Penn State, because the Nittany Lions are definitely beatable. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook returned last week from a mild concussion, and was just OK. He needs to step up his game this week, and go in and take a game that really would matter. They are 9-point underdogs, but an upset is looming here. Now healthy, Hornibrook needs to have his best game of the year, which isn’t saying much.