Power ranking the top 10 players in the Big Ten after Week 2
In football, no one gets much slack. It’s “what have you done for me lately” in every league at every level.
So as I kick off this exercise of tabbing the B1G’s top players every week, I will note that reputations matter, but results matter more. Not every potential first-round NFL Draft pick is going to show up on this list.
I’m planning to present a mix of exciting newcomers, statistical leaders and guys who pass the eye test.
I suspect that in Week 3 of B1G play, some members of this list will solidify their spots and others will show they weren’t ready for prime time after all.
But until then, here are my top 10 B1G players through two weekends’ worth of games:
Honorable mention: Chance Campbell, LB, Maryland; Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State; Haskell Garrett, DT, Ohio State; Zander Horvath, RB, Purdue; George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue; Rocky Lombardi, QB, Michigan State; Graham Mertz, QB, Wisconsin; Michael Penix Jr., QB, Indiana; Taulia Tagovailoa, QB, Maryland; Tommy Togiai, DT, Ohio State.
10. Ricky White, WR, Michigan State
Can I put this young wideout on this list based on one game? Yes, yes I can. My list, my rules. If he falters this weekend, he may be gone and forgotten by next Wednesday. But don’t bet on it.
White, a slender (6-1, 175) 18-year-old true freshman, is coming off the best receiving yards game by a freshman in the 125 years of Michigan State football. And his performance helped beat Michigan. So, coming off his 8-catch, 196-yard, 1-TD game, White gets to spend at least 1 week as a top 10 B1G player in my book. (And some other folks’ book, too.)
9. Antjuan Simmons, LB, Michigan State
The senior proved instrumental in MSU’s upset of 3-TD favorite Michigan, breaking up a pass to prevent a touchdown and tallying 11 tackles. On the year, he’s tied for second in the B1G with 22 total tackles and fourth in TFL with 3.5.
8. Wyatt Davis, OL, Ohio State
He’s projected by multiple analysts to be a first-round NFL pick, probably the third B1G player to come off the board after Justin Fields and Micah Parsons. With the OSU offense clicking on all cylinders (B1G-best 508.5 ypg), you gotta give credit to Davis and his mates.
7. Daviyon Nixon, DT, Iowa
Defensive tackles who go 6-3 and 305 pounds rarely rack up double-digit tackle totals in a game, but Nixon did just that with 11 stops in a 21-20 loss to Northwestern that clearly wasn’t his fault. On the year, the former juco player has 5.5 tackles for loss totaling 32 yards, both B1G bests. Add in 2 sacks, and it’s no wonder he’s drawing rave reviews on campus and beyond.
6. Aidan O’Connell, QB, Purdue
The junior first-time starter leads the B1G with 326.5 passing yards per game and is connecting on better than 70 percent of his throws for the 2-0 Boilermakers. He has quickly formed a bond with star receiver David Bell, creating a dynamic duo that might be able to keep Purdue competitive throughout the season.
5. Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Picking up where he left off last season, the 6-1 junior has posted consecutive 100-yard receiving games to start the season. He scored his first 2 TDs of the season in Saturday night’s 38-25 victory over Penn State. Mr. Consistent is averaging 17.2 yards on 13 catches after averaging 17.3 over 49 receptions last season.
4. Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
It’s hard to tell if Wilson’s play is freeing up Olave or vice versa. Either way, they sure are good together. Like Olave, Wilson has topped 100 yards in both games played so far. The sophomore even has slightly better numbers, averaging 9 catches for 120 yards. Also a threat as a punt and kick returner, he’s second in the league in all-purpose yards. Like Olave, he’s looking smooth, athletic and unstoppable.
3. David Bell, WR, Purdue
The sophomore leads the B1G in catches (22), receiving yard (243) and receiving TDs (4, tied with PSU’s Jahan Dotson). And his team is 2-0. His monster game (11-121, 3 TDs including the game-winner) against Iowa to start the season helped new starting QB Aidan O’Connell settle in. That’s 2 straight games of 120-plus yards heading into a showdown with Wisconsin (if the Badgers can play).
2. Mohamed Ibrahim, RB, Minnesota
Workhorse backs are a dying breed in football these days. That’s all the more reason to respect redshirt junior Ibrahim, despite his team coming up short 2 weeks in a row. After a bunch of roster turnover, Ibrahim found himself called upon by PJ Fleck to carry a heavy load — as in 41 carries for 207 yards and 4 TDs in Saturday’s 45-44 overtime loss to Maryland. Through 2 games, he’s averaging 173.5 yards on 33.5 carries and has scored 6 times. He leads the league in all-purpose yards, too.
He and Zander Horvath of Purdue are the only B1G backs with consecutive 100-yard games to start the season, and Horvath trails Ibrahim by 24 attempts, 116 yards and 5 TDs. Basically, Minnesota’s 5-10, 210-pound stud has lapped the B1G field already.
1. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Through 2 games, Fields has completed 87.3 percent of his passes for just under 300 yards per game, with 6 TDs and no interceptions. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. He’s a Mac Jones stumble from leading the Heisman race after carving up Penn State seemingly without breaking a sweat.