Power ranking the top 10 players in the Big Ten after Week 8
Silly me, I was hoping all 7 scheduled B1G games this weekend would get played. I was hoping we could all watch the guys on our list of the B1G’s top 10 players take the field at least one more time.
After perhaps the most trying season ever, it would have been nice if every program could finish with a celebration of the sport. Selfishly, I wanted to sit on my couch and watch game after game, starting Friday with Nebraska at Rutgers (which is still on, but now will kick off at 7:30 p.m. EST, 3 ½ hours later than originally scheduled).
No, we won’t have the B1G’s first 7-game weekend since Week 1. That idea kicked the Old Oaken Bucket when Purdue and Indiana had to cancel their Friday night meeting. Next came word that Iowa and Michigan won’t get together Saturday.
The Year of COVID strikes again, and it’s killing my buzz.
We’re missing out on watching a lot of great players, as half the guys on this list didn’t suit up last weekend and (at least) 4 won’t play this weekend. Sigh.
From the games that did occur last weekend, we uncovered two players worthy of cracking the top 10 — an Iowa offensive lineman and a Northwestern linebacker.
As we hold our breath waiting for the next cancelation, here’s how our top 10 shakes out after B1G Week 8:
Honorable mention: Chris Bergin, LB, Northwestern; Chance Campbell, LB, Maryland; Wyatt Davis, OL, Ohio State; Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State; Olakunle Fatukasi, LB, Rutgers; Paddy Fisher, LB, Northwestern; Tyler Goodson, RB, Iowa; Zander Horvath, RB, Purdue; Micah McFadden, LB, Indiana; Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue; Wan’Dale Robinson, WR, Nebraska; Antjuan Simmons, LB, Michigan State.
10. Blake Gallagher, LB, Northwestern
He shares the team lead in tackles with fellow LB Paddy Fisher (65, 9.3 per game) and is the only linebacker on the team with any sacks (2). An all-round disruptive force, the 6-1, 228-pound senior ranks third in the B1G with 9.5 tackles for loss and has 1 interception, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery. He’s racked up double-digit tackles in 4 of the Wildcats’ 7 games.
9. Brandon Joseph, DB, Northwestern
The 6-1, 192-pound redshirt freshman continues to hold a share of the national lead in interceptions (5) and added 6 more tackles to his ledger in Saturday’s 28-10 victory over Illinois.
With 44 tackles on the season, Joseph ranks among the top 10 in the B1G in tackles per game (6.3) for a defensive back — and best among DBs on winning teams. Along with shutting down opposing receivers, that makes him a key piece of Northwestern’s stout defense. He’ll face his biggest test to date on Saturday against Ohio State’s standout receivers in the B1G title game.
8. Ty Fryfogle, WR, Indiana
The 6-2, 214-pound senior ranks second in the B1G at 20.2 yards per catch and 4th in yards per game (98.1). He remains the only receiver in the B1G with a 200-yard receiving game this season, and he had two of them — in a row.
His production waned after QB Michael Penix Jr.’s season ended with an injury, and he and the Hoosiers had last week off. Unfortunately, with the Bucket game canceled for a second straight week, he’ll have this weekend off as well.
7. Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
A redshirt sophomore, Linderbaum has started at center every game for Iowa over the past 2 seasons, getting better and better as he goes along. In recent weeks, Pro Football Focus has rated the nimble 6-3, 289-pounder the best center in the FBS and a potential first-round NFL selection. He is PFF’s highest-graded pass blocker, regardless of position.
He and his line mates — left tackle Alaric Jackson in particular — make Iowa’s ball-control offense go, a major reason the Hawkeyes are on a 6-game winning streak.
6. David Bell, WR, Purdue
The 6-2, 205-pound sophomore leads the B1G with 53 receptions even after having last week off and is the only receiver in the league outside of Ohio State’s dynamic duo averaging better than 100 yards per game (104.2).
5. Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Olave posted season highs with 10 catches for 139 yards, including a 41-yard TD reception, the last time Ohio State played.
The 6-1, 188-pound junior has topped 100 receiving yard in 4 of OSU’s 5 games and should be rested and ready for Saturday’s B1G Championship Game. He is second only to teammate Garrett Wilson in yards per game (105.6 to Wilson’s 114.4).
4. Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
The 6-0, 193-pound sophomore is coming off a (Michigan COVID) bye week after posting season-low totals with 3 catches for 59 yards in a rout of Michigan State. That was the first sub-100 yard game of the season for Garrett, as the Buckeyes simply didn’t need anything more while destroying the Spartans.
At a B1G-best 114.4 receiving yards per game, he ranks 8th in the country among FBS players and third among Power 5 players. Throw in a handful of punt/kick returns plus 2 rushes for 67 yards, and Garrett ranks 3rd in the B1G in all purpose yards per game.
3. Daviyon Nixon, DT, Iowa
Nixon has led the B1G in tackles for loss pretty much from the start of the season, and he remains No. 1 after Week 8 with 13.5. After leading the league outright in sacks for several weeks, he now shares that honor with teammate Chauncey Golston, both with 5.5 on the season.
The 6-3, 305-pound junior plugs the middle for Iowa’s stout defense, the 2nd best unit in the B1G in total defense. With 45 tackles on the season, he’s by far the leading tackler among interior lineman in the B1G.
The nimble big man, who has a 71-yard interception return for a TD to his credit this season, is garnering plenty of national attention lately. He’s a finalist for several postseason awards, and deservedly so.
2. Mohamed Ibrahim, RB, Minnesota
After 2 weeks off as the Minnesota program dealt with COVID issues, Ibrahim returned to the field Saturday to lead a severely shorthanded Gophers squad past Nebraska 24-17.
After 108 rushing yard on a season-low 20 carries, Minnesota’s 5-10, 210-pound junior remains on pace to top 1,000 yards for the second time in three seasons. He’ll need 75 yards Saturday afternoon at Wisconsin to hit the mark, which would be amazing for a guy playing in just his 7th game of the season.
Ibrahim has two 200-yard games to his credit this year, and at one point led the nation in rushing yards per game. He’s now 3rd, averaging just over 154 per contest. After 2 rushing TDs against the Huskers, he’s up to 15 on the year; at 2.5 per game, he’s second in the nation.
1. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
We’ve recited the stats ad nauseum, so let’s go short and sweet this week. Fields is far and away the best quarterback in the B1G, by any type of analysis you choose. He’s leading this Ohio State juggernaut, not going along for the ride.
The true tests are just starting for the 6-3, 228-pound junior, starting with Saturday’s B1G title game, which we all assume will provide a return trip to the CFP if the Buckeyes take care of business.
Fields is 18-1 as a Buckeye, with the only loss coming in last season’s national semifinals. If he has anything left to prove, it’ll happen on New Year’s Day — and then Jan. 11, hopefully, if you’re a Buckeyes fan.