Five B1G Players with most to prove on Saturday
You could probably put 100 guys on this list and make a worthy case. These, however, are the five guys that have the most to prove on Saturday.
Jeremy Clark, Michigan CB — Against one of the worst passing offenses in the B1G, Clark struggled. A big reason Mitch Leidner racked up a rare 300-yard game was because he avoided Jourdan Lewis and attacked Clark instead. The Gophers gashed him for a pair of long pass plays, including the 52-yard touchdown by Rashad Still. As long as Lewis is playing at an All-American level, offenses are going to attack Clark and Channing Stribling. They both got into the interception column early and often in the first half of the season, but teams have adjusted. Clark cannot afford to be the weak link on a Michigan defense that’s still one of the top units in the country. He can get back on track — and take some of the pressure off himself — with a better showing against Rutgers.
Joel Stave, Wisconsin QB — Stave and Christian Hackenberg could basically fall into this category every week. Against a game the Badgers are supposed to win comfortably, the Wisconsin senior needs to have a turnover-free game. Despite Wisconsin’s 48-point output, Stave struggled in some less-than-ideal throwing conditions. If he wants to give his team confidence — and quiet the calls for Houston — he needs to lead touchdown drives. Back-to-back clunkers against Rutgers and Maryland isn’t exactly the best endorsement for keeping a job, even if Paul Chryst is set on letting Stave ride out 2015. A convincing bounce-back effort would provide some needed stability for Wisconsin’s ever-shifting offense.
Nick Mangieri, Indiana DE — Some guys on this list have individual efforts to prove. Mangeiri’s is greater than that. The leader of the IU defense has to fuel a complete effort for his group, especially up front. Too many times this defense looks worn down by the fourth quarter. It’s no wonder teams outscored IU 114-44 in the final 15 minutes. You have to play a complete game to knock off a top-10 team like Iowa. IU didn’t when Michigan State blew open a one-possession game and scored three touchdowns in the final five minutes. Mangeiri needs to be the one to fuel those late third-down stops. IU’s pass rush can’t fade away, especially against a unit as solid as Iowa’s. It’ll take the Hoosiers’ best defensive game of the year to avoid 0-5.
Madre London, Michigan State RB — Before Madre London went down with an ankle injury against Rutgers, he had a prime chance to earn the lion’s share of the carries. Mark Dantonio appeared set on benching true freshman L.J. Scott for an undisclosed reason. But London couldn’t stay on the field. On Saturday, London is expected to return to the lineup. It remains to be seen what kind of workload he’ll get. With the way Mark Dantonio has handled the running backs this year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see all four work their way into the rotation. That means London could have limited work that he’ll have to take advantage of if he wants to get back to out-touching the superiorly-talented Scott. Just in case London needed any extra motivation, he’ll also be facing the team he almost committed to.
Cardale Jones, Ohio State QB — Just in case you haven’t heard, a certain starting quarterback was arrested last weekend. As a result, the Buckeyes are going back to the guy that helped them to a national championship last year. Urban Meyer came out and said that Jones has a chance to earn his starting job back with his performance this weekend. He won’t have J.T. Barrett looking over his shoulder or taking his red-zone reps. There shouldn’t be any reason for Jones to look uncomfortable when the biggest threat to take his reps is lining up at receiver. Above all else, Jones has to be decisive. He has to step into deep throws. He has do know what he’s doing on the zone-reads. He has to be precise with timing routes. Rarely do opportunities come about like this. Only at Ohio State does a 10-0, national-championship-winning quarterback need to catch a break to get a second chance. It’s up to Jones to take advantage of it.