Can you believe we’ve already surpassed the six-week mark of the season? Seriously, how can the weeks travel by so quickly?
Before we head into Week 7, it’s time to check in with every B1G team. During the three-week checkup, we had one question for every team as we approached the start of conference play. Now that we’ve seen each team play in a few league games, teams are starting to develop identities and trends are beginning to form.
In the six-week checkup, we’re taking a look at one area that needs improvement for each team to be successful in the latter portion of the season. For some teams, we’re being a little nitpicky. For others, we could’ve probably listed four or five concerning areas. But, to be fair, we narrowed it down to one for every team.
Here’s one thing every team in the B1G East needs to improve on for the second half of the season.
Needs improvement: Forcing more turnovers
Since Tom Allen arrived as the defensive coordinator last year, there’s been an emphasis on takeaways. Thanks to that mentality, the Hoosiers were able to make significant strides defensively. One season later, though, Indiana is struggling to force turnovers.
Indiana has forced just four turnovers through five games, a statistic that has to improve if Indiana wants to register a signature win this season. Granted, the Hoosiers have played Ohio State and Penn State already — two teams that are very cautious with the ball — but Allen’s defense has to start creating more opportunities moving forward.
Needs improvement: Passing offense
To be fair, D.J. Durkin and the Terrapins have endured some serious setbacks through the first six weeks of the season at quarterback. Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill are both done for the season, leaving Max Bortenschlager and Caleb Henderson to run the show for the remainder of the year.
Maryland’s passing attack doesn’t have to be prolific, it just has to be a little more effective to try and catch teams off balance. Currently, the Terrapins rank last in passing yardage (142.2 yards per game). Opening up the offense a little bit isn’t going to be easy at this point for the Terps, but mixing things up even a little bit should help Ty Johnson and the rushing attack tremendously.
Needs improvement: Scoring touchdowns in the red zone
It’s been an Achilles heel for the Wolverines throughout the first half of the season and it’s a troubling trend in Ann Arbor. Michigan’s inability to convert on red zone visits is going to be a huge issue moving forward if it’s not corrected.
Right now, the Wolverines have scored just five touchdowns on 15 trips inside the red zone. That’s not an appealing percentage, especially or a team hoping to compete in the B1G East. Michigan has to find a way to start crossing the goal line with more frequency, especially as games against Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State remain on the schedule.
Needs improvement: Finishing drives
The Spartans are averaging just 22.4 points per game this season, which ranks 12th in the B1G. Fortunately, the defense has been stellar in the first half of the year.
Yes, Michigan State can depend on its defense to win games in the conference. Beating Michigan 14-10 in Ann Arbor was a great demonstration of that. But has the Spartans start facing competition with more high-powered offensive attacks, they’re going to have start finding the end zone.
Needs improvement: Committing penalties
Despite all the talent on the field, Ohio State is still making some mental mistakes. The Buckeyes have been the most penalized team in the B1G so far this season, being flagged 45 times for 468 yards.
A lot of Ohio State’s penalties come from playing an aggressive brand of football — usually Urban Meyer’s teams struggle with this issue. But it’s been worse this season that in the past, which is slightly concerning. Correcting some of the mental mistakes is going to be important for this team moving forward.
Needs improvement: Converting on third down
There really aren’t many flaws with this Penn State team. The Nittany Lions are good offensively, good defensively, good in special teams and have the best player in college football.
But if there’s one knock on Penn State it’s the struggle to convert on those third downs. They’re successful just over 37 percent of the time, which ranks 78th nationally. The Nittany Lions should probably be over 40 percent, especially for a team hoping to compete for a national title. This is kind of nitpicking, but it’s an area that needs some slight improvement.
Needs improvement: Pressuring the quarterback
There are a lot of areas Rutgers needs help in, but the most noticeable is its struggles getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Chris Ash’s squad is ranked 118th nationally which just five sacks through six weeks of the season. That’s not good.
Rutgers really needs to find a pass-rusher or figure out a way to beat teams at the line of scrimmage. For what it’s worth, the Scarlet Knights only have 19 tackles for loss this season, too. This is a team that looks much better than it did a year ago, but Rutgers still isn’t getting any pressure on the quarterback, which is a big deal in the B1G.