Week 8 B1G Grades
I picked every single B1G underdog to cover the spread.
That meant that I was betting on — but not literally — Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Northwestern and Rutgers to all keep it closer than Vegas said they would.Naturally, my expectations were higher than most.
So when I grade a team like Illinois, which was given a prime opportunity to gain relevance in the B1G West race, that’s taken into consideration. And a team like Northwestern, which I thought had lost its identity after two blowouts, was graded with that in mind.
With that said, let’s see who passed the bar in Week 8.
I’m doing to give the Illini a little break because it was playing against a top-five defense without arguably its best offensive player. That’s tough on any account. Still, Wisconsin had an inexperienced backup quarterback thrust into action and the Badgers were without a bevy of skill players. Somehow, Illinois let the one dangerous skill player the Badgers had left, Alex Erickson, take over. The chance was there for Illinois to earn a huge B1G West win and it failed to capitalize on the opportunity.
After 55 minutes, the Hoosiers were within a possession of the No. 6 team in the country on the road. That was without Jordan Howard at full strength, too. But then — just as they did the week before in a collapse against Rutgers — the wheels on the defensive bus fell off. IU is actually solid up front, but when the defensive line gets worn down in the fourth quarter, the secondary gets exposed. And like it was on Saturday, it gets beat.
Man, turnovers can make a team look much worse than it is. That’s the case for the Terps, who actually played decent outside of their FIVE turnovers. Perry Hills is going to give B1G defenses problems with his mobility. It almost makes you wonder if the Terps should just run the ball all day with he and Brandon Ross. That formula looked pretty good against a solid Penn State run defense.
Michigan State: B+
To be clear, Connor Cook gets an A+. That was as good as I’ve ever seen him. That’s saying a lot. But the Spartans struggled to establish the run with their banged up offensive line. And they did struggle to slow down Nate Sudfeld for most of the game. That was much more lopsided than the 26-point game it turned out to be. Still, Mark Dantonio has to feel good about the fact that his depleted squad got to the bye week at 8-0…with Cook still upright.
The Huskers just don’t make winning plays. That sounds vague and obvious, but if you watch this team, you can’t help but look around and wonder who’s going to step up and convert the key first down or who is going to break up a pass on third down. It’s way past the point of working out the kinks with a new coaching staff. The Huskers’ 2015 narrative played out once again and prevented them from winning another game they should’ve won.
If you would’ve told me that Justin Jackson would rush for less than three yards a carry and Northwestern would possess the ball half as long as Nebraska, I would’ve assumed it led to another Wildcats blowout loss. Instead, Clayton Thorson stepped up and made the game-changing plays — with his arm and legs — to preserve a gritty road win. Dean Lowry and Anthony Walker were also about as good as can be. It wasn’t pretty, but the Wildcats were in no position to expect style points in Lincoln.
Ohio State: A
Woah. Shocking, right? The Buckeyes finally aced a test. That was thanks in large part to J.T. Barrett, who appears to have stabilized Ohio State’s offensive inconsistencies. Credit the Buckeye defense for pitching a 59-minute, 47-second shutout, too. Gareon Conley and Joey Bosa wreaked plenty of havoc on Chris Laviano to make it a one-sided affair for the defending champs.
Penn State: B
It’s amazing how many faces the Lions have shown this season. On Saturday, they showed that they can work the ball downfield. Christian Hackenberg and the Lions receivers were on the same page on some key deep throws while the Lions struggled to establish the run. The biggest demerit was that the normally stout Penn State defense struggled to stop the run.
I predicted 24 Rutgers points, so I wasn’t under the impression that it would turn into a rout so easily. But without Leonte Carroo at full strength, Rutgers wasn’t able to get anything rolling, especially when he went out in the second half. Steve Longa and the Scarlet Knights defense were the unfortunate victims of the nation’s best team playing like the nation’s best team.
That win might not have impressed Associated Press voters to put Wisconsin back into the top 25, but it impressed me. In a must-win game, the Badgers could’ve used every excuse in the book. Corey Clement, Taiwan Deal, Joel Stave, Dan Voltz and Robert Wheelwright were all unavailable in the fourth quarter. And what did the defense do? It got stop after stop while Bart Houston and Alex Erickson led the offense to a gritty road win. Given the circumstances, that was the most impressive win of Paul Chryst’s first year in Madison.