Big Ten's Most Underrated
WDE Drew Ott, Iowa Hawkeyes
On a list of the league's best defensive lines, Iowa would be near the top. Carl Davis is regularly double-teamed, and his teammate on the interior, Louis Trinca-Pasat, has certainly been disruptive - but perhaps not as much as Ott, who has seen a lot of plays come his way, being funnelled out from the teeth of the defense. Ott is not reinventing the wheel, but he's shown the ability to disengage from blocks and chase down smaller, quicker athletes in space, which is exactly what Iowa's needed.
RB Brandon Ross, Maryland Terrapins
Maryland's starting tailback has gotten lost in a league full of terrific players at that position, probably because Brandon Ross's 251 rushing yards aren't very impressive. He also has 206 yards receiving, though, and has lost a lot of carries with fumbling issues - issues that he and the coaches say have been fixed.
"The thing with Brandon is we've all seen it; you guys have seen it, I've seen it, he's got the ability to make big plays," Edsall said. "He's made big plays here, he's taken the ball the distance, and again, it's just one of those things, we're going to try to utilize him and all of our guys to the best of their ability to help us move the ball and be successful."
Ross hasn't gotten 10 carries in a game since the first of the year, but that may soon change. He has gotten at least five yards more than half of the time that he touches the ball. Meanwhile, the tailback with whom he was splitting reps, Wes Brown, has averaged under 2.50 yards a carry against teams not named James Madison or South Florida. Maryland's offense runs heavily through C.J. Brown, but if Ross has indeed fixed his fumbling problems, the Terps could use more of him against Wisconsin, Penn State, and Michigan State, its next three opponents.
OC Ralph Friedgen, Rutgers Scarlet Knights
'The Fridge,' Maryland's head coach from 2001-10, has moved the ball with his savvy play-calling and forged a career year for quarterback Gary Nova, who has occasionally a punch line for his 47 career interceptions. Nova hasn't entirely changed his stripes - 8 of those interceptions have come this year - but he's producing 41% more yards per throw than at any other time in his career. His team is 5-2, and Paul James was also set to break out before going down with an injury (he was on pace for 1,100 yards). Friedgen has made the most of his players, and he'll be down right dangerous with a greater influx of talent. Unfortunately for Rutgers' opponents, that will soon be happening - Nova will be replaced next season by LSU transfer Hayden Rettig.
RG Pat Elflein, Ohio State Buckeyes
Elflein, who famously stepped in for Marcus Hall against Michigan and then in the B1G Championship, has provided a steady hand for the offensive line in 2014. He has played both guard spots, and even some center, while providing plenty of mobility to keep Tom Herman's playbook open with a running quarterback behind him. Ohio State needed some of its linemen to step up this year, and Elflein has done just that - and may make an All-Big Ten team at year's end.
WR/PR De'Mornay Pierson-El, Nebraska Cornhuskers
Pierson-El leads the nation by far in punt return yardage at 360; the second-best returner in the country has 241. He is one of only three players in the country to get multiple punt return touchdowns, and this past week Pat Fitzgerald tried everything to avoid kicking to him, often ceding large chunks of yardage in the process. Pierson-El may not be an All-American, but the wide receiver, and occasional quarterback, does affect the game in a big way for the Cornhuskers.
Hitting the Links Is Burrowing In A Sweater
Through his first six career games, J.T. Barrett has posted the third-best quarterback rating in FBS (182.1), and much higher than any year of Braxton Miller's (best: 158.1). Barrett is averaging 9.8 yards a throw, 5th best in the country, and 4.9 yards a rush. Nine Ohio State receivers are averaging more than a catch per game.
Ohio State's offense is and always has been built on efficiency; last year, Carlos Hyde was able to supply all the efficiency an offense could possibly need, and it mixed well with Braxton Miller's style. This year's edition is less than unstoppable, but they've been able to keep that efficiency thanks to the growth of the receiving corps (Dontre Wilson, Jalin Marshall, Devin Smith, and Michael Thomas) and their two tight ends.
Tom Herman is leaning less on the run this go-around, but that fits J.T. Barrett's style more. Herman is making it easier on his freshman by putting in easy passing plays that flood one side or give Barrett deep flashes in the post. Barrett knows what to look for, and he has athletes around him who can get separation. And the playcalling always tries to avoid 3rd and long.
LSU also announced they are playing Texas in 2019 and '20.
Denard, #16 for the Jacksonville Jaguars, broke out this past Sunday for 127 yards while starting running back Toby Gerhart was out injured. In other B1G NFL news, the play before Peyton Manning threw his record-breaking 509th touchdown pass, he was tackled for a loss by none other than Wisconsin alum Chris Borland, who will forever remain a nemesis of Carlos Hyde - despite the fact that they're now teammates on the 49ers.
SI's Andy Staples raises a very interesting point, that the Big 12's round robin schedule poses a challenge for them in any season, and given the losses by Baylor and Oklahoma, it also opens a door for the Big Ten to sneak in, if Notre Dame doesn't steal the spot.
West Virginia has earned more recognition than it's received so far, but that changed on Sunday with its first AP Poll ranking of the year, sitting at #22 after its takedown of Baylor. Half of the Big 12 is ranked, but none higher than TCU at #10.
This has been a tough and inconsistent year for the Hoosiers, obviously, and their defense has proven nearly as weak as ever. Heading into this bye week, they have given up 45 points in three straight games.
The Pac-12 quarterbacks have been like the Big Ten's running backs, which have been like the Big 12's wide receivers. West Virginia's Kevin White has already passed 1,000 yards, and eleven receivers are on pace for 750 yards.
This was a great read by SI, and a look behind closed doors at the pressure cooker of coaching.
Always a fun pastime.
Virginia lost its showndown with Duke, who could be headed for a second straight ACC Championship showdown with Florida State. The middle class of the SEC has been murky and perhaps mediocre, with teams like Georgia Tech and North Carolina ranked at various points, but none able to make much of a lasting statement.
Iowa really went the entire first half without completing a single pass to a WR.— Brendan Stiles (@thebstiles) October 18, 2014
This was against Maryland this past Saturday. "The things that we're known for doing when we play well, I can't think of one of those things that we did today," said Kirk Ferentz afterward.
His numbers aren't great, but he is making his throws (60.4%) and showing he has a higher ceiling to reach. Those who stay will be champions, after all.
Stat of the week: Rutgers receiver Andrew Turzilli, who has been the second-most producing receiver behind Leonte Carroo, caught one 17-yard pass against Ohio State. It dropped his year average to 41.9 yards a catch.