Monday, October 5, 2015

Homecoming Saturday at Kinnick: Iowa's opponent the Illinois Fighting Illini

Bill Cubit

Illinois interim coach Bill Cubit has the Fighting Illini 4-1, 1-0 B1G West.
Cubit's last meeting in Iowa City was as head coach at Western Michigan,
where the former MAC coach pulled the upset over Iowa 28-19 to close
out Iowa's 2007 season. The Hawkeyes have had Cubit's respect for years.
Champaign, IL -  Illinois is 4-1 overall and 1-0 in the Big Ten West after Saturday's win over Nebraska 14-13 in the final minute, the program's best start since 2011, when the Illini were 6-0 overall and 2-0 in the B1G to start the season. Illinois has won three straight B1G games and four of last six dating back to last season. In the 25 Big Ten games prior to those last six, the Fighting Illini were 1-24.

Saturday, the Fighting Illini will travel to Iowa City to face the #22 Iowa Hawkeyes, 5-0 overall and 1-0 in the Big Ten West, at Kinnick Stadium for a 11 a.m. kickoff, televised on the ESPNU. Clay Matvick and John Congemi will have the coverage on Saturday. It is Homecoming in Iowa City on Saturday.

Illinois coach Bill Cubit is 0-4 against AP-ranked opponents in his 8+ years as a Division I head coach. He is 1-1 against Iowa, as a head coach, with the win coming in Iowa City, in 2007, when he lead his Western Michigan team to a 28-19 to close out Iowa's Senior Day.
Iowa's Kirk Ferentz against Illinois
in the 2014 game on the road.

Illinois holds an 18-16-2 advantage in games played in Iowa City in the all-time series. Illinois has an all-time series lead of 38-30-2.

The Hawkeyes are 5-5-2 against the Illini on Homecoming, and 12-4 in Homecoming contests under Kirk Ferentz.

Kirk Ferentz is in his 20th year as a college head coach and his 17th year as Iowa's head coach. His career record is 132-106 and he is 120-85 at Iowa. He ranks ninth in the Big Ten Conference in coaching wins and is Dean of Big Ten coaches, since Joe Paterno's departure at Penn State in 2011.

Ferentz is 6-3 all-time against the Illini, as a head coach. Iowa is the last Big Ten team to beat Illinois, which is on a three-game conference winning streak. Iowa defeated Illinois 30-14, on the road last season to reach their seventh win.

"We're going to play Iowa. Watching them on tape, a really physical football team. I think a really well-coached offense, line wise. They've been around football a long, long time and it's one of the few offensive lines that I really enjoy watching. Even when I was at the last place, I would always try and get film just to see how synced they are; they do such a good job. The quarterback is playing really well and then defensively their front collectively is the best we've played against. They've got some guys there that are really good football players and then the [Desmond] King kid in the back, he's leading the league in interceptions, he's a ball hawk and I remember being involved in recruitment with him back then when he was from Detroit so really a good player. For our kids, we've just got to stay with the process; understand what we're trying to do every day and I think they'll do that. I think they're buying in pretty well for us. We've got an opportunity to go up there and play a really good Iowa team so that's exciting." - Bill Cubit talking about Illinois' upcoming game with Iowa during his weekly media conference on Monday

Illinois' win over Minnesota last season gave the Illini their first win over a ranked team in either the AP or Coaches poll since 2011, as the Golden Gophers were No. 24 in the USA Today Coaches poll (they were not ranked in the AP poll).

The Illini had lost 10 straight and 19 of their last 20 against foes ranked in the AP poll since beating No. 1 Ohio State 28-21 on Nov. 10, 2007. The lone win during that span came on Sept. 17, 2011, over No. 22 Arizona State, 17-14. Illinois has lost its last nine road games against ranked foes since beating OSU in 2007.

This is the Fighting Illini's first road trip to Iowa in the Big Ten, since the 2007 season, when Iowa upset Illinois 10-6. The Fighting Illini won a birth in the Rose Bowl after the 2007 regular season. Iowa's longest winning streak in the series (five games) was snapped with the Illini's 27-24 win in 2008, in Champaign.

Illinois faces its first Associated Press Top 25-ranked opponent of the season on Saturday as Iowa is No. 22 in this week's AP poll. The Hawkeyes are No. 23 in USA Today coaches poll. The Hawkeyes are coming off a 10-6 win @ Wisconsin to open the 2015 Big Ten season. The Hawkeyes are ranked for the first time, since the 2010 season. The win over Wisconsin was the first win over a ranked opponent, since the Hawkeyes beat Michigan in 2011.
Both programs have had Cardiac moments lately in 2015
Illinois senior WR #8 Geronimo
Allison celebrates after his 1-yard
TD reception with 10 seconds
remaining in game vs. Nebraska.

Cardiac Illini: The last two Fighting Illini games, both victories, have each been decided in the final 10 seconds of regulation by a total of three points. Against Nebraska, QB Wes Lunt found WR Geronimo Allison for a 1-yard TD with 10 seconds left for a 14-13 Illini victory. That followed up a 27-25 win over Middle Tennessee on Sept. 26 after the Blue Raiders missed a 43-yard field goal with four seconds on the clock.

Cardiac Iowa: The Hawkeyes clinched wins in the fourth quarter this year @ Iowa State with two late touchdowns to clinch the game 31-17; with a 57 yard field goal on the last play against Pittsburgh at home to win 27-24 and in the fourth quarter @ Wisconsin in the 10-6 win.

Captain Comeback: Illinois has seven fourth-quarter comeback wins in the last two seasons (five in 2014 and two so far in 2015). QB Wes Lunt has orchestrated five of those seven fourth-quarter comebacks, including both this season (vs. Middle Tennessee and vs. Nebraska).

Last year, Iowa's starting quarterback for 12 of 13 games was Jake Rudock, who is now leading Michigan (4-1, 1-0 B1G East), after transferring to the Wolverines as a post-graduate transfer. In last year's 30-14 win in Champaign, Iowa's current quarterback, C.J. Beathard, finished the game 3-of-3 for 73 yards, with one touchdown pass.

Ferentz decided to move junior Beathard  to #1 in January. Beathard is now 6-0 as a starter at Iowa. He has shown a good ability to help make plays both running and passing the football in 2015. The Hawkeyes are 5-0 for the second time under Kirk Ferentz. A win Saturday would be Iowa's second 6-0 start in the Ferentz era (2009). The 2009 Hawkeyes won their first nine games, finished 11-2 overall, and won the 2010 FedEx Orange Bowl over #9 Georgia Tech.

Here is Iowa's DE #95 Drew Ott
tackling Illinois QB #12 Wes Lunt
in last year's game in Champaign.
Illinois is currently without sophomore WR Mike Dudek, due to a knee injury in the Spring. Dudek caught two touchdown passes against Iowa, in last year's game leading the Illini in receiving. QB Wes Lunt played part of the game, finishing 14 for 25, with one interception and one touchdown against Iowa. The Hawkeyes defense sacked Luck once.

D-Fence: The Fighting Illini defense over the first five games has shown vast improvement since last season. The same can be said about the Hawkeyes in 2015.

The Illini rank in the top-25 nationally in nine different stat categories, including blocked kicks (1), third down defense (4), TFLs (15), interceptions (18), passing efficiency defense (19), total defense (21), first downs allowed (23), scoring defense (23) and turnovers gained (24).

Iowa is the only school in the country yet to allow a rushing touchdown. The Hawkeyes yield an average of 84.4 rushing yards per game, second best in the Big Ten and 11th nationally. Iowa limits its opponents to 2.6 yards per carry (161 attempts, 422 yards), 10th best in the country.
Through five games in 2014, the Illini were allowing 468.6 ypg and 35.0 ppg. This season, they're allowing 303.4 ypg and 17.8 ppg through five games.

Iowa averaged 37.8 points per game in its first four wins, but scored just 10 in its Big Ten opener against Wisconsin. It marked the fewest points scored in a Big Ten win since defeating No. 18 Illinois, 10-6, in 2007. The 151 points scored (37.8 ppg) through four games was Iowa's highest total since 2011, when it also scored 151 points (34, 41, 31, 45).

The Illini have forced 31 three-and-out drives this season (6.2 per game), tied for the fifth-most in FBS. Illinois forced 44 three-and-out drives in all of 2014 (3.4 per game). 

The Illini rank fourth in the nation in third down conversion defense, allowing just 17 first downs in 78 third down attempts this season (.218).

Block Party: Illinois is tied for the FBS lead as one of four teams with three blocked kicks this season. The Fighting Illini have blocked two punts, returning both for touchdowns, and one field goal on the season.

Senior RB Josh Ferguson has climbed up to 11th on the Illinois career rushing list with 2,259 career yards. Ferguson was injured, during the game with Nebraska. It is unlikely he will play against Iowa. Next man in for the Fighting Illini will be true freshman Ke'Shawn Vaughn, who is coming off a 98 yard rushing game against the Cornhuskers.

Iowa RB Jordan Canzeri carried 12 times for 68 yards, as a backup last season against Illinois. Now a senior, Canzeri rushed 26 times for 125 yards against Wisconsin. It is his third 100-yard rushing game this season, and the fifth of his career.
Illinois senior WR Geronimo Allison leads the Big Ten in both receptions (32) and receiving yards (453), ranking in the top-20 nationally in both categories. A recent addition to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List, Allison had eight catches for 91 yards against Nebraska, pushing him over 1,000 career receiving yards (1,051).

Iowa junior WR Matt VandeBerg is second in the Big Ten in receptions (31) and has 303 receiving yards on the season. He has scored on two touchdowns from Beathard.
Last year, Illinois CB #2 V'Angelo
Bentley came up short defending on
Iowa's QB C.J. Beathard's TD pass.

Senior CB V'Angelo Bentley is the Illinois career leader in kick return yardage (1,530). He surpassed Pierre Thomas' record of 1,495 yards against MTSU on Sept. 26. The Hornung Award candidate is the first Illinois player in school history to record kick, punt, interception and fumble returns for TD in his career.

Senior WLB Mason Monheim has 331 career tackles, the second-most among active FBS players. The Butkus and Lombardi Award candidate has forced seven career fumbles, tied for fourth most in Illinois history and the fourth-most among active FBS players. Monheim had a career high 15 tackles against the Hawkeyes in 2014.

Last year, eight different Hawkeye players combined for seven tackles-for-loss against Illinois. 
Iowa junior CB Desmond King
against Illinois in 2014.

Iowa and Illinois tie for the conference lead with seven interceptions in 2015. Iowa CB Desmond King leads the Big Ten with five interceptions. Illinois DB Taylor Barton ties for second in the league with three interceptions.

Junior CB Desmond King was named Big Ten Conference Co-Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in Iowa's 10-6 win at Wisconsin. The Big Ten honor is the second for King. He was also recognized on Oct. 21, 2013, after recording 12 in a 34-24 loss at #3 Ohio State.

Illinois junior  SS #3 Taylor Barton
working to break up a reception by
Iowa senior TE #87 Jake Duzey.
Illinois junior SS Taylor Barton has three interceptions this season, tied for 10th-most in the nation through the first five weeks of the season. It's the most for an Illini in a season since Terry Hawthorne in 2011 and equal the total for the entire team in all of 2013. 

Iowa is one victory from becoming bowl eligible for the 14th time in 15 years under Ferentz. The Fighting Illini need two more wins to reach bowl eligibility and their first back to back bowls, since the 2010 and 2011 seasons.

Iowa senior RB #33 Jordan Canzeri is tied for the lead in rushing TDs in the
Big Ten and is #6 in rushing. Illinois senior CB #27 Eaton Spence had a
career high three pass breakups against Iowa, last year.

The 2015 Big Ten West appears to be headed into Wild Wild West ...

  • Illinois (1-0, 4-1 overall) - Could Bill Cubit become the permanent guy in Campaign?
  • Iowa (1-0, 5-0 overall) - the Hawkeyes are off to the best start, since 2009, as the 17th edition of Kirk Ferentz football has seen some change over the past nine months, in Iowa City!
  • Northwestern (1-0, 5-0 overall) - the Wildcats won the Big Ten twenty years ago, when Pat Fizgerald was a player; now, they may have his best team, in the past ten seasons!
  • Wisconsin (0-1, 3-2 overall) - the Badgers won the Big Ten West in 2014, after starting 0-1, but that was with Gary Anderson as head coach and Melvin Gordon at running back!
  • Minnesota (0-1, 3-2 overall) - the Golden Gophers clearly are missing leadership and the senior class of 2014, as Jerry Kill needs an offense to show up, as they have back to back B1G games ...
  • Nebraska (0-1, 2-3 overall) - the Huskers welcomed Mike Riley back in December 2014, but the honeymoon may be coming to a quick end, as they open 2-3 for the first time, since 1959!
  • Purdue (0-1, 1-4 overall) - the Boilermakers keep turning the ball over and over and over at -4 in turnovers ... only Maryland and Rutgers are worse in turnover margin in all games!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Iowa off to first 5-0 start, since 2009; twenty years ago, Iowa opened 5-0, as well.

The Iowa Hawkeyes (5-0, 1-0 B1G West) are off to the best start in six years, as well are ranked for t he first time, since the 2010 season. The 10-6 win over Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1 B1G West) was the first Iowa win over a Top 25 opponent, since the 24-16 win over Michigan in 2011.

The Iowa-Wisconsin game has been played ten times for the 
Heartland Trophy.  The series is now tied at 5-5, with Iowa's 10-6 win. 
The overall series is now, 43-44-2 in favor of the Wisconsin Badgers. 
Kirk Ferentz is now 4-3 in Madison.
Head coach Kirk Ferentz has 120 wins as a member of the Big Ten Conference, passing Barry Alvarez (119) for ninth in conference history. A nice way to celebrate the 120th season of Big Ten football.

Iowa Kirk Ferentz is 2-0
head to head vs. Paul Chryst,
after his 24-20 win last
season at Pitt.
The road team has won seven of the last nine games in this series. This is an amazingly close series, with Wisconsin leading 44-43-2 all-time. The Heartland Trophy record, since it was debuted in 2004 is tied at 5-5. The Hawkeyes ended a three game winning streak by the Badgers. All three games were in Iowa City.

Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis and defensive coordinator Phil Parker are now 4-0 in Big Ten road openers, since 2012. It is Davis' fourth season at Iowa, while Parker is in his fourth season as DC; he has been at Iowa for all 17 seasons, since Ferentz became head coach.

Iowa is now ranked for the first time, since the 2010 season, after the win in Madison. The Hawkeyes are ranked #22 in the latest AP Poll, released on Sunday, after the Week 5 win. The Hawkeyes are #23 in the Coaches Poll.

Iowa CB #14 Desmond King is showing outstanding moments
over the past five games, including his second game, with
two interceptions. He leads the Big Ten in interceptions.
The Hawkeyes have won their second trophy game of the season (Cy-Hawk, Heartland), after the previous road win @ Iowa State 31-17 in Week 3. Iowa has two trophy games remaining on its schedule (Minnesota, Floyd of Rosedale; Nebraska, Heroes). Last season, the Hawkeyes were 0-4 in trophy games.

Junior CB Desmond King recorded his fourth and fifth interceptions of the season for Iowa. It was his second multi-interception game of the season (Pitt). King tied for the team lead with three interceptions last season. He entered the game tied for the Big Ten lead with three interceptions. His second quarter interception led to an Iowa touchdown. Three of his five interceptions this season have resulted in Iowa scores (2 TDs, 1 FG).

Iowa senior DE #34 Nate Meier forces a big fumble in the game at
the goal line. The Hawkeyes won the turnover game 4-3 @ UW.
Iowa senior DE Drew Ott forced a fumble in the second quarter. It was Ott's third forced fumble of the season, and third of his career. Senior DE Nate Meier recovered the fumble, Wisconsin's first lost fumble of the season (resulted in 33-yard field goal). Ott (2.5) and Meier (1.5) combined for four TFL and 1.5 sacks.

Iowa Junior DT Faith Ekakitie recovered a fumble inside the Iowa five-yard line in the fourth quarter. It is his first career fumble recovery.

Talk about an all-Big Ten type day for Wisconsin senior 
OLB #58 Joe Schobert, who was extremely disruptive all game. 
He is a force for the Badgers.

One Badger was very disruptive today.

Wisconsin OLB #58 Joe Schobert, with
one of his sacks on #16 C.J. Beathard
during Saturday's trophy game. 
Wisconsin senior OLB Joe Schobert finished with 8 tackles, with 3.5 tackles for loss, including three sacks. He also added 5 QB hurries, 2 forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Schobert now has 13 tackles for loss and entered the game tied for the national lead in that category. He also entered the game tied for 4th nationally in sacks and now has nine on the year.

Iowa junior QB #16 C.J. Beathard had
a very challenging day, with Badgers
senior OLB Joe Schobert pressuring him.
QB C.J. Beathard is 6-0 as Iowa's starting quarterback, a record that includes a 3-0 mark on the road and a 3-0 mark at home. The junior QB's numbers include 101-of-168 (62.6) passing for 1,284 yards, eight touchdowns, and three interceptions, and 192 yards rushing with three rushing touchdowns for the season. The last Iowa quarterback to win his first six career starts was Matt Sherman, who won seven from 1994-95, when Sherman opened the 1995 season with a 5-0 mark, twenty years ago.

Beathard was disrupted much of the day, by Wisconsin's OLB Schobert, who clearly distinguished himself, as one of the Big Ten's best in 2015. Beathard  was 9 for 21 passing, with one interception and one touchdown pass.

Iowa senior RB #33 Jordan Canzeri came up
with 125 yards on the ground. He also 
caught one pass for 14 yards.
Iowa senior RB Jordan Canzeri rushed 26 times for 125 yards. It is his third 100-yard rushing game this season, and the fifth of his career.

Iowa sophomore OLB #44 Ben
Niemann was the Iowa Radio Network's
player of the game, as a leader in
the Hawkeyes own defensive effort in the
10-6 win over Wisconsin.
Iowa fifth year senior WLB Cole Fisher (14) and sophomore OLB Ben Niemann (7) recorded career high in tackles. Junior CB Greg Mabin (7) and sophomore SS Miles Taylor (7) matched their career highs with seven tackles.

Iowa junior LT #64 Cole Croston
got his first start, in place of injured
Boone Myers @ Wisconsin.
Junior LT Cole Croston and true freshman WR Jerminic Smith made their first career starts for Iowa. Iowa likely missed senior WR Tevaun Smith, who lead Iowa with four catches for 78 yards, including long of 32 yards, in last year's 26-24 loss in Iowa City to Wisconsin.

Junior WR #89 Matt VandeBerg
continues to be Iowa QB C.J. Beathard's
favorite target in most games.
Smith is the first Iowa freshman to start at wide receiver since junior Matt VandeBerg started two games in 2013. Thirteen Hawkeye have made their first career start this season: junior RB LeShun Daniels, Jr., sophomore LT Boone Myers, sophomore DT Nathan Bazata, junior DT Jaleel Johnson, fifth year senior WLB Cole Fisher, sophomore OLB Ben Niemann, sophomore SS Miles Taylor, redshirt freshman TE Jameer Outsey, redshirt freshman DE Parker Hesse WR Riley McCarron, LT Croston, and WR Smith.

WR Matt VandeBerg had six catches for 61 yards. It is the fourth time in five games he has had at least six catches. However, most of his production was all in the first half.

For the second straight game, Iowa junior
TE #46 George Kittle scored a TD reception
from QB C.J. Beathard. 
Iowa junior TE George Kittle caught a 1-yard touchdown in the second quarter. It was the second receiving TD of his career, and the second in as many weeks.

Wisconsin had won nine straight trophy games, until Saturday's Iowa win. The Badgers will play another trophy game this Saturday at Nebraska (2-3, 0-1 B1G West), when they meet for the Freedom Trophy against the Cornhuskers. The Badgers close out the 2015 Big Ten regular season at Minnesota (3-2, 0-1 B1G West) in the battle for Paul Bunyan's Ax.

Wisconsin won the toss and elected to receive. It was the first time this season Iowa did not receive the opening kickoff. In 17 seasons as Iowa's head coach, Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes have started the game on defense in 39-of-205 games (21-18).

The 2015 Homecoming Game at Iowa.
The Hawkeyes return to Iowa City, with a Saturday game at Kinnick Stadium for Homecoming. This year's Homecoming opponent is the Illinois Fighting Illini (4-1, 1-0 B1G West), who won their second straight fourth quarter comeback, with a 14-13 win in the Big Ten home opener against Nebraska.

The Homecoming game will be another 11 a.m. kickoff, this game will be televised by ESPNU. This is the 103rd Homecoming game in 126 seasons of Iowa Football. Iowa is 16-4, since 1995 in Homecoming games. Since 2000, the Hawkeyes are 12-3, with a 12-4 record under Kirk Ferentz for Homecoming. The Hawkeyes won last season's Homecoming game in a 45-29 shootout with Indiana.

Iowa defeated Illinois in Champaign last season, by the score of 30-14. Ferentz is 6-3 in his career at Iowa, as head coach. The last game in Iowa City was back in 2007, when Iowa beat Illinois by a score of 10-6, when the Fighting Illini represented the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl. Ferentz is 3-1 in games played at Kinnick Stadium.


What a start to the 2015 season for the Big Ten West and East ...

Week 5 of the 2015 College Football season is in the books ...
Cedar Rapids, IA -- The 2015 College Football season has completed the first five weeks of play in Year 2 of the College Football Playoff, with a great Oktoberfest first weekend in the Big Ten. How will the 2015 Big Ten race close out, now that the Big Ten has a Championship Game, as we celebrate the 120th season of conference play?

Who should be a the Top 4 in 2015?
Ohio State junior RB #15 Ezekiel Elliott is a reason the Buckeyes are a serious
candidate for a repeat in 2015 in the College Football Playoff.
1. Ohio State (5-0, 1-0 B1G East) or Michigan State (5-0, 1-0 B1G East)
2. Utah (4-0, 1-0 Pac 12 South)
3. Clemson (4-0, 1-0 ACC Atlantic)
4. LSU (4-0, 2-0 SEC West)
5. Oklahoma (4-0, 1-0 Big 12)

The defending champions, the Ohio State Buckeyes are off to a 5-0 start in 2015, as are the 2nd runner-up in the Big Ten East, the Michigan State Spartans. Neither team has hit high gear, as Week 5 closes out, in the first weekend of October.

The Utah Utes are playing very well to kickoff the 2015 season, though they were idle on Saturday. They will host the Cal Bears (5-0, 2-0 Pac 12 North) in a big inter-division conference game this Saturday.

The Clemson Tigers took care of business at home over Notre Dame 24-22, on Saturday night in a prime time game against the Fighting Irish. The Tigers host Georgia Tech (2-3, 0-2 ACC Coastal) this Saturday.

In the other two spots, the LSU Tigers are in as a projected team, after taking care of business at home over Eastern Michigan. The Tigers have the best running back in College Football, with sophomore Leonard Fornette leading the ground attack. The Tigers travel to South Carolina (2-3, 0-3 SEC East) this Saturday.

The Big 12 doesn't have a title game in the conference, so while TCU (5-0, 2-0 Big 12)and Baylor (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) roll up great scores; Oklahoma has the highest quality win to open 2015. We are going to project the Oklahoma Sooners in the Big 12, as the top projection in 2015.

Michigan State senior QB 18 Connor Smith has the top record, among active
Big Ten starting QB, in most wins. His Spartans got off to a 21-0 start over
Purdue on Saturday, but had to hang on for a 24-21 victory to open B1G play.

The Big Ten is now into full swing with all 14 teams with one game under their belts in 2015


  1. Ohio State (1-0) - The Buckeyes are 25-0 in Big Ten regular season games, under coach Urban Meyer. The only B1G loss came in the Big Ten title game in 2013. The Buckeyes host  Homecoming this Saturday, as the Maryland Terrapins (0-1) come to town, ripe for a Buckeye rebound, after the 34-27 dog fight @ Indiana on Saturday.
  2. Michigan State (1-0) - The Spartans continue to get over each hurdle, which is what you should expect in College Football. Mark Dantonio is in his ninth season and lost a couple of assistant coaches, after 2014. Winning pretty isn't the key; it is winning and Dantonio has been good, since the final two games of 2012.. The Spartans opened the season @ Western Michigan (1-3), so a road trip to Rutgers (0-1) before the huge road trip to Ann Arbor should be a good tune-up for the retooling Spartans.

Huge match up in Ann Arbor this Saturday, as undefeated Northwestern comes to town!

3. Michigan (1-0) - The Wolverines are playing very well, after the opener @ Utah. Something suggests that the Wolverines could be a spoiler in 2015 and could enter the mix for the B1G East race, by season's end. Graduate transfer quarterback Jake Rudock has 14 B1G starts now, with 13 at Iowa, so it will be interesting to see how the Michigan signal caller rebounds and leads the Wolverines, as they face common opponents over the next seven games. Rutgers and Penn State will be the only two common opponents Rudock hasn't faced, as a starter.
Coach Jim Harbaugh has the Michigan
Wolverines playing very good right now.
Harbaugh has been all in with #15 Jake
Rudock at QB for the Wolverines in '15.
  • Ten years ago, Penn State won a share of the Big Ten title, with Ohio State at 7-1
  • Twenty years ago, it was the Northwestern Wildcats, with Pat Fitzgerald at LB
  • Thirty years ago, it was the Iowa Hawkeyes, with Hayden Fry, Kirk Ferentz was a OL coach
  • Forty years ago, it was the Ohio State Buckeyes
  • Fifty years ago, it was the Michigan State Spartans
  • Who wins the 2015 Big Ten title in football? 
  • Do they finish undefeated, as the 20 and 40 year champs were?

What about the B1G West, Year 2?

Iowa @ Wisconsin leads to a 10-6 Hawkeye victory. The visitor has won seven
of the past nine games in the Heartland Trophy game. The series is 5-5, as a
Trophy game, 43-44-2 overall, as a Big Ten rivalry. Defense was the story of the day,
as Iowa QB #16 C.J. Beathard wins sixth, as a starter for Hawkeyes, fifth of 2015.
It will be a wide open race and very few expected Illinois, Iowa and Northwestern to lead, after Week 1, in conference play, correct?

However, it is far too early to guess how the B1G West race will close out, but there are some huge games heading into Week 6, the second week of October, in Big Ten play?

Dawuane Smoot vs. Nebraska Oct. 3, 2015
Illinois LEO #91 Dawauane Smoot is one of the Fighting Illini starters, in the
new 3-4 defense. The Fighting Illini won a come back victory over Nebraska
14-13, to open the season 1-0 for the first time, since the 2011 season.
  • Illinois (1-0) - The Fighting Illini took care of business over Nebraska (0-1) 14-13 for the first time, as Big Ten members. The Bill Cubit era is off to a surprising 4-1 start, in some people's eyes, but a manageable schedule for the Fighting Illini. It was the second straight 4th quarter comeback for the Fighting Illini, as they head to Iowa City this Saturday, in an attempt to derail the Hawkeyes homecoming!
I think we did a heck of a job moving the ball today. I just don’t think we did a good job of putting it in the end zone. That’s something we did last week, but this week we never gave up. Our defense didn’t give up in that last possession, and the offense never had any doubt going onto the field with that time. It was just an awesome win and I’m really happy for our guys and for the program.” - QB Wes Lunt on making the final drive count.
  • Iowa (1-0) - The Hawkeyes beat Wisconsin 10-6 in a hard, defensive slugfest. It was the first win, in four games in the series. The Hawkeyes' C.J. Beathard is off to the first 6-0 start, as a starting QB (over two seasons), by a Hawkeye signal caller in 20 years, when Matt Sherman was leading Iowa, under Hayden Fry. The Hawkeyes are off to their first 5-0, since the 2009 season. In 1995, Iowa opened 5-0, but they hit a middle of the season losing streak, which ironically, included back to back losses vs. Illinois and @ Northwestern.
    Who do the Hawkeyes face in the next two weeks?
The Iowa Hawkeyes entered 2015, coming off a disappointing 7-6 season, with
zero trophies in the case. Thus far, Iowa is two for two in road games, each
trophy games, as the Hawkeyes pull out the Heartland Trophy game over
Wisconsin with a 10-6 win, in Madison. The Hawks end a three game losing streak
against the Badgers and even the trophy game record for the Heartland at 5-5.
  • Northwestern (1-0) - The Wildcats may have their best team in ten seasons, under head coach Pat Fitzgerald? Twenty years ago, Fitzgerald was a linebacker leading the Wildcats defense to a Big Ten title. The next two weeks @ Michigan and vs. Iowa for Homecoming will determine a lot, about the B1G West race and the Wildcats' season. The 27-0 win over Minnesota is exactly how the Wildcats want to do it. The Wildcats won their home opener last season, as well, against Wisconsin, but hit a four game losing streak, afterwards. It was a 10-9 loss vs. Michigan, in Evanston, last season. This the first the 5-0 start, since the 2012 season for the Wildcats. The Cats are coming off back to back 5-7 seasons, but excitement is back for them.
Clayton Thorson Touchdown celebration
Northwestern QB #18 Clayton Thorson is a redshirt freshman, who is off to a 5-0
start, as the Wildcats' signal caller. Huge road test on Saturday, in Ann Arbor.
Wisconsin senior OLB #58 Joe Schebert
may be the top defensive performer in the
Big Ten in 2015. It showed on Saturday.
Wisconsin (0-1) - The Badgers lost the conference opener in 2014, as well. They went on to a seven game win streak to lock up the first B1G West title. The Badgers are 3-2, with both losses against traditional two back offenses, Alabama and Iowa. The Badgers have a very good defense and nearly opened with a win over the Hawkeyes. Senior Joel Stave has been in this position before. It will be an interesting game in Lincoln against Nebraska (0-1), since it is the first time, since 1959 that the Huskers have started 2-3 for the season. First Badgers trip to Lincoln, since the 2012 season opener.
Defense was the spotlight of Iowa's 10-6 victory @ Wisconsin. The Badgers
lost the Hawkeyes, but they opened 2015, as they did in 2014, with a loss.
Defense could fuel another Badgers run in the Big Ten, with a manageable
schedule ahead for first year coach Paul Chryst at Wisconsin.
Nebraska (0-1) - The Cornhuskers lose in the final minute @ Illinois 14-13 to fall to 2-3 on the season. After seven seasons under Bo Pelini of four losses each season, the first year, under Mike Riley is one of transition and three early set backs. This is new territory, with Nebraska fans witnessing the weakest start, since 1959, back in Bill Jennings third season in Lincoln. With defending B1G West champion Wisconsin up next in Lincoln, it will not be an easy rebound for Nebraska this Saturday?

Photo published for Report Card: Illinois Fighting Illini 14, Huskers 13
The Cornhuskers junior QB #4 Tommy Armstrong is adjusting to a new offense,
in Mike Riley's first season in Lincoln. The Honeymoon is absolutely coming to an end.

Minnesota (0-1) - The Golden Gophers open the 2015 B1G season with a 27-0 loss @ Northwestern. The loss of offense from 2014 has been the story-line throughout the first five games, as the Gophers fall to 3-2. The Gophers are back on the road again, as they open B1G play with back to back road trips. Minnesota heads to West Lafayette on Saturday to face a hungry Boilermakers squad.

Minnesota senior OLB De'Vondre Campbell is the leading
returning tackler on the Golden Gophers defense. The defense
had played hard through the non-conference, allowing the
offense opportunities, but that came to an end in B1G opener.
 Purdue (0-1) - The Boilermakers gave a strong comeback @ Michigan State, but fell short in the 24-21 loss. The Boilermakers are off to a disappointing 1-4 start in Darrell Hazell's third season. They are seeking their first win over a FBS program, but they have shown improvement at times. 

Purdue RB #8 Markell Jones is a true freshman. The Boilermakers have made
too many turnovers this season, but they have brought in new playmakers into
the program and played Minnesota strong in '14 in a 39-38 loss @ Minnesota.

The B1G East gets the buzz heading into the Big Ten in 2015

  1. Ohio State
  2. Michigan State
  3. Michigan
The Penn State offense has struggled at times to open 2015.
Junior QB #14 Christian Hackenberg's 2nd season under
coach James Franklin has not been in sync at times.
  • Penn State (1-0) - The Nittany Lions are undefeated at home, with three non-conference wins, including the 20-14 loss over Army on Saturday. The Nittany Lions opened B1G play with a solid 28-3 win over Rutgers in Week 3. Next up: vs. Indiana (0-1) in the B1G home opener. This will be the biggest test, since the road loss @ Temple in the season opener.
The Indiana defense needs to step up in B1G play. Typically, they have found
themselves in plenty of shootouts, as they seek first bowl, since 2007 season.
  • Indiana (0-1) - The Hoosiers fell in the B1G home opener 34-27 against Ohio State to fall for the first time, after four non-conference wins to kickoff 2015. This is coach Kevin Wilson's fifth season in Bloomington. It was a costly game vs. the Buckeyes, as QB Nate Sudfeld and RB Jordan Howard, each came out due to ankle injuries in the competitively fought game. 

The two newest Big Ten members are struggling in their sophomore campaigns

Maryland senior DE #99 Quinton Jefferson knocks the ball loose against Michigan
QB Jake Rudock, but the finish was far different against the former Hawkeyes this year.
  • Maryland (0-1) - The Terrapins fall 28-0 against Michigan at home to fall to 2-3 in the 2015 season, after a 7-6 overall record in their inaugural season of B1G football. The Terrapins are in the fifth season, under coach Randy Edsall, but the lack of production at quarterback and on offense is hurting Maryland in the second season in the B1Gs.
Rutgers sophomore QB #5 Chris Laviano against Penn State in the 28-3 B1G
opener in Week 3. It doesn't get easier in the B1G home opener, with
Michigan State coming to town. Last year's outing was a 45-3 road loss.
  • Rutgers (0-1) - The Scarlet Knights enjoyed a bye week, in an early season marred by off the field issues, a suspension of fourth year coach Kyle Flood and the loss of players to rule violations. Rutgers was 8-5 overall in the inaugural season in the Big Ten.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

B1G West Season Opener: Wisconsin host Iowa in Conference opener

Madison, WI -- The Wisconsin Badgers (3-1) open the 120th season of Big Ten Football, with a three game win streak in 2015, as well, as a three game win streak over their opponent, the Iowa Hawkeyes (4-0). It will be the Badgers new head coach Paul Chryst's first Big Ten game, as head coach, but a homecoming for the former Badger player, assistant coach and native of Madison.
The Badgers have held the possession of the Heartland Trophy over the past three
games, since 2010, all played in Iowa City. The Badgers welcome the Hawkeyes
back to Madison for the first time, since 2009. RB #25 Melvin Gordon, TE #49
Sam Arneson and  OL #78 Rob Havenstein have all departed, as seniors last year.
Iowa finished 2014, with zero trophy wins for the season and a disappointing 7-6 record. The dean of Big Ten coaches, Kirk Ferentz, found his program needing an uplift in 2015. Changes were needed and began immediately in January, with a new quarterback named number 1. The Hawkeyes have not been able to successfully win a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game, since the game was created in 2011. The Hawkeyes have not won a bowl or been ranked in the Top 25, since the 2010 season.

Hawkeye quarterback #16 C.J. Beathard named co-Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week
after the 31-17 win at Iowa State, in Week 2. Beathard was 15-25 for 215 yards, three
touchdowns, in Iowa's first trophy game of the season. He also rushed for 77 yards.
After a 4-0 start in September under junior quarterback C.J. Beathard, the building blocks may be in place to improve the Hawkeyes standing in the Big Ten and a Top 25 ranking may be very close, as they head to Wisconsin to open the 126th season of Iowa Football, now in conference play. A win over the Badgers will likely launch Iowa into the Top 25, but more importantly, it would be the second of four trophy games for Iowa, as well as a 1-0 start in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes won the Cy-Hawk Trophy on the road in Week 2, with a 31-17 win over Iowa State.

Iowa senior RB #33 Jordan Canzeri has become an effective inside runner
and effective in the passing game. Last year, he had a 27 yard pass reception,
in the short passing game. He has eight touchdowns on the season to lead the
Big Ten. He is a player to watch in the Black and Gold on Saturday.
Iowa has won three straight Big Ten road openers with new coordinators, since OC Greg Davis arrived and DC Phil Parker was named to the position, in 2012. Iowa is 12-5 in Madison dating back to the Bob Commings era in the 1970s. The Hawkeyes have had only two head coaches, since 1979, with Hayden Fry and Ferentz. A 5-0 start for Iowa in 2015, would be a huge boost for a program that has been struggling to get back to relevance in the Big Ten picture.

Who's defense steps up in Madison today or will the offenses be the spotlight?
On the opposite side, Wisconsin has played in two Big Ten Championship Games, since 2011. The Badgers won the inaugural Big Ten West Division in 2014. However, they were destroyed by Ohio State, 59-0, who went on to win the inaugural College Football Playoff, last season. A new coach, with a lot of history in Madison, is now leading the program, after the Gary Anderson era came to an end, after two seasons at the helm. Ironically, Wisconsin lost their coach, after each division win.

The visitor has actually won six of the last eight Heartland Trophy games, including four straight, since Iowa's 2009 win in Madison, 20-10. Last time around, Iowa was without one of their top wide receivers (Marvin McNutt) for the game heading to Madison. Iowa found out this week, they will be without the services of senior wide receiver Tevaun Smith. Iowa was successful in 2009 in circling the wagons, with after losing a key player. Ferentz is 3-3 as a head coach in Madison.

Iowa's top receiver in 2015 is junior WR #89 Matt VandeBerg. He has
developed into a key combination with Iowa QB C.J. Beathard this year.
Ten different Hawkeyes have combined to catch 77 passes this season. Junior Matt VandeBerg, who has caught 25 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns leads the Hawkeyes in receiving. The Hawkeyes also welcomed back senior tight end Jake Duzey, from injury, in their final non-conference tune-up ahead of Big Ten play. Duzey lead all returning tight ends from a year ago in receiving.

The Badgers do return junior C #70 Dan Voltz, as anchor of the OLine and senior QB
#2 Joel Stave back in the battle with the Hawkeyes in 2015. Last season, the Badgers 
used a two quarterback attack, but new coach Paul Chryst has settled with a true #1 for
2015. The Badgers are going for a four year possession of the Heartland Trophy.
Wisconsin has had the experience in the backfield lately in the series. In the past two games, the running game was a huge advantage for the Badgers. With the injury of junior running back Corey Clement, the Badgers have less experience leading the running game, than Iowa on Saturday. The Badgers will lean on junior Dare Ogunbowale, who likely can help on the ground and through the air. Last week's leading rusher was redshirt freshman Taiwain Deal, who was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week, after 147 yards rushing, two touchdowns, in the 28-0 win over Hawaii.

Senior #46 Austin Traylor is the new starting TE for the Badgers this season.
Last year, now a sophomore, wearing #81, last year #48 Troy Fumagalli got into
the fun. The TE position is a huge for both teams in the offensive game. Who
steps forward on Saturday could determine the outcome of Saturday's match-up.
Both teams have new parts in the offensive line heading into the 2015 Big Ten season. Both teams lean on experienced and talented centers to anchor the lines. Iowa will start a new left tackle for the Big Ten opener, as junior Cole Croston steps into the line up. Iowa's experience is inside at all three positions. Wisconsin starts two redshirt freshmen at the two guard positions and a new right tackle. The run game hasn't been as strong, as recent Badger offenses.

Defense wins championships and plays an important role in the Heartland Game. The Badgers have not given up a touchdown in the past three non-conference game, after the disappointing opener in Texas against Alabama. On the flip side, Iowa hasn't given up a rushing touchdown yet in 2015. Will something give, or will we see a defensive, grind out game in Madison on Saturday?
I think of tough, physical, hard-nosed football. It’s going to be a brawl-type of game. I have a lot of respect for Iowa. It was a school that I considered. I see a lot of similarities between Wisconsin and Iowa. When I say that, I mean the mindset that it takes to play the game. They’ve got players who love to get after it – they pin their ears back and come at you. We’re the same way.” - Wisconsin senior OLB Joe Biegel on the Iowa-Wisconsin game.

The Badgers operate out of a 3-4 defense, one of the key performers is senior OLB
#47 Vince Biegel, back from last year's game corralling Iowa reserve, now a
sophomore, #25 Akrum Wadley, who ran for a 100+ yards vs. Northwestern in '14. 
The 3-4 defense isn't something Iowa hasn't faced in 2015. In Iowa's first trophy game win of the young season at Iowa State, the Hawkeyes took care of business. However, the Wisconsin defense has consistently been disruptive for the Hawkeyes, especially in Wisconsin DC Dave Aranda's first season, in 2013. Last year, the Hawkeyes got the passing game going, in the two point loss.

Wisconsin senior SS #7 Michael Caputo is the leader of the Badgers
secondary. He could figure in the pressure game, as the Badgers
typically blitz more than Iowa, who work from a 4-3 defense.

The secondary will play a big role on both sides of the football for Iowa and Wisconsin on Saturday. Iowa returns three starters in the secondary, as do the Badgers. Wisconsin has moved former quarterback Tanner McEvoy to free safety and wide receiver, for his senior season. The 6-6 231 McEvoy will be an interesting guy to watch on Saturday.

Wisconsin senior OLB #58 Joe Schobert leads the Badgers defense with six sacks,
as well, as the leading the team in tackles, in non-conference play.
The Iowa-Wisconsin game often is a very tight game. The Badgers have been known to break out early over the Hawkeyes. On the flip side, the Badgers won the 2010 game, with a comeback victory. Iowa has done that before, as well.

Our Pick: Iowa 31, Wisconsin 17 in Madison

With obvious interest, Wisconsin OLB Vince Biegel did watch the BTN interview with Iowa QB C.J. Beathard, who’s 5-0 as a starter with the Hawkeyes. “I can definitely tell from watching film and seeing that interview that he’s the leader of their offense,” Biegel said. “It’s just the way he leads – he’s in full control.

The Hawkeyes have one win on the road at Iowa State. C.J. Beathard, 5-0 as a starter
has lead Iowa to two fourth quarter victories this season, against ISU and Pitt. He
also lead Iowa to a comeback victory last season, against Paul Chryst's Pitt team,
as well. It was a 24-20 win at Pitt, where Beathard lead the Hawkeyes from a 10 point
deficit. This should be a 60 minute game on Saturday in Madison for Hawkeyes-Badgers.
Beathard has been particularly effective in the fourth quarter – completing 14 of 17 passes for 206 yards and one touchdown through the first four games. Twice, he has led late game-winning scoring drives against Iowa State and Pittsburgh. He has a 142.6 pass efficiency rating in the quarter, tops in the Big Ten. Iowa used backup quarterback Tyler Wiegers, in the past the other two Iowa games, in wins over Illinois State and North Texas.

The Big Ten West Division looks to be wide open, with Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern and Wisconsin all in the discussion for the title by many pundits. Of course, Illinois and Purdue don't want to be left out, but they are likely in a spoiler role, as opposed to contender role. It is Year 2 of the West Division and three big division games spotlight the first week of October:

  • Iowa @ Wisconsin - Iowa has won 20-10 in 2005 and 2009 in Madison. Is there something special about that score for the Hawkeyes in Madison?
  • Minnesota @ Northwestern - This should be an interesting B1G opener, the Wildcats are undefeated for the first time, since 2013, the first of back to back 5-7 seasons. The Golden Gophers have not fared well on offense opening 3-1 in the non-conference. Do the Golden Gophers make it three in a roll, under Jerry Kill over Pat Fitzgerald?
  • Nebraska @ Illinois - this could be a shootout, as both teams defenses have not been outstanding, especially against the pass. Welcome to the Big Ten Mike Riley at Nebraska, as interim head coach Bill Cubit looks to win the battle between 3-1 teams ...
  • Purdue opens in a division cross-over game, @ Michigan State, after a sluggish 1-3 start for the Boilermakers, but the Spartans should prevail in East Lasing in the B1G opener.
In the Big Ten East Division, there are two division games, as Rutgers (0-1) enjoys a bye week and Penn State (1-0) hosts Army, in their final non-conference game. The Nittany Lions should remain undefeated at home, after falling in the season opener at Temple.
Jake Rudock
Michigan senior transfer QB #15 Jake Rudock played last season at Maryland,
in an Iowa uniform. The game was a disappointment though, as the Hawkeyes
fell 38-31. The Wolverines, also fell in Ann Arbor last season 23-16 to Maryland.
Look for the Wolverines offense to click, while the defense should lead them to
victory, as Big Ten play opens up in the Big Ten today.

  • Michigan @ Maryland - The Wolverines have won three straight, since the opening loss at Utah to kickoff the Jim Harbaugh era for Michigan. The Terrapins have struggled in 2015, with a new signal caller and on defense.
  • Ohio State @ Indiana - The first battle of the 2015 season in the Big Ten against undefeated 4-0 teams; the Buckeyes have not hit all cylinders, coming off a B1G title and the first College Football Playoff championship. The Hoosiers look good offensively, but defense still leaves a lot to be desired. Urban Meyer has never lost a Big Ten regular season game, entering his fourth season in Columbus.