Sunday, October 4, 2015

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.

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