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Big Ten Football: 10 B1G Observations from Week 11
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13 Nov 2017 02:30 PM EST

-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: Wisconsin defense stuffs Iowa’s Akrum Wadley. (Image Source: Morry Gash/AP Photo)

Ten thoughts from Week 11 in the Big Ten:

1. I guess I should have faded Iowa and Michigan State a week after they came up with big upset wins. Neither team looked like they had much left in the tank on Saturday.  

2. Wisconsin played like a playoff caliber team (for the most part). Their defense was utterly dominant (66 yards allowed) and they ran the ball when they wanted to (247 yards, 5.0 yards per carry). It was their most impressive win of the season, but we all still have some doubt about the Badgers, don’t we? Was the result more about them or Iowa? Even if they crush Michigan this week and win the Big Ten title (fair or not) part of us will wonder if Wisconsin is really that good or is the Big Ten down? But make no mistake, if they win out, the Badgers deserve to make the playoff and have a chance to prove themselves against the nation’s best.

3. If Wisconsin is going to run the table, quarterback Alex Hornibrook needs to play better. I’m not so worried about 11 for 18 for 135 yards—although I wouldn’t mind seeing more production—but what has me most concerned was his three interceptions against Iowa, two of which were squarely on him. The southpaw now has 12 interceptions, one fewer than Tanner Lee who was benched at Minnesota. He needs to protect the football better with Michigan coming to town and Ohio State potentially waiting in the wings.

4. Iowa cornerback Joshua Jackson has some serious ball skills. In case we didn’t know after his Odell Beckham-esque pick of J.T. Barrett last week, Jackson backed it up with a pair of pick sixes in Madison. Sure, the second one kind of fell into his hands, but that’s five interceptions and two touchdowns in the past two weeks against the likely division champs. He has seven on the season. Maybe Iowa should give him a try on offense?

5. Iowa is just a different team on the road. At home, the Hawkeyes are 5-1 with their lone loss coming against Penn State on the game’s final play. On the road, they are 1-3 and winless in conference play. A week after Nate Stanley connected on five scoring strikes, the offense couldn’t muster a single point in Camp Randall. In Week 10, they blew out Ohio State at home. In Week 11, they were blown out by Wisconsin on the road. Clearly, they play at a different level when they’re in Kinnick as opposed to away from the friendly confines.  

6. Look, I get it. After getting shellacked by Clemson in the playoffs, Ohio State wanted to be a more balanced offense. But at the end of the day, they are still at their best when they ground and pound opponents. Mike Weber went for 162 yards on nine carries. J.K. Dobbins had 124 yards on 18 rushes. J.T. Barrett added 55 yards on his nine totes. Those are their best three plays: Dobbins run, Barrett run, Weber run. They rushed for 335 yards on 42 carries, with Dobbins and Weber combining to average 10.6 yards a pop.

7. So, Ohio State looks like they might become the first two-loss team to make the playoffs. If Alabama wins out (would eliminate Auburn & Georgia), the Buckeyes might control their own destiny in terms of playoff hopes. I said might. Wins might not be enough. Emphatic wins might be necessary, especially against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game (aka the 13th data point). Remember, last year OSU was the first non-conference champ to make the Final 4, so the committee has given them the benefit of the doubt before (see 2014 & 2016).

8. Northwestern is the master of the ugly win. Justin Jackson managed just 1.8 yards per carry. Clayton Thorson was 56.5 percent passing and averaged just 6.4 yards per pass. They were out-gained as Purdue averaged 5.3 yards per play compared to 4.6. Not the typical formula to victory, but we’ve learned this season you throw out the numbers when it comes to Northwestern, as they’ve won five-straight games. I don’t know how they do it, but they keep on winning.

9. This might be harsh, but the effort by Nebraska’s defense was the least impressive by any team I’ve seen this year. Minnesota scored 54 points after they put up 44 points in their three previous games combined. Wow.

10. The Hoosiers out-gained the Illini by 136 yards and won by 10, but to be honest I was unimpressed with their performance. They didn’t get on the board until midway through the second quarter and even after taking a 14-0 lead into the locker room, Indiana was unable to put Illinois away until late in the fourth quarter.

Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards. 

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