MUTKA: Buckeyes cream the Big Ten Leaders crop
By John Mutka Post-Tribune senior correspondent October 20, 2013 6:38PM
Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, right, tries to run past Iowa defensive back John Lowdermilk during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State beat Iowa 34-24. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
Okay, fellow couch potatoes. Time to take your Leaders to you.
As in Leaders Division, Big Ten style. Admittedly, it’s using the term Leaders loosely since its less distinguished members include Purdue and Indiana.
Leading off with the Buckeyes is a foregone conclusion. Here’s the old prof’s mid-term grades.
Ohio State (6-0, 3-0)
How can you find fault with a program which has produced 33 players currently in the NFL?
Beating Iowa extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 19.
Quarterbacks Braxton Miller and Ken Guiton boast 65 percent-plus marksmanship. Guiton returned to the bench after Miller recovered from an injury, but ranked No. 1 in Big Ten pass efficiency in a relief role with 13 TDs.
Carlos Hyde and Jordan Hall routinely knock off more than six yards a trip. Receiver Corey Brown (five touchdowns) doubles as a dangerous punt returner.
Nitpickers might find fault with a defense which has given up at least three touchdowns in five games.
Indiana (3-4, 1-2)
The Hoosiers suffer from a split personality. Their flamboyant offense excites, but their leaky defense infuriates.
Twin quarterbacks Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson provide different looks with Sudfeld second in the Big Ten in total offense, but losing ground to Roberson. The latter may have won Hoosier hearts by accounting for 338 yards and four touchdowns (three by passing) at Michigan.
In the 63-47 loss the Hoosiers set series records for scoring and yardage (572), but took a step back in their quest to become bowl-eligible. To qualify they must beat Minnesota, Illinois and Purdue. It ain’t happening with Ohio State and Wisconsin.
Grading them is complicated. Give them an A- for offense, mainly for their top-ranked aerial average, but an F for defense.
Purdue (1-6, 0-3)
All that talk about cradle of quarterbacks is ancient history.
Danny Etling and Rob Henry have been force-fed to their fans and are stumbling with the Big Ten’s least productive offense. As a tandem they rank last in pass efficiency in the league.
Defensively, the Boilermakers resembled a sieve, giving up more than 40 points in four losses before taking a step forward at Michigan State, giving up only one offensive touchdown in the 14-0 loss.
The remaining schedule includes Ohio State, Iowa and Penn State which suggests the Boilers are headed for their worst season since going 3-8 in 1996.
Akeem Hunt does provide some excitement, standing near the top in all-purpose yardage with the help of a 99-yard kickoff return.
Wisconsin (4-2, 2-1)
Traditionally, a grind-it-out team, the Badgers don’t deviate much with a bruising tandem of Melvin Gordon, who’s averaging 143-plus yards per game and James White, who complements him with better than six yards per carry.
Overall, their cloud-of-dust approach is netting 300 rushing yards and 40 points a game. Defensively, linebacker Chris Borland and Co. have kept three opponents out of the end zone, including Northwestern, which was shattered by seven different sackers.
The Badgers should be 5-1, but for some home-cooking in a 32-30 loss at Arizona State.
Penn State (4-2, 2-1)
Valparaiso kicking specialist Sam Ficken booted field goals of 45, 43 and 36 yards in a four-overtime victory against previously unbeaten Michigan and leads the Nittany Lions in scoring with most of his 56 points coming on 11-of-15 three-pointers.
Ficken also provides excellent field position with 13 of his 39 kickoffs being touchbacks.
Quarterback Christian Hackenburg is making strides, completing 58.4 percent of his passes. Credit Allen Robinson for elevating the passer’s game with 43 catches for 705 yards.
Downhill runner Zack Zwinak, who has scored eight touchdowns, seldom goes down unless he’s gang-tackled.
Illinois (3-3, 0-2)
Back-to-back thumpings from Nebraska and Wisconsin have reminded the Illini of the harsh realities facing Big Ten wannabes. They gave up 95 points in those two setbacks.
Two-way threat Josh Ferguson is averaging better than six yards a trip. He also led the nation in receptions for a running back through five games.
Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase was completing better than 64 percent of his passes before the Badgers clamped down on him. Angelo Bentley is averaging better than 32 yards on returns thanks to a 100-yard kickoff return.