The Big Ten followed up Week 1 with a less strong Week 2; though most teams won, the conference dropped two games to ACC foes, one to an American team and a fourth loss to...uh...well...we’ll get to that.
Offensive fireworks were on display and there was a tough decision to be made, but your faithful staff came to a relative consensus.
Offensive Player of the Week: Saquon Barkley, Penn State Nittany Lions
Extremely strong man Saquon Barkley garners the honors here, as the talented runningback was the only Penn State player to get off the bus in Pittsburgh. After the Nittany Lions fell behind 28-7, Barkley alone decided he was not going to take it and he singlehandedly dragged his team kicking and screaming to the precipice of a massive comeback. Mighty though he was, the weight of the anchor that is James Franklin was simply too great for him to continue to drag it up and down Heinz Field. He would finish the day with four rushing touchdowns among 20 carries for 85 yards, two catches for 45 and a touchdown and a 17-yard kick return. The rest of the team should follow Barkley's example and stop skipping leg day; his effort was #Unrivaled by any of his teammates, who wasted a great performance by the sophomore in a game that wasn't even that important to them. Imagine what Barkley could do in a rivalry game.
Honorable Mentions: Matt Vandeberg (Iowa WR) caught 7 for 129 and a score against a serviceable ISU secondary, adding a 25 yard rush; Janarion Grant (Rutgers WR) and Mitch Leidner (MInnesota QB) had 3 and 4 touchdowns respectively against FCS teams; Nick Westbrook (Indiana WR) caught two long TD's in a 10-point win and Purdue (!!!!!!) quarterback David Blough went over 400 yards passing in a competitive loss to Cincinnati. Maryland WR DJ Moore had 147 yards and 2 TD's along with a 21-yard pass against FIU.
Defensive Player of the Week: Nate Gerry, Nebraska Cornhuskers
Nebraska safety Nate Gerry provided the spark needed to pull away from a Wyoming team that was pesky early on by grabbing two interceptions in addition to 7 tackles (one for a loss) and a pass breakup. He clinched this honor by showing what an elite DB he is after his first interception, executing a tremendous and subtle taunt that did get him a 15-yard penalty. These turnovers are what allowed Nebraska to pull away, and their secondary looks pretty solid early on.
Honorable Mentions: Carroll Phillips (Illinois DE) got 6 tackles including a sack and 3.5 TFL's. He now leads the NCAA with 6.5 TFL's and has been a disruptive force off the edge. Iowa LB Josey Jewell got a QB hurry and a TFL among 9 tackles over three quarters of action.
Sam Foltz Special Teams Player of the Week: Ron Coluzzi, Iowa Hawkeyes
The above is a twelve-and-a-half minute punting highlight tape. Warning: NSFW. Strong pornography for Big Ten fans. Anyway, Coluzzi takes the honors for making life difficult for an anemic Iowa State Cyclones offense, generating four touchbacks on six kickoffs and punting four times for a 43.3 yard average and zero return yards. This is what "dual threat" means in the Big Ten.
Honorable Mention: Blake Gillikin had another great punting game for Penn State. Rutgers all-purpose weapon Janarion Grant had one of those three aforementioned touchdowns on a kickoff return to cut into Howard's lead and established that he may be the conference's most dangerous return man. There will likely be some debate on this point though.
Plays of the Week: Iowa Hawkeyes touchdown pass; Joe Spencer's first down run (Illinois Fighting Illini)
We couldn't come up with a definitive conclusion on this one, so here are two of the best plays that happened. The first is the kind of play you see at the next level:
Shades of Ben Roethlisberger to Santonio Holmes in Super Bowl 43. The other play is one of the most Big Ten things I've ever seen. With 12 minutes to go in the game, the UNC Tar Heels pulled out to their largest lead of the game at 15 points. Facing a 3rd and 10 in their own territory, the Fighting Illini needed to keep this drive going to keep from falling out of the game. The pressure got to Wes Lunt as he stepped up in the pocket and he lost the ball. Then this happened:
Joe Spencer (@IlliniJoe71) September 12, 2016
That's senior center Joe Spencer, unwilling to settle for diving on the ball, rumbling for a crucial first down. Someone get on the phone to the Piesman selection committee.
Honorable Mention: I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Janarion Grant for a third time, as he really sparked his team to a miraculous comeback. As the Howard Bison kicked off after gaining a seemingly-insurmountable 14-0 lead, Grant put the team on his back and suddenly got the fire going for the Scarlet Knights with his kickoff return. Against all odds, Rutgers had pulled to within seven points of the unstoppable juggernaut on the opposite sideline. Chris Ash must be thanking his lucky stars that he inherited Grant, as the ensuing rally to not only tie the game but edge in front and hold on for an improbable come-from-behind victory would not have been possible without his heroics.
Fail of the Week: Northwestern Wildcats
You knew it was coming. If I'd told you a month ago that one Big Ten team would lose to an FCS opponent by this time, how many of you would have picked the Cats? Illinois, Purdue, Minnesota, Rutgers and Maryland are among the teams that took care of business against FCS opponents.
What is happening to the poor woman in the above image? Is she:
a) being proposed to
b) realizing Northwestern is being shut out at home by Illinois State at halftime?
Trick question. The answer is both.The Wildcats would eventually get on the board in the 4th quarter to make it 7-6, but would give up a last-gasp drive to set up a game-winning field goal for the Illinois State Redbirds, who left Ryan Field with a 9-7 victory. With losses to the MAC and the MVFC, Northwestern gets Duke out of the ACC next week.
Don't laugh too hard, Iowa fans.