1. It looks like three B1G quarterbacks could be taken in the first round of the 2016 NFL draft. Who should be drafted first?
It's a good thing the question isn't who will be drafted first because it looks like that answer continues to be Penn State's Christian Hackenberg over Michigan State's Connor Cook and Ohio State's Cardale Jones. Scouts and NFL experts continue to drool over Hackenberg's potential. Just this past week Trent Dilfer of ESPN compared him favorably to Dallas Cowboys legend Troy Aikman.
The crazy part about it is that scouts are all in on Hackenberg because of his potential, not what he actually does on the field where he has clearly regressed. Since his freshman season, Hackenberg has had to deal with a coaching/system change, one of the poorest offensive lines in college football and a ton of young receivers, but he doesn't pass the stats test. He's thrown 16 touchdowns, 17 interceptions with a 55 percent completion percentage.
The eye test will also tell you that it can't possibly be everyone else's fault. His completion percentage is that low despite throwing an insane number of screens and other short passes. He also misses open receivers on a regular basis, throws picks that are almost exclusively the result of his decision-making and takes far too many sacks when he should throw the ball away.
There are those glimpses of brilliance when he threads a perfect needle for 20 yards down the field or hits a receiver in stride for a 35-yard gain, but that wouldn't be enough for me if I was a GM… I'd go with Cardale Jones. He hasn't been great to start this year, but neither have Hackenberg or Cook. I expect all three will improve, but I like Jones more than the other two.
First of all, what he did last year in the final three games of the season was incredible and far more impressive than anything that Hackenberg and Cook have done. He went from a headset-wearing backup to the leader of an offense that put up 143 points in three neutral site games against Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon en route to a national championship. He did so with poise in the pocket, accuracy down the field, a powerful arm and a solid scrambling ability.
For an inexperienced quarterback it was as good as it gets. I don't know if he will be the first B1G quarterback taken in the draft, but I'd certainly go with him over the others.
2. The Deep South Buckeyes brought most of the offense back from 2014 and added Braxton Miller to the receiving corps., but scored 33 fewer points in non-conference play compared to last year. Do they miss former offensive coordinator Tom Herman who left to become the head coach at Houston?
(I certainly hope so, but) I don't know yet. Ohio State didn't have a strong non-conference schedule last year or this year, but one major difference was scheduling Kent State last year. They're worse than any team Ohio State faced this year and last year the final score was 66-0. That accounts for a huge portion of the missing 33 points.
Even though there was no excuse for the Buckeyes to not blow-out a MAC school at home two weeks ago, it did rain for a big portion of the game making conditions quite sloppy and all teams would struggle to score in that environment. Even if you include those two factors, the Ohio State offense should be better than it has been. Urban Meyer has been using both Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett at quarterback, not because the final score allowed him to do so, but because he was waiting for one of them to take control of the job.
It looks like he's settled on Jones, but Jones is not the quarterback he was in January so far. Perhaps it's because he misses Herman.
Ezekiel Elliott's drop in production has been surprising too. Despite playing Virginia Tech and three home games against cupcakes, Elliott is averaging 5.9 yards per carry. That's pretty good, but it's down a full yard per game from last year. Even if you account for the fact that teams will want to stack the box to stop him at all costs, these defenses that he's facing are not that good and he should be shredding them like he did last year.
Perhaps it's because he misses Herman. Once they play a few games against familiar teams in conference play we should know for sure if they miss Herman or not.
3. Michigan State's big win in September was a three-point home victory against Oregon, but after the Ducks lost 62-20 to Utah, Oregon is unranked. Does this mean the Spartans have no signature wins so far and are overrated at No. 2 in the country?
Of course it does. It seems like everyone from coast-to-coast is starting to believe the Spartans are overrated except for the voters in the AP poll -- they still have Michigan State at No. 2 in the country with five first place votes.
To me this makes no sense. The Spartans are certainly a very good team and a Top-10 team, but not a Top-2 team or a Top-5 team. The two biggest reasons that Michigan State is ranked so highly are the Alabama loss to Ole Miss (which knocked the Crimson Tide behind the Spartans and out of the top ten) and the Spartans win against Oregon.
When Michigan State beat Oregon by three points, the perception was that they beat a very good Ducks team that would lose at most one more game the rest of the season, contend for a Pac-12 Championship and contend for a College Football Playoff berth. Now that Oregon was exposed as an overrated fraud that can't play defense, the perception that Michigan State earned an impressive win by squeaking by a championship contender cannot remain.
The Spartans fought tooth and nail at home against a team that will lose three-to-five games this season and may enter bowl season unranked. Two weeks ago, eking by Oregon was a highlight for the Spartans Playoff resume. Now it looks like a lucky win over a team that's just not very good.
Even if the voters don't respond appropriately this week, I expect the Playoff committee will in a few weeks.
4. Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard is second in the B1G in completion percentage (68.2 percent) and first in passer rating (157.8). Is he the real deal?
We'll find out on Saturday in Madison, Wisconsin. So far Beathard has been accurate, careful with the ball, fleet of foot and he's led the Hawkeyes to put up over 37 points per game. He's been so good that I can't imagine anyone in Iowa is saying, "I wish we still had Jake Rudock."
The problem with assessing him is that he's played against a bunch of nobodies -- Illinois State, Iowa State, Pittsburgh and North Texas. Those four teams are a combined 5-7 with zero wins against Power 5 conferences. Of their five combined wins, four are against FCS schools and the fifth win was against a MAC school (Toledo).
The quality of competition and the defense will skyrocket on Saturday when Beathard faces the Badgers. Since losing to Alabama in Week 1, the Badgers have allowed one point per game. Yep, a total of three points in three games.
The Badgers haven't played anybody either, but one point per game is one point per game. In those three games, opposing passers have completed less than 50 percent of their passes twice.
In addition, this game is taking place at Camp Randall Stadium. Even though it's not a night game, it's still a very difficult place to play on the road and it's an easy place for a quarterback's nerves to get rattled. We also haven't seen Beathard win a game this year because of his arm. He has yet to throw for 300 yards in a game and the defense hasn't allowed more than 24 points in a game.
What will happen if Wisconsin takes a two-possession lead in the second half and Beathard is forced to pass his way to a Hawkeye victory? Win or lose, if Beathard leads his team to multiple touchdowns and takes care of the football against quality competition, then he is the real deal. If not, then he's either a product of bad opponents, a work in progress or both.
5. Who will win this week's B1G games?
Penn State over Army
Michigan State over Purdue
Northwestern over Minnesota
Wisconsin over Iowa
Michigan over Maryland
Ohio State over Indiana
Nebraska over Illinois
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