Maybe instead of the Big Ten, the conference should be called the Big .500? Purdue, fresh off a butt-whipping of Ohio State, loses to Michigan State, who is without their starting quarterback. Northwestern, who started 1-3 and lost to AKRON, beats Wisconsin, who is without their starting quarterback. Minnesota scored a late touchdown with a minute and change left to pull to 4-4 on the season, ending a losing streak that has lasted since mid-September. The biggest of our Big Ten Takeaways this weekend?
This conference isn't very good. But there's plenty of talent and that's what we're going to focus on here.
Northwestern's defensive stars shine
Wisconsin's calling card, their offensive line, made space to run on Saturday but there was just one problem: The Wildcats loaded the box so tight with defenders that it didn't really matter. And with back-up QB Jack Coan dinking and dunking pass attempts down the field, the Wildcats weren't scared of getting burned.
LB Paddy Fisher was a strong presence in the middle, prowling against crossing patterns and even poking a Jonathan Taylor-held football out and forcing a fumble. Fisher is one of the more talented young LBs in the CFB landscape but as a redshirt sophomore, he's got plenty of eligibility left if he wants it.
CB Montre Hartage was the defender who pounded on the fumble in question, he had a great game in his own right. Hartage is never going to be a burner...but if you let him play physical (and the Wildcats did in this game plan) he can really get receivers off of their landmarks and disrupt the timing of releases down the field.
But Clayton Thorson did not
Thorson seems to be the type of prospect to flash *just enough* each weekend to keep you invested in his play. But for the pretty throw here and the nice move in the pocket there, I just don't see the consistency needed to consider Thorson a possible starting QB in the NFL.
Thorson threw a great pass for a touchdown against the Badgers, a post route from the slot from 24 yards out. It was a great read from Thorson, who saw the backside SAF in the Badgers' Cover 4 back-end was lost.
But as he's done his entire career, Thorson will giveth away after he taketh. Thorson passed on a hole shot between a squatting CB and an over-top SAF to a corner route (it was very open) in favor of a backside post to a receiver with no leverage....the ball was picked.
As a matter of fact, Thorson was picked thrice in this game. He is who he is: a fairly inaccurate passer who struggles when needing to push the ball down the field. You might catch some buzz on Clayton Thorson this winter, but it won't come from me.
McSorley's slide continues
Speaking of frustrating Big Ten quarterbacks, Trace McSorley played football on Saturday and for the seventh time in eight games failed to complete 60% of his passes. As a matter of fact, Trace was 11/25 (44%) from the field.
Now, to be fair, McSorley had an injury scare with a banged up knee, but he only missed a handful of pass attempts. And he had a long touchdown scamper afterwards, so all appears to be well. But as a passer? McSorley was missing high and wide. It's a pretty stunning development, how far off the wagon McSorley has fallen with all of the change around him in the Penn State offense.
He's down in essentially every measure of the position:
- Completion percentage - 66.5% in 2017, 52.8% in 2018
- Yards per attempt - 8.4 in 2017, 7.0 in 2018
- Passer rating - 153.7 in 2017, 125.7 in 2018
- Touchdowns - 25 in 2017, on pace for 19 in 2018
- Yardage - 3570 in 2017, on pace for 2645 in 2018
Compound this regression with insufficient film and it's a hard sell on McSorley as a pro prospect.
David Blough comes crashing down to Earth
Will the real David Blough please stand up? The Purdue passer was on the tear of his LIFE. He's just commandeered a crushing defeat to Ohio State last week. He entered Week 9 with a 13-2 TD:INT ratio and had over 10 yards per attempt in three of his last five games.
And then Michigan State happened. Blough moved the ball (277 passing yards) but he finished without a score and three interceptions. And suddenly upstart Purdue was back to .500 and no margin for error to make the bowl slate.
The last four teams on the Boilermakers' schedule? Iowa (loss, I think), Minnesota (win, maybe), Wisconsin (loss, I think) and Indiana (win, maybe).
Purdue will need Blough to be the player he was before this weekend, and I'm eager to dig into his November tape to see what successes their final four games will bring.