Not so breaking news: The Big Ten Conference isn’t great. Some contend it’s barely decent.
“The narrative is we’ve underperformed, and I can’t argue with that,” commissioner Jim Delany told ESPN.com blogger Adam Rittenberg this week. “We haven’t won big games. The narrative is about right. When you have big brands, expectations are high. I can’t discount the facts, and I can’t discount the critics.”
The league’s highest-rated team is postseason-ineligible Ohio State, which is No. 14 according to the Associated Press. It’s been at least a decade since the conference didn’t have an AP Top 10 representative after four weeks of the season.
However, most teams have potential highlight-reel players, including two in the state of Michigan — State’s Le’Veon Bell and the Wolverines’ Denard Robinson.
Who’s the best player in states that touch Iowa, Taylor Martinez of Nebraska, Trey Stoudermire of Minnesota, or Montee Ball of Wisconsin?
Here are top players Hawkeye fans will see as the Big Ten season starts this weekend – their performances, however, often overshadowed by the general perception of the league.
Troy Stoudermire, Minnesota – He averages 29.0 yards per kick return this season after receiving three for 87 yards. He needs 228 more yards to set the NCAA return record. “We’ve done well at times against him, but we haven’t done so well at other times,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said this week.
LeVeon Bell, Michigan State – The Bell’s better than the (Montee) Ball, thus far. Bell averages a league-leading 152.5 rushing yards a game after a 36-carry, 253-yard performance against Eastern Michigan Saturday. That’s the best one-game FBS total this season.
Taylor Martinez, Nebraska – Focusing on improvement during the summer has resulted in 70.7 passing accuracy, nine touchdown passes, and just one interception. His advanced course on throwing motion and footwork has paid off thus far.
Denard Robinson, Michigan – He owns the most prolific offensive career in Michigan history – and 2012 has barely started. Versatility is his deal, and the senior has done it for 9,438 yards, but there’s a catch – by the opponent. He has eight interceptions this season, including four against Notre Dame.
Mark Weisman, Iowa – More than a warm-and-fuzzy story, this 235-pounder has been the Hawkeyes’ only consistent offense, rushing 51 times for 330 yards the past two games. His 6.4-yard per carry average is bettered by only Robinson and Ohio State’s Braxton Miller.
Matt McGloin, Penn State – The conference passing leader with 1,006 yards, McGloin is showing more than his loyalty to the program. He also is proving to be a solid threat, with 83-for-140 passing accuracy and a league-high nine touchdowns.
Antavian Edison, Purdue – He’s the Boilermakers’ go-to receiver, with 18 catches for 186 yards and four touchdowns in three games. A 16-game career starter, Edison is picking up where he left off last season when he led the Boilermakers with 584 receiving yards.
Mark Venric, Northwestern – Talk about multiple threats, Venric not only is the Wildcats’ top rusher with a 99.8-yard rushing average, he’s also one of the nation’s top punt returners. He’s second nationally with an average of 30.6 yards a return. That’s 12.2 yards more than his closest Big Ten competitor.
Mike Meyer, Iowa – Since Iowa appears trending toward playing close games, the place-kicker becomes as important as Weisman or even linebacker Anthony Hitchens. Meyer already has a 50-yarder field goal, and he’s missed just once in 10 attempts.
D.L. Wilhite, Minnesota – He’s the gate-crasher who specializes in giving quarterbacks long days. The senior has a team-leading 4 ½ sacks — a season after his third-down 7-yard sack of James Vandenberg preceded a missed 43-yard field goal attempt by Meyer in the Gophers’ 1-point win.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football