College Football and College Basketball Writer
Fortunes were reversed for the Big Ten’s leading trio this week, as Ohio State found a new gear while rivals Michigan and Penn State left plenty to be desired in unsightly wins over lesser opponents. The race at the top is heating up.
Elsewhere, Rutgers continued its impressive start to the season by adding yet another Power 5 win to the resume, and a first-year head coach in the Big Ten West continues to endure some growing pains.
Find out what it all means with a new edition of the Stock Watch:
Penn State’s defense: In a game in which the Nittany Lions’ rushing attack struggled to find its footing and the passing attack never kicked into gear, it was defensive coordinator Manny Diaz’s group that answered the bell time and again during a 30-13 road win over Illinois. Penn State had three takeaways in the first quarter. Linebacker Dominic DeLuca caused a fumble, and then linebacker Abdul Carter as well as defensive back Daequan hardy both intercepted quarterback Luke Altmyer. Altmyer’s forgettable day was foreshadowed by the opening barrage. He completed 15 of his 28 passes for 163 yard and four interceptions. Cornerbacks Johnny Dixon, and Cam Miller, nabbed the other two INTs. The Illini’s running game was not much better, with only six ball carries totaling 62 yards net and a touchdown out of 29 attempts. The Nittany Lions’ five turnovers on Saturday were the first since they created two fumbles, intercepted three pass against Georgia State in September 2017. Diaz’s unit now ranks 17th nationally and 11th among schools from the Power 5 in total defense.
Rutgers: For all the feel-good factors attached to head coach Greg Schiano’s return in 2020, the harsh reality was that life could hardly have been more different for the Rutgers football program. Schiano’s departure for the NFL after 56 victories in his last seven seasons in 2011 was a blow to the Scarlet Knights, who were playing in a Big East nearing collapse due to conference realignment. The Big Ten program Schiano took over a decade later was far different. Rutgers played divisional games every year against the likes of Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State. In the first three seasons of Schiano’s second tenure, the Scarlet Knights had a 3-6 record, followed by 5-8, and then 4-8. The 2023 season has been very different. Schiano has led Rutgers in wins over Northwestern (24-7), Temple (37-7) and Virginia Tech (35-26) with a defense ranked 20th nationally, and an offense that is improving under Kirk Ciarrocca’s first year as coordinator. This is the first time since 2011 that Rutgers has won multiple games against opponents from major conferences. Harrison’s inclusion in this week’s rankings is a kind of cumulative award, given his explosive play over the last two Ohio State games. Harrison caught just two passes in Ohio State’s underwhelming opening game at Indiana. He then exploded with seven catches for 160 yards and two scores against Youngstown State. Harrison also caught five passes for 126.5 yards and scored in Ohio State’s 63-10 victory over Western Kentucky. Harrison’s growing connection with quarterback Kyle McCord has been revealed in the form field-tilting, deep balls. This will attract the attention of Big Ten defensive coordinators. McCord completed 19 of 23 pass attempts for 318 yard and three touchdowns during his first game as the starter. McCord connected with Harrison to score a touchdown of 71 yards against Youngstown State, and another score of 76 yards against Western Kentucky. The nation’s top receiver set new career records in both weeks. Harrison’s 21.7 yard average per catch is 10th in the nation and 6th among wideouts of Power 5 conferences who have at least 15 targets. Exactly half of his 14 total catches have resulted in first downs so far this season.
Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr. has huge performance in Week 3Wisconsin’s secondary:
A penny for the thoughts of defensive coordinator Mike Tressel and defensive-minded head coach Luke Fickell as the Badgers intercepted not one, not two, not three, not four, but five passes in a 35-14 win over Georgia Southern — after failing to notch an INT in either of their first two games. Wisconsin’s front-seven pressure forced Davis Brin to release the football on several occasions while being hit during Saturday’s match. The result was a series of looping passes which made it easy for the Badgers. Hunter Wohler was named the player of the match. A first-time starter, Wohler had 10 tackles and one sack, as well as two interceptions, in one of Big Ten’s most impressive defensive performances of this season. He darted across the field to the left sideline and made a highlight reel catch near the pylon. This was his second interception. C.J. made two more interceptions. Goetz, Ricardo Hallman, and Jason Maitre were the Badgers’ defensive backs who intercepted five passes in a row for the first since 1988. Wisconsin is now one of only 10 teams with more interceptions in the nation.
Wisconsin defense forces FIVE INTs in blowout of Georgia SouthernSTOCK DOWNJ.J. McCarthy
QB, Michigan :
McCarthy, QB, Michigan :
McCarthy, after opening the season with some of the most efficient and surgical performances of his life, had his worst performance as a starter on Saturday in Michigan’s win of 31-6 over Bowling Green. McCarthy completed eight of thirteen passes for 143 yard, two touchdowns, and three interceptions. The Wolverines leaned more on their rushing attack than they did in the previous two seasons. McCarthy’s first interception was partially due to tight end AJ Barner who dragged a defender too near another receiver. The other two mistakes were all on McCarthy. He first underthrew the pass intended for Cornelius Johnson. Cornerback Jordan Oladokun undercut him for a simple INT. McCarthy then rolled to the left in order to escape pressure from the backfield, before launching a lollipop above the head of Colston Loveland into the arms outside linebacker Avi McGary. McCarthy’s other touchdown pass was also a lucky one, as Johnson remained focused to intercept a ball that should have gone out near the goalline. McCarthy said, “I will take them all on my chin.” Put them all on me. “Harlon Barnett is the interim coach at Michigan State. Barnett did his best under extremely difficult circumstances. He was promoted from secondary coach to interim coach. The inclusion of Barnett in the Stock Down category was solely due to the continued failure of Michigan State’s defensive players, a group of which he has been coaching since joining Tucker’s staff in 2019. In Barnett’s first year, the Spartans were ranked 72nd in passing defense nationally. By 2021, they had fallen to 130th – or dead last in FBS. Barnett’s team climbed to 87th place in the nation a year ago, but still ranked eleventh in Big Ten. Michigan State’s defense may have reached rock bottom during Saturday’s 41-7 thrashing by Washington. Michael Penix Jr. completed 27 of 35 passes, resulting in 472 yards and four scores before being pulled by the Spartans late in third quarter. Penix could have thrown 600 yards if he had played the whole game. The Huskies completed a staggering 11 passes of 15 yards or more as Michigan State fell to 99th in passing defense.Athan Kaliakmanis
, QB, Minnesota: The heir to sixth-year senior Tanner Morgan, who finally exhausted his eligibility last season, Kaliakmanis has labored through Minnesota’s first three games by completing 45 of 88 passes for 446 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. The Gophers lost 31-13 to North Carolina, and the sophomore completed just 11 of 29 (37.9%) passes for 133 yard and one interception. He apologized to his teammates after describing the game as “probably the worse I’ve played”. Kaliakmanis, a former four-star recruit who had scholarship offers from Iowa Purdue Tennessee and others, has the second lowest passing grade among all 50 quarterbacks in this season with at least 100 dropsbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. The NFL passer rate of 55.1, and the completion rate of 50% are the two lowest marks in the same group. His NFL passer rating is 39.8 and he has only completed 17 of 36 passes for 186 yard, two interceptions, and a completion rate of 50.6%. The Gophers will need an uptick in Kaliakmanis’ performance if they want to be legitimate contenders in a wide-open Big Ten West.
Purdue’s run defense: The Ryan Walters era at Purdue continues to sputter and spin after a second consecutive home loss to begin the season, this time at the hands of Syracuse during a 35-20 defeat in which the Boilermakers trailed by two touchdowns on four separate occasions. Walters, who was hired to coordinate an Illinois defense that finished third in the nation and tenth overall against the run during the previous season, watched on Saturday as the Orange amassed 271 rushing yard and five rushing TDs. Syracuse quarterback Garrett Shrader used beautiful sleight of hand fakes and made excellent decisions on run-pass option to lead the offense. He had 25 carries and 195 yards for a new career high, and scored four touchdowns. Pro Football Focus credited him with forcing 13 missed tackles and accumulating 13 first downs using his legs. Shrader tied Ernie Davis and Dee Brown for 28 career rushing TDs by the end of Saturday’s match. Meanwhile, the Boilermakers fell to 108th nationally and 13th in the Big Ten in total defense.Michael Cohen covers college football and basketball for FOX Sports with an emphasis on the Big Ten. Follow him on Twitter at
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