Big Ten

Eight Big Ten thoughts at the conclusion of the NFL Draft

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Eight Big Ten thoughts at the conclusion of the NFL Draft

The NFL Draft is over and done with, and while a flurry of undrafted free agent signings are announced, here's a look at eight Big Ten takeaways from this year's selection bonanza.

1. Michigan has an awful lot to replace

It was a great few days for Jim Harbaugh's team as he watched a program-record 11 players get selected in this draft. But in sending so many players to the pros, it's an unnerving signal for the upcoming campaign, in which Michigan will have replace a whole host of talent. That includes the majority of what was one of the best defenses in college football last season. Four members of the Wolverines' 2016 secondary, three defensive linemen and one linebacker were chosen in the draft, as were three pass-catchers (two receivers and a tight end). A high number of players picked obviously shows how strong Michigan's program is, and it shouldn't be a surprise to see them reload again — just like Ohio State did this past season after last year's draft exodus — but it's a lot of work to do for Harbaugh & Co.

2. Should be a big year for Penn State

The flip side of what happened to Michigan is what happened to Penn State. The Nittany Lions, the reigning Big Ten champs, had just one player picked in seven rounds: wide receiver Chris Godwin. It's a good indication of why James Franklin's team is going into the 2017 as one of the favorites to win the national championship. Not hearing many names called this weekend means those names are all in Happy Valley, ready to work toward what could be an even better campaign than last year's 11-win stunner. Running back Saquon Barkley, quarterback Trace McSorley, tight end Mike Gesicki and a host of others could be in this position a year from now. But the lack of Nittany Lions mentioned this weekend means you'll hear a whole lot about them this fall.

3. Ohio State is DBU

The first three Big Ten products off the board in Thursday night's first round were Ohio State defensive backs. Even as injuries and off-the-field issues raised some red flags, these three guys were the best Big Ten players from wire to wire in the leadup to the draft. Marshon Lattimore, Malik Hooker and Gareon Conley are going to go make a ton of money after brief college careers. The first two of those three were just one-year starters in Columbus. That speaks to the defensive back factory Urban Meyer has going at Ohio State. Eli Apple was a top-10 pick a season ago, and Vonn Bell was a second-round pick. The year prior, it was Doran Grant getting picked, and Bradley Roby and Christian Bryant were selected in 2014. The Buckeyes might not have the No. 1 defense each and every season, but it's a good bet that offenses will be going up against future pros every single down.

4. Illinois is DLU

While Illinois isn't the type of program Ohio State is by a long shot, it does have an incredible track record when it comes to sending defensive linemen to the NFL Draft. Dawuane Smoot was a third-round pick this year, going to the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 68. He was the sixth Illini D-lineman taken in the draft since 2011, joining Corey Liuget, Whitney Mercilus, Akeem Spence, Michael Buchanan and Jihad Ward. Four of those guys, Smoot included, are defensive ends. And Carroll Phillips, another pass-rushing defensive linemen, was expected to be drafted this year but ended up an undrafted free agent. The Illini haven't found wins easy to come by in recent seasons, but they have a terrific track record of NFL guys to sell to recruits, something that should carry even more weight coming from Lovie Smith.

5. Interesting future for bowl games

Michigan tight end Jake Butt made some of the biggest headlines this weekend after he fell to the fifth round. Butt was one of the best tight ends in college football the past couple seasons but suffered a serious leg injury in the Orange Bowl. An insurance policy means Butt will get more than half a million dollars after his fall down the board, but it ties into the bigger question of the future of stars playing in bowl games. Star running backs Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette were first-round picks this weekend, and both sat out their bowl games back in the winter. Michigan played in a high-profile Orange Bowl, but even that game had significantly less juice after the Wolverines were left out of the College Football Playoff. It seems to show that future NFL stars could start sitting out of non-Playoff bowl games en masse. But we'll see how things play out.

6. Where was Austin Carr?

There were plenty of head-scratchers this weekend, but how on Earth did the Northwestern wideout not get selected? Carr is a former walk-on and might not have the size and/or flash of your prototypical NFL receiver, but there were few pass-catchers in all of college football better than Carr last season. The Big Ten's Wide Receiver of the Year, he hauled in 84 passes for 1,196 yards and 12 touchdowns, leading the conference in all three categories and getting named one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award, honoring the best receiver in the country. Carr ended up signing with the New England Patriots as an undrafted free agent — a somewhat predictable landing spot considering he looked like a stereotypical Tom Brady target all along — but you have to imagine his future is bright enough that he should have warranted a draft pick.

7. Is there a quarterback in the house?

Just one Big Ten quarterback was drafted this year, and it was Iowa signal-caller C.J. Beathard, who in his most recent game threw three interceptions in a 30-3 Outback Bowl loss. It's now been 22 years since a Big Ten quarterback was drafted in the first round — Penn State's Kerry Collins in 1995 — and we have to start to wonder if the conference is ever going to boast a quarterback good enough to be someone's first-round, franchise choice. Looking ahead to next season, the pickings remain slim. Ohio State's J.T. Barrett is the least pro-style quarterback you might be able to think of. Northwestern's Clayton Thorson has the style, but will he be good enough or even want to leave school with a season of eligibility remaining? Penn State's Trace McSorley made a lot of big plays last season, but is he NFL material yet? And pretty much every other Big Ten team needs to figure out who's even going to play quarterback before assessing an NFL future.

8. Draft lays out Big Ten power structure

The two Big Ten schools with the most players picked this weekend? Michigan and Ohio State. The two Big Ten schools with no players picked this weekend? Maryland and Rutgers. And the rest of the conference falls in line much like you'd expect. The NFL Draft effectively laid out the Big Ten's power structure in glaring fashion, with the dominant programs obvious and the weak ones obvious. Multiple selections for the likes of Michigan State and Wisconsin. Just one selection for the likes of Illinois and Purdue. There were some irregularities. As mentioned, Penn State only heard one name called. Same for Nebraska. But if you want to know the healthiest Big Ten programs, look at which ones had multiple draft picks this weekend. It also shows the uphill climb facing newcomers Maryland and Rutgers.

See how they stack up: Week 6 college football top 25 rankings

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See how they stack up: Week 6 college football top 25 rankings

A special, if somewhat sad edition of the top-25 rankings this week. Saturday delivered another terrific day of college football, but we also must remember and celebrate one of the best rock n rollers of all-time, Tom Petty, who passed away earlier this week. So, in addition to the usual top 25, you get some bonus rankings, my picks for the 25 best Petty songs ever. Enjoy.

With Week 6 in the books, here’s my top 25:

1. Clemson (6-0)

It wasn’t a blowout, but the champs rolled on with a comfortable-enough win over Wake Forest. Of bigger concern is Kelly Bryant, who left the game with an ankle injury.

No. 25: “Saving Grace” from Highway Companion, 2006

2. Alabama (6-0)

Bama held on to win by eight after a 21-point third-quarter lead shrunk down. But was it ever really in doubt for the Tide? They will no doubt roll through a weak schedule leading up to the Iron Bowl.

No. 24: “The Wild One, Forever” from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, 1976

3. TCU (5-0)

Defensively, the Frogs kept West Virginia out of the end zone through the first 41 minutes. Offensively, Kenny Hill had himself a day and matched the Mountaineers’ late charge. Oh, and TCU is now in complete command of the Big 12.

No. 23: “A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me)” from Hard Promises, 1981

4. Georgia (6-0)

The Dawgs delivered another SEC pounding — yawn — and have outscored their conference foes by 100 points in three games. Expect that number to balloon further with Mizzou on the schedule next.

No. 22: “Rebels” from Southern Accents, 1985

5. Penn State (6-0)

Saquon Barkley had a negative rushing total in the first half Saturday, and this one was somehow never in doubt. Barkley finished with a pair of touchdown runs as the Lions look far and away the best team in the Big Ten East.

No. 21: “The Same Old You” from Long After Dark, 1982

6. Wisconsin (5-0)

Things looked a bit dicey with Wisconsin tied with Nebraska in the third quarter. But the Badgers ran away, closing with three straight touchdowns and winning easily on Jonathan Taylor’s huge night: 249 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries.

No. 20: “Shadow of a Doubt (A Complex Kid)” from Damn the Torpedoes, 1979

7. Washington (6-0)

I doubted Washington early, and at this point I’m not sure why. The Huskies pounded Cal on Saturday night — yes, Chris Petersen, a night game — and are one of three teams (Alabama, Ohio State) in the top 10 nationally in both scoring offense and scoring defense.

No. 19: “Century City” from Damn the Torpedoes, 1979

8. Washington State (6-0)

Wazzu’s still undefeated, taking complete advantage of an Oregon team without its starting quarterback, holding the Ducks to just 10 points, Oregon’s fewest since the LeGarrette Blount punch game.

No. 18: “Hometown Blues” from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, 1976

9. Miami (4-0)

What a wild finish in the rivalry game with Florida State, but Miami finally stopped its losing streak to the Noles. The Canes’ defense allowed more than 400 yards, but Malik Rosier threw three touchdown passes.

No. 17: “Listen to Her Heart” from You’re Gonna Get It!, 1978

10. Auburn (5-1)

Just like Alabama and Georgia, Auburn is clobbering everyone else in the SEC. Since only beating Mercer by 14, the Tigers have smoked Mizzou, Mississippi State and Ole Miss by a combined 144-47 score.

No. 16: “Runnin’ Down a Dream” from Full Moon Fever, 1989

11. Ohio State (5-1)

Somehow, the guy who was one of the most focused-on college football players of the summer, J.T. Barrett, is low-key having a phenomenal season. Saturday against Maryland: 320 passing/rushing yards and four total touchdowns.

No. 15: “Louisiana Rain” from Damn the Torpedoes, 1979

12. Virginia Tech (5-1)

Josh Jackson threw for 322 yards in the Hokies’ 13-point win over Boston College. You would’ve liked to see a bit more, but it was a nice bounce back after the loss to Clemson.

No. 14: “Ways to Be Wicked” from Nobody’s Children, 1995

13. Oklahoma State (4-1)

Okie State finally got to rest up after losing to TCU and almost losing to Texas Tech. The TCU loss looks better and better, but the Cowboys need to hope for a slip-up from the Frogs and not slip up themselves in the back-to-back gauntlet of West Virginia and Oklahoma.

No. 13: “Learning to Fly” from Into the Great Wide Open, 1991

14. Notre Dame (5-1)

Not expected to do much after last year’s eight-loss debacle, the Irish are kind of really good. They’re the No. 6 rushing team in the country, adding to their total with 341 more rush yards against North Carolina.

No. 12: “You Wreck Me” from Wildflowers, 1994

15. Michigan State (4-1)

Out of nowhere, here comes Sparty. A sensational defensive performance against a top-10 Michigan team in rain-soaked Ann Arbor, plus a not-so-bad loss to Notre Dame, has Mark Dantonio’s team skyrocketing.

No. 11: “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” from Stevie Nicks’ Bella Donna, 1981

16. West Virginia (3-2)

A valiant comeback attempt by Will Grier & Co. was shut down by Kenny Hill, but that doesn’t take away from West Virginia managing to look good on the road against one of the country’s best teams.

No. 10: “I Won’t Back Down” from Full Moon Fever, 1989

17. USC (5-1)

You don’t really get any points for beating up on terrible Oregon State. But things are about to get much tougher for Sam Darnold and USC with back-to-back games coming against Utah and Notre Dame.

No. 9: “Anything That’s Rock N Roll” from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, 1976

18. Oklahoma (4-1)

Iowa State played out of its mind, had a linebacker throwing passes and pulled the upset of the year. Baker Mayfield played well, the Sooners were just derailed by fumbling at the worst possible time. And like that, the Playoff chances take a nosedive.

No. 8: “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” from Greatest Hits, 1993

19. North Carolina State (5-1)

Don’t talk back to the Wolfpack, who now have beaten Florida State and Louisville this season. A Week 1 home loss to South Carolina — how did that happen? — is all preventing the Nov. 4 game against Clemson from determining the ACC.

No. 7: “Breakdown” from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, 1976

20. Stanford (4-2)

With a big win over previously undefeated Utah, the Cardinal are really still in the mix for the Pac-12 crown. Two losses (even two good ones) might box Stanford out of the Playoff race, but Bryce Love & Co. are a good team.

No. 6: “Don’t Do Me Like That” from Damn the Torpedoes, 1979

21. South Florida (5-0)

No game for the high-scoring Bulls this weekend. All eyes are on the season finale against UCF.

No. 5: “Even the Losers” from Damn the Torpedoes, 1979

22. Louisville (4-2)

Not even Lamar Jackson’s 427 total yards and three total touchdowns could put Louisville past NC State. The Cardinals have allowed 37.3 points per game in their four contests against Power Five teams this season.

No. 4: “Free Fallin’” from Full Moon Fever, 1989

23. San Diego State (6-0)

Another win for the Aztecs and another big day for Rashaad Penny. They’ve got six wins, two of them coming against Pac-12 teams, and can’t possibly lose to another Mountain West team, right?

No. 3: “The Waiting” from Hard Promises, 1981

24. Michigan (4-1)

The Wolverines’ offensive ineptitude really bit them hard on Saturday night, as the Big Ten-iest game of all-time ended in Michigan State walking out of the Big House with a win. Michigan can’t run the ball, nor can it throw the ball, which is a horrendous combination.

No. 2: “American Girl” from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, 1976

25. Utah (4-1)

The Utes are undefeated no more, losing to a good Stanford team on Saturday. In a crowded and competitive Pac-12, Utah gets no rest: USC next and Oregon, Wazzu and Washington down the line.

No. 1: “Refugee” from Damn the Torpedoes, 1979

Others receiving votes

UCF (4-0)

The Knights are rolling just as well as any Group of Five team out there, dropping 51 points in three quarters on Cincinnati.

Georgia Tech (3-1)

Off week for the Jackets, who have the second-best rushing offense in the country (shocking, I know) and a one-loss record in a crowded ACC.

Iowa (4-2)

The Hawkeyes finally got to exhale from those back-to-back losses to Penn State and Michigan State, two of the best-looking teams in the Big Ten. Iowa beat up on Illinois for a near 30-point win.

Texas Tech (4-1)

Scoring 65 points against Kansas is always fun! A good tune up for the Red Raiders who play road games at West Virginia and Oklahoma over the course of their next three games.

LSU (4-2)

Good for Coach O to go into The Swamp and get a huge road win over a ranked Florida team to stop his program’s free fall. Beating Florida is a whole lot better than losing to Troy.

Florida (3-2)

The Gators somehow lost a home game to an LSU team that lost to Troy last weekend. But I wanted to include Florida here to sign off with what The Swamp did to honor Tom Petty. It was awesome.

Other Tom Petty songs receiving votes

“Baby’s a Rock N Roller” from You’re Gonna Get It!, 1978

“Letting You Go” from Hard Promises, 1981

“Straight Into Darkness” from Long After Dark, 1982

“Make It Better (Forget About Me)” from Southern Accents, 1985

“The Apartment Song” from Full Moon Fever, 1989

“Surrender” from Anthology: Through the Years, 2000

New quarterback but similar result as Illini get walloped by Iowa

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New quarterback but similar result as Illini get walloped by Iowa

Illinois had a new quarterback at the helm of its offense Saturday, but the result was all too similar for Lovie Smith's team.

Jeff George Jr. got the start and had some flashes early on, but the Iowa Hawkeyes dominated the Illini for a 45-16 runaway win in Iowa City.

Illinois actually hung with Iowa for an entire half, holding a second-quarter lead and trailing at halftime by only four. George led a game-tying, 85-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter, and the Illini took the lead after intercepting Nathan Stanley and turning that giveaway into a field goal. But an Akrum Wadley touchdown run in the final seconds before halftime brought an end to Illinois' last lead of the day.

George had the Illini in a position to retake the lead midway through the third quarter, but an 89-yard Iowa pick six pretty much sealed the deal, swinging the momentum entirely in the Hawkeyes' favor. They poured it on in the fourth quarter, scoring four touchdowns to turn an eight-point game into a 29-point rout.

Illinois matched Iowa in many respects, both teams going over 440 total yards. But George's three interceptions proved to be difference, especially when one of those turnovers was taken back for a back-breaking touchdown. George and Stanley threw for a nearly identical number of yards, but Stanley had just one pick to George's three and also threw a trio of touchdown passes.

After making the quarterback change after last weekend's loss to Nebraska, Smith saw an offense that moved much better than it had in previous weeks under Chayce Crouch's leadership. But the Illini still turned the ball over at critical moments and failed to produce many points. This time, though, the defense couldn't hold up its end of the bargain, either, especially late as the score snowballed.

Illinois dropped to 2-3 with the loss and is 0-2 in its two conference games. Iowa stopped the bleeding after losing back-to-back games to Penn State and Michigan State.