Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst speaks during the Big Ten Media Days at McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago on Monday, July 24, 2017. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

Catching up with Big Ten football

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Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor’s big day, J.T. Barrett’s poor performance against Oklahoma, and Saquon Barkley’s arrival on kickoffs make up the some of the Big Ten’s top storylines heading into week three.

By Adam Hensley
adam-hensleyuiowa.edu

Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor tore up the gridiron on Sept. 9 against Florida Atlantic.

The freshman carried the ball 26 times, accumulating 223 yards and 3 touchdowns in his second game for the Badgers and earning him the award of Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week.

“I think that he, potentially, he can give us some big plays that we haven’t had a lot of,

necessarily, in the running game,” head coach Paul Chryst said.

Tailback Bradrick Shaw received the bulk of the carries in Wisconsin’s season-opening win against Utah State (18 carries, 84 yards, and 1 touchdown).

Taylor only touched the ball nine times, but racked up 87 yards (almost 10 yards per carry) and scored a touchdown.

Shaw did not play against Florida Atlantic, opening the door for Taylor’s performance.

Chryst had some advice for his first-year tailback thrown into the starting role.

“Don’t worry about … all the other stuff around him, other than be the best player he can be and continue to grow,” Chryst said. “[I] just got done talking to the team, we got to focus on the little things, and you start stacking up enough of the little things, that adds up. And I think Jonathan will be the same. He certainly has talent, and he’s got himself off to a good start, but there’s a long way to go.”

More importantly, Taylor’s emergence gives Wisconsin a three-headed monster at running back.

Chris James helped Taylor in the ground game, gaining 101 yards on 16 carries.

When Shaw returns, the Badger backfield will get even more potent.

“When you see Jonathan come in and do what he’s doing, I think it gives us depth and I think he’s capable of being a good football player for us,” Chryst said.

Starting quarterback not a lock in Columbus

Previous No. 2 Ohio State clashed with previous No. 5 Oklahoma in a nonconference battle with heavy postseason implications.

The now-No.2 Sooners smacked the No. 8 Buckeyes, 31-16, in Columbus, Ohio.

Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield torched Ohio State’s defense, throwing for 386 yards and 3 touchdowns — all before trying to plant a Sooner flag at midfield following the game.

J.T. Barrett, however, was not able to keep pace with the Heisman contender. The Buckeyes’ signal caller was 19-of-35 in passing for only 183 yards and an interception.

Head coach Urban Meyer said that while he does not want to jump to conclusions after a single poor performance from Barrett, he’s open for change.

“Any decisions about any personnel is strictly who gives us the best opportunity to win, whether it be right guard, quarterback,” he said. “And it’s always been the case. And right now, it’s not even a question. But, yeah, we’d like to absolutely get the other guys in and play a little bit.”

Barkley in the return game

Penn State’s do-it-all running back Saquon Barkley will be the team’s starting kick returner, and head coach James Franklin wouldn’t have it any other way.

“You know, one of the things that I don’t really understand is everybody talks about how important special teams are, and it’s just as important as offense and defense until you try to use your starters on special teams,” Franklin said. “I don’t really get it. To me, it seems like talking out of both sides of your mouth, and we’ve never done that.”

The more touches Barkley gets — whether in the running game, passing game, or on special teams — the better.

“Barkley is one of the more explosive players, if not the most explosive player in the country when the ball is in his hands, and this is a way for us to pretty much guarantee that he’s going to get the ball,” Franklin said.

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