Big Ten Midseason Report

College Football News runs down their opinion of the best Big Ten players, coaches, surprises of the midseason and more. See what they had to say about the best and worst of the Big Ten conference midway through the 2006 season.

Offensive Player of the Midseason – Troy Smith, QB Ohio State

Defensive Player of the Midseason – Leon Hall, DB Michigan

Ten best Big Ten players in the first half of the season:

1. Troy Smith, QB Ohio State
2. Mario Manningham, WR Michigan
3. Mike Hart, RB Michigan
4. Leon Hart, DB Michigan
5. P.J. Hill, RB Wisconsin
6. Anthony Spencer, DE Purdue
7. Jim Laurinaitis, LB Ohio State
8. Antonio Pittman, RB Ohio State
9. Joe Thomas, OT Wisconsin
10. Curtis Painter, QB Purdue

Biggest Surprise – Purdue QB Curtis Painter can throw.

Purdue leads the Big Ten and total offense and passing offense thanks to a huge first half of the season from Painter, who has shown he's far more than just a good option runner. He has a great group of receivers to work with, and he's finding them.

Biggest Disappointment – Michigan State

Can you imagine what the team would be like if it didn't choke against Notre Dame? Confidence is occasionally everything, and this team might have been good enough to challenge for the Big Ten title if it came away with the win over the Irish. Things went from bad to worse losing to Illinois and also losing top back Javon Ringer, and now the season appears to be in the tank.

The Big Ten Champion will be ... Ohio State.

Actually, it'll be the winner of the Michigan – Ohio State game. After the first half of the season, no one else even appears to be close.

Best Game of the First Half - Notre Dame 40 ... Michigan State 37, Sept. 23

With a stunning comeback scoring 19 points in the final 8:18, Notre Dame kept hopes for a BCS slot and a possible national championship alive thanks to two Brady Quinn touchdown passes and a 27-yard interception return for a touchdown from Terrail Lambert with 2:53 to play. Quinn threw five scoring strikes on the day highlighted by a 43-yard play to Jeff Samardzija on fourth down to spark the comeback. Samardzija caught two touchdown passes and Rhema McKnight caught scoring passes from 32 and 14 yards out. Michigan State got out to a 31-14 lead with two Drew Stanton touchdown passes and a 19-yard interception return for a touchdown from Ervin Baldwin, but the offense turned it over three times in the fourth quarter finishing off with a strange interception by Lambert off a ricocheted pass that sat on the back of a Spartan receiver Kerry Reed.

Second Best Game – Purdue 38 ... Miami University 31 OT, Sept. 9

Third Best Game – Southern Illinois 35 ... Indiana 28, Sept. 16

Worst Game of the First Half - Minnesota 62 ... Temple 0, Sept. 16

Minnesota scored on its first seven possessions for a 45-0 halftime lead. Bryan Cupito threw four touchdown passes with Logan Payne catching the first three scoring passes of the game. The Gopher running game got on track with 282 yards and touchdown runs in the first half from Amir Pinnix and Alex Daniels. The defense had few problems with an Owl offense that managed seven first downs and 157 yards of total offense.

Coach of the Midseason – Jim Tressel, Ohio State

Fine, so there are a lot of coaches out there that would win with the Buckeye offense, but how many could quickly piece together a defense after losing so many stars? Give credit where credit is due for Tressel and his staff to keep the team playing at the highest of levels despite having the bull's-eye on its back.

Player who'll step up in the second half – Paul Hubbard, WR Wisconsin

The UW coaching staff is just now starting to find ways to get the ball to its track star target. One of the team's fastest players, Hubbard also has the size at 6-4 to be a matchup nightmare. He's an elite long and triple jumper who'll grow more and more into a deep threat to open things up for P.J. Hill and the ground game.

Best performance so far - Michigan WR Mario Manningham caught four passes for 137 yards and three touchdowns in the 47-21 win over Notre Dame.

Top Freshman – P.J. Hill, RB Wisconsin

Back from a broken leg that cost him all of last year, Hill has been the centerpiece of a Badger offense that spent the first half of the year without a steady passing game. His power and quickness through the hole have been exactly what the UW offense has needed.

Coach who needs to have a big second half – Michigan State's John L. Smith

Collapsing against Notre Dame is one thing; losing at home to Illinois is another. Don't forget about the way-too-close-call against Idaho. The team has enough talent to play with anyone in the country, but its head keeps it from playing up to its potential. That's the coach's fault.

Player who needs to have a big second half – Penn State QB Anthony Morelli

He played like an inexperienced quarterback over the first part of the season highlighted by his awful late performance against Ohio State and his bad start against Notre Dame. Penn State isn't out of the Big Ten title hunt, and at the very least has a shot at the number two spot, but it needs Morelli to start making teams pay for loading up against Tony Hunt and the ground game.

Best remaining conference game – Michigan at Ohio State, Nov. 18

If all goes according to plan, the spot in the national title game, as well as the Big Ten championship, will be on the line. Iowa's trip to Michigan on October 21st and Michigan State's date at Ohio State on the 14th should be the only hurdles in the way.

Team Mid-Season MVPs & Predictions:

Illinois – QB Juice Williams
predicted wins: Ohio
predicted losses: at Penn State, at Wisconsin, Ohio State, Purdue, at Northwestern
predicted record: 3-9

Indiana – QB Kellen Lewis
predicted wins: None
predicted losses: Iowa, at Ohio State, Michigan State, at Minnesota, Michigan, at Purdue
predicted record: 3-9

Iowa – LB Mike Klinkenborg
predicted wins: at Indiana, Northern Illinois, Northwestern, Wisconsin, at Minnesota
predicted losses: at Michigan
predicted record: 10-2

Michigan – WR Mario Manningham
predicted wins: at Penn State, Iowa, Northwestern, Ball State, at Indiana
predicted losses: at Ohio State
predicted record: 11-1

Michigan State – QB Drew Stanton
predicted wins: at Northwestern, at Indiana
predicted losses: Ohio State, Purdue, Minnesota, at Penn State
predicted record: 5-7

Minnesota – WR Logan Payne
predicted wins: North Dakota State, Indiana, at Michigan State
predicted losses: at Wisconsin, at Ohio State, Iowa
predicted record: 5-7

Northwestern – LB Nick Roach
predicted wins: Illinois
predicted losses: Purdue, Michigan State, at Michigan, at Iowa, Ohio State, Illinois
predicted record: 3-9

Ohio State – QB Troy Smith
predicted wins: at Michigan State, Indiana, Minnesota, at Illinois, at Northwestern, Michigan
predicted losses: None
predicted record: 12-0

Penn State – LB Dan Connor
predicted wins: Illinois, at Purdue, Temple, Michigan State
predicted losses: Michigan, at Wisconsin
predicted record: 8-4

Purdue – QB Curtis Painter
predicted wins: at Northwestern, at Michigan State, at Illinois, Indiana
predicted losses: Wisconsin, Penn State, at Hawaii
predicted record: 8-5

Wisconsin – OT Joe Thomas
predicted wins: Minnesota, at Purdue, Illinois, Penn State, Buffalo
predicted losses: at Iowa
predicted record: 10-2


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