Monday, November 10, 2014

B1G Breakdown: Top 5 Teams at Each Offensive Position Unit - Week 11

In this post, I will go through the various position units and place the teams I believe are the top 5 in the conference. This will be based on the actual players that have played, so sorry Indiana, the QB position won't just be Sudfeld.

I went back-and-forth on how I wanted to do this. For some position groups (RB/DL) there are more than five groups that deserve recognition. At other position units, there kind of seems to be less than five. Nevertheless, I plan on doing another one of these post-season, as well as look specific players as I break down All-B1G teams after the season. Note that this is purely an eye test and not based on stats, but instead on games that I've watched these guys play.

Michael Hickey/Getty Images North Americ



Quarterback
  1. Ohio St
  2. Michigan St
  3. Penn St
  4. Nebraska
  5. Rutgers
Comments:
Things fall off a cliff pretty quickly here. Barrett has improved as much as any player in the B1G and shows a great ability to be accurate and move the ball with his legs. Cook is still the best pure passer, and has enough legs to move in the pocket and take some designed runs, but still struggles on the move. Hackenberg is similar to Cook, has a stronger arm, but he compounds a lot of the issues of his OL. 

After that it gets more dicey. Armstrong has a strong arm but has some accuracy issues and depends on a lot of pre-snap reads. But he is also probably the best running QB in the B1G. Gary Nova and Brown are probably your next two QBs on the list. Brown is a better runner, but I think Nova does more with less as a passer. So I gave him the nod.

Marvin Fong, The Plain Dealer
Running backs
  1. Wisconsin
  2. Nebraska
  3. Michigan St
  4. Ohio St
  5. Indiana
Comments:
Lots of depth for the B1G in this category. Wisconsin I think has the best RB in the league and the best backup RB in the league with Gordon and Clement. Nebraska isn't far behind, and I'm a big fan of Abdullah. MSU can trot three guys out there and be pretty successful, but Langford is a guy that will likely be a mid-round draft pick. OSU has about a dozen guys that can handle the ball and Elliot is starting to come on. Indiana has had as productive as any RB in the B1G, it's more their depth that holds them back here.

Gordon, Abdullah, and Coleman will all get drafted probably before the midway point of the draft if they all leave. Langford is a mid-to-late round pick that does everything well. Cobb could get drafted for a guy that also does a lot of things really well and fits well into more of a power-oriented offense. This is a really good group.

AP Photo/Nati Harnik
Wide Receivers
  1. Michigan St
  2. Ohio St
  3. Maryland
  4. Penn St
  5. Illinois
Comments:
This is a weird one, because some teams have a really good player here or there (Carroo for Rutgers), some have a lot of equal players (Michigan), some have other position units really holding them back (PSU), and some just don't live up to the eye test (Maryland).

Michigan St is the best top to bottom. Lippett has turned himself into a true #1 and the backups go solid for about 4-deep outside of him. Ohio St has a lot of very good athletes, but two real standouts in Devin Smith and Michael Thomas (who has steadily improved), and really spread the ball around. Maryland has as good athletes at WR as anyone and can get open, but have struggled catching the ball with some erratic throwing from Brown and little in the way of run game. Penn St is still raw but has good athletes. Illinois has quietly put up good numbers, and guys like Dudek and Allison have proven their stretch the field ability against teams that don't play honest against their vertical passing game.

There are certainly some individuals that prop up some other units. Nebraska isn't too far off the list, for instance. 

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE
Tight Ends
  1. Minnesota
  2. Michigan St
  3. Penn St
  4. Wisconsin
  5. Iowa
Comments:
A bit of a weird group. Maxx Williams is maybe the biggest mismatch around the B1G, as he can catch anything, he runs really well, and he can block a bit; the unit as a whole is very accomplished blockers. MSU has very good combo man in Price, and a nice combo on to the extremes with Lyles and Lang. Penn St has the best pair of receiving TEs in the B1G, but I've been unimpressed with their blocking this year. Wisconsin combines some good blocking with some depth at the TE position. Iowa hasn't had the explosiveness, but they have steadily improved their blocking in a run scheme that needs them to be very good on the edge.

At OSU, the TEs have been a bit inconsistent, as Heuerman hasn't lived up to expectations, but Vannett has shown some ability in the red zone. I also wanted to include Northwestern simply for Vitale, as he's going to make some NFL team very happy with his ability to be a FB/H-back at the next level and runs very nice routes.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sport
Offensive Line
  1. Nebraska
  2. Ohio St
  3. Wisconsin
  4. Michigan St
  5. Indiana
Comments:
Each of these units has their issues. Nebraska still struggles at times in pass protection, and against MSU they really struggled, but in other games they were great. Ohio St still struggles on twists and blitzes and have made a change from a liability to pretty dang good rather quickly. Wisconsin is what Wisconsin has been forever, great at running the ball, some issues elsewhere. Indiana has quietly been solid despite the horrid QB situation they're now facing. They've opened up the run game for Coleman.

Purdue isn't far off the list. Minnesota is relatively powerful in the run game but struggles a lot in pass protection. Then it drops off into an abyss against a bunch of great B1G DLs. Michigan, Northwestern, and Iowa might be up after that, to give a feel (Iowa is quite one-sided). And some of the worst OLs in the country round up the bottom.

Mike Carter/USA TODAY Sports
Overall Offense

  1. Ohio St
  2. Michigan St
  3. Nebraska
  4. Wisconsin
  5. Minnesota
I think the order of 1-4 is pretty set in stone. OSU looks like a team that can attack in multiple ways. MSU is very well rounded. Nebraska is a high powered rushing attack but I think has better ability to throw the ball to keep defenses honest than Wisconsin. And then there is #5.

Minnesota, Maryland, Rutgers, and maybe even Iowa all have a case here. Hell, Northwestern may have a case. Indiana would if they weren't playing their 4th string QB. Purdue is probably the best up-and-comer and they have really turned it around. I'm going with Minnesota because I think they block well enough to keep the chains moving, have a really good RB in Cobb, and can utilize Maxx Williams to take shots down field. Note that PSU litters the list above but isn't even a thought here? Terrible OL play is the one thing you can't cover up, so no, PSU isn't even a thought here.

2 comments:

  1. Very telling that no Michigan unit is ranked. Seems painfully obvious that the talent level isn't close to competing in the conference. Guess we can debate whether it's lack of recruiting, not enough time for recruiting to begin to show results, or poor development. My opinion is the correct answer to that question should determine the coaching decision.

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    Replies
    1. I think it may be quite a few of those things. For instance, I think there is talent in the WR group, I think there is talent in the OL group, but the performance isn't necessarily there.

      For the WRs, I think part of that is system. Borges had a system that allowed for more separation due to route combination design but required a bit more in terms of reads (both from the QB and WR). Nussmeier has a system that focuses more on getting separation individually and play fast due to knowing where you're going, etc. So it isn't necessarily a great fit there.

      OL is just a tough one to tell. Just so much going on. They are gradually improving, but obviously not there yet. When will it click? Depends on coaching, depends on players, etc.

      TE is another position group where I think Michigan will be strong going forward. Think Butt can be quite good, though not necessarily a game-changer (he's more your traditional TE), especially as his injury moves further in the past. I like Hill, I like some of the other young guys.

      So yeah, I think it's a combination of a lot of things. We'll see where they go from here I guess.

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