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The Box Score: Big Ten Edition

BY CODY GOODWIN | OCTOBER 15, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Box Score is a weekly segment in which a Daily Iowan football reporter uses statistics to contextualize Iowa football’s performance over the course of the season.

Since the Hawkeyes (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) were on a bye week over the weekend, we’re using this edition to showcase some statistics from around the conference. Being seven weeks in, we have a pretty good idea of what certain teams lean on for production on offense.

Rushing yards — Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin), 870 (3rd in NCAA)

The Badger tailback is averaging nearly 10 yards a touch, which makes sense because the average size of Wisconsin’s offensive line is 6-7, 319 pounds. Gordon, just a sophomore, has scored eight times on the ground this year.

Gordon (a former Iowa commitment, by the way) is the lead back for Wisconsin’s lethal rushing attack. The Badgers own the Big Ten’s best running game, averaging 298.2 yards per contest. In Wisconsin’s 35-6 win over No. 19 Northwestern, both Gordon and second fiddle James White broke the century mark and combined for 2 touchdowns.

That Wisconsin (4-2, 2-1) uses the ground game to dominate opponents is no surprise. A myriad of Badger running backs have been some of the country’s best in years past. But Gordon isn’t the only young gun in the conference working his way up the national ladder.

Passing yards — Christian Hackenberg (Penn State), 1,672 (19th in NCAA)

The true freshman Hackenberg was touted as the nation’s best pocket-passer as a senior at Fork Union Military Academy. He’s living up to those expectations and blossoming into a huge threat for Bill O’Brien’s Nittany Lions.

Hackenberg’s 278.7 passing yards per game leads all Big Ten gunslingers. His most recent showing came in the form of an impressive 43-40 four-overtime victory over Michigan over the weekend, in which he tossed for 305 yards and three scores to knock the Wolverines from the ranks of the unbeaten.

But there’s another reason Michigan (5-1, 1-1) hasn’t looked very Michigan-like this season, and part of the blame falls on the shoulders of its quarterback.

Interceptions thrown — Devin Gardner (Michigan), 10 (T3rd in NCAA)

Gardner, by comparison, has also thrown 11 touchdowns this season. He’s also been sacked 9 times. But there comes a time when you can’t blame the offensive line — a line that has two All-Americans on it — for the number of blunders Gardner has committed this season.

Michigan’s junior quarterback has thrown at least one interception in all but one game this season, the outlier being a 42-13 blowout win over Minnesota. Take out the Notre Dame game, too, and Gardner has thrown two-or-more picks in the other four games this season, which includes such teams as Akron (3), Central Michigan (2), and Connecticut (2).

It’s tough to win games when the ball gets turned over so many times, but Michigan has managed to win five of six to this point of the season. Pretty impressive. What’s also impressive is the rate at which Indiana (3-3, 1-1) is recovering fumbles.

Fumbles recovered — Indiana, 5 (T1st in Big Ten)

The Hoosiers have recovered five fumbles this year. Their opponents have fumbled the ball nine times, which gives Indiana a 55.56 fumble-recovery-rate-percentage this season. That’s the best in the Big Ten (Ohio State has recovered 5-of-10 fumbles this year).

This might seem like a weird stat to keep, but Indiana is good at it with respect to the rest of the conference. The Hoosiers have recovered one fumble in all but one game this season. There’s no trend on whether a fumble affects the outcome of a game, either.

Indiana has also alternated wins and losses all season. It’s a weird trend. Ohio State (6-0, 2-0) also owns a weird trend in that it hasn’t lost in 18-straight games. And in that winning-streak, the backup quarterback has earned himself a raw quarterback rating that ranks in the top five in the country.

Raw quarterback rating — Kenny Guiton (Ohio State), 87.7 (5th in NCAA)

Not bad for someone who’s played just three full games this season.

Guiton, a senior from Houston, first made an appearance when Buckeye starter Braxton Miller went down in the first game of the season. He proceeded to throw a 21-yard touchdown pass to finish the game 1-of-1, 21 yards, and 1 touchdown.

Guiton was more than serviceable while filling in for Miller. Over the span of four games, he threw for 664 yards, 13 touchdowns, and only 2 interceptions. He’s since taken a back seat now that Miller is healthy again, but he proved to the conference, and the country, that Ohio State might actually have two of the best quarterbacks in the nation.


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