Has Michigan found a star wideout? Here’s who’s up, down across the Big Ten
Sep. 11, 2023 10:21 a.m. ET
Week 2 was a friendly one across the Big Ten as 11 of the league’s 14 teams earned victories in a slate of games consisting entirely of non-conference matchups.
Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State, Northwestern and Rutgers all won by at least 25 points against opponents from outside the Power 5 conferences, while Iowa and Purdue scored resume-boosting wins over opponents from the Big 12 and Atlantic Coast Conference, respectively.
At the other end of the spectrum, a trio of Big Ten schools were upended in true road games against quality opponents when Illinois fell at Kansas, Wisconsin stumbled at Washington State and Nebraska was blown out at Colorado.
Let’s take the league’s temperature with a new edition of the Stock Watch:
, WR, : Wilson easily could have been included on this list a week ago after catching six passes for 78 yards and three scores during the Wolverines’ season opener against East Carolina. He was the only receiver to catch a touchdown from quarterback J.J. McCarthy in Week 1 and quickly emerged as the go-to target for a receiving corps that was considered arguably the weakest unit on an otherwise loaded Michigan roster. That Wilson followed up with four catches for 89 yards and two more scores in his team’s 35-7 win over UNLV on Saturday made it impossible to overlook him for a second consecutive game. He found the end zone on a 13-yard touchdown in the second quarter and a 47-yard touchdown in the third quarter to surpass his total of four receiving scores in 2022. It marked just the second time in Wilson’s career that he’s hauled in touchdown passes in consecutive weeks, and the only player in the country with more receiving touchdowns this season is Vanderbilt’s Will Sheppard with six, though the Commodores have played an extra game. Wilson is well on his way to becoming the program’s first 1,000-yard receiver since Jeremy Gallon (1,373 yards) in 2013.
defense: It was fitting for Iowa that head coach Kirk Ferentz’s 200th career victory — and 188th with the Hawkeyes — included a pick-6 by defensive back Sebastian Castro en route to a 20-13 win over rival Iowa State. Castro undercut a short pass to the flat and returned it 30 yards for a score that bumped Iowa’s lead to 17-0 with 4:29 remaining in the second quarter. It also extended the program’s streak to 16 consecutive seasons with a pick-6, the second-longest active run in college football. A game that ended 20-13 in favor of Iowa became the 11th time in the last 15 games that the Hawkeyes’ defense has allowed one touchdown or fewer dating to the start of the 2022 campaign. Defensive coordinator Phil Parker’s group held Iowa State quarterback Rocco Becht to 203 passing yards and a 52.3% completion rate on 44 attempts, for an NFL passer rating of just 63. The Hawkeyes racked up 12 quarterback pressures, five quarterback hits and did not allow a completion longer than 16 yards. They’ve allowed just 13.5 points per game over the first two weeks of the season.
, RB, : What a difference a week made for Taylor, a true freshman from Walled Lake Western High School in Walled Lake, Michigan. Taylor carried just one time for three yards in the Gophers’ season-opening win over Nebraska but exploded for 193 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries in a 25-6 victory against Eastern Michigan on Saturday. Taylor’s single-game rushing total ranks second in school history among freshmen behind Darrell Thompson, who ran for 205 yards against Bowling Green on Sept. 1, 1986. Taylor was tackled in the backfield just once and finished with six carries of 10-plus yards while picking up 11 of his team’s 28 first downs. A four-star prospect rated the No. 350 overall player in the 247Sports Composite for the 2023 recruiting cycle, Taylor chose the Gophers over additional scholarship offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland and Wisconsin, among others. He and fellow Minnesota tailback Sean Tyler combined for 286 rushing yards on 50 attempts against Eastern Michigan on Saturday.
rushing attack: Despite what Taylor and Tyler accomplished for Minnesota, the Big Ten’s most dominant ground game belonged to Penn State last weekend. The Nittany Lions ran for 315 yards and six touchdowns in a 63-7 dismantling of Delaware during which four players gained at least 45 yards: running back Kaytron Allen (19 carries, 103 yards, one TD); running back Trey Potts (seven carries, 59 yards); running back Nicholas Singleton (12 carries, 47 yards, three TDs); and backup quarterback Beau Pribula (eight carries, 46 yards, one TD), who played the final 24 minutes after Penn State built a 42-7 lead. Two more players — reserve running back Tank Smith and starting quarterback Drew Allar — chipped in 56 combined rushing yards and another touchdown. The team’s rushing total of 315 yards was Penn State’s highest output since gaining 396 against Memphis in the 2019 Cotton Bowl. The six touchdown runs covered distances of 2 yards, 4, yards, 5 yards, 5 yards, 1 yard and 6 yards as the Nittany Lions ground Delaware into submission with an average gain of 5.2 yards per rush. Through two weeks, Penn State leads the Big Ten and ranks 15th nationally in rushing at 230.5 yards per game.
RJ Young shares his top 25 after Week 2
, RB, : In early August, Edwards joined Max Chadwick of Pro Football Focus for an episode of “Preferred Walk-On: A College Football Show,” during which he made a series of eyebrow-raising comments. Edwards told Chadwick he’s the best dual-threat running back in college football and would be “the best slot receiver in the country if I was really mastering that craft.” Then he said the following: “I will go down as one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game. I’ll be up there with (former Chicago Bears running back) Walter Payton, (former Detroit Lions running back) Barry Sanders.” Edwards ended by saying he will rewrite the trend of NFL running backs getting lowballed during contract negotiations. Through the first two weeks of Michigan’s season, however, Edwards’ comments appear even more obtuse than they seemed at the time. He’s carried 18 times for 46 yards (2.6 yards per carry) and zero touchdowns in wins over Eastern Michigan and UNLV while chipping in nine receptions for just 56 yards and failing to find the end zone as a receiver. His numbers against UNLV were particularly dreadful: six carries for 9 yards; five catches for 26 yards. That’s not quite what fans expected from the self-professed peer of Payton and Sanders.
, QB, : In 2022, during Mordecai’s final season at Southern Methodist before entering the transfer portal, he threw for 3,524 yards and 33 touchdowns with just 10 interceptions. He had four games with 350-plus passing yards and finished the year with averages of 293.7 yards and 2.8 touchdown passes per game. Based on that production and his familiarity with the Air Raid system new Wisconsin offensive coordinator Phil Longo planned to install, Mordecai was viewed as a home run addition for the Badgers in head coach Luke Fickell’s first season. But after a sloppy win over Buffalo in Week 1 and the 31-22 loss at Washington State in Week 2, the settling-in process hasn’t been as smooth as many people expected. Mordecai completed 25 of 40 passes for 278 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions in Saturday’s loss to the Cougars — numbers that, by themselves, are certainly respectable — but he also incurred two lost fumbles on consecutive possessions, the second of which was returned for a touchdown, and connected on just three of 10 passes that traveled at least 20 yards downfield, according to Pro Football Focus. Through two games, Mordecai has thrown for 467 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions with an NFL passer rating of 84.4, a far cry from his marks of 104.6 and 110.3 in his last two seasons with the Mustangs.
: For what felt like the umpteenth time in the last half-decade, Nebraska was unable to get out of its own way in a humbling 36-14 loss to rival Colorado that saddled first-year head coach Matt Rhule with consecutive losses to begin his tenure. Ball security remained a crippling issue for the second straight week as the Cornhuskers trailed 4-0 in the turnover battle before the Buffaloes pulled starting quarterback Shedeur Sanders (31-of-42, 393 yards, two TDs) late in the fourth quarter. It was another poor performance from quarterback Jeff Sims on the heels of his three-interception debut against Minnesota last week. Sims fumbled a low shotgun snap to crater Nebraska’s promising opening drive and was involved in three additional miscues on snaps or exchanges to puncture any hope of a comeback. He also tossed a backbreaking interception late in the first half that led to a Sanders touchdown pass one play later. On the defensive side of the ball, Nebraska sacked Sanders seven times but still surrendered 454 yards of total offense and allowed the Buffaloes to convert 10 of 18 attempts on third down. There are myriad problems for Rhule and his staff to address.
Reacting to Colorado’s 36-14 win over Nebraska
, QB, Maryland: The possibility of an upset loomed when Charlotte jumped out to a 14-point lead over the Terrapins in the first quarter. A breakdown in coverage by Maryland’s defense led to a 48-yard passing touchdown from 49ers quarterback Jalon Jones, and Tagovailoa threw a pick-6 just 10 seconds later on the Terrapins’ ensuing possession. Tagovailoa’s pass was snared by linebacker Demetrius Knight II and returned 16 yards to stun the sparse crowd at SECU Stadium in College Park. It was the first of Tagovailoa’s two interceptions on a night when he completed 25 of 36 passes for 287 yards and one score. His NFL passer rating of 79.3 was Tagovailoa’s third-lowest mark in his last nine regular season games and well below his career mark of 97.4. It was also the first time Tagovailoa had more interceptions than touchdown passes in a regular season game since last year’s loss to Michigan in late September. The rushing attack led by tailbacks Roman Hemby (20 carries, 162 yards, 1 TD) and Colby McDonald (eight carries, 73 yards, 1 TD) paced Maryland’s offense instead.
Michael Cohen covers college football and basketball for FOX Sports with an emphasis on the Big Ten. Follow him on Twitter at .
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