You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and interactive features. Starting at just 99c for 8 weeks.


Welcome to

Your source for Clark and Champaign counties’ hometown news. All readers have free access to a limited number of stories every month.

If you are a News-Sun subscriber, please take a moment to login for unlimited access.

Defense keys Big Ten leaders

Associated Press

Indiana and Illinois had some fun with the scoreboard last weekend in Bloomington. The Hoosiers and Illini combined for 87 points, a 450-yard passer, a 200-yard receiver and two backs with at least 150 yards rushing.

Yet neither of those teams is likely to even reach a bowl.

In the Big Ten, title contention is still driven by defense.

It’s no coincidence that the three best teams — No. 3 Ohio State, No. 14 Michigan State and No. 17 Wisconsin — have the top three defenses in the league and rank in the top 10 nationally in points allowed per game.

“All three of them play a different style of defense and yet they’re all really effective,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, whose Hawkeyes have lost to the Buckeyes, Spartans and Badgers this season. “There’s no one way to be successful in football. But the bottom line is you have to have good players, they’ve got to be well-coached and they have to play well on Saturday. I think that certainly describes all three of those teams.”

Ohio State (9-0, 5-0) has surged to the top of the Leaders Division thanks in large part to Braxton Miller and its high-powered offense, which is fifth nationally at 48.2 points a game.

Miller and company have made it easy to overlook a defense that, at least statistically, is nearly as good. The Buckeyes are eighth in the country in scoring defense at 17 points a game, and they allowed just 14 total points in recent blowouts of Penn State and Purdue.

The Spartans (8-1, 5-0) have put themselves in position to join the Buckeyes in the Big Ten title game by leaning on a defense that trails only No. 1 Alabama and No. 20 Louisville by allowing just 11.6 points per game.

Their numbers over the last three games are simply staggering.

Michigan State has allowed nine points over that stretch — all on field goals — and stymied a Michigan team that had cracked 40 points five times in a 29-6 win in East Lansing on Nov. 2.

The Spartans, the national leader in pass efficiency and rushing defense, have also had an extra week to rest and prepare for Saturday’s crucial Legends Division game at Nebraska (7-2, 4-1).

“They play the right way. They play hard. They’re sound in what they do. They’re very well-coached. They have experience. They kind of have all the ingredients you look for,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said of Michigan State’s defense. “The results speak for themselves.”

Wisconsin (7-2, 4-1) has won its last four games to stay within shouting distance of Ohio State — though a loss in Columbus in September gave a possible divisional tiebreaker to the Buckeyes.

The Badgers held Iowa without a touchdown in a 28-9 victory two weeks ago without star linebacker Chris Borland, who returned from a hamstring injury to lead them past BYU 27-17 last Saturday. Borland, an Alter High School graduate, earned Big Ten co-defensive player of the week honors after making 13 tackles with two sacks in the win over the Cougars.

Wisconsin still has an outside shot at a BCS bowl — especially now that Borland is back to head up its defense.

“He adds a little extra juice and energy to that defense from a leadership standpoint. It’s great to get him back on the field and have him where he needs to be,” Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Sports

FSU’s Dalvin Cook among high-profile players still undrafted
FSU’s Dalvin Cook among high-profile players still undrafted

The first night of the NFL draft was full of surprises, from the seemingly lopsided trades of teams looking to move up to the players selected several spots before they were projected to go. >> Read more trending news Perhaps the most surprising thing about Thursday’s first round was the collection of names that remained on the board for...
H.S. Results for 4/27: Monroe tallies two grand slams in win

Faith Hensley and Alexis Arnold each had a grand slam in leading Monroe to a 16-1 win over Valley View in softball on Thursday. Hensley went 2-for-3 and Arnold 3-for-4 on the day. Sam Schwab added two hits and three RBI and Alyssa Wagner notched her 11th win. Hannah Powers drove in Valley View’s lone run. It marked the 12th consecutive victory...
NFL draft: 3 Ohio State defensive backs taken in first round
NFL draft: 3 Ohio State defensive backs taken in first round

Ohio State had three players taken in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft -- all defensive backs. Here is an overview of the trio:  ▪ 29th cornerback and 56th defensive back selected from Ohio State in the common draft era (since 1967) ▪ Last CB: Eli Apple, first round, 2016 by the Giants ▪ First CB: Ted Provost, seventh round...
NFL Draft: Twitter reacts to Bengals taking John Ross with first pick
NFL Draft: Twitter reacts to Bengals taking John Ross with first pick

The Cincinnati Bengals took John Ross, the speedster wide receiver from Washington with the No. 9 pick in the first round of Thursday’s NFL draft. The Bengals had wide receiver as a targeted as a position of need, but were expected to go defense.
Tom Archdeacon: Steubenville offender gets second chance at Central State
Tom Archdeacon: Steubenville offender gets second chance at Central State

One of the more controversial, polarizing — and, some say, mischaracterized — football players in the nation has joined the Central State Marauders and is vying for the stating quarterback job. How the venture ultimately plays out will make the story of Trent Mays one of second chances or second guesses. Five years ago, Mays — a budding...
More Stories