Rashod Bateman

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Buckeyes dominate All-Big Ten offense, Justin Fields named Offensive Player of the Year

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It did not take long for Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields to leave his mark in Columbus. In his first season after transferring from Georgia to Ohio State, Fields has been named the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year. Fields was also named the Big Ten’s Quarterback of the Year and named to the All-Big Ten First Team Offense. He was joined by a number of Buckeyes on the All-Big Ten roster.

Fields is Ohio State’s second striaght winner of the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year Award. Dwayne Haskins won the award last season.

Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman was named the Big Ten’s wide receiver of the year, and Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor took the conference’s running back award. Taylor and Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins shared First Team All-Big Ten honors at running back on both teams assembled by votes of the coaches and the media. Purdue’s Bryce Hopkins was named the Big Ten Tight End of the Year, and Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs was the conference’s Offensive Lineman of the Year.

A total of 10 Ohio State players were awarded All-Big Ten honors on the first, second or third tea, by the coaches and nine received the honors from the media. Joining Fields and Dobbins on the first team was offensive guard Jonah Jackson (coaches) and Wyatt Davis (media). The two players switched spots for the second team on the coaches and media All-Big Ten teams.

The Big Ten announced its defensive and special team honors on Tuesday.

Fields and Dobbins and the rest of No. 1 Ohio State will face Taylor and No. 8 Wisconsin in this weekend’s Big Ten championship game.

No. 12 Wisconsin sinks No. 8 Minnesota to clinch Big Ten West

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After giving up an early touchdown on the road with the division on the line, No. 12 Wisconsin (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten) proved to be far too strong for No. 8 Minnesota (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten) and dominated the upstart Gophers to the tune of 38-17. The win by Wisconsin clinched the Big Ten West and will send Wisconsin off to Indianapolis next weekend for a rematch with No. 1 Ohio State.

Leading 10-7 at halftime, Wisconsin took over full control after halftime with a 28-3 advantage. Quintez Cephus had a 47-yard touchdown catch down the middle of the field in the third quarter to open up Wisconsin’s lead to 17-7. After a Minnesota field goal, Wisconsin scored three-straight touchdowns, including two on the ground by Jonathan Taylor, before Minnesota could get back on the board. Taylor caught a touchdown pass in the first half as well to help Wisconsin take a lead into halftime. Taylor rushed for 76 yards and two touchdowns and had two catches for 39 yards and the go-ahead touchdown.

Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan was solid for the Badgers as well, completing 15 of 22 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns. The defense was also a factor for Wisconsin. After giving up a long touchdown pass from Tanner Morgan to Rashod Bateman early in the game, the Badgers held Minnesota out of the end zone until well into the fourth quarter.

Wisconsin will now prepare for a rematch with the Buckeyes. Ohio State handled the Badgers earlier this season, 38-7 in Columbus. Next week will be the third meeting between Ohio State and Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game. Both of the previous meetings have been own by the Buckeyes. Ohio State shutout Wisconsin 59-0 in 2014 to help secure a spot in the College Football Playoff, which led to a national championship for the Buckeyes. Two years ago, in 2017, Ohio State topped the Badgers, 27-21. Ohio State has won back-to-back Big Ten championships and will look for the first three-peat in the Big Ten championship game era.

Minnesota’s next game is now in question. The gophers are still heading to a bowl game, but which one remains to be seen. A chance to play in a New Years Six bowl game may have just been eliminated, but Minnesota should be getting one of the more attractive non-New Years six bowl destinations the Big Ten has to offer. That may be impacted by what happens to Wisconsin next week as well. Wisconsin may not be a lock for a New Years Six spot if they come up short against Ohio State, although the Badgers heading to the Rose Bowl could help bump Minnesota’s bowl outlook.

Jonathan Taylor gives Wisconsin halftime lead at Minnesota

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Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor caught a pass on a wheel route from Jack Coan and back-peddled his way into the end zone for a go-ahead touchdown late in the second quarter. As a result, Wisconsin owns the halftime lead on Minnesota with the Big Ten West championship on the line. Wisconsin leads Minnesota 10-7 at the break.

The game could not have gotten off to much of a better start for Minnesota. After the defense forced a three-and-out on the game’s opening possession, Tanner Morgan connected with star wide receiver Rashod Bateman for a 51-yard touchdown on the second snap on offense.

Wisconsin’s best scoring opportunity of the half came about midway through the second quarter. But after a pass from Coan was caught by Quintez Cephus just out of the back of the end zone, Wisconsin had to settle for a field goal to get their first points on the scoreboard.

Minnesota has been forced to punt the ball back to the Badgers on three of four possessions since their early touchdown, and the other possession ended with an interception thrown by Morgan shortly after the Minnesota defense recovered a fumble.

Minnesota has down a solid job preventing Taylor from getting much yardage on the ground, with just 397 yards on 10 carries in the first half. But Taylor ha sstill managed to make a big play to help Wisconsin take a lead into halftime.

This is still anyone’s game, but Wisconsin’s defense has been coming up with a strong showing after the early lapse two plays into the game.

Biletnikoff Award whittles hunt for nation’s top receiver down to 12

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The Biletnikoff Award on Monday announced its list of 12 semifinalists for the 2019 award. The award specifies that any player who catches a pass is eligible to win — not just wideouts — but only wideouts have won the award through its 25-year history.

And for what has to be the first time in Biletnikoff history, both LSU and Alabama have two semifinalists, including 2018 winner Jerry Jeudy.

The semifinalists are:

Rashod Bateman, Minnesota: 44 catches for 945 yards (21.5 yards per) and seven touchdowns
Omar Bayless, Arkansas State: 73 catches for 1,262 yards (17.3 yards per) and 14 touchdowns
Ja'Marr Chase, LSU: 57 catches for 1,116 yards (19.6 yards per) and 13 touchdowns
Antonio Gandy-Golden, Liberty: 64 catches for 1,244 yards (19.4 yards per) and eight touchdowns
Isaiah Hodgins, Oregon State: 73 catches for 1,021 yards (14 yards per) and 13 touchdowns
Justin Jefferson, LSU: 71 catches for 1,010 yards (14.2 yards per) and 11 touchdowns
Jerry Jeudy, Alabama: 64 catches for 867 yards (13.6 yards per) and nine touchdowns
CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma: 44 catches for 983 yards (22.3 yards per) and 12 touchdowns
Michael Pittman, Jr., USC: 82 catches for 1,118 yards (13.6 yards per) and nine touchdowns
James Proche, SMU: 88 catches for 1,008 yards (11.5 yards per) and 12 touchdowns
Devonta Smith, Alabama: 56 catches for 1,026 yards (18.3 yards per) and 11 touchdowns
Sage Surratt, Wake Forest: 66 catches for 1,001 yards (15.2 yards per) and 11 touchdowns

The notable snub here is Devin Duvernay of Texas, who is one off the lead for catches (87) but could not crack the voters’ top 12. (Full disclosure: I am a Biletnikoff voter and had Duvernay on my semifinalist list.)

The 12 semifinalists will be chopped down to three next Monday, with the winner announced at the Home Depot College Football Awards on Dec. 12.

No. 20 Iowa hands No. 8 Minnesota first loss of the season

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It has been said hopes and dreams can go to Kinnick Stadium and never walk out. While that may be a bit of an overstatement for this particular situation, Kinnick Stadium did put bruise up another Big Ten championship and College Football Playoff hopeful’s season. No. 20 Iowa (7-3, 4-3 Big Ten) was the first team to hand No. 8 Minnesota (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten) a loss this season with a 23-19 victory Saturday in Iowa City.

Iowa led Minnesota 20-6 at halftime but managed just one field goal in the fourth quarter to extend its lead to 10 points midway through the quarter. The field goal by Keith Duncan came at the end of a 10-play drive that killed off a little more than four minutes of precious game time. Minnesota’s chance to make things a one-possession game on the ensuing drive looked good when Rodney Smith crossed the goal line late in the fourth quarter, but a missed extra-point attempt by Brock Walker kept things just out of reach for the Gophers.

It wasn’t for lack of effort, however. Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan passed for 368 yards and a touchdown, with Tyler Johnson hauling in nine passes for 170 yards. Rashod Bateman had six catches for 98 yards. Iowa’s Nate Stanley passed for 173 yards and two touchdowns in the win. AJ Epenesa led a ferocious defensive attack for Iowa that gave up some plays in the second half but slammed the door shut on the Gophers when it mattered the most. Epenesa had a game that reminded those watching just why he is one of the top defensive linemen in the nation.

In the grand scheme of things, Minnesota still has a path to its first Big Ten championship game. And if Minnesota does reach the championship game with just one loss, a victory in the conference championship game (against Ohio State or Penn State) would make for a strong case at the end of the season worth discussing for the College Football Playoff. But for now, PJ Fleck and his program must deal with rebounding after their first loss since Nov. 17, 2018 (Northwestern, 24-14).

Iowa will be home again next week to face Illinois. The Illini have already clinched bowl eligibility, so next week’s game could be more about jockeying for bowl position in the Big Ten bowl pool with neither team in the running for the division. Minnesota will play at Northwestern next week for a great opportunity for a rebound win. The Wildcats have won just two games all season, with their second coming earlier in the day with a blowout of UMass.

Minnesota still owns a one-game lead in the division ahead of Wisconsin. It is possible the division championship will be on the line in the regular-season finale between Minnesota and Wisconsin, a game won by the Gophers last season.