Hot Reads: Two Weeknight Big Ten Games Could Get Interesting
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Hot Reads: Big Ten Spring Game Roundup

April 15, 2019

Seventy-five percent of the Big Ten schools held their spring games over the weekend. If you need to know the basics of what happened around the conference for Monday-morning water-cooler talk, then A) you have really in-depth football conversations around the water cooler (can I come?) and B) here are some super quick recaps of the major beats at each school.

Illinois: The Team Butkus squad and the first-string defense of new defensive coordinator, but existing head coach, Lovie Smith beat Team Grange, and the first-team offense, 24-10. This was another game that didn’t feature tackling between the first units. Team Butkus had three interceptions on the day, including a pick six. The Illini still have three practices remaining this spring.

Indiana: Cream, featuring the primary contributors on offense, beat Crimson 48-33 on Friday night earning steak dinners while the losers got beans-and-weenies. The primary intrigue here is quarterback. Indiana got some good news earlier this spring when highly touted transfer Jack Tuttle, a redshirt freshman, was granted a waiver to play right away. Junior Peyton Ramsey, having already QB competitions the past two springs, seemed plenty comfortable in another one, completing 24-of-37 passes for 274 yards for new offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer. As the Big Ten team with the most experience returning, the Hoosiers are an intriguing outfit for 2019.

Michigan: The big news out of Ann Arbor? Spread football has arrived along with new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis (formerly of Penn State and Alabama). Jim Harbaugh kept things pretty informal. No tackling, at least on the initial drives, no stats, no score. It was really a practice, so do with that what you will.

Michigan State: The Spartans went offense-defense for their spring game and used non-traditional scoring. The defense (Green) beat the offense (White), 42-26, while forcing four turnovers. Quarterback Brian Lewerke had a slightly better day than Rocky Lombardi, completing 14-of-20 with an interception and two touchdowns. Because Mark Dantonio likes to keep things pretty vanilla, the most shocking thing to be seen in East Lansing was the Spartans new, well, green-and-lime-green alternate uniforms. You’ll either love them or hate them and hate is a heavy favorite.

Minnesota: The Gophers had to move their spring game indoors due to snow. And P.J. Fleck gave a trophy to the winner, which was Maroon, 38-20. Minnesota’s returning quarterbacks, Zack Annexstad (9-15, 191 yards, 1 TD) and Tanner Morgan (11-17, 139 yards, 2 TDs), played to a relative draw, though Annexstad did lead the winning Maroon squad. Wide receiver Rashod Bateman, also a Maroon, had six catches for 164 yards.

Ohio State: The first-team offense (Gray) beat Scarlet in what, from the box score at least, looks like a pretty choppy game. Highly touted quarterback transfer Justin Fields was 4-for-13 passing with a touchdown (and a 98-yard completion), sacked four times (in a game without live tackling, as in any) but did score a touchdown on the ground. After the game, head coach Ryan Day said the QB competition would remain open through the fall. Also, Ohio State site Land Grant Holy Land noted that the Buckeyes defense may be moving from a straight 4-3 base to more of a 4-2-5 look. Or maybe it’s all subterfuge. Can never rule that out in the spring.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions, like Nebraska, went with a one-sided split with most of its returning and presumed starters on the victorious Blue team. Presumed starting quarterback, fifth-year senior Tommy Stevens was out, and redshirt sophomore Sean Clifford did his best to make a case for himself with an 11-for-19 day throwing for 118 yards and a touchdown. Head coach James Franklin said he’d like to name a starter as soon as possible, while hinting that Stevens would be tough to unseat.

Rutgers: White beat Scarlet 116-114 in one of those modified-scoring games (and one that didn’t feature any good-on-good matchups between offense and defense). Running backs Charles Snorweah and Raheem Blackshear showed some flashes. Returning quarterback Artur Sitkowski, the starter a year ago despite throwing four touchdowns to 18 interceptions, was . . . OK, I guess? He did have one interception that seemed to feel all too familiar for Scarlet Knights fans.

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