Maryland boasts one of the Big Ten's most explosive players in wide receiver D.J. Moore
The start of the 2017 college football season is just around the corner. What better way to get you ready for another fall of gridiron action than to give you some stats to chew on.
Here's a nice serving of some key numbers to pay attention to in 2017 from around the Big Ten.
19.7: Points per game scored by Illinois in 2016
Illinois did not hire Lovie Smith to be the head coach to light up the scoreboard, but this is clearly an area that needs to improve in 2017 if the Fighting Illini are going to be any threat in the Big Ten West Division this season. Illinois’ offensive output has decreased each of the past three seasons. It is time to reverse that trend.
6.8: Average penalties per game by Indiana opponents
When teams play the Hoosiers, they have to be disciplined. For whatever reason, Indiana drew the third-most penalties per game from their opponents last season in the Big Ten (Penn State and Purdue led the conference). Of course, the Hoosiers also averaged 6.1 penalties of their own per game to nearly even things out.
19th: Season for Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz
Kirk Ferentz is now the longest-tenured coach in the FBS (and, of course, the Big Ten) following the surprising retirement of Bob Stoops this offseason. The pressure may be on for Ferentz to have a good season with the Hawkeyes.
15.3: Average yards per play by Maryland wide receiver D.J. Moore
If Maryland gets the ball in the hands of Moore, watch out. Moore had the most yards per play last season among all Big Ten players and proved capable of handling the ball as a receiver and on kickoff duty.
120.0: Tackles for a loss by Michigan in 2016
Michigan’s defense was one of the best in the nation last season, and the Wolverines started the work up front. Michigan led the Big Ten in tackles for a loss, averaging nearly 10 per game.
56.0: Tackles for a loss by Michigan State last season
Over in East Lansing, it was quite a different tale. While the Wolverines were the best in the conference in stops behind the line of scrimmage, the Spartans were dead last in the conference in that statistical category, one they had been in the top four each of the five years.
67.86: Minnesota’s red zone touchdown percentage in 2016
No team had a higher success rate once entering the red zone in terms of touchdown efficiency than the Gophers. On 56 red zone trips, Minnesota’s left with a touchdown a Big Ten-leading 67.86 percent of the time. New head coach P.J. Fleck will hope to keep that going.
4: Fumbles forced by Nebraska in 2016
If you can say one thing about Nebraska, the Cornhuskers have lacked the ability to create turnover opportunities. The Huskers forced just four fumbles last season, and they recovered just three of those loose balls (the fewest among Big Ten teams). The Huskers did make up some ground with 16 interceptions though.
1,071: Yards after contact by Northwestern running back Justin Jackson in 2016
Northwestern’s Jackson led the Big Ten in rushing yards last season. He proved to be difficult to get a hand on as he rushed for nearly 200 more yards after contact than Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, even though he played in one more game than Jackson.
7: Defensive touchdowns scored off interceptions by Ohio State last year
The Buckeyes were capable of cashing in on mistakes by opponents often last fall. Consider that Minnesota had just nine touchdown passes last season, and the stat may be even more impressive.
24.0: Sacks allowed by Penn State last season
Penn State’s offensive line is getting its groove back. After back-to-back seasons with the worst offensive line in the Big Ten, the O-line cut down on the sacks allowed by 15 compared to the 2015 season. As the depth gets padded, expect that trend to continue.
-17: Purdue’s woeful turnover margin
Quite frankly, very little has gone Purdue’s way over the years. If there is one category new head coach Jeff Brohm can begin focusing on, it will be ball control. Brohm’s Western Kentucky teams finished each of the past three years with a positive turnover margin.
8: Games missed last season by Rutgers’ Janarion Grant
Having Grant on the field may not have made much of a difference for Rutgers’ 2016 season, but losing him early to injury was a tough blow. Grant is not just the best player Rutgers has, but also one of the Big Ten’s most dynamic and explosive weapons at any moment.
44.74: Opponent red zone touchdown percentage allowed by Wisconsin
The Badgers always seem to have a defense that largely flies under the radar. Last season, teams found it difficult to convert red zone opportunities into touchdowns, with only Ohio State (37.5 percent) having a better red zone defensive success rate.
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.