Ohio State defensive end Chase Young (2) pressures Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez, left.

Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Chen: What To Watch For In Week 10 In Big Ten

Everyone is anxiously awaiting the release of the College Football Playoff rankings.

Mike Chen
November 01, 2019 - 11:58 am

(670 The Score) Let's break down the most important Big Ten storylines of the week and what awaits this weekend.

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Projecting the CFP standings

On Tuesday, the College Football Playoff committee will meet for the first time this season and the first set of rankings will be released. While the AP Top 25 and Coaches Poll are notable, the CFP rankings are the only ones that truly matter. Iowa athletic director Gary Barta will represent the Big Ten for the first time after Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez and Nebraska athletic Tom Osborne had previously served on the committee.

Ohio State (8-0) and Penn State (8-0) are the two Big Ten teams in the best position to earn a College Football Playoff berth. Ohio State could land inside the top two, as it has looked like the most impressive team in the nation alongside LSU. Penn State hasn't been as impressive but should earn a top-six ranking. 

Minnesota (8-0), Michigan (6-2), Wisconsin (6-2) and Iowa (6-2) should all be inside the top 25 as well.

Young making his Heisman case

Since sacks became an official statistic in 2000, there has only been one defensive lineman who was a Heisman Trophy finalist: Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh in 2009.

Ohio State defensive end Chase Young is looking to become the second one. His four-sack performance in a win against Wisconsin last Saturday drew national acclaim and turned heads. Young leads the nation with 13.5 sacks and is second nationally with five forced fumbles. He has terrorized opposing quarterbacks and offensive lines. 

If the season ended today, Young would be a deserving Heisman finalist, as he has been the best player on one of the best teams in the country. Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson is the only primarily defensive player to ever win the Heisman, doing so in 1997. He also received some offensive snaps and had a key role as a returner on special teams.

It would be good for the sport if Young were to win the award, as the narrative needs changed that only offensive players can be the biggest difference-makers.

Just when I thought I was out, the Illini pull me back in

A few weeks ago, Illinois coach Lovie Smith was squarely on the hot seat after four losses in a row. An upset win against Wisconsin and then a 24-6 rout of Purdue last Saturday has helped change that narrative. It has marked the first time the Illini have won consecutive Big Ten games in the Smith era.

Illinois (4-4) has a winnable game in hosting Rutgers (2-6) this Saturday. A bowl berth that seemed like an unrealistic goal just a couple weeks ago is now a real possibility. Illinois has reached a bowl game since 2014. 

Northwestern football family

Football isn’t always about what’s accomplished on the field. The off-the-field matters are always top of mind too.

That's been the case for Northwestern quarterback Hunter Johnson, whose mother, Shana, was diagnosed with breast cancer and is recovering from chemotherapy and a mastectomy in recent weeks, as Teddy Greenstein of the Tribune reported.

Hampered by a knee injury, Johnson has struggled this season and hasn't played since Sept. 28. And now we have learned the burden he has carried off the field. 

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald had been coy about Johnson's status, and not playing him allowed Johnson to focus on his family. That was good to see. Fitzgerald has created a family atmosphere that supports players through the hard times like Johnson is going through.

Mike Chen is a producer at 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @mfc2123.