The Big Ten may traditionally be known more for its ground-and-pound style than its arial attack, but there are some pretty good receivers in the conference too. Playing in the Big Ten—especially in the East Division—puts Maryland up against teams with some real ballers on the outside.
Last week, we looked at the most dangerous running backs on the schedule. It’s Receivers Week here, so let’s look at those guys.
Maryland was slightly below average at stopping the pass last season, ranking 80th in defensive passing S&P+. The Terps won’t have to deal with Northwestern’s Austin Carr or Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel, as both have moved on to the NFL, but will still go up against some stiff competition.
Nick Westbrook, Indiana (Oct. 28)
Maryland will play Westbrook and the Hoosiers right before Halloween, which is a scary proposition. (I’ll see myself out.) With Simmie Cobbs—who’s a pretty good receiver in his own right—out for the season, Indiana needed a replacement. In stepped Westbrook, who casually totaled 995 yards and six touchdowns on 54 catches. Cobbs will be back this season, and while he’ll surely take some targets away from Westbrook, he should also draw coverage away from him as well, opening the door for another big season from Westbrook.
Jazz Peavy, Wisconsin (Oct. 21)
For a team that still does follow that traditional Big Ten ground-and-pound model, seeing a Wisconsin receiver on this list seems a bit odd at first glance. But Peavy’s 635 yards and five touchdowns on 43 catches last season are almost identical to Maryland’s D.J. Moore’s numbers. Peavy also carried the ball for 318 yards and a touchdown on just 21 carries, showcasing his explosiveness. His versatility could cause problems for a defense that didn’t exactly show it could stop an effective offense at all last season.
Janarion Grant, Rutgers (Nov. 4)
Grant is the Scarlet Knights’ most explosive weapon. An ankle injury ended his 2016 season shortly after it got started, and after being granted a medical redshirt, Grant is back to make big plays in Piscataway. During his junior season, Grant put up four catches for 56 yards and a touchdown against Maryland. He brings added value to his team in the return game, notching a punt and kick return touchdown in his first four games of his senior season while averaging 163.75 all-purpose yards per game.
DeAndre Thompkins, Penn State (Nov. 25)
The Nittany Lions really have a trio of returning wide receivers who could put up big numbers in 2017, including Thompkins, Saeed Blacknail and DaeSean Hamilton. Thompkins is the guy to watch here, though, because of his balance between volume of catches and big play ability. He caught 27 passes for 440 yards and a touchdown last year. There’s a chance the Terps are playing for bowl-eligibility in this last game of the season. If they are, they’ll need a big day from the secondary to stop Thompkins and SaQuon Barkley, who may be the best running back in the country.
Other familiar faces
Tre’Quan Smith, UCF
Rashad Still, Minnesota
K.J. Hill, Ohio State
Johnnie Dixon, Ohio State
Simmie Cobbs, Indiana
Jawuan Harris, Rutgers
Eddie McDoom, Michigan
DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State
Saeed Blacknail, Penn State
More names to watch
Armanti Foreman, Texas
Flynn Nagel, Northwestern